Archive for lake of the ozarks

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.

Upper Lake of the Ozarks Summer Bass Fishing

Upper Lake of the Ozarks Is Summer Bass Fishing Getaway

By John Neporadny Jr.

Bass fishing on Lake of the Ozarks in August? Even the most die-hard bass angler cowers at the thought of having to venture on this pleasure-boat mecca during the heat of summer.

Yet despite all the rocking and rolling waters on most of the lake, the upper reaches of the lake’s Osage arm offer refuge from the pleasure boating crowds—and some good bass action with a minimal amount of fishing pressure. “From Memorial Day to Labor Day there’s not much bass fishing pressure,” says Roger Fitzpatrick, an Eldon, MO, angler who took third place in the 2001 Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League All-American. He notes a few club tournaments are held in August at Drake Harbor, but most of the fishing pressure in that area comes later in the month when tournament anglers begin pre-fishing for fall events.

“Fishing pressure is a lot less up there than it is on some of the other parts of the lake,” says Chad Brauer, a former B.A.S.S. titleholder from Osage Beach, MO.

The run from the lake’s most popular tournament site at Grand Glaize Public Beach 2 to the upper Osage (a one-hour ride even on smooth water) contributes to the lack of angling pressure. “That automatically eliminates quite a few boats from committing to make that long of a run, especially in August,” says Brauer. “If it’s on a weekend you’re going to have 30 miles of real rough water.”

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

The upper Osage (from Little Buffalo Creek to Truman Dam) is similar to the higher reaches of the Grand Glaize, Niangua and Gravois tributaries. All have stained to murky water and mud flats dotted with lay-downs and submerged logs and brush. However the larger Osage arm contains more mud flats and its water clarity varies more often. “Some of the dirtiest water can typically be found from Cole Camp Creek to the Buffaloes, but then right below Truman Dam can have really clear water sometimes,” discloses Fitzpatrick.

The lake turns into a slow, meandering river in this section and navigation becomes more treacherous. Siltation has filled in the mouths of the feeder creeks, coves and sloughs so anglers need to use extreme caution when navigating on the upper end. Keeping an eye on their electronics helps them follow the channel when running the main lake and find the boat lanes to get into the creeks.

The numerous feeder creeks in this riverine section make it distinct from other sections of the Lake of the Ozarks. “It’s one of the areas on the lake that actually has some of the big creeks that look like traditional creeks with actual channels and bluff banks in the back of them,” says Brauer. “Whereas in the lower end of the lake many of the creeks are big coves that really don’t have distinctive channels.” The backs of the upper Osage arm creeks also contain mud flats, plenty of lay-downs and other natural cover, and a constant flow of water throughout the year.

The most prominent feeder streams in this area include Little Buffalo, Big Buffalo, Deer, Cole Camp and Turkey creeks. Brauer has had plenty of success in Cole Camp and Turkey, but he believes all of the upper Osage creeks produce bass. “There is really not a bad one in the bunch,” he says. “I can think of times when I’ve caught good fish in all of them. They all seem to have good populations of fish.”

If the water level is up, the sloughs within four miles of Truman Dam also produce bass action. “Those are actually a little bit better at times because they don’t get quite as much pressure as the bigger creeks do,” says Brauer. “Maybe they don’t have as many fish in them, but you don’t have as many people going in them. So the fish in there are a little easier to catch.”

The water level determines where Brauer fishes the upper end. His first choice is the creeks if the water level is up. “You start to see more baitfish move toward the backs of those creeks,” says Brauer. “That’s a big key to see a lot of baitfish swimming up on the flats. The weather is still pretty hot but bass are following those baitfish so they really don’t mind that warmer water temperature in the shallows. So that’s really the first place on the Lake of the Ozarks where the fall shallow bite comes on.”

Isolated logs and boat docks along the flats are key targets for Brauer. He usually finds bass anywhere from 1 to 5 feet deep at this time. “The fish get shallower and shallower as the water gets cooler,” he notes. Brauer also concentrates on docks or lay-downs along bluff banks where bass are suspended 2 to 3 feet deep over depths of 10 to 12 feet.

The main channel also produces bass, especially in low-water conditions. “It’s basically the same pattern,” suggests Brauer. “Get out on those flats and fish isolated cover. You’ll see the baitfish there and you know the bass will be there once you see the baitfish move up.”

Brauer relies on two lures to take bass from the upper Osage in August. He usually starts swimming a white 1/4-ounce Strike King Pro Model jig and white pork or plastic grub trailer around the isolated cover or the boat docks. A white or white-and-chartreuse Strike King Elite spinnerbait also works for Brauer. “It’s a matter of getting the spinnerbait around that cover,” says Brauer. “Sometimes you can burn it and then kill it to get strikes.” On cloudy days, Brauer likes to throw a buzz bait along the flats.

A lack of tournaments in August has prevented Fitzpatrick from fishing the upper Osage lately, but throughout the years the Missouri angler relied on boat docks to produce the best pattern in late summer. If the lake was high, Fitzpatrick also ran 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 out of each of them you can determine whether the dock pattern on the main lake or in the coves will be the strongest.”

Swimming a jig around the docks is his favorite technique on the upper Osage during August. Fitzpatrick selects a white 3/8-ounce jig tipped with a white plastic grub trailer.

During other times of the year, current affects the fishing in this area. “But in August there usually isn’t any or very little,” says Fitzpatrick. “There are times when the current is going that the fish tend to get around points better but I can only remember a handful of times when there was current in August.”

Brauer also believes water flow has little effect on his patterns then. “Sometimes you’ll get a little bit of current that may stir the baitfish up a little more or get the bass a little bit more active,” he says. “But once the fish move on those shallow flats in the backs of the creeks, current really doesn’t play as much of a role as it does in the summer when the fish are a little bit deeper.”

Largemouth bass dominate the catch on the upper Osage. “You can catch small fish, but it seems like that end of the lake doesn’t have quite as many numbers of 12-inch fish,” says Brauer, who caught his first bass weighing more than 7 pounds on the upper end in August. “You seem to get better quality fish. On a good day on the lower end you might catch 20 to 30 fish. On a good day up there you might catch 15 but your five best are going to be bigger.”

Fitzpatrick offers about the same assessment of the upper Osage’s bass population. “You don’t usually catch a lot of 6-and 7-pounders but there are plenty of 4- and 5-pound fish,” he says. “You are more apt to catch those size fish and lots of keepers.”

Catching quality bass in August on Lake of the Ozarks? It’s possible if you leave the lower lake to the pleasure boaters and seek the solitude of the upper Osage.

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 Bass Fishing Niangua Arm

Catching Bass on Lake of the Ozarks’ Niangua Arm

John Neporadny Jr.

The winding Niangua arm of the Lake of the Ozarks resembles a large river more than a reservoir since it has few major coves and a narrow main channel for most of its length. However this riverine section annually yields some big bass.

“Most of the banks there all look the same so you have to fish something with some type of drop-off to it,” suggests Marty McGuire, a veteran bass tournament competitor and owner of Marty’s Marine in Osage Beach. No major creeks run into the Niangua, but it is fed by another large tributary, the Little Niangua River.

Since it’s farther away from the popular tournament site at PB2, the Niangua seems to experience less fishing pressure from bass anglers. However, the arm receives plenty of traffic—especially in the spring–from crappie anglers, who launch their boats at the Larry R. Gale Conservation Access.

This section of the lake has a reputation of producing big bass each year. “There are a lot of great big fish on that arm, but you don’t just go up there and catch one of them,” warns McGuire, who believes the largest concentration of heavyweight bass are probably in the milfoil of the HaHa Tonka Springs cove. “You could go up there and fish a month and never get a bite and then pull up in there one day and catch 20 out of it, including a 10-pounder. Probably 90 percent of the fish that I’ve caught over 7 pounds on this lake have come from the Niangua.” He rates April as the prime time to catch a big bass on the Niangua, but September and October are also good months for lunkers there.

In extremely cold weather during January, McGuire relies on a 3-inch green pumpkin tube attached to a 1/8- or 1/ 4-ounce jighead. He slowly works

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

the lure on 8-pound test line through brush piles and along points.

When the water temperature ranges from 39 to 45 degrees in January and February, McGuire depends on a medium-diving suspending stickbait that he twitches on spinning tackle with 8-pound line. His favorite hue for clear water is black back, yellow and green sides and chartreuse belly) while a gray ghost model (black back and gray sides) produces best for him in tinted water.

McGuire slowly pulls the Rogue over brush piles 10 to 12 feet deep along bluff points and pockets. “The slower you fish it, the better chance a bass has to eat it,” he advises.

When the water temperature climbs above 46 degrees, McGuire switches to a Storm Lures Wiggle Wart crankbait that he runs on 8- to 10-pound test along flatter banks leading into pockets. His favorite crankbait colors are black-and-chartreuse for dirty water and brown-and-orange in clear water.

The local angler also relies on a brown-and-chartreuse or brown-and-orange finesse jig tipped with a green pumpkin plastic craw that he ties on 8- to 10-pound line. McGuire pitches to the bank and crawls the jig back over big rocks and logs 6 to 8 feet deep. “The fish don’t seem to get awful deep there,” claims McGuire. “Even when the water temperature is around 40 degrees I catch most of my fish from 6 to 10 feet deep.”

During the spawn, some bass can be caught by sight fishing around docks in the clear water section near the Highway 5 Bridge. McGuire looks for nesting fish behind docks and along seawalls in the flat pockets. His favorite lures for bedding bass include white, pink or green floating worms and Zoom Flukes, white tube baits and a jig-and-craw combo. McGuire also uses floating stickbaits that he rips through the nest to trigger a reaction strike. Spinning tackle and 8- to-10-pound test line are McGuire’s choice for the soft plastics; he relies on bait-casting tackle and 15-pound test line for fishing the jig behind the docks. Depending on the moon phases and the weather, the spawn on the Niangua usually occurs in the middle to latter part of April, McGuire discloses.

A 1/2-ounce Crock-O-Gator buzz bait produces bass for McGuire during the post spawn. He favors a white buzzer on sunny days and a black model during overcast weather. If the fish blow up and continue to miss the buzz bait, McGuire switches to a Heddon Super Spook in black, clear or shad pattern hues. He works the topwater lures around big rocks, concrete pillars of docks or shallow brush in areas close to the spawning banks.

Bass sometimes can be taken flipping a jig-and-craw during a hot summer day. “It is so unpredictable there in the daytime of summer,” cautions McGuire. “You can go up the rivers, get on the mud flats and flip the shallow boat docks and one day you may catch 50 fish, but you may go back and not have a bite there for a month.” McGuire also flips a Texas-rigged magnum tube (green pumpkin or black with red flake) to the shallow docks.

The most consistent bass action on the Niangua is at night. McGuire opts for 10-inch Berkley Power Worms or 6- to 7-inch paddle tail worms that he drags through brush piles 10 to 15 feet deep along main lake points, ledges and steep banks. His favorite worm colors are red shad or black for the Power Worms and green pumpkin for the paddle tails. He throws the worms on 20-pound line throughout most of the summer, although he scales down to 15-pound test late in the season to get more bites.

In September, McGuire continues to flip the jig or tube along rows of shallow boat docks. When the water cools down to the lower 60s in October, McGuire runs a spinnerbait or swims a jig along the sides of docks. He selects a white 3/8- to 1/ 2-ounce jig combined with a white pork chunk to imitate shad in the fall and attaches the combo to 20-pound test line. Most of the time, McGuire steadily cranks the jig next to the dock’s foam and lets it drop at the corner of the dock before reeling it in for another pitch.

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.

Summer Bass Fishing at Lake of the Ozarks

Lake of the Ozarks Fast Lane to Great Fishing

by John Neporadny Jr.

While cursed by many anglers, recreational boat traffic is a blessing in disguise for bass at the Lake of the Ozarks.

“Bass don’t get any fishing pressure here in the summertime,” says 1997 BASS Masters Classic champion and FLW pro Dion Hibdon, who started guiding on this central Missouri lake before he even got his driver’s license. “We get very little fishing pressure even during the spawn because most of the bass spawn in May and a lot of the big boats are already out by then.”

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

When balmy weather arrives in May, the fleets of cabin cruisers, off-shore racing boats, pleasure boats, house boats and jet skis churn the waters and chase bass anglers off the lake. Hibdon believes this lack of fishing pressure helps bass recuperate from the spawn and protect their fry, which increases the survival rate of young bass. “The boat traffic then gives those young bass a good start and it shows,” the Stover, Mo., angler says. ” We have just as good of a bass population as any lake in the country.”

Constructed during the Great Depression, 54,000-acre Lake of the Ozarks was the largest man-made lake when it officially opened May 30, 1931. Fed by the Osage and Niangua rivers, the reservoir can be divided into three distinct sections. The lower end near Bagnell Dam typifies a highland reservoir with its deep, clear water. The mid-lake section still has steep banks, but the water turns stained. As you move up the Osage and Niangua arms, you run into typical river conditions of shallow, dirty water and lay-downs scattered along the banks.

“The lake has an extremely good river system that is partly current-oriented,” says Hibdon. Bass can be caught 2 to 3 feet deep year-round in the riverine sections of the lake. Bass-holding structure throughout the lake includes creek and river channel bends, bluffs, points and flats. Most of the banks consist of either chunk rock or pea gravel.

Potential bass cover vanished when developers removed most of the timber before the lake was filled. But bass found new havens when boat docks spread over the impoundment. “That’s kind of the ultimate cover,” says Hibdon. “You can get a bait down through grass or brush, but there is absolutely no way you can fish a boat dock completely. Docks also have lots of places for bass fry to hide behind and get bigger.”

Docks usually have another piece of man-made cover nearby. “Every boat dock has a little dab of brush around it,” says Hibdon. Thousands of docks dot the lake, but certain ones produce more bass.

The pre-spawn (March and April) rates as Hibdon’s best time to catch quality bass and numbers of fish. The whole lake produces consistent action in the late spring and throughout the summer, Hibdon says. During early summer, the touring pro relies on shad-pattern crankbaits to catch bass roaming along points or 7- and 8-inch plastic worms for fish holding in brush less than 10 feet deep. He prefers a motor oil worm in the clear water and black or tequila sunrise worm in the stained sections of the lake. Later in the summer, Hibdon works a 10-inch plastic worm or a deep-diving crankbait through the brush. The boat traffic drives bass 15 to 20 feet deep on the lower end of the lake. You can catch bass in shallower brush the farther you move up the rivers.

The summer heat and increased boat traffic turn bass into nocturnal feeders. Night fishing is excellent on the Lake of the Ozarks from the end of June through September on the lower end of the lake. A five-fish limit weighing more than 20 pounds is sometimes required to win local weeknight tournaments running 3 1/2 hours.

A black spinnerbait worked through the brush produces at night through June. Later in the summer, local anglers switch to a 10-inch plastic worm which they crawl along the rocky bottom or through brush on main and secondary points.

The lake is an ideal spot to combine a fishing trip with a family vacation. Nestled in the foothills of the Ozarks, the lake’s 1,150 miles of shoreline and its surrounding communities draw more than 3 million visitors a year to partake in the area’s limitless recreational opportunities. Water sports include swimming at beaches and pools at the area resorts, motels or condominiums, waterskiing, parasailing, and boating. Full-service marinas rent speedboats, houseboats, pontoons, jet skis, fishing boats, paddleboats and sailboats. Other recreation available in the area includes golf, horseback riding, tennis, hiking, bowling and trap shooting.

Numerous restaurants, ranging from fast-food to gourmet, are scattered throughout the lake area, including several eateries located on the lake with access by land or water. Many lodging facilities are available ranging from cabins and condominiums to hotels, motels and luxury resorts. The lake also has plenty of public campgrounds and tent and trailer campsites in the Lake of the Ozarks State Park. The 17,203-acre park, the largest in the Missouri park system, also has two free swimming beaches, boat launching facilities, boat rentals and hiking trails. Tourists also visit Ha Ha Tonka State Park to view the area’s scenic valley, high bluffs, rocky slopes and the ruins of Ha Ha Tonka castle, a European-style mansion built in 1922 but gutted 20 years later by a fire.

Another tourist attraction is the mile-long area near the dam known as “The Strip.” This area houses boutiques, craft, souvenirs and T-shirt shops, restaurants, arcades and amusements for the whole family. Families can also be entertained at the lake’s amusement centers such as Big Surf Water Park, Big Shot Fun Park, Miner Mike’s Adventure Zone and the area’s numerous miniature golf courses and go-kart race tracks.

Shoppers can visit the Factory Outlet Village in Osage Beach or other craft and antique shops around the lake. The area also hosts a variety of festivals and special events throughout the year and offers traditional Ozark-style music shows. Scheduled shows normally run from April through October with Christmas shows in November and December.

The Lake of the Ozarks is the only tourist destination in the United States with four show caves within 30 miles of each other. Guided tours are available at Bridal Cave, Jacob’s Cave Fantasy World Caverns and Ozark Caverns.

There’s enough attractions and recreational activities at the Lake of the Ozarks to keep your whole family entertained during a summer vacation. The highlight of your trip though will be the early morning topwater action or nocturnal thrills of fighting a hefty bass burrowed in a brush pile.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.

Copies of John Neporadny’s book, “THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide” are available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com.

(Reprinted with permission from Bassmaster Magazine)

Lake of the Ozarks Bass Behind Docks

by John Neporadny Jr.

Bass can be about anywhere around a Lake of the Ozarks dock in most situations, except when fishing pressure drives them to hard-to-reach places.

A bass’ favorite hideout is usually behind the steel cables of the boathouses. During their formative years of fishing Lake of the Ozarks‘ countless docks, Missouri anglers Chad Brauer and Dion Hibdon discovered how bass flock to this security zone while the majority of anglers shy away from these line-busting obstacle courses.

“Bass get behind those docks and it automatically eliminates a percentage of the fishermen from even coming by the fish,” says Brauer. “They won’t put any effort in to get behind the docks and the cables because they think they are going to get hung up or if they get a fish back there they can’t get it out anyway.”

Both pros have perfected tactics for pulling bass out of these high-risk areas. Brauer favors pitching a 3/8-ounce jig and plastic trailer, tube bait or a spinnerbait on 20- to 25-pound test line behind the cables. Hibdon’s most effective cable presentations are pitching and skipping small jigs or tube baits with either heavy or light line depending on the water clarity.

Some docks have cables set high enough to pitch under, which lessens the dangers of losing a fish. “The better you are at skipping, the better off you are going to be in that situation because you will have an advantage over other guys who can’t skip a bait under a cable 4 inches above the water and get that lure back where they need it,” Brauer advises.

When they have to present their lures over the cables, both pros take precautions to prevent a hooked bass from sawing their lines on the steel. “If you have heavy enough line you can get the fish over the cable on the hookset,” Brauer suggests.

“Once you get their head up don’t let them go back under the water because your best shot of getting it out is on the initial pull. Once it gets back under the water the fish has a lot better chance of wedging or wrapping itself on the cables and getting off.”

Planning ahead works best for Hibdon when throwing 8- to 10-pound test line behind the cables. “You have to think you are going to get bit and have your game plan mapped out before you set the hook,” he warns. “A lot of the time I won’t set the hook too hard on a fish , I’ll just pull on him and try not to get it too excited until I get close enough to where I can control the fish over the cable.”

Frequent line checks are required when presenting lures near cables. “Even if you just lift up a bait against a cable you have a little bit of wear and tear on it,” warns Brauer “As soon as I find a ding mark I usually retie because you need all the line you can get when you get a fish on back there. ”

Hibdon is especially vigilant when using light line. “If you are skipping and you whack the cable real hard you need to check your line because it doesn’t take much to turn 8- and 10-pound line into 6- and 4-pound line.”

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.

Copies of John Neporadny’s book, “THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide” are available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com.

Reprinted with permission from Bassmaster Magazine.

Lake of the Ozarks is fishing jewel

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 maximum depth of the lake is around 100 feet.

Summer pool elevation for the lake is 660 feet above sea level, but winter draw down usually drops the lake level to around 652 to 654. Siltation causes the upper end of the lake to remain turbid most of the time, while the lower end of the lake contains clear water. The lake bottom consists primarily of rock, gravel and sand, except in some of the coves, creeks and rivers where siltation has taken place.

Situated in the Osage River basin, the Lake of the Ozarks is fed by two major rivers: the Osage and Niangua. Other main tributaries flowing into the reservoir include the Little Niangua River, Linn, Grand Glaize, Gravois and Little Gravois creeks. The lake is also fed by approximately 1,000 springs and the largest, HaHa Tonka Spring, delivers about 48 million gallons of water a day into the Niangua arm. The Osage arm of the lake runs 92 miles from Bagnell Dam to Truman Dam and the overall shoreline length of the lake is more than 1,150 miles.

The lake is conveniently located in central Missouri, about 175 miles from St. Louis and 165 miles from Kansas City. Many amenities for anglers are available at the lake including more than 100 marinas or marina-related services, over 100 restaurants with more than 40 waterfront establishments, along with numerous campgrounds, resorts, hotels and condominiums.

Lake of the Ozarks came into existence through the Great Osage River Project during the Great Depression. Union Electric, now AmerenUE, started construction on the dam on Aug. 6, 1929 and the lake opened to the public on May 30, 1931. At that time, the Lake of the Ozarks was the largest man-made lake in the world.

Although it has lost its distinction as the largest impoundment in the world, Lake of the Ozarks remains the largest private reservoir in the state and a top destination for anglers throughout the Midwest.

At first glance, the lake resembles a pleasure boating paradise more than a productive fishery. Sprawling condominiums and lavish homes blanket the shoreline. Countless docks harbor offshore racing boats, jet skis, runabouts and yachts.

But looks can be deceiving. Under the water’s surface lurk massive populations of game fish, including largemouth and spotted bass, black and white crappie, white bass, hybrid white bass/stripers, bluegill, walleye, and channel, flathead and blue catfish.

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.

Heavy boat traffic on the lake during the summer limits most of the major tournament circuits to holding events on the lake in the spring and fall. One local tournament competitor believes this works to the advantage of out-of-town anglers. “Lake of the Ozarks is unique in the fact that in tournaments it is hard to have a local advantage because of the time of the year events are held here,” claims Roger Fitzpatrick, a two-time Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League All-American qualifier from Eldon, Mo. “Tournaments are usually during times of the year when the fish are shallow to where anyone can catch them. There are usually not held here in July where a guy can catch them 30 feet deep on a hump somewhere. So it’s hard to take advantage of those really good spots on this lake that hold fish in the summertime because there are no major tournaments then.”

The lake also consistently produces some of the best crappie fishing in the state each spring and fall. Limits of keeper-size crappie (9 inches or longer) 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.

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.

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.

Concrete Cover for Lake of the Ozarks Bass

By John Neporadny Jr.

A man-made object protruding from the water ruins the aesthetic value of a shoreline but to Lake of the Ozarks bass it’s a thing of beauty.

Lake of the Ozarks has some form of a concrete slab sitting in its waters and throughout the year these man-made structures provide excellent habitat for fish. While this type of cover is sparse on some waterways, concrete structures on Lake of the Ozarks are abundant enough for anglers to incorporate into their patterns.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

During his formative years of guiding and competing in tournaments at the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri pro Chad Brauer, learned how to catch bass from a myriad of concrete cover. Since it’s one of the most developed reservoirs in the country, Lake of the Ozarks contains plenty of man-made structures to harbor bass. “Typically concrete seems to have a good bit of algae growing on it which attracts the whole food chain–plankton, baitfish and then bass,” Brauer advised.

The following is a look at three types of concrete cover Brauer keys on for Lake of the Ozarks bass.

Sea Walls

“A sea wall provides a unique access to real shallow water yet it’s a vertical drop where bass have some vertical structure to get up against,” Brauer said of a bass’ attraction to this concrete cover.

Constructed along the banks to control erosion, these concrete walls attract bass mainly in the spring and fall when the fish migrate to the shallows. In the fall, bass use these concrete walls to trap baitfish while in the spring the fish spawn up against the solid structure.

Key holding areas for bass along sea walls include any corners, juts, ends and wash-outs. “A lot of times you can tell where a washout will be because you can see a pipe or drain coming down from a home,” suggested Brauer. “All that rain water coming down through that pipe is going to wash the gravel out of that area.” The holes are prime spots for locating bedding bass in the spring.

Dock Pilings

“Dock pilings rule,” said Brauer of these concrete walkway supports. “For some reason, they seem to be magnets for spawning fish and also seem to hold fish in the fall again. It’s another good vertical structure that has shallow water around it.” Dock pilings in deeper water also hold bass in the summer and winter.

Located behind docks, concrete walkway pillars become a challenge to fish because of all the obstacles surrounding them. “You have to be pretty much geared up like you would for heavy cover because you’re around dock cables, pieces of metal and a lot brush people put in next to those concrete pillars,” said Brauer.

Boat Ramps

“A lot of people just pass by boat ramps and won’t fish them,” said Brauer. “There are some places where you can almost pull up to boat ramps and run as a pattern if you can find enough of them. It’s something to try in an area that’s getting a lot of fishing pressure because a lot of people will ignore those kind of subtle pieces of cover.”

His home lake contains numerous personal boat ramps, which become ideal spawning sites in the spring. Bass usually nest at the end of the ramps, which extend into depths of 5 to 6 feet.

Wash-out areas created by current draw bass on some ramps. Brauer usually fishes the whole ramp, but he spends most of his time targeting the ends and sides, which attract more bass. “Once you fish several boat ramps you’ll figure out where bass are positioned on that type of structure and you can make it an efficient pattern,” said Brauer.

Concrete structures look unnatural, but this type of bass cover proves that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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 BASS Times.

Hair Jigs for Cold Lake of the Ozarks Bass

Hair Jigs for Cold Lake of the Ozarks Bass

By John Neporadny Jr.

During those halcyon days of bass fishing in the 1960s, the bucktail jig and pork split tail eel was one of the deadliest combos for Lake of the Ozarks bass.

Now the bucktail and other animal hair jigs have been replaced by flipping, casting and finesse jigs adorned with silicone or living rubber skirts and various soft plastic chunks, craws and grubs serve as substitutes for the pork eel. Despite being replaced for most bass fishing applications, the venerable hair jig still shines in cold-water situations for FLW star Guido Hibdon on his home lake.

The Lake of the Ozarks pro has tried deer hair in the past, but has found that the best material for his hair jig comes from black bears. A co-angler from West Virginia has stocked up Hibdon with plenty of bear hair, which he ties on a 1/8 – or 3/16-ounce ball or banana-shaped jighead. Hibdon used to attach a pork split tail eel as a trailer for his hair jig, but now he tips the jig with either a black 3-inch Luck “E” Strike Grub or the tail section of a black plastic worm.

The hair jig shines for Hibdon whenever the Lake of the Ozarks is at its coldest point during the winter. “I have thrown it up on the edge of ice and whenever it would fall off and hit the bottom the fish would get it,” recalls Hibdon. “You can fish it in mighty cold water.”

Since his hair jig best mimics a crawfish, Hibdon throws the lure along rocks where bass forage on the crustaceans even in the coldest water. Ledges and bluffs in the 15- to 18-foot range are Hibdon’s favorite places to work the jig, and if he has to fish deeper, he will switch to a different tactic.

While slowly reeling the jig along the bottom, Hibdon tries to keep the lure bumping into the rocks. “I move it 2 or 3 feet and then make a little hop with it,” Hibdon describes. “The majority of the fish will hit it on that hop. I think they are following it around and when you hop that jig it seems like that is when they really get after it.”

Hibdon casts his hair jig on a 6 1/2-foot medium action spinning rod with a fast tip and a spinning reel filled with 8-pound fluorocarbon line.

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.