Fishing in Bull Shoals Lake FI

An Angler's Guide to Fishing in Bull Shoals Lake

By Emily Leikam on August 17, 2023

Picture it – you’re casting a line into sparkling waters surrounded by the lush beauty of the Ozarks and reeling in the catch of a lifetime. Sounds like a dream, right? Well, let's turn that dream into a reality by taking a journey to Bull Shoals Lake, a true angler's paradise hidden in the heart of the Ozark Mountains.

Straddling the Missouri-Arkansas border, Bull Shoals Lake offers stunning landscapes, diverse outdoor activities and some of the best fishing experiences you can find. With an impressive array of fish species, numerous prime fishing locations and first-rate amenities, this extraordinary lake caters to anglers of all skill levels. Whether you're an expert angler or a newcomer to the sport, Bull Shoals Lake is the perfect fishing destination. 

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Bull Shoals Lake. Photo by: Robert J Davis.

Fish Species in Bull Shoals Lake

Now that the scene is set, let's dive into the fish species you can find in Bull Shoals Lake. Knowing what's swimming beneath the surface will make your fishing trip more exciting and help you choose the right gear and techniques for a successful day on the water. Here are some of the most common fish species you'll encounter in this angler's paradise:

  1. Largemouth Bass: A favorite among bass anglers, the largemouth bass is an aggressive, hard-fighting fish that can provide endless thrills. They love hanging out around submerged structures, weed beds and brush piles, so keep an eye out for these prime spots!
  1. Smallmouth Bass: Known for their acrobatic leaps and fierce fighting spirit, they are an absolute blast to catch. They're typically found in rocky areas, points and drop-offs, so explore these zones for your best chance at landing one.
  1. Spotted Bass: These feisty fish are similar to their largemouth and smallmouth cousins but can be distinguished by the unique pattern of spots on their bodies. They're commonly found near rocky banks, points, and submerged timber, making them an excellent target for anglers of all skill levels.
  1. White Bass: These schooling fish are a ton of fun to catch, especially during their spring and fall feeding frenzies. Look for flocks of diving birds, as they're often a telltale sign that white bass are feeding nearby.
  1. Crappie: Crappies are a beloved catch among anglers, thanks to their delicious taste and fun challenge they present. Look for these fish around brush piles, submerged trees and docks, particularly during their spring spawning season.
  1. Walleye: Known for their incredible taste, walleye are a sought-after catch in Bull Shoals Lake. They can be found in deep water near drop-offs and ledges, making them a rewarding challenge for experienced anglers.
  1. Catfish: If you're after a real heavyweight, catfish are the way to go. These bottom-dwelling behemoths can be found in a variety of habitats, from deep holes to shallow flats. Nighttime is an excellent time to target catfish, as they tend to be more active under the cover of darkness.
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Catch and Release. Photo by: Steve Dally.

Best Fishing Spots in Bull Shoals Lake

Knowing where to cast your line can make all the difference when landing that trophy catch. Below are some of the top spots you won't want to miss on your Bull Shoals Lake fishing adventure:

Bull Shoals Dam

The area surrounding the Bull Shoals Dam is a popular fishing spot – and for a good reason. With deep water and plenty of rocky structure, it's an ideal habitat for various fish species, including bass, walleye and crappie. Remember to pack your favorite lures and get ready for some action-packed fishing!

Major Creek Arms

Bull Shoals Lake is home to numerous creek arms providing diverse fishing opportunities. These areas offer a mix of shallow and deep water, submerged timber and vegetation, making them a hotbed for various fish species. Some of the more popular creek arms include:

  • Big North Fork
  • Little North Fork
  • Beaver Creek
  • Buck Creek 
  • Bear Creek

Main Lake Points

The main lake points are a must-visit spot for bass anglers, as they provide a perfect combination of deep and shallow water. Fish tend to congregate around these points, especially during seasonal transitions. Keep an eye out for baitfish activity and be ready to cast your line.

Brush Piles and Submerged Structures

Fish love to hang out around brush piles, submerged trees and other underwater structures, as these spots provide excellent cover and feeding opportunities. Make sure to bring along some versatile lures, like jigs or soft plastics, to entice fish hiding in these areas.

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Bull Shoal Dam. Photo by: Steve Dally.

Fishing Upper Bull Shoals Lake

The upper section of Bull Shoals Lake, stretching from Powersite Dam to Beaver Creek, is a fantastic area for anglers seeking diverse fishing opportunities. 

Powersite Dam

Powersite Dam is located near the city of Forsyth in southwestern Missouri. This part of the lake is home to a variety of fish species, including walleye, white bass, rainbow trout, crappie and spotted bass.

The Pothole

One popular spot in this area is the Pothole, located just below Powersite Dam. Easily accessible by boat or foot, the Pothole is a prime location for fishing from March through June. You'll find abundant walleye, white bass, trout, and crappie during this time. Prevalent baits in this area include 1/32-ounce white jigs and nightcrawlers, which work well for most targeted species.

As summer progresses, walleye and white bass in the Pothole move to deeper waters. However, black bass and rainbow trout remain active from late June through mid-October, particularly during early morning and evening hours.

Beaver Creek

You'll find classic bass fishing waters by moving down the lake towards Beaver Creek. This area produces trophy-sized largemouth bass, including the current Missouri state record. In summer, bass are usually found at depths of 10 to 25 feet and can be caught using drop shot or Carolina rigs.

Walleye fishing in the lower lake differs from the upper lake, but it's still excellent. Daytime fishing during summer usually requires a boat, with anglers either trolling or using slip bobber rigs with nightcrawlers or minnows as bait. Night fishing is incredibly productive during the summer months.

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The Outsider™ is the only jacket you need for outdoor adventure.

Techniques and Baits for Successful Fishing

With the right approach and gear, you'll be well on your way to reeling in that dream catch. Let's look into some tried-and-true strategies for success on the water:

Lure Selection 

When it comes to lures, versatility is key. Make sure to pack a variety of options to cover different water depths and fish preferences. Some popular choices for Bull Shoals Lake include crankbaits, spinnerbaits, jigs, and soft plastics. Feel free to experiment with different colors and styles to see what works best for the specific conditions on your fishing day.

Live Bait Options

Sometimes, there's nothing quite like the real thing. Live bait can be incredibly effective in enticing fish to bite, particularly when they're feeling finicky. Some excellent live bait options for Bull Shoals Lake include minnows, nightcrawlers, and shad. Be sure to check local regulations regarding the use of live bait and follow proper handling and disposal practices to protect the lake's ecosystem.

Seasonal Considerations

The time of year can significantly impact fish behavior and location, so adjusting your approach accordingly is essential. 

  • Spring: In spring, focus on shallow areas where fish are likely to spawn, such as creek arms and flats. 
  • Summer: Target deeper water and structure during summer, as fish seek cooler temperatures. 
  • Fall: Fall brings another shallow water bite as fish move up to feed on baitfish. 
  • Winter: In winter, focus on deeper structure and slow down your presentation to match the slower metabolism of fish in colder water.

With these techniques and bait tips in mind, you'll be well-prepared for a fantastic fishing experience at Bull Shoals Lake. Before you hit the water, familiarize yourself with the local marinas, campgrounds and RV parks to ensure a seamless and enjoyable outdoor adventure. 

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Photo by: michal dziekonski.

Marinas, Campgrounds and RV Parks Nearby

A great fishing trip to Bull Shoals Lake isn't just about casting your line, it's also about finding the perfect place to rest and recharge after a long day on the water. Here's a short list of local marinas, campgrounds and RV parks that can help make your trip a memorable one:


  1. Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock: A full-service marina offering boat rentals, slip rentals, fuel and a well-stocked bait and tackle shop.
  1. Lakeview Cove Marina: This marina features boat rentals, a store, and easy access to some of the best fishing spots on the lake.
  1. Sugarloaf Harbor Marina: A popular choice for anglers, this marina offers boat rentals, slips, fuel and a convenient location near prime fishing areas.


  1. Bull Shoals-White River State Park: This beautiful state park offers a variety of campsites, including both primitive and full-hookup options, along with easy access to the lake and river.
  1. Theodosia Park: Located on the lake's eastern shore, this park offers scenic campsites, a swimming beach and a boat ramp for easy access.
  1. Lakeview Park: This campground offers a combination of RV and tent camping options, complete with facilities such as a playground, fishing dock and boat launch.

RV Parks

  1. Blue Waters Resort: This family-friendly RV park features full-hookup sites, a swimming pool and a boat ramp for lake access.
  1. Buck Creek RV Park: Offering spacious RV sites, this park is a great option for anglers looking for a comfortable home base during their fishing trip.
  1. Bull Shoals RV Park: Located near the dam, this RV park provides easy access to some of the lake's best fishing spots, along with full-hookup sites and other amenities.

Local Fishing Tournaments and Events

Bull Shoals Lake hosts several annual fishing tournaments and events that showcase the lake's vibrant angling community. Participating in or attending these events can add an exciting element to your fishing trip and provide opportunities to meet fellow anglers, learn new techniques or even show off your skills. Some noteworthy fishing events at Bull Shoals Lake include:

  • Bull Shoals Lake Big Bass Tournament: This annual event typically takes place in the spring and attracts anglers from all over the region. With cash prizes and bragging rights on the line, the competition is fierce, and the camaraderie is strong among participants.
  • Annual Children's Fishing Derby: Hosted by the Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock, this fun-filled event encourages young anglers to develop their love for fishing. The derby offers prizes for various age groups and allows kids to learn more about fishing in a friendly and supportive environment.
  • Fishing Seminars and Workshops: Local marinas, fishing clubs and guide services often host yearly fishing seminars and workshops. These educational events cover topics like seasonal fishing techniques, lure selection and fish species identification. Attending these sessions can be a great way to improve your fishing skills and connect with the local angling community.
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Children's Fishing Derby. Photo by: Gabriel Cassan.

Additional Fishing Tips and Resources 

With all the essential information about Bull Shoals Lake at your fingertips, it's time to cover some additional tips and resources that can help make your fishing trip even more enjoyable and successful.

Local Fishing Guide: If you're new to the area or simply want to maximize your chances of landing a trophy catch, consider hiring a local fishing guide. These experienced professionals can show you the ropes, share insider tips, and help you find the best spots on the lake. There are several reputable guide services available, so do a little research to find the perfect fit for your needs.

Fishing Regulations and Licenses: Before you hit the water, make sure you're familiar with the local fishing regulations and have a valid fishing license. Regulations can vary between Missouri and Arkansas, so double-check the rules for the specific area you'll be fishing. You can purchase a fishing license online or at local retailers such as bait and tackle shops or marinas.

Safety Tips: Last but not least, prioritize safety while enjoying your time on Bull Shoals Lake. Wear a personal flotation device (PFD) when you're on the water, 

and be cautious when navigating around underwater hazards like submerged trees or rocks. Keep an eye on the weather, as conditions will change quickly, and always let someone know your plans and expected return time.

Final Thoughts

Bull Shoals Lake is synonymous with fishing. Spanning over 45,000 surface acres and boasting almost 1,000 miles of rugged shoreline, it’s an anglers paradise. Bull Shoals Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities and a variety of fish to reel in. So, grab your fishing gear and experience the magic of Bull Shoals Lake for yourself Tight lines and happy fishing!

Emily Leikam
Emily Leikam

Emily is an avid traveler and has been all around the world from Alaska and Iceland to Peru and Bali. Her home base is Nashville, TN and when not traveling you can find her hiking, practicing yoga or cooking/baking!


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