Brushing up to catch Lake of the Ozarks bass
Bass have finished spawning and are on the move to their summertime haunts in deeper water at Lake of the Ozarks.
During this transition phase and when they reach their summer hideouts, bass are attracted to some type of cover that provides shelter and an ambush point. Some lakes contain enough natural cover for bass, but Lake of the Ozarks features man-made brush piles as an integral part of the fish’s habitat.
My home reservoir of Lake of the Ozarks is a prime example of how sunken brush piles improve the fishing on an old reservoir devoid of natural cover. Before the lake was filled in the 1930’s, the timber in the river valleys was clear-cut so there was no natural cover left for the fish after the lake formed. So boat docks and sunken brush piles are the main habitat for bass now on this aging lake.
Placing brush piles at strategic locations helps angler find fish throughout the year, but this type of cover seems to produce best in the summertime. The best time to target brush piles on Lake of the Ozarks is when the water temperature climbs into the 70- to 85-degree range.
The depth of the most productive brush piles depends on the water clarity. In stained or dirty water, brush piles at depths of 6 to 15 feet along main and secondary points and flats are key targets for summertime bass. In the clear-water sections of the lake, guides sink brush 25 to 30 feet deep on a main or secondary point to improve a spot for deep vertical presentations.
Guides and tournament anglers on Lake of the Ozarks build their brush piles out of large branches or sections of hardwood trees (oak, sycamore or cedar). Sycamores are good for sinking because these trees feature a heavy wood that requires less weight to sink and has wider branches that make it easier to run a crankbait through without snagging.
I used to sink brush piles in the lake but have discovered it’s a lot easier now to find the work of others with my Humminbird side imaging unit. If you don’t have side imaging, you can still find brush with standard electronics in a short period of time if you know where to start your search. On Lake of the Ozarks, boat docks are a good starting point, especially the boat houses with fishing boats, cleaning stations, rod holders and lights hanging over the water. I usually skip past docks harboring large cruisers because the owners of these docks usually are more infatuated with boating than fishing.
Drop-offs are also good areas to find man-made cover. When fishing unfamiliar waters, you can also locate brush by dragging a Carolina rig on the main lake or running a crankbait in the back of a creek.
Once you find a brush pile, figure out how the cover lies on the bottom to make your lure presentation easier. Approach the brush from the deep end and cast to either side of the cover first, which allows you to quickly pull fish away from the snags. If the sides fail to produce any bites, throw down the base of the tree. By sinking the brush with the trunk of the tree facing the bank and the limbs pointing towards deeper water you can work your lure through the middle of the cover without hanging up in the limbs.
After working you lures along the sides and through the middle of the brush from the deep end, position your boat on the side of the brush and cast across it. Sometimes finicky fish are positioned a certain way so you have to turn your boat to the side the fish are on. After a couple of casts from the side, try circling the brush pile and throwing from the other side to work the brush from another angle.
If wind is blowing, assume bass will be facing the wind. So position your boat downwind from the brush pile and cast past the sunken cover. Once again make sure to work your lures along the edges of the brush pile before trying the middle of the cover.
Time of day can also determine how to work a brush pile. Early in the morning, you can run buzz baits and topwater lures over the top of the cover, but later in the day switch to slow-moving baits and concentrate on the fish burrowed into the thicker part of the brush.
A plastic worm is a must lure for catching summertime bass from the brush piles. On Lake of the Ozarks a red shad or blue fleck 10-inch Berkley Power Worm is ideal. You can create a slow fall by Texas-rigging the worm with a 1/8-ounce sinker. You want the worm to fall as slowly as possible and the lighter weight makes it easier to lift the worm into and out of the limbs without having to jerk it real hard, which could lead to more hang-ups.
After letting the worm fall to the bottom, make sure you keep your rod movements to a minimum as you crawl the lure through the limbs. Moving your rod tip even a couple of inches will cause the worm to jump 3 to 4 inches, which could be too much movement.
Find a brush pile planted in Lake of the Ozarks and you can increase your chances of harvesting a limit of summertime 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.
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.