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Lake of the Ozarks Schooling Bass

Catching schooling bass at Lake of the Ozarks

By John Neporadny Jr.

Schooling bass show up just about anywhere during the summer at Lake of the Ozarks.

You can usually find them surfacing near some type of point, channel or other areas that are close to deep water. There doesn’t seem to be any particular time when these fish show up on the surface, so I always keep a rod rigged specifically for schooling bass.

If you notice schooling fish surface one day at 10 a.m., chances are they will come up the next day at the same time and location. That isn’t always true, but it’s usually a pretty good way to predict when schooling fish will surface.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

When approaching schooling fish on the surface, get on the trolling motor as quickly as possible to get to the fish. If you run the big motor you will spook them off. Pay attention to which direction the bass are heading and try to get in front of them. You will do a lot better if you use your trolling motor as little as possible.

Tying two tube bats with 1/4-ounce jigheads on a rod is a great rig for schooling bass. Throw the double rig on 17- or 20-pound test line. The double tube rig is ideal for schooling bass because most of the time if you hook one fish than you’re going to catch two.

Tie the rig with a triangle swivel or a knot with two separate lines coming down from it. Keep the two lures about 8 or 10 inches apart.

Any shad patterns will work for your tube bait colors. In clear water, one of the best color combinations is clear/silver flake/black back. If the water is a little bit stained than try pearl/black back or even chartreuse/black back. When you start throwing this double rig, you might try two different colors to see which one the fish prefer. If they keep hitting one color, then put two tubes in that same color on the rig.

Sometimes big fish come to the top. However most of the time smaller bass chase baitfish on the surface while the bigger fish lurk underneath them waiting for an easy meal. When concentrating on the surfacing bass, use a fast retrieve while you crank and hop the lure. Make the retrieve as erratic as you can to imitate the action of the baitfish as it flees from the bass. If you let the rig fall a little deeper, you might catch some 3- and 4-pounders or even bigger fish hanging under the smaller bass.

Once the bass drop down, sometimes you can let you lure fall deeper and still catch some. Schooling fish are odd characters though, once they go down, they seem to totally quit biting. They are like a bunch of wolves attacking the shad. They get into a school and hunt together so if you stay on top of that school you can still catch them.

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 Post-Spawn

Patterns For Lake of the Ozarks Post-Spawn Bass

By John Neporadny Jr.

Postspawn bass at Lake of the Ozarks need some rest to recuperate from the rigors of spawning but these famished fish also need to eat to build up their strength again.

Although it seems as if postspawn bass should be inactive while recovering from the spawn, hunger pains turn these fish into aggressive feeders. Early in the postspawn, male bass are also extremely belligerent when they are guarding fry and will attack anything that gets near their hatchlings.

May is a prime time to take advantage of the aggressiveness of postspawn bass on Lake of the Ozarks. The latest spawners on my home waters of Lake of the Ozarks are usually finished by mid-May.

Topwater lures are most effective during the postspawn since these surface baits imitate an easy meal for bass. In the clear waters on the lower arm of the lake, I like to throw a Zara Spook early and late in the day around boat docks in the spawning pockets immediately after bass come off the beds.

The Heddon Zara Spook is my all-time favorite topwater lure for tempting postspawn bass to explode on the surface.

The walk of a Zara Spook as it sashays across the surface is simply irresistible to a recuperating bass looking for an easy meal. Twitching the rod tip and reeling at the same time causes the Spook to glide from side-to-side, a retrieve commonly called walking the dog.

I use the original size Zara Spook in the baby bass or flitter shad hues for my postspawn topwater fishing on Lake of the Ozarks. I have found that 14-pound test monofilament works best for the walking the dog retrieve.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

A 1/8- or 1/4- ounce shaky head jig tipped with either a finesse worm, creature bait or beaver-style bait also triggers strikes from postspawn bass hanging under the boat docks.

During the early postspawn stage, I also look for bluegill beds where avenging bass get even with the sunfish that were constantly harassing bass previously on the nests. I flip around the sunfish beds with small jigs and plastic chunks or Texas-rigged 5-inch plastic worms in bluegill hues or work Rebel Pop-Rs or Smithwick Devils Horse prop baits over the nest to catch bass feeding on the nesting bluegill.

By late May, I start keying on secondary and main lake points where postspawn bass hang around the docks or close to the drop-offs. I still catch those fish on Zara Spooks or Rebel Pop-Rs early and late in the day. The shaky head with a creature bait or beaver-style bait also works great for pitching into the dock wells and the front ends of the boathouses.

The postspawn on the upper Osage arm of the lake usually begins in early May. Zara Spooks and topwater poppers draw strikes from bass on main and secondary points. When current flows across main channel points throughout the month, try jigs and spinnerbaits in flooded brush or along boat 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.

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

Big Bass Bash – Lake of the Ozarks 2019

Thomas Smith weighed in this 7.93-pound largemouth bass and earned $100,000 by winning the Spring Big Bass Bash April 27-28 at the Lake of the Ozarks. (Photo courtesy of Anglers in Action)

Smith’s personal best catch wins $100,000 in Lake of the Ozarks Big Bass Bash

Osage Beach, Mo.—The biggest bass he has ever caught resulted in a huge payday for Thomas Smith in the Spring Big Bass Bash April 27-28 at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Fishing for the first time in the Big Bass Bash, the 42-year-old Smith caught a 7.93-pound largemouth the first day of the event to win the big bass event and claim the grand prize of $100,000. The construction company owner from Old Monroe, Mo., also weighed in a 5.09-pound bass for 20th place during the 9-11 a.m. time slot April 27 and collected another $200.00.

While the Big Bass Bash was new to him, Smith had plenty of experience catching bass at Lake of the Ozarks. “My family has had a house down there for 30 years,” he said. Smith noted he competes in a bass club that holds four or five tournaments a year at the lake and he frequently fishes the lake on weekends throughout the year. His personal best catch before the Big Bass Bash was a 5.90-pound bass he also caught at Lake of the Ozarks.

A couple of successful outings at the lake before the Big Bass Bash prompted Smith to fish the tournament for the first time. “I was down there two weekends before and both weekends I was catching good fish on the (Crock-O-Gator Bait Company) Swamp Bug,” Smith said.

Smith and his dad, John Smith, planned on fishing the Bash in their own boats but when John Smith’s engine failed to start the first competition morning, they teamed up to fish in Thomas’ boat. Shortly after John Smith caught a 4-pounder, Thomas was pitching a green pumpkin Swamp Bug on a 1/4-ounce shaky jighead to an open chunk rock bank in Proctor Creek around 7 a.m. when a bass inhaled his offering.
The Missouri angler set the hook and immediately realized it was a big fish. “I said to my dad that I thought it was a big one and it took off up the bank,” Smith said. “I didn’t even try to reel. I just let it go and it was pulling my drag a little bit. Finally it started coming back and about halfway back to the boat it jumped and then I really started freaking out.” Fortunately for Smith, the big fish wore down quickly and his dad was able to net it.

When his scale indicated the fish weighed 7 pounds, 14 ounces, Smith thought he had a good chance to win the Bash so he called his wife to let her know about his catch. Smith then mulled over when to make the run to the Ivy Bend weigh-in station. “Then it started down pouring,” he said.

Since he caught the big fish close to his dock, Smith decided to seek shelter in the dock until the rain subsided. While waiting for the rain to stop, Smith noticed his trolling motor had stopped working. When the rain ceased, Smith made the run to Ivy Bend and weighed in his fish, then ran back to his dock where they decided to fish in his dad’s boat and just use the trolling motor to move around.
However after fishing for a while in his dad’s boat, Smith wanted more mobility so he decided to go back to the dock and work on his trolling motor. He soon discovered a loose wire in the motor had burnt a connection, which he fixed and was able to get back on the water with his boat. Fishing the Swamp Bug the rest of the day, Smith caught the 5.09-pounder to finish the day with two money fish. After the final period weigh-in of the first day, Smith said “my hopes got up a lot higher” when he noticed his fish was still the overall leader of the tournament.

The second day Smith struggled to catch any bass worth weighing in as the cold front that had passed through the area shut down his fish. He spent the day fishing hard and listening to his radio for updates of the leaderboard. When the heaviest bass on the final day weighed in at 6.19 pounds, Smith beat a field of approximately 3,000 anglers to become $100,000 richer.

The Spring Big Bass Bash had a total payout of more than $265,000 and paid out about 300 places in the bi-hourly weigh-in sessions, Early Bird cash prizes and Ladies Division bonus money, according to Tournament Organizer Charlie Terrell. Winning the $1,000 Ladies Division bonus money was Pat Mosely with a 5.27-pound bass. The Bash also featured a kids division with prizes awarded to the top finishers.

A portion of the proceeds from the event are also donated to various charities each year. “We donated to the USO and the Concord Village Lions Club,” Terrell said.

The next Big Bass Bash will be held at Pickwick/Wilson Lake June 1-2, followed by the Grand Lake event, June 8-9, and the Fall Big Bass Bash at Lake of the Ozarks, Oct. 5-6.

For more information about the Big Bass Bash, visit www.midwestfishingtournaments.com/bigbassbashhome.html.

Prespawn Topwater for Lake of the Ozarks Bass

Lake of the Ozarks Cold Topwater Fishing

By John Neporadny Jr.

Topwaters have long been considered lures for fishing in warm water, but a Lake of the Ozarks pro knows surface lures will trick bass—especially big bass—when the water temperatures are chilly. Whether it’s springtime when the water struggles to reach 60 degrees or fall when the water temperatures plunge into the 50s, a lure moving slowly across the surface is an easy target for even listless Lake of the Ozarks bass.

So when bass are shallow in chilly water, a topwater lure remains a viable option. FLW Tour pro and Lake of the Ozarks guide Casey Scanlon throws a Heddon Zara Spook One Knocker or a Reaction Innovations Vixen in the spring when the water temperature climbs into the upper 50s and he starts seeing bass cruise the shallows of the spawning areas. He sticks with the same plugs in the fall when the water is even colder.

“As opposed to the spring when the bass are still heating up, the fish are still active in the fall so when that water temperature starts dropping it seems like their activity level is still higher,” Scanlon says. “So I have caught them (on Spooks) in upper 40 water temperatures.”

The local guide favors the versatility of a topwater walker in cold-water situations. “You can start it and stop it and fish it however fast you want,” Scanlon says. “You can also make it almost walk in place to where you don’t have to move the bait very far but it still has a lot of action. The other thing I like about it is when a bass misses it, if you resist the urge to jerk on the lure then, a lot of times they will come back and get on it.”

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

A steady retrieve works best for Scanlon walking the surface plug in chilly Lake of the Ozarks waters. “In the springtime I twitch it slower but I keep a steady walk towards me,” he says. “In the fall I will fish it more erratically where I will twitch it real fast then slow it down for a few walks, then twitch it real fast so it almost makes the lure break cadence and kind of come out of the water like a shad fleeing.”

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

Elite Anglr Add Casey Scanlon

Elite Anglr Clothing

Casey Scanlon teams up with Elite Anglr

FLW Tour pro Casey Scanlon has joined the growing ranks of the Elite Anglr Athlete program to promote the lifestyle endorsed by the apparel company.

A longtime association with Al McCulloch, co-owner of Elite AngIr, prompted Scanlon to join the Elite Anglr program. “Al is a good businessman and he has a good concept,” Scanlon said. “I want to support him and the things he does because he has supported me and helped me in fishing and in the media. He told me he had started a company and I knew it would be successful so I decided to jump on board and help him out in any way I could. They have got some great ideas and some really cool clothing out right now and they are coming out with a lot of new products in the next couple of months.”

Casey Scanlon Joins Elite Anglr

The Missouri pro and Lake of the Ozarks guide has fished the FLW Tour for three years. He has competed in an FLW Cup and recorded six Top 10 finishes in FLW events. His highest finish was third place in a 2011 Bass Fishing League (BFL) tournament at Lake of the Ozarks. Scanlon also fished the Bassmaster Elite Series for five years from 2012 to 2016 and has competed in 60 B.A.S.S. events including the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. He won the 2012 Bassmaster Central Open at Table Rock Lake and finished second in the 2011 Bassmaster Central Open at Lewisville Lake and the 2017 Bassmaster Central Open at Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.

“Casey has always been driven by the desire to be the best from his guide service at Lake of the Ozarks to the FLW Tour,” McCulloch said. “Family is an important aspect at our company and Casey has a great support staff with his family. We hope to add to that by bringing him on board. He has successfully promoted other products in the fishing world and we believe he can help grow the Elite Anglr brand.

“Casey has a huge following and represents what we want at Elite Anglr,” McCulloch said. “Casey will wear our products out on tour and be involved in on-site promotion at events throughout the year. We look forward to a long relationship with Casey.”

Elite Anglr incorporates two sponsorship programs for anglers: Elite Anglr Athlete and Elite Anglr Family. The Athlete program includes MLF pros, Bassmaster Elite Series pros, FLW Tour pros, Costa and BFL anglers and competitors from regional circuits such as Anglers in Action, Alabama Bass Trail and Texas Team Trail. The Family program helps to develop and sponsor middle school, high school and college anglers.

About Elite Anglr

Partners Al McCulloch, marketing and media specialist for Midwest Fish Tournaments, and Donny Wilson, a former graphic designer with B.A.S.S., created the Elite Anglr fishing brand that promotes the lifestyle of anglers who need comfortable and dependable clothing for a long day on the water.

Elite Anglr’s line of apparel includes ball caps, beanies, short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, hoodies and outdoor weather gear emblazoned with the unique Elite Anglr logo. Promoting fishing and supporting charities are major goals of the new company. Elite Anglr also plans on sponsoring conservation efforts by offering discounts on apparel for bass clubs or individual anglers who participate in conservation programs such as cleaning up waterways or better fish care.

Apparel orders may be made by visiting Elite Anglr’s web site, www.eliteanglr.com, which is also connected to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Lake of the Ozarks Great for Bass Fishing

Lake of the Ozarks is premier bass destination

By John Neporadny Jr.

Lake of the Ozarks showcases its superb bass fishing each year during national, regional and local bass tournaments.

While he had not been on the Lake of the Ozarks for more than a decade, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mike McClelland said he was reminded of how much fun it was to fish there when he recently competed in the Missouri Invitational Fishing and Golf Championship at the lake. The Buena Vista, Ark., pro honed his skills fishing tournaments at Ozark highland reservoirs, including Lake of the Ozarks.

The northernmost reservoir in the Ozark foothills has some similarities and differences in comparison to the other Ozark highland lakes McClelland has fished. “The biggest thing that makes Lake of the Ozarks such an incredible fishery is all of the boat docks on the lake (similar to Oklahoma’s Grand Lake)” McClelland said. “So many of the fish are protected from angling most of the year because of all the cover boat docks allow them to have.”

“The lake is also extremely fertile and has a huge concentration of shad,” he said. “It just has a huge forage base including bluegill and crappie that is absolutely phenomenal. I really believe that more bass forage on crappie than we can ever imagine.”

The Lake of the Ozarks features the same defined creek channels and turns as the rest of the Ozark highland reservoirs. “As an Ozark angler the one thing you really learn to rely on are fishing those channel turns and figuring out what part of the channel turns the fish are in,” McClelland said. “There are some days when bass are going to be on the very ends of those and there are times of the year when they are going to be in the middle of them. Once you figure out where the fish are set up in those channel bends in the major creek arms it can really be an easy way to duplicate the pattern throughout the course of the lake.”

McClelland believes the major difference between Lake of the Ozarks and its Ozark highland neighbors is the lake’s productivity throughout its 54,000 acres. “What really amazes me about Lake of the Ozarks is the consistency of the lake from end to end,” he said. “The versatility the lake has to offer is unbelievable.”

Any time he competed on the Lake of the Ozarks McClelland thought the tournament could be won in any section of the lake. “I really believed the lake could potentially produce a winning stringer nearly from (Bagnell) dam as far up the (Osage) river as you can go at any given time,” he said. “Whereas (the Ozarks lakes of) Table Rock, Bull Shoals and Beaver really fish sketchier and there are times when certain sections of those lakes are working and the rest of those lakes don’t seem to be on.”

During March and early April most of the Lake of the Ozarks bass will be in the prespawn stage. McClelland recommends tournament competitors key on the black rocks Ozark anglers call “lava” rock. “Any of those areas where you have that dark-colored rock close to gravel transition areas are really key focus points for me that time of the year,” McClelland said. “I think the heat from those dark-colored rocks pulls up those fish especially when they are getting closer to that spawning period. “

McClelland’s favorite lures to throw for prespawn Lake of the Ozark bass in clear to stained water are Spro McStick 110 and 115 stickbaits and Spro RkCrawler crankbaits. “If the water gets really dirty, Lake of the Ozarks is a good spinnerbait lake in the spring,” McClelland said.

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.

Jeff Sprague hooks up with Elite Anglr team

Jeff Sprague hooks up with Elite Anglr team

Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour competitor Jeff Sprague has joined the Elite Anglr Athlete program to provide his expertise on clothing and help promote the apparel company’s products.

The Texas pro helped spearhead a clothing line for one of his sponsors, which gave him some insight on choosing a fishing apparel company offering quality products. “Those guys (Elite Anglr co-owners Al McCulloch and Donny Wilson) have a great concept and a great clothing line and outdoor weather gear,” Sprague said. “That is what really attracted me was the outdoor weather gear. It is priced right and is a cool brand.”

Prior to joining the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour, Sprague competed for five years on the FLW Tour. He qualified for five FLW Cups and recorded 15 Top 10 finishes in FLW events.

Al McCulloch said Sprague was chosen to be part of the Elite Anglr family for several reasons. “Jeff is a veteran and former police officer and we admire and want those types of individuals representing the Elite Anglr lifestyle,” McCulloch said. “Life is about family and giving back and no one does it better than Jeff. He has worked hard to become a professional angler and that passion is also found in his family life. I remember there was a great shot of Jeff and his son last year on the tour when they were on the deck of his boat for morning prayer before the launch. The picture captured everything you need to know about Jeff.”

“Jeff is all about service,” McCulloch said. “As a veteran he sacrificed for this great country. As a police officer he swore to protect others. Jeff continues to carry these qualities into his professional angling life and family life. We are extremely honored that he has agreed to represent Elite Anlgr for years to come.”

Elite Anglr incorporates two sponsorship programs for anglers: Elite Anglr Athlete and Elite Anglr Family. The Athlete program includes MLF pros, Bassmaster Elite Series pros, FLW Tour pros, Costa and BFL anglers and competitors from regional circuits such as Anglers in Action, Alabama Bass Trail and Texas Team Trail. The Family program helps to develop and sponsor middle school, high school and college anglers.
About Elite Anglr

Partners Al McCulloch, marketing and media specialist for Midwest Fish Tournaments, and Donny Wilson, a former graphic designer with B.A.S.S., created the Elite Anglr fishing brand that promotes the lifestyle of anglers who need comfortable and dependable clothing for a long day on the water.

Elite Anglr’s line of apparel includes ball caps, beanies, short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, hoodies and outdoor weather gear emblazoned with the unique Elite Anglr logo. Promoting fishing and supporting charities are major goals of the new company. Elite Anglr also plans on sponsoring conservation efforts by offering discounts on apparel for bass clubs or individual anglers who participate in conservation programs such as cleaning up waterways or better fish care.

Apparel orders may be made by visiting Elite Anglr’s web site, www.eliteanglr.com, which is also connected to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Crappie Outlook for Lake of the Ozarks

Lake of the Ozarks Early Crappie Outlook

By John Neporadny Jr.

The spring crappie fishing outlook should be good to excellent whether you decide to dunk a minnow or pitch a jig at Lake of the Ozarks.

Crappie abound throughout the lake and springtime crappie fishing heats up in early March and continues to excel on some parts of the lake until almost Memorial Day.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

Lake levels remain fairly constant throughout the years at Lake of the Ozarks so crappie reproduction is pretty consistent most years.

Warm spells of two to three days in February can trigger some good shallow-water action, according to guide Terry Blankenship. “One of the most fun patterns for me in February is bobber fishing,” he says. “You can catch large numbers of fish in February because the crappie are starting to prepare for their spring fattening up for the spawn.”

“That time of year the shallower long coves and creek arms will warm the quickest,” Blankenship says. “If there is a lot of south wind warming the water and rolling it onto the north banks, the baitfish will go to those shores which will bring in gamefish. “

Blankenship suggests you can catch the biggest fish of the year as shallow as 2 feet deep during the warm days of February and early March. His favorite lures to stick below a bobber are Bobby Garland Baby Shad and Baby Shad Swim’R soft plastics on 1/16-ounce jigheads. He also relies on a Bobby Garland 3-inch Slab Slay’R for dock shooting in the early spring.

The veteran guide rates the Grand Glaize, Niangua and Little Niangua arms and Indian Creek on the Gravois arm as the best areas to try for early spring crappie action.

Prespawn crappie usually bunch up in brush piles 8 to 15 feet deep in the coves throughout March and early April. The spawn begins on the upper reaches and tributaries of the lake in early April and spreads down lake to the dam by the end of April. Ideal spawning areas are pea gravel pockets laden with boat docks or laydowns.

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.

James Watson, Elite Anglr Team

James Watson Joins Elite Anglr Team

James Watson joins Elite Anglr team

Major League Fishing pro James Watson has signed on with the Elite Anglr Athlete program to promote the apparel company’s products and its objectives in supporting the fishing community.

Elite Anglr co-owner Alan McCulloch saw Watson’s hard work and dedication qualities as an ideal match for the angler lifestyle his company is promoting. “I will put JMFW (James Watson) up against anyone when it comes to devotion to a company and his trade,” McCulloch said. “James matches up with the lifestyle in many ways. James’ story in becoming a successful angler was done by grit and determination. His eight years of service in the U.S. Army, along with the various businesses he started in order to fund his dream of becoming a professional angler is exactly what we want at Elite Anglr. Also his dedication to the Shriners and what he does on the road visiting those kids in the hospital makes us proud.”

“James had a goal and he worked extremely hard in business and on the water to be where he is today,” McCulloch said. “It’s a story that every young angler should hear, especially in today’s culture.”

Watson won the 2015 Bassmaster Central Open at Table Rock Lake and qualified for the 2016 Bassmaster Classic. The Missouri pro also won the 2016 FLW Tour event on Norris Lake and competed in three FLW Cups. He has fished in nine Major League Fishing (MLF) events including the 2016 MLF Summit Cup.

McCulloch suggested you can follow Watson’s season by liking his Facebook page and following him on Instagram.

Watson’s friendship with McCulloch and “knowing (McCulloch’s) work ethic and commitment to bass fishing” made it an easy decision for Watson to sign on with Elite Anglr. “When he told me what he was going to do, how he was going to do it and why he was going to do it, by knowing him I told him I was there to support him,” Watson said. “Big Al is a doer and he is successful at everything he does.”

Known for his wit and humor on the tournament trail, Watson believes there was another reason Elite Anglr recruited him. “I believe Al approached me because of my super good looks,” Watson said. “I could be a benefit to his company with my dynamic looks and personality.”

Elite Anglr incorporates two sponsorship programs for anglers: Elite Anglr Athlete and Elite Anglr Family. The Athlete program includes MLF pros, Bassmaster Elite Series pros, FLW Tour pros, Costa and BFL anglers and competitors from regional circuits such as Anglers in Action, Alabama Bass Trail and Texas Team Trail. The Family program helps to develop and sponsor middle school, high school and college anglers.

About Elite Anglr

Partners Al McCulloch, marketing and media specialist for Midwest Fish Tournaments, and Donny Wilson, a former graphic designer with B.A.S.S., have created Elite Anglr, a fishing brand that promotes the lifestyle of anglers who need comfortable and dependable clothing for a long day on the water.

Elite Anglr’s line of apparel includes ball caps, beanies, short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts and hoodies emblazoned with the unique Elite Anglr logo. Promoting fishing and supporting charities are major goals of the new company. Elite Anglr also plans on sponsoring conservation efforts by offering discounts on apparel for bass clubs or individual anglers who participate in conservation programs such as cleaning up waterways or better fish care.

Apparel orders may be made by visiting Elite Anglr’s web site, www.eliteanglr.com, which is also connected to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Winter Bass Fishing at Lake of the Ozarks

Break the Ice for Lake of the Ozarks’ Big Bass

By John Neporadny Jr.

Most winters lately in this area have been mild with Lake of the Ozarks remaining nearly ice-free allowing anglers to fish throughout the winter.

However during the coldest winters, ice buildup limits access to the lake and anglers have to wait for a thaw to get back on the water. When “ice-out” occurs, you might have to break through a thin layer of ice at the boat ramp or to get to a sweet spot, but it will be worth the trouble because you’ll have your best chance to catch some of the biggest bass of the year.

During most winters on this lake, the ice starts thawing and breaking up in February. Bass are usually their heaviest this time of the year, so most of the fish you catch will be chunks.

The best structure to try after the thaw is a little creek channel bend. Small pockets near the river or creek channel bands are also productive areas. Bass spend the winter in the channel bends and in the pockets as well. During the first warm spell, bass move up from deeper water to brush piles that are 6 to 10 feet deep in the pockets. Look for banks on the northern side of the lake that receive the most sunlight because the water in those areas will warm faster. Key on clear water areas because it’s harder to catch bass from cold, muddy water.

Boat docks are also good places to fish for ice-out bass at Lake of the Ozarks. Some bass spend the winter under docks that have deep brush piles and are near the channel bends so look for docks that are along the bends of creeks. Fish a set of docks along one bend and then move across the creek to another row of docks on the opposite channel bend.

Water temperature is not really a key factor during this time of year. I have caught bass during this time by throwing a suspending stickbait in areas where there would still be ice in the pockets.

Warm, sunny weather activates bass this time of year and coaxes the fish to move up shallow. Sometimes it only takes one sunny day to get the fish to move into those shallower brush piles.

A small hair jig tricks plenty of bass during ice-out. Another lure to try is a shad-colored tube jig, which looks like a dying shad when it falls to the bottom. A slow fall works best now so use hair jigs and tube bait jigheads in 1/8- to 1/4-ounce sizes. Let the lures flutter into the brush piles and slowly retrieve the baits through the cover. Working suspending stickbaits with a twitch-and-pause retrieve over the tops of the brush piles also triggers strikes from bass hanging around the brush.

When the lake starts to thaw and heavyweight prespawn bass start migrating to the shallows, it’s prime time to be fishing Lake of the Ozarks to catch a lunker bass.

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 jnoutdoors.com.