by John Neporadny Jr.
Pitching Jigs at Lake of the Ozarks….Tip from Denny Brauer
A newcomer to the Lake of the Ozarks can count on finding some bass residing at one particular type of shelter.
“This lake probably has more boat docks than any other lake in the country,” says professional bass angler Denny Brauer of Camdenton, MO. “On this lake, docks are the primary cover.” Since the floating structures are so plentiful, docks attract a majority of the fish throughout most of the year. By varying techniques from spring through fall, you can consistently catch more bass from docks than any other form of cover in the lake.
Pinpointing which docks to fish from the thousands dotting the lake can be a problem for a newcomer. “It’s a matter of dropping the trolling motor and fishing down through them,” says Brauer. “I usually fish down a row of docks and if I contact bass, then a lot of times every dock in that line is going to have some fish. “The pro angler suggests developing a pattern by paying attention to where you catch bass and then duplicating the pattern in other areas. For example, if you fish a row of docks and start catching bass along the piers on secondary points, you should then concentrate strictly on docks along secondary points.
“Naturally, certain docks are going to be more productive, because of the amount of stuff under them or their position on structure,” says Brauer. The pro angler suggests looking for docks owned by fishermen. “There are a lot of telltale signs that indicate that these docks are fished from and the owner has put brush around them. “Some of the signs to look for on docks include rod holders, lights hanging over the water and fish-cleaning tables. Brauer also considers older docks better fish-attractors because of the debris, such as sunken boats, chairs, etc., that have accumulated under them throughout the years.
New docks also produce bass in certain situations. “I’ve caught some good fish off docks I knew hadn’t been in the water for more than two weeks,” Brauer admits. “The new dock becomes the primary piece of cover for bass to utilize because of its location or because it might be the only dock there.”
During the spring, bass seek the protected areas behind docks to spawn. “Just find an area where you feel bass should move into spawn and key on docks in that area,” advises Brauer. The flattest gravel banks in the back of a protected cove or pocket is the ideal spawning area for Lake of the Ozarks bass. Some fish will spawn 1 to 4 feet deep but others in clear-water sections build their nests 7 to 8 feet deep.
The Grand Glaize, Gravois and Niangua arms warm up quicker and produce the earliest dock-fishing action in the spring. But Brauer notices there is only a five degree difference in the water temperature from one area to the next, so the other sections of the lake turn on about a week later. “The whole lake offers good fishing,” says Brauer. “We are lucky that our lake doesn’t have any real bad arms.”
Certain sections of docks hold bass at different times in the spring. “Fish all of the boat dock until you determine what the fish are doing,” says Brauer. Pay attention to where you catch bass to determine if the fish are suspending next to ladders, hanging in the brush along the side of docks or building nests under the walkways. “Once a pattern comes together it saves you time, because you can go from one dock to the next and fish the key part of the dock.”
Pitching a jig is Brauer’s favorite dock technique from spring through fall. He favors a 3/8-ounce jig and Strike King Denny Brauer Chunk plastic trailer. In most water conditions, Brauer selects jigs in brown, pumpkin-green or black-and-blue combination, but if the water turns dirty, he switches to a black-and-chartreuse combination. He pitches his jigs on 20-pound test line throughout the year.
Once Brauer determines the best spot on a dock, he pitches his jig to the target and lets it fall to the bottom. Since bass usually relate to the lake’s floor during this time, Brauer keeps his jig in contact with the bottom while occasionally lifting and shaking his lure.
The pro angler rates summer as the best season for pitching a jig to docks. The summer sun and heat forces bass that were relating to gravel and rocks in the spring to move into the brush piles and shady areas underneath the docks. “So much of the forage system is also relating to the boat docks,” Brauer advises. “The whole food chain is there.”
The best docks to try now are those on 45-degree shorelines or bluff-type banks of the Osage arm or at the mouths of the major tributaries. Most of the fish will be lying in brush piles 15 to 30 feet deep.
While bass mainly feed on crayfish and shad in the spring, they have another treat swimming around the docks in the summertime. “A tremendous amount of the forage consumed by a bass during the summertime are sunfish or bluegills because they are underneath those docks in great numbers,” says Brauer, who selects a pumpkin-green flake jig because this color combination best emulates bluegill hues. He favors a 1/2-ounce jig with a rattle and a plastic crawfish trailer for probing the deeper brush piles under the docks.
Positioning his boat in front of a dock, Brauer pitches his lure parallel to one side of the floating structure. After allowing the lure to sink into the brush, Brauer lets the jig sit in the cover for a while and then shakes it. The rattling noise produced by the jig attracts the attention of any bass lurking in the brush and eventually triggers a strike.
Keying on docks along flat banks works best in the fall. While bass prefer the backs of coves in the springtime, their favorite shallow docks in the fall are on main lake flats. “Massive schools of shad are moving in on the flats as the water cools down in the fall,” says Brauer. The fish that were lying in the deep brush piles throughout the summer, rise out of the cover and suspend under the dock’s foam to ambush shad. “Swimming a jig and frog is very effective especially in areas of the lake that are getting a lot of pressure from spinnerbait fishermen,” says Brauer, who uses a 1/4- to 3/8-ounce jig and plastic chunk in autumn.
Moving his boat to the front of a dock, Brauer pitches a couple of feet past the back corner of the pier and swims the lure along the foam. “I try to keep it within a foot below the foam as I work it back,” he advises. The pro angler notices he gets several strikes near the end of the dock. He believes bass follow the lure and when it clears the end of the foam, the fish sense its prey is escaping and pounce on the bait.
The technique may vary slightly throughout the seasons, but pitching a jig to docks consistently catches bass at the Lake of the Ozarks.
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.