By John Neporadny Jr.
How to Locate Bass on the Bank
Bass live mostly in a state of transition either following their food or their urges to reproduce.
These aquatic nomads migrate from deep-water haunts to the shallows by following traditional migration routes. In the Lake of the Ozarks, the migration routes are usually creek and river channels that allow the fish to move from deep-water structure where the fish reside in the summer and winter to the shallow flats where bass spawn in the springtime and gorge on baitfish in the fall.
The key to finding bass as they make their seasonal treks is to locate transition banks, which serve as holding areas along the migration routes. “A transition bank is where you really have to key on the change in the rocks,” says Scott Pauley, a tournament angler from Columbia, MO. “In other parts of the country you look for grass and other things along the banks but here we look at the angle of the bank and the type of rocks as keys to finding bass. So here a transition is where the bank changes from bluff rock to chunk rock to pea gravel.”
Looking at a topographic map will help you find some transition banks before you head out onto the lake. Pauley looks for spots on the map where the depth lines tighten. “But I’ve got to look at the rock or the bank itself before I can tell for sure if it is a good transition spot,” he says.
Pauley honed his skills while fishing Eldon Bass Club tournaments at Lake of the Ozarks. He has discovered bass in this Osage River reservoir use the creek channels as roadways to move from the steeper banks to the flat gravel banks throughout the seasons.
Classic examples of transition banks at Lake of the Ozarks are spots where the channel swings in tight close to a point and the bank changes from bluffs to chunk rocks. The spot where chunk rocks change to pea gravel is another key transition area on these lakes.
Transition banks on these impoundments can vary in length. “It seems like at Lake of the Ozarks when you are fishing the transitions you can be on the exact spot where a bluff bank meets a chunk rock bank or the exact spot of where a chunk rock bank meets a pea gavel bank,” says Pauley.
Transition spots next to points might require fishing the whole point, while other transition banks only require keying on a smaller area. “Sometimes the fish are exactly in a spot no bigger than the length of your boat and then sometimes they are down a half mile,” suggests Pauley.
Sweet spots can be found along the transition banks. “Look for any swing or indentation along the bank whether it is a bluff, chunk rock or pea gravel bank,” advises Pauley. “If all of a sudden there is a little indentation—maybe the size of a table—that spot will seem to hold one or two fish more than any place else along the bank.”
Isolated cover also becomes sweet spots along these banks. Boat docks at Lake of the Ozarks are the best shelters for bass along transition banks.
Seasonal patterns dictate which transition banks produce throughout the year at Lake of the Ozarks. In the winter, Pauley keys on the steeper banks where he works a Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue or a jig-and-craw combination. When the water warms in the early spring (late February to early April), Pauley focuses on the chunk rock banks and throws a Storm Wiggle Wart crankbait or a jig. From late April to June, Pauley follows the bass to the pea gravel banks and catches spawning and post-spawn fish on jigs, tube baits, topwater lures and Flukes. As the water continues to heat up, the fish move back to the drop-offs where Pauley catches them on plastic worms or tube baits.
During the fall, Pauley keys on isolated stickups and root wads along transition banks in the major creeks. His favorite tactic is to burn a 1/ 2-ounce Rat-L-Trap in a Silverado color along the wood cover, a technique that helped Pauley grab the lead in the opening round of the 1999 Missouri Bassmaster Invitational at Lake of the Ozarks.
Weather conditions and the presence of baitfish will also determine where bass will be positioned on transition banks. “If the shad are at 10 feet then the bass will be feeding at 10 feet,” suggests Pauley. He also believes wind moves the fish up to the shallows and positions them in the indentations along the bank. However post-frontal conditions call for a change in tactics or location.
“If you’re catching them the day before on a spinnerbait or crankbait but they won’t touch it you have to go to the jig and slow down,” recommends Pauley. “They may be in the same place but you may have to slow down to catch them or the fish may pull out a little bit deeper.”
For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 162-page 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.