Fly Fishing Arkansas’s Bull Shoals, Kurt Sleighter Slams the Bass!

Kurt Sleighter gets his first Bass Slam on Bull Shoals! It’s certainly not unusual to catch a bass on Bull Shoals. But Kurt hits a home run with his fly rod when he gets all four of the popular bass’s on his outing last Tuesday! Dandy Largemouth, Smallmouth, Spotted and White Bass all come to net using shad imitations! Congratulations Kurt!!!



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Missouri Stocked Stripers Providing Fun on Bull Shoals!


Missouri stocked Striped Bass are showing up in Bull Shoals Lake! Yeah, it’s true. Two years ago Missouri stocked 16,000 striped bass into their portion of Bull Shoals Lake. Guess what? Fish can’t read maps. They’ve left home and they’re going wherever they want. Right now I’m finding them in the same places the white bass like to hang out in spring time. Bass, crappie and walleyes have also started moving to shallower water! Give us a call at 870-416-1013 if you want to get in on some of this exciting spring action! Click here for Missouri striper article

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Fly Fishing Arkansas Bull Shoals Lake Fishing Report 3-18-2105

Fly Fishing is getting Hot!

Spring is springing! Finally. What a long cold winter it’s been. But for the most part I believe it’s behind us. I think the fish are feeling that way too!

Bull Shoals is giving up some real nice fish. I had the pleasure of fishing with AGFC’s fisheries biologist Paul Port the other morning, and he connected with what can only be described as an exceptional smallie! We had to to do a bit of searching, seems the fish moved from where they were the day before. Imagine that huh, fish moving. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Sometimes though that makes it all the sweeter.P3160031 - Copyresize


With the spring rains, the lake has come up few feet to 657 and change, and with more rain coming it should be up a bit more soon. That makes for great fishing. The main lake temperature has come up from 40 to 47 in the main lake, and back in the creek arms I’m seeing high 50’s during the afternoons. The water is just starting to cover the buck brush in the back of the creek arms, giving the fish a little cover. The fish are taking advantage of that cover too.

Walleyes, spotted bass, largemouths, smallies, and even jumbo carp are heading to the back of the creek arms in search of that warmer water. And with the water just covering the base of the brush, casting for these fish is a breeze! You can move pretty fast too because your fishing such shallow water.

The cool thing is you can tie into just about anything this time of year. Everything wants that warmer water! You never know just what you hooked into until you see a little color. There can be some real pigs in that mix too! Every spring produces at least a handful of 20 pound fish, and twice that number in the 8 to 12 pound class! Spring is definitely the time to be on Bull Shoals.

What you need to keep in mind is that you need to keep moving, because that’s what the fish are doing,,,moving. When the water warms during the day the fish move shallower, but when it cools during the night they can move right back out again. Not only that, not all the fish move at the same time. They migrate from the main lake in in groups, some move back quickly while others take a slower approach, lingering on structure along the way. So just keep moving until you find the fish. Primary points, secondary points, creek arms, and especially the back of creek arms, all of it can hold trophy fish this time of year.

Sink tip lines will surely be doing the brunt of the work, but make sure to have a full sinking line with you as well. When the water gets to depths over ten feet you need to switch to the full sinking lines.

Clousers of just about any color will do the trick, especially fishing slowly in deeper water. When I get into the shallower water requiring a much faster strip, I switch to flies with a softer tail such as Artic Fox or Temple Dog. The long wavy fibers of that type of fur really adds a lot of action to the fly!

So if you’re sitting on the fence, wondering when you should book a trip for some fantastic spring lake fishing action. It’s now!

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Fall Turnover

Fall Turnover; Fact, Fiction, or Superfluous Trumpeting?

Seems every year in
the first week of October I start to field questions regarding fall turnover on
Bull Shoals Lake.  I also start seeing
lake and river fishing reports touting the ill effects it has on not only the
lake fishing but the river fishing as well.
It almost seems there is a prize of some kind to be the first to mention
it!  Perhaps I can shed some light on
what the phenomena actually is, if, and when it may actually happen, and what
effects it has on lake and river fishing.

First, there is no
shortage of information available on the internet regarding fall turnover.  One simply has to do a quick Google search
and you’ll have enough fireside reading for several evenings.

So what is Fall Turnover?  Simply put, it is the mixing of the
stratified layers of lake water formed throughout the spring and summer.  You see, not all the water in the lake
actually weighs the same.  It varies
slightly throughout the year depending on depth, temperature, and time of year.

In the very early
spring, the lake water from surface to bottom is rather uniform in temperature,
varying only slightly from surface to bottom.
However, (due mainly to solar radiation) the surface of a body of water
will start to warm.  Warm water, being
less dense and usually more oxygenated, weighs less than cooler, denser, less
oxygenated water.  As the spring wears on
and turns to summer, the surface water continues to warm to deeper and deeper
depths.  Lake depth, water clarity, and
wave action will determine how deep the solar warming will be driven into any
given body of water.

Small, very shallow
ponds may actually warm evenly from top to bottom, many times becoming too warm
to support fish.  Larger, deeper bodies
of water will develop three distinct layers of water of different weights and
densities, sometimes referred to as Stratification Zones.  The upper level (the warmest and most
oxygenated) is the Epilimnion.  The
coolest, deepest, (and least oxygenated) level is the Hypolimnion, and the
middle layer is what is commonly referred to as, the Thermocline.  We’ve all heard of that one right?

The thermocline can
usually be easily identified by taking water temperature readings every few
feet throughout the water column.  When
you note a rapid change in water temperature, that is usually the top of the
thermocline and may be as wide as ten to fifteen feet.  The water throughout the thermocline may
become so dense that you can actually see it as a dark line on your sonar unit!

The lake will stay in
this stratified state until the hours of daylight (and solar radiation) begin
to decrease causing the surface to become cooler.  Finally, the surface water will cool to the
point that it becomes denser (heavier) than the supporting water below it and
actually sink through the water column mixing all three layers into a more
uniform state.  This mixing of the water
is what is commonly referred to as the Fall Turnover.

By now I’m sure
you’re thinking; ok that’s all fine and good. But, at what temperature does all
of this sinking, mixing, and turning over actually take place, and has it
happened yet or not?

Good question, precisely
the one that inspired me to write this article in the first place.  The general consensus is the surface water
needs to drop to approximately 50 degrees.
Some documentation suggests the mid forties and others say perhaps as
high as 55 degrees.

With that in mind, I
set out yesterday (October7th) to see if, in fact the lake has indeed “turned over”
or whether the low dissolved oxygen level and off colored water coming through
the dam that I have been reading about may be caused by something else.

To accurately gather
the date required, I popped a fresh battery in my temperature meter and went to
the mid lake area near point #24 and stopped in the deepest water I could find,
approximately 118 feet.  I then attached
my temperature probe to a 10lb cannonball on my downrigger (to eliminate cable
swing) and started to pay out line and rigger cable, taking readings every five
feet.  The chart below details my


As you can see from the table, I could have stopped my
data collection after taking the surface temperature.  If the lake had indeed “turned over” we
certainly would not see a surface temperature of 73 degrees!  One would surmise the surface would be 55
degrees or less.  It is also interesting
to note that there is a defined Thermocline starting at the 40ft to 50ft level
as evidenced by the sharp decrease in water temperature between those depths.

It is very evident that Bull Shoals Lake has not yet
turned over.  To address the question as
to whether it will turn over and when?  I
perused my fishing logs for the past 17 years and found that the earliest I
have noted surface temperatures near the magic 50 to 55 degree level has been
mid December.  Therefore, I would assume
that it will in fact turn over sometime in mid to late December, depending on
weather and wind conditions.

Now to address why the reports of low dissolved oxygen
levels and off color water showing up below the dam?  I would suggest the reason has nothing to do
with turnover as is so often reported as the cause.  In fact, I would dare say, it is the exact
opposite.  It is because the lake has NOT
turned over.  The evidence being that low
dissolved oxygen levels are associated with the deeper denser water in the
water column.  It is also important to
note that the centerline of the water intakes on Bull Shoals Lake are located
at 535 feet, approximately 119 feet below the current lake surface level.  With those facts in mind, the water coming
through the dam by generation is water that is clearly well below the
Thermocline.  The water at that level is
expected to be of low dissolved oxygen and somewhat off colored due to the
natural decomposing of organic organisms within the lake at this time of year.

It is also important to note that in several more
weeks when the lake actually does “turnover” one could expect to see an
increase in debris particles coming through the dam due to the mixing of the
layers.  However, this will be short
lived, and will also be followed by an increase in dissolved oxygen levels, due
to the mixing of the stratified water layers, so that’s good news!

As to what effect the turnover will have on fly
fisherman fishing Bull Shoals Lake in mid December?  I would say little to none.  At this point in time, the lake temperature
is already fairly consistent throughout the first 40 feet of the water column,
dropping only 4 degrees, from 73 to 69 degrees.
Fish that were previously holding near the cooler water of the
thermocline are now free to roam throughout the upper lake levels.  By the time the turnover actually happens,
the water will have gradually cooled to the mid 50’s, so any temperature change
will not be enough to disrupt the fish.
However, one should note that not all lakes behave the same during
turnover.  Some lakes will experience a
more dramatic turnover, depending on latitude, depth, size, and weed
growth.  Some shallower lakes with lots
of dead weeds may see the weed matter rise to the surface during turnover,
producing debris and possibly a foul smell, which may last for a few days.  On those types of lakes, it is not uncommon
for anglers to experience a change in fish behavior for a short period of time.



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IFFF Fly Fishing Fair. Win a RIO Deep 7 Line

The International Federation of Fly Fisherman’s Southern
Council Fly Fishing Fair starts tomorrow at the Baxter County Fairgrounds.  Make sure to attend.  There will be many great activities,
fly-casting demonstrations, great speakers, vendors, and of course, lots of
fellow fly tiers sharing their skills! It all starts on Friday October 3rd
through the 5th. Follow the link to see the event schedule.

I will also be delivering a one-hour presentation on
fly-fishing Bull Shoals Lake starting at 10:00 on Sunday morning in building
C1.  Make sure to attend, I will be
sharing lots of tips and tricks for fishing lakes and deep clear reservoirs. It
will cover everything including, terminal tackle, leaders, lines, rods,
electronics, and just as importantly, how to locate fish and present your

Just to make it a bit more fun!  Some lucky attendee will be winning a RIO
InTouch Deep 7 Lake Series Fly Line, just for showing up.  But you’ll have to be there to win!!!

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Bull Shoals Fishing Report 6-6-2014

I sincerely hope everyone had a chance to get out on Bull Shoals the last couple months to take advantage of the prolonged spawn and get in on some fantastic spring fly-fishing!  Except for a couple short periods when fish were moving from spawning areas to deeper locations, the fishing has been good and fairly consistent.  Now, that the spawn has pretty much wrapped up for most game fish species.  The fish have moved from large shallow water locations to, or towards deeper water, summer haunts.There is a little good news, bad news this year as well.  First, the bad: last winter’s prolonged and severe cold weather caused water temperatures to drop to the low thirties for an extended period of time.  This in turn caused a massive die off, of both threadfin and gizzard shad.  In fact, I have yet to visually see any shad or found any in the stomachs of any fish so far this year. Secondly, the good: with lower shad populations, fish are hungry and more apt to take your cleverly disguised shad imitations.  They will also be spending more time foraging for other food sources such as crayfish.The job now at hand is finding them.  Concentrate your efforts on main lake structure such as points, bluffs, cuts on bluffs and best of all, bluffs that may have some standing timber that also tapers off to a shallow point.  Fly selection should be rather simple as long as it looks like a shad and you can put it in front of a fish.  Even fish that are bent on a crayfish dinner will be happy to take a shad imitation, it’s just something they can’t resist.

If you already have some of these type places on your radar, you’re good to go.  If not, drag out the lake maps and start looking for structure that meets the previously described criteria.  If you’re handy on the computer, go to and sign up for a free account.  It offers a combination of a google earth type program, with Hot Map overlays featuring contour lines and other useful data.  You can even keep your own private map, make notes, and mark spots for future reference.  Another site that offers educational information on structure fishing is: .  It offers, for sale, the very hard to find book by legendary Buck Perry, titled Spoonplugging.  Although it does not discuss fly-fishing, it is considered the bible of structure fishing.  Which, is the subject at the very heart of fishing in general, this book is a “must read” and should be the first thing you reach for in helping you up your catch rate, both on the lake and in the river.  

Report for the mid lake area (point 24):

Water surface temperatures are in the mid 70’s with a thermocline starting to develop at the 25 to 35 foot depth and fish are starting to relate to it.  As its development becomes more defined, expect fish to relate to it even more.  Walleyes are biting very well on shad imitations presented at the 25 to 35 foot level over 40 to 60 feet of water along main lake structure.  Crappies can be found on brush piles in 25 to 40 feet of water in deeper creek arms.  They are also relating to main lake structure and structure with timber just above the thermocline, over water depths of 40 to 80 feet.   Spotted, largemouth and smallmouth bass seem to be scattered throughout the main lake, relating to the bottom near the shoulders of main lake cuts and softer points.  Shad and crayfish patterns would be the baits of choice.

Remember:  this is fly-fishing in a deep, clear reservoir, arguable the toughest game in town.  We don’t have the luxury of big, water moving buzz baits that fish can home in on with lateral line sensory.  Ours is a visual game, requiring working slow and deep with full sinking or long sink tips.  Boat control is paramount to success, drift socks are highly recommended to slow your boat to afford vertical presentations.   You should make at least two drifts over promising structure.  Start with the shallower drift over 24 feet of water, presenting to the shoreline searching for active, positive fish.  Followed by a second drift over 40 feet of water, again, presenting to the shoreline searching for less active, neutral fish.  Hammer away at main lake structure like primary points, shoulders of cuts etc, and don’t discount an area just because it did not produce a time or two.  Hit it again, especially at dusk a couple times before scratching it off your list.

Structure, structure, structure is the name of this game, keep that in mind and you’ll find success and soon be on your way to a summer of walleye dinners!

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Bull Shoals Lake Fishing Report 5-7-2014

If you’re the type to wait until the fishing really heats up, you better be getting the boat ready. You won’t need anything but a fast sinking line and a handful of size 6 clousers (pink over white and olive over grey) to get you in the fish.  Bull Shoals is fishing well in depths anywhere from 6 feet to 35 feet, depending on what you are after. 

Very nice 20 inch plus walleyes are hitting well, keep the boat over 35 feet of water and presenting to the shoreline will do the trick.  Primary points and the backside of primary points seem to be holding the most fish.  Spotted bass are a little shallower, soft secondary points with some exposed brush will hold fish.  Fishing over 18 to 25 feet and casting towards the brush will produce nice catches of 12 to 16 inch fish.  Slab crappies are coming to net with the same presentation in the same locations.  Be prepared to do battle with a giant carp at anytime this time of year, as they are back in the creek arms as well and eagerly take minnow imitations.  

White bass are on the primary and secondary points in 8 to 15 foot depths, keeping the fly moving fast is the key to triggering strikes with them.  Largemouths are starting to move to the 8 to 12 foot range along soft secondary points and banks.  You can upsize your presentation to 1/0 size clousers and make sure they have some green in them.  Smallmouth bass are still a little deeper and being caught while chasing walleyes.  Until the water warms up just a bit more, no special tricks are required to catch them, but they should move shallower soon! 

If you’re after something bigger and have never tried gar on the fly, that is just around the corner.  Right now, gar are spawning along the main lake bluffs.  When they finish in another week, they will move to the brush in the creek arms to rest up.  Make up a few rope flies by taking a piece of 6 to 8 inch ¼” to 3/8” nylon rope, secure it to a 1/0 saltwater hook, comb out the rope end and tease it back into a ball.  Grab your nine weight and a floating line and sight fish to fish in the shallow water brush.  Casting a few feet past the fish and pausing  the fly just in front of their nose will sometimes trigger explosive strikes.  Remembering NOT to set the hook takes a little practice.  Let the fish run and get the rope caught in their teeth, then apply pressure. Pack some bandages, you’ll need ‘em!  Whatever you decide to fish for, now is the time to get out on your favorite lake and take advantage of this special time of year.

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Bull Shoals Lake, White River fishing report 4-23-14

Bull Shoals is fishing very well!  This is the magical time we wait for all year, the spawn!  The main lake water temperature has risen to 63, up almost ten degrees from just a week ago.  Fish of all types are either spawning, just finished or are fixin to real soon!  Walleyes are done, and are now moving throughout the creek arms seeking to take in some calories. You can find them in 8 to 12 feet of water hanging around secondary points as they linger on their way to their main lake haunts.  White bass are still going strong in some larger creek arms.  In smaller creeks arms, spawning has been completed and the whites are busting baits along secondary points.  Just keep that fly moving as the whites like it fast!

Kentucky bass have moved in to the 8 to 12 foot range and getting ready to spawn.  Again, secondary points and banks are key places to find them.  Crappies have moved shallow and can be found near flooded brush near secondary points. 

Smallmouth’s are coming to hand along main lake bluffs and creek arms and are taking baits in the 10 to 15 foot range.

If you’re up to some fun with some rough fish, carp are moving way back in the creek arms and fishing them blind with smaller minnow imitations will surely put a bend in your rod. Some of these fish are massive and the fight can be long and hard on medium weight tackle. Large schools or suckers have made their way into the creeks in 2 to 5 feet.  They can be a lot of fun on fly gear while walking the banks using worm imitations.  You’ll need a stealthy approach as they may be rough fish, but they are not stupid.

The White River has been running hard with some stop and go flows, making it more difficult for wading anglers to get access.  The caddis hatch has been sporadic with reports of massive hatches one day and fewer bugs the next.  The usual sub surface caddis patterns are performing well and buggers in brown, olive and black are knocking them dead, as always.

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Bull Shoals Lake Fishing Report as of March 31, 2014

Well I think it’s safe to say that spring is taking it’s sweet time in getting here.  I have yet to see a single Redbud bloom let alone any Dogwoods, both are the real indicators that spring is upon us.  Comparing past years fishing logs, I would say we are at least three weeks behind normal for water temperatures and fish movements.

The main lake is still in the mid forties at mid lake (point 24) however; going way up large creek arms the temperatures will rise to fifty to fifty-four depending on the sunlight and wind on that particular day.

A beautiful springtime White Bass

White Bass are starting to get in the mood to run but it is still halfhearted with a few in the creeks late afternoon and then gone tomorrow.  It will take some good warm weather for several days to get ‘em going.

I’ve talked with several bass fisherman throwing baits on primary and secondary points with most saying it’s real hit and miss right now.  Getting a few one day, and then nothing for a couple days.

Hard fighting Smallie!!!

I have been having increasing success with smallmouths, Kentucky’s, largemouth and spotted bass working the usual bread and butter places.  Namely, the sides of secondary points that are not too far back from the main lake or large creek arms.  Smaller size 6 Pink and white clousers are doing well, as are smaller weighted crawfish patterns.  The trick is keeping the bait in the strike zone. With the boat over 35 feet of water and casting towards shore and a very slow retrieve.  Most takes are coming when the bait is nearly under the boat while making three or four short strips and then letting the line slip out again.  Fishing this way, it may take three or four minutes to retrieve a cast. Keeping the boat moving extremely slow for a near vertical presentation is the trick!

The beauty of fishing this way is you never know what else you’ll get.  Crappie and carp are also taking the same presentation providing loads of fun on medium weight tackle!!!

The White River, as usual, is producing nice rainbows and medium size browns on just about anything you want to throw at them.

Green, brown, and black buggers are doing well and it looks like the caddis hatch is not too far off.  Make sure to bring some soft hackles with a little green in them and let ‘em swing, expecting hits on the end of the swing when the bait rises toward the surface!  Bring some small dries with you too, if your eyes are good enough to see those little suckers.  I’ll have to wait ‘till hopper season!

This time of year, you can depend on the power generation schedule to be less than dependable.  The lakes are all just about right at pool.  Make sure to watch not just Bull Shoals, but Table Rock and Beaver on a daily basis to try to get a handle on what they are doing to help you make a better prediction.  Keeping an eye on the four-day forecast and the real time generation and comparing them with the schedule, may give you a better insight to what is really going on.

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Arkansas Fish Attractor Locations

It seems like anglers everywhere are always trying to get an edge to help them find more fish.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) has a great tool to help with that!!
Many folks have yet to find the AGFC GIS Viewer, which has the GPS location of all the fish attractors placed by the commission. It is available at and has a map of the entire state, it allows the viewer to pan to their favorite fishing hole and see the locations.

To top that off they also have a GPX file that you can download to your home computer and then to an SD disk to download into your favorite GPS equipped fish locator. After opening the page simply locate the navigation bar and select TOOLS then GPS/GPX Communicator. It’s a good idea to read the operators manual for your unit before installing the data to find out if you need to reset it to factory defaults before installation. I was also able to download it to my Navionics Hotmaps Explorer, so I have the information available on my laptop lake-mapping program. You can find the entire Navionics/Hotmaps lake maps line at . If you have any problems or questions, contact me and I’ll see if I can help.

Fish Attractor Locations

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