by John Neporadny Jr.
Summer Bass Fishing Lake of the Ozarks
While the main lake rocked and rolled with pleasure boat and personal watercraft traffic, I retreated to the calm waters of a Lake of the Ozarks feeder creek on this hot, sunny summer afternoon.
Pitching a plastic worm into the shady areas of boat dock wells, I managed to catch a 4-pound bass, lose a 3-pounder and land some smaller bass before I had to leave for work. The still waters of this creek allowed me to thoroughly work the docks and present my lure slowly without having to constantly run my trolling motor against waves.
Missouri’s largest reservoir offers excellent fishing year-round, but during the heat of summer we have to share the waters with pleasure boaters, skiers and personal watercraft jockeys. Fishing at night or early and late in the day will help you avoid most of this recreational boat traffic, but the best way to get away from the summer crowds during the day is to head up the lake’s headwaters or a major feeder creek.
Most pleasure boat operators prefer the wide-open areas of a Main lake and steer clear of these narrow, shallow riverine sections. Stained water and plenty of cover, such as lay-downs, stumps, weeds and rocks, in these upper lake regions keep bass shallow and make them easier to catch during the summer. The best headwater areas have cooler water and current flowing in from tributaries or Truman Dam that activate bass, even during the hottest summer days.
The busiest lake in the state still provides good refuges for anglers in the summertime. I have caught plenty of bass and some fish in the 3- to 4-pound range in the backs of Gravois, Indian and the Grand Glaize creeks in July and August when the mid-day boat traffic made the main lake look like a wave pool at a water park.
Other good areas to avoid the summer boating crowds include the back end of Lick Creek and the upper section of the Niangua and Little Niangua rivers, but the most consistent summertime fishing is in the lake’s headwaters below Truman Dam. “Any of the river arms work just fine. In the summertime, you just can’t fish the main lake during the day on the weekends,” says Roger Fitzpatrick, a tournament angler from Eldon. He concentrates on the Osage arm of the lake from Big Buffalo Creek up to the Truman Dam spillway from July through October when he wants to get away from boaters.
Siltation at the mouths of coves and even on the main channel of the upper Osage makes hazardous navigating for most recreational boaters. The lack of boat traffic allows Fitzpatrick to concentrate on the flats and boat docks on the main lake. “If the water is high and running out of Truman Dam, then I’ll concentrate on main lake stuff such as flat points where the water is breaking around it,” says Fitzpatrick. “If it’s at normal pool I mainly concentrate on docks either on the main lake or back in coves.”
The upper Osage also contains stained water, which helps bass stay shallower in the summertime. “Usually in July it’s still a summer pattern and the fish are a little deeper. You can catch them during the day but you have to key a little more on brush piles and the docks 8 to 10 feet deep, unless the water is high. In that case, the fish will get up shallower and you can flip the willow bushes. It seems to flood up the river a lot and get into those (shoreline) bushes easier than it does on the lower lake.”
Current plays a role in positioning bass along the cover in this area. Depending on the current’s velocity, bass will hang on the outside of a dock or suspend under it. The fish will also hold on the shallower or deeper ends of lay-downs depending on the amount of water flow.
On sunny days, Fitzpatrick pitches a 10-inch Berkley Power Worm along the docks. “Some of the docks have brush and some don’t,” says Fitzpatrick. Bass usually hold along the sides of the docks whether or not the floating structure has brush underneath it. Fitzpatrick switches to a white jig or spinnerbait for cloudy or rainy days on the upper Osage.
The Lake of the Ozarks headwaters contains quality bass that become more active as summer progresses. “In late August you can catch a lot of 5-pounders up there,” says Fitzpatrick. “It’s rare to catch one 6 or 7 pounds but you can catch a limit of 4- and 5-pounders easy on a good day.”
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