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Winter Drawdown on Lake of the Ozarks

Fishing Lake of the Ozarks winter drawdown stages

By John Neporadny Jr.

Knowing the plans for preventing floods in the spring can improve your chances of catching wintertime bass on Lake of the Ozarks.

AmerenMissouri annually draws down lake levels during the winter to prevent flooding in the spring, so Lake of the Ozarks anglers must adapt to the falling water to catch bass.

A typical winter drawdowns usually leads to three phases that anglers must adjust to in order to keep track of bass throughout the winter and early spring. Phase One occurs when the drawdown begins and bass move from the shallows to deeper sanctuaries. Next comes Phase Two when the drawdown bottoms out and bass bunch up in certain holes during the dead of winter. Phase Three follows in early spring when the lake is still low and shoreline cover is high and dry, but bass have the urge to move shallower in search of warmer water.

Here’s a look at how FLW Tour pro and Lake of the Ozarks guide Casey Scanlon tracks and catches Lake of the Ozarks bass during each phase of the winter drawdown.

Phase One

The first drawdown phase on Lake of the Ozarks usually starts slowly in late November or early December and then Scanlon notices the water levels drop sharply at some point. Scanlon keys on main and secondary points where bass are feeding on larger meals for winter. “Those fish are up there eating those big (gizzard) shad,” he said.

During the early stages of the drawdown, Scanlon relies on a Luck E Strike Buzzbait or other topwater lures to catch bass chasing the gizzard shad. As the lake level continues to fall, bass start suspending on points and vertical structure on the main lake so Scanlon tempts these fish with a Luck E Strike RC STX Jerkbait or a 3/4-ounce spinnerbait that he slow rolls.

Phase Two

The guts of creeks and main lake pockets are Scanlon’s favorite targets during the bottom-out stage of the winter drawdown. He finds Lake of the Ozarks bass suspending at 8 to 10 feet over a depth of 20 feet or greater and casts his lures down the middle of the guts. “In the middle of winter, I use a (suspending) jerkbait and I am also going to throw some kind of an Alabama rig.” He throws an Alabama rig without blades in clear water on calm, sunny days but changes to a bladed version of the rig in windy or cloudy conditions.

Phase Three

This is the trickiest phase of the drawdown since bass want to move to warmer water in the shallows, but shallow cover is sparse and cold fronts can send bass retreating back to deeper water.

Scanlon concentrates on boulders and docks in the shallows along points and bluffs in the backs of creeks. “I look for just any type of cover available on the bank and I will throw a (1/2-ounce Trophy Bass Company) jig with a big trailer to slow the fall rate down,” Scanlon said. He also throws a suspending jerkbait and a Luck E Strike G5 crankbait for bass suspended in deeper water.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.

For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.

Reprinted with permission from B.A.S.S. Publications

Jim Dill predicts another good year for Lake of the Ozarks

Another good year for Lake of the Ozarks bass

By John Neporadny Jr.

Lake of the Ozarks anglers have always been blessed with good bass fishing throughout the years and 2018 should be another banner year for the lake.

Guide Jim Dill expects bass fishing to be average to above average this year at Lake of the Ozarks. “It seems like the weights are going up (at tournaments) and we are seeing bigger fish turned in on (guide) trips,” he said. “I am catching a lot more quality fish.” Two 10-pound largemouth were caught on the Grand Glaize arm of the lake in the spring of 2016. Dill believes the bass are growing bigger because the fish have a lot of forage created by the large shad population in the lake.

When the water temperature starts to warm, bass begin their prespawn migration to the shallows. Bass start feeding heavily during the first warming trend of the month when it causes the water temperature to climb into the 40-degree range. Dill picks 42 degrees as the magic number for drawing big bass to the shallows. “Once we hit 42 there are just as many fish shallow as there is anywhere else,” he said. “The majority of the fish are going to start pushing towards the back ends of creeks looking for warmer water.”

Bottom-bumping baits such as small finesse jigs or a Crock-O-Gator Swamp Bug on a 1/2-ounce jighead tricks prespawn bass into biting. Suspending jerkbaits in a variety of colors and an Alabama rig also produce plenty of quality bass in March.

During early April, Dill throws larger jigs, Wiggle Warts and suspending jerkbaits for bass along the rock transition banks (scattered chunk rock and pea gravel). The spawn usually occurs from middle to late April when the fish nest 6 feet deep or less in the protected pea gravel pockets. A variety of soft plastics will work then and nesting bass will also attack topwater lures such as a Crock-O-Gator HeadKnocker Buzz Bait or Zara Spook.

The local guide suggests fishing the lake’s major creeks for the earliest action since spring rains tend to warm the backs of those creeks first. Dill lists Jennings Branch, Gravois, Bogue, Cedar and Mill creeks as some of the spots on the lower end of the lake where the bass action turns on quicker in the spring.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.

For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.

Lake of the Ozarks Cold Water Crappie

Hot Tips for Cold Water Lake of the Ozarks Crappie

Some of the largest crappie of the year are annually taken at Lake of the Ozarks by anglers jerking suspending stickbaits for bass.

About 10 years ago I went crappie fishing on Lake of the Ozarks with Roger Fitzpatrick, a local bass tournament competitor, who had refined a suspending jerkbait tactic to catch slab crappie. During a couple of hours of fishing, we caught 28 fish in the 11- to 13-inch range and on a couple of occasions we scored doubles. I also caught the largest crappie I’ve ever taken on my home lake –a 15-inch fish that weighted 1 pound, 14 ounces.

Since then, I have jerked a LuckyCraft Bevy Shad 60 in a ghost minnow hue to catch crappie throughout the winter. The key is to find brush piles in the 12- to 15-foot range and slowly work the stickbait over the top of the brush. I throw past the brush pile, reel the lure down to its maximum depth and then employ a twitch-twitch-twitch-pause cadence with the pauses lasting about five to 10 seconds. I throw the stickbait on 8-pound monofilament line with a 6 1/2-foot medium-action spinning rod. Scaling down to 6-pound line will make the lure dive deeper, but I prefer the 8-pound line for added strength in case a hefty largemouth or hybrid white bass-striper nabs the stickbait.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

The stickbait technique produces quality fish, but when I want to catch numbers of crappie I resort to horizontal and vertical presentations with jigs. My favorite jighead size for casting is a 1/16-ounce model which is heavy enough to cast and control on a windy day, yet is light enough to slowly fall through a school of suspended crappie. On calm, cloudy days, I will occasionally throw a 1/24-ounce jighead to make the lure fall even slower for suspended fish. I can also vary the fall rate of my jigs by tying the lures on 4- or 6-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon line.

Two of my favorite soft plastics for casting in the wintertime are the Bobby Garland Baby Shad and the 3-inch Bobby Garland Slab Slayer in blue ice, chartreuse-and-white, butter belly, pearl glow and chartreuse glow hues. The glow colors produce best for me when I shoot the lures into the dark areas of a dock or cast to the shadowy side of a dock.

The same brush piles that yield crappie on stickbaits also produce when I am casting a jig. I always cast past the brush and count down my jig (usually an 8- or 10-count). I keep my line semi-taut so the lure will pendulum towards the brush and hopefully tick the tips of the limbs when I start reeling. While slowly turning the reel handle I occasionally twitch my rod to make the jig hop slightly. Strikes frequently occur while the jig is falling towards the brush or after it has ticked off of a limb.

If I notice on my depth finder that baitfish are suspended high in the water column and crappie are ignoring the Baby Shad and Slab Slayer, I will switch to a technique similar to the shaky head finesse tactic for bass I attached either an Eagle Claw Nitro Trailer worm or a Berkley Gulp Alive Fish Fry in chartreuse or white to a 1/16-ounce jighead and cast it to the deep ends of boat docks over depths of 20 to 30 feet. As the jig slowly falls through the suspended fish, I occasionally shake the jig-and-worm combo. I let the jig pendulum all the way back to the boat on a semi-taut line and watch for indications of a strike, such as a twitch in the line or if I feel my line getting heavier. When my the shaky head is directly below the boat I let it sit there for a short while before reeling it in to make another presentation to the dock.

Vertical jigging is usually my last resort. Whenever I approach a brush pile, I will cast to it first to catch the most aggressive fish. Once the action stops, I will position my boat over the brush and drop my jig until I feel it hit the cover and then I will make one turn of the reel to keep my jig slightly above the snag. I drift back and forth over the brush pile occasionally letting the jig bang into the branches, which usually triggers a strike.

A 1/8-ounce jighead works best for me when I am vertical fishing in deeper brush because I can feel the heavier jig better. I vertical jig with either a fuzzy-grub style jig or the Slab Slayer. The marabou of the fuzzy grub and the limber soft plastic tail of the Slab Slayer generate plenty of tantalizing movement even when I am holding my rod still, so these lures are ideal for holding in front of an inactive crappie and teasing it into biting.

Catching a trophy bass on a suspending stickbait in the winter is an once-in-a-lifetime thrill, but when I want some hot action on a cold winter day I get my fix by chasing after those calico panfish.

For information on lodging at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.

Copies of John Neporadny’s book, “THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide” are
available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

Catch Lake of the Ozarks Giant Bass Using Swimbaits




Sling a Swimbait for Lake of the Ozarks Giants

By John Neporadny Jr.

Accomplished tournament angler Marcus Sykora knows heavyweight bass on his home waters of Lake of the Ozarks like to hang out in the shade and eat big meals.

“There are a couple of things that anglers need to explore,” says Sykora. “What you should really focus on is what portion of the water column you are most comfortable with. If you want to fish shallow it doesn’t mean you have to fish in shallow water. There are an abundance of docks out there and what I do is take a big swimbait or something like that and throw it along those bigger docks because there is a ton of big bass tournament-winning fish that reside under those docks.”

The local angler suggests using a 5- or 6-inch swimbait that stays in about the 5-foot depth range. “You can cover a ton of water with that technique and it is usually very easy, very friendly because you don’t have to go in-between the docks,” Sykora says. “You can continue on a straight line with your trolling motor. The odds of you being able to catch a giant are great.” The tournament veteran notes this tactic also produces plenty of 3- and 4-pounders that can earn anglers money during the semi-hourly weigh-ins.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

Sykora usually catches his biggest fish in the fall from the Gravois arm to Bagnell Dam and up the Grand Glaize arm. “From the Gravois to the dam the water is so clear those bigger fish have the opportunity to pick and choose their feeding periods a little bit more precisely which means they are less catchable,” says Sykora. “So there are more of them available.”

Visiting anglers should focus their efforts on main lake docks. “I would just start at the dam and keep going until I ran out of time,” says Sykora. After fishing so far down one direction, Sykora would run to the opposite bank and work his way back towards the dam.

“Typically you want to run the swimbait just out of sight on the windy side of a dock in combination with shade,” says Sykora. “So try to find a stretch of the lake that has wind and shade impacting the same side of the docks.”

The ideal target for Sykora’s swimbait tactic is where the wind is blowing into the swim platform side of the dock, which provides the most amounts of shade and protection for bass to use as an ambush point. Bash anglers should also try the front corners and stalls of the condo docks.

Bass will set up on any of the main channel docks during the fall. “It doesn’t really matter whether it is 50 feet deep on the end of that dock or if it is 25 feet deep,” Sykora says.

Sykora opts for swimbaits in natural shad or bream colors, but if these fail to produce he changes to lures in highly visible wild colors. “The color is so contrasting that it gets the fish’s attention and the fish has to make the commitment on whether or not it wants to go and eat that bait,” he says.

A swimbait with a slow fall rate is Sykora’s choice for working the main lake docks. “If you can keep that thing in the strike zone, the slower you can reel it the more action that bait has,” he says. Since he is fishing in open water next to the dock, Sykora favors an open hook on the top of his swimbait and adds a number 2 or 1/0 treble hook to his rig to increase hookups. He either slips the treble hook on his main line of 20- to 25-pound fluorocarbon before tying on the bait or attaches the treble to the hook of the swimbait.

When he notices big fish following his bait but eventually turning away from it, Sykora changes his retrieve to trigger a strike. Sykora continues to steadily retrieve the lure and as it reaches the end of the dock or shade line, he quickly turns the reel handle three to four times and then stops cranking to allow the swimbait to flutter down and tempt the following fish into biting.

If the swimbait pattern fails to produce, Sykora suggests anglers run halfway back into the creeks and key on brush piles along the flats. “I am looking for the migrators then, “says Sykora, who probes the 15- to 18-foot range with a deep-diving crankbait. “I am looking for the fish that are following shad. I like the deep-diving crankbait because 1) I can cover so much more water; 2) it has a big profile; and 3) it is just a big fish bait. With the amount of pressure on the lake you need to keep covering water and keep yourself in high percentage spots.”

The key to this technique is to bang the crankbait into the brush piles. “Whenever I am working that bait and I feel the line coming up on the pile, sometimes I reel that thing as fast as I can and crash that bait and then just kill it,” says Sykora. “As it starts floating up the fish will get it.”

Sykora picks about the same colors for his crankbaits as he does for his swimbaits in either natural shad hues or off-the-wall bright colors of orange, red or yellow. He usually has three crankbait rods on his deck with three different line sizes; 12-, 15- and 20-pound fluorocarbon. Cranking with the 12-pound line allows his lure to reach brush piles that top out at 16 feet. He opts for 15-pound test when probing brush that tops out at 12 feet and switches to 20-pound test when cranking brush tops at 8 feet.

If he catches some fish from a brush pile but the fish stop hitting the crankbait, Sykora will probe the cover with a big jig or Texas-rigged Zoom Brush Hog or magnum-size plastic worm.

Other tactics Sykora recommends for tricking a big bass in the fall include throwing a black buzz bait on 65-pound test braided line in the mornings; working a 3/4- or 1-ounce football jig (peanut butter-and-jelly hue with a green pumpkin trailer) along bluff ends; and casting 3/4- or 1-ounce jigs to suspended bass hanging on the cables of condo docks.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.

Copies of John Neporadny’s book, “THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide” are available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com.

Bass Fishing in the Wind on Lake of the Ozarks

Cash in on Wind for Lake of the Ozarks Bass

By John Neporadny Jr.

The wind is almost always an angler’s best friend in autumn so Lake of the Ozarks anglers should keep that in mind while chasing bass.

When fishing in the shallows of the river arms, accomplished tournament angler Roger Fitzpatrick looks for the wind to find the most active bass. “I fished a tournament about 10 years ago and started on a spot around the 80-mile marker (of the Osage arm),” says Fitzpatrick. “It was morning and there wasn’t a hint of breeze on it. I knew fish were there because I caught them there the week before, but my partner and I fished through there and never got a bite. “

Lake of the Ozarks

They tried some other spots that day and when Fitzpatrick noticed a breeze blowing, he returned to his morning spot. “As soon as you see that ripple on the lake starting to hit the side of the dock, especially if it is hitting the same side as the shade on the dock, it is game on,” says Fitzpatrick. “We went back through that same row of docks later on and caught about a dozen keepers. They were there all along, they just didn’t bite earlier.”

The upper Osage is a favorite fall hot spot for Roger Fitzpatrick and his brother, Wayne, the owner of Fitz Fishing Tackle and Supplies and an accomplished Lake of the Ozarks tournament competitor. “Usually in October the gizzard shad in the rivers will start to move to the flats,” says Roger Fitzpatrick. “Anytime you are up there and hit your trolling motor and those gizzards start to flip out of the water, if you see those hand-size gizzard shad, those are the ones big bass like the most. So whatever shallow cover is next to those shad is what I would key on.”

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

The wind dictates how far up the Osage Fitzpatrick will run throughout the day. If the weather is calm he will key on brush about 15 feet deep from the 30- to 40-mile mark of the Osage. However if winds of 20 miles per hour are forecast he will run up to the stretch from the 60-mile mark to Warsaw to target shallow bass.

“In the mornings a lot of times you won’t have the wind and if that is the case you might fish some brush piles or some deeper docks or throw a buzz bait on some of the flat nothing-looking points up there,” says Fitzpatrick. He believes bass in this area roam the flats at night and remain there in the mornings and then tuck under the shallow docks when the sun rises higher.

The Eldon, Mo., angler favors a black 3/8-ounce Omega Alpha Shad buzz bait with black or copper blades for buzzing the flats. He removes the skirt of a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce Omega jig and matches the jighead with a Damiki Hydra tube-style trailer for skipping under docks.

When fishing a jig along the shallow docks, Fitzpatrick either swims his lure or drags it along the bottom depending on how the fish want it presented that day. “I fished a tournament years ago on a Saturday and caught 18 pounds on a row of docks swimming a jig. I went back to it Sunday in a different tournament and swam that jig by every corner and never got a bite. I spun right back around and let that jig go to the bottom and then caught 18 pounds off the same row of docks. They just wanted it different that particular day.”

Quality electronics and an angler’s comfort level at fishing deep are critical in catching heavyweight bass from the clear waters of the lower lake. “There are some fish in some guts and a lot of bass that are relating to nothing but shad in the fall of the year,” says Fitzpatrick. ”If you are blessed enough to have a good graph and can see shad in 40 feet of water on a flat, you should put on a 1-ounce jig and drag it around in those shad because there are giant bass out under those shad and you are fishing where other people aren’t fishing.”

When fishing deep in the dam area, Fitzpatrick matches a brown or green 1-ounce jig with a green pumpkin Berkley Chigger Craw. He jerks the jig off the bottom in depths of 20 to 40 feet to trigger a reaction strike from bass foraging on schools of shad.

Fitzpatrick suggests anglers who want some topwater action on the lower lake should throw a Zara Spook for bass suspending around docks over depths of 30 to 40 feet. Work the topwater lure along the windy sides of the docks and the shade of the dock wells for the best results.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.

Copies of John Neporadny’s book, “THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide” are
available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com.

Lake of the Ozarks September Bass Fishing

Catching Lake of the Ozarks bass in September

By John Neporadny Jr.

Lake of the Ozarks bass anglers need to “go with the flow” to get in on the best fishing action during September.

By September, the summer heat has generated bath-water temperatures and depleted oxygen levels in the shallows of lakes and ponds throughout the state. These conditions make for some tough fishing during the month, but anglers can still catch plenty of fish at Lake of the Ozarks by seeking waters with plenty of current. When fishing the headwaters of the lake, bass anglers will discover the current in these waters create a cool, oxygen-rich environment that makes bass more aggressive feeders. So Lake of the Ozarks anglers should “go with the flow” for the best bass action at the lake during early fall.

When September arrives, veteran tournament angler Mike Malone starts running up the Osage arm of the lake to catch bass.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

“Those fish are moving at that time and the baitfish are moving and bass get predominantly on those mud flats (on the upper Osage arm),” he says. “If you can figure out what area of that upper reach is on you are going to catch a bunch.”

The Lake Ozark angler keys on the main lake flats rather than back in the creeks because current is more predominant there. “There is usually a two- to three-hour window where they turn on the water (at Truman Dam),” Malone says. “As long as there is movement to the water, those fish get positioned and are very predictable as to where they are going to be and how to catch them.”

Malone usually finds bass around boat docks where the fish remain less than 4 feet deep. “I have a milk run where I might hit 30 to 40 docks up there starting at about Proctor Creek all the way up to the 88-mile marker,” he says. “Sometimes the fish are on the outside ends of the docks. If they are not running current the fish might be on the backs of the docks.”

Malone’s favorite lures for throwing around the docks include a black/red flake flipping tube, black/chartreuse jig with blue plastic chunk, a 1/2-ounce white/chartreuse spinnerbait and black/chartreuse wake bait.

Anglers unfamiliar with this section need to be cautious while navigating the upper lake because it contains lots of shallow mud flats on the main lake and in coves. “It’s not an area where you want to go fast if you don’t know where you are going,” Malone says. He recommends using good electronics and mapping to navigate safely in this section of the lake.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.

For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.

Shaky Head Worm Fishing on Lake of the Ozarks

Jig worm fishing on Lake of the Ozarks

By John Neporadny Jr.

Many touring pros have dubbed it shaky head fishing but Lake of the Ozarks legend Guido Hibdon likes to call it jig worm fishing.

The Godfather of Finesse Fishing’s label best describes this tactic because it requires using a jighead and a plastic worm. The term shaky head derives from having to shake the jig and worm to trigger strikes but Hibdon doesn’t always need to shake his jig worm to catch Lake of the Ozarks bass.

“Every day will tell you a different story on how to work it,” Hibdon says. “I hop it a little bit. Sometimes I just throw it out there and crank it real slow and let it just bump the bottom every now and then. The next time I might have to pick it up and pull it a little bit and hop it once or twice.”

Taking a break from the FLW Tour, Hibdon has returned to guiding on his home waters of Lake of the Ozarks. During an outing with Hibdon, I got a chance to learn some of the legendary pro’s tricks for catching finicky bass on a jig worm. Despite facing some tough conditions (calm bluebird skies and bass recuperating from the spawn) we still managed to catch 15 keepers with our best five fish probably weighing around 15 pounds. Almost all of the fish we caught that day was on a hop-and-fall presentation.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

When guiding Hibdon frequently sets up his clients with a jig worm. “A jig worm is one of those deals that anybody can do,” Hibdon says. “It is the simplest fishing that anybody can possibly do. I get a big kick out of it.”

Hibdon’s clients get a big kick out of it too because not only does it catch lots of fish, it also coaxes big bass into biting. “You bet it will, “Hibdon claims. “The biggest fish I have seen this year a guy caught out of the back of my boat on it. He had an 8-pound, 6-ounce fish that he caught on 8-pound line with a jig worm on one of my rods. The heck of it was if you took his best five fish he would have ended up with 26 or 27 pounds.”

Using a light jighead is the key to jig worm fishing. “The lighter you can keep the head the better off you are, “says Hibdon. The former Bassmaster Classic champ uses 1/16-or 1/8-ounce jigheads for most of his jig worm applications but he will upgrade to a 1/4-ounce head on windy days to prevent his line from bowing.

Lake of the Ozarks

Pouring his own jigheads allows Hibdon to make models with different size hooks. So when he fishes 4-inch finesse worms the veteran guide opts for a jighead with a 3/0 or 4/0 hook and switches to a model with a 5/0 hook for 6-inch or larger trick worms. “You don’t have to use a real small bait to do it,” says Hibdon, who matches his jighead with a Zoom Magnum Trick Worm during the summertime and fall.

Before rigging the worm on the jig, Hibdon slightly pushes down on the bend of the hook with a pair of pliers which helps the worm lay straighter on the hook and assures a better hook set. The key to rigging the combo is to make sure the worm sits straight on the hook. “If the worm has a little crook in it the line will get twisted all the time,” Hibdon warns. When rigged correctly the point of the hook should be barely under the skin of the worm body to make the combo weedless.

Hibdon ties his jighead with a Palomar knot onto an 8-foot leader line of Berkley Trilene 100 % Fluorocarbon followed by tying a main line of yellow 10-pound Trilene braid with a Double Uni or Albright knot. “I don’t use straight fluorocarbon because I can’t see it and if I use anything heavier than 8 pounds on the (spinning) reel you can’t keep it on the reel,” he says. “It just spins off of their too easily (and will create a tangled mess).”

The longtime FLW Tour pro prefers the yellow braid so he can see the line easier, but Hibdon adds the fluorocarbon leader to prevent fish from detecting his line. “I get paranoid knowing fish can see that yellow line, so that determines how long I make my leader,” says Hibdon. In the clearest water, he lengthens his leader to 10 to 12 feet. In dirty water he still throws the same fluoro-braid combination but opts for a leader of 12- to 15-pound fluorocarbon and a main line of 15-pound braid.

Hibdon recommends throwing the jig worm on a 7-foot medium-action spinning rod that has a strong backbone yet a fast tip for casting accuracy and distance. He favors using a Lew’s spinning reel with a medium size spool.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.

For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.

Lake of the Ozarks Crappie

Dock shooting for Lake of the Ozarks slabs

By John Neporadny Jr.

“Dock shooting” is one of the most effective tactics for catching Lake of the Ozarks crappies tucked up in the shady areas of docks.

A local guide who shoots for crappie at the lake is Terry Blankenship. He had to learn the technique in order to compete with the shooters on his home waters of Lake of the Ozarks since the lake contains thousands of docks.

The technique can pay big dividends for those who learn how to become expert marksmen since the tactic reaches fish that are inaccessible for anglers with 10- or 11-foot dipping poles.

“The tendency of crappies is that they like to get under the darkest areas of those docks,” says Blankenship. “A lot of times whenever you shoot a jig way back into those dark areas a lot of your better fish are the first ones that will bite and they will bite really quickly in 2 to 4 foot of water.”

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

Blankenship’s favorite skipping lure is also a large plastic projective, a 3-inch Bobby Garland Slab Slayer attached to a 1/16-ounce Bobby Garland Mo’ Glo jighead. He believes the 1/16-ounce jighead is the ideal size for skipping, since a 1/32-ounce head is too light to propel the lure and a 1/8-ounce model tends to plow into the water and dives too fast.

The local guide skips his lures with 6-pound test Vicious Panfish HiVis Yellow line that allows him to detect any line movement indicating a bite when the lure falls in the dark spaces of the dock. “One of the key things is to get a line that doesn’t coil up real bad,” says Blankenship, who soaks his spool with line conditioner before a tournament.

A good lure launcher is another key to effective dock shooting. When he was a kid, Blankenship learned he could sling persimmons farther on a longer hickory stick, so he relies on the same principle today with his shooting rod. He uses a 7-foot Lew’s medium-action spinning rod that has plenty of flexibility for loading up the line like a bowstring yet is stout enough to allow Blankenship to control his shot in close quarters.

Relying on Humminbird side imaging units have made it easier for Blankenship to find the best docks among the thousands to choose from on Lake of the Ozarks. “For crappie fishing that side imaging is one of the greatest tools I have ever seen for locating fish,” the local angler says. “If there is a row of 10 docks if I take my time and check those docks out, I can minimize my time greatly by finding the one dock with fish on it instead of having to fish all 10. I can go about anywhere on the lake and feel like I can catch fish, whereas before I felt like I had to work a little harder at it.”

His side imaging units have taught Blankenship that the looks of a dock above water can be deceiving compared to what’s happening below the surface. Most anglers target the dock wells and walkways where they suspect brush piles are hidden, but Blankenship notices more crappies under the swim platform and large deck areas of docks. “Those are the ones that the fish really seem to school under more than just the 4-foot walkways,” he says.

When scanning a uniform row of docks, Blankenship sets his unit’s side imaging range at 40 feet to show the most detail on his screen. With his unit fine-tuned, Blankenship can discern the difference between crappies and baitfish on his graph. “Crappies basically show up as a bunch of little specks,” says Blankenship. “The difference between crappies and shad is the shad seem to be more of a cloud on the screen whereas crappies tend to be more of a bunch of specks.” Blankenship originally suspected the specks were gizzard shad when he first started using the side imaging unit, but he soon learned the images were crappies when he would shoot his jig into the targeted area and kept catching fish.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.

Copies of John Neporadny’s book, “THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide” are available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com.

Clearwater Lake Smallmouth Bass

Upper Clearwater Lake Alabama Rig

Clearwater Lake is Great Smallmouth Fishery

By Marc Rogers

Nestled in the northeast Ozark Mountains lies a smallmouth bass fishery few are aware exists. Clearwater Lake, a small impoundment on the Black River, is located just minutes west of Piedmont, Missouri. Clearwater Lake is controlled by the Army Corp of Engineers and its normal summer pool level covers just 2,000 acres. However, the lake level varies drastically, and during heavy rains it can reach flood stage and cover 10,000 acres or more as the water backs up into the Black River and Logan Creek arms.

Many local residents flood to the lake on holiday weekends and throughout the summer months. They take advantage of the many area campgrounds and resorts near the shoreline of the lake and river below the spillway. While enjoying the boating and swimming, something is happening below the water surface that is known mostly to only local anglers. Clearwater Lake is growing some big bass willing to entertain the anglers during any season.
The most overlooked opportunity Clearwater Lake has to offer is the smallmouth bass fishing during the fall through spring. As the temperatures begin to cool in the fall, the smallmouth bass travel from their shallow summer hideouts in the Black River downstream to Clearwater Lake. Some tagged smallmouth bass have been reported to travel as far as 30 miles to the lake during this annual migration.

Once arriving in the upper ends of the lake, the smallmouth have only one goal. Smallmouth bass are intent to fatten up for the coming winter conditions, and stories of anglers catching trophy smallmouth are not uncommon around the town of Piedmont.

Due to the size of the lake, big boats are not necessary to cover the entire surface during a day of fishing. Small aluminum craft, as well as fully loaded bass boats are all common on Clearwater Lake. mft-logo

Several tournaments are held throughout the entire year on the lake and the heaviest bags weighed in are during the cooler weather from November through March. Many times the winning weight exceeds 20-pounds and all five fish are smallmouth bass.

The techniques used most often by local anglers consist of crankbaits, jerkbaits, jigs, shaky heads, and the Alabama Rig. Crankbaits and jigs are usually a crawdad pattern while jerkbaits are most often shad patterns or bright colored chartreuse patterns. The most productive Alabama Rigs consist of soft plastic shad baits with several chrome blades on each wire for added flash.

My favorite crankbait for any season on Clearwater Lake is the Storm Wiggle Wart. While the crawdad patterns catch big bass, I often throw a shad pattern with great success when bass are keying on the abundant shad population. Seldom do I find reaching depths of more than 15-feet with any crankbait is necessary to catch bass in these waters. During the cooler seasons, the smallmouth bass are mostly taken in water less than 15-feet deep and at times less than 5-feet deep.

When fishing a Wiggle Wart, I maintain a steady retrieve while digging the lure’s lip into the bottom. Anytime the lure is paused by hitting underwater debris, or deflects off the many rocks and stumps on the lake’s bottom, it is subject to getting engulfed by a big bass.

Jerkbaits are popular with Clearwater Lake anglers. Most prefer lures in shad or chartreuse patterns that will suspend just below the water surface. A twitch-and-pause retrieve is deadly on the winter-time smallmouth bass in the shallow area of the upper creek and river arms. However, both largemouth and spotted bass can be just a eager to strike this offering

Jigs are a favorite of many local anglers during the cooler weather due to the ability to present the lure slowly and maintain bottom contact. A jig in a crawdad pattern is one of the best ways to imitate a slow moving crawdad and are known to catch big bass in any water. Local anglers Aaron and Alton Hunter log many hours on Clearwater Lake and reside just minutes away from the lake’s shoreline. They report fishing a Midwest Fishing Tackle football head jig and slowly dragging it along the bottom during any season. “My biggest bass from Clearwater have come on football jigs”, Aaron said. “I sometimes throw a brush head jig in the heavy cover as well as a soft plastic craw on a jig head with no skirt, poured in a custom-made mold”, Alton added.

At times, a shaky head presentation is needed to coax finicky smallmouth bass to inhale anything. When a finesse lure is needed, a shaky head rigged with a 4-5 inch finesse worm is ideal. Natural colors such as green pumpkin, watermelon and pumpkin seed are most productive.

When bass are actively chasing shad, the Alabama Rig is hard to beat. “I use a 5-wire rig with custom made jig head on my A-Rigs”, Aaron reported. The jig head is a special made round head with a light-wire hook and a hand-made lure keeper wire. “I like the light-wire hooks because when they get hung I can bend them and get my rig back. I use heavy braid line with the A-Rig”, Aaron said. Both Aaron and Alton say catching doubles on the Alabama Rig is not uncommon when the smallmouth bass are after schools of shad.

Clearwater Lake is a great fishery during any season. Anglers pursue all species of fish including bass (largemouth, spotted and smallmouth), crappie, bluegill and catfish during every season. The lake rarely freezes over and public boat ramps are open all year. However, if your desire is a trophy smallmouth bass, visit Clearwater Lake from November through March for some phenomenal results.

Topwater for Lake of the Ozarks Bass

Topwater Tactics For Lake of the Ozarks Bass

by John Neporadny Jr.

The greatest thrill in bass fishing occurs when you’re watching a calm surface suddenly explode and your topwater lure instantly vanishes.

This scene will be played out many times this month on Lake of the Ozarks as the waters become warm enough to activate bass into feeding on top. A number of factors stimulate bass into striking at objects on the surface during spring. They are up shallow after a long winter’s
nap; they’re aggressive and hungry. They will also go into an area where they are going to spawn and clear out anything else in that area.

Their aggressive nature during the spawning cycle make bass susceptible to a variety of topwater lures including chuggers, stickbaits and propellor baits. Two popular lures for most for surface action at Lake of the Ozarks are a Rebel Pop-R and a Heddon Zara Spook. The Pop-R will bring
up all sizes of bass, but the Spook is more or less a big fish bait in the spring.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

Clear-water areas in the middle to lower ends of the lake produce the best topwater action during the spring. You need to have at least a foot of visibility to get anything on the Pop-R. The fish will be in 3 to 5 feet of water, but they will come up for that lure. The best springtime topwater spots include long, rocky points, pockets in coves and main channel cuts. In April, the fish move into the backs of coves where they can be caught in pockets and around any stickups. By the end of the month and throughout May, the fish migrate back to deeper water, but can still be caught in the shallows around wood cover in main channel cuts and along extended main lake points.

Mornings and evenings are the best times for topwater action at Lake of the Ozarks. Any low-light conditions work better than bright sunshine for topwater fishing. When you get cloudy weather, you can fish topwater all day long with the same success. When the sun gets high they will leave those lures alone. Wind also prevents you from working a Zara Spook effectively, but you can still throw a Pop-R if there’s a chop on the water.

When the water’s calm, retrieve the Pop-R as slow as possible. Just barely twitch it every couple of seconds. When a fish strikes at it start moving the lure otherwise the fish will turn around and leave it. After casting a Spook, let it sit until the ripples from the splash disappear, then retrieve the lure in the traditional walk-the-dog fashion. The Pop-R and Spook work best before and after the spawn, but another topwater technique produces better when the fish are on the nest. One of the best lures during the spawn is a (Rattlin’) Rogue because bass think it is a perch or a sunfish coming into their nest. Jerk the lure down in front of a nest and lets it sit there until the bass can no longer resist snapping at the Rogue.Lake of the Ozarks

Throw both the Pop-R and Spook on heavier line (15- to 20-pound test) to bring out the best action in both lures. Lighter line causes the lures to sink down under the water some when you jerk the rod, which especially hampers the action of the Pop-R. The Rogue works better with 12- to 14-pound test line.

The topwater bite usually starts the first part of April if the water temperature climbs into the mid 60s. The pattern usually lasts until about the middle of May or even the first part of June during a cool spring. If you get cool rainy days, you can still use that topwater in the early summer.

For more information on lodging and fishing at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.

For a copy of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide, call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.