Archive for bass fishing techniques

Swing Jig Bass Fishing on Table Rock Lake

Swing Jig Bass Fishing on Table Rock Lake

By Marc Rogers

At times, anglers find techniques that work and then get stuck in a habit of utilizing the same lures, with the same retrieves during most outings. These habits make it difficult for anglers to break out new lures and use new techniques. Once an angler moves from tried and true lures and techniques, they often develop the same habits with the newly learned methods and the cycle starts all over again. In the past, I too, have allowed myself to become a victim to these habits. In fact, at times, I still struggle with this problem.

Recently, I broke down and discovered a relatively new technique for catching bass. The swing jig is my latest newly discovered bass fishing technique. The Gene Larew Hard Head, developed by Tommy Biffle and first produced by Gene Larew Lures, was the first of this style of jig heads and has been duplicated by many lure companies. The new jig head was developed to be paired with the Gene Larew Biffle Bug.

During an August outing on Table Rock Lake with my family, I decided to test and become proficient with this rig. With children on this trip most of the daytime hours were spent swimming and pulling an inner tube to entertain them. Therefore, most of my fishing was going to be done at night while the rest of my gang was sleeping.

It was during this mini vacation I discovered how effective the swing jig could be at catching bass. The bass were in a typical summer pattern, holding in deep water. The Smallmouth bass were positioned in the main-lake areas near submerged bluffs and steep banks close to standing timber. The Smallmouths, during the daylight hours, were staged at 25- 40 feet, but after dark many moved into shallower water and were feeding at night.

Summertime night fishing can be slow, but this trip was quite different. I had three nights of consistently catching Smallmouth bass while experiencing little boat traffic and escaped the hot daytime temperatures. The Midwest Fishing Tackle Swing Jig paired with a Gene Larew Biffle Bug was the key ingredients to my success these August nights.

Each night I set out to discover the potential of this new rig and become better at using it. The swing jig is amazing, and most any soft-plastic lure can be presented using it. My focus was the Biffle Bug rigged on a 5/16 ounce head with a 4/0 VMC EWG hook. When trying to become proficient with any lure, I make it a point to fish with only that specific lure. This forces me to experiment with the rig and become creative in my offering.

While presenting this rig, I found it difficult not to hop it along the bottom like a jig or Texas rigged worm. Within the first hour of fishing, however, I discovered the swing jig is most effective when it is dragged slowly while in constant contact with the bottom. The lead head will hit and deflect off rocks and other debris at the bottom of the water column. The deflection of the lead head enables the soft-plastic lure to exhibit an erratic behavior similar to a crawfish.

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The bites I received were very light and often came when I offered a slight pause in the retrieve. Often times I did not realize my lure had fooled a fish until I started the retrieve and felt the added weight. When rigging this set-up I started the process just like a Texas rig but pushed the hook completely through the Biffle Bug leaving the hook point exposed, then skin hooking the point into the ribbed body. Doing so allowed me to use a pull-and-reel hook set when I felt the added weight of the fish.

My color choices for the Biffle Bug were dark colors including neon black and black with blue flake. Lighter colors were not as effective during the night but may have been more productive during daylight hours.

When dragging this rig along the bottom of the lake it acted much like a crankbait, deflecting off the rocks and wood cover. After a deflection is when I paused the retrieve producing many of the bites I received. While the Smallmouths I was targeting were somewhat lethargic, I am confident if they had been feeding more aggressively, they would have taken the offering while it was steadily moving along the bottom.

After using this bait exclusively for three nights of fishing I learned a lot about its fish catching abilities. This rig is certainly one I will keep tied on and ready on future outings.



Spinnerbait Fishing for Bass

By Marc Rogers

 

The spinnerbait is considered one of the most versatile bass lures made. It can be presented from the surface all the way to the bottom and anywhere in between. They are available in most any color, several blade configuration, and weights from 1/8 to 1 ½ ounce is most the common.

When bass are active and feeding on baitfish a spinnerbait retrieved at of just under the surface is quite effective. While retrieved just under the surface the flash from the blade mimics the flash from a baitfish. When burned at the surface the angler should allow the blades to break the surface to imitate a jumping baitfish. This technique requires a high-speed reel (6:1 gear ratio or higher) to be effective and keep the angler from having to turn the reel handle quickly in order to keep the lure near the surface.

The willow-leaf blade design best imitates the shape of a baitfish but require a faster retrieve to get the blade to break the water’s surface. The Colorado blade has more lift and can be moved slower in the water while breaking the surface but isn’t as good as mimicking the baitfish shape. Most willow-leaf blades and in tandem with a smaller Colorado blade and this will aid in the drag and lift of the spinnerbait.

Spinnerbaits are great lures when bass are chasing baitfish in and around cover like treetops, deadfalls and boat docks. They can be retrieved at any depth in order to be presented at the edges of any such cover. Many times bass will hold under floating boat docks to create an ambush position. Running spinnerbaits parallel with the edges of the docks can cause vicious strikes from a waiting bass. Spinnerbaits are very good at getting through cover without getting hung up due to the safety pin style design. Therefore, don’t be afraid to fish them in heavy cover, as they are seldom lost due to getting snagged on the cover.

During the retrieve it is sometimes effective to stop the lure and allow it to free-fall into the water a few feet. When stopped the lure will fall straight down and the blade(s) will have a helicopter motion with the blade turning slowly. This difference in the retrieve will sometimes trigger a strike from a bass that isn’t aggressive enough to chase a moving lure.

When submerged vegetation is available a spinnerbait is quiet effective being retrieved just above the top of the cover. It should be moved so the lure occasionally makes contact with the vegetation but not so deep to get fouled in the cover. When the lure makes contact with the cover it should be slightly lifted to avoid fouling. This lifting motion will sometimes trigger a vicious strike from a bass as the bass thinks the lure is a baitfish escaping.

There are spinnerbaits designed with a short blade arm and small Colorado blades attached. These lures are most effective when presented on the bottom of the lake similar to a skirted jig. However, the lure must be moved fast enough to keep the blade spinning and create vibration. This is a very effective lure for fishing at night for bass. It allows an angler to fish a little faster than with a skirted jig and still get maximum vibration for the bass to located the lure. A slow lift and fall retrieve making contact with the bottom of the lake allows an angler to cover more water than with the slow presentation needed for plastic worms and jigs.

Experiment with colors to find the most productive for the current conditions. However, a good starting point with color is white skirts and chrome blades for imitating baitfish. In dirty or stained water a chartreuse skirt is more visible to bass. A good standard is chrome blades on sunny days and gold blades on overcast days.

Colorado blades have a more rounded shape and provide the greatest lift while willow-leaf blades are long and slender but provide more flash. Anglers looking for something greater lift than a willow-leaf blade should consider the Indiana blade design. It is a good compromise as it is shaped like a teardrop and has less lift than a Colorado blade but still plenty of flash.

Don’t be afraid to experiment when fishing a spinnerbait. Present them fast and slow, shallow and deep until the bass indicate what they prefer on the particular outing.

Soft Jerkbaits for Fall Lake of the Ozarks Bass

By John Neporadny Jr

 

Earning a good reputation sometimes has its drawbacks. Soft plastic jerkbaits serve as a prime example. The effectiveness of soft jerkbaits in the spring leads some anglers to save these lures for one season and ignore them the rest of the year.

So this lure’s reputation for catching bass during the spring actually deters its usage in other seasons in which it would excel. However a tournament competitor from Lake of the Ozarks believes a lure that works so well in the spring should also produce in the fall. Finicky bass can be tricked by the subtle action and slow fall of a soft jerkbait throughout the spawning cycle, but this finesse lure also produces at Lake of the Ozarks during the bass feeding sprees of fall.

A Zoom Fluke free-falling through schools of shad catches bass during those frustrating times when the fish seem to ignore everything in your tacklebox. “Those bass come busting up through the schools of shad and a lot of times they don’t eat one but just injure it. Then whenever it’s settling to the bottom they nail it,” says Bruce Gier, Eldon, MO.  “The Fluke is the closest thing to (an injured shad) imitation that I can get.”

The tournament competitor relies on a pearl or glitter-color Fluke anytime he finds bass chasing shad and the fish continue to ignore his other presentations.  The technique usually excels when shad are in the backs of coves and the sunshine causes the baitfish to rise to the surface.

Casting to busting bass triggers some strikes, however tossing the lure into the middle of the forage also catches fish.   “There’s a bass underneath those shad. That’s just a given,” says Gier. “If you throw it right on that school of shad and let it deadfall, bass will bust it.” Gier just lets the lure fall to the bottom without imparting any action, then reels in again to cast to a busting fish or back into the shad balls.

Letting the lure fall on a tight line causes the jerkbait to stay on top too long, so Gier accelerates its rate of descent by keeping slack in his line. The bowed line makes it difficult to detect strikes on the fall, but Gier knows an immediate hookset is unnecessary.  “Once they hit it they won’t spit it out,” he claims.

The local angler rigs his Flukes on a 5/0 hook and leaves the point exposed since he’s fishing mostly in open water. Gier never adds weight to the lure, so he opts for a 6 ½-foot medium-action spinning rod with a light tip that allows him to throw the light bait a long distance.  He favors 8-pound test line and a spinning reel with a large spool capacity.

While he catches plenty of keeper-size bass on this trick, Gier has also taken quality fish with a soft jerkbait in the fall. “I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a 5-pounder come blowing completely out of the water in a big school of shad and I’ll throw everything I’ve got at it and not get a bite,” he says. “But this will work.”

Gier recommends trying this technique whenever shad activity is present in the backs of coves. The pattern ends in late fall when the water turns cold and the baitfish leave the coves. Gier employs this deadfall method from September to November on the upper Osage arm.

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 www.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.

Prespawn Bass Fishing in Ozark Lakes

By Marc Rogers

The word prespawn creates many different thoughts in the minds of bass anglers. These thoughts depend on where anglers chase their prey, as this seasonal stage is different in each region of North America. Water temperature and hours of sunlight are the most dominating factors causing bass to reach the prespawn stage.

As spring approaches, the air temperatures begin reaching into the 70-degree range and this triggers many anglers to hit their favorite waters. However, air temperatures change rapidly, water temperatures require many days of warm air and sunlight to increase several degrees.  Water temperatures also cool rapidly when the sun goes down at night. Warm air and south winds are the ideal situation to warm a body of water. These two factors alone will jump-start the prespawn activity.

When the water reaches the 50-degree range, a lot of activity begins below the water’s surface. The bass begin leaving their deep-water haunts that sustained them throughout the winter and migrate to shallower water. During the bass’ first movements, they generally will not move to the surface or even shallow flats, but begin staging in deep water closely located near shallow water. Beautiful days of sunshine and warm temperatures cause the water to creep into the 50-degree range and trigger anglers to flock to the water. Many times anglers fail to remember the changes under the water do not react to the beautiful spring weather as quickly as the world above the water.

Derek Vahey, Midwest Fishing Tackle Staff Member and a regular on Ozark lakes, says, “I always try to locate water slightly stained and a few degrees warmer than the majority of the lake when locating prespawn bass. I really like the ends of docks sitting close to or over deep channel swings with shallow banks at the back of the docks. These areas are ideal for presenting suspended jerkbaits and finesse jigs.”

When putting together a pattern for prespawn bass it is best to pattern the migration routes instead of particular lures. Anglers should locate creek channels, fencerows, roadbeds and extended points as these are often what bass use as highways to the spawning areas. Prespawn bass activity is likely to be similar for all bass as they move from deep water to the staging areas near shallow water. When the bass’ location is discovered along these migration routes, most of the bass will be in these areas.
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Bass are more aggressive than many anglers believe during the prespawn. They will not chase lures like in the summer months but will strike moving baits. Aaron Hunter, Midwest Fishing Tackle Staff Member, reports, “I have found it easier to catch bass that are moving from deep water to shallow water than the other way around. When bass move from deep to shallow they are starting to get aggressive enough to strike slow moving crankbaits and swimming jigs.”  Hunter says, “When a cold front passes through and causes the bass to move deeper during the prespawn, fishing can get tough. I really have to slow down when this happens.”
During the prespawn, Hunter says, “I have found that slow moving, deep diving crankbaits are ideal for locating bass. I can cover a lot of water with a crankbaits in a short time, even when exhibiting a slow retrieve. Matching the color of the lure to local baitfish colors is often productive.”  In addition, crawdad colors are ideal as bass seek out the slow moving crustaceans for their high protein food source.

Lipless crankbaits are good lures for locating deep bass because anglers can make long casts and count down the lure to a desired depth before starting a retrieve. A lipless crankbaits slowly retrieved along the bottom are big bass lures. Many times these lures are best with a slow lift-and-fall retrieve and allowed to lightly make contact the bottom on the fall.

Once active bass have been caught using crankbaits, jigs are another productive lure for prespawn bass. Jigs can be slowly crawled along the bottom to mimic a crawdad and allows bass more time to strike the lure than crankbaits. A Natural color is best for stained to clear water, but when dingy water is encountered, dark colors like black/blue are quite productive.

Suspending and deep diving jerkbaits are another option for locating prespawn bass. The deep diving models should be presented with a slow retrieve like a crankbait. In addition, these deep divers can suspend at the greater depths to keep the lure in front of the bass longer.  When the bass are not deep, a suspending jerkbait is a key to many big, prespawn bass taken. Both jerkbaits models are very productive when left sitting still in the water column for a long period. Vahey reports, “Most of the time I have better luck with shallow running, suspending jerkbaits in the afternoon when fishing prespawn conditions. I believe this is due to the water warming as the day progresses.”

Bass in the prespawn stage have a much smaller strike zone than in the warmer months. Slow moving lures, presented in the strike zone, create some very big stringers of bass in the early spring.



Early Summer Bass Fishing Techniques

By Marc Rogers

Early summer is a great time for bass fishing.  As a general rule bass are still located in shallow water.  Those that have started the summer migration towards deeper water are still staging on the first deep water drop offs near the spring spawning areas.  Since not all bass spawn at the same time there are aggressive fish still willing to entertain you.  Bass at this time are often scattered from shallow to semi-deep water.

Finding bass in the early summer is best accomplished by using lures that will cover a lot of water quickly.  Spinnerbaits and crankbaits are ideal for this task.  Spinnerbaits can be worked slow or fast and deep or shallow.  Crankbaits are effective due to the baitfish imitating characteristics.  Bass are actively eating baitfish during these conditions.  Choose crankbaits that will run six feet or deeper to take advantage of their diving abilities.  Your spinnerbait will cover any depths less than six feet.

When you are targeting shallow water bass they will likely be near submerged cover and holding tight to it.  This submerged cover provides ideal ambush points for feeding bass.  Spinnerbaits allow you to cover the shallow water quickly and come through it easily without hanging up.

Crankbaits are a better choice for covering the depth change areas close to the shallow water.  Choose a crankbait that will dig into the bottom composition for the best results.  This offers two advantages to anglers.  First, it allows you to feel the bottom with the lure and determine if rock, mud or submerged cover is present.  Second, a crankbait is very effective in luring a reaction strike when it deflects off the bottom or cover.

Once an area has been covered with fast moving lures, slowing down with bottom bouncing lures is effective in convincing the less active bass to bite.  Jigs and plastic worms are two great choices for less active bass.  A plastic worm rigged Texas style is an easy lure for many beginners and novice anglers to use.  A retrieve of slowly dragging it on the bottom or using a lift and drop presentation are the most popular and effective.  When using the lift and drop technique remember that slightly lifting your rod tip will cause the lure to move about six inches under water making less better than more when lifting your lure.

Jigs are one of the most effective lures for imitating crawfish.  A skirted jig paired with a plastic trailer can be used by dragging, lifting and dropping or swam back to the angler.  Jigs come in many head styles and can get confusing which ones are appropriate for different situations.  As a rule of thumb, a football head jig will be less likely to hang up if the bottom is comprised of mostly rocks.  Football heads have a wide footprint without any pointed features near the hook eye to get caught in and under rocks.  Also, the design keeps the hook positioned up and away from the bottom.

Football jigs are ideal for dragging slowly on gravel points void of much cover.  Dragging the jig kicks up debris on the bottom imitating a crawfish searching for food.  Generally a slow retrieve is the most productive but there are times when quickly lifting the jig from the bottom will generate a reaction strike from a bass.  The quick movement imitates a crawfish fleeing from a predator.

Brush jig are better for heavy cover presentation where the pointed and narrow head design provides for better penetration into the cover.  Their design makes them more likely to hang up in rocks due to the pointed head design.  When heavy grass, weeds and wood cover are present this style of jig head is the best choice.

Most time brush jigs are more effective when presented in a vertical manner.  Short casts, flipping or pitching jigs into heavy cover and slowly lifting and dropping the bait will often entice a reaction strike.  Moving the jig slowly is key to this technique.

Early summer bass fishing tend to scatter bass from shallow to deep water.  Mix up your lure choice and presentations until you find what works for the current conditions.  Once you establish what is effective you can try this in different areas of the lake or stream.
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Plastic Worm Basics

By Marc Rogers

Many anglers feel the plastic worm is the most versatile lure available. It can be fished from top to bottom and all depths in between. Plastic worms can be rigged weedless, with an exposed hook and with or without any weight added. There are countless styles of plastic worms from straight bodies and tails to ribbon style tails for more action. The five major techniques of fishing plastic worms are Texas rig, Carolina rig, Split Shot rig, Shaky Head (fished with a jig head) and floating (top-water).

The Texas rig is generally the most used among anglers. It is a bottom bouncing presentation and can be worked at varying speeds. The rig consists of a hook, sinker and worm. There are special sinkers made for this technique which is bullet shaped and slide on the line above the hook and worm. The rig is fairly inexpensive for the basic components. However, there are specially made sinkers and hooks that do cost more than the basic set-up.

The Texas rig with a bullet slip sinker is great for most applications. However, if the angler wants to present the worm in heavy grass or timber a sinker that is pegged to the top of the worm head is best. This allows the sinker to stay in contact with the worm so the whole rig will fall together. If the sinker isn’t pegged many times the sinker will fall while leaving the hook and worm above the grass or over a tree limb.

There are two popular ways of keeping the sinker attached to the head of the worm. The first is to use a toothpick and insert the point into the hole of sinker “pegging” the line to the sinker. The sinker is then pushed securely against the head of the worm where it will stay. The disadvantage of this technique is it can cause line damage, thus weakening the line.

The alternative to this approach is use a screw in type sinker. This is often called the Florida Rigs (Gambler Lures was the first to produce this type of sinker) where the sinker has a small spring molded into the bottom of a bullet sinker. The line slips through the sinker just as the regular slip sinker and then the sinker is screwed onto the head of the worm to secure the whole rig together. There must be about one quarter inch of the worm head above the eye of the hook for this rig to work properly. The disadvantage of the Florida Rig is it causes the head of the worm to be torn up more often due to the spring being inserted into the worm. An angler may go through a few more worms in a day but I feel the advantage is greatly worth the additional cost of a few worms. I use this rig exclusively when fishing the Texas rig worm.

The Carolina rig is a great way to present most any plastic lure and is very similar to the Texas rig at the hook. The difference is in the way the weight is attached to the line. With the Carolina rig the plastic worm (lizards are also a very popular plastic lure with this technique) is attached to the hook the same as the Texas rig. The angler then uses a leader of varying lengths (commonly from 12 inches to 48 inches) and ties it to a barrel swivel. The sinker is slid onto the main line (the line from the reel spool) and ties the other end of the swivel to the main line. The most common sinker for this application is an egg sinker of one quarter to one ounce in weight. My personal choice is generally a three quarter ounce sinker but I will change weights when conditions require. Also, I generally use a 48-inch leader when using this technique.

The Carolina rig is a great way to present soft plastic lures in deep water while allowing for a faster retrieve. The slowest presentation requires the angler to simply drag the sinker along the bottom, which allows the lure to sway behind. Many times the sinker dragging on the bottom will get the fish’s attention and the lure will cause the bites. The sinker kicks up silt from the bottom similar to the way a crawfish does while looking for food or escaping from prey.

If the fish seem to be active and willing to hit a faster moving lure I will use a retrieve where I lift the sinker off the bottom and allow it to fall on a tight line. The tight line is necessary to be able to detect strike when they occur. This retrieve allows me to cover more water and still have the advantage of the plastic worm. It can be worked much faster than a Texas rig worm.

A plastic worm can also be used with a split shot technique. This technique is a modified Carolina rig in that the swivel isn’t commonly used. Also, it is used when smaller plastic worms are called for with light line. It is a plastic worm rigged just like the Texas rig worm and the weight is added above the lure using a split shot sinker. There are now available some slip sinkers that resemble a tube shape and can be pegged at varying lengths above the lure and hook. The pegging can be done with a tooth pick or a special tool similar to a needle thread tool that allow the angler to pull some rubber skirt material through the sinker hole. The advantage to this is the angler can later adjust the length of line between the lure and the sinker.

In recent years the Shaky Head worm presentation has become popular. It is, for the most part, a new style of finesse fishing. However, this technique can be used with heavier equipment as well. Shaky worms are generally a straight worm from four to seven inches long with the most common length about five inches. This approach is a worm on a jig head made especially for the presentation. There are several styles of shaky head jig ranging from football shaped heads to round heads. There is some type of attachment point on the jig head for the head of the worm to attach while the hook point is inserted into the body of the worm to keep it from hanging up on rocks and cover. When using the shaky head presentation the Gambler Giggy Head is my choice due to the worm easily coming loose from the head during the hook set. When the worm comes loose it has less chance of covering the hook point and preventing a good hook set.

The floating worm is a great technique to fish with a top-water approach. Floating worms are nothing more than a worm and a hook usually fished on light line.Some anglers do add a swivel in front of the worm to avoid line twist as the worms does cause this during the retrieve. To avoid line twist while not using a swivel it is best to rig the worm so it lies straight with either an exposed hook or the point inserted into the worm body like a Texas rig.

There are many manufacturers of floating worms and some are made of material that is similar to closed-cell foam. Choose worms made for this technique as they will be the most buoyant and stay on the top of the water. Retrieve speed can be adjusted as needed but I always start with a slow retrieve and change it to a faster retrieve if the fish appear to be more active.

When choosing colors of plastic worms a good approach is for dirty water start with a dark color worm. In clear water an angler should use a lighter color similar to the natural forage. When fishing at night a long (ten inches or longer) worm is a great choice in dark colors. As with all fishing don’t be afraid to experiment with different colors and styles of worms. Let the fish tell you what they are most interested in with the current conditions.

Perfecting a Bass Fishing Technique

By Marc Rogers

Many times a weekend angler attains great knowledge of one fishing technique while others do not get enough of their attention. When conditions are right for this one specialty he or she will have good success catching fish.  However, when conditions call for the use of a technique an angler isn’t comfortable with the success rate falls dramatically.

There are many ways for an angler to gain more knowledge of a particular technique.  Reading everything available on the subject is the most widely used for improvement and watching professional anglers on television is also a good way to gain more knowledge.  However, nothing will be better than on the water experience and repeated use of the angling technique.

Many years ago my biggest strength was bass fishing with plastic worms.  This was true for two reasons.  Plastic worm fishing was my first experience bass fishing with an artificial lure.  Second, I used the technique repeatedly because I had gained much confidence fishing this way due to catch rates.  However, at this time my fishing consisted of late spring to early fall fishing which was not as productive when I expanded my angling time to include all four seasons.

There was a tournament I once competed in that the winning anglers used crankbaits exclusively.  I finished in the bottom of the field because my “go to” technique was still plastic worms and I failed to adjust to the conditions.  After this event I decided my chances of being competitive were very limited if I didn’t learn new techniques and become more adaptable.

This situation occurred in the early spring so my solution was to gain as much knowledge as possible about crankbaits.  Every trip for the next several months my boat was loaded with nothing but crankbaits on each fishing trip.  This was difficult as my catch rates were greatly reduced.  However, I was forced to get better with crankbaits if I were to increase my catch rates.

Seeking out any information available about fishing crankbaits helped me improve the technique.  Printed articles and television shows were helpful.  Fishing with anglers who were etter than myself with crankbaits also helped but nothing was more productive than on the water experience.

At this time I am still not an expert with crankbaits but have become much better with them and my catch rates show this.  My strengths are still in worm and jig fishing but I am more comfortable when conditions call for crankbaits.  Each year from this time forward I chose a technique that I needed to improve and repeated the process.

If you are interested in improving a fishing technique I have learned from experience that this process is a very effective way to do so.  It does require an angler to leave their comfort zone.  However, staying in the comfort zone will limit experience and you will never improve to the level of your potential.  Chose a technique and give it a try.

Lake of the Ozarks’ Tournament Strategies, Part 1

By John Neporadny Jr

This is the first part of a two-part series on tournament winning patterns at the Lake of the Ozarks. Part One will focus on how to pattern bass throughout the spring from pre-spawn to post-spawn, while Part Two will discuss the top patterns for summer and fall tournaments at the lake.

Under its disguise of luxurious condominiums, million-dollar homes and dock-to-dock shorelines lies one of Missouri’s top bass tournament lakes.  Although younger reservoirs appeal more to the bass angler’s eye with all the flooded timber and undeveloped shoreline, the Lake of the Ozarks entices bass tournaments with its hidden charms.

Numerous tournaments ranging in size from 10-boat bass club events to 150-boat national circuit contests are held each weekend at this 58,000-acre reservoir from February through May. With this sort of attention, the lake receives plenty of fishing pressure, yet still yields heavyweight stringers of bass to tournament competitors.

Since Lake of the Ozarks is such a popular site for bass clubs, charity benefit organizations and regional and national circuits to hold tournaments, let’s look at the best springtime patterns to help make you a winner on this massive reservoir.

Pre-spawn Tactics

The Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League (formerly Red Man) circuit usually gets the early jump on the Lake of the Ozarks tournament season by holding events in February.  As the days get longer and warmer throughout this month, bass begin their pre-spawn staging on secondary points.

These pre-spawn bass move close to the bank on sunny days but overcast weather causes the fish to suspend in deeper water. Some of the heaviest stringers of the year are taken in late February and throughout March, as big bass become active after a long winter’s slumber.

Jerking a Suspending Rattlin’ Pro Rogue or other weighted stickbaits on 8- to 10-pound test line produces best in the clear-water sections of the lake, including the North Shore, Gravois, Grand Glaize, Big and Little Niangua and the lower half of the Osage arm. The most productive stickbait colors are clown (yellow, red and white), silver/blue, silver/black and fire tiger.

On calm, sunny days in the early spring, a 1/4- to 3/8-ounce jig and a plastic crawfish trailer dragged along the rocky points and creek channels take quality bass. The best color combinations for the jig-and-trailer include black/brown, black/blue and black/chartreuse.

Slow rolling a ½-ounce white-and-chartreuse spinnerbait along bluffs produces pre-spawn bass if early spring rains turn the lake turbid.  When the lake remains clear, slow rolling the same spinnerbait through shallow brush in the stained waters of the upper Big and Little Niangua arms takes heavyweight bass on sunny days.

When the water temperature climbs above 45 degrees in March, a brown crawfish Storm Lures Wiggle Wart crankbait becomes an effective lure for catching a quick limit of bass. This lure works best along the flat gravel banks inside coves on the Osage arm above the Hurricane Deck Bridge.

While the crankbait pattern produces good numbers of fish throughout late March and early April, most of the major tournaments held during this time are won on jigs.  Allen Armour won the April 1994 Missouri BASSMASTER Invitational flipping a Lunker Lures Rattleback Jig and Riverside Big Claw plastic trailer to shoreline cover along creek channel banks on the Osage arm. Takahiro Omori captured the April 1996 Missouri BASSMASTER Invitational by working a Hula Grub on a 1/8-ounce jighead along main lake points and chunk-rock banks on the Grand Glaize arm.

A couple of Central Pro-Am Association events held in the spring were also won with a jig.  Jim Eakins won the March 1998 Lake of the Ozarks Pro-Am pitching a homemade brown 3/8-ounce jig and a brown Gene Larew Salt Craw to chunk rock banks in the back of creeks around the Hurricane Deck bridge area.  His son, Troy Eakins, took first in the April 1999 Lake of the Ozarks Pro-Am using the same homemade jig and a green pumpkin Zoom Critter Craw, which he pitched to ledges in the backs of cuts and shallow boat docks on the Osage arm and the mouth of the Niangua.

Perennial tournament winner Bruce Gier earned one of his biggest victories on his home lake by relying on a brown 3/8-ounce jig and a number 11 Uncle Josh pork frog during the April 1992 Lake of the Ozarks Pro-Am.  The local angler moved back and forth from shallow to deep water along sandy, gravel areas in pockets of coves in the North Shore area.

Spawn Techniques

The number of tournaments at the lake declines and the winning weights drop sharply by late April and early May when bass move on the nests.

Bass spawn anywhere along pea gravel banks in pockets, but the biggest fish usually build their nests behind boat docks where cables, walkways, pillars and sunken brush piles offer protection from the wind and nest intruders.

Targeting docks in the backs of coves is a key to finding spawning bass.  The back ends of main-lake condominium docks also attract bedding fish in latter stages of the spawn.

On the upper Osage and other stained-water sections of the lake, pitching or flipping with heavy line (20- to 30-pound test) and flipping tackle behind the dock cables produces the best fish.  A ½-ounce jig and jumbo trailer or a Texas-rigged 8-inch plastic lizard usually triggers strikes from bedding bass in water less than 3 feet deep.

Sight fishing can be a productive pattern in the clear sections of the lake throughout the spawn.   Aggressive fish can be taken on a brown ¼-ounce jig and number 11 pork frog or double-tail plastic grub worked on bait-casting tackle and 10-pound test line.

If nesting bass shun jigs, these same finicky fish can be tricked into biting a variety of soft plastic baits tossed on spinning tackle and 6- to 8-pound test line. Top lure choices for tournament anglers include 6-inch plastic lizards and small plastic crawfish imitators rigged with either little or no weight to create a slow fall.

In the May 1995 BASSMASTER Invitational, George Cochran won the event by catching most of his keepers on a Texas-rigged purple Riverside Air Worm that he threw on spinning tackle and 10-pound test line. He found spawning fish next to shallow laydowns at the mouths of pockets in the Grand Glaize arm around the Public Beach No. 2 weigh-in site.

Since quality fish locked on beds can be difficult to reach sometimes, keying on cruising bass provides an alternative method for taking kicker fish.   Run down the pea gravel banks and make long casts with Zara Spooks, 5- to 7-inch soft plastic jerkbaits or 6-inch floating worms. Retrieve all of these lures at a steady pace and move the lure faster if a dark shape starts following the bait.

Bigger bass also tend to spawn deeper—especially in clear water. The best lures for these spawners are 6-inch plastic lizards worked on Carolina or split-shot rigs. Drag these lures on the bottom along the front or sides of docks at depths of 8 to 10 feet.

Post-spawn Tricks

The winning weights continue to drop by late May when bass are recuperating from the rigors of spawning. During this time, catching a limit of 3-pounders usually ensures a high finish in most tournaments.

A variety of patterns pay dividends in the post-spawn stage.  In the early mornings and late evenings, quality fish can be taken on Zara Spooks, Excalibur Spittin’ Images, and propeller topwater lures worked along flat main lake points. Twitching a pearl or shad-colored soft plastic jerkbait along the same structure also tricks hungry post-spawn bass on the points. Topwater action can last all day when the skies remain overcast.

A problem tournament anglers must contend with during this time of year is increased recreational boat traffic. The wakes from pleasure boaters makes the surface choppy and curtails the topwater bite. So competitive anglers resort to tactics that allow them to probe deeper water.

The most consistent pattern for taking bass during this situation is dragging a Carolina rig along main lake points and humps.  After the topwater bite ends, try dragging a rig in the 8-to 10-foot depth range and eventually move out to depths of 20 to 25 feet.

The best lures for dragging are 6-inch plastic lizards, double-tail plastic grubs and the new creature-type baits (Zoom Brush Hog, Riverside Lures Wooly Hawg Tail, Berkley Power Hawg and the Gene Larew Hoo Daddy).  The most productive colors for all of these lures are green pumpkin, watermelon, watermelon/red flake, pumpkinseed and pumpkinseed/chartreuse. Components for the Carolina rig should include a ½- to ¾-ounce slip sinker, plastic or glass bead, swivel and a 3- to 4-foot leader line tied to a 3/0 hook for the plastic lizard or 4/0 to 5/0 hooks for the plastic grubs and creature baits.

After catching a limit of bass on the Carolina rig, you can try for a kicker fish in the backs of creeks.  Head for the last docks on each side of the creek and pitch a plastic worm in back and down the sides of the dock. Bluegill are plentiful around the docks and are a post-spawn bass’ prime forage. You should mimic this bait by using  5- to 6-inch ring worms in bluegill hues, such as camouflage, pumpkinseed/chartreuse, green pumpkin or rootbeer/green flake.

If the water is murky on the lower end, post-spawn bass remain behind the docks throughout May.   These shallow fish can be taken on 5/16- to 9/16-oucne jigs and Uncle Josh number one pork frogs or plastic crawfish pitched behind the cables.

The upper Osage arm also produces winning catches during the post-spawn. The best pattern for this area is flipping black-and-blue or black-and-brown 3/8- to ½-ounce jigs and plastic craws or 10-inch plastic worms (pumpkinseed, red shad, electric grape or green pumpkin) along the sides of docks in the coves. The bigger fish will be holding at depths of 6 to 10 feet.  On windy days, plenty of keepers can be taken by running a 3/8- to ½-ounce chartreuse or white spinnerbait with willowleaf blades through the shallow brush.

Night tournaments usually begin in May on the lower end of the lake. Sunken brush piles in the 8- to 10-foot depth range along secondary and main lake points are ideal spots for working a Texas-rigged plastic worm after dark. The most productive plastic worm for this pattern is the 10-inch Berkley Power Worm in dark colors (blue fleck, black/blue, red shad, electric grape, black and tequila sunrise).

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.


Lake of the Ozarks Topwater Largemouths

By John Neporadny Jr.

 

Plop, plop, plop. Ka-Woosh.

Any Lake of the Ozarks angler who has experienced the thrill of topwater action knows these sounds of a plug popping across the surface followed by the attack of a largemouth bass.

All other tactics for catching bass pales in comparison to the excitement of a largemouth busting the surface to engulf a topwater bait. Lake of the Ozarks bass can be coaxed into attacking topwater lures from late spring to late fall but late April through May is the prime time for surface action. During this time bass will be feeding heavily before going on the nest, guarding a nest or guarding fry which makes them vulnerable to any lure buzzing, popping or walking above them.

During the summer, you have to throw surface lures early and late in the day to trigger strikes, but I have experienced good topwater action all day long—even on sunny afternoons—during May. Water clarity often dictates which topwater lure works best. Buzz baits generally produce best in murky water while a variety of surface plugs catch bass in stained to clear water.

Largemouth on my home lake usually start busting surface lures in late April when the fish are on the beds, and the topwater action heats up in May during the postspawn. My favorite topwater for Lake of the Ozarks is the Heddon Zara Spook in either baby bass or flitter shad (known locally as the Christmas tree color). The Spook is so effective because it can be worked at various speeds, but I have found the best presentation is a steady walk-the-dog retrieve. On many occasions I have seen fish follow the lure and I have drawn more strikes by speeding up my retrieve rather than stopping the lure.

I prefer fishing the clear-water section of the lake from the Gravois arm to the dam area where I key on the protected gravel pockets during early May. Male bass will either be on nests behind dock cables or along sea walls from 3 to 6 feet deep, but the hefty females will usually be suspended along the sides of the docks. You can catch plenty of 2-pounders working the Spook along the sea walls and open banks, but you need to walk the plug along the back or the shady side of a dock to catch 4- to 5-pounders.

This is the only time of the year when I prefer fishing topwaters on sunny afternoons. The sunshine warms the water to activate bass and baitfish and the bright conditions position the bigger fish in the shady areas under the dock, which makes them susceptible to the Spook sashaying in front of them.

From the middle to the end of May bass have moved out to either secondary or main lake points. The fish will still hit a Spook, but these open areas tend to have more wind so a Rebel Pop-R usually works better. On the windiest days, I switch to a Gilmore Jumper, a large double-blade prop bait that produces a lot of splash when jerked hard.

For information on lodging 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


Jigs Mean Bigger Lake of the Ozarks Bass

by John Neporadny Jr.

 

Jig Fishing Lake of the Ozarks

Flashy new lures come and go each year, while an old reliable continues to hold a special place in the tackleboxes of both tournament anglers and weekend fishermen at Lake of the Ozarks. Some lure innovations catch more fishermen than they do fish, but veteran anglers know that the trusty jig-and-chunk combination consistently catches bigger bass at the lake, especially during October and November when bass are feeding heavily in preparation for winter.

The jig and its chunk trailer have survived the test of time because of its versatility and big-bass appeal. You can bounce the lure along the bottom, swim it at a certain depth for suspended bass or even skip it across the surface as a topwater bait. One angler who competes in tournaments at the Lake of the Ozarks and frequently catches heavyweight bass on the jig-and-chunk combination is Marty McGuire, owner of Marty’s Marine in Osage Beach, MO. “The jig and frog is probably the number one bait as far as catching big fish and catching numbers of fish year round,” McGuire says.

While many anglers use a jig as a crawfish imitator, McGuire selects the lure  for its impersonation of a baitfish. Since he’s keying on bass suspended under boat docks, McGuire wants a lure that best simulates a shad swimming just below the surface. A topwater plug or buzz bait also works in this situation, but the biggest bass seem reluctant to come out from under the security of the dock to hit something on the surface. “That jig is already right in front of their faces,” McGuire says. “All they have to do is dart out and they have it.”

Most of the time, McGuire swims his jig and chunk along main lake docks sitting over deep water. “It really doesn’t seem to matter how deep the water is,” he says. “I have caught fish in 75 feet of water out on the corner of a boat dock and that fish was lying right underneath the dock foam about 6 inches deep.”

Bigger docks that offer plenty of shade attract the most bass. Normally in the fall, the water is clear in the areas McGuire fishes, so he tries to find docks that have the right combination of shade and wind. “You have to do some running because these docks aren’t all piled up together,” McGuire says. “A lot of times I will burn quite a bit of fuel running up and down the lake looking for these docks because the wind doesn’t blow in the same direction on every part of a lake.” When fishing the largest docks, McGuire pitches his jig in  the last couple of wells on the windy or shady side of the boat house.

During this time of year bass usually suspend under the dock’s foam and dart straight out to hit the jig and chunk. McGuire says he has never caught any bass coming up on his jig, so he tries to keep the lure as close as possible to the dock’s foam. “Take the jig and pitch it up in the wells on the shady or windy sides and let the jig sink 2 or 3 inches,” McGuire advises.  “Then start pumping or reeling it right back underneath the foam. When it gets to the corner of the dock, let it fall and watch the lure because on 90 percent of your strikes you will see the fish come out and hit it.” Most of the time McGuire just steadily cranks the jig and chunk along next to the foam and lets it drop at the corner of the structure before reeling it in for another pitch. This technique allows him to cover a lot of water with a lure normally used for a slower presentation.

A 3/8- to 1/2-ounce flipping-style jig combined with a medium-size chunk has the right buoyancy for McGuire’s swimming technique. He prefers the flipping-style jigs because they are equipped with rattles and larger hooks. A white jig with a white chunk best imitates a shad in the fall. McGuire uses a black-and-blue color combination for his jig and chunk most of the time.

While new-fangled lures come and go, anglers keep finding creative ways to use the old reliable jig and its chunk trailer. And even though big bass at Lake of the Ozarks have seen it countless times, the jig-and-chunk continues to trick them over the years.

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.