By John Neporadny Jr
Denny Brauer, Guido Hibdon and Dion Hibdon Share Tactics for Lake of the Ozarks
Since Lake of the Ozarks has some of the best bass fishing in the country, it’s only natural that the lake has spawned three of the top professional anglers in the tournament ranks.
Among the most consistent anglers in competitive fishing today are Denny Brauer, Guido Hibdon and Dion Hibdon. Before turning pro, this threesome either guided or fished competitively in smaller tournaments on Lake of the Ozarks. Their busy schedules keep them from fishing their home reservoir much any more, but they do get to sneak in an occasional trip during the summer. When they have the chance to fish at home, they rely on the same trusty summertime patterns that produced bass for them before they became full-time pros.
Let’s find out how these three pros catch largemouth bass from their home waters during the summertime.
This former BASS Masters Classic champ from Macks Creek, Mo., has plenty of places to catch bass during the summer at the Lake of the Ozarks because he target docks, which can be found nearly everywhere on his home lake. Since the lake lacks flooded timber or vegetation, docks become summertime homes for most of the bass because the piers provide food and shelter.
During summer, Lake of the Ozarks bass seek brush piles 15 to 30 feet deep around docks. “When the water temperature get 80 degrees and above, that’s when this pattern starts to get good. And the warmer it gets, the better those docks are,” says Brauer.” Some of the best times I’ve had were from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when it’s just really hot and the sun’s beating down.”
Picking the right type of docks to fish is the key to this pattern. Brauer concentrates on piers along bluff ends, 45-degree banks or any other areas near deep water. Older docks seem to attract more bass because they have more algae buildup that draws in the bluegill, a favorite prey for summertime bass. An aging dock also potentially has more sunken brush piles and other fish-attracting treasures beneath it. Brauer knows a dock has sunken brush if he sees crappie lights on the pier, chairs sitting close to the lights, rod holders, a fish-cleaning area and a fishing boat in the well.
On sunny, 100-degree days, the bigger bass seek shade by burrowing into the brush near docks. “The fishing really gets good when they’re in the brush piles,” Brauer says. Armed with flipping tackle and 20-pound line, this flipping specialist can work through the heaviest brush and yank out a big fish before it tangles up in the mass of limbs. Brauer’s choice lure is a 1/2-ounce jig with a rattle and a plastic crawfish trailer. He matches the jig and plastic trailer in hues of pumpkinseed/green flake, chocolate brown or copperhead to imitate bluegill colors.
The pro angler usually positions his boat in front of the dock and pitches his lure parallel to one side of the floating structure. After letting the lure sink into the brush, Brauer shakes the jig to make it rattle in the cover. If he knows the dock has more brush around it, Brauer will also pitch along the front of the pier and the other side before moving on to the next target.
This pattern works for Brauer on most sections of the lake, except on the Osage arm above the 50-mile mark. Since the pattern depends on deep water, it is less productive in the shallows, of the upper Osage.
Growing up and guiding on the Lake of the Ozarks qualifies this former BASS Masters Classic champ as the ultimate authority on his home waters. The Gravois Mills, Mo., angler favors a pattern targeting virtually untapped fish during the summer on Lake of the Ozarks. Hibdon concentrates on bass suspending 12 to 18 feet deep over depths of 35 to 40 feet along main-lake points near channel swings. “A lot of times the fish will suspend over the channel swings,” Hibdon says. “They are not real easy bass to catch, but if you stay after them and figure out exactly what cast it takes to catch them, then they become very simple fish to catch because no one else is fishing for them.” The veteran angler says this pattern works anywhere he can see at least 2 feet down in the water.
A plastic worm and a deep-diving crankbait are Hibdon’s top choices for catching these suspended bass. He uses a Texas-rigged, 10- to 12-inch plastic worm with a 1/8-ounce sinker and 14-pound test line. His favorite worm hues are black grape and electric blue. A simple retrieve works best. “Just throw it out there and let it fall through the school,” Hibdon advises.
Hibdon steadily retrieves the crankbait on 10-pound test line with a low-speed reel. The light line and low-gear ratio of the reel allows his lure to dive down to the 12- to 15-foot range. The most productive color combination for his crankbait is a black back and chartreuse sides.
The son of Guido Hibdon started guiding on the Lake of the Ozarks before he could even legally drive a car. This BASS Masters Classic champion also targets main lake points in the early summer on his home lake. But when the dog days arrive, he switches to fishing brush piles at night.
His early summer pattern produces best during the week when water is being pulled through Bagnell Dam. During this time, current sweeps across the main lake points and bass hug the bottom of this structure at depths of 10 to 12 feet. The pattern produces bass in any section of the lake that has clear to stained water.
Hibdon’s nighttime pattern works best in the clear-water areas, usually the lower end of the lake. His favorite nighttime haunts are brush piles 15 feet deep along steep banks near a main lake point. The fish usually stay 6 to 10 feet deep in the cover.
The Stover, Mo., angler chooses an 8- to 10-inch plastic worm rigged Texas-style with a 1/8-ounce sinker when fishing the points in early summer. He works the worm on 12- to 14- pound test with bait-casting gear and favors dark-colored worms for stained water and transparent shades for clear conditions. His retrieve is similar to the Carolina-rig method of banging the lure into the rocks while dragging it along the bottom.
When fishing brush piles at night, Hibdon resorts to a heavier worm weight (5/16 or 3/8 ounce) and heavier line (17-pound test). “I like for my worm to be in good contact with the brush and work it in and out of the limbs,” Hibdon says of his choice for using a heavier weight. He slowly retrieves the worm in a yo-yo motion as he drags the lure and lets it fall through the limbs.
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 website at funlake.com.
Copies of John Neporadny’s book, “THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide” is available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com.