December Bass Fishing at Lake of the Ozarks
The tourists, jet skis and pleasure boaters have vanished. While others join the mobs of Christmas shoppers in the malls, some anglers spend their time catching bass in the shallows of an abnormally quiet, peaceful Lake of the Ozarks.
During December, the lake’s temperature usually ranges in the bass’ comfort zone around 55 degrees, unless the water temperature takes a nose dive due to extremely cold weather. The normal water temperature at the beginning of December is in the mid 50s and will drop into the high to mid 40s by the end of the month.
Bass go on feeding forays in the shallows during this time as the fish try to fatten up for winter. Two factors influence these feeding sprees. Low pressure weather systems that bring in fronts can shut down the feeding binge until the weather stabilizes again. Another key factor is the lake’s winter drawdown, which usually begins in December and is a definite turn off for the fish.
Water color also plays a role when the fish are feeding shallow. The fishing turns off in muddy water and can also be tough at the other extreme. Bass in clear, shallow water tend to spook, so stained water conditions are the most conducive for bass in the shallows. Under normal conditions, you can find all the fish you want in 10 feet of water or less.
Lake of the Ozarks offers plenty of long, gravel points and flat, shallow banks where the bass can move in to feed on shad during December. Bass will also feed in the backs of pockets and along secondary points in the larger coves. Finding the fish depends on which direction the wind is blowing and where the shad are holding. If you fish a pocket where shad aren’t surfacing, work the shallower side first and then move to the deeper bank.
Shallow stickups and boat docks are bass’ favorite hideouts during December. Savvy anglers favor older docks that have short walkways where the front ends of the floating structures are still in shallow water.
The most productive lures for active fish during December are crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Try shallow-diving models such as the Bomber Model 3A and the Bagley’s Balsa B II. Productive crankbait colors include pearl with an orange throat and Tennessee shad in clearer water and fire tiger in off-colored water. Retrieve the lures at a medium speed, which keeps the crankbaits running about 4 feet deep. Some anglers also like to throw a white or white/chartreuse spinnerbait with a single number 7 or 8 Colorado blade. In clear water, use a silver blade and switch to a copper or gold blade in stained water. Retrieving the spinnerbait at a slow, steady pace creates enough blade vibration to entice bass.
If the fish turn sluggish, try flipping or pitching a jig-and-craw into thick cover. A 3/8- to 1/2-ounce brown jig with a green plastic craw works well. Pitch it up into the cover, jig it up and down a little bit, then swim it out a little before retrieving it and pitching again.
During these December feeding binges in the shallows, you can expect to catch some of the biggest bass of the year, including several fish in the 4- to 6-pound class.
This shallow-water activity will continue in January and February if the weather cooperates. Normally, the lake doesn’t start freezing until the end of January or the first of February and if the lake doesn’t freeze over you can catch fish throughout the winter.
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.