Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Tips
Bass fishing legend Denny Brauer has competed on numerous waters throughout the country so he knows what makes a good bass fishery.
“Lake of the Ozarks is unique because it has a bass population from one end to the other; whereas a lot of others aren’t that way,” says the 1999 Bassmasters Classic champion. “I think it is one of the best jig lakes in the country. You can literally fish a jig 12 months a year because the lake has so much cover with the docks and the brush around the docks.”
During the winter, Brauer targets bluffs and rock slides where he throws a jerkbait or a jig-and-craw. He favors a jerk bait with a blue back and chrome sides on sunny days, a black back/chrome sides model in overcast weather and the clown color in stained water. The former BASS Angler of the Year jerks the lures slowly with 10-pound test line and experiments with his presentation until he figures out how the fish want the lure retrieved. “When that water is down in the 40s I give it three jerks, kill it and let it sit for a little bit, then give it three more jerks,” he describes.
The jig fishing expert also relies on a chameleon craw 1/ 2-ounce Strike King Denny Brauer Design Pro Model Jig tipped with a Strike King Denny Brauer 3X Chunk trailer in the same color. He pitches the jig to the bank on 12- to 17-pound test line and works it out to 18 to 20 feet deep. “I try to definitely make contact all the time with the bottom and make real short hops off the bottom,” he says. His favorite areas for wintertime fishing include the Niangua arm and the lower end of the lake from the mouth of the Gravois to the mouth of the Grand Glaize.
As the water warms in the early spring, Brauer concentrates on the lower and middle sections of the lake to catch bass during the prespawn, which usually reaches its peak in April when the water temperature climbs to 55 degrees. Brauer still uses the jerkbait or jig during the prespawn, but he also throws crawfish-color Strike King Pro Model Series 3 and 4 crankbaits with 12- to 17-pound line. He relies on the heavier line in dirty water and scales down for clear conditions.
“I just go down the chunk rock banks on into the pea gravel banks and the pockets,” says Brauer, who retrieves the lure in a stop-and-go fashion. “I try to keep it on the bottom the whole retrieve or pretty close to it. I’ll stop it now and then even if I don’t hit anything because those cold-water bass like to follow a bait.” The fish will usually be about 4 to 8 feet deep along the rocky banks of the coves and creeks.
Brauer discloses that a mild winter will trigger the bass spawn in April, but a harsh winter delays the spawn until May. He fishes the lower end of the lake some when bass are on the nests, but he prefers the mid-lake area most of the time. The BASS pro looks for small side pockets in the big coves that have fairly flat gravel banks. He also likes certain banks lined with boat docks that are near deep water. The depth of the fish depends on the water clarity but in most cases Brauer finds nesting bass less than 5 feet deep.
When he finds the right spot, Brauer flips a Strike King Denny Brauer’s Pro Model Flip-N-Tube (green pumpkin) Texas-rigged with a 5/16-ounce weight and a Mustad 3/0 or 4/0 hook. He opts for 12- to 15-pound test for flipping the tube and dips the lure’s tail in chartreuse dye if he is fishing stained water.
“If the water is a little stained I am mainly pitching to targets; if the water is fairly clear I will move in and do a little sight fishing, although I prefer not to fish that way,” admits Brauer.
After the spawn, Brauer works a Strike King Spit-N-King topwater lure around docks in the spawning pockets and the secondary points close to the nesting areas. He likes to cover a lot of water during this time so the pro angler retrieves his lure quickly on 12-pound test line. The fish will usually be less than 12 feet deep and will hit the lure whether it’s sunny or cloudy. “You can throw the topwater pretty much all day that time of the year,” says Brauer, who prefers fishing close to home in the mid-lake area during the post spawn.
Main lake docks and some boathouses in coves are Brauer’s favorite summertime targets from Bagnell Dam to the Hurricane Deck Bridge. A pumpkin/green flake 1/ 2-ounce Strike King Denny Brauer Design Pro Model Jig and Strike King Denny Brauer 3X Chunk in the same hue is one of Brauer’s favorite lures for pitching around the docks. “The fish are feeding on bluegill around the docks so that color seems to work the best,” says Brauer. He also uses a Texas-rigged 11-inch plastic worm (pumpkinseed, June bug or electric blue) with a 4/0 Mustad hook and a 1/ 2-ounce worm weight tied on 25-pound line.
Running a Strike King Pro Model Series 6 crankbait along main lake points also produces summertime bass for Brauer. He favors a blue back/white belly or blue back/chartreuse crankbait that he cranks on 12-pound test line.
In the fall (October through the end of November), Brauer runs up the Osage arm where he fishes anywhere from the 50 mile marker up to Truman Dam. He looks for isolated wood and schools of shad on flats along the main channel or back in the creeks.
The legendary angler’s favorite fall lures include a 1/ 2-ounce Strike King Elite buzz bait (white for sunny weather or black for rainy days) and a 1/ 2-ounce white or white-and-chartreuse spinnerbait with willowleaf blades, both of which he throws on 20-pound test line. He also likes to flip jigs and creature baits to the docks and isolated wood cover. A 1/ 2-ounce jig in a Texas craw or black-and-blue color works best if he is fishing the lure along the bottom. If the fish are suspended under docks, Brauer opts for a white 3/8-ounce jig with a white trailer that he swims along the docks with 25-pound test line.
For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 162-page 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.