If you are fortunate enough to come to the Sowbug Roundup in mid March, you might find the WHITE BASS BLITZ in full swing. Each year when the spawning urge strikes, millions of white bass leave Norfork and Bull Shoals reservoirs and head up tributary streams. While whites may be difficult to catch during other seasons, they are ridiculously easy in March; simply look for a congregation of boats and bank fishermen. When the whites run, everyone catches fish! The fly fisher may take advantage of this phenomenon with a 6 weight rod and a handfull of #4 Clouser Minnows in chartreuse, white and yellow. Early mornings and evenings are prime times for the blitz. Warm rainy days are perfect, but cold snaps spell disaster, sending the whites back to the deeper lake waters. Water temperature should be near 60 degrees to put them in the spawning mood. Wading the shorelines or fishing where the water of a stream meets the lake from a boat or float tube is highly productive. Experiment with various retrieves from fast to slow to find what works best. Action can be fast and furious but short lived as the bass travel in schools and move constantly. White bass from one to three pounds are common. Savage strikes and tough, dogged battles make fly fishing for these gamesters some of the most exciting angling of the year.
Crappie fishing is a mainstay for the anglers who fish the large reservoirs in the Mountain Home area. Each spring in early April when the crappies spawn, thousands of these speckled beauties in the one to two pound range stage along the shorelines of Norfork and Bull Shoals Lakes. The knowledgeable fly fisher can take advantage of this fast springtime action whether fishing from a boat, float tube or shore line. Streamers, microjigs and wet flies are the most productive attractors for both white and black crappies. Often a strike indicator is helpful in suspending the artificial over underwater structure like standing timber, brush piles and weed lines. Even the biggest crappies often bite lightly so the fly rodder must watch the indicator or line tip carefully. Other panfish can wind up in the creel at this time of year as well. Bluegills, redear sunfish, white bass and an occasional catfish or walleye will take the flyfisher's offerings. Coves with streams running into them warm up more quickly than open lake waters, so find a secluded spot where the redbuds and dogwood bloom. Enjoy the beauty of the Ozarks and some of its finest fishing and eating.
On Lake Norfork, a frenzied surface feeding occurs in the spring and, to a lesser extent, in the fall of the year. Depending on weather conditions, stripers will surface feed on shad from approximately mid March until the end of May and from mid October to mid December. Most of this feeding takes place just after sunrise and just before sunset. A boat is necessary to reach feeding surface schools and work steep shorelines. A ten weight rod, 1X tippet and plenty of backing are necessary to tire these fish. Any attempt to control or "horse" a 40 pound striper to the boat is futile.Long casts using a 2 1/2 inch plus Lefty's Deceiver or other large shad imitation in white with a blue and gray back will invite strikes from feeding fish and a fight you will long remember.
Over 100 years ago, Dr. James Henshall proclaimed that the smallmouth bass was "... inch for inch and pound for pound, the hardest fighting fish." Ozark smallies are no exception and they are found abundantly in local creeks, rivers and reservoirs. They are native fish born and raised here in the Ozark highlands and have spent eons chiseling out their niche in the aquatic habitat. Smallmouth bass prefer cool water temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees, lots of rocks and their favorite food, crayfish.
Famous waters of the area that provide wonderful smallmouth habitat include the Buffalo river, the Spring River, Crooked Creek, Bull Shoals and Norfork Reservoirs and countless tributaries that feed these waters. Fly fishing these places is the ultimate experience. A six or seven weight fly rod , floating or sink tip lines and flies that imitate smallmouth food ( ie. crayfish, hellgramites, frogs, minnows, leeches and grasshoppers) are top producers. Wonderful wade fishing on local streams from April to November produces memorable catches. A 14 inch smallie from a rushing creek can take your breath away.
The huge reservoirs that bracket Mountain Home are wonderful habitat for largemouth bass. These hill-land lakes, built in the 1940s and 50s, flooded forests, roads, riverbeds and bluffs to create the most diversified structure possible. Norfork and Bull Shoals impoundments boast good populations of bass and the fly fisher can take advantage of the fine fishing opportunities. A seven or eight weight rod, floating or sink tip lines and an assortment of flies ranging from top water to bottom bouncing are the essentials. A key to fishing big water is mobility. Some sort of flotation is recommended to access the bluffs, points, flooded timber, and stream channels. Float tubes, canoes and bass boats will all help in locating fish.In early May, prespawn activity for largemouth is prime time for fly rod action. The bass move into coves when the water temperature reaches the lower sixtys and fly rodders can then fish shore lines littered with brush, logs, jumbled rock and stumps. Early morning and evening fishing is best. Bass love structure and edges. In clear water fish as close as possible to the shoreline litter and work the flies and bugs slowly unless active fish are sighted. A favorite fly has lead eyes, a rabbit strip body and tail and lots of creepy rubber legs. Tied in black, purple or olive this critter resembles the "jig and pig" popular with bait casters. When this attractor bounces down a bluff face or through a brush pile, hang on! Weed guards are essential on most bass flies. Try to stay calm when that five pound big mouth inhales your bug in the middle of a drowned tree top