By John Neporadny Jr
Lake of the Ozarks Dock Fishing
Even though bass will be in different stages of spawning during May on the Lake of the Ozarks, one pattern remains consistent throughout the month.
Harold Stark, a tournament competitor from Eldon, Mo., can catch bass in three stages of the spawn (pre-spawn, spawn and post-spawn) all at one time by flipping jigs behind boat docks on the lower end of the lake. Since the water temperature runs from 59 degrees at the beginning of the month to 75 degrees by the end of May, the flipping pattern produces best because the fish will stay behind the docks the entire month.
Stark prefers fishing from the dam area to the 35-mile marker of the Osage arm since this area contains more boat docks. “There are also so many bigger coves in that area and they all have more cuts to fish.” The ideal locations to try are behind docks in small indentations or cuts in the banks of bigger coves. The cuts should have a bank consisting of both pea gravel and chunk rock. “Cuts that sit in closer to the main part of the cove (near deep water) are best,” says Stark.
This pattern produces best in stained water with the lake level at or above normal stage. The higher the lake level, the move cover available for bass behind the docks, Stark says. He usually finds fish 2 to 5 feet deep near any available cover. The most appealing docks to bass contain the most junk in the rear section of the floating structure. “You’re fishing the ramps, the cables and any brush that might be behind the dock then,” Stark says. Even the cables dangling in the water will hold fish during this time.
When Stark finds an ideal dock, he works it deliberately and thoroughly. He skips past the front end and sides of the dock and concentrates his efforts behind the cables. “If you think a fish is in a spot, flip to it more than once,” Stark advises, “Generally though at that time of year, when you flip in and that fish is there, it usually bites right away.” When he finishes behind one side, he will move around the dock and work the other backside.
His favorite lure to flip is a 5/16-to 9/16-ounce Stanley jig with a number 1 pork frog. He prefers a brown jig with a black and red pork frog. He also always adds a fish attractant, such as Bang or Fish Formula, to his jig-and-frog combo. Stark uses 14- to 25-pound test line, depending on the water clarity. In clear water, he selects lighter line and switches to the heavier monofilament in darker water.
Flipping works better than pitching in this situation. “You want to get in there just as quiet as you can,” Stark says. “You can pitch it, but if you pitch too far back and you hook one, then you have to get him out from behind those cables. If you’re too far away then you’re not going to get him out.”
After flipping his lure to a target, Stark quickly retrieves the jig. “Put it in there, jig it a couple of times, then move it on out.” He says the fish are aggressive enough during that time of year that they will usually hit the lure on the initial fall.
The flipping pattern produces best under bright skies when the fish hold tighter to the cover behind the docks. During cloud cover the bass will roam all over the back of the dock. Stark says the fish will hit more aggressively but you just have to scatter your flips to more areas behind the dock.
While flipping behind docks produces bigger fish, keeper-size bass will fall for Fat Gitzits thrown on a 1/16-ounce jighead with spinning tackle. Another successful pattern for getting a limit in a hurry is to throw a buzz bait. Stark suggests keeping your boat parallel to the bank and the trolling motor constantly running while you work the buzz bait along the whole bank of a cove. An effective pre- and post-spawn pattern during this time is throwing a Carolina-rigged plastic lizard along pea-gravel secondary points and channel banks in coves.
For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 152-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.