Lake of the Ozarks’ Gravois Arm Is Clearly A Bass Haven
The 10-mile Gravois arm is one of the oldest developed sections of the Lake of the Ozarks so its shoreline is dotted with boat docks. Whereas other sections have more docks for yachts and off-shore racing boats, the Gravois features more docks owned by fishermen who sink plenty of brush piles to attract bass and crappie.
Fed by the gin-clear waters of the Gravois, Little Gravois, Spring Branch, Soap, Indian and Mill creeks, this arm usually remains one of the clearest sections of the lake throughout the year.
The upper end turns murky quickly from rain runoff, but the flow from the creeks also flushes out the dirty water faster than on other arms of the lake. The warmer water from the feeder creeks causes the Gravois to warm quicker than other arms in the spring which makes the Gravois one of the most popular spots to fish for bass in February and March.
The structure on this arm is similar to the North Shore with plenty of deep water on the main channel and long creek coves filled with numerous gravel pockets that are ideal spawning banks for bass. Other attractive structure for fish on this arm includes plenty of main and secondary points, creek channels, bluffs, gravel flats and some old road beds.
Missouri State Highway Patrolman Scott Pauley honed his skills fishing the Gravois arm while a member of the Eldon Bass Club in the early 1990s and relied on this section of the lake to lead the 1999 BASSMASTER Missouri Invitational at Lake of the Ozarks and eventually finish in 10th place.
From December through March, Pauley usually depends on two lures to catch bass on the Gravois arm. He selects a Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue (silver/black/orange or clown color) for suspended bass or a brown Jewel Eakins’ Pro Model Jig tipped with a Jewel Eakins’ Pro Model Craw, Chompers Twin Tail plastic grub or a Bass Pro Shops XPS Single Tail Grub for bottom-hugging bass. When jerking the Rogue, Pauley uses 8-pound test line; he opts for 10-pound test fluorocarbon line for working his jig.
The most productive spots for wintertime bass on the Gravois include main and secondary points and transition banks where the shoreline changes from bluffs to chunk rock and gravel. “The real key to Lake of the Ozarks is the angle of the bank and the types of rocks,” advises Pauley. “Once you figure that out you are on your way to putting a pattern together.” Classic examples of transition banks on the Gravois are spots where the creek channel swings close to a point and the bank changes from bluffs to 45-degree chunk rock shores or from the chunk rock to a flat pea gravel shoreline.
During the winter and early spring, Pauley starts fishing the main lake points and then works his way into the coves until he finds the fish. He rates February and March as the prime months to catch big bass on the Gravois arm, especially after a three-or four-day warming trend. Another prime time to catch trophy bass on the Gravois is from the first week of November until Christmas.
When the water temperature rises into the upper 50s and low 60s in the spring, Pauley switches tactics to catch prespawn bass. “Once the water starts warming it seems like the fish go to plastics right before the spawn and close to the spawn,” says Pauley. He drags a Carolina-rigged plastic lizard or split-shot rigged finesse worm or French Fry worm for bass along the pea gravel banks. His favorite colors for these soft plastics include watermelon or green pumpkin in clear water and dark colors (black-and-blue or black neon) for murky conditions.
When the fish lock onto their nests Pauley relies on a Zoom finesse worm attached to a 1/8-ounce jighead. A tube jig also catches nesting fish in off-colored water. The best spots to find spawning bass are pea gravel cuts or backs of pockets with either steep or flat banks.
During the postspawn stage, Pauley finds fish close to the spawning areas first and as the water temperature continues to warm he follows the migrating fish out to deep structure. The first area bass move to from the spawning banks are flat, rounded secondary points.
A Zara Spook or Cotton Cordell Jointed Red Fin worked on 10- to 12-pound test line produces plenty of exciting topwater action for Pauley during the postspawn. If the fish are reluctant to attack his surface lures, Pauley switches to flipping a magnum tube bait or a 10- to 11-inch plastic worm in blue flake, tequila sunrise or electric blue. He Texas rigs the lures with a 3/0 or 4/0 wide gap worm hook that he ties on 20-pound test line. A 1/ 4-ounce weight works best for Pauley when flipping the shallows but he opts for a 1/ 2-ounce weight when he works his worm at depths of 20 feet or more.
On sunny summer days, Pauley likes to pitch a Texas-rigged magnum tube bait (3/16-ounce Lake Fork Mega Weight and Owner Rig’N Hook on 20-pound test line) to any visible cover. He selects a green pumpkin tube for pitching in clear water and a black/red flake model for murky water.
Night fishing produces the most consistent action on the Gravois during the heat of summer. Pauley opts for a 7- to 10-inch plastic worm in black or dark purple hues that he works through the sunken brush at depths of 15 to 20 feet.
When the shad migrate to the backs of creeks in October and November, Pauley targets the baitfish schools to find bass. “The schools of shad roam on the big flats and are so thick that it seems like you can walk on them sometimes,” he says.
Swimming a white Jewel Eakins’ Pro Model Jig and white Jewel Eakins’ Pro Model Craw produces bass for Pauley in the fall, but his favorite tactic involves a Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap. During the Bassmaster tournament, Pauley caught a hefty limit to take the first-day lead while burning a shad-pattern Rat-L-Trap (green back and pearl sides) on 15-pound test line. On sunny days, bass in the upper ends of the creeks use isolated stumps, tree roots and lay-downs as ambush points so Pauley bangs his lipless crankbait into the cover to trigger a reaction strike.
For information on lodging at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 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.