Archive for lake of the ozarks

Fishing Lake of the Ozarks During the Holiday Season

Lake of the Ozarks Holiday Fishing

By John Neporadny Jr.

When the holiday season arrives at Lake of the Ozarks, even the fish get in on the holiday feasting.

Some of the best fishing of the year occurs on this Missouri reservoir during November and December as largemouth and spotted bass, crappie and white bass feast on forage in preparation for winter. As the water cools down, the fish become more active and move shallower. Recreational boat traffic has diminished and fishing pressure is minimal since many anglers have turned to hunting during the late fall/early winter period.

“The crappie are schooled a lot during those months so I have a tendency when it gets cooler to keep fishing shallower and shallower,” says Coast-Guard licensed guide Terry Blankenship. “Normally the crappie during this time are very aggressive and it seems to be an excellent time to catch big numbers of fish. Typically you can catch more fish out of a spot more than any other time of the year.”

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

During November Blankenship relies on a 1/16-ounce jig for a faster descent rate when he is shooting the lure to docks or casting to brush piles. When the water temperature drops into the low 40s in December he switches to a 1/32-ounce jig for a slower fall and tries more vertical jigging then. Blankenship matches his jighead with a Bobby Garland Baby Shad or a 3-inch Slab Slayer in blue ice, electric chicken or bayou booger hues.

A spinnerbait and buzz bait are Blankenship’s top lure choices for bass in November when the fish are feasting on shad in the coves. He runs the buzz bait or wakes the spinnerbait over big rocks along the flats of the larger creek coves. As the water temperature continues to cool down during November, Blankenship starts to target brush piles at depths of 10 to 18 feet and slow rolls a 3/8-ounce spinnerbait (double willowleaf blades with white-and-chartreuse skirt) through the cover.

When the water temperature drops below 45 degrees in December, Blankenship keys on steeper banks and cuts in the coves close to the main channel. He catches both bass and crappie on this structure by slowly twitching a suspending stickbait that has a tint of blue, purple or chartreuse on the lure. “It seems like blue is an excellent color to have available for both bass and crappie on this lake,” Blankenship says.

White bass gang up on wind-blown points along the main lake throughout November. One of my favorite tactics for catching whites in the shallows then is to continually jerk a 4-inch Rebel Minnow (black back/chrome sides). The stickbait also triggers vicious strikes from heavyweight hybrid stripers lurking in the shallows.

Popping a topwater chugger and jig combination usually produces better numbers of white bass for me along the gravel points. I remove the front hook of the chugger to prevent line fouling and then tie about a 2-foot trailer line on the rear hook. I complete the rig by tying a white 1/16-ounce marabou jig on the trailer line.

The white bass action usually ends by the beginning of December when the water cools into the low 50s and the fish move out to school in deeper water.

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

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

Key On Isolated Cover for Lake of the Ozarks bass

Key On Isolated Cover for Lake of the Ozarks bass

By John Neporadny Jr.

Lake of the Ozarks guide Jack Uxa has a simple game plan for anglers to follow during autumn.

Targeting shallow isolated cover is Uxa’s recommendation. “Spend five minutes idling in the back of some no-wake cove because you know there is one big stump or log back there,” he says. “If it is isolated cover a big bass can take ownership of that and the fish can be a like a little bulldog and come up and eat a buzz bait or some other type of reaction bait like a square-bill (crankbait) or you can pitch a jig to it.”

The most productive shallow cover during autumn will be in the upper sections of the Grand Glaize, Linn Creek, Niangua, Little Niangua and the various creeks up the Osage arm. Uxa notes that anglers wanting to fish the lower lake near Alhonna Resort can try Buck and Blue creeks or run up the Gravois arm.

Uxa concentrates on the 20- to 30-mile mark of the Osage arm because that is the area he frequently works through his business, Jack’s Guide Service, at Tan-Tar-A Resort. So he suggests visiting anglers should also try familiar waters. “Go fish the area you know the best that way you can adapt the best,” he advises.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

Isolated cover less than 2 feet deep on the flats in the backs of the creeks will hold the best fish. Uxa recommends trolling around to find isolate logs, stumps, docks, sunken boat lifts, small stickups and any stuff your trolling motor knocks into that is below the surface. The most productive cover will be near deeper water. “A lot of the spots are not going to be good,” warns Uxa. “You are going to fail about 90 percent of the time but it only takes one big fish.”

The presence of schools of shad or scattered baitfish will enhance the targeted area. “Baitfish are going to be just about everywhere in October,” says Uxa.

On the initial approach to a piece of shallow cover, anglers should run a buzz bait or fast-moving topwater plug over the target, according to Uxa. Then they should follow up with a jig or another slow-moving lure such as a Texas-rigged Brush Hog or 10-inch plastic worm. Uxa favors a black buzz bait for his surface presentation and pitches a 1/2-ounce jig in a peanut butter and jelly hue with a green pumpkin Berkley Powerbait Chigger Chunk when he wants to probe into the cover. He prefers the heavy jig for a faster fall to trigger reaction strikes.

“How that lure enters the water is really going to be critical,” says Uxa. “A lot of people are going to be making ‘somewhat okay’ casts but you want your cast to enter the water really nice and quiet.” The guide also recommends fishing the entire length of a shallow log and at different angles because a big bass could be holding anywhere on the piece of cover.

One detriment to fishing shallow during October is the dreaded turnover. “Our fall could be different this year,” says Uxa. “Since the water temp was cooler in August, the turnover could be earlier this year—and maybe not as intense.”

The local guide notes that turnover doesn’t occur everywhere on the lake at the same time and the lake is big enough to find areas unaffected by this fall phenomenon. “If you are out there and nothing is going on, somewhere on this lake it is too good to keep it down for too long,” says Uxa. “There is somewhere on this lake where they are going to catch them.”

Anyone coming to the lake for the first time should consider hiring a guide to learn more about the lake. “I will teach you a lot about where to go, where the resorts are or if there are any dangerous areas where you need to idle,” says Uxa. “I can definitely help you out there. If you have never fished docks or humps before, I can help you do that.”

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

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

Fishing Lake of the Ozarks Bluffs

Bluffing For Big Bass at Lake of the Ozarks

By John Neporadny Jr.

Bluffs and docks could be a winning combination for Lake of the Ozarks anglers this autumn.

“I would start in the morning and hit as many bluff end docks as I could because those big fish will come up and suspend under those docks in the fall,” says James Dill of James Dill Guide Service and owner of Crock-O-Gator Bait Company. “I have caught a lot of big fish on an isolated dock that other people just blow by.”

Quality bass that usually hang along the bluff drops during the summer start suspending when the shad move to the surface in the fall. The bass suspend under the bluff-end docks sitting over depths of more than 50 feet and use the boathouses as ambush points to pick off shad. Dill notes this pattern works best when the water temperature drops into the 70-degree range from mid-September to November.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

The local guide tempts these suspending bass with a black 3/4-ounce Crock-O-Gator Headknocker Buzz Bait with a gold blade which he retrieves on 17-pound fluorocarbon line along the sides of the dock all the way to the front ends. “I wil start out reeling it pretty fast and then I will slow it down until I catch a couple,” says Dill. “You may hit a bunch of docks and not catch too many but sooner or later when you do catch a fish doing that it is going to be a good one.” Most of the strikes occur on the front corners of the docks although Dill occasionally catches some fish midway down the sides of the docks.

The bluff pattern works for Dill on the whole lake, but when he’s fishing the lower end he usually throws a Zara Spook on 14-pound monofilament around the docks in the clearer water. Dill advises any angler practicing for a tournament should run the lake and search a 15-mile stretch for isolated docks on the bluff ends. “See how many of those docks you can find in a certain area,” says Dill, who warns anglers to avoid fishing those docks during practice.

Another main lake pattern that produces quality fish for Dill in early October involves stair-stepping a jig down bluff shelves, a structure that big bass live on year-round. Dill opts for a 3/4-ounce Crock-O-Gator Reaction Jig or a 1-ounce football jig in dark colors (brown, green or black-and-blue) tipped with a bulky plastic trailer in the same color. He keys on shelves in the 15- to 18-foot depth range where he pops the jig off a shelf and lets it fall quickly to the next shelf. The local guide repeats the process until the lure drops off into the channel.

Dill likes to make a milk run of bluff docks before 10 a.m. and makes about five to eight casts per dock. Once the sun rises higher in the sky and starts casting shadows around the docks, Dill moves to the back of creeks and coves to target shallow docks. “If it is quiet and nobody has been back there you can catch big fish out of a foot of water,” says Dill.

The buzz bait still produces later in the day for Dill if he throws it to the shady areas of the docks. Then he likes to flip the buzzer into the wells where the lure’s buzzing sound echoes off the boat hoists. “It sends a whole different sound in there especially on those shallow docks,” reveals Dill. “When you flip all the way to the back and you bring that buzz bait and it is echoing through there, if there is a fish within 50 yards he is coming to eat that thing.”

Swimming a jig along the sides and in the wells of shallow docks also produces heavyweight bass for Dill in early October. Dill advises looking for bluegill keeping a safe distance from the docks. “If you are pitching those docks and there are bluegill that are 4 feet out looking into those dock corners there is a big fish there,” says Dill.

Bass can be found just about anywhere under a shallow dock, but the bigger fish tend to hide in hard-to-reach areas such as the walkways behind the dock cables and those small cracks in the flotation. “You have to hit those spots where nobody else has hit,” says Dill.

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

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

Lake of the Ozarks – Great Fishing Opportunities For All

Lake of the Ozarks is a great fishery

By John Neporadny Jr.

Known as one of the Midwest’s most popular vacation spots, Lake of the Ozarks also has a reputation of being one of the best fishing lakes in the country.

Although younger reservoirs appeal to an angler’s eye with flooded timber and undeveloped shorelines, the Lake of the Ozarks entices fishermen with its hidden charms. This 54,000-acre lake lost most of its natural cover when the standing timber was cleared before the lake was formed. New cover has developed over the years as dock owners and anglers have planted brush piles throughout the impoundment. Other fish-holding structure includes steep bluffs, creek channels, humps, and points. Docks provide plenty of shelter for a variety of fish, while lay-downs and log jams are the primary cover for bass, crappie and catfish in the undeveloped sections of the lake.

The various arms of the lake offer diverse water clarity and structure so anglers can catch fish on a wide range of tactics. The Osage arm runs 98 miles from Bagnell Dam to Truman Dam and changes drastically from one end to the other. The North Shore section close on the lower end contains some of the deepest and clearest water on the lake, while the upper Osage near Warsaw narrows until it turns riverine in appearance with the water remaining stained to murky most of the time. The winding Niangua arm resembles a large river more than a reservoir since it has few major coves and a narrow main channel for most of its length.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

The 10-mile Gravois arm is one of the oldest developed sections of the lake so its shoreline is dotted with boat docks. Fed by the gin-clear waters of the Gravois, Little Gravois, Spring Branch, Soap, Indian and Mill creeks, this arm usually remains one of the clearest sections of the lake throughout the year. The Grand Glaize arm runs about 16 miles from its confluence with the Osage arm to the swinging bridges area where the Glaize narrows down to a stream.

If variety is indeed the spice of life, then Lake of the Ozarks spices anglers’ lives with its smorgasbord of fishing opportunities. The lake rates as one of the best reservoirs in Missouri for catching a variety of game fish. Largemouth bass and crappie are the most sought-after fish at the lake, but catfish, white bass, walleye and sunfish also offer plenty of action throughout the year.

The Missouri Department of Conservation’s 9-inch minimum length limit on crappie has helped keep crappie fishing consistently good throughout the year. Limits of keeper-size crappie can be taken in the shallows from March through May and again in October through early December. The key to catching crappie the rest of the year is to find some of the hundreds of brush piles sunken at various depths throughout the lake.

The lake is also loaded with keeper-size bass thanks to the Missouri Department of Conservation’s 15-inch minimum length regulation on black bass. Renowned for its bass fishing, Lake of the Ozarks draws numerous tournaments ranging in size from 10-boat bass club events to 150-boat national circuit contests, which are held each weekend just about year-round. With this sort of attention, the lake receives plenty of fishing pressure, yet still yields heavyweight stringers of bass to tournament competitors.

White bass are another popular catch in the spring and the fall. Local anglers head for the riffles in the major creeks and tributaries to catch spawning whites in April and May. In the fall, they target wind-blown points and pockets to track down white bass chasing baitfish.

Lake of the Ozarks catfish are an obliging sort. They will eat just about anything you put on a hook and can be taken on a variety of methods throughout the warmer months. The three most popular species to catch at the lake are channel, blue (or white cats as the local anglers call them) and flathead catfish. The lake has a reputation for yielding big blue cats each year and has also produced a former state record flathead catfish, a 66-pounder caught by Howard Brownfield in 1987.

Three state record fish have come from the Lake of the Ozarks. Gene Snelling caught a state record muskellunge (41 pounds, 2 ounces) in 1981; Allen Schweiss landed a 36-pound, 12-ounce smallmouth buffalo in 1986; and Ronald Wagner made the record book in 1980 with a 40-pound, 8-ounce freshwater drum.

Several marinas and resorts rent boat to visiting anglers who don’t own one and want to venture out on the water. Newcomers to the lake also can have a rewarding day on the water by hiring a Coast-Guard licensed guide.

Customers at the various lake resorts on the lake can enjoy catching crappie, bass bluegill and catfish from the docks that the resort owners enhance by sinking brush piles in multiple locations.

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

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

Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Vacation

Lake of the Ozarks for Family Fishing Vacation

By John Neporadny Jr.

Lake of the Ozarks is an excellent fishing spot that offers other recreational opportunities such as swimming, hiking, water skiing, sightseeing and camping that the whole family can enjoy.

My home lake is also one of the top family fishing vacation spots in the state, but to get in on the best bass fishing you have to be an early riser or a night owl. Recreational boating is the most popular sport on the lake during a summer day, so all the boat traffic makes it difficult to fish during the mid-day hours.

Savvy bass anglers usually wait for the sun to set before trying for bass. A Texas-rigged 10-inch Berkley Power Worm in black/blue or blue fleck hues is one of the most effective lures to throw for bass hanging out in brush piles 15 to 25 feet deep.

During the summer months, catfish and sunfish keep anglers busy baiting their hooks. “You can catch a ton of channel and blue catfish,” says James Bryant of Bryant’s Osage Outdoors in Laurie. The bait-and-tackle shop owner suggests families can have plenty of fun fishing for catfish and panfish (crappie, bluegill and green sunfish) off of docks and seawalls.

“We sell more panfish equipment here than anything else in the store,” says Bryant. “Pan fishing is the staple of the Lake of the Ozarks. That is what the lake is all about. You don’t have to have an expensive boat; you can enjoy fishing the Lake of the Ozarks from a lawn chair.”

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

Customers at the various resorts on the lake enjoy catching crappie, bass, bluegill and catfish from docks that the resort owners enhance by sinking brush piles in multiple locations. “We have a fishing dock and it produces crappie almost year round,” says Michael Spriggs, owner of Point Randall Resort.

Tight lining for catfish off the resort docks offers families a great chance for a bragging-size catch. “We have a picture on our wall of a kid who caught a 17-pound blue cat right off of our fishing dock,” Spriggs says.

Popular attractions at Lake of the Ozarks include Big Surf amusement park, Miner Mike’s Indoor Family Fun Center, HaHa Tonka State Park, Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Bridal Cave, the Bagnell Dam Strip and the Osage Beach Premium Outlets mall.

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

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

Family Fishing Vacation at Lake of the Ozarks

Family Fishing Vacation at Lake of the Ozarks

By John Neporadny Jr.

When I was a kid, I always cherished our summer fishing trips more than any of our other family vacation excursions.

When I moved from St. Louis to Lake of the Ozarks with my own family, we spent a lot of our summers at home where my daughters learned to fish, swim and water ski. We also visited most of the local attractions including Big Surf water park, HaHa Tonka State Park, the Bagnell Dam Strip and Bridal Cave.

So I have spent a lot of family fishing outings at one of the best lakes in the state, which can also be a great family-friendly vacation destination.

Heavy recreational boat traffic makes fishing tough on my home lake during the summer, but families can still catch plenty of fish if they pick the right times and locations.

When I guided on the lake, I would usually take my clients out bass fishing early in the morning and try to get off the water before noon. In June, we would catch keeper bass and plenty of sub-legal fish on Texas-rigged plastic worms, medium-diving crankbaits, topwater chuggers and Carolina-rigged plastic lizards. I would usually start out on the main lake points in the early morning and as the boat traffic increased I would head for the backs of the major coves and have my clients work plastic worms through the brush piles around docks.

Catfish provide plenty of action for families on vacation at Lake of the Ozarks. Blue and channel catfish can be taken on juglines, trotlines or drifting with cut shad or tight lining from the resort docks with stink baits, nightcrawlers or chicken livers.

Kids can catch bluegill and green sunfish all day long off the resort docks or seawalls. Attaching a small bobber to their lines and baiting their hooks with red wigglers, crickets or even pieces of bread or hot dogs will keep the kids busy until they get tired of catching fish.

Resort owners usually sink brush piles around their docks, which makes these spots ideal for catching crappie at night under the lights. Minnows and jigs are all a family needs to catch some nighttime crappie in June.

The lake area offers families plenty of amenities and attractions when they come off the water. Popular activities at the lake include visiting Big Surf water park, Miner Mike’s Indoor Family Fun Center, HaHa Tonka State Park, Bridal Cave and the Bagnell Dam Strip or shopping at the Osage Beach Premium Outlets mall.

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

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

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

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

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.


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.


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.


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 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

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

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

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

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