Last month’s annual conference of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers met in Branson, Missouri. I had known Branson as a vacation destination for entertainment but came away most impressed with the remarkable list of outdoor activities that the region offers.
Just an hour north of town is the Bass Pro Shops flagship store in Springfield. Bass Pro Shops owner Johnny Morris spared no expense on this continuously expanding giant outdoor store with a sprawling nearly half million square feet of space; you can explore the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium, check out the American Museum of Fly Fishing and shop every outdoor department and interest imaginable in their large retail space. The whole store is wrapped in remarkable taxidermy mounts and panoramic displays. If you prefer staying in Branson, they also have a Bass Pro Shops, with their store and restaurant on the White River a more modest 40,00 square feet.
One attraction that shined was a bit unexpected. The History of Fishing Museum was an overlooked gem. The collection of boats, motors, rods, reels and tackle is the single largest collection amassed by one man. The museum staff was very knowledgeable of antique lures and tackle, highlighting some of the more interesting and historical pieces in the collection. For a former antique lure collector like myself, it was fun to see some throwbacks and learn history and anecdotes from famous equipment of yesteryear.
Table Rock Reservoir fished well for starting the week off in an unseasonably warm heat wave. The first three days of the week soared into the mid-90s, and the water’s surface was a balmy 80 degrees. The air was hot and muggy and little breeze blew. By the end of the week the weather broke, and we had some cooler weather, overcast skies and enough breeze to move things around. A good mix of smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and spotted bass were caught on Table Rock. For this northern angler, a chance to catch my first spotted bass was appreciated.
The White River, Table Rock Dam’s tailwater outfall, and Lake Taneycomo are all different portions of the same fishery famous for its trout. Trout fishing on these historic waters is something everyone should try — this is one of those nationally famous fisheries. There are abundant eating-sized trout as well as legitimate shots at some giant fish. During the week of our conference, AGLOW member and native Missourian Nathan “Shags” McLeod caught an incredible 31-inch brown trout during an after-dark fishing session and I personally spotted some behemoths while motoring through the tailwaters of the Table Rock dam. If you like big trout, you already have heard about the great fishing on the White River.
Branson will always be a family vacation destination full of country crooners, theme parks and fun restaurants, but for outdoors folk, it’s a great place to wet a line, tour a fish hatchery, chase a gobbler, hike over hollers and hills, shoot a buck or explore the history of fishing. I’m looking forward to returning on a future family vacation. I’ll also have to make time to return for the fabulous fishing and hunting.
— This is the opinion of outdoors columnist Scott Mackenthun, an outdoors enthusiast who has been writing about hunting and fishing since 2005. You can follow him on Instagram @scottmackenthun and on Twitter @ScottyMack31.