Archive for lake of the ozarks

Catching Bass from the Upper Lake of the Ozarks

Catching Bass from the Upper Lake of the Ozarks

By John Neporadny Jr.

The Lake of the Ozarks has a much different look on the upper reaches of the Osage arm. From the 55 mile marker on up, the lake continues to narrow until it turns riverine in appearance.

Siltation has filled in the mouths of the feeder creeks and coves so anglers need to use extreme caution when navigating in this area. Keeping an eye on your electronics will help you follow the channel when running the main lake and find the boat lanes to enter the backwaters.

The Upper Osage features numerous mud flats dotted with lay-downs, submerged logs and brush. Its water clarity varies, but most of the time it is stained to murky. “Some of the dirtiest water can be found from Cole Camp Creek to the Buffaloes (Big and Little Buffalo creeks), but then right below Truman Dam can have really clear water sometimes,” discloses Eldon, Mo., angler Roger Fitzpatrick, who has fared well in tournaments fishing the Upper Osage.

This section tends to have lighter fishing pressure since the shoreline has less development and fewer resorts and facilities. However, bass anglers are attracted to this section in the summer and fall since the upper reaches offer a refuge from the pleasure boating crowds.

Bass fishing is spotty in the colder months, although Fitzpatrick has caught some bass on suspending stickbaits in the clear water of the creeks on sunny days in February.

When the water temperature reaches 45 to 50 degrees in early March, Fitzpatrick finds prespawn bass along the 45-degree chunk rock banks and in brush piles behind boat docks. He catches these fish on three lures: a 3/8-ounce brown-and-green or black-and-blue jig tipped with a Zoom Swimmin’ Chunk; a white 1/2-ounce spinnerbait with a willowleaf blade or a Storm Lures Wiggle Wart or Bandit crankbait. If the fish are shallow and aggressive, Fitzpatrick ties his jigs on 25-pound test line, but if the fish have pulled out to deeper water he depends on 12- to 15-pound test for most of his jig tactics.

For the shallowest fish, Fitzpatrick flips his jig to the rocks, which can produce a limit sometimes within five minutes if he finds the right bank in the coves. Then he switches to the spinnerbait to catch kicker bass. “You won’t get as many bites but usually the one that grabs it is a good fish,” says Fitzpatrick.

If he finds the fish are suspended in the 6 to 7-foot range, Fitzpatrick throws crankbaits on 8-pound test line. He opts for a black medium-diving Bandit model for dirty water or a red-and-orange Wiggle Wart for stained conditions.

During the spawn, Fitzpatrick takes nesting fish on a jig, plastic lizard or creature bait in green pumpkin or black-and-blue hues. He Texas-rigs the soft plastics with a 1/8-ounce weight and pitches the lures to lay-downs along the rock banks of pockets or behind boat docks in the sloughs.

When current flows across main channel points, Fitzpatrick catches post-spawn bass on jigs and spinnerbaits worked through flooded brush and around docks. He also catches fish on a black 1/2-ounce buzz bait along the flats of the sloughs.

The tournament angler relies on boat docks on the main channel to produce the best pattern in the summer. If the lake is high, Fitzpatrick also runs to the back of creeks to fish the shallow cover.

“I don’t fish anything deeper than 5 feet,” says Fitzpatrick of his targets on the upper end. Fitzpatrick keys on selected docks with brush piles both on the main channel and in the creeks. “There are times when you’ll get bites on both of them but usually if you fish 15 of the best docks from each area you can determine whether the dock pattern on the main lake or in the coves will be the strongest.”

On hot, sunny days, Fitzpatrick pitches a red shad 10-inch plastic worm on 20- to 25-pound test line to the shady areas of the docks. He also likes to run a fire tiger or chartreuse square-bill crankbait on 15- to 20-pound line around and into isolated logs.

Swimming a jig around the docks is Fitzpatrick’s favorite technique on the Upper Osage during late summer and fall. He selects a white 3/8-ounce jig tipped with a white plastic grub trailer that he retrieves on 25-pound line. He usually makes a milk run of shallow docks on the main lake and in the backwaters.

Fitzpatrick has two favorite times for making the trek up the Osage. “Probably the most fun time for me would be late March or late October,” he says. “Those times of the year the fish are going to be pretty shallow, typically biting pretty well and hitting a jig real hard.”

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

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

Lake of the Ozarks Suspeding Stickbait Fishing

Suspending stickbaits for Lake of the Ozarks hibernating bass

By John Neporadny Jr.

The older I get the colder I get.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soar With the Eagles at Lake of the Ozarks Eagle Days

Lake of the Ozarks Eagle Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy Lake of the Ozarks all Year Long

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edwin Evers Fishing Tips for Lake of the Ozarks

Evers runs patterns at Lake of the Ozarks

By John Neporadny Jr.

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

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

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

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

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

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

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

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

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

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

Bass Population Thriving at Lake of the Ozarks

Bass Population Thriving at Lake of the Ozarks

By John Neporadny Jr.

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

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

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

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

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bass Fishing the Osage River Arm Lake of the Ozarks

Roll Up the River for Big Lake of the Ozarks Bass

By John Neporadny Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

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

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

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

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

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.
Copies of John Neporadny’s book, “THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide” are
available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com.

Unorthodox Retrieves For Lake of the Ozarks bass

By John Neporadny Jr.

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

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

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reprinted with permission from Bassmaster Magazine.

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.