March bass fishing at Lake of the Ozarks can be as unpredictable as the early spring weather.
Situated in central Missouri, 54,000-acre Lake of the Ozarks rarely freezes over completely during the winter, but some sections can still be covered with ice in early March. The lake is usually still drawn down to winter pool during the month and the water temperature can range from the high 30s at the beginning of March to around the 50-degree mark by the end of the month.
The fickle weather of March plays a key role in finding bass at the lake. “You can get some pretty drastic temperature changes in March,” says Greg Stoner, Missouri Department of Conservation fisheries biologist for the lake. “If there is a warm spell in March those fish can move in shallow fairly rapidly.” But if a late winter snowstorm hits, the bass will seek refuge in deeper water once the front passes through and bluebird skies prevail.
Accomplished tournament angler Brian Maloney notes he has never seen any bass spawn on his home lake during March. Most of Lake of the Ozarks largemouth and spotted bass are in the prespawn stage by the end of the month and the fish usually spawn from mid-April to mid-May, according to MDC biologist Greg Stoner.
In early March, Maloney searches for bass making the transition from winter havens to the prespawn staging areas. “The water temperature at the beginning of March is around 40 degrees and when we start to get 45 to 46 degrees we start to see the fish pull off of the channel swings and rocky banks and get up on the pea gravel where they start biting a Wiggle Wart (crankbait),” says Maloney. Since the lake is low throughout the month it is easy to follow the migration route of Lake of the Ozarks bass as they move along the transition areas where the bank changes from slab rock on the main lake to chunk rock in the coves, then to a mixture of chunk rock and gravel and finally to pea gravel pockets.
Lake of the Ozarks has a reputation of being a good place to throw suspending stickbaits in cold water, so Maloney recommends jerking Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogues or LuckyCraft Pointers for prespawn fish in the early part of the month. A jig or Chompers twin-tail plastic grub worked slowly along the drop-offs of channel swings and rounded points will also produce strikes during early to mid-March.
By the end of March the water temperature has climbed above 45 degrees and prespawn bass have moved up to the pea gravel banks where Maloney catches these fish on small crankbaits. “You still have to be relatively close to deep water but the fish are starting to feed shallower and sun themselves.” He finds that three or four days of sunshine in late March usually prompts Lake of the Ozarks bass to move up shallow on the spawning banks, which are typically a mix or pea gravel and sand in the back half of long coves.
No matter what the weather is in March you will have a good chance of catching a heavyweight bass during the month.
For information on lodging 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.