The roar of off-shore racing boats and buzz of jet skis have been replaced by the tranquil sounds of the fall wind rustling through the wooded hills and the creaking of docks swaying in the waves. By late fall the tourists have deserted the Lake of the Ozarks, one of the busiest recreational traffic lakes in the country, leaving plenty of vacant water filled with feeding bass.
November becomes an ideal time to catch bass on this central Missouri reservoir, because the fish move into the shallows on feeding forays in preparation for winter. Recreational boating activity diminishes and even the ranks of anglers decreases when several turn their attention to the state’s deer hunting season, which usually falls in the middle of the month.
Built during the Great Depression, this 58,000-acre reservoir was the largest man-made lake in the world when it opened May 30, 1931. Developers squandered potential bass cover when they removed most of the timber before filing in the lake. But over the years, resort and property owners have replenished these vital bass attractors by sinking brush piles near their docks. The lake also contains numerous bass-holding structure such as creek and river channel bends, bluffs and points. Bass can be taken throughout the year in the sunken brush piles, but sometimes chunk rock banks produce better than the man-made cover.
The well-known vacation spot also has a reputation as one of Missouri’s top bass fishing waters. “Lake of the Ozarks is right up there with the best of them,” says Greg Stoner, fisheries management biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The lake’s black bass population consists of mostly largemouth and spotted bass and a handful of smallmouths. Spotted bass prefer the steeper chunk rock banks and bluffs in the lower end of the lake where they make up 30 to 50 percent of the bass population. The upper end of the lake contains a larger percentage of largemouth bass, which favor this section’s shallower coves filled with brush piles.
One angler who takes advantage of the November solitude on Lake of the Ozarks is Marty McGuire, a Camdenton, Mo., angler. Diminished boat traffic and cooling water temperatures draw bass to the shallows during this time. In the fall, bass can be found along drop-offs or in the backs of coves. By November, McGuire intercepts bass along steep rocky banks and bluffs as the fish start moving back to their wintertime haunts along the main channel. “This lake’s so big and has so much water that a lot of times there isn’t one exact pattern though,” McGuire says. “Some guys will catch them out on the main channel and some will still catch them in the back of coves.”
The weather plays the lead role in catching Lake of the Ozarks bass throughout November. “The worse the weather is, the better the fish bite,” McGuire says. “It doesn’t hurt to have that first snowstorm hit in October. I’ve caught fish when it was 10 degrees out and the water temperature was in the 40s.”
Water temperatures for most of the month fluctuates from the low to mid 50s, and fall rains turn the water color dingy, which tends to bring even the wary, bigger fish into the shallows to feed on shad. “The fish are fat and healthy this time of year,” McGuire says. “You catch a lot of 15-inch keeper fish, but you should be able to catch lots of 3-pound fish as well. I also see a lot of 5- and 6-pound bass
caught then. ”
The best areas for McGuire in the late fall include the Osage and Grand Glaize arms and the lower end of the lake near the dam. He prefers these areas because they offer plenty of deep-water structure and docks, two keys to locating bass during this time of year.
Spinnerbaits in the 1/2- to 1-ounce sizes lure plenty of bass in November. Other productive lures include crankbaits and jigs and chunks. “Anything that imitates a shad will work,” McGuire says. “Most of the time a spinnerbait or jig works best around boat docks.”
A variety of patterns work since the fish can be found at different depths during this time. Bass cruising the shallows can be taken around docks on spinnerbaits and shallow-running crankbaits. Along their migration route to deeper water, some bass stop along docks that sit over water as deep as 60 feet. These fish suspend under the dock’s foam where McGuire catches them by retrieving a spinnerbait or swimming a jig and trailer along the side of the dock. Suspending bass also hang less than 10 feet deep over depths of 30 to 50 feet along the bluff lines. The best techniques for these fish are running a spinnerbait barely out of sight or slowly retrieving a deep-diving shad-pattern crankbait.
While the pleasure boaters hibernate, anglers can discover the late fall/early winter bass action that makes Lake of the Ozarks more than just a summer vacation hot spot.
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.