Catching Bass from the Upper Lake of the Ozarks
The Lake of the Ozarks has a much different look on the upper reaches of the Osage arm. From the 55 mile marker on up, the lake continues to narrow until it turns riverine in appearance.
Siltation has filled in the mouths of the feeder creeks and coves so anglers need to use extreme caution when navigating in this area. Keeping an eye on your electronics will help you follow the channel when running the main lake and find the boat lanes to enter the backwaters.
The Upper Osage features numerous mud flats dotted with lay-downs, submerged logs and brush. Its water clarity varies, but most of the time it is stained to murky. “Some of the dirtiest water can be found from Cole Camp Creek to the Buffaloes (Big and Little Buffalo creeks), but then right below Truman Dam can have really clear water sometimes,” discloses Eldon, Mo., angler Roger Fitzpatrick, who has fared well in tournaments fishing the Upper Osage.
This section tends to have lighter fishing pressure since the shoreline has less development and fewer resorts and facilities. However, bass anglers are attracted to this section in the summer and fall since the upper reaches offer a refuge from the pleasure boating crowds.
Bass fishing is spotty in the colder months, although Fitzpatrick has caught some bass on suspending stickbaits in the clear water of the creeks on sunny days in February.
When the water temperature reaches 45 to 50 degrees in early March, Fitzpatrick finds prespawn bass along the 45-degree chunk rock banks and in brush piles behind boat docks. He catches these fish on three lures: a 3/8-ounce brown-and-green or black-and-blue jig tipped with a Zoom Swimmin’ Chunk; a white 1/2-ounce spinnerbait with a willowleaf blade or a Storm Lures Wiggle Wart or Bandit crankbait. If the fish are shallow and aggressive, Fitzpatrick ties his jigs on 25-pound test line, but if the fish have pulled out to deeper water he depends on 12- to 15-pound test for most of his jig tactics.
For the shallowest fish, Fitzpatrick flips his jig to the rocks, which can produce a limit sometimes within five minutes if he finds the right bank in the coves. Then he switches to the spinnerbait to catch kicker bass. “You won’t get as many bites but usually the one that grabs it is a good fish,” says Fitzpatrick.
If he finds the fish are suspended in the 6 to 7-foot range, Fitzpatrick throws crankbaits on 8-pound test line. He opts for a black medium-diving Bandit model for dirty water or a red-and-orange Wiggle Wart for stained conditions.
During the spawn, Fitzpatrick takes nesting fish on a jig, plastic lizard or creature bait in green pumpkin or black-and-blue hues. He Texas-rigs the soft plastics with a 1/8-ounce weight and pitches the lures to lay-downs along the rock banks of pockets or behind boat docks in the sloughs.
When current flows across main channel points, Fitzpatrick catches post-spawn bass on jigs and spinnerbaits worked through flooded brush and around docks. He also catches fish on a black 1/2-ounce buzz bait along the flats of the sloughs.
The tournament angler relies on boat docks on the main channel to produce the best pattern in the summer. If the lake is high, Fitzpatrick also runs to the back of creeks to fish the shallow cover.
“I don’t fish anything deeper than 5 feet,” says Fitzpatrick of his targets on the upper end. Fitzpatrick keys on selected docks with brush piles both on the main channel and in the creeks. “There are times when you’ll get bites on both of them but usually if you fish 15 of the best docks from each area you can determine whether the dock pattern on the main lake or in the coves will be the strongest.”
On hot, sunny days, Fitzpatrick pitches a red shad 10-inch plastic worm on 20- to 25-pound test line to the shady areas of the docks. He also likes to run a fire tiger or chartreuse square-bill crankbait on 15- to 20-pound line around and into isolated logs.
Swimming a jig around the docks is Fitzpatrick’s favorite technique on the Upper Osage during late summer and fall. He selects a white 3/8-ounce jig tipped with a white plastic grub trailer that he retrieves on 25-pound line. He usually makes a milk run of shallow docks on the main lake and in the backwaters.
Fitzpatrick has two favorite times for making the trek up the Osage. “Probably the most fun time for me would be late March or late October,” he says. “Those times of the year the fish are going to be pretty shallow, typically biting pretty well and hitting a jig real hard.”
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.