One’s initial reaction to a “put-and take” fishery like Branson, Missouri’s Taneycomo might be, “that’s like shooting fish in a barrel,” or worse, “that’s cheatin’.” Truth is, though, that yes the stocked fishery is silly with trout – largely rainbows with an appreciable dose of browns – but using proper tackle and techniques are still crucial if you’re serious about volume.
On this day, based on local intelligence melded with intuitiveness, we pitched juicy soft plastics suspended beneath floats, spaced about 18-inches apart. The jig heads were off-the-shelf local pour lead 1/32-ouncers. The small soft plastics, however, were far from generic. The slender, tapering, wedge-shaped forms are actually called “Wedgies” by Little Atom. No doubt, they’re the supplest soft plastics I’ve fished.
Selecting colors wasn’t left to personal preference or luck, either. Again, neighborhood experts provided valuable information. They said Taneycomo trout are fond of the river system’s gobies, which are drab in color to camouflage midst the sand and rubble bottoms. So after sifting through a box of Wedgies, we settled on an olive hue with just a hint of mustard. It proved to be spot on.
Speaking of spots, the Wedgie and float combo is what led our two member Hobie crew to a bonafide hotspot. At the downstream side of a massive shoreline dock near Lilly’s Landing, the trout were thicker than thieves on the downstream side. Educated speculation said that the blend of a current break with a hollowed out area mixed with weeds is what caused the trout to camp – the quietness of vacancy played a role as well. The area was so fertile, in fact, that a smattering of bluegills and small largemouth bass were also in attendance.
Diversifying our offerings, I cast a float and similar sized and colored marabou hair jig. The thinking, too, was that the flowing feathers would simulate the action of the Wedgie, which was intending to behave like baitfish. As it turned out, though, nothing was further from the truth.
My wingman proceeded to catch a dozen rainbows in nearly as many casts while my float dunked only once. We employed the same slow drag technique. Cast alike weighted jigs with similar patterning. But there was something about the swimming plastic that generated strikes.
I theorized that it had to do with its uniqueness. Taneycomo’s trout are no strangers to artificial offerings. It’s a put-and-take fishery and there are zillions of efforts made annually to fill a stringer, and often with traditional local lures. The Wedgie was something new; something the trout hadn’t ingested before, yet still resembled native forage, so they took a leap of faith. Needless to say it wasn’t long before I got a Wedgie.
The handling and performance of our fishing rods made a difference as well. St. Croix Rods provided Panfish Series spinning rods for the outing. Designed for often tender biting panfish, the lightweight rods set smoothly on these predominately 12-15 inch trout. The rods also cast the lightweight rigs with finesse, and authority, launching long distances.
It was recommended that we fish with 4- or 6-lb. test monofilament with a 2-lb. leader of 18-inches or so. The narrow diameter leader material presents baits with virtual invisibility. Main spools were spun with Berkley’s classic XL; Sufix leader material was tied to the jigs.
Last but certainly not least, Hobie’s Outback kayak with Mirage Drive earns more than a mention. The sharp-looking, effortlessly maneuvered kayak proved to be both agile on turns and commanding enough to tame the current. The people-powered Mirage Drive keeps hands free for fishing while propelling the craft with one’s stronger leg muscles. A serious workout while fishing? There go any excuses for not exercising on account of being too busy. You make time to fish, right?
Images courtesy Dena Woerner