Lake of the Ozarks’ White Bass Turn On In Fall
Anglers who store their rods and reels in the fall to concentrate on hunting miss out on some of the Lake of the Ozarks‘ hottest fishing action.
When chilling northern winds signal the end of summer, white bass invade the shallows in search-and-feed missions for shad. From the middle of September to early November, whites congregate on main lake structure where the wind is blowing in, such as rocky points and bluffs. While a variety of techniques will catch white bass in the fall at the Lake of the Ozarks, two of the most productive methods are popping a topwater chugger-and-jig combination and twitching a shallow-diving stickbait.
The combination of a topwater lure and a doll-fly trailer tricks white bass of all sizes. Over the years Bruce Gier, a former guide from Eldon, Mo., has been refining a technique he learned from a fellow angler of catching white bass on a frog-colored chugger with a trailer jig. Gier has switched
to a shad-colored Rebel Pop-R or a Heddon Tiny Chugger with a white 1/16th-ounce feather jig. Since white bass tend to tear up plastic-skirted jigs, Gier prefers using feather jigs as trailers. “You catch so many fish on the chugger and jig that you’ll have to replace the plastic bodies all the time,” he says.
Gier casts his rig with a bait-cast or spinning tackle and 8- or 10-pound test line. He ties an 18-inch leader of 10-pound test on the back hook of the chugger and then to the jig. He also removes the front hook of the chugger to keep the leader line from tangling up in the hooks.
In October, Gier searches for white bass along chunk rock banks at the mouth of the Gravois arm and in the North Shore area. The Missouri angler also finds the fish along these banks in November if the water temperature stays in the 50- to 65-degree range.
Casting as close to the bank as possible, Gier retrieves the chugger-and-jig combination in a popping manner. “The popping imitates another white
bass chasing a minnow on the surface,” Gier says. “The popping noise excites the fish below. They’re going to come up to check out that noise because they just can’t stand it.”
The speed of the retrieve can vary, but the action of the chugger must be a deliberate pop. “The chugger’s got to throw that water out front,” Gier says. “It’s got to look like an explosion.”
Gier jerks the chugger and reels at the same time. He also makes sure he works the rig all the way to the boat. “A lot of times, they’ll hit it right when you’re picking it up out of the water.”
Sometimes Gier catches a double on his rig. “If you ever catch one on the topwater lure, nine out of 10 times you’ll catch one on the crappie jig.” When he hooks one on the chugger, Gier lets the fish swim around until another white hits the trailer jig.
The chugger and jig technique works even without much wind. The chugging noise attracts the whites if they are in the vicinity. “Whenever the white bass are running, you can catch just as many as you want,” Gier says.
Twitching a stickbait for white bass along wind-blown banks has been a productive technique for me throughout the years. I alternate between three types of jerk baits, selecting the Storm Lures Junior ThunderStick and 4-inch Rebel Minnow when I want to catch numbers of whites or a Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue in the 4 1/2- to 5 1/2-inch model when I’m after trophy-size whites or hybrids. These lures seem to best resemble the size of the shad I see on the Lake of the Ozarks during the fall. Chrome or silver and black are the best colors for the Rebel Minnow and Storm Lures Junior ThunderStick, but I’ve also had some good catches on a Junior ThunderStick in a rainbow trout hue. The biggest whites seem to prefer a Rogue with a black back, gold sides and orange belly.
The minnow baits have worked extremely well for me on those cloudy, windy days in late October and all through November. These lures will also take fish on sunny days, but you need a combination of wind and shade to draw strikes from white bass.
My favorite areas to throw the jerk baits are windy points, channel banks and bluffs in the Gravois and Grand Glaize arms. I’ve also caught some fish on long, shallow points with this technique, but the most productive structure features rock ledges which attract both baitfish and the white bass. When the waves crash up against the rocks, the baitfish schools scatter along the ledges. The white bass then pick off their prey by moving up into the rocks or waiting in deeper water for the baitfish to get washed off the ledges. Clear-water areas are also best since white bass feed primarily by sight.
When I find this type of situation, I throw the minnow bait up close to the bank and start twitching the lure along the ledge to the deeper water. To catch a prowling white’s attention, I jerk the minnow bait sharply to make the lure’s silver sides flash. I rapidly jerk the lure three times, then pause it momentarily before repeating the twitching process again. A lot of the strikes occur during the pause. Since I’m trying to trigger a reaction strike, I never let the lure sit still long. This prevents the fish from getting a good look at the baitfish imitator in the clear water. If I see a white bass slash at the lure and miss, I keep the lure moving at a slower pace, which occasionally draws a strike from the same fish.
If the three-count retrieve fails to produce, I vary the cadence of my jerks until I find a rhythm the white bass prefer. I also work the retrieve all the way back because I’ve had fish strike at the lure right next to the boat.
As the weather turns cooler in the fall, the white bass action gets hotter at the Lake of the Ozarks. If you want to try some of this exciting fall white bass fishing and need more information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the web site at www.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.