By John Neporadny Jr.
The Gravois arm of the Lake of the Ozarks has plenty of options for bass anglers, but its creeks offer the best action in the fall.
“The back ends of all the major feeder creeks—Gravois, Little Gravois, Indian Creek, Soap Creek and Mill Creek–really load up with shad in the late fall and when the shad move shallow the bass come in with them,” says Scott Pauley, a tournament angler formerly from Eldon, MO.
The Gravois arm is a microcosm of the entire lake with clear, deep water on the lower end and shallow, dirty waters up the various tributary arms. Pauley believes this arm is a good area to pre-fish for a tournament if you have never been on the lake before because it allows you to try several different patterns without having to make long runs. “Within 10 miles you have deep, clear water, bluff banks, channel swings, pea gravel, and chunk rock and in the upper end are shallow flats with wood cover, so you can try a whole bunch of different things in a short amount of time and then expand it from there,” he advises.
When he finds shad in the creeks during November, Pauley searches for bass with a 1/2-ounce Rat-L-Trap in a Silverado hue. “That is a hard color to find but it really matches the coloration of the shad there,” describes Pauley. He burns the lure on 15-pound test line and tries to bump it into cover to trigger a reaction strike.
This tactic produces best for Pauley on sunny days when bass cling to the shady spots of root wads and the sides of logs. He relied on this pattern to take the lead the first day of the 1999 BASSMASTER Missouri Invitational at the Lake of the Ozarks in which he eventually finished 10th.
Pauley notices the fish stack up in the wood cover on sunny days less than 4 feet deep in the stained waters of the upper ends of the creeks. He can catch some fish on buzz baits and spinnerbaits then, but banging the Rat-L-Trap into the wood cover can produce a quick limit. “If we keep getting those warm, sunny days I can go up there and catch a limit in an hour if it is right,” claims Pauley.
The creek pattern produces mostly largemouth bass in the 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-pound range. “Sometimes you’ll catch a 5- or 6-pounder,” Pauley suggests.
The Missouri angler has to change tactics when a typical fall cold front passes through and the weather turns cloudy, then cold and sunny. “Those fish will roam too much out away from the cover (on overcast days) so you can’t always pinpoint where they are,” warns Pauley.
On calm, cloudy days, Pauley favors waking a spinnerbait along the corners of docks and along secondary points. “Just try to cover a lot of water with it,” he says. His favorite spinnerbait is a Jewel lavender shad 1/2-ounce model with two small willowleaf blades, which he retrieves in an erratic fashion on 12- or 15-pound line. If the day is windy, Pauley slows down his retrieve to run the lure under the choppy surface.
After the front passes and the fish ignore fast-moving lures, Pauley resorts to a tube bait or jig to catch these sluggish bass. He pitches his lures to the corners of shallow docks along the flats of the creeks.
Pauley prefers to pitch a Texas-rigged Southern Pro Lures Fat Butt Tube (black neon in dirty water and green pumpkin in clear conditions) with a 3/16-ounce Lake Fork Tackle MegaWeight and 4/0 Owner Rig’N Hook tied on 20-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon line. When fishing clear water and sparse cover, Pauley opts for a brown Jewel Eakins’ Pro Model Jig with a green pumpkin Jewel Eakins’ Pro Model Craw attached to 15-pound test line. If the water is dirty and he is targeting heavy cover, Pauley switches to a black-and-blue Jewel Eakins’ Finesse Flip ‘n Jig and the Jewel Eakins’ Pro Model Craw or a Jewel Prowler Pro Craw Chunk that he ties on 20-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon line.
The patterns remain consistent throughout November and early December unless a heavy dosage of cold fronts keeps hitting the area. “As long as those shad are there and active the bass will be there and key on the baitfish,” says Pauley. “If the shad leave that area because it gets too cold for them then the bass are going to go with them and you’ll have to start fishing points and stuff.” Wind-blown points are good then and any docks where wind is crashing in holds fish that suspend under the dock foam.
Fishing pressure drops off considerably during November as many anglers turn their attention to hunting and football. The lack of pressure helps Pauley’s pattern because the backs of the creeks can only sustain so many boats at one time. “The good thing is some of of those flats are huge and the fish only seem to be in a couple of places in there,” says Pauley. “So there may be some boats that come by and will fish the banks or docks, but I fish right out in the middle of those flats looking for those isolated pieces of wood. Any kind of wood is something they can relate to (even if it is a pencil-thin stickup).”
When deer season rolls around at the Lake of the Ozarks, try the Gravois arm to get in on some late fall action for shallow-water bass.
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 at www.jnoutdoors.com .