Running Ozark lunkers with guide and artist Duane Doty
by Kenneth L. Kieser
Few challenges match guiding on Lake Taneycomo. The problem is, a fishing guide is constantly at the mercy of rising or falling water levels caused by water released from Table Rock Dam that affects fishing tactics. Many guides make a living showing families how to catch pan-sized trout. Duane Doty of Lilley’s Landing Trout Resort prefers to put clients on big rainbow and brown trout that lurk in Lake Taneycomo’s shadows.
Duane is one of the top fishing guides on Lake Taneycomo, located by Branson. Legendary catches on lures he built are a big part of Taneycomo’s legend.
State or world record trout are always possible on Taneycomo. A Missouri state record 34-pound, 10-ounce brown trout was caught and released on Taneycomo by Paul Crews on Feb. 23, 2019. Bill Babler caught the next state record here on Sept. 4 the same year: a 40-pound, 6-ounce brown trout.
Duane loves to fish for lunkers at night. A recent catch came from a cast made near a dark shore where the moonlight was shadowed by a towering, tree-covered bluff. Something in the darkness attacked his lure. “This one is stripping drag and running hard,” Duane says. “Better get the net.”
The big trout made several good runs and dives while Duane managed to hang on, and a few minutes later he slipped the net under a 7-pound rainbow trout, about 24 inches long. The beautiful fish was photographed and released to fight another day.
Duane took note of the forage which make the lake a world-class fishery and found commercial lures did not match baitfish found in Taneycomo. So, he decided to create his own versions.
“The Signature Series Lures evolved over time to have a better tool for targeting large trout,” Duane says. “It all started with developing and fine-tuning a technique that increased the chances of triggering a predatory reaction strike. I discovered that suspending lures triggered a higher percentage of strikes from larger trout.” Duane considered the color and patterns to match the forage as well as color schemes that worked when stripping streamers while fly fishing.
His first pattern was a suspending juvenile rainbow trout, created through an 18-step process involving nine different colors applied both with an airbrush and by hand. The sculpin pattern became his biggest challenge.
“There was nothing on the market painted like a sculpin minnow,” Duane says. “The pattern features layers and layers of different colored dots of paint that build depth and realism to the lure. Each sculpin has about 28,000 dots on it.”
Narrowing the body style down to what worked best under Lake Taneycomo’s ever-changing conditions meant many hours on the lake testing different blanks. Determining the best hooks and split rings that correctly suspended each lure became the next step. This process lasted more than a year before he found four blanks that make up his lures.
Duane next decided to create angler’s portraits that would freeze special moments on wood. Using a CNC router, Duane carves a 3D model of a high-resolution photo into 20-by-30-inch boards. He spray-paints the panel and rubs parts of it with steel wool in order to bring out the details. He paints the fish in layers from light to dark, adding the finishing touches by hand.
“My carved and painted wooden panels combine my love of woodwork, art and the outdoors,” Duane says. “What I really like about these panels is they not only provide an accurate reproduction of your fish, but they capture a moment in time.”
Creating masterpieces is just a sideline for Duane. His true passion is fishing for trophy trout with his lures.
“I recently caught a brown well over 10 pounds,” Duane says. “I slipped it back in the lake and a young man watching nearby on the shore asked why I released that big fish? ‘So, you will have a chance to catch it someday.’ I think he liked that answer.”
Follow Ozark Trout Runners on Facebook or call Duane at 417-294-8672.
Kieser is a freelance writer from Kansas City.