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 fun, but came away very impressed with the remarkable list of outdoor activities the area has to offer.
Just an hour north of town is the Bass Pro Shops flagship store in Springfield. Bass Pro Shops owner Johnny Morris spared no expense for this ever-expanding giant outdoor store with a sprawling space of nearly half a million square feet; you can explore the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium, visit the American Fly Fishing Museum, and shop for every department and interest imaginable in their large retail space. The entire store is wrapped in remarkable taxidermy mounts and panoramic displays. If you prefer to stay 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 shone was a bit unexpected. The fishing history museum was an underrated gem. The collection of boats, motors, rods, reels and tackle is the largest collection amassed by a single man. Museum staff were very knowledgeable about antique lures and tackle, highlighting some of the most interesting and historical pieces in the collection. For a former antique lure collector like me, it was fun to see some throwbacks and learn the history and anecdotes of famous gear from yesteryear.
Table Rock Reservoir fished well to start the week in an unusually hot heatwave. The first three days of the week climbed into the mid 90s and the water surface was 80 degrees. The air was warm and humid and a light breeze was blowing. At the end of the week the weather picked up and we had cooler weather, overcast skies and enough wind to move things around. A good mix of smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and spotted bass were caught on Table Rock. For this northern angler, the chance to catch my first spotted bass was appreciated.
The White River, the Table Rock Dam Outfall and Lake Taneycomo are all different parts of the same famous trout fishery. Trout fishing on these historic waters is something everyone should try – it’s one of those nationally renowned fisheries. There are plenty of edible sized trout as well as legit shots at some giant fish. During the week of our conference, Nathan “Shags” McLeod, member of AGLOW and Missouri native, caught an incredible 31 inch brown trout during an after dark fishing session and I personally spotted behemoths while driving through the downstream waters of Table Rock Dam. If you like big trout, you have already heard of big fishing on the Rivière Blanche.
Branson will always be a family vacation destination full of country crooners, theme parks and fun restaurants, but for outdoor enthusiasts it’s a great place to cast a line, visit a fish hatchery, hunt a gobbler , hike howls and hills, pull a buck or explore fishing history. I look forward to returning for future family vacations. I will also have to make time to come back for the fabulous fishing and hunting.
— That’s the opinion of outdoor columnist Scott Mackenthun, an outdoor enthusiast who has been writing about hunting and fishing since 2005. You can follow him on Instagram @scottmackenthun and on Twitter @ScottyMack31.