Archive for lake of the ozarks

Topwater Bass Fishing at Lake of the Ozarks

Topwater Time At Lake of the Ozarks

by John Neporadny Jr.

There’s no greater thrill in bass fishing than watching a calm surface suddenly explode and your topwater lure instantly vanish.

This scene will be played out many times this month as the waters become warm enough to activate bass into feeding on top. May has always been a prime topwater time for me on my home impoundment, the Lake of the Ozarks. My favorite springtime topwater lure is the Heddon Zara Spook, but I’ve also caught plenty of bass on the surface with topwater chuggers and propellor baits.

A number of factors stimulate bass into striking at objects on the surface during late spring. Mike Kruse, MDC fisheries biologist, suggests this time of year, particularly in a bass’ post spawn stage, is a period of heavy feeding when water temperatures are optimum for largemouth bass and food is abundant. “It’s just an overall period of optimum conditions for growth and feeding when bass’ metabolisms are running full bore and they are looking for food,” the biologist says.

Bass might be looking toward the surface during this time because a lot of terrestrial insects, such as locusts and grasshoppers, fall in the water, Kruse says. But probably the main reason why male bass key in on the surface during May is to protect their fry. “A lot of times the fry hover just under the surface, so the adult males tend to be fairly close to the surface anyway,” says Kruse.

These fish also tend to be extremely aggressive and strike at anything that approaches them along the surface. The speed at which you work a
topwater lure during this time of year depends on the water temperature. Typically, the cooler the water, the slower the retrieve.

A multitude of boat docks makesLake of the Ozarks an ideal place to fish topwater lures in May. Bass use these floating structures for cover throughout the spawning cycle.

Bass tend to congregate at the back ends of docks in the first half of the month, depending on the spawnin gconditions. During the post-spawn later in the month, some bass can still be found behind the docks, but others tend to move out to the sides or even the front of the floating structures where they suspend over sunken brush piles or under the dock’s foam. When fishing behind the docks, throw your topwaterlures on braided line to cut down on line breakage i fyou hook a fish next to the dock’s cables.

In early May, the water temperature is usually in the upper 50s to low 60s so slowly retrieve topwater chuggers, such as Rebel Pop-R’s or Storm Lures Rattlin’ Chug Bugs. You can also catch sluggish bass by slowly swimming or twitching a floating minnow across the surface. By the end of the month swutch to Zara Spooks, buzz baits and topwater propellor plugs that he works at a faster pace since the water has warmed into the 70-degree range.

The backs of pockets and coves are productive topwater areas. Look for dark-color bottoms which tend to hold heat better and warm the water faster. Most bass gather on the pea-gravel banks during the spawn and then move to the chunk rock banks during the post-spawn. Areas close to deep water are best. Even when fishing in coves, concentrate on the areas where there is 15 to 18 feet of water in the back end. In addition to targeting docks, you can also throw your topwater lures around any lay-downs or any brush piles he sees along the shoreline.

The lake’s size allows you to move from one area to another and enjoy prime topwater fishing for three weeks to a month. The best areas for topwater fishing are in the clear-water mid and lower sections 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.

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 Spawning Bass

Lake of the Ozarks bass spawning stages

By John Neporadny Jr.

Learning about the local geography of highland reservoirs can be beneficial to anglers when they want to fish Lake of the Ozarks this spring.

This Ozark highland reservoir features main tributaries twisting through valleys and hollows. The rivers are fed by the spring rains and creeks flowing down from hillside springs. The lake can be divided into three distinct sections: (1) the lower end with its steep bluff banks and deep, clear water; (2) the mid-section with more sloping shorelines, long, gravel points jutting into deep water and a mixture of clear and off-colored water; and (3) the upper end with its riverine characteristics of stained to murky water flowing over long, flat stretches of shoreline combined with some steep channel swing banks.

Rock, brush piles and docks provide the main cover for bass in these lakes. Even though the lake lacks standing timber, bass seek shelter in the sunken brush piles scattered through the reservoir. The best spots to fish in the spring are anywhere you find isolated boulders or rock combined with wood or gravel. Chunk rock and gravel banks provide a forage base of crawfish for bass, while pea-gravel banks are the preferred spawning sites.

Knowing these common characteristics of a highland reservoir will help you develop springtime patterns that can be applied successfully on Lake of the Ozarks. Let’s look at some of the top patterns that produce bass during the three stages of spring (pre-spawn, spawn and post-spawn) on Lake of the Ozarks.

Pre-spawn

If you fish much in the early spring on Lake of the Ozarks, you’ll notice dying shad fluttering to the surface. This usually occurs when the water temperature is still in the upper 30-degree range or the low 40s as shad finally succumb to a long period of cold water. During this time, bass move out of the deep wintertime haunts to the 45-degree chunk rock banks, bluffs, channel swings and main or secondary points.

To catch these suspended fish, throw a suspending deep-diving stickbait in black and silver or blue and silver. You can work the lure with either bait-cast or spinning tackle and 8- to 12-pound test line. Use 8-pound test line for open, clear water and switch to the heavier lines when fishing in stained water.

The suspending stickbait works best during this time of year because the lure’s buoyancy keeps it in the strike zone longer for suspended lethargic bass seeking an easy meal. The lure’s action and profile also imitates the dying shad that provide the main forage for bass in the early spring. Since bass tend to suspend at different depths depending on the weather, you need to vary the type of stickbaits and retrieves for these early spring fish. On sunny days with a warm breeze bass tend to move shallower and can be taken with a steady, jerking retrieve of a medium-diving stickbait. When the weather turns cold, you have to switch back to the deep-diving stickbait and resort to a slow retrieve of pulling the lure along and pausing it for intervals as long as 30 seconds.

Another early spring pattern that produces in the clear water areas, especially after a cold front, requires bouncing plastic grubs or jigs along chunk rock boulders of steep banks leading to pea-gravel spawning flats. The cold front causes bass to seek shelter on the rocky bottom where they feed on crawfish, so you want to use a lure that bounces along the rocks. Slowly lift the lure over the rocks with spinning tackle and 6- to 8-pound test line. One of the best soft-plastic rigs for bottom bouncing is a double-tail plastic grub with a 1/4-ounce rocker or stand-up jighead in crawfish colors (watermelon or pumpkinseed). A 1/4-ounce live rubber or hair jig tipped with a small pork chunk is also a good crawfish imitator that you can effectively crawl along the bottom this time of year.

Fishing on the upper end of Lake of the Ozarks turns on once the water temperature climbs above the 50-degree mark. Break out your heavy-action rod and bait-casting reel filled with 25- to 30-pound test line and slow-roll a spinnerbait or flip a jig and pork frog. In the earliest stages of spring, bass on the upper end congregate along the points of pockets where they can be taken slow-rolling a white or chartreuse tandem willowleaf spinnerbait. A spinnerbait rolled over the rocky point produces enough vibration for bass to pinpoint this shad imitator in the off-colored water.

When the lake is on the rise, flip a jig into shallow cover along the bank. Jigs in 3/8- to 1/2-ounce sizes and in color combinations of black/chartreuse, black/blue or black/brown work best for this pattern. The rapidly warming water of the upper end causes bass to move extremely shallow and burrow into the heaviest cover they can find. The flipping technique allows you to quietly present a slow-falling lure in front of the
shallow fish and winch it out of the cover with your heavy tackle and line.

On the lower two-thirds of the lake, bass continue to migrate towards the spawning banks when the water temperature is in the low 50s. Bass become more active now and have a tendency to chase faster moving lures such as spinnerbaits or crankbaits. Banging a crawfish or fire tiger medium-diving crankbait on the bottom in areas where chunk rock changes to small gravel can be a deadly technique during this time since bass feed heavily on crawfish before moving to the pea-gravel spawning flats. The technique works best when your lure digs into the rocks, so you need a medium-light action rod to make a long cast and a baitcast reel filled with 8- to 10-pound test line, which allows the lure to dive deeper.

As the water temperature moves into the upper 50s, bass in the lake’s lower and mid-sections tend to concentrate on the pea gravel points and flats in depths of 10 to 15 feet about halfway to three-quarters of the way back in coves. On sunny days look for the fish in the little pockets within the coves.

Bass lose interest in chasing anything now and prefer slower-moving, bottom-hugging lures as they continue to feed on crawfish. Tube jigs and plastic grubs catch some fish, but the quickest way to cover a lot of water and still work at a slow pace is to drag a Carolina-rigged plastic lizard or 4-inch finesse worm along the gravel bottom. Rig a watermelonseed or green pumpkin plastic lizard or finesse worm on a 3- to 4- foot leader of 10- to 12-pound test and add a 1/2- to 3/4-ounce bullet or egg-shaped weight. The heavy sinker stirs up silt as it bounces along the gravel bottom, which draws bass towards your lure. Vary your retrieve depending on the mood of the fish. Start with a steady pace for aggressive fish, but if that fails to produce, switch to a slow pull with long pauses for sluggish bass.

Another good crawfish-imitator for this pre-spawn stage is a 3/8-ounce jig and plastic craw in a brown-and-black combination. Tie the lure on 12-pound test line for fishing in clear conditions and open water; thick cover requires heavier line. Pitch the lure to the bank and pop it off the bottom, then let it drop to simulate the action of a crawfish scurrying along the bottom.

Spawn

When the water temperature climbs into the 60s, bass start building their spawning nests. Bass start to scatter along the pea gravel banks throughout the coves and construct spawning beds 3 to 6 feet deep, depending on the water clarity. On the lake’s upper end, the fish build nests even shallower in the dirtier water. The earliest spawning activity will be on the north side of the lake where the water warms faster due to more exposure to the sun and the south winds.

A good pair of sunglasses becomes an important tool when looking for spawning bass in the clear water. Since bass concentrate on building and protecting nests now, you need to use a lure that will slowly fall into the nest and stay there, which forces the bass to pick up the bait and move it out of the bed. A variety of soft plastics will do the trick, such as split- shotting a finesse worm or a 4-inch plastic lizard, or dropping a plastic grub with a 1/8- to 1/16-ounce stand-up jighead into the nest. Skipping a tube jig with a 1/32-ounce jighead over the top of a nest or slowly drifting a jerkworm into a nest also trick spawning bass. A suspending stickbait is also effective since it remains stationary in a nest and when a bass takes a swipe at it, the lure’s sets of treble hooks usually latch onto the fish.

When bass first move on the beds they tend to spook easier and are hard to catch. Switch to light spinning tackle now since you might even have to drop down to 4-pound test line in the clear water. You almost have to pitch your lure up on the bank or at least on the opposite side of the nest and drag it into the bed to prevent spooking the bass. If the fish spooks, leave the lure in the nest until the bass returns, then jiggle the lure to entice the fish into picking it up out of the bed. When bass are locked in on the nest, then you can throw your lures right on top of them and provoke them into hitting.

Hordes of minnows and sunfish pester nesting bass throughout the spawn, triggering bass to smash at anything swimming over the nest. Early in the morning, some bass attack topwater lures, such as chuggers, Zara Spooks, floating worms and buzz baits. The best topwater action during the spawn usually occurs after the water temperature climbs above 65 degrees.

Flipping and pitching continues to work for spawning bass in the river sections. Look for pockets off the main river and target any shallow cover. The best lures for this shallow-water fishing include jigs or Texas-rigged plastic worms, lizards or craw worms These larger profile lures work better in the upper end since bass can locate them easier in the dirtier water. Pitch the lure into the cover and let it fall to the bottom. Shake
the bait once or twice, then pull it out and pitch to another piece of cover.

Post-spawn

The spawn usually ends when the water temperature reaches the 70-degree mark. The arduous task of building nests and producing offspring puts a strain on bass that carries over into this period so slow-motion lures and retrieves are the key to catching bass now. The fish migrate to points near the pea gravel banks where they suspend or drop to the bottom at depths of 10 to 18 feet. The location of the spawning bank determines what type of point holds post-spawn bass. If the bass spawned back in pockets, they move to secondary points before eventually migrating to the main lake points. Bass that spawned in main-lake pockets or in the upper river sections of the lake move to the primary points during the post-spawn.

One of the most exciting post-spawn patterns is topwater fishing, which is an effective early morning tactic in the clearer water of the lower and mid-sections. Male bass are easier to catch now since they stay near the surface to protect their fry. Bass strike at topwater plugs because they perceive these lures as a threat to their fry. A Zara Spook retrieved in a walk-the-dog fashion or a stickbait barely twitched across the surface are two of the best topwater techniques for catching post-spawn bass on these lakes. The stickbait works best on 8- to 10-pound test line, while a Zara Spook walks smoothly on 12- to 14-pound test.

Later in the day, bass tend to drop down and can be taken dragging the bottom with a Carolina-rigged plastic lizard or finesse worm. Look for long, pea gravel points that drop off into deep water (20 to 25 feet deep). Since you’re fishing deeper, use a heavier weight (3/4 ounce) on your Carolina rig. Stay away from the bank and cast close to the drop or beyond it, then drag your lure to the drop-off and let it fall off the edge. Pump the rig with the rod and stop it, then reel up the slack and pump again. Stopping your retrieve allows the lure to rise up and gives the bass a chance to grab it off the bottom.

A Texas-rigged plastic worm is an effective slow-paced lure for catching post-spawn bass. Cast a 7- to 11-inch curly-tail worm with a 1/4-ounce bullet weight along rocky points, let it slowly fall to the bottom and pull it up. The fish will be holding at depths of 8 to 12 feet. Bait-casting equipment with 12- to 14-pound test is most effective in the clearer waters 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. 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.

Catching Bass from the Upper Lake of the Ozarks

Catching Bass from the Upper Lake of the Ozarks

By John Neporadny Jr.

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.

Lake of the Ozarks Suspeding Stickbait Fishing

Suspending stickbaits for Lake of the Ozarks hibernating bass

By John Neporadny Jr.

The older I get the colder I get.

So in recent years I have become more of a fair-weather fisherman and my winter fishing trips on Lake of the Ozarks have been cut drastically. However when the weather is tolerable for my old bones I will get out on the water and throw my favorite wintertime lure—a suspending stickbait.

The suspending stickbait has always been special to me ever since the first time I tried it with Bruce Gier, a renowned stickbait specialist at Lake of the Ozarks. Gier introduced me to the suspending stickbait on March 9, 1989 when the water temperature at Lake of the Ozarks ranged from 37 to 43 degrees that day. We caught 14 keepers that day sweeping a Spoonbill Rattlin’ Rogue weighted down with lead wire. The bass were suspended 4 to 6 feet deep along docks and edges of milfoil beds on secondary points. That memorable day and the cold-water tactic Gier showed me was recorded in my first article ever published in Bassmaster Magazine.

Lure manufacturers have eliminated the need to wrap wire or glue lead tape on stickbaits by making suspending versions of the original floating models. Most of today’s suspending stickbaits are neutrally buoyant when they hit the water, but there are times when I still have to add a SuspenDot or SuspenStrip to make the lure suspend properly. Before we moved to our house on the lake, I used to test the neutral buoyancy of my lure by dropping it into a bucket of water chilled down to the same temperature as the lake water. However now I just walk down to the dock and drop my stickbait into the water to see if it suspends.

Lure sizes, colors and styles have changed dramatically since those early days of suspending stickbait fishing, but the logic behind this tactic has remained the same throughout the years. Get the lure down to a certain depth (usually 4 to 8 feet deep) and let it linger in that strike zone with an occasional series of soft twitches or a short sweep of the rod. The technique works best in clear water, although I have had some success with bone or purple-and-chartreuse stickbaits in stained water.

The style and size of stickbait I use in the wintertime depends on the water temperature. Most of the time I use a 4- or 5-inch medium-diver stickbait, but when the water temperature drops below 40 degrees I will also throw a stickbait with a spoonbill to probe deeper water. In the late winter and early spring as the water temperature climbs above 45 degrees I will switch to a 5 1/2-inch Rattlin’ Rogue to tempt the larger prespawn females looking for a magnum-sized meal.

Color choices on my home waters of Lake of the Ozarks seem to vary from year to year. One year a brown-and-white Rapala Husky Jerk worked best for us, but the next year a ghost shad Bass Pro Shops XPS Suspending Minnow seemed to be the hot lure. The last couple of years I’ve had success on a brown-gold Ima Flit and purple/chartreuse Spro Lures McStick. Following a basic formula usually helps me decide which color to start with on any given day. If the water is clear and it’s a sunny day, I opt for chrome, clown or translucent hues, but if the weather is cloudy or if the water is off-color I prefer stickbaits in bone, purple-and-chartreuse, brown-and-white or fire tiger.

The weather also dictates the gear I use for my stickbait tactics. On extremely windy days or if the air temperature is below freezing I opt for spinning tackle because I can throw the lightweight stickbait into the wind without backlashing and the larger guides on the spinning rod and the open spool of the spinning reel prevents the guides and reel from icing up—a common occurrence with baitcasting equipment. In most situations, I work the stickbait with a 5 1/2-foot medium-action Berkley Lightning Rod (with pistol grip) and a Shimano Curado baitcast reel. I like the shorter rod because it allows me to point the rod downward and twitch the lure without the rod tip hitting the water. I also prefer this rod because its light weight reduces fatigue in my wrists after hours of jerking the stickbait.

Since I normally fish stickbaits in clear water, I scale down to 8-pound test monofilament, but I also try 10-pound test if I want my stickbait to stay higher in the water column. If I want the stickbait to dive deeper I tie it on fluorocarbon since this line absorbs water better and tends to sink. I have occasionally caught bass on a stickbait that slowly sinks, but most of the bites I trigger with a stickbait come when the lure has neutral buoyancy or barely rises. I also like to make sure my stickbait sits level horizontally or with its nose slightly pointed downward, which I achieve by placing weight near the bill of the lure or putting a larger hook on the front hook hanger.

I usually vary my retrieve depending on the weather and water temperature. When I use the deep-diving stickbait in extremely cold water and bright sunshine, I crank the lure down with about five or six turns of the reel handle and then employ a series of rod sweeps (moving the rod about 1 foot at a time) and pauses of about 10 to 15 seconds. Anytime there is a chop on the water, I opt for the medium-diver, which I also crank down to where it reaches its maximum depth and then I give the lure two to three slight twitches of the rod tip before letting it sit for five to 10 seconds. A trick I have learned from stickbait specialists at Table Rock Lake is to pull the lure a couple of inches after a long pause to imitate the struggles of a dying shad.

The biggest bass I ever caught on the Lake of the Ozarks was an 8-pound, 1-ounce largemouth that fell for a suspending stickbait. That’s probably why the suspense of watching my line as I pause my stickbait warms me up on a cold winter day because I know that next bite could be from a trophy fish.

For information on lodging 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.

Soar With the Eagles at Lake of the Ozarks Eagle Days

Lake of the Ozarks Eagle Days

Lake of the Ozarks, Mo. – The bluffs and forests around Central Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks are a popular destination for eagles on their annual southern migration. Visitors who want to see these majestic birds in their natural habitat should make Lake of the Ozarks Eagle Days a winter weekend destination Jan. 3-4, 2015.

Missouri is one of the leaders in eagle population in the lower 48 states, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation, with more than 2,000 bald eagles reported each winter. They are drawn to warmer, wooded areas such as the Lake of the Ozarks in their migration from Alaska, Canada and the northern U.S.

Eagle Days activities allow attendees to see the birds in a natural setting, as well as offering opportunities for up-close viewing at programs offered by the World Bird Sanctuary. Events on Saturday, Jan. 3, begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 5:30 p.m. On Sunday, Jan. 4, events begin at 10 a.m. and end at 4:30 p.m. All Eagle Days activities and sites are located in Lake Ozark, all within a short drive of one another.

Eagle-viewing activities are located at Willmore Lodge and the Bagnell Dam Access. Eagle-watchers are encouraged to bring cameras and binoculars. Interactive exhibits and crafts will be on display at Willmore Lodge each day, and eagle nest-building and rope-making exhibitions will be held at the Bagnell Dam Access.

At Osage National Golf Resort, live eagle programs are presented by the World Bird Sanctuary from St. Louis, beginning on the hour from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

School of the Osage Heritage Elementary will feature two programs by Springfield’s Dickerson Park Zoo. The “Live Owls of Missouri” program features information about the species of owls indigenous to Missouri. The second program, called “Day Shift, Night Shift and Garbage Gal” provides information about hawks, owls and turkey vultures. These shows will be held every hour on the half-hour beginning at 9:30 a.m. and ending at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. There will also be coloring contests and other activities for kids, as well as nature-related exhibitors including the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Department of Conservation.

If weather permits, eagle-watching cruises will be offered aboard the Tom Sawyer for a nominal fee. Attendees interested in taking the cruise should go to the boarding area on Bagnell Dam Blvd.

Lake of the Ozark Eagle Days is made possible by the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitor Bureau, Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, Osage National Golf Resort, FaceLift Marketing, School of the Osage, Missouri Master Naturalist – Lake of the Ozarks Chapter and Boy Scouts of America. To learn more about Eagle Days, visit LakeoftheOzarksEagleDays.com or call 1-800-386-5253.

For information on the year-round fun at Missouri’s Fun Lake, including activities, events, dining and accommodations, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB) at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the CVB’s multiple award-winning website, FunLake.com.

For media assistance or high-resolution photography, please call The Beenders-Walker Group toll-free at 1-800-544-8474 or email Marjorie Beenders, Jo Duncan, Deb Hendricks or Kyle Stewart.

Enjoy Lake of the Ozarks all Year Long

FOUR SEASONS, MANY REASONS TO ENJOY THE LAKE OF THE OZARKS OUTDOORS

Lake of the Ozarks, Mo. – Central Missouri enjoys four distinctly beautiful seasons each year, offering Lake of the Ozarks visitors plenty to do year-round. You can revel in the views of the water or the depths of the forest as each season presents a different color palate. In the spring, feast your eyes on the pink, lavender and white of flowering dogwoods and redbuds. When fall comes, rustle through the falling red, yellow and orange leaves when the woods are aflame with color. Enjoy the shade and admire all the shades of green in the summer and see the area in a new way when it is covered with a blanket of winter white snow. Set all these hues against the blue waters of the Lake of the Ozarks for unmatched beauty.

Hiking in the Park Hiking is a four-season favorite at the two Missouri State Parks in the Lake area. Ha Ha Tonka features the ruins of a 1900s castle constructed atop a bluff overlooking the Niangua arm of the Lake, as well as 14 hiking trails. Lake of the Ozarks State Park, the state’s largest, features 12 trails ranging in length from .8 of a mile to 13.5 miles.

With 54,000 acres of water, boating fun is a given on the Lake of the Ozarks. Visitors can choose a leisurely cruise with a group of friends on a pontoon or a speedboat to rush across the water, perfect for waterskiing or tubing. There are plenty of public ramps for those who bring their own boats, or the area’s marinas rent boats, as well as personal watercraft.

Lake of the Ozarks State Park offers two public beaches for swimming. Many of the area’s resorts, campgrounds and restaurants offer swimming beaches. The quiet coves along the Lake offer opportunities for activities like paddle boating and paddle boarding, a new activity in the area.

Fishers and hunters find their fun in the waters and hills of the Lake of the Ozarks. Crappie, bass, catfish and many other fish are plentiful in the Lake and nearby rivers, such as the Osage and the Niangua. Tournaments in the spring and fall can make this hobby profitable, as well. Visitors can bring their own boats, rent boats in the area or book a fishing guide to provide a boat, plus all the tackle and knowledge needed to ensure a successful trip. In winter, several of the area’s family-owned resorts offer heated docks for comfortable fishing in the cooler seasons.

When it comes to hunting, deer and turkey are popular targets in the fall, but the Lake area has seasons for quail and many other varieties of game year-round. Those looking to hunt turkey in the spring find plenty of hens and jakes waiting at the Lake of the Ozarks. The combination of timber and open fields makes the Lake area appealing for hunters and game alike, and waterfowl cannot resist the Lake. The Lake of the Ozarks is also a prime location for visitors who “hunt” birds with cameras and binoculars. They’ll find majestic bald eagles, beautiful blue herons, tiny ruby-throated hummingbirds and everything in between.

Outdoor fun also can take visitors indoors (sort of) when they go underground at the Lake of the Ozarks. The area features four show caves, which are open for guided walking tours year-round. Bridal Cave, Jacob’s Cave, Ozark Caverns and Fantasy World Caverns feature cave formations that include a “pipe organ” of stalactites in Bridal Cave, “angel’s shower” in Ozark Caverns, prehistoric bones in Jacob’s Cave and an underground lake in Fantasy World Caverns. Cave temperatures remain in the 60s year-round, so this is a perfect all-weather activity.

The Lake of the Ozarks is a popular golfing destination and a wonderful way to enjoy the area’s great outdoors. Some of the game’s greats, such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Floyd Farley, Ken Kavanaugh, Bruce Devlin, Robert Van Hagge and Robert Trent Jones, have all designed courses at the Lake, all at an incredible value. And while many think of golf as a summer activity, the Lake’s 14 courses encourage golfers to experience the beauty of spring and fall from their links. In winter, the temperatures average in the 40s in the area, but the courses are open year-round so golfers can catch the milder days in the 50s and 60s.

Visitors who want to enjoy the outdoors overnight will find many campgrounds and RV parks around the Lake area. Those who want to sleep indoors can take their pick of full-service resorts, smaller family owned resorts, bed and breakfast inns, and hotels and motels offering indoor comfort to complement their outdoor activities.

For information about all this outdoor fun, and much more, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit FunLake.com. The award-winning website has information about all of the Lake area’s attractions and events, restaurants and accommodations, indoors and outdoors.

For media assistance or high-resolution photography, please call The Beenders-Walker Group toll-free at 1-800-544-8474 or email Marjorie Beenders, Jo Duncan, Deb Hendricks or Kyle Stewart.

LAKE OF THE OZARKS TRI-COUNTY LODGING ASSOCIATION & CONVENTION AND VISITOR BUREAU
Phone: 800-FUN-LAKE (386-5253) Fax: 573-348-2293
P.O. Box 1498 Osage Beach, MO 65065
Website: www.FunLake.com Email: Info@FunLake.com

Edwin Evers Fishing Tips for Lake of the Ozarks

Evers runs patterns at Lake of the Ozarks

By John Neporadny Jr.

Twelve-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier Edwin Evers has fished five B.A.S.S. tournaments at Lake of the Ozarks so he is familiar with the lake.

Despite his history on the lake that includes a ninth-place finish in the 1999 Bassmaster Central Invitational, Evers would still do some research on Lake of the Ozarks by surfing the web. When researching a lake, Evers visits websites in search of tournament results, fishing reports, charts on water temperatures and lake levels and general information on seasonal patterns.

A website gives Evers a good starting point when he tries to put together patterns on the vast waters of Lake of the Ozarks. “It is a big lake,” he says. “It is just a lake that I can run a pattern on. It is not a lake where you can sit on one spot all day and win. You can run a pattern and to me those are my favorite lakes.” Since the lake is so large, Evers notices no one is usually in front of him running the same pattern.

“The diversity of the lake is another really awesome thing,” he says. “It has the lower end with boat docks from one end to the other, but then you have the river and creeks and there is clear water that comes in and you can also find stained water. You can pretty much find whatever you want to find on that lake.”

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

The Oklahoma pro has caught bass on Lake of the Ozarks flipping jigs along bluffs in the early spring, but he has been most successful running up the Osage River arm and fishing shallow docks in the fall. When the water temperature drops into the 60s, Evers throws a square-bill crankbait or a War Eagle spinnerbait down the sides of the shallow docks. He has also done well swimming a jig along the docks.

Finding out how far back in the pockets the bass have moved to and where the fish are positioning on the docks are the keys to success for Evers during autumn. “When I am practicing I will start at the mouth (of the pockets) and work all the way around that,” he says. “I will do that for two or three coves until I find something that is similar. When I start figuring out where they are in that pocket then I have my pattern established. “

Unseasonably warm temperatures for early November made for tough fishing during the 1999 Missouri Central Invitational on Lake of the Ozarks as Randy Jackson won the three-day event with only 34 pounds, 13 ounces. Evers had 25 pounds to finish ninth and caught most of his fish burning a square-bill crankbait around isolated docks 1 to 5 feet deep. He recalls catching multiple keepers on some of the isolated docks.

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.

Bass Population Thriving at Lake of the Ozarks

Bass Population Thriving at Lake of the Ozarks

By John Neporadny Jr.

A bountiful bass population will make for an exciting fall at Lake of the Ozarks, but one of Mother Nature’s annual quirks could slow down some of the action.

“From a fisheries biologist standpoint it is a pretty boring population because it never changes,” says Greg Stoner, Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) fisheries biologist. “It is always good because we don’t see fluctuations in year-class strength and growth rate like they do in some other lakes. In this lake we have very stable recruitment and very stable growth rates so the population doesn’t change much from year to year.”

Tournament weights have increased in recent years, which could be an indication of a couple of years of above average recruitment in the bass population. “You will see that reflected in the tournament catches and angler catch rates because there is a higher percentage of big fish out there,” says Stoner.

The fisheries biologist notes the Lake of the Ozarks scored high on the RSD metric, which is a stock density measurement that determines the percentage of catchable bass (8 inches or longer) in a body of water. The percentage for Lake of the Ozarks was determined by dividing the number of legal-size bass (15 inches and larger) by the number of bass under legal size that were taken during electrofishing sampling by the MDC. “That number generally runs about 22 to 25 percent of the fish, so about a quarter of the catchable fish in the lake at any given time are legal fish,” says Stoner.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

A major factor aiding the yearly recruitment of Lake of the Ozarks bass is the abundance of docks that provide plenty of cover for young bass. “We probably have more cover in this lake than Truman or Pomme de Terre have,” Stoner says. “There are 25,000 docks on this lake and maybe a third of the people put brush out around their docks so that is a lot of brush. “

With such a large bass population the fishing should be easy during this fall since the water is cooling down and bass are feeding heavily in preparation for winter. However the fall turnover could curtail some of the action. Stoner believes anglers can use the turnover as a viable excuse for struggling in the fall if they are fishing in an affected area. “I don’t know if the fish feed differently then or all of sudden they can go anywhere,” says Stoner.

Bass can go anywhere during or after the turnover due to a mixing of oxygen through various water layers. “To understand turnover you have to understand the characteristic of water in lakes called stratification,” says Stoner. “When coming out of the winter and into the spring, water starts warming up and you will get a layer down to 25 feet called the thermocline. Above that there is an area called the epilimnion where all the photosynthesis takes place and where your oxygen is at. When you get to the thermocline there is a rapid drop in temperature but also a rapid drop in oxygen. Below the thermocline is a layer called the hypolimnion which is devoid of oxygen in the summer. So by the end of summer you have these three distinct layers set up. “

The top layer of water is lighter in density than the thermocline, but when cooler weather arrives in the fall, the warmer top layer cools down and becomes denser. As the water continues to cool, the surface water’s density continues to increase causing the layer to drop and mix with the thermocline. The turnover occurs when the upper zone cools to the same temperature (somewhere in the 50-degree range) as the bottom so there is no difference in water density and stratification has broken down. This allows the similar densities and temperatures of the water layers to mix and create the turnover.

Water affected by the turnover usually has a milky green tint to it. Some areas will be covered on the surface with bits of moss and bubbles, which is the result of algae dying and decomposing in the cooler water.

Turnover typically occurs from mid- to late October but will start sooner if the weather has been unseasonably cooler in late summer or early fall. Stoner notes the upper tributaries turn over first, and it might take three weeks to a month for the turnover to spread throughout the whole lake. That means anglers will always be able to find sections of the lake unaffected by turnover.

Another fall phenomenon anglers should pay attention to is the shad migration. Stoner believes the cooler water temperatures and food supply in the fall draw shad to the backs of coves. “If there is a good warm, sunny day the baitfish will be in the backs of the coves,” he says. “They are also putting on the feedbag for winter and they feed on plankton. When the water is warm on sunny days there will be more production of plankton in the coves.

“If the sunlight can hit the bottom sediment it is going to make it a little warmer and algae will grow on the sediments that the shad will feed on,” says Stoner. “Shad don’t just swim around and pick plankton out of the water. If you go to the back of the coves and see bubbles coming up, that is where the shad are pecking at algae on the bottom.”

The biologist also suggests looking for gulls in the coves to find large concentrations of baitfish.

Stoner recalls winning a tournament at Lake of the Ozarks during the fall by keying on big schools of shad in the back end of a tributary. He caught all of his fish throwing a 3/4-ounce Rat-L-Trap that he let sink 10 to 15 feet deep into the schools of suspended shad.

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.

Bass Fishing the Osage River Arm Lake of the Ozarks

Roll Up the River for Big Lake of the Ozarks Bass

By John Neporadny Jr.

With heavy fishing pressure expected on Lake of the Ozarks in the fall, Wayne Fitzpatrick knows avoiding the pressure is a key to winning autumn tournaments.

“The majority of (tournament) fishermen stay on what I consider the big part of the lake,” says Fitzpatrick, the owner of Fitz’ Fishing Tackle and Supplies. “The fish down (on the lower end) get pressured to death. There isn’t a square inch of bank that doesn’t get fished. If you know the (Osage) river system from the 45-mile maker up towards Truman Dam there are some huge fish that live up there and you can get away from a lot of the pressure and boat traffic.”

Fitzpatrick is a renowned Lake of the Ozarks tournament competitor who has caught bass deep in early October with a big jig or plastic worm, but he suggests visiting anglers should target thin water. “About 75 percent of the bass in October are going to be relating to shallow water,” he says. “For the past few years in fall tournaments it seems like every big fish that has been weighed in has probably been caught pretty shallow.”

When fishing up the Osage River Arm, Fitzpatrick tries both the main lake and back in the coves during early October. “It just all depends on where the baitfish are,” he says. “For the most part the fish are going to be moving back into the coves following the shad.”

Power fishing works best for Fitzpatrick when targeting shallow cover, which means he is using heavy line and throwing a buzz bait or flipping jigs, tube baits or beaver-style baits. “When I am fishing docks I never go less than 20-pound test line and if I am fishing a jig or tube it is always fluorocarbon,” says Fitzpatrick. “If I am throwing buzz bait a lot of times I will go to maybe 65-pound braid because I am throwing that around cables and the sharp corners of docks.”

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

Fitzpatrick favors dark colors for his lures in the stained waters of the upper Osage. He opts for black buzz baits and jigs, tubes and beaver- or hawg-style baits in a black neon hue. The local angler combines a 3/8- or 7/16-ounce jig with a plastic trailer “that has a lot of movement to it” such as a NetBait Paca Chunk or a variety of Zoom trailers. Either dragging the jig along the bottom or swimming it along shallow docks for suspended bass triggers strikes for Fitzpatrick. “When I am swimming a jig I want something pretty bulky (for his trailer) with big flappy tails that are moving a lot of water.”

When he fishes buddy tournaments, Fitzpatrick deploys a strategy with his partner so one of them throws a buzz bait and the other a Zara Spook. The key to this strategy is having the patience to throw these lures for fewer bites, but bigger fish. “My son and I fished a Big Bass Bash (in 2008) and we picked up a Zara Spook that morning and threw it all day,” recalls Fitzpatrick. They weighed in a 5.73-pound largemouth the first day and earned $1,000 for having the top fish in the 9 a.m. time slot. Their fish was the sixth biggest bass weighed in during the two-day event.

Fitzpatrick picks docks as the key type of cover to target during the fall. “Just beat those docks to death,” he suggests.

When practicing for a tournament, contestants should avoid sticking fish. “I definitely wouldn’t want to set the hook on too many if I were prefishing,” warns Fitzpatrick. “If a guy is real careful when he is jig fishing, he can put a little pressure on the fish and pull it up to see what size it is. The fish will actually come up and shake its head. That doesn’t bother them nearly as bad as if you stick them and fight them.” Fitzpatrick believes you have a better chance of catching that fish the next day or two if you shake it off rather than setting the hook on it.

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.

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.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

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.