VanDam Says Table Rock Bass Primed for Fall Feed

Published on 10-20-2020

By Pete Robbins

Kevin VanDam thinks that by the time anxious anglers descend on Missouri’s gorgeous Table Rock Lake from October 30 through November 1 for the season-ending Big Bass Tour event, the fishing should be wide open. Cooler nights and dropping temperatures should push some fish shallow, but others will remain in mid-depth zones, meaning that anglers can fish their strengths.

“The lake should be just about done with fall turnover,” he said. “The lake is a little bit low, just below full pool, after being high all year, but they’re still getting some rain. The lake has also kept some color all year. That means there should be some fish shallow and some fish schooling. There will be a mix of a little bit of everything.”

For those who favor the offshore game, he’d rely on Strike King Series 4 and 5XD crankbaits in the 10 to 15 foot zone, and while shad are the primary forage, he’d also mix in some crawdad and bluegill colors to max the Ozarks lake’s varied buffet offerings.

For topwater fanatics, this is prime time. “Because of the rain, there will definitely be some shallow fish,” the four-time Bassmaster Classic champion stated. “A Sexy Dawg can be really good. A walking stickbait is a legendary Table Rock Lure, but I’d also tie on a buzzbait and throw it right up on the bank.”

But don’t count out the lure that made KVD famous: A big spinnerbait.

“That’s something I love to throw this time of year,” he said. “Especially if it is windy, rainy or cloudy.” In the same places where he power fishes that way, he might also employ a big swimbait. “There are literally millions of gizzard shad in the lake. That’s not something that you’re going to get a lot of bites doing, but you could get a few bigger bites.”

Over the last five years, the top weights have varied in BBT events on Table Rock, with the overall trend that they’ve increased. The last time a fish under 5 pounds snuck into the top ten was 2015. Typically, at least one or two 7-pounders come to the scale. Last year there were three, as well as a massive 9-pounder that took the overall top prize. Of course, those tournaments were held in the springtime,  mostly in late March or early April. A big-bass-specific tournament in autumn is grounds for great speculation and strategy, and anglers will be wise to pay close attention to the live leaderboard to gauge their chances of claiming overall and hourly prizes.

VanDam said that “as this time of year anything above 5 pounds is big at Table Rock, and for smallmouths or spots it’s 4 pounds.” If you’re offshore catching smaller schooling spotted bass, he recommends making a move, as the fish often group up by size. “The big fish really do tend to be loners.”

His strategy would also take into account the heavy fishing pressure that Table Rock has received throughout 2020. Savvy anglers know that the end of the fall turnover marks the heart of the period when shad run up the major creeks. The bass following that migration will be heavily pressured.

“The biggest fish tend to be on or near the main lake,” he said. “And the mid-lake section is really some of the best fishing this time of the year. It’s been a really busy year on the lake. Lately, tournament weights have been down. Fish have been in that late summer, early fall funk, but every day the fishing is getting better. These little cool spells make a big difference. The fish are really starting to feed again.”