Kimberling City, Missouri – Mike Boyles is one of the happiest people I know, and why wouldn’t he?
Wells is a full-time fishing guide on Table Rock Lake, the best bass fishery in any of White River’s reservoirs, including Norfork Lake. His boat is not fast, but it is spacious and comfortable, and it gets to where the fish are. What’s more, Boyles takes it to where the fish are, which is why he’s so demanding that he drove 233 days in 2021.
“I wanted a new boat, and that makes it hard to say no,” said Boyles, who prides himself on maintaining diplomatic relations and is even warm with the other guides on the lake. If he can’t accommodate a potential client, he refers them to other directories.
The coronavirus pandemic hit Table Rock’s tourism economy hard in 2020. Many businesses closed. The Army Corps of Engineers closed its camps on the banks of the lake. The housing industry suffered. Boyles said that in April 2020, customers canceled 24 of the 27 flights.
By May 2020, Missouri is beginning to reopen. Lots of people were unemployed and had plenty of time and little money to spend. Many of them went fishing, and business boomed for Boyles.
“There were no team sports, like Little League,” Boyles said. “Every family in America decided to take a special American vacation where they stay at a resort and go fishing. We had the most incredible season ever.”
Demand was so great that Welles bought a 23-foot boat, a model closely associated with saltwater fishing on and near shore. He needed it to comfortably catch six and seven people on each outing.
Boyles Relationships Awards. I met him in 1992 when he was a precocious 19-year-old competing against Rick Clone, Larry Nixon, Gary Klein and all the other legends of professional bass fishing at the Red Man Diamond Blend Golden Invitational on Lake Tuscaloosa, Ala. With $150,000 for the winner, it was the richest bass fishing tournament at the time. Boyles, the tournament’s youngest catcher, was a rising star. I spent a day as a press observer for him. We clicked, and we kept in touch.
His championship career hasn’t gone as well as Welles had hoped, but he said his career as a fishing guide has been very rewarding. He meets all kinds of people from all over the United States. He is an ambassador for the lake, for the bass fishing and the fishing community, indirectly experiencing the delight of his clients catching the legendary Table Rock bass.
Table rock is unusual because smallmouth bass is the dominant species. They’re big little mouths, too. Boyles said the largest small venom caught in his boat weighed 6 pounds, 2 ounces.
“I think our sea bass is very good because we don’t have striped bass,” Boyles said. “We have these huge schools of shad all over the lake. They’re everywhere, and bass follow. When you have these big (strip) subs that only eat all the time, they tend to push the shade to cover and come out of the open water. That’s because they eat a lot of chad.”
Boyles said Table Rock also has the largest white bass he’s ever seen, and its population is thriving. Most of his clients caught were outing 30. Walleyes was just a consolation prize on the days Smallmouths don’t cooperate, Boyles said. Only on Table Rock will you hear such a sentiment expressed.
In late spring and early summer, the small mouthful stinger in the upper waters is the main attraction. For this, Boyles took me to a point where Bill Chester took me 20 years ago. Boyles said with a smile that Chester was still active.
“We used the big Cordell C-10 Redfins that day,” I said.
“No kidding!” said Boyles, “that’s a huge bait for smallmouth.”
We used something much smaller, a Berkley Jointed Surge jerkbait in the color Table Rock Shad, but the concept was the same. Boyles dropped the bait into the water and slowly pulled it past the boat. I swam right under the water with an exaggerated wobble. She made a huge awakening, just like Redfin.
“Not faster than that,” Boyles said.
He continued, “These little mouths after breeding are like a small splash of Chartreuse on cloudy days.” “This flat is about 20 feet deep, and goes down to 60 feet. Smallmouth hangs over the edge of the drop, chasing shad just like a spotted bass.”
As if the Boyles flipped a switch, Smallmouths started pounding shad all around us. Every time Boyles tried to put the boat within close range, the school sounded.
“Do you think they might be sensitive to the pulses from all these electronic devices?” I asked.
“You know, there’s a lot of debate about that here,” Boyles said.
I said, “The fish is here.” “Turn off all this stuff and let’s see what happens.”
It didn’t take long before the bass began to close the surface closer. Someone broke my bait and fought valiantly.
“Don’t you like the way you dig these things?” asked Boyles. “They are very powerful!”
It weighed about 3 1/2 pounds. We get many strikes, but we don’t have relationships.
“A lot of times, little mouths come in so hot that they miss the taste,” Boyles said.
When the surface action stopped, we threw swimbaits. We let them fall to the bottom and then slowly swam them.
“Think of it as a hot slice of pizza,” Boyles said. “You don’t bite it or you’ll burn your mouth. You take a small piece and put it aside, take a bait and put it in. And when it’s cold enough to eat, that’s the time to nibble. You might have to roll that bait 10 feet before they finally act.”
In the end that point got worse, so Boyles led us to another point. Hook up on the green pumpkin tube and go off the beach.
“It’s time for us to catch another fish,” Boyles said.
“Your wish is my command, Cap’n,” said I.
“You don’t need to hold the hook that hard,” Boyles said. “Pull into the fish and sweep it firmly. That’s all you need. Otherwise, it’s really easy to catch that curl.”
You have connected another small poison with a great cloud.
“They say a man’s hunting habits are rooted in his fifties,” Boyles said. “It means that there is no hope for you, but I warn you. If you set the hook on such a big hook, it will break your heart.”
In a nearby boat, two boys were fishing with an adult.
“A lot of families come here, and a lot of times they bring a friend for their child,” Boyles said. “Usually the deal with that is that one kid is a really good hunter, but the other isn’t very good at all. So one kid can throw really well, and the other kid feels they have to compete with him. So what’s going on there is that kid doesn’t throw trees that much And that’s just a big mess. I spend more time extracting lures from trees than we do hunting.”
Eventually the east wind moved, and the air pressure rose. The fish stopped biting, but Boyles and I kept visiting a restaurant that had the best Cuban sandwich I’ve ever had. Being a salad on Cuban sandwiches, it’s not overkill. The fries were perfectly crunchy, but not burnt.
The trio of great food, decently sized little mouths, and a fun fellowship with an old friend made for a positively wonderful day.