Guided Fishing Trips
Whether you’re looking for a last minute, fun activity while visiting Branson or travel to our lake area exclusively to fish one of our lakes, our professional fishing guides offer short or long fishing trips for the whole family. Considering the Missouri Department of Conservation stocks about 550,000 trout in Lake Taneycomo, catching trout is relatively easy even for the novice angler. Our Taneycomo fishing guides have all the equipment and expertise to provide a fun day catching fish.
A Guided Fishing Trip Includes:
- Nice professional guide boat
- The perfect rods and reels to catch trout
- Bait, lures and flies
- Life jackets
- Fishing cleaning and packaging
It is your choice to fish with fly rods or spincast gear; both types of trips are available, depending on which guide you go with. Some specialize in fly fishing trips so if you want to fly fish, make sure you find a guide that does that.
All fishing guides have years of experience on Lake Taneycomo. All have very nice boats and equipment and are licensed USGS Approved with a OUPV Coast Guard Captain’s License to commercially guide on the White River System of Lakes, and insured.
1-2 PeopleGuided Fishing Trip
$395 for 6 Hours
3 PeopleGuided Fishing Trip
$495.00 for 6 Hours
4 PeopleGuided Fishing Trip
$595.00 for 6 Hours
Depending on the time of year, guided trips usually start very close to sunrise in the morning. Afternoon trips start anywhere from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., depending on the client’s and guide’s schedule. On most trips, the client is to meet their guide here at the resort. Please come a little early if you need a fishing license.
Refreshments: Our guides will have bottled water on board.
For larger groups please call for rates. There is an option to rent a pontoon in which a guide can take only up to 6 people. His USCG license does not permit him to take more than 6.
Things To Consider
- Taneycomo is a coldwater lake averaging about 50 degrees year round. The water in the summer is actually the coldest so early morning trips can be pretty chilly. Bring at least a sweatshirt, even if the forecast calls for triple digit temps during the day.
- If you’re going to keep fish, you should have a plan to transport your catch back home. Bring a cooler and ice. Your guide will clean and bag your trout.
- We strongly encourage catch and release for our trophy trout because if you get lucky enough to catch a trophy, you have many anglers to thank for releasing it before you. Our trout do not get big by being lucky… they are caught many times and released for someone else to catch. Your guide will help you take good pictures of your catch and even measure your trophy if you want to get a replica made.
- If you catch a 20-inch trout and release it, Lilleys’ Landing will issue you an official Catch & Release Certificate, a C&R Patch and a nice C&R bronze pin. Ask your guide about it.
Wade Trips and Drift Boat Trips also Available.
Meet Our Guides
Hiring a fishing guide can be somewhat intimidating for some anglers who feel like they need a certain level of skill just to launch out on the water.
But for guides on Lake Taneycomo like Bill Babler, setting guests at ease is a top priority.
“I never set any preconceived fishing goals,” Babler said Monday, “but gear everything to the client. My goal is just for everyone to have a good time, and personally, for me to pick up a tip from them – either about fishing or about life.”
As a United States Certified Coast Guard captain for 22 years, Babler knows what it takes to serve the clients and continuously updates his equipment. He was on the lakes 278 days last year and will soon be guiding out of a 2014 new 22-foot Phoenix bass boat with a 250-horsepower Mercury ProXS motor. He favors Falcon rods with Shimano reels for his four, six or eight-hour trips, but is equipped with whatever his clients need for fly or spin-cast fishing for trout on Taneycomo or for bass on Table Rock.
The big bass lake has been an angler attraction this year with the water clearer than it has been in 20-plus years. Most four-hour trips have started at 5:30 a.m. initially for the best bites, and now for the best spots on the lake amid all the boats.
“We have lost the topwater bite since the fish have moved down in the water column, and they are not as active right off the bat – but you still have to get out early to snag your favorite hotspots.”
Babler, who helps his wife, Becky, run their 10,000-square foot White River Lodge Bed & Breakfast near Blue Eye, grew up catering to guests. His parents built Pine Cove Resort in 1962 and ran it until 1976.
He really had only trout fished Taneycomo a few times before starting then School of the Ozarks in 1972, “when they became a good source of food for hungry college boys,” he said.
Bill married his sweetheart Becky in June 1977 and started with the water patrol at Lake of the Ozarks, using his recreation degree. Then he was transferred to the Missouri River area by Kansas City in 1983 when the couple also started a livestock operation with Becky’s parents.
“A year-plus was enough time for me on the Missouri since it was a lot of search and recovery,” Bill said. “ I was one of the original members of the dive team and one of the first to have a college degree.”
Meanwhile Becky continued teaching first grade, which she had started at Climax Springs. She taught for 22 years at Kearney, before retiring back to the Branson area.
Becky’s folks had inherited a lot in Shell Knob, MO, so several of the family and some friends decided to help them build a house on it in the early 1980s.
“The livestock business just wasn’t faring very well,” Babler said, “so when I ran into a buddy I had known on the water patrol, he suggested I get my guide license.”
For years Bill would commute down from Kearney weekly, then commute daily from Shell Knob over to Taneycomo to guide, as he and Becky fine-tuned their dream for a bed and breakfast.
It was in his high school drafting class where Babler initially designed a log home, always envisioning it as something to build in Colorado. But a mule deer trip to the Rockies led him to fashion the plans after a grand hunting/fishing lodge there – even though the high land prices “pointed us back here to build it.”
After looking for years, they bought their dream property in 2001 two miles off Missouri 86, just 20 minutes from Branson with “a great lakeview on some acreage with an easterly exposure,” Babler said.
Once Becky retired from teaching, they lived in the family Shell Knob home for two years while the three-story bed and breakfast took shape – one Colorado Engelmann Spruce log at a time on the 40 acres. They opened for guests in May 2005 offering not just their great hospitality, but refreshing views of Table Rock from the huge windows and decks of four private guest rooms, and a two-bedroom suite, as well as all the common areas.
All the while Becky has been the primary host, cook and housekeeper for their place and served with bed and breakfast associations, Bill has continued to build his White River Outfitters guide service. He writes monthly fishing reports on his website, whiteriveroutfitters.com, and always employs his gift for gab to engage and learn from his clients – which now have him booked though July 18.
“Being a fishing guide is kind of like being a bartender or beautician – you talk about everything when you are out on the water.”
My interest in fly fishing began at the age of 10. My first fly rod was a nine-foot bark stripped willow branch with eyelets, pilfered from a Zebco rod, precisely calibrated and taped onto the blank. I spent many hours, every day, out in the backyard learning and mastering the art of fly casting with my rudimentary piece of equipment. A few years later, at the age of 13, my interest in fly tying started to develop. I started with primitive chenille and hackle wooly buggers and duck quill coachman flies resembling deformed wasps. I have certainly come a long way since those simple days of barnyard flies and the unrefined stick that I proudly called a fly rod.
I cut my trout teeth in the late 70’s at Bennett Springs and Montauk State Parks in Missouri. In my late teens, after reading an article in an outdoor magazine about the tremendous fishery of Lake Taneycomo, I was driven to experience the legendary tailwater fishing opportunities.
After 15 years of commuting to what had become my favorite trout fishing location, a change in job status afforded me the opportunity to finally live near Lake Taneycomo. I spent every possible moment, day and night, on the water, watching, learning, and enjoying. I started posting my fishing adventures on local and national forums. Before long, I had people contacting me from all over the country wanting me to join them for some trout fishing on Lake Taneycomo. It did not take much arm-twisting to get me on the water. In 2006, I logged over 2500 hours on the water, day and night, including one stretch of 39 hours straight, all while still maintaining a full time job. I started moonlighting for a local fly shop, picking up guide trips in the evenings and on weekends. At this point in time, I concluded that a mainstream job might be getting in the way of what I really enjoyed doing- fishing.
In 2007, I found myself in Alaska on a fishing adventure of a lifetime. By the end of the week, I had secured a position as a guide at Naknek River Camp, in Katmia National Park, Western Alaska. That is where I now spend my summers, helping clients live their dreams chasing all five Pacific Salmon, Arctic Char, Dolly Varden, Arctic Grayling, and Giant Rainbows, along with some of the world’s most intense bear viewing, thrown in on the side.
Each year, I return to the Branson area around the 1st of October, just in time for the awesome Lake Taneycomo Fall Brown trout run. Following the Browns, Rainbows make a small run, and then, with a little luck, the shad kill can make for some really intense fishing conditions. Just as Spring comes around and the water starts running non stop on Lake Taneycomo, I head back to Alaska for the summer season of fishing in the Land of the Midnight Sun.
On December 31st of 2008, I married the beautiful woman of my dreams. We spent the night of our wedding, ringing in the New Year under the fireworks from the Chateau on the Lake, while wade fishing Lake Taneycomo, just below Table Rock Dam. My wife, Mona Chari, is just as passionate about fishing as I am. She, too, is about to make the change in her life from a mainstream job to being involved in fishing for a living. She is headed to Alaska with me this year. She has hopes of returning to Branson and becoming a guide herself.
As a guide, my intent is more than just taking a person fishing for a day. I would rather educate clients about the water being fished, the species pursued, and, then, by sharpening their learning curve, making it possible for them to return, without a guide, for a productive fishing trip. I enjoy and take great pride in sharing the information, knowledge and experiences I have learned from my countless hours on the water to help others create great memories of fantastic fishing adventures.
Steve Dickey has been fishing since he could walk — or even toddle — and is living his dream life guiding on Branson area lakes.
“I am a water dog,” he said this week. “I have to be on the water. I just don’t function indoors well.”
“I started professionally fishing in 1998, but I had plans since I was 14 years old of fishing professionally, buying my first bass boat when I was a freshman in high school.”
“I’m a life-long, self-taught fisherman,” he notes on his website, Anglers Advantage. “My obsession with fishing began as a small child when we would drive over a bridge and I could see the fishermen below on the water. As soon as I was able to toddle, I was out the door and across the road to the river. When my mother realized I was gone she called 911 and told them, ‘I know he’s headed toward the river.’ The search party found me in a cornfield just short of the riverbank and nearly two miles from home. I won my first trout tournament on a spinning rod when I was six years old.”
That’s why Dickey is passionate about giving clients, young and old, the joy of fishing in the best spots with the best equipment, no matter their skill level or disability.
“Just last week I took a blind man out,” he said. “He caught 19 fish and out-fished his wife. I have had many clients in wheelchairs, and there has never been any problem.”
He believes so strongly that hiring a professional guide is always worth the money, that he reserves guides wherever he goes on vacation and personally offers a refund if his clients don’t catch fish – something he never has had to do.
“Of course, on Lake Taneycomo, you can fish every day. No matter how cold it is, the lake never freezes over, and even when it’s 100 degrees in Branson in the summer, you get on the lake when the water is generating and feel like it’s 75.”
Dickey caters each trip to the client, whether they choose to relax drifting and enjoying the scenery or aggressively want to learn every technique he can teach them, spincast or fly fishing.
“If you have a child with disabilities who would enjoy participating in a fishing trip, just give us a call and we will work out a special price, time arrangements, and whatever is needed to make this a wonderful experience for your child,” he said.
Dickey’s whole life has revolved around fish and animals. Before he moved to Branson in 2004, he lived in Overland Park, KS (Kansas City area.) He and other animal activists saw a need for more humane efforts to re-locate wildlife and founded the non-profit Animal Protection Agency. As a chief field agent for three years, he handled, fed, and rehabilitated everything from copperhead snakes to bald eagles, snapping turtles, porcupines and even coyotes.
You can learn more about Steve and his fishing guide business by visiting his site at AnglersAdvantage.Net.
Guide Chuck Gries credits his wife, Lynn, with luring him to flyfishing on Lake Taneycomo in the mid-1980s.
He had been hooked on fly fishing through a senior trip from his Iowa high school to Bear Tooth Wilderness Area in Montana. “It was two weeks of just backpacking and fishing with about two dozen kids,” he said.
But the consistency of Taneycomo’s trout lured the avid anglers back season after season until they finally moved here in 1994 and opened Anglers & Archery Outfitters in 1997.
“Our goal at Anglers and Archery Outfitters is your success,” they state on their website. “Whether your passion is fly-fishing for trophy trout or harvesting whitetail deer and turkey with a bow and arrow. We pride ourselves in no nonsense fly-fishing and archery advice. Honesty and integrity is what you will find in our shop.”
Their convenient location on U.S. 165 Highway close to the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery keeps them on top of the trophy area of the lake. Gries offers a popular wading trip but can switch to boat fishing if the generation picks up too much or the clients decide they want to keep a few trout.
“We can pretty much follow what the client wants,” he said, “whether they are novice fishermen or expert anglers. We have had a bunch of kids who have learned to fly fish and become comfortable with it, and also some adults who have never fished at all before who have loved it.”
His largest personal lunker was a 35-1/2in, 19.5-pound brown caught on a night fishing trip back in 1997 — about 1 a.m.
“Night fishing was a great deal of fun –back then,” Gries said. “Now I would rather sleep . . . But since then as I have kept track, we have put guests on trophyfish as much or more during the day when you can actually sight the fish and not cast blindly.”
Last fall a client caught a 28-inch, 12.5-pound trophy; the largest trout a client caught and released was 33 inches long, weighing 19.25 pounds.
Gries can outfit clients with everything they need for a successful fishing trip, whether they fly fish or spin cast. The shop, open all but a few holidays and a week in January, also rents waders to visitors not booking guides and sells the latest lures for fishing Table Rock as well.
They custom tie the “hot” flies daily and welcome customers who just want some hands-on instruction for a certain pattern. That is, except for a special ice shrimp scud their son Adam ties in three or four different colors, usually sizes #18- #20.
“Adam mixes his own dubbing for it, and won’t mix it when anyone else is around — not even me,” Gries said. Now that Adam is working as a traveling welder (currently in Iowa), those flies have become a hot commodity only available when Adam is back in town visiting and ties a few.
The Gries family is especially grateful that Adam is recovering from a rare pneumonia in December that led to a lung infection, blood infection and eventual shutdown of his kidneys, putting him on life support for 11 days. “The doctor said if he had come into the hospital an hour later, he would not be here,” Gries said, adding that Adam has now been cleared to return to work for half days and may resume to full days in a month.
Despite his years fishing professionally in tournaments and promoting the fishing industry, the daily thrill for Guide Rick Lisek, Jr., is showing off the lake wildlife to his clients.
“I see wildlife everyday — foxes, eagles and waterfowl in addition to the fish,” he said. “I love watching my customers enjoy the wildlife – and I love the trout fishing.”
Lisek, who guides about 90 percent of the summer on Lake Taneycomo, moved to the Ozarks in 1995 when his father retired from the U.S. Marine Corps to the postal service in Springfield.
“I put myself through college fishing tournaments,” he said. After earning an associate’s degree from Ozark Technical College in Springfield, “I went to college at Evangel where I majored in business and marketing.”
He has won 19 tournaments — including the FLW Champion at Lake Champlain in 2003 – finished in the top five, 18 times and the top 10, 26 times.
Lisek also ran a fiberglass business for eight years after college until auto accident injuries in 2006 made him re-evaluate his work schedule.
“I have had my U.S. Coast Guard Captain’s license going on 12 years now,” he said.
He commutes from Springfield where he lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their 9-year-old daughter Trista Rose. From his home base he has also presented seminars at sport and boat shows throughout the Midwest, promoted bass fishing in area schools and conducted product demonstrations at regional and national marine dealerships.
In the fall and spring, Lisek said about half of his gude trips are on Table Rock Lake in search of largemouth, smallmouth, white or Kentucky bass, bluegill and crappie. He is equipped to handle groups, as well as individuals, even those with physical handicaps.
His commitment, he said, is to provide all ages and skill levels of clients, be they beginners or seasoned fishermen, with a great time on the water.
Drift boat or wading trips –
Guide Jeremy Hunt of Flys and Guides in Branson has devoted the last eight years to luring anglers into the sport of fly fishing.
Although Hunt, originally from Tyler, TX, had been fishing with his father since he was 2, he did not try a fly rod until he was 20 — and then he was hooked.
“Once I picked up a fly rod, I never went back to a conventional rod,” he said.
As he traveled in customer service for Tommy Hilfiger stores, he took advantage of wherever he was to learn, whether cashing in on the steelhead run in Michigan or testing out deer-head poppers on farm ponds owned by his bosses.
“Wherever I was, I was soaking up the sport on my own,” he said, admitting he has amassed about 120 books about fly fishing and 150 fly tying videos.
Eventually he began creating flies for Feather Craft’s catalog and left the clothing retail world at 29 to pursue his passion back in the Ozarks.
Although he still ties about 30,000 flies annually (he can do 400 in a day), Hunt’s drive to share his knowledge branched into guiding. “I wanted to make sure I was ready,” he said. “I was certainly intimidated at first, but I felt like I had spent the time to study and learn the sport and be versatile.”
His customer service background has paid off — he’s guided one to two trips a day for the last 75 days. And his clients have ranged from a businessman who flies in monthly from Kenya, to a Japanese gentleman and many young couples.
Hunt guides wading or from a drift boat on Lake Taneycomo, but also takes clients on six rivers, including the White River and Norfork Tailwater in Arkansas. He caters to each angler’s abilities and desires, teaching them casting mechanics, safe wading techniques, basic fly selection and how to read the water — all while putting them on to the fish.
“I go where the fishing is best,” Hunt explained,” so I am not going to have bad trip. Every time clients come with me, they have a different experience whether it’s a different river or a different season.”
Still his goal is not necessarily to create lifelong customers but to “mold people into fly fishing, to learn it correctly so they can launch out on their own. “
He is equipped with fly rods, line and flies for two adults at a time, or a couple with a child aged 10 or older. Clients do need to bring their own waders or rent them locally.
Hunt also loves teaching people fly tying, conducting classes at the Shepherd of the Hills hatchery two Saturdays a month, 2 – 4 p.m., November through April. He is also scheduled to teach a class on using hoppers on the White River at the annual North Arkansas Fly Fishers Federation conclave this fall.
The best part about guiding, he said, “is just meeting people and seeing them change, making sure people have a good time and are introduced to the sport in the right way. It is very gratifying to witness the transformation of a fledgling angler as they become more proficient with a fly rod. The bottom-line is: enjoyment is the primary objective of each outing.”
Guide Buster Loving trained for a career in education — intending to even coach wrestling and football –but the lure of the Ozarks outdoors re-routed him.
Growing up in rural Clinton, OK, where he could fish often, his family also vacationed yearly at a relative’s Delmar Resort on Taneycomo.
“Eventually they would all go to the shows and I would go trout fishing,” Loving said.
Now he’s on the water about 300 days a year, unfazed by half-day trips on different lakes with different clients and professionally guiding since 1991. From his home at Rockaway Beach, Loving especially targets Bull Shoals Lake in the winter more than most.
“My hope for this year is that Bull Shoals will be lower. The levels there are more of a challenge than the other lakes, especially in the winter.”
Loving is known for customizing his baits, always looking for improvements to catch largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, rainbow and brown trout, crappie, and seasonal walleye.
Although he has experienced many lifetime memory trips for his clients, Loving’s personal favorite memory was recorded by K.C. Star outdoor writer Brent Frazee in his “Ultimate Guide to Missouri Fishing” book. “We ran into 20-plus keeper walleye, weighing seven to eight pounds up at the pothole,” he remembers — all recorded on video as well. Loving’s son, Buster Loving IV, hopes to continue in the business and acquire his U.S. Coast Guard license. He is vice president of the Bass Fishing Club started last year at Branson High School, but plans to first train as a welder after his May graduation. Loving also has a 12-year-old daughter, Rose, attending Branson. His oldest daughter, Sydney, serves as a U.S. Army medic in Korea since graduating from college.Although Loving used to fish as many as 30 tournaments a year, he has cut that to seven or eight buddy tournaments now. He and partner Greg Dishman of Springfield set a lake record for the Seign the Rock for a Central Pro Am Derby in 2012, with a winning limit of five bass weighing 28.6 pounds.”Of course that record was already broken last year,” Loving jokes.
Although Loving did not mind substitute teaching at Forsyth and Branson in the past and helping his parents, Buster Loving, Jr. and Janice in their former Branson businesses, too, guiding will continue to be his mainstay.
“I especially enjoy meeting all the different people — and being my own boss, ” Loving said. “And getting to spend all my time outside rather than in an office. I will just probably do this until I am done.”
Loving is thankful for his sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Branson First Stop, Chompers Bait Company, Leland’s Lures, Jewel Bait Company, Pro Guide Batteries and Tim Hughes Custom Baits.
After hitting the lakes 250 days so far this year, Guide Tony Weldele should be ready for his annual winter vacation to Florida. But as the clients keep calling and emailing, he will gladly delay just to provide them the outdoor adventure they are craving.
Born and reared in St. Louis, Weldele, 46, does not remember life before Branson vacations.
“I caught my first trout on Lake Taneycomo when I was five years old,” he said. “When I was old enough to drive down here by myself, I came down as much as I could.”
After working at Anheuser-Busch out of high school, he could delay no longer no to follow the fishing fervor at 22 and so moved to the tri-lakes region.
He’s been guiding on Taneycomo, Table Rock and Bull Shoals lakes since 1993, first opening a small bait shop and then also operating a lakefront resort for a few years with his wife, Melanie. His Rainbow Chasers Guide Service is now 20 years old.
One of his personal fishing highlights was catching a 21-pound Taneycomo brown on his favorite — a No. 11 gold Rapala. (He also favors sculpin-colored jigs.)
Weldele has worked on the Bass Pro Fishing Team for the past seven years, promoting Bass Pro and guiding clients out of Big Cedar for bass and crappie trips and the new trend — night bow fishing excursions for carp and gar.
Big Cedar guests have flocked to the new experience, he said, which is an energy challenge for the guides who will finish a night outing at midnight and then arise at 5 a.m. for the next day’s bass trip.
“But it is a blast for the guests,” he said, who otherwise could not venture out without the equipment and expert guides.
When he is not on the lakes, Weldele takes to the woods as an avid bow hunter who has bagged a variety of trophy big-game animals across North America.
That passion has led to a new part-time business with a high school buddy and other friends. Spyder Action was developed in the last two years to provide video production for clients’ outdoor adventures. Their website also showcases their own adventures in “Spyder Bytes.”
While Weldele splits his guiding time between primarily bass and trout trips, safety and the clients’ learning of new skills are always of prime importance to him. “I almost do all of my trips in the trophy area,” he said, “since the whole point of going on a guide trip is to teach the clients something new.”
“I like to say that the only person who has ever fallen out of my boat was a Dallas Cowboy football player — but that’s another story from when I was young . . .”
To many clients, Guide Tracy Frenzel seems amazingly cheerfully as he juggles his time and energy as an outdoorsman, artist, recreation director — and dad to four girls, one a newborn.
One of the benefits of guiding, he said is that “people are always in a good mood when they are fishing — at least 99 out of 100 anyway.”
Helping in his parents butcher shop in St. Louis taught Frenzel the value of time management — and about animal anatomy, which carried over to his graphite drawings and fish reproductions.
A whitetail buck he painted in acrylic on a piece of surplus leather won a blue ribbon at the Ozark Empire Fair. In June his work was featured in the”Music from America” show at the Dewey Short Visitor Center, as part of the summer schedule for the Taneycomo Festival Orchestra. The exposure has given him more projects for the slower guide months in winter, especially for custom fish reproductions.
(Frenzel just kindly used his painting skills on the old 40-pound-plus lunker trout mounted above our store desk — the one found floating dead years ago on Lake Taneycomo.)
To Frenzel, the mix of art and the outdoors comes naturally, drawing since kindergarten under his grandmother’s tutelage and enjoying the outdoors with his parents, both in the Ozarks and at home.
“I fished every day I could growing up,” he said,” so I was never involved in school sports. I would work out with my friends, but that was after dark — and after I had worked at the shop for a couple of hours.”
He brought his old boat from high school with him when he came to study art at College of the Ozarks. “I kept my boat down at Main Street Dock for awhile — until it sank,” he said. He eventually gave the yellow Ozark Tri-Haul to someone and still passes it often, parked on someone’s property on E. 76 Highway.
Frenzel was just 20 hours shy of graduating with a graphic design and art education degree when he left school, realizing it would be tough to make a living on artwork alone and design jobs would mean sitting inside all day behind a computer.
“It was more important to me to just enjoy art,” he said, “and be able to just pull out the pad and sketch whenever I could — maybe just for a few minutes after deer hunting or fishing.”
After bartending at Applebees since college, Frenzel officially obtained his guide license in 2006, initially just to offset the costs of his outdoor endeavors. “All my friends were guides with nice boats,” he jokes, and they told me if I wanted a nice boat I would have to guide.”
He just passed his fifth anniversary at The Cliffs at Long Creek, working five days (or evenings) a week as recreational director. The position gives him flexibility to guide days even as he juggles staff and duties for the 25-unit Bluegreen facility.
“It is really convenient for fishing Table Rock Lake,” he said, “because I can just launch right there at Long Creek.”
Frenzel and his wife, Molly, a longtime manager at Cakes-n-Creams in Branson, are rearing their girls in Kirbyville. Amid all their activities, he hopes to pass on the passion for the outdoors and his gratitude for every opportunity to enjoy it.
Brett Radar is a father of two — and grandpa of two ( so far), and has been a professional fly fishing instructor/fishing guide here on Lake Taneycomo since 2002. He is the creator of original fly patterns, original C&R fish replicas, and a fishing fanatic since his first memories.
In his own words:
“The short version of my life is this . . . I was a passionate and dedicated amateur then a professional moto-crosser from the age of 7 to about 22. A torn acl vaulted me into the real world where I graduated college with a wildlife management degree and a minor in art. My parents always pushed me towards a career in the art world, and ultimately that’s where I spent my corporate life, becoming the art director of Starter Sportswear back in their hey day ( I still like hip hop music from that job.) Ultimately I took a job in Kanas City at a rival company — and that’s when I found Taneycomo!
“My father took me and my brother on a lot of guided trips in my youth from the Florida keys to Lake Erie and Lake Michigan, to name a few. I was very fortunate to have a father who spent that kind of time with us and I always loved (and yes judged) the fishing guides who took us on our wonderful adventures. I say judged because I always found myself saying “..when I’m a fishing guide I am definitely going to do THAT, or I am definitely NOT going to do that!” Those experiences have formed my approach to guiding today and have served me well, now almost 20 years guiding here on Taneycomo. I specialize in trout, spending 98% of my time on the Table Rock Lake tailwater known as Lake Taneycomo. Plus I hit a few of the area spring fed trout streams like Crane Creek and Roaring River.
“On those trips with my father, I always respected those guides who took time with me who could explain things in a way that nobody else could. The were the ones who had patience, a rare quality found in so few, so I try to show and explain to my guests on every trip.
“You have the patience of Job” is a phrase I hear a lot. Well, I try. But I do know that starting your day in the right frame of mind usually leads to a happy and successful day at the end. Every trip is unique in unto itself. From the family who just wants to catch a bunch of fish on a pontoon boat to the most discriminating and world-traveled fly fishers who want to get the very best education wading or boating on this wonderful tailwater, I like to think I prepare equally well to reach goals for my guests. I am not a cookie- cutter guide service, so my first question will be ”What are you looking to get out of your day?”
“I’m a firm believer in saying that trout prefer the right fly over the hardware you typically throw with spinning gear. I have put a lot of time and energy in to developing a spin fishing system that delivers a fly like a fly rod does. It is extremely effective, and my spin fishing guests always get a kick out catching so many fish in such a unique way. Fly fishing is what I’ve enjoyed since I was about 10. That experience coupled with my creative compilation of original fly patterns will provide my guests with a spectacular day on one of the world’s greatest trout fisheries!
“I know this water intimately, and successfully fish it under every possible condition the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers — or the weather — throws at us. We are the original Catch Fish Guaranteed Guide Service! That means guests catch fish, or the trip is free. And since our start in 2002, we have a 100% success rate.”
Guide Dave Welch could be hard to impress with Ozarks’ fishing since he spent eight years as a child in Alaska.
“That’s where I got my fishing background. I was more of a salmon guy/trout guy,” he said.
But after 24 years guiding in the tri-lakes area, he values the variety of experiences he can provide his clients. “I like my crappie and bass fishing, too,” he said.
He spent his teenage years in Illinois where his father retired from the U.S. Air Force. It was not until his college days in Warrensburg, MO, that some of his buddies hooked him on tri-lakes fishing.
Although an education major in college, he embarked straight into guiding, working with guests at Lazy Valley resort initially before working at Fall Creek Marina from 1994-1998.
“Since then I have just been freelancing,” he said. “I think some of the best fishing I ever experienced here was when the floodgates were opened in 1995 and then in 1998. I had several fish over 20 pounds on the line. Then the spawn was awesome, too.”
He met his wife, Sarah, in Branson who had been drawn to town to play her trumpet in some of the music shows. Last year she became a flight attendant for American Airlines, allowing the couple to do some traveling in his off time.
Welch is thankful that they live close to Table Rock Dam, so he can he drive to a boat ramp on either Lake Taneycomo or Table Rock in five minutes or less. That allows him to focus more on his actual time with clients, booking half or full-day trips and even fishing from a pontoon when needed.
“I just like to deal with people from all over,” he said. “I have had people from England and Scotland, and you name it.”
Guide Chris Tetrick hardly remembers not fishing, since as a local Ozarks boy, his father started taking him at age three.
“He had me running the trolling motor and loading the boat by the time I was 9,” he reports on his website, Mid Lakes Guide Service. “Until I got out on my own pretty much every weekend we’d be fishing somewhere and still do a lot of fishing together. Growing up I also spent a lot of time fishing with my Grandparents and Uncle when I’d go visit. They’d take me to Norfork or Bull Shoals Lake or floating down a river fishing for Smallmouth.”
Tetrick, now 33, bought his first boat at age 18 — a 16-foot Bass Cat with a 75 horsepower Mercury motor. “Nothing seemed greater in the world to me than being able to drive to a boat ramp, put my by boat in and fish where I wanted to.”
Now his has found sharing those outdoor memories with clients the last decade has made fishing even more enjoyable.
Although most of his clients come from the Midwest, he has had a variety of clients, and even entertained some international anglers from as far away as New Zealand, plus some sports writers from Spain. Some of his returning clients include a group of Canadian bass fishermen.
“They tickle me because they think this is the deep south, and they love to hear me talk. We first met up for breakfast and I ordered biscuits and gravy. They had never seen it before and thought it was from another planet.”
Now, Tetrick said, they are hooked on the country staple, as well as the great bass fishing on Table Rock.
Despite the heat ahead for July and August, Tetrick is not worried about putting his clients onto the fish. “It’s up to the clients,’ he said, “but I have been starting about 5:30-6 a.m. to beat the heat (on Table Rock Lake.) Of course, I love fishing Lake Taneycomo this time of year, just getting out early and enjoying the cool lake air — and great trout fishing.”
Tetrick did landscape work for five or six years before acquiring his U.S. Coast Guard License in 2003. He had observed many of his guide friends manage successfully and still enjoys fishing with them on the side. Tetrick estimates he is on the lakes 200 days a year keeping up with the techniques, seasonal patterns, structure, depth, and lures required to catch fish from both Table Rock and Taneycomo.
“Coming from a fishing background has really helped me stay concentrated on and appreciate the sport,” he said.
Although Tetrick fishes an occasional tournament in the off-season and sometimes writes articles on fishing techniques for online sites, most of his time is devoted to guiding. In the spring and fall, he generally takes more full-day trips with one to two clients (and occasionally a third), booking more guides for larger groups.
“This time of year, everyone want to do half days because most vacationers have other activites they want to get to.” That means for a Table Rock trip, they end about 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. or so for LakeTaneycomo.
“With more kids in the summertime, Lake Taneycomo works out great,” Tetrick said, “because it’s just more action with the trout to keep them entertained the whole trip — and they can keep their fish if they want to.”
“I love taking people out here to show them what we have here,” Sappington said, since guiding is all about helping the client experience their best day of fishing ever. “I have a lot of people catch their highest amount of fish ever, whatever their age and experience. I have a lot of first-timers, such as mothers and their sons where the dad is not involved in their lives. It’s an honor to get to take them and show them what it’s all about.”
Parenting is a priority for Sappington himself, since he and his wife, Michelle, have a 20-month-old, Elizabeth, and a college son, Sean, studying at Drury University. He declined to “practice” for the Outdoorsman Challenge, he said, instead directing his energies after guiding to the homefront.
Since this was his fifth time in the competition, with two third-place finishes, Sappington, 50, said he was thankful that the contests seemed tailered toward him. In his younger years growing up around Kansas City, he competed in archery and shotgun competitions. Even after a boating accident in 2004 ended his professional bass competitions, he still entered some benchrest rifle contests sporting the halo brace for his broken neck and back.
“I really feel like the Total Outdoorsman Challenge is really the culmination of my life. Hunting and fishing is what I’ve done. My favorite part is definitely the fly fishing at Dogwood Canyon. I love catching fish on a fly rod and Dogwood has some beautiful ones.”
After studying business at Missouri Southern, Sappington was building houses for a living until the market fell into a slump. He had two speculation houses tying up all his money when he started a custom home for a Federal Express executive which led to an offer to be a relief driver.
“Six years later I’m still delivering packages until I hurt my knee at work.” he said. “I was off of work for six weeks and living on Grand Lake fishing all the time. A fishing tournament came up at the lake and I took second place and won about $2,000. I got in another tournament the next weekend and came home with $5,000.”
It soon became apparent that it was more lucrative to fish full time, and that began his professional fishing career 18 years ago. He accrued more than 20 pro top finishes, was an FLW Tour Classic Champion, a five-time FLW Tour Cup Qualifier and a Bass Master Classic Qualifier. In 1999 he took second place in the Missouri Central Invitational Tournament on Table Rock.
But then came the day when he was pre-fishing a tournament in Louisiana and a ferry boat on the water jerked a cable up in front of him. “It came down on my boat, hit me on the top of my head and flipped me up on my back, breaking bones and scrambling my brain.”
Although his cervical-one vertebra was fractured, he amazingly was not paralyzed. Surgeons wanted to fuse three other vertebrae together, but Sappington and Michelle, a physical therapist, decided to let his body heal naturally, keeping up with his physical therapy and wearing the halo for six months.
“Doctors were telling me that I would never fish again, so it was a tough point for me,” he said. He did try to compete again, he said, but just had lost his competitive edge.
He had already been guiding for bass on Table Rock Lake, now in his 14th year there. But he only started guiding on Lake Taneycomo the last five or six years, enjoying the fact that “anytime is a good time to fish for trout on Taneycomo.”
“When I was competing in bass fishing, I never wanted to fish for bass on my off time, ” he said. Lake Taneycomo had been an oasis of enjoyment for 30 years, especially the lure of big browns.
“I am still blessed to be doing what I love to do. I get to go fishing every day — I just don’t catch the fish,” he joked, “but it’s not about me anymore. As long as my clients are catching fish, I am grateful. There aren’t too many jobs where you have something in common with everyone you deal with — and everyone I take out likes to fish.”
As an Arkansas native, Guide Phillip Stone of Harrison, never tires of sharing the joy of the Ozarks’ waters with his clients.
He remembers fishing as young as three in his grandfather’s farm pond near Omaha, AR, and the subsequent trips to Cricket Creek and Long Creek in his grandfather’s 14-foot v-bottom with a 15-hp motor.
“Back then it was white bass, crappie, you name it, “ he said. “In the summer, that’s what we ate.”
Maybe that’s why he revels in telling the tales that made special memories for clients. Like the one where a missionary takes his wife from Central America out with Stone for her first time fishing. The man had caught a few bass but was reminiscing about noodling catfish with his dad back in Oklahoma, where they would clean them and take them to needy families. “Suddenly she sets the hook on a fish, and it’s pulling the drag. I calmed her down to bring it in. As I scooped it up in the dip net, there it was — a flathead catfish.”
Just three weeks ago he was out with his son Colby, 13, guiding a dad and his two teen-aged sons. One had brought in a catfish on a jigging spoon. Guide Mike Webb was fishing close by and teased that one of his clients also wanted a catfish. Stone had observed a noodle (used as a jug line) floating toward his boat and realized a fish was probably attached to it. He told all three youth to put down their rods and “catch” the noodle — which gave them an epic fight with a four-foot gar. “As we pulled it up and got the hook out of its mouth, we were able to let it go,” Stone said. “But those boys will be talking about that forever.”
As a teen himself, Stone was bit by the tournament bug, competing in his first club competitions while still in high school. After graduating from Omaha High School in 1993, he first started college at the University of Central Arkansas.
“But after a year-and-a-half, I was pretty homesick and transferred back to go to College of the Ozarks part-time.”
Meanwhile, he worked full-time as a cook for the Apple Mill Restaurant then in Branson and was invited to fish some tournaments with the owner, Darrel McDaniel, which really peaked his interest.
Fast-forward to today, and Stone’s tournament highlights take a page of his website. The list includes a first place finish in the 2013 Taney County Fire Department Buddy Bass Tournament and first place and big bass wins in the 2012 Joe Bass on Table Rock and also in the First Annual Renaissance Financial Invitational that year.
That competitive experience widens his pool of clients, some whom are highly ranked tournament anglers looking for expertise on area lakes. In May 2013 he was featured on Byron Velvick’s Guides Eyes show on the Outdoor Channel.
Although he bought his first bass boat at 21 or so, Stone actually only took the plunge to guide professionally full-time 12 years ago.
Before that he had finished his business degree and hired on at the Harrison Times selling advertising. But when businesses tightened their budgets after 9-11, he was eventually out of a job — with a toddler son to support and a first house mortgage to make.
Stone credits other guides such as Bill Babler and Bill Beck with giving him the encouragement and practical guidance to be successful. “It’s slow starting out,” he said, “but it’s just like any other business — you get out of it what you put into it.”
He’s been grateful for the unexpected opportunities: Legends Boats approached him in its infancy in 2005 to be on their pro staff, where he has been ever since. He has also worked with the Missouri Conservation Society and the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers on habitat restoration around the lakes.
But it’s often the simple moments that remind him of the joy of guiding — just motoring up into the Trophy Area of Lake Taneycomo to show clients the shimmers of milling trout, or hearing their delight in glimpsing the new fox family.
“I am just blessed to do this for a living.” Stone said. “I always said I will never be a millionaire being a fishing guide, but there’s more to life than money, and as long as the kids are all healthy and we can pay the bills, I am ecstatic to get up every morning to do this.”