By John Neporadny Jr
Lake of the Ozarks Bass Spawn
When the water starts to warm in the spring at Lake of the Ozarks black bass have the urge to procreate.
During the spawning cycle, Bruce Gier, a successful tournament competitor from Eldon, MO, takes advantage of this situation by using various techniques to catch bass throughout the spawning cycle. Gier regularly fishes the lake’s North Shore area of Lake of the Ozarks. Pre-spawn on the lake usually begins the last couple of weeks in April when the water temperature moves into the 50- to 58-degree range. The fish will be holding 10 feet deep along gravel banks halfway to three-quarters of the way back in the coves. “They’re going to come up on sunny days in the little pockets in the longer coves,” Gier says. Cool nights drive the fish back out to the 10-foot range until the sun warms the shallows again the next afternoon.
The bass start losing interest in “chase-type” baits such as Rattlin’ Rogues or crank baits. Gier says the fish want slower-moving lures such as Carolina-rigged plastic lizards and worms or jigs and pork frogs. Carolina-rigged 4-inch worms or 6-inch lizards in watermelon seed or green pumpkin colors are deadly baits for pre-spawn bass. One of Gier’s top big bass lures though is a 3/8-ounce jig with a number 11 pork frog, which he uses on 12- pound test or less throughout April. He tries to imitate crawfish colors by using a black jig and black pork frog in early spring then switching to a brown-on-brown combination during the spawn. Gier says the best way to work any of these lures this time of the year is “slow, slow, then slower.”
During the first two weeks of May, the bass go through their spawning ritual. “Whenever the water starts tickling that 60-degree mark, then the bass will go into the pockets all over the coves,” Gier says. “They’ll get under those cables around the docks. That’s their number one spawning place–just where they can really deal you some havoc when you lay into one of those big babies.” Gier makes it even more challenging by using 8-pound test at this time.
In the early morning, the bigger fish can be caught on jigs and pork frogs in front of the beds 6 feet deep. When the sun comes up and the boat traffic starts, anglers will have to switch to tube jigs and Flukes to catch nesting fish.
By the end of May, the bass have usually completed the rigors of spawning and try to recuperate by hanging around boat docks near sandy, gravel banks in the coves. “They’re not hungry and they’ve had two weeks of hard work before,” Gier says of the post-spawn fish. A few bass can still be coaxed into hitting by slowly dragging a Carolina-rigged worm or lizard from the back corner of a dock to halfway along the side of the floating structure. The fishing remains tough until the bass move back into deep-water brush piles for the summer. Gier also entices post-spawn bass with a unique retrieve of a jig and pork frog. Rapidly jerking such a slow-moving lure seems unnatural, so to make his presentation more lifelike Gier has devised a slow-motion ripping technique for the jig and its pork trailer.
The local angler begins this technique by pitching a jig and pork frog to the shallows, then pulling it away from the bank about 5 to 6 feet. Gier accomplishes this by pointing his rod toward the bank at about the 9 o’clock position and then sweeping the rod back until it’s behind him. Gier then positions his rod in front of him at a 45-degree angle and keeps his line tight as he allows the jig to fall. He believes this sweeping motion imitates a crawfish darting out of the shallow rocks and then falling to the bottom. “The bass are looking up at that crawdad coming over the top of them, then all of a sudden it flutters down to the bottom,” says Gier. “They will either bang it then or when you jerk it up off the bottom and let it fall again.” Since he wants to match the color of crawfish that time of year, Gier favors a brown 3/8-ounce jig with a brown number 11 Uncle Josh pork frog.
For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 152-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.