Fishing in the Ozarks: Norfork Lake Bass, Brim, Crappie and Walleye

Hello everyone!

Here’s more articles about some of the great fishing opportunities in the Ozark Mountain Region.¬† I met Brian McClintock at the November, 2010 “Arkansas, The State of Fishing” media event.¬† Although there wasn’t time for Brian to fish on the White River this time, he had a blast fishing on nearby Lake Norfork!

story below by Brian McClintock, GoFishn.com

Tags: Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Kentucky Bass, Walleye, Crappie, Brim, Jig, Soft Lure, Spinnerbait, Spoon, Clothing, Underwater Camera, Casting, Catch-and-release, Jigging

We don’t have big water in central Pennsylvania. We have a few small lakes that anyone who has real lakes would call a pond, and the West Branch of the Susquehanna River is our only fishery that really supports the open-water species like bass, muskie, and walleye.

When I received an invitation to head to Arkansas‘s famed Mountain Home area, sandwiched between two of The Natural State’s most well-known reservoirs: Bull Shoals Lake and Norfork Lake, I was anxious to get on some big water and find some of those fish that are hard to find in my homeland, and that’s just what we did.

The iconic Gaston’s White River Resort was my headquarters for the weekend, thanks to the generous people at Arkansas State Tourism and Gaston’s itself. With 50s-esque person pink cottages, a peacock pen, and all the hospitality that the South is known for, Gaston’s has been home to anglers fishing the area for decades. And their formidable owner, Jim Gaston, is a living Arkansas legend, but enjoys patrolling his grounds with his dogs in toe, making sure everyone has what they need for a good time and a comfortable stay.

Thanks to Northland Fishing Tackle, Frabill, and Marcum, not only was I going to be doing some fishing, I also was able to test out some of their new gear, including the much-lauded Frabill StormSuit. The StormSuit won Best of Show at ICAST this year, and after wearing it all weekend, I know why. (Click here for my gear reviews of the StormSuit, Northland Fishing Tackle’s Reed-Runner spinnerbait, and the Marcum Underwater Camera).

And thanks to two guides and the Blue Lady Resort, I was able to get out on Norfork Lake two days in a row targeting the burgeoning bass populations in the lake. While Norfork is perhaps best known as a landlocked striper fishery, recent years of great spawning conditions has lead to a nice brood of largemouth, Kentucky, and smallmouth bass.

My guides on Norfork couldn’t have been more different. Day one was a Norfork icon, Darrell “Bink” Binkley. Bink’s been guiding on the lake for more than 20 years and knows the water like a postal worker knows his route. Bink and I targeted suspended bass all day with a green-pumpkin grub on a jig. As only a green-pumpkin grub can do, we ended up catching just about every species in the lake on day one: largemouth, smallmouth, Kentucky, crappie, walleye, brim, the works. Bink then broke out his secret weapon, his self-designed spoon which worked wonders in brush piles. Nothing was very big and we didn’t catch a lot, but it was a true showcase of what Norfork has to offer.

Day two was with a guide who used to hire Bink when he’d come down to Norfork on vacation. Steve Olomon retired to the shores of Norfork and has been guiding on the lake for only the past few years but fishing it for much longer. Also going after bass, we were throwing a topwater Heddon Zara Spook, a Storm Wiggle Wart crankbait, and a Northland Reed-Runner spinnerbait. Again, the fishing wasn’t blistering. We started with a couple smaller largemouth then I caught the fish of the weekend: the 4.25-pound bucketmouth on the Reed-Runner. We were fishing some man-made brush piles when the big fella hit the lure. That was really the last fish of note. Everything else brought in were either this year’s or last year’s fish, a great sign of a healthy fishery.

Norfork was a very interesting lake to fish for me. Before damming the river, the Army Corps of Engineers clear cut the area, so there are no natural structure submerged. It’s extremely deep and wild. There were waterfowl flying everywhere, making me wish I had my black lab and shotgun with me. I saw bald eagles both days, one carting off a duck it had picked off. It also doesn’t have the toothy fish like pike and muskie that many lakes have, with the bass and walleye serving as the lakes main predators. Next time I head to the area, though, I am definitely going after the lakes big striped bass and hitting either the White River for some of their famed trout or Bull Shoals, which was teaming with big crappie.

From delicious food at Gaston’s and at DeVito’s Restaurant and trout farm (with freshly caught trout prepared about 5 ways and family-style Italian to boot), to great wine from the California-native Roelands family who now own the Blue Lady Resort, to fun fishing with new friends, it was a weekend that I’ll be thinking about for a long time, and that bass is one I’ll remember forever.

(to see the photo gallery that went with this story, read Brian’s actual post on the web at http://www.gofishn.com/eby1dfs3/photos/7745-fishing-in-the-ozarks-norfork-lake-bass-brim-crappie-and-walleye.)

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Thanks, Brian, for helping us get the word out, and and I hope to see you again soon!

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