As one of the most sought after gamefish in the United States, (though some will debate this) the Black Bass can be found in almost every lake and river in Missouri. A member of the Sunfish family, the Black Bass in Missouri includes Largemouth, Spotted, Kentucky, and Smallmouth Bass. Though Smallmouth Bass can be found in Missouri lakes, more are found and caught in the depths and currents of rivers and streams. Many of the same techniques and lures used for catching Largemouth Bass in lakes, can be used to catch Smallmouth Bass.
A close look at the appearance of the Black Bass will help to identify which type of bass has been caught. The Largemouth Bass, which is greenish in color, has a jaw that extends past the eye. The Spotted Bass, which looks similar to the Largemouth, has a jaw that extends to just to just below the eye, and has irregular spots along the sides of the fish. The Kentucky Bass, also similar to the Largemouth, is short and stocky, many times it looks as if the fish swallowed a softball. The Smallmouth Bass differs from the Largemouth in that it usually brownish in color, and the jaw does not extend past the eye.
Most of Missouri's lakes have a lot of flooded timber along with rock, gravel, and dirt banks. These include Table Rock, Truman, Mark Twain, Stockton, Wappapello, Clearwater, and Pomme De Terre. Although bass can be caught on any of these banks, special attention should be given to the trees and sunken timber, since they provide a source of structure and cover for the bass. Lake of the Ozarks, which has no trees in the water, provides a different type of cover...boat docks, and lots of them. But there are also areas with no docks that should be checked for structure like you would any lake. Also check for sunken brush that other fishermen and dock owners have planted. Bull Shoals, which is also virtually void of tress, provides steep bluffs and rocky banks for structure and cover.
The seasonal patterns for bass in Missouri differ very little from lake to lake. Though the lakes themselves may differ, a pattern that works on one lake will usually work on another under the same conditions.
In early Spring, check the main lake points, working all the way into the back of the coves a little at a time as the water temperature warms up and the season progresses. During this time year, bass will be moving to shallower water looking for areas to spawn. Look for sloping banks with a firm bottom (preferably pea gravel) in areas where the water warms up fast. With the position of the sun during the warmer months, the northern banks of a lake will usually warm up faster.
After the spawn, and when the season moves into Summer, start working out to the main lake and deeper water a little at a time, checking the shallows from time to time. Be sure to check the shaded sides of bluffs, trees, and fall downs. On Lake of the Ozarks, try the shaded sides of the docks. It seems that during the Summer months, the fishing can be very fast and exciting during morning and evening hours. As mid-day approaches, the fish seem to turn off, or it just gets too hot to fish. For those that are willing to brave the heat, fish can be caught, you just have to work for them. Also remember to stay cool and drink plenty of water. This can be a dangerous time for those not careful.
As Fall approaches, start fishing shallower water and work back into the coves again. The bass during this time of the year will be trying to fatten up for the Winter. Follow the shad or available forage, the bass won't be far off, and try to match your bait to what the bass are eating.
And as far as Winter fishing goes, some of the lakes in Missouri can still provide for your urge to get out. Table Rock Lake, Bull Shoals, and Lake of the Ozarks don't completely freeze over. But when fishing in the Winter, fish deep and slow, and bundle up.