Table Rock Lake

Ozark Fishing

By Joshua Heston

Constants of Ozark culture remain. A dedicated commitment to making do. General suspicion of outsiders (this is yet a land where blood ties run thicker than most anything else).

Oh, and people fish.

These mountains are criss-crossed by too many streams to count. Fish have always been plentiful — a ready source of food and laid-back mountain recreation (a hard combination to beat indeed)!

Fishing brought visitors as well and hillfolk pioneered the now-venerable float trips down the White River. Southwest Missouri became an epicenter of such float trips. Jim Owen would even make a name for himself — and for the region — as he brought in celebrity after celebrity during the 1930s to fish the untamed White River.

As the Army Corps of Engineers dammed the rivers and created ocean-like reservoirs, fishing-as-tourism proliferated.

Today, the iconic image of a hillbilly resting on a riverbank with cane pole in hand may be gone. But fishing in the Ozarks is big business. Gleaming bass boats costing tens of thousands of dollars ply the spacious waters of Table Rock, Bull Shoals, and Lake of the Ozarks. Thousands travel to the Ozarks simply to drop a line into the lakes... and while here — beginning in 1959 — they began attending music shows in the evenings.

Fishing. Entertainment. Tourism. Just good old boys making a good living off the visitors. No longer just a decent idea. Now, it is a way of life.

And it all started with fish.

From Eula Mae Stratton:

“My father’s people settled on Little Sac and usually had fish once a week. However, when crops were laid by or work at the coal pit was light, the boys and their father would take out early for Big Sac and usually return with a big catch. That night the family enjoyed a fish fry... just bread and fish and a quart of dill pickles. When everyone was satisfied, the leftover fish was placed in a quart size stone jar, along with some of the fryin’s and a clean cloth tied over the top. The jar was then put into a tin bucket that was about half-full of cold water, and lowered into the well to keep from ‘spilin’.”

—page 23, Ozarks Cookery: A Collection of Pioneer Recipes, by Eula May Stratton

Float Trips

“Jim Owen owner of the Owen Boat Line out of Branson, Missouri, is probably most responsible for publicizing and popularizing float fishing on the upper White River. Starting in the ’30s, Owen ran floats almost daily on the James, upper White, Kings and Buffalo Rivers. Floats could start near Galena on the James or Eagle Rock, Shell Knob or Radical (at Hwy. 13) on the White.”

—pages 15, 16, The History of Fishing Table Rock Lake, by Tom Koob

Plate 1. Table Rock Lake beneath a summer-like sky complete with towering cumulous clouds. May 27, 2010.

George Kieffer Artwork

Plate 2. George Kieffer’s art idealizes the Ozarks in blues and greens and yet the piece is still punctuated by his trademark autumn colors. September 30, 2006.

Bourbeuse River

Plate 3. The Bourbeuse River in the Upper Missouri Ozarks holds uncountable memories of fishing and gigging parties. February 26, 2010.

Current River

Plate 4. The Current River of Shannon County, Missouri, is magical in a flourishing spring season. April 8, 2010.

Bull Shoals Lake

Plate 5. Bull Shoals Lake simmers as the Dog Days of Summer near. Even the lakeside oaks take on a different appearance as the thermometer climbs to 100°F. July 11, 2009.

chinkapin oak Mike Webb Bass Pro Fisherman

Mike Webb Helping Kids

(Branson, MO) Owner and opperator of Webb Outdoors LLC, Mike Webb has become one of the most recognized names around the professional bass anglers fishing circuit in the Ozarks.

Sponsored by O'Reilly Automotive, Webb — and his bright yellow trucks and boats — draw attention where ever he goes, and he goes a lot!

During the Nascar season, Webb makes several appearances across the nation representing his sponsors. He appears in such places as The Texas Motor Speedway, the Michigan Motor Speedway and Talledega. He also makes appearances at O'Reilly Automotive customer appreciation events as well as store openings all over the midwest.

Being a member of the National Pro Team for Bass Pro Shops, Webb does seminars as instructor and guest speaker at Bass Pro Shops Spring Fishing Classic events and new store openings. Webb has also been a regular contributor for Bass Pro Shops professional Hunting & Fishing Tips for many years.

Webb hosts several fishing tournaments through Webb Outdoor LLC throughout the year including the most attended tournament on Table Rock Lake, the US Open of Bowfishing.

In 1996 Webb began a project he is most passionate about. K.A.S.T. (Kids are Special Too). The program he designed promotes an anti-drug message to kids in schools and organizations across the country. Webb does about 60 appearances a year with K.A.S.T. traveling to 30 different states. Webb says "K.A.S.T. has been an overwhelming force in helping children and families turn from the destruction caused by drugs and toward the benefits of outdoor sports as a positive alternative".

We are proud to have a man such as Mike Webb as representative of this great Ozark Country.

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June 13, 2015

Natural Heritage

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Josh@StateoftheOzarks.net

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