Archive for lake of the ozarks

Prespawn Topwater for Lake of the Ozarks Bass

Lake of the Ozarks Cold Topwater Fishing

By John Neporadny Jr.

Topwaters have long been considered lures for fishing in warm water, but a Lake of the Ozarks pro knows surface lures will trick bass—especially big bass—when the water temperatures are chilly. Whether it’s springtime when the water struggles to reach 60 degrees or fall when the water temperatures plunge into the 50s, a lure moving slowly across the surface is an easy target for even listless Lake of the Ozarks bass.

So when bass are shallow in chilly water, a topwater lure remains a viable option. FLW Tour pro and Lake of the Ozarks guide Casey Scanlon throws a Heddon Zara Spook One Knocker or a Reaction Innovations Vixen in the spring when the water temperature climbs into the upper 50s and he starts seeing bass cruise the shallows of the spawning areas. He sticks with the same plugs in the fall when the water is even colder.

“As opposed to the spring when the bass are still heating up, the fish are still active in the fall so when that water temperature starts dropping it seems like their activity level is still higher,” Scanlon says. “So I have caught them (on Spooks) in upper 40 water temperatures.”

The local guide favors the versatility of a topwater walker in cold-water situations. “You can start it and stop it and fish it however fast you want,” Scanlon says. “You can also make it almost walk in place to where you don’t have to move the bait very far but it still has a lot of action. The other thing I like about it is when a bass misses it, if you resist the urge to jerk on the lure then, a lot of times they will come back and get on it.”

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

A steady retrieve works best for Scanlon walking the surface plug in chilly Lake of the Ozarks waters. “In the springtime I twitch it slower but I keep a steady walk towards me,” he says. “In the fall I will fish it more erratically where I will twitch it real fast then slow it down for a few walks, then twitch it real fast so it almost makes the lure break cadence and kind of come out of the water like a shad fleeing.”

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.

For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.

Reprinted with permission from B.A.S.S. Publications

Lake of the Ozarks Great for Bass Fishing

Lake of the Ozarks is premier bass destination

By John Neporadny Jr.

Lake of the Ozarks showcases its superb bass fishing each year during national, regional and local bass tournaments.

While he had not been on the Lake of the Ozarks for more than a decade, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mike McClelland said he was reminded of how much fun it was to fish there when he recently competed in the Missouri Invitational Fishing and Golf Championship at the lake. The Buena Vista, Ark., pro honed his skills fishing tournaments at Ozark highland reservoirs, including Lake of the Ozarks.

The northernmost reservoir in the Ozark foothills has some similarities and differences in comparison to the other Ozark highland lakes McClelland has fished. “The biggest thing that makes Lake of the Ozarks such an incredible fishery is all of the boat docks on the lake (similar to Oklahoma’s Grand Lake)” McClelland said. “So many of the fish are protected from angling most of the year because of all the cover boat docks allow them to have.”

“The lake is also extremely fertile and has a huge concentration of shad,” he said. “It just has a huge forage base including bluegill and crappie that is absolutely phenomenal. I really believe that more bass forage on crappie than we can ever imagine.”

The Lake of the Ozarks features the same defined creek channels and turns as the rest of the Ozark highland reservoirs. “As an Ozark angler the one thing you really learn to rely on are fishing those channel turns and figuring out what part of the channel turns the fish are in,” McClelland said. “There are some days when bass are going to be on the very ends of those and there are times of the year when they are going to be in the middle of them. Once you figure out where the fish are set up in those channel bends in the major creek arms it can really be an easy way to duplicate the pattern throughout the course of the lake.”

McClelland believes the major difference between Lake of the Ozarks and its Ozark highland neighbors is the lake’s productivity throughout its 54,000 acres. “What really amazes me about Lake of the Ozarks is the consistency of the lake from end to end,” he said. “The versatility the lake has to offer is unbelievable.”

Any time he competed on the Lake of the Ozarks McClelland thought the tournament could be won in any section of the lake. “I really believed the lake could potentially produce a winning stringer nearly from (Bagnell) dam as far up the (Osage) river as you can go at any given time,” he said. “Whereas (the Ozarks lakes of) Table Rock, Bull Shoals and Beaver really fish sketchier and there are times when certain sections of those lakes are working and the rest of those lakes don’t seem to be on.”

During March and early April most of the Lake of the Ozarks bass will be in the prespawn stage. McClelland recommends tournament competitors key on the black rocks Ozark anglers call “lava” rock. “Any of those areas where you have that dark-colored rock close to gravel transition areas are really key focus points for me that time of the year,” McClelland said. “I think the heat from those dark-colored rocks pulls up those fish especially when they are getting closer to that spawning period. “

McClelland’s favorite lures to throw for prespawn Lake of the Ozark bass in clear to stained water are Spro McStick 110 and 115 stickbaits and Spro RkCrawler crankbaits. “If the water gets really dirty, Lake of the Ozarks is a good spinnerbait lake in the spring,” McClelland said.

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.

For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.

Reprinted with permission from B.A.S.S. Publications.

Winter Bass Fishing at Lake of the Ozarks

Break the Ice for Lake of the Ozarks’ Big Bass

By John Neporadny Jr.

Most winters lately in this area have been mild with Lake of the Ozarks remaining nearly ice-free allowing anglers to fish throughout the winter.

However during the coldest winters, ice buildup limits access to the lake and anglers have to wait for a thaw to get back on the water. When “ice-out” occurs, you might have to break through a thin layer of ice at the boat ramp or to get to a sweet spot, but it will be worth the trouble because you’ll have your best chance to catch some of the biggest bass of the year.

During most winters on this lake, the ice starts thawing and breaking up in February. Bass are usually their heaviest this time of the year, so most of the fish you catch will be chunks.

The best structure to try after the thaw is a little creek channel bend. Small pockets near the river or creek channel bands are also productive areas. Bass spend the winter in the channel bends and in the pockets as well. During the first warm spell, bass move up from deeper water to brush piles that are 6 to 10 feet deep in the pockets. Look for banks on the northern side of the lake that receive the most sunlight because the water in those areas will warm faster. Key on clear water areas because it’s harder to catch bass from cold, muddy water.

Boat docks are also good places to fish for ice-out bass at Lake of the Ozarks. Some bass spend the winter under docks that have deep brush piles and are near the channel bends so look for docks that are along the bends of creeks. Fish a set of docks along one bend and then move across the creek to another row of docks on the opposite channel bend.

Water temperature is not really a key factor during this time of year. I have caught bass during this time by throwing a suspending stickbait in areas where there would still be ice in the pockets.

Warm, sunny weather activates bass this time of year and coaxes the fish to move up shallow. Sometimes it only takes one sunny day to get the fish to move into those shallower brush piles.

A small hair jig tricks plenty of bass during ice-out. Another lure to try is a shad-colored tube jig, which looks like a dying shad when it falls to the bottom. A slow fall works best now so use hair jigs and tube bait jigheads in 1/8- to 1/4-ounce sizes. Let the lures flutter into the brush piles and slowly retrieve the baits through the cover. Working suspending stickbaits with a twitch-and-pause retrieve over the tops of the brush piles also triggers strikes from bass hanging around the brush.

When the lake starts to thaw and heavyweight prespawn bass start migrating to the shallows, it’s prime time to be fishing Lake of the Ozarks to catch a lunker 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.

For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit jnoutdoors.com.

Bass Fishing Lake of the Ozarks in November

November Hot Spot for Lake of the Ozarks Bass

By John Neporadny Jr.

Lake of the Ozarks bass in November are on the move from the shallow foraging areas to their deep wintertime haunts. During their migration bass seek out some fast food spots where they can chow down on baitfish.

These fast food spots are usually some type of cover found throughout the lake. Bass use the cover as rest stops and ambush points to nab a quick meal before heading out to their winter homes. Savvy bass anglers at the lake look for these hotspots to pinpoint migrating bass during late fall/early winter.

Rocks are one of the best hotspots for finding bass in November at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Baitfish and bass are both attracted to the warmth of the rocks that absorb and retain the sun’s heat even on cold November days.

Former Bass Fishing League (BFL) All American champion Marcus Sykora looks for wind-blown rocky banks in November because he knows bass will be feeding heavily on baitfish there. “I actually like to fish hard transitions where the bank goes from big rock to little rocks or some sort of continuous blend of some ledge rock, gravel and some good size rock in it,” he said.

Waking a 1/2-ounce spinnerbait with tandem willowleaf blades is Sykora’s most productive tactic for catching bass on the rocks. “Waking a spinnerbait mimics a lot of the things bass are feeding on in the rocks and it causes not only a hunger strike but also a reaction strike,” Sykora said. “I also like to (wake spinnerbaits) a lot because it is a great way to cover water.”

The tournament competitor positions his boat over 12 to 20 feet of water and points the boat’s nose at a 30- to 45-degree angle to the bank. By presenting his lure at that angle, Sykora can keep the spinnerbait in the strike zone longer. He retrieves the spinnerbait fast enough so its blades bulge the water but don’t break the surface.

Sykora suggests always paying attention to where the sun rises and sun sets when fishing the lake in November.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

Even though the water is cooling down and the sun is providing warmth throughout the day, bass on the shady banks bite better than fish on the sunny shores. “Sometimes on those bright bluebird sky days it is really tough to catch bass,” Sykora said. “So that eastern bank in the morning is going to get a little more shade there throughout the day than on that western bank. So a lot of times in the morning I will run those east/southeast banks because they have shade.”

On sunny afternoons, Sykora switches to the west/southwest banks because those banks have more shade then.

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.

For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.

Lake of the Ozarks Bass in September

Catching Lake of the Ozarks bass in September

By John Neporadny Jr.

Lake of the Ozarks bass anglers need to “go with the flow” to get in on the best fishing action during September.

By September, the summer heat has generated bath-water temperatures and depleted oxygen levels in the shallows of lakes and ponds throughout the state. These conditions make for some tough fishing during the month, but anglers can still catch plenty of fish at Lake of the Ozarks by seeking waters with plenty of current. When fishing the headwaters of the lake, bass anglers will discover the current in these waters create a cool, oxygen-rich environment that makes bass more aggressive feeders. So Lake of the Ozarks anglers should “go with the flow” for the best bass action at the lake during early fall.

When September arrives, veteran tournament angler Mike Malone starts running up the Osage arm of the lake to catch bass.

“Those fish are moving at that time and the baitfish are moving and bass get predominantly on those mud flats (on the upper Osage arm),” he says. “If you can figure out what area of that upper reach is on you are going to catch a bunch.”

The Lake Ozark angler keys on the main lake flats rather than back in the creeks because current is more predominant there. “There is usually a two- to three-hour window where they turn on the water (at Truman Dam),” Malone says. “As long as there is movement to the water, those fish get positioned and are very predictable as to where they are going to be and how to catch them.”

Malone usually finds bass around boat docks where the fish remain less than 4 feet deep. “I have a milk run where I might hit 30 to 40 docks up there starting at about Proctor Creek all the way up to the 88-mile marker,” he says. “Sometimes the fish are on the outside ends of the docks. If they are not running current the fish might be on the backs of the docks.”

Malone’s favorite lures for throwing around the docks include a black/red flake flipping tube, black/chartreuse jig with blue plastic chunk, a 1/2-ounce white/chartreuse spinnerbait and black/chartreuse wake bait.

Anglers unfamiliar with this section need to be cautious while navigating the upper lake because it contains lots of shallow mud flats on the main lake and in coves. “It’s not an area where you want to go fast if you don’t know where you are going,” Malone says. He recommends using good electronics and mapping to navigate safely in this section of the lake.

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.

For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.

Chad Brauer Explains How to Catch Lake of the Ozarks Bass

Unorthodox Retrieves For Lake of the Ozarks bass

By John Neporadny Jr.

Every Lake of the Ozarks angler knows the best way to retrieve a Texas-rigged plastic worm is to lift and drop it. They also realize a jig produces best with a slow hop.

Stereotype retrieves have developed for standard bass lures throughout the years, but a savvy angler keeps an open mind while using these old reliables. While conventional wisdom calls for the most popular bass lures to be presented in a certain fashion, a Lake of the Ozarks pro has turned an old standby into a more versatile bait by experimenting with unorthodox retrieves.

Former B.A.S.S. titleholder Chad Brauer retrieves a jig at about any imaginable speed to catch a bass. On one end of the spectrum, he employs a high-speed retrieve for shallow bass and on the other extreme, the Osage Beach, MO, angler slowly drags the lure on the bottom for deeper fish.

His high-speed presentation propels the jig faster than the normal swimming retrieve Brauer employs while targeting shallow logs and docks in the fall. “I’m almost working it as fast as a spinnerbait,” says Brauer, who tries to keep the lure near the surface. “But I’m still trying to keep a pumping motion and giving the jig a little bit of action.”

Sometimes Brauer kills the action of the lure after pulling it over a branch. The jig expert lets the lure fall next to the cover and then jerks it a couple of times to create the erratic action of a fleeing baitfish. He claims this retrieve works especially well for him during times of heavy fishing pressure.

Since the retrieve imitates a fleeing baitfish, Brauer selects jig colors resembling shad. His favorite lure for this high-speed tactic is a one-fourth to three-eighths ounce Strike King Denny Brauer Design Pro-Model jig in white or chartreuse-and-white. In most situations, he tips the jig with a large white pork chunk which he believes gives the lure a bigger profile and more buoyancy than plastic trailers. The local pro also occasionally switches to a twin-tail plastic grub as a jig trailer to increase the lure’s action.

Dancing a jig around lay-downs and Lake of the Ozarks docks requires heavy tackle so Brauer uses thick line and a flipping stick. When retrieving the jig in clear water, Brauer uses 20-pound test line, but most of the time he ties his lure on 25-pound test. Brauer uses the same high-speed reel (6.3:1 gear ratio) for both fast and slow jig presentations. “I just feel like you can mentally slow yourself down with a fast reel but you can only physically crank so fast with a slow reel,” he says.

Crawling a jig along the bottom is Brauer’s slowest retrieve. Similar to dragging a Carolina rig, this presentation keeps the jig in constant contact with the bottom. “It seems to work real well in the early spring and in the summertime where the fish are a little bit deeper, not quite as active and are strictly feeding on crawfish,” says Brauer.

Keeping his rod tip parallel to the water, Brauer steadily reels in the jig rather than employing the rod-sweeping retrieve frequently used for Carolina rigs. “That keeps me in contact with the bait and the bottom all the time and I can still accomplish the same stop- and-go retrieve (of a Carolina-rig presentation),” says Brauer.

The Lake of the Ozarks angler opts for a one-half to three-quarter ounce Strike King Denny Brauer Design Pro-Model Jig for this bottom-banging tactic. Since this is mainly a clear-water tactic, Brauer selects natural hues such as watermelon, green pumpkin and chameleon crawfish for both his jig and trailer. He picks a pork frog for his trailer in the early spring and switches to a twin-tail plastic grub during the summer. His tackle for this tactic consists of a 7-foot rod and baitcast reel spooled with 15- to 17-pound test line. In ultra-clear water situations he scales down to 10- to 12-pound line.

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.

Reprinted with permission from Bassmaster Magazine.

Lake of the Ozarks Free Fishing Seminars

Local experts share knowledge every Monday

Learn from local experts how to approach fishing Lake of the Ozarks from boat, bank or dock.

Experts share lake conditions, hottest techniques, patterns and more.

All anglers welcome…

Lake of the Ozarks free fishing seminars

Visit Lake of the Ozarks while traveling Route 66

Get Your Route 66 Kicks at Lake of the Ozarks

By John Neporadny Jr.

The nostalgia of Route 66 continues to captivate summer vacationers who want to cruise the legendary old highway through the heart of the country.

The old popular song “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” can certainly apply to bass anglers who want to cruise the interstates that roughly follow the old highway that was decommissioned in 1984. Bass anglers can follow the same route highlighted in the National Lampoon movie “Vacation” in which Clark Griswold takes his family from Chicago to Los Angeles to visit Walley World. However, the side trips you can take will be to some of the top bass fishing spots in the country rather than Clark’s zany misadventures off the beaten path to visit Dodge City or Cousin Eddie in Arizona.

One of those stops for bass anglers close to the old Route 66 is at Lake of the Ozarks. While travelling on Interstate 44 through Missouri, stop at Lebanon and head north on Missouri Highway 5 for about 25 miles to reach the Lake of the Ozarks. The 54,000-acre lake was the largest manmade reservoir in the world when the dam across the Osage River was built in 1931. The lake has been the site for Bassmaster Central Opens and Invitationals throughout the years and former Bassmaster Classic champions Denny Brauer and Guido and Dion Hibdon honed their skills while guiding and competing in tournaments there.

Thousands of boat docks lining the lake’s 1,150 miles of shoreline provide excellent year-round cover for largemouth and spotted bass. The lake lost most of its natural cover when the standing timber was cleared before the lake was formed but anglers and dock owners are constantly filling the lake with new cover by planting brush piles throughout the impoundment. Summertime bass are also attracted to the lake’s steep bluffs, creek channels, humps and points.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

The best summertime bass patterns at the lake include working 10-inch Berkley Power Worms in brush piles 15 to 30 feet deep and running deep-diving crankbaits or dragging Carolina-rigged creature baits on main lake points, channel drops and humps.

Recreational boat traffic is extremely heavy on the lake during the summer, so visiting bass anglers should try fishing early and late in the day. Fishing after sunset is excellent throughout the summer as it usually takes around 20 pounds to win night tournaments.

The 15-inch minimum length limit for largemouth bass imposed by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has helped produce consistently good bass fishing for more than three decades. In recent MDC electrofishing surveys taken on two arms of the lake, the percentages of keeper bass ranged from 15 to 24 percent.

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.

For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.

Reprinted with permission from Bassmaster Magazine.

Floating worm for Lake of the Ozarks

Floating worm trick for Lake of the Ozarks spawning bass

By John Neporadny Jr.

When pollen coats the water surface of Lake of the Ozarks, Mike Malone knows it’s time to throw a floating worm.

The pollen coating on the surface signifies bass are bedding on Malone’s home lake, but the tournament veteran suggests you can use other signs of spring in your region to determine when bass are spawning. When the spawn is on, Malone opts for the floating worm, a finesse bait that has produced for him for 20 years.

“It’s a stealthy, finesse bait that doesn’t make a lot of noise when it hits the water,” he says. “You are able to skip it under cover such as boat dock ramps, cables and tree limbs, etc. in a real quiet presentation. It works best during the spawn when the fish are pretty skittish.”

“Many times I have been able to fish behind guys who were flipping a jig, a worm or a tube and catch multiple fish with the worm,” Malone says. “I have had many 20-pound bags throwing that worm. It’s just a timing deal to catching the big ones and it is a pretty deadly bait for three or four weeks in the spring.”

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

The local angler will throw the floating worm in sunshine or overcast weather but wind creates problems for him since it tends to blow his line and unweighted worm too much. “Wind is taboo,” he says.

Finding the spawning banks is the key to Malone’s floating worm technique. On Lake of the Ozarks, Malone looks for pea gravel pockets or clay banks protected from the wind. He also throws the worm along indentations of bluff banks that hold spawning bass.

Malone’s favorite bait for this presentation is a 6-inch Zoom Trick Worm in bright hues such as yellow and bubble gum but occasionally he will throw a green pumpkin or bullfrog color worm to imitate bluegills. He recommends experimenting with different colors until you find one the fish seem to prefer. “The fish do get conditioned to seeing stuff over and over again, so anything different is probably going to work,” he says.

The Trick Worm is rigged wacky style by impaling a 1/0 Gamakatsu Drop Shot Hook slightly above the worm’s egg sack which gives the worm a fluttering action. “I want that worm to pulsate at both ends when I twitch it,” Malone says. His floating worm tackle consists of a 6-foot, 8-inch St. Croix Legend Elite medium action/extra fast tip spinning rod and Lew’s Tournament Pro Speed Spin spinning reel filled with 10- to 20-pound test Toray braided line in a low-visibility green.

Making long-distance deliveries is a key to Malone’s floating worm tactic. “It is pretty important to make long, long casts if the water is clear because typically those fish will see you by the time you see them,” he says. “If I can just make a long cast into an area where I can see beds but I don’t really see any fish that is a good thing because those fish are just in the shadows just off the beds. Nine out of 10 times I can catch one there.” He also turns off his electronics to prevent spooking these shallow fish.

Even though rigged without a weight, the Trick Worm sinks slowly throughout Malone’s presentation. Most of the time Malone retrieves the worm similar to a jerkbait with a twitch-twitch-pause cadence. He usually lets the worm sink for a second or two before repeating the sequence. The tournament competitor notices some days the fish want the worm moving but on other days he has to let it sink down to depths of 4 to 6 feet to trigger bites.

Since bigger bass usually inhale the worm, Malone sets the hook immediately when he feels a tick. “I reel up the slack and I pop them,” he says.

If he notices a bluegill biting on the worm, he lets the sunfish pull until it drops the worm and then gets ready for a bigger bite. “A lot of times that is when I catch a good bass because they hate bluegill,” he says.

The floating worm also serves as a good follow-up lure when a bass blows up and misses a Luckycraft Gunfish topwater plug Malone also likes to throw during the spawn. “Those big fish if they don’t kill (the topwater lure), they slap at it,” Malone says. “So they are exposed then and I drop my Talons (shallow-water anchors) and I throw that floating worm on them. Seventy-five percent of the time I am going to catch them then.”

When the floating worm bite is on, Malone recommends having plenty of worms on hand since you might be going through three to four bags of your favorite colors while catching 50 to 100 fish a day. The worm will produce both numbers and quality fish during the spawn. “I have caught a bunch of fish between 4 and 6 pounds on it,” says Malone, whose biggest bass caught on a floating worm was a 7-pounder.

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.

For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.

Lake of the Ozarks Spawning Bass

Catching Spawning Bass Around Lake of the Ozarks Docks

by John Neporadny Jr.

Boat docks become a haven for black bass in the spring when it’s time for them to spawn at the Lake of the Ozarks. While fishing with former Lake of the Ozarks guide Jack Peischl years ago, he showed me a few tricks for taking spawning bass from these havens.

“One of the things a lot of people don’t realize on the Lake of the Ozarks is that during this time of year bass get back in any places where they have a lot of protection, so when they spawn their eggs don’t get washed away by the boat wakes or the wind,” says Jack Pieschl of Sunrise Beach, Mo. Some fish will be scattered on any available cover they find along the bank, but the biggest fish seek the best protection. “It seems like the big ones are smarter,” Pieschl says. “They know that docks offer the best protection of anything, so they’ll get back in behind the docks where the catwalk attaches to the dock and in the shady, flat secluded areas where you can hardly get to the fish.”

Since bass have plenty of hiding places among the lake’s myriad docks, finding the choice spawning banks is the key to catching these nesting bass. Pieschl looks for docks in the first or second pea gravel-pockets coming from the main channel back into a feeder creek. He avoids coves that have heavy water flow, and targets, quiet narrow pockets where maneuvering a jet ski or pleasure boat would be difficult. “Almost every pocket will have one side that is pretty steep and the other side will be a little flatter,” Pieschl notes. He concentrates on docks along the deeper side of the pocket, which is usually where the biggest fish build their nests. “Bigger bass tend to stay on the deeper side,” Pieschl says.Since he prefers clear water for locating bass on the nest, Pieschl favors the coves and pockets close to his home in the Shawnee Bend and Horseshoe Bend areas on the lake. Other good clear-water sections to try Pieschl’s techniques are the Gravois arm and the North Shore area.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

In the early stages of the spawn, bass are busy building their nests so they are susceptible to bottom-bumping lures, such as jigs and plastic craws, tube baits and plastic lizards. One of Pieschl’s favoritie ways to catch these fish is to throw a 7-inch plastic lizard in either pumpkinseed or pumpkinseed with a chartreuse tail into the bass’ nest. If a fish ignores the lure after it settles in the nest, Pieschl starts tapping the butt end of his casting rod to make the lure quiver. Keeping the lure quivering in the nest for a couple of minutes tends to aggravate the bass into hitting the lizard.

Pieschl often has to fish in close quarters behind docks, so he selectsa 5 1/2-foot rod with a fast tip that allows him to skip his bait under the dock cables. When flipping behind the docks, he relies on a 6 1/2- to 7 1/2-foot heavy-action rod that has enough backbone to pull the fish away from the dock’s cables and other obstacles. He uses 8-pound test line for skipping his lures and 10- to 12-pound test for pitching and flipping.

When the fish are guarding the nest or roaming around it later in the spawn, Pieschl switches to a suspending stickbait that he jerks behind the docks. This technique is especially effective for bigger bass that spawn behind the deeper docks. ‘The bigger bass want to spawn on the back of docks where the water is at least 3 or 4 feet deep,” Pieschl says. Sight fishing can be difficult in this situation due to the shadows of the docks and a bottom-bumping lure tends to blend in with the bottom when it sinks 3 to 4 feet deep. By using the stickbait, Pieschl can see the lure during his whole presentation and the fish will move off the nest to take a swipe at the flashing bait. “Those are fish that a lot of people don’t fool with,” says Pieschl. “When they sight fish here, they spend a great deal of time fishing for the bass that are easiest to see.”

Pieschl moves in behind the docks and pitches his stickbait over the cables and under the catwalks to the bass lurking in the shadows. “It’s very important that you can cast exactly where you want the bait to land,” he says. An errant cast could wrap your lure around a cable or catwalk. Pieschl prefers for the lure to splash when it hits the water, which attracts the bass’ attention.

His technique works best on calm, sunny days because the fish holdtighter to the docks then. Bass tend to roam more on cloudy days. Pieschl selects a medium-diver suspending stickbait with chrome sides for sunny days and a gold-bodied stickbait for cloudy weather. After pitching behind the dock, Pieschl pulls the stickbait with his rod tip down, which causes the lure to dive about 1 foot. He tries to bounces the lure up and down in the same spot on a slack line. Pulling the lure too hard causes the stickbait to move too far towards him and away from the fish. The stickbait hovering in one place resembles a bluegill darting around the nest, which triggers the bass into attacking this intruder. “Bass are reluctant to chase things very far during this time,” Pieschl says. “But if they are behind those docks, they are on the nests and they’ll guard them closely.” Sometimes Pieschl lets the lure sit on the surface and barely twitches it to make the stickbait wobble. This action causes some bass to move up and smash the lure on top.

The stickbait technique allows Pieschl to cover the back of a dock with one retrieve that lasts about 30 seconds. If he knows the spot has a big fish on the nest, he will cast to the same area five or six times before moving to the next dock.

Even though the fish can probably see him, Pieschl claims they still repeatedly strike at the lure and eventually get hooked. The stickbait’s three sets of treble hooks stick even fish that just bump the lure as they try to knock it away from the nest.

The fun begins after the fish is hooked. “Most of the time you have them on only 15 to 20 foot of line and they can get under the dock or into the brush behind the docks,” Pieschl says. The guide relies on bait-casting equipment and 10- to 12-pound test line to horse the fish out from behind a dock. Since he’s constantly fishing over the cables, Pieschl frequently reties his line.

When you fish the Lake of the Ozarks this spring, look for docks in secluded pockets to twitch a stickbait or quiver a lizard around for nesting 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.