Anglers face Historically Low Water Levels for Event
Adjusting to new and changing conditions is often what separates the best anglers from the rest of the field and TBF District 7’s visit to Stockton Lake in the Ozark hills of Missouri was no exception. A loaded field of 26 boaters and co-anglers had years of combined experience on this body of water, yet early fall water levels 7 feet below normal pool created an unfamiliar challenge for the anglers. Participants that were used to running up one of the 3 river arms to find fresh fish were restrained by low water that made common summer runs extremely treacherous. Compounding this challenge was the fact that warm fall temperatures had delayed the migration of shad to the backs of the creeks making the river bite unproductive. This concentrated the anglers to the main lake and limiting productive patterns available to the anglers. The remaining main lake bite was also abnormal with water levels making brush piles unproductive and putting other typical fall cover out of the water.
While the water conditions were a challenge the weather cooperated with consistent dry conditions and sunny skies for both practice and tournament days. Highs for each day were in the low 80’s with morning lows around 50 degrees. Winds were light and variable allowing water temps to cool off steadily from around 73 on the first day of practice to about 69 degrees on the final Sunday. The lack of recent rain also provided good water clarity with 1–3-foot visibility around the lake.
The tournament started with Saturday’s low in the low 50’s and very light winds from the NNE. A hazy sunrise caused by light fog greeted the boaters on their way to their first spot. Day 1 boater results showed Brian Maloney of Missouri in first place with 5 fish for 14.04 pounds followed by Hunter Baird (Kansas) at 13.49 and Larry Stoafer (Kansas) with 11.25. Attesting to the tough water conditions only 8 limits were weighed but Brian was able to land a 5.04-pound kicker to take home the big bass pot for the boaters.
Sunday dawned with light winds again that picked up only slightly throughout the day. Finishing out the 2-day event on top was Hunter Baird of Kansas with 10 fish for 24.77. Hunter is one of our best young anglers and used a shad pattern to boat limits each day. He followed the shad to the back of windy pockets hitting lots of spots each day with a combination of top water baits and plastic creature baits. He would like to thank his sponsors Texoma Tackle, Whitetail Properties, Mesu Fishing and Jewel Baits.
Finishing second overall and first in the Missouri division on the boater side was one of our most decorated anglers, Brian Maloney. As a past champion of the BFL All-American and multiple TBF National Final qualifier it was inevitable that he would be a top contender in this event. He boated multiple keepers each day and culled his sack up to a total of 23.03 pounds. He used a combination of top water baits early to fill his limit then reverted to his trusty jig to add weight and cement his trip to the 2023 TBF National Championship. Robert Hime led the final day results with 13.02 but it was not enough to crack the top 5 even with his big bass of 4.33 pounds.
Rounding out the top boater finishers were Larry Stoafer (Kansas) 21.58, Craig Wolf (Kansas) 19.95 and Craig Torkleson (Kansas) 18.71 and Jeremey Montgomery (Kansas) 17.85. Each angler used a combination of top water baits, jigs and soft plastics to boat their limits. Other anglers having strong finishes were Robert Hime with a final day limit of 13.02, anchored by the big bass of 4.33 pounds.
Co-anglers face a difficult challenge in these events with varying patterns and a tough bite adding to the normal challenge. This year’s event also included a loaded field of strong anglers including several divisional and national qualifiers. Day one co-anglers were led by John Kelley (Missouri) with 13.33 pounds, Don Glick (Kansas) at 7.96; Billy Ray (Missouri) with 6.03. John also landed the big bass on the co-angler side out of a brush pile that weighed 4.97. While some angler’s bites faded, Billy Ray found a way to hold on with a strong day 2 ending with a total of 17.84. Billy had an amazing year, winning both the Missouri TBF Co-Angler of the Year along with the state’s qualifying slot for the 2023 TBF National Semi-Final. He would like to acknowledge the great boaters he had (Larry Stoafer and Hunter Baird) that put him in position to use both a top-water bait and shaky head to land his keepers.
Finishing second overall and first in the Kansas division was Don Glick who boated 8 keepers for a total of 16.23. Finishing 3rd overall was one of Missouri’s newest anglers (High School Anglers) Brent Ryan with 13.36. Rounding out the top 5 were John Kelley (Missouri) with 13.33 and Paul Huse (Missouri) with 9.21. Each of these anglers showed amazing adaptability, fishing tough conditions behind some of the best anglers in the Ozark area.
The Missouri TBF would like to thank all the participants for their cooperation and support at this event. We would also like to thank our event venue, Orleans Trail Resort, who provided a great meeting location and lodging but also a fantastic meal for the attendees on Friday night. We also appreciate the support of our sponsors Ranger Boats, Humminbird, Lowrance, Minn Kota, Bass Pro Shops, Cabelas, Strike King, Lews and Wholesale Batteries. Finally, we would like to thank the anglers and their families who support the Missouri TBF and the Kansas TBF. We were specifically encouraged by the young anglers that attended this event along with the Missouri TBF Junior Anglers who held their fall event in conjunction with the TBF National Semi-Final. The sportsmanship shown by the participants set a great example for these new participants and goes a long way to helping both the Missouri and Kansas TBF continue to grow.
Changing Spring Conditions Challenge Adult and Youth Anglers at First Joint Event
What’s the saying about the best laid plans? Anyone familiar with scenic Stockton Lake knows it supports a very healthy population of all three native species of Missouri bass. When this event as scheduled for the middle of May with a full-moon the following week, members began dreaming of site-fishing for big spawning bass in crystal clear waters on the main lake at Stockton. As is often the case, Mother Nature had a different plan and after a cool early spring conditions changed dramatically in the days leading up to this final event. Normal spring lake conditions with lake levels elevated about 3 feet was followed by a week of heavy rains raising the pool another 9 feet in 4 days! This not only changed the color of the water but made much of the bank inaccessible, with a tangle of flooded bushes, floating wood, and sawdust/pollen debris in many pockets.
Stockton MOSAF High School Award Ceremony
These were the conditions that greeted our field of 15 boater and 13 co-anglers along with several High School and Junior teams that were holding their joint event with us at Stockton. The weather continued to be a challenge with the first real heat wave of the season on Wednesday and Thursday with highs in the 90’s, raising water temperatures rapidly through the 70’s throughout the lake. While the water clarity was changing constantly, the conditions were fishable on the main lake and throughout most of the river in practice. Weather on Saturday was cool with an approaching front with clouds and thunderstorms complicating the event on Sunday. Unfortunately, Mother Nature also has an evil ally in the form of the Army Corp of Engineers who changed the water discharge throughout the event making the river less fishable and requiring anglers to adjust their game plans.
Jared Knuth, Boater First Place
While the Missouri TBF dreamed of a tournament with multiple fishing patterns producing big sacks, one pattern turned out to dominate the event and that was true for our winning boater, Jared Knuth. Jared is a past National Qualifier and no stranger to the leader board at these events and he put together the most consistent performance in the field. He weighed the second biggest sack on day 1 with 5 fish for 11.53 and followed that up with a second day total of 12.70 for a winning two-day total of 10 fish for 24.23 pounds. Jared put together the winning pattern quickly by flipping soft-plastic creature baits in flooded bushes near the dam and in mid-lake coves. His bite required a steady approach with bites coming throughout the day. He targeted bigger fish that seemed to be nearer the bank which required a strategic approach and skillful presentation. He had several shorts each day with 5 keepers on Saturday and 7 on Sunday supplemented with a last keeper falling to a buzz bait in the cloudy overcast skies.
Dennis Maggart, Boater Second Place
Finishing second in the event was Dennis Maggart who took advantage of the curves thrown by the weather to come back strong on day 2 and pass some less fortunate anglers. Dennis began Saturday fishing up the river but after 5 hours with no bites he finally adjusted his plan and found cleaner water in the mid-lake area to scratch out a small 3 bass sack on Saturday that put him in 6th place. On Sunday he continued his pattern of flipping green pumpkin creature baits in bushes and hardwoods near the back of spawning cuts. This adjustment paid dividends in the overcast conditions and produced a 5 bass limit of 11.86 for a two-day total of 17.54. He also landed the big bass on the boater side for day 2 with a 3.78-pound fish that bit his creature bait off a clump of hardwoods in about 3 feet of water. In these tough conditions Dennis was fortunate to have a couple of great partners in the back of the boat in Jason Morisaki and Patrick O’Neal to help with lure recovery, boat salvage and fish netting.
Don Heiser, Boater Third Place
Rounding out the top 3 qualifiers for the event was Don Heiser. As most of you know Don is one of our most accomplished anglers and that experience came in handy with the changing conditions at Stockton. After a rough day of practice, he made some changes and immediately caught fish on Saturday with an early limit from flipping bushes of 10.93 pounds, good enough for third place going into Sunday. He followed that up with a smaller 4 fish sack on Sunday for 6.44 but that gave him the margin he needed with 16.87 to hang onto 3rd place by a slim 2 hundredths of a pound! Like all the top finishers Don was flipping bushes with a creature bait in the back of mid-lake coves and cuts. Other anglers that had good performances and just missing out on the automatic qualifying spots were Brad Tyer, our reigning State Champion, with 16.85, Jess Stewart with 15.32, and Mick Maples with 13.83. Big bass from Day 1, and overall big bass went to Jerry Lovell on Saturday with a 5.64-pound bass that fell for a green creature bait early Saturday in a green bush on a main lake point.
Billy Ray, Co-Angler First Place
Leading our Co-Angler field was Billy Ray, a repeat qualifier from our event at Lake of the Ozarks in March. Billy was consistent with a day one sack of 9.85 to lead the field, to finish with a total of 12.51 pounds. His sack was anchored by the big bass on the co-angler side on day one of 4.19 pounds. Like the rest of the field Billy was flipping a soft plastic bait in the flooded bushes. While this pattern seems obvious, co-anglers know that flipping these baits in tight cover while someone else runs the trolling motor is a whole different challenge. Looking for open windows and less obvious holes that may have been missed by the boater requires a special skill and Billy proved to be the most proficient.
Gary Martin, Co-Angler Second Place
Finishing second was one of our most consistent and skilled co-anglers, Gary Martin. He has proven to be a master at many techniques but really excels in flipping and that skill proved invaluable in these conditions. Gary caught nice bags each day (5.30 on day one and 5.04 on day two) for a total of 10.34 pounds. In addition to qualifying, Gary also took home big bass honors on day two for the co-anglers with a 3-pound largemouth!
We are all excited to see that our final co-angler to qualify from the field is also our youngest and newest member, Grant Simmons. While Grant may still be in High School, he was anxious to get on the water and learn more about tournament fishing. With the advice of two of our best boaters (Mark Harper and Don Heiser), Grant learned quickly and after a rough first day came in with the second biggest sack on the co-angler side of 9.4 pounds to charge into third place. Following the lead of his boaters Grant flipped soft plastic baits into the bushes and used his experience landing fish from his kayak to boat his keepers and punch his ticket to the TBF National Semi-Final. Finishing 4th in this event was John Kelley with 7.27 pounds, and since Billy Ray was already qualified from our first event, he will also be moving on to the TBF National Championship.
Angler of the Year
Since this is the last of Missouri TBF’s two national qualifiers we can now set our team for the TBF National Semi-Final and crown our angler and co-anglers of the year. Our state team is made up the top 3 boaters and co-anglers from each event. Each of the team members received a payout at their event and is eligible for a stipend to cover their entry into the National Semi-Final at Stockton in October. Our boater team includes Brian Maloney, Andrew Capps, Ken Whitfield, Jared Knuth, Dennis Maggart and Don Heiser. The Co-angler team is made up of Billy Ray, Jon Small, James Rice, Gary Martin, Grant Simmons, and John Kelley.
This year our angler of the year goes to Ken Whitfield. After finishing 3rd at Lake of the Ozarks he was able to complete the task with a solid performance at Stockton to accumulate a total of 388 points. This allowed him to lead a very tight field with Troy Ladehoff finishing just behind with 386 points and three other anglers (Robert Hime, Brad Tyer and Chris Dougan) at 384. Ken is one of our hardest working and most analytical anglers and deserves this award. His is a consistent threat at all our event venues and is a great ambassador for the Missouri TBF.
The co-angler of the year was won by Billy Ray. Since joining our group a few years ago, Billy has quickly proven that he has the skills necessary to catch fish and stay in front of a loaded co-angler field. Billy led the field with 2 strong events totaling 391 points. This allowed him to outpace prior champions Jon Small (391 points) and Gary Martin (388 points) along with Clayton Sansoucie (388 points).
We would like to thank all our sponsors for their support this year; Ranger Boats, Lowrance, Humminbird, Minn Kota, Bass Pro Shops, Cabelas, Wholesale Batteries and Power Pole. Most importantly we would like to thank our members who make all these event’s fun and enjoyable.
Your path to the TBF National Championship and MLF All American
Day 1 & Day 2
Take off: 5:30 AM CDST, Stockton State Park Marina
Weigh in: 3:00 PM CDST, Stockton State Park Marina
Tournament Director: Tom Kaufmann
Stockton State Park Marina
18610 2000 Rd, Dadeville, MO 65635
Orleans Trail Resort, 15828 S 1525 Rd, Stockton, MO 65785
Off Limits & Additional Information
Off-limits diagram to be posted.