Photog Blog-by Jason Stemple

Trifecta on the Rock, Table Rock Lake, MO 

I grew up doing a little bass fishing, mostly for smallmouth in Northeastern rivers and I wasn’t very successful at the little bit of largemouth fishing I did in lakes and ponds. Since then I have been at times a fly fishing guide out west, a visitor to Everglades, Keys, and Bahamas flats, a visiting angler to the tiny creeks of the Smokies, and a decent redfish angler at home in South Carolina. But, I have never taken the time to figure out bass fishing or had the opportunity to learn from a pro-until now. Whenever I’m on a fishing shoot, I take the opportunity to learn as much as I can about the fish and the fishing, and shooting with Joey, Sonar and the Sweetwater crew has been no different. I guess it’s mostly selfish and inevitable for me as a fishing junkie to get emotionally involved and invested in the fishing part of the shoot, but I think it also helps my images to have an in depth knowledge of the fish’s behavior as well as the techniques used to catch them to be able to show other fishing junkies like me the parts of the fishing day and action that keep us coming back to the water time after time.

So with that in mind, I will post here periodically and try to share some of what I learned and saw and a few of my images from each day’s shoot.

One of the best parts of the Sweetwater gig, is that we get to travel to different lakes all over the country, and they all have their own character and the fish adapt to each lake
and the anglers must follow suit. One of the first spots we traveled to was Table Rock Lake in Missouri. Besides being a beautiful lake filled with fish, it is also right around the corner from the flagship Bass Pro Shops and home to their resorts: Big Cedar Lodge and Top of the Rock where we will be spending a lot of time as they are big supporters of Sweetwater TV. We arrived on a beautiful fall day and spent some time getting our bearings and shooting some establishing shots around Big Cedar Lodge and preparing for the next day on the water. I had arrived straight from a week-long shoot in the Florida Keys, so was not fully prepared when we awoke to a foggy 35 degree morning.

 Foggy sunrise on the rock. Nikon d800, 145mm, f/4.0, 1/100 sec

Foggy sunrise on the rock. Nikon d800, 145mm, f/4.0, 1/100 sec

We loaded up the boats in the dark and pulled out of the docks with a little glimpse of light on the horizon and only 30-40 feet of visibility through the thick fog. Usually, the camera boat simply follows the fishing boat, but the lack of visibility and the narrow winding channels made it nearly impossible. We were side by side cruising at 40 mph and they would just disappear. Add in the wet, nearly freezing air and it was quite a morning commute. Eventually, we wound our way back into some feeder creeks and while it was now getting light, the fog remained. As we began shooting, the fog rolled across the surface of the water swirling around partially submerged timber and the sun poked out in places showing the fall colors on the hills above. I’ve shot in some beautiful places, but this morning was shaping up to be something special. I was shooting feverishly trying to take in all that was going on, as we knew it would soon burn off when the sun crested the ridge above. And at the same time everybody on the camera boat was thinking the same thing, we need a fish right now!

 looking for a fish as the sun, water and fog meet. nikon d800, 200mm, f/5.6

looking for a fish as the sun, water and fog meet. nikon d800, 200mm, f/5.6

A few moments later, as the sun started illuminating the foliage on the hillside and setting the fog on fire, Sonar hooked up! Then a few minutes later Joey did as well and we were on the board. These weren’t huge fish, but with all the amazing light and color going on, we just needed a little fish action to make it all work, we could find bigger fish later. After catching a few more, the sun climbed over the hilltops and slowly burned away the fog and we packed up for a run to find some bigger fish. We prospected our way around different forms of structure: docks, rocks and submerged trees, for most of the day, picking up fish of varying sizes here and there. But it was almost sunset before Joey and Sonar found the motherload.

 a nice double pulled out of a deep school. nikon d800, 165mm, f/6.3, 1/640 sec

a nice double pulled out of a deep school. nikon d800, 165mm, f/6.3, 1/640 sec

We had just picked up a nice fish off a little cliff wall dropoff, but unfortunately for me, the light was horrible. As the crew was trying to deal with some technical issues Joey and Sonar drifted a little ways away and when we looked up they were landing a nice smallmouth. A school had surfaced pushing up some shad and they took the quick shot and hooked up. A couple of minutes later, they located the school on their Lowrance sitting on the bottom in 35 feet of water. Once they were dialed in, they were able to land singles and doubles one after the other of nice sized largemouth, smallmouth and spots for the next hour or so until we ran out of light.

 double fish bump! nikon d300s, 70mm, f/6.3, 1/640 sec

double fish bump! nikon d300s, 70mm, f/6.3, 1/640 sec

The next day we spent some time at the flagship Bass Pro Shops in Springfield exploring and shooting some tips, before heading up to The Top of The Rock for a great meal and an awesome sunset celebration overlooking the lake. 

 every sunset is an event at the top of the rock. nikon d800, 27mm, f/4.5, 1/100 sec

every sunset is an event at the top of the rock. nikon d800, 27mm, f/4.5, 1/100 sec