Posts Tagged ‘Bull Shoals Lake’

How to Tell the Difference between a Kentucky/Spotted Bass and a Largemouth Bass

When I first started fishing lakes that contained both Kentucky and Largemouth bass, I did not care about identifying which one was on the end of my line. I just enjoyed catching fish. However, once I started fishing tournaments, I had to differentiate between the two species on lakes that have different size limits for each one. For example, Lake of the Ozarks and Bull Shoals Lake each have a 15” limit on black bass but a 12” limit for Kentucky bass.

I will never forget my first tournament on that lake, my partner and I were catching a ton of “bass” on Chompers…and we were having a fantastic time doing it. Neither of us knew, for sure, how to differentiate between the two species. All we had heard was that Kentucky bass have a rough patch on their tongue. We didn’t know HOW rough of a patch…just a rough patch. So…when we started catching fish after fish, if we felt anything AT ALL on the tongue, into the live well it went!

We were a red faced at weigh in and VERY lucky that a conservation agent did not stop us on the water to check our fish. Most of our 12-inch fish were, in fact, largemouth bass! Lucky for us, it was tournament that consisted of a bunch of friends, so we were simply mocked and made fun of instead of receiving monetary penalties.

Differences between a Largemouth Bass and a Spotted Bass

The Tongue

As stated above, spots have a rough patch on their tongue. Largemouth bass do not. Please note that the rough patch is very noticeable on a spotted bass, and you might feel “something” on the tongue of a largemouth.

The Hinge of the Mouth

There is a reason that largemouth bass are called largemouth! If you were to draw a line straight down from the back of a largemouth’s eye to the bottom of the jaw, the end of the hinge of its mouth would be behind that line. Kentucky bass, on the other hand, will have the hinge in front of that line.

Kentucky Bass

The jaw of the Kentucky Bass is in front of the back of the eye.

Largemouth Bass

The hinge of the Largemouth's jaw extends behind the back of the eye.


The Dorsal Fin

Both species have a set of dorsal fins. The front one is larger than the rear fin. The difference is that, on a spotted bass, there is little to no separation between the two. A large mouth will have as distinct ending and beginning between the two.

Kentucky Bass

Little or no separation between dorsal fins.

Largemouth Bass

There is a definite separation between the fins.


Both species of bass have a lateral line running down the middle of their body. Spotted bass have blotches or “spots”

above their lateral line. They also have a bluish/green tint to their color. Largemouth bass on the other hand, favor the green side of the color wheel!

The Cheek Scales

Cheek scales on a largemouth bass are the same size as the rest of the scales on its body. Spotted bass have noticeably smaller scales on their cheeks.

Another big difference between the two species is how they fight on the end of the line. Largemouth bass tend to come straight to the top of the water and try to shake the lure out of their mouth. Kentucky bass fight more like a smallmouth. They head to the bottom and resist every inch of the way to the surface.

Hopefully the next time you hook a bass at your favorite lake, you will be better able to identify the football on the end of your line.


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Two Nice Fish

We had a decent Easter weekend on Bull Shoals and fished on Friday and Saturday. Friday was the better of the two days. We only fished for three hours on Saturday with one fish.

Temperature was in the lower 80s all day Friday with wind at 30 mph. While wind is generally good, I would have liked a little less of it.

Water temps. ranged from upper 40s to mid 60s depending how far we went back in the creeks.

A cold front was scheduled to push through around 4 p.m., and it arrived on schedule. The skies clouded up and the temperature dropped about 10 degrees in one gust. We fished for about 30 minutes past the temp. drop and then headed back to the dock. We caught the biggest fish of the day just as the front was pushing through – a 2.5 lb. Kentucky bass.

Since the wind was so strong, we fished mostly jerkbaits and spinnerbaits. We found a few banks that were protected enough from the wind that allowed us to try jigs, but only one fish was caught bouncing the bottom.

We boated nine fish and with two keepers. We did have one 16” walleye.

Below are photos of some of the lures used and the fish caught. Some of the fish were from a few days prior to me arriving and were caught by my father-in-law.

Easter Weekend on Bull Shoals

Easter Weekend on Bull Shoals

4.25 lb. Largemouth

Jerkbaits and Chompers

Jig and Craw

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Another spring cold front day so it was another day to chase white bass on Bull Shoals.

My wife, daughter and father-in-law went as far back as they could get his boat in Shoal Creek. There were only a few other boats at the back of Shoal, the rest of the crowd was at the back of Big Creek, which is accessible by both boat and car.

The fish really did not start biting until 2 p.m. There really is no science to catching these fish this time of year. They are stacked at the back of flowing creeks…getting ready to spawn.

Everyone was catching fish, but eventually, my daughter got tired of casting. She was content on letting her poppy cast and hook the fish so she could then take the rod and reel in the fish. Poppy took the fish off the hook and she would run it back to the live well. By the time she came back to the front of the boat, poppy had another fish on the line.

White Bass Fishing on Bull Shoals

Brenna and one of her white bass from Bull Shoals

While the few other boats were in what they thought was the back of the creek, Tom found the creek channel and went up another 100 yards or so, into about two feet of water. That is where the majority of the fish were located.

The lure of choice was a white Bang Tail…1/2 oz. They had a great day on the water and landed 38 fish total. They missed a bunch as well. Brenna caught 15, Tom caught 15 and Dawn caught eight. That’s a pretty good day on the water.

White Bass Fishing on Bull Shoals

Catch of the Day - White Bass

As for me, I had the opportunity to take my boy fishing…just us…in my boat. This was the first time we have done this, and it was truly a fantastic trip. We only fished for about two hours.

Colin really got into casting his rod and did so for about 20 minutes. I was smart enough to take his Nintendo DS and some food and drink to keep him busy while I fished from the front of the boat.

When he had finally had enough fishing, he wanted to go for a boat ride. He got to drive…

Truly a great day on the water, and one that I will never forget. Fish or no fish.

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I got to Bull Shoals on Friday night…right smack dab in the middle of an approaching cold front. Since we figured the black bass bite would be slow, we decided to go after the white bass that are now in the backs of the running creeks. Sometimes you have to go after what the lake will give you! Today, the lake gave up 18 of its white bass

I went with my father-in-law, Tom, and we decided to take his boat. Just before we left, I grabbed my gear out of my boat to take to the dock. I saw a small Swimming Minnow on my front deck that I had used to chase crappie last year. I RARELY chase crappie and this is one of only a few crappie lures I own. I grabbed the small chartreuse and green lure, and we headed to the dock.

We got to the back of Shoal Creek where we found just one other boat. Typically, when the whites are running, one person tells another person and next thing you know, half the county is in the back of the creek with you.

I started throwing a 1/4 oz. Rooster Tail and caught a white on my fifth cast. After about an hour, I had three fish in the boat and Tom had one.

We drifted by the other boat in the creek and asked how they were doing. The responded that they were catching a lot of fish on Swimming Minnows. Naturally, I switched to my sole Swimming Minnow and ended up catching 15 of the 18 whites. My partner wasn’t exactly thrilled with my luck. Every time I hooked a fish, I heard a definite expletive from the front of the boat…usually starting with an “M” and an “F”.

As a general rule, when either of us buys a lure, we like to buy more than one so we can give our partner one if the fish are hitting it. That way we both catch fish. Unfortunately, there was only one of this particular Swimming Minnow in the boat, and, of course, that is the one that caught all the fish.

Tom is an excellent fisherman and has been fishing on Bull Shoals since the 60s. He always knows how to put fish in the boat and rarely do we come in skunked. Today was just a day where the fish wanted a certain color, and I was the only one with that color.

We are taking my wife and kids out today to let them have a go with these whites. I will have my camera in hand and will post about the day’s adventure…tomorrow.

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Spring fishing is almost here, and fishermen are coming out of hibernation. Early spring can be boom or bust depending on if you are on the good side of a cold front. This time of year, the weather patterns are somewhat cyclical. We will have three of four days of clear, mile-high skies followed by a low pressure front that pushes through, usually followed by either cold weather or rain…or both. Then the pattern repeats.

Most of us are not individually wealthy and have to work during the week. That leaves the weekend left for fishing. If the Fishing Gods are on your side, the cold fronts will push through on Sunday night leaving Saturday and Sunday day full of great fishing. If you have my luck, the front pushes through on Friday night leaving clear, blue-bird skies, chilly weather and a drop in fish activity.

There are some techniques that you can apply to help pry open the jaws of cold-front bass.

Scale Down
It’s important to scale down your lure presentation. Instead of picking up your baitcasting rod with 15-lb. test, go with a spinning rod with 6- or 8-lb. test.

Stay Tight and Slow Your Presentation
Fish are going to hold tight to cover under cold front conditions. Instead of blowing down a bank and hitting cover with one or two casts, slow down and dissect that cover with your casts. When you are finished, move your boat position and do the same thing from a different angle. The fish are going to be picky, and you are going to have to hit them in the head with your lure. By changing your boat position, you can increase your chances to getting your bait into strike range.

Go Deep
Bass in clear reservoirs like Bull Shoals Lake will move to deep water during high barometric pressure situations. If you were catching fish in five to 10 feet of water before a front, move to 15 or 20 feet.

Lures Selection
Drop Shotting has risen to the top of many fishermen’s lists in the past few years when the bite gets tough. Originally started on the west coast, drop shotting has made its way across the U.S., especially in clear water lakes and reservoirs.

4-inch Grubs are also a go-to lure for tough bass. Fished with an 1/8 oz. jig head, grubs have proven their existence for many years.

Suspending Jerk Baits are popular during early spring. These baits can be tweaked to suspend perfectly or fall very slowly. If your jerk bait rises, add weight by up-sizing the hooks, adding lead strips or adding additional O-rings to the hooks.

Don’t let a climbing barometer deter you from hitting the lake. Re-group, adjust and adapt your techniques to compliment the conditions, and you will have better success on the water.

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10 years ago, my new wife and I went to Marco Island, Florida for our honeymoon. We had the most of the trip paid for my awards points from my wife’s traveling through work. Her Marriott points paid for the hotel for the entire week. Her Diner’s Club points paid for the car rental and air fare. The only thing we had to pay for was fishing and cocktails by the pool.

I am a very lucky man because my wife loves to fish as well as just being on the water. Whenever we go on vacation, we like to hire a guide to take us fishing on the local waters. This trip, we chose Lake Okeechobee in central Florida.

I have always watched the Saturday morning fishing shows with legendary anglers like Bill Dance, Jimmy Houston, Virgil Ward (yes…that long ago) and Roland Martin. I had heard that Roland Martin had a resort on Lake Okeechobee and we decided to hire a guide search for one of the lunkers that these guys have promoted in their shows.

Once we arrived at our hotel in Marco, I did an internet search for guides at Lake O and found one that looked good. We made arrangements for one night at Roland’s place and told the guide we would be ready to go the following morning.

On our way to the lake, I tried to envision what the lake would be like. Most of my bass fishing has been done in Missouri reservoirs like Lake of the Ozarks, Bull Shoals, Table Rock, Norfork, etc. I guess my thoughts painted a better picture of the lake than reality did.

We hit central Florida and, man, what a disappointment. We drove through Clewiston and our jaws hit the floor. I was expecting something that resembled a resort town (Elden or Camdenton, MO). Instead, we found a very rural town with little development. I remember thinking that Roland’s resort must be in the good area. Again…I was wrong. The resort was a glorified Motel 8 but the rooms were cool and the sheets were clean. Even though I was disappointed with the accommodations, I still had hope of a great fishing experience.

The next morning, our guide met us at the boat ramp. Since we were there in September, the fishing was not predicted to be great, and Florida was in the middle of a draught and the shallow lake was even lower.

My goal on any fishing trip is to catch at least one fish. Not a lofty goal, but a realistic one. Some days are great and some days are tough. My captain said that our best chance of catching quality fish was by using shiners and a float. I have been fishing a long time, and live bait has never been an option for me. Since we were paying a lot of money, we agreed to using shiners and a bobber.

Our first stop was fairly close to the boat ramp. I was amazed at how shallow the lake was. Getting to our spot, our captain basically ran his lower unit through the sand to get there. I typically fish in lakes where six feet of water means shutting the motor off! What we did was the equivalent locking in the 4-wheel drive to get to our spot.

Our first spot was the best of the day. I caught a few 2+ lb. fish. The guide told us to watch the bobber. When a bass was getting close to the bait, the shiner would begin to panic and make the bobber go crazy. Within a few minutes, my wife’s bobber was going crazy…and then it disappeared. She set the hook and the battle was on. She did a great job of keeping the fish from jumping and throwing the hook. When she got it to the boat and the guide picked it up, her jaw hit the deck of the boat. It was a 7lb. 1oz. bass…the biggest bass of her life.

Dawn's biggest bass from Lake Okeechobee

10 years ago, I did not have a digital camera…just my Pentax K1000 35mm. I managed to take a one good of the nice bass. My wife was speechless and had the biggest smile on her face. She was so proud that she caught a fish her dad (who is also a big fisherman) would be proud of.

While we did not catch any more lunkers that day, we had a great time. That fish made our day…as well as the rest of our trip. We let the fish go and our captain gave us a lunker certificate which we still have to this day.

After we got back to the ramp, we packed our gear in the car and headed back to Marco for some poolside margaritas to celebrate a great day on the water as well as the beginning of our marriage.

One of my next blogs will cover our 5th anniversary trip to the Florida Keys in search of bone fish, permit and tarpon.

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Below is an article I wrote for the Arkansas Game and Fish Magazine in 2006:

Fishing the clear water at Bull Shoals Lake on the Arkansas-Missouri border can be a challenge, especially in the warm summer months when fish move away from the banks and suspend over deep water. My preferred method for chasing fish is trolling during July, August and September. Trolling behind my pontoon boat allows me to cover a larger amount of water than by casting, and the lure constantly stays the strike zone.

July 4th started out much cooler that a typical summer day with intermittent storms forecasted. Looking like it might be a good day on the water, my in-laws agreed to watch our two children for a few hours while my wife and I went trolling.

We started on the flats directly in front of the Hwy. 125 campground and headed toward the ferry. My depth finder was showing the thermocline around 28 feet, so I put a Norman DD-22 on all three trolling rods with enough line out to hopefully reach depths of 25-27 feet. I was trying to keep the boat in 40 to 60 feet of water, but the contour of the land made it difficult.

Just as we were rounding the point by the ferry, my rod started jumping. My wife and I take turns reeling in fish when we fish together, and it was my turn. As I got the fish close to the boat, I thought to myself that it could be a yellow perch and that it might even be big enough for a state record. My father-in-law and I have caught five or six yellow perch in the last few years, but they have all been between six and eight inches long. The fish on the line was a bit over 14 inches long, and I did not know if they grew to be that big.

My wife, who has never seen a yellow perch before, said, “WOW…it’s a peacock bass!” When we are not actually fishing, we like to spend Saturday mornings watching fishing on television. These shows often feature peacock bass fishing trips to South America, and my wife is fascinated with them. I quickly told her that it definitely was not a peacock bass, but I could, see some color similarities between the two fish (just to make her feel better).

The fish’s air sack had expanded enough to protrude from its mouth since it was caught in deep water. I put him in the live well but the fish died almost immediately. We decided to head back to the dock and get the fish on ice.

Kevin Jones with the "biggest little fish" in Arkansas - 2006

When we got back to the house, I immediately did a search on the internet to see what the Arkansas state record was for yellow perch. To my surprise, there was no record listed on any of the sites I visited. I tried to call the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, but it was not open since it was a holiday.

When I called the next day, I spoke to Ken Shirley, District Supervisor – Fisheries Division for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. I told him that I thought that I had a large yellow perch, and that I could not find any indication of a state record. His response was, “If it’s a yellow perch, you have a record. No one has ever checked in a yellow perch in Arkansas.” He asked me questions about the fish in an effort to get a positive identification. With every question, I was getting more exited because I realized that my fish was in fact a yellow perch.

He told me that he was located in Mountain Home, Arkansas and that I needed to bring the fish in to be weighed on an official scale. The next morning, my wife and I got up early and hit the road hoping to arrive as soon as the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission opened. When we arrived, everyone at the facility was excited to see the fish, and upon inspection, they confirmed that it was a yellow perch. They were sincerely interested in my story asked all the typical questions anyone would ask about a nice fish like, “Where did you catch him? What did you catch him on?” etc.

We met Ken, and he was very eager to help us with our fish. It was nice to talk with him and ask all the questions that have been in my head about the fishing at Bull Shoals. He was very informative, and Dawn and I both enjoyed his stories.

Since Ken’s office did not have and official scale, we went to the local post office to use one of their scales. Given the events of 9/11, we had to get special permission to be admitted to the back area where the scale was located. While we were waiting, people in line were giving us some pretty funny looks since we were holding a cooler with a fish wrapped in newspaper.

Once we weighed the fish, Ken asked to see the documentation that stated that the scale was certified. Unfortunately, they could not find any paperwork, so we had to find another scale in town.

Since Mountain Home is not that big of a town, our choices were becoming limited. Ken made a few phone calls and found out that the local supermarket had an official scale that we could use. The scale was in the meat cutting department, so we were very cautious as to not let the fish touch anything except the butcher paper that was provided. The guys working in that department were excited to see that catch but quickly returned to work once the fish hit the scale.

The official weight was 1.24 lbs. Ken recorded the weight and thanked the store manager, and we headed back to Ken’s office where he submitted the information to make the record official. He said, “You will receive an official certificate from the state in the next few months, and your name will be in all of 2007 Arkansas fishing regulations handbooks.”

Many fishermen grow up having dreams of catching a state record fish, and usually it’s a largemouth or smallmouth bass or walleye. Yellow perch is rarely at the top of an anglers list (at least in Arkansas!) My boss affectionately refers to my fish as “the biggest little fish in Arkansas”. It’s not a 15 lb. largemouth, but it is a state record, and I will remember that 4th of July every time I look at that fish on my wall.

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