Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 04/02/2014

Story and photos by Matt Pangrac

Branson MO – The third stop of the 2014 Elite Series season begins tomorrow morning on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri.  

While all is currently calm on the home front with light winds and partly sunny skies on the final day of practice, a severe weather outbreak is forecast for the area on Thursday’s opening rounds with strong thunderstorms and 20 MPH winds.  

Regardless of what happens with the weather, many of the anglers that The BASS ZONE spoke with at the launch ramp on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning hinted that bites should come easily and often during the tournament.   The biggest challenge could be boating bass that meet the 15-inch minimum size limit.  “It wouldn’t surprise me at all if there were a few guys who caught well over 50 fish on the first day and only came to the scales with one or two keepers,” stated Chris Lane, who enters the week fresh off an Elite Series victory on the St. Johns River.   

The Elite Series returns to Table Rock for the first time since the inaugural season of the Elite Series in 2006, when Todd Faircloth won the September tournament with a total weight of 50-9.  More recently, current Elite Series pro Casey Scanlon won the 2012 Bassmaster Central Open on Table Rock in late April of 2012 with a three-day total weight of 49-4.

Tournament: Bassmaster Elite Series (Stop #3)
Fishery: Table Rock Lake – Branson, MO
Fishery Facts: 43,100 acre fishery located in The Ozarks.
Previous Elite Series Winner: Todd Faircloth (2006 Elite Series)
Field Size: 108    

Aaron Martens
Martens on starting a new streak of Top 12 finishes after breaking his streak of six consecutive Top 12 cuts two weeks ago on the St. Johns River:
“I’m ready to start another streak, but it’s going to be hard to do six in a row again.  This should be a fun tournament, but the lake is fishing weird right now.  I had a huge bag here on the first day of practice, but I think that I was kind of lucky and fortunate because I caught a 7-pounder and a couple other big ones.  I just wasn’t able to repeat that yesterday.”

Martens on how the predicted storms on Thursday will affect the overall fishing:
“It’s a deep lake, but most of the fish are shallow right now.  I don’t think that the storms or weather will change the way you have to catch them.  Some bad weather may actually help the bite if we get some wind and rain.  It seems like the fish are a little harder to catch when it’s calm. You have to slow down and finesse fish, and I really don’t want to do that.  Everybody thinks that I love to finesse fish, but I’d rather power fish and cover water on a big lake like this.    

Martens on how the field will spread out this week:
“I think there may be times during this tournament where I feel like my watch is wrong and everyone else already weighed-in.   There have been times this week in practice when I have covered 30 miles of water in an hour or two and only seen a few other boats.  It makes it seem like you’re on the wrong lake.  I really like that because it’s just so cool that you don’t have to practice around so many of the other guys.”  

Martens on what he thinks it will take to win the tournament:
“It should take under 80-pounds to win this week with a combination of spotted bass and largemouth and possibly one or two smallmouth thrown in the mix.  The smallies could actually play a factor here because they’re biting pretty well, but as far as the overall size goes, the spots and largemouth are bigger.   

“That being said, someone could actually win this tournament on smallmouth alone if they find an area where the big ones move in.  That’s a possibility on this lake.”  

Dean Rojas
Rojas on fishing Table Rock after a 2nd place finish on the St. Johns River:
“I really spent a lot of time last week preparing for this tournament.  I had to basically switch all my tackle out of my boat from Florida because I went from fishing shallower than 4-feet to fishing 25-feet and clear water.  I had to change all my rods, line, and baits.”

Rojas on the possibility of catching spawning bass this week on Table Rock:
“I’d be very surprised if any spawning bass were caught this week.  You never know, because someone could find an area with warmer water where the fish are starting to spawn early.  There was snow here 10 days ago, so it’s still really cold and the main lake is hovering around 50 degrees.  I think we are still a couple weeks away from any spawning activity."

Rojas on quantity vs. quality this week:
“I’m sure that I’ll catch small fish, but I’m really trying to target areas with keepers.   For me, I really don’t know yet if I’m going to have to play the numbers game.”

Rojas on the possibility of making a long run each day of the tournament:
“We typically go out of Kimberling City, which is about 10 or 12 miles from where we are launching this week.  That means that if you’re planning on running to any of the major creeks or rivers like the James, Kings, or White, it’s an extra 20 miles.  There will probably be a lot of guys using every possible drop of gas in the tank.”  

Steve Kennedy
Kennedy on being the second Elite Series pro to arrive at the State Park launch ramp for Wednesday’s final day of practice:
“Believe it or not, today was not the first time that I’ve been one of the first anglers to the ramp during practice.  At the Classic this year, I was actually the first boat at the ramp one of the practice mornings – but that obviously didn’t do much good for me.”

Kennedy on fishing this week after finishing in 6th place in the FLW Tour tournament on Sam Rayburn this past Sunday and starting practice on Table Rock mid-morning on Tuesday:
“This is week five of six where I’m fishing either an Elite Series or FLW Tour tournament.   I had a lot of momentum going the wrong way at the start of the season and it was starting to get in my head.  It was fun to catch them down on Rayburn doing what I like to do and get back on the right track.

“It’s hard to fish that many tournaments in a row, but I fished six consecutive weeks back in 2006 or 2007 I think.   Fishing so many back-to-back weeks is one of the reasons why I’ve gotten into the practice routine that the media likes to talk about so much.  It’s not that I’m just sleeping in and deciding not to practice.  I do my best when I just show up to the lake, fish a day, and then go out and catch them. When I actually get to practice for three days, I end up chasing fish that were there a week ago and things don’t work out so well.  

“I’ve always said that we are competing in a week-long event, and getting enough sleep is a huge part of the equation.  A lot of these guys wear themselves out in practice and go into the first day tired and not rested.  I make sure that I’m fresh and alert.”

Kennedy on how the weather conditions could affect the tournament:
“If we get to fish tomorrow with the bad weather predicted, I think it could be really good.  After that front rolls in, my confidence will drop.  My practice so far has been really, really fun.  If we get to fish a full tomorrow, I’ll be really excited.  After the front with cooler weather and bright sun, the fish tend to stop feeding and move deep in this clear water.  I’m not sure where they go, but they don’t eat.   They should be on a major feed today and tomorrow, though.”  

Zell Rowland
Rowland on his experience on Table Rock:
“I first fished Table Rock over 30 years ago back in 1970, so I’ve seen this lake for a long time.   The only thing that I remember about my first tournament here was that it was miserable because it was really cold and snowing.

“It’ll be a pretty good week.  There’s a shad kill, so the fishing is just a little bit slow and I think that will make the lake fish small.  Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time looking at different areas, but I haven’t ever been here during a shad kill.  It makes things a little bit different because you don’t what to fish where those shad are dying.”  

Rowland on making long runs this week:
“I believe that 80% of the field will burn between 40 and 50 gallons of gas each day of the tournament. There will be a lot of guys making a long run from where we are taking out of.”  

Cliff Crochet
Crochet on approaching a deep, clear fishery like Table Rock Lake:
“Fishing on Table Rock is a lot different than fishing how I grew up on the bayou.  My skill has gotten a lot better on fisheries like this with the experience that I have under my belt.   The thing is that fish pattern the same regardless of where you are.  I just try to fall back to the same patterns that fish use across the country no matter what and put all the other stuff out of my mind.”

Crochet on how he prepared for Table Rock during the off week last week:
“I didn’t fish at all last week and that was how I prepared.  I got my boat and tackle ready, but I didn’t make a single cast.  I really struggled and ground out a Top 50 finish at the St. Johns River, so I needed a little break to watch SportsCenter and play with my dogs.”  

Crochet on getting bites this week on Table Rock:
“You can catch a bunch of fish here, but the concerning part is getting a quality bite that is a keeper.  It’s very easy to catch 12 short fish for every keeper.  If two guys went out on Table Rock right now fun fishing, they could probably catch anywhere from 40 to 100 bass if they’re on the right deal. The problem is that it’s a small fish pattern.  Bites haven’t been a problem – big bites have been a problem.”     

Kenyon Hill
Hill on his history on Table Rock:
“I’ve been fishing this lake for the past 29 years.  I was a counselor at Kanakuk Kamps here on Table Rock back when I was in college.  I would go out with a black worm and catch them pretty good flipping willow trees.  
“The lake has changed a little over the years, but the techniques used to fish clear water have really changed over time.  There’s a little bit more algae and moss growing on the rocks now that is due to the phosphates coming into the lake, but other than that, the lake is pretty much the same as it was back then.”  

Hill on playing the numbers game this week:
“So far, I’ve had to go through a lot of small fish.  I think that there are some guys who have really figured out how to catch the bigger fish consistently.  It looks like I’ll have to wade through a bunch of little ones to catch keepers.”