Welcome to Smithville Lake

It’s no coincidence that one of Missouri’s best fishing lakes is also one of its busiest. Smithville Lake, located about 20 minutes from downtown Kansas City, receives more fishing pressure than any other large reservoir in Missouri for a good reason. Its steady, high-quality fishing for bass, crappie, walleye, catfish and white bass is a lure most anglers can’t ignore.

The Conservation Department set the stage for good fishing at Smithville Lake even before the dam that made the lake could be constructed. As early as 1975, fisheries biologists built up the fish populations of Trimble Lake and numerous farm ponds that would be flooded by the 7,200-acre reservoir. By the time Smithville Lake filled in October 1979, the fish had been growing and multiplying for years and were prime for the hook.

The result was a fishing boom that most local anglers still recall as “awesome.” Their memories include 30-pound five-fish limits of bass, and stringers of huge crappie.

“Smithville was one of the best bass lakes in the state or, some say, in the country,” said Jake Allman, the Conservation Department biologist who now manages the fishery at Smithville. “And crappie fishing was so phenomenal that people flocked there in droves.” People familiar with the lake say the fishing was never quite as good after the Flood of 1993. That year, high water killed most of the lake’s vegetation, and an unknown protozoan killed off the large bass. The whole food pyramid was upended. Shad hatches declined, and the fish that fed on young shad grew slowly.

Time and hard work have helped to restore the fishery. Allman said the lake has had good to excellent shad hatches since about 2000, and 2005 was one of the best fishing years in memory, with anglers stringering plenty of 11- to 13-inch crappie and bass tournament winners logging in limits that averaged almost 4 pounds a fish.

“Even more impressive are the large numbers of 14-inch bass being caught by anglers,” Allman said. “Their body condition is excellent, so they are obviously getting enough to eat. And, healthy fish produce more young, so we’re looking at good things from the bass population.”

Budding for Bass

Bass usually don’t require stocking. They’ll do just fine on their own if they have habitat and food. Lake weeds provide both. Aquatic plants give young bass places to hide, and algae growing on the plants feed insects that, in turn, feed young