Truman Lake probably received more fishing pressure in 2020 than it has ever received before. Despite the increased fishing pressure in 2020, it still looks like 2021 should be an excellent year for fishing Truman Lake.
Crappie fishing should be excellent across the entire lake in 2021. An excellent crappie spawn in 2019 has resulted in large numbers of crappie that will be between 5-8” at the start of 2021. This will likely result in anglers having to weed through more small fish than normal but some of these fish will reach the 9” minimum length limit by the end of the year. After excellent crappie growth rates in 2019, anglers caught at lot of very large crappie in 2020. There should still be a lot of big crappie out there in 2021 but the quantity of large crappie may be down a tick from 2020. During our fall crappie surveys, we saw the most crappie in the lower portions of the lake and up the Tebo arm but we saw the most big (13”+) crappie in the upper portions of the lake. That being said, we also saw several 12”+ black crappie in the Little Tebo area. The Pomme de Terre and Tebo Arms as well as the lower lake tend to have clearer water and as a result have a higher percentage of black crappie. The upper portions of the South Grand and Osage Arms tend to have murkier water and can be almost entirely white crappie.
The spawn is one of the best times to catch fish from the bank and a boat isn't necessary to get in on excellent fishing. Spawning banks usually have flatter slopes and finer gravel. Fish will move to the bank early and late in the day early in the spawn and can be found throughout the day in shallow water as the spawn peaks. Spawning fish can be found earliest at the upper ends of the lake in the major tributaries and the spawn will progress toward the dam as water on the lower lake warms. The land surrounding most of Truman Lake is public land owned by the Corps of Engineers. This gives anglers ample opportunity to fish from the bank. A good map with county roads and lake depths is a great tool to have. Spawning fish can be caught vertical jigging from the bank or casting and retrieving a jig fished about 12-18 inches below a float. In the summertime, you can find crappie on timbered flats near channels or along timbered bluffs. Vertical jigging sometimes works well for these fish, but as jig fishing becomes less productive, minnows will work best. Fish a minnow on a #1 gold hook and split shot. Fall is a time of transition with fish moving from summer to winter patterns. Fish can be targeted on timber near creek channels or bluffs. Winter crappie fishing on Truman is some of the best fishing to be had. If there is open water, you can catch crappie. Fish gather in large schools in the winter and once you locate a school, fishing can be on fire. Traditional spots are timber along steep points and bluffs and shallower water upstream on major tributaries. On the lower lake, fish the bluffs and timbered points. In the mid-lake area, fish standing timber and brush piles near creek channels.
One of the best and most commonly overlooked patterns on Truman is fishing shallow water. During the heat of the summer and cold of winter, try fishing in water 8 feet deep or shallower. Some of the best winter time crappie fishing can be found in shallow water in the upper reaches of main lake tributaries. Areas to try on the South Grand Arm are Cooper Creek, Deepwater Creek, Pretty Bob Creek, Hay Creek, and Big and Little Otter creeks. Winter time fishing is always good on Tebo Creek upstream of Windsor Crossing. On the Osage try Briley Creek, Big and Little Muddy creeks, Wright Creek, and Hogles Creek. It can also be very productive up the major tributaries as crappie follow the shad. Look for brush in and along the channel.
Beginning in 2009, the MDC placed numerous large cedar brush piles in Truman Lake. A map of these locations is available by visiting the following web link: http://short.mdc.mo.gov/ZJL. Fish attractors have been added to both deep and shallow water. Bass and crappie anglers have reported good success from fish attractors.
Fishing for blue catfish, channel catfish, and flathead catfish should continue to be good across the entire lake. The numbers of small blue catfish are down from what it was a few years ago but the number of larger fish (>34”) has steadily increased in recent years and will likely to continue to increase again in 2021. Blues can be caught on flats throughout much of the year. Concentrate along channel brakes during the fall and deep holes and bends in channels in winter. Don’t underestimate fishing opportunities for blues in the winter months, anglers have some of the most consistent blue catfish bites during the coldest months of the year. Blue catfish can be caught on rod and reel anchored or drifting cut shad. Anchoring up and fishing is often best in the cold winter months while drifting is more successful when the water is warm in the summer months. Blues can also be caught effectively drifting or anchoring jug lines baited with cut shad. During periods of high water, channels and blues will forage in the newly flooded vegetation. Channel catfish can be targeted on the flats with worms or prepared baits. Channel catfish will move to rip rap near roads and bridges to spawn in May and early June. Truman is home to some large flatheads. Prime locations are the upper portions of the Grand and Osage arms and the Tebo Arm. For flatheads, fish with live green sunfish or goldfish near fencerows and timbered flats and points near the channel. Set lines should be set fairly shallow during summer months when the thermocline is present. Rod and reel anglers have good luck targeting flatheads in the spring on the Osage and South Grand rivers and Deepwater Creek.
White bass and hybrid striped bass fishing should be excellent in 2021. The recent good year classes of white bass continue to show themselves with larger whites being caught. Hybrid striped bass were stocked every year from 2013-2016 but not in 2017 and 2018. The good classes from 2013-2016 will support several years of good hybrid fishing. Anglers also are starting to catch the young fish from what was a big 2019 year class, most of these fish will be 14-18” at the start of 2021. Hybrid striped bass fishing should continue to be very good during 2021 but there will be some missing classes and very few medium size fish (18-22”). In April and May, and sometimes as early as March, white bass can be caught making their spawning runs up the major tributaries like the Pomme de Terre, Osage, Sac, South Grand, and Tebo arms. Other minor tributaries to the Osage also support good white bass fishing during these times. To name a few; Weaubleau and Bear Creeks, though there are numerous other small tributaries where this occurs. Rooster tails and lipless crankbaits resembling shad work well during this period. Summertime will find white bass and hybrids associated with mid and lower lake humps and points. Trolling over humps with silver or white crankbaits, or imitation shad baits will work well in these areas. Drifting live shad or bouncing jigging spoons over these areas also works well. White bass and hybrids can be caught on or near the surface in late summer and early fall chasing schools of shad. Good topwater choices are spooks, pop-Rs, and similar style baits. Periods of water release from the dam create current within the lake, making locating schools of white bass and hybrids predictable. Whites and hybrids will be on points or humps with current flowing over them. Points on the lower Osage and Grand arms, areas near KK Island and the mouth of the Pomme de Terre Arm, and the weir in front of the dam, are all traditional locations that annually produce good catches of white bass and hybrids. White bass and hybrids will move into shallow water along windblown points during the fall. Target these fish with white rooster tails, spoons or imitation shad baits. White bass and hybrids will move up major creeks in the winter following shad to warmer water.
Walleye fishing on Truman should improve in 2021. In 2020 there was a large class of small walleyes, mostly 11-13” at the beginning of the year. These fish should be above the 15” minimum length by the start of 2021. These fish will start providing good fishing opportunities in 2021. The best arms are typically the Pomme de Terre, Upper Osage, and Sac River but in 2020 MDC staff noticed an uptick in the number of walleye encountered on the South Grand arm. Walleye make early spring runs up tributaries and concentrate in pools just below riffles. Summertime fish can be caught on gravel points using crankbaits, or slow trolling night crawlers, jigs tipped with minnows, or crankbaits over humps and long gravel points. Jigging spoons also work well. Main lake points on the lower Grand and Osage arms, the area around the mouth of the Pomme de Terre Arm and KK Island, and the lower lake near the dam, are good locations to try. Mid-summer walleye can also be targeted on the lakes many humps. Humps that come up from 15 to 5 feet on flats near the river channel can hold good numbers of walleye. These fish can be targeted by trolling crankbaits or using jigging spoons tipped with minnows or night crawlers.
The paddlefish snagging season is March 15 through April 30. Snagging should be good for legal fish (greater-than 34 inches in length) in the upper Osage from the Talley Bend area to above the Taberville Access with many fish greater than 45 pounds. As the water warms in the spring, paddlefish move upstream to spawn. Start snagging lower in the lake around Talley Bend at the beginning of the season and move upstream with the fish for the latter parts of snagging season. The paddlefish population is maintained through annual stockings by the MDC. Snaggers need to remember that once they have a daily limit of two paddlefish they are prohibited from continuing to snag, snare, or grab that day. Remember to use proper handling techniques when releasing sublegal fish back to the water to ensure their survival. Gaffs should not be used to land fish smaller than 34 inches. Paddlefish can be landed with large dip nets or ring poles, like those used to catch live animals.
The largemouth bass fishing on Truman is the best it’s been in a long time. The MDC bass sampling surveys were ineffective in the spring of 2020 due to poor water conditions. However, previous sampling data and reports from anglers indicate largemouth bass had good spawning and growth years in 2015, 2017 and 2019 with extended periods of high water. With the 2019 class of fish just starting to come on strong, expect 2021 to be another great year for largemouth bass fishing. Spotted bass numbers appear to be down a little compared to recently years. Spotted bass are most abundant in clearer, rockier areas found on the lower lake. Largemouth bass can be caught in a wide variety of habitats throughout the lake. Some of the best locations to catch bass are the lower half of the South Grand Arm, from upstream of Bucksaw down. Another area to fish is the Osage Arm between Talley Bend and Berry Bend downstream to the dam. The Pomme de Terre Arm and areas on the Tebo Arm also hold good bass. Another good place to find fish is in shallower brush piles placed by MDC. Late winter/early spring try suspending jerkbaits on main lake or secondary points. Spring will usually find fish moving into warmer water creeks, the backs of coves, and cove pockets. Try spinnerbaits or jigs for these fish. During rising or high water, look for fish in the newly flooded cover. Fish around green flooded vegetation and don't overlook piles of driftwood in pockets. During periods when water is being released from the dam, fish areas where current develops. This concentrates baitfish and bass. The downstream side of points and humps are good places to start. During the summer months, bass can be caught early and late in the day on buzzbaits and other topwater baits. Topwater baits can be a good choice throughout the day during the fall. As the sun gets higher, switch to a large worm or jig. When the water cools in fall, bass will begin migrating to the backs of coves and into creeks following the shad. Spinnerbaits and crankbaits are good choices during this time of year and bass can be caught in shallow water, 2-4 feet, feeding on shad. Some of the best spots to look for bass are on shallow structure near deeper water and also look for old creek channels with trees. Shad and bluegill are the primary bass food source, so baits with silver and white or sunfish patterns work well.