By John Neporadny Jr
Lake of the Ozarks Dock Fishing with Chad Brauer
As massive schools of shad surround them, black bass build up an insatiable appetite in the fall at the Lake of the Ozarks.
During October and November, bass gorge on these baitfish even after they’ve filled their bellies. While some smaller bass feed by chasing and busting through the schools of shad, bigger bass tends to lurk under the cover of boat docks and pounces on any baitfish that enters its ambush zone. When weather conditions are ideal, you can catch plenty of bass on a variety of lures as they chase schools of baitfish, but the most consistent way to catch bass in the fall is to target boat docks.
A local expert who targets docks for consistent fall bass action is Chad Brauer, Osage Beach, Mo., a touring pro angler, former guide on the Lake of the Ozarks and son of famed professional angler Denny Brauer.
Since the lake contains a multitude of boat houses, Chad Brauer keys on certain types of docks that hold bass better in the fall. “I like a dock with white Styrofoam underneath because of all the types of foam, it seems to draw the best algae, which attracts invertebrates and those invertebrates bring in the baitfish,” says Brauer. He looks for older docks that have several posts or piers under the walkway and possibly some brush sunk underneath the floating structure.
Location also plays a key role in selecting which docks to try in the fall. Brauer opts for main-lake piers, which he believes many anglers overlook as they head for the coves in the fall. He tries main-lake docks on the flats where the front ends of the floating cover sit over depths of 10 feet or less
Weather and water temperature determines where fish will be positioned on a dock during autumn. Lake of the Ozarks bass remain in the brush under the docks during the summer. As the water cools in the fall, bass start suspending under the dock’s foam. “Rather than moving up towards the bank, they just more right up underneath the docks,” Brauer says. The foam becomes perfect cover for bass as they wait for schools of shad to swim by the docks. Later in the fall, bass move into the shallows behind the docks where Brauer catches them around the walkway posts.
The dropping water temperature eventually triggers the lake turnover, which can make fishing tough around any type of cover. “I think the fish tend to scatter more and that makes them harder to catch,” says Brauer. “The fish will still be around the docks, but something happens to them and makes them goofy.” He believes shallow docks produce best during this phenomenon since they have less of a depth range for bass to scatter than docks in deeper water.
Weather fronts also cause the bass to relocate on a dock throughout the fall. Brauer notices bass move to deeper parts of the dock when a cold front passes through. If the weather turns warm again, the fish migrate back to the shallow end. “You have to experiment every time you go out because sometimes inexplicably they move to the other end of the dock and sometimes they are scattered out all over,” he says.
Bass also tend to position differently on windy or calm days. When the wind blows, Brauer targets the side where waves crash into the docks and push baitfish toward the foam.
Since bass frequently change hiding spots almost daily, Brauer covers all the sections of the floating cover until he discovers which sections are holding fish that day. “I have a lot of success right on the very end and right in the very back (the corners) of the docks,” he says.
When bass suspend under the foam Brauer selects lures that stay in the fish’s strike zone longer. His favorite fall dock techniques include running a spinnerbait just below the surface or swimming a slow-falling jig and pork chunk next to the foam.
The swimming jig technique requires matching a jig with a pork chunk or plastic trailer buoyant enough to slow the lure’s descent. Brauer usually starts with a 3/8-ounce jig and later switches to a 1/2-ounce model if he wants a lure with a larger profile. To give the jigs more buoyancy, Brauer attaches either a pork chunk or a plastic crawfish. Black and blue are his favorite fall colors for the jig-and-craw combination, while an all-white selection works best for his jig and pork. He retrieves both combinations with 20-pound test line, which is heavy enough to give the lures increased buoyancy and abrasion-resistant for fishing over dock cables or underneath walkways.
Swimming the jig requires a faster-than-normal retrieve. “The bigger pork or the bigger plastic craw gives the lure a little more buoyancy and helps it swim right below that foam a little better,” Brauer says. “I use a pumping motion just to cover a little more depth range. Once you narrow down as to how deep the fish are then you don’t have to pump the lure as much.” A slow-rolling pump of the jig also gives the lure more action as it swims along the foam. Brauer also runs a spinnerbait about 1 to 2 feet below the surface to coax bass out from under the docks.
If you can’t find bass chasing shad on the surface this fall at the Lake of the Ozarks, throw to the docks to save your day on the water.
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.