By John Neporadny Jr.
Tips on Catching Lake of the Ozarks Bass
Although his time is limited on his home waters, Dion Hibdon can still best the local anglers in tournaments on Lake of the Ozarks. The Stover, Mo, angler proved that when he won the 2006 FLW Series event at the Lake of the Ozarks.
Following in his father Guido’s footsteps, Dion Hibdon competed in his first bass tournament at the age of 12. The next year he kept up a Hibdon family tradition when he started guiding on Lake of the Ozarks. Dion joined the ranks of professional bass fishermen at the age of 18 and has won both the Bassmasters Classic and the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship.
When he’s home from the tournament trail, Hibdon likes to catch bass on suspending jerk baits during the winter. “I do it with a lot smaller baits than a lot of the other guys do,” admits Hibdon. He opts for the Luckycraft Bevy Shad or the 3 1/8-inch Rapala Husky Jerk, which he tosses on 8-pound test line. His favorite lure colors include blue-and-pearl on sunny days or chrome hues for cloudy weather.
Bluff ends and channel swings that run tight to the bank are Hibdon’s favorite spots for cold-water bass. “In the wintertime you don’t have to relate to the points as much,” he suggests. Hibdon prefers fishing for wintertime bass in the big creeks around the dam area where the fish will be suspended 10 to 15 feet deep over depths of 30 feet.
When the water temperature rises into the high 40s and low 50s, Hibdon catches prespawn bass on a jig or a Storm Lures Wiggle Wart crankbait. He favors a green crawfish Wiggle Wart that he runs about 7 to 8 feet deep on 8- to 10-pound line.
Hibdon selects a 1/8- or 1/ 4-ounce jig and a Guido’s Baby Original plastic craw to work along transition banks where the shoreline changes from a bluff to chunk rock. He usually chooses a jig-and-craw in natural colors such as amber green flake or melon pepper during this time and works the lure on 8- to 10-pound test.
As the water temperature climbs into the mid 50s, Hibdon targets secondary points where he still catches some fish on a jerk bait or a Wiggle Wart. However, one of his favorite tactics for working the secondary points is to drag a Carolina-rigged soft plastic (plastic lizard, French Fry or Fluke in green pumpkin or watermelon). His rig consists of a main line of 17- to 20-pound test, a 1-ounce weight, and a 2- to 3-foot leader of 17- to 20-pound test. He drags his rig along the bottom of the gravel point at depths of 7 to 10 feet and fishes anywhere from the dam to the Grand Glaize arm.
Hibdon notices bass normally spawn at Lake of the Ozarks in mid to late April depending on the full moon. Although he has seen some bass spawn in 55-degree water, Hibdon notes most bass nest when the water temperature in the 60s. “Once the fish go to the beds to spawn the whole lake is good then,” advises Hibdon. Since he prefers sight fishing, Hibdon usually concentrates on the clearer water around Tan-Tar-A and below.
Most of the time the Stover, Mo., angler skips a Texas-rigged 4-inch Hibdon Tube with a 1/8- to 1/16-ounce Eagle Claw HP QuikClip weight and 2/0 Eagle Claw HP Hook) on 10-pound test line. He keys on flat banks in the creeks or flat pockets protected from the wind. “If you see a lot of smaller fish in the shallows a lot of times a bigger fish will be out in front of them in deeper water,” hints Hibdon. “A lot of the big ones will be out 5 to 6 feet deep.”
Post-spawn patterns usually work for Hibdon from early to mid May when he favors throwing a topwater popper. Hibdon uses a variety of small Japanese poppers that he twitches on 17- to 20-pound line in the depth range of 4 feet or less along secondary and main lake points. His favorite area for postspawn action runs from the mouths of the Niangua and Linn Creek to the Hurricane Deck Bridge.
If he spots any shad activity in the mornings, Hibdon also like to run a lavender shad Worden’s Timber Tiger square–billed crankbait along secondary points. If the fish start schooling up along the points, Hibdon works a Poe’s 300 Series crankbait (in shad patterns) on 12- to 14-pound line.
Bass start suspending on main lake points by the end of May and into June. “Throughout the month of June, if you fish points with a big worm and a crankbait you’ll be around the fish,” says Hibdon. He usually catches bass during this time from Proctor Creek down to the Gravois arm.
The pro angler fishes for suspended bass with a Texas-rigged 10-inch plastic worm (electric blue, black grape or black) attached to 17-pound line along with a 3/16-ounce bullet weight and 4/0 hook. Hibdon cranks a Poe’s 300 Series crankbait in shad-patterns with 8- to 10-pound line and then switches to a Poe’s 400 Series crankbait when the fish move deeper in late June.
In July the fish start relating to wood more, so Hibdon keys on brush piles 12- to 14-feet deep close to points. He uses the same size plastic worm but relies on a 5/16-ounce weight so he can work the lure along the bottom better.
Fall patterns begin for Hibdon in mid to late September when he catches bass around docks close to points. He favors throwing the lavender shad Timber Tiger 4- to 5-feet deep along any wind-blown points with docks. In October, bass suspend under the dock foam where Hibdon catches fish either by swimming a jig or cranking a spinnerbait or shallow-diving crankbaits.
His favorite lures for this pattern include a 1/4- or 3/8-ounce black jig with a shad gray or white twin-tail trailer (the bottom half of a Dion’s Classic), a 1/4- or 3/8-ounce Ninja Spin (white skirt with silver blades) and a lavender shad Timber Tiger DC-5 crankbait. He ties the jig or spinnerbait on 17- to 20-pound test and runs his crankbait on 14-pound line.
If the fall weather has been mild, Hibdon prefers fishing the upper end from Purvis Bay to Truman Dam. By late October and early November, bass start chasing large gizzard shad along the big dark rocks on the lower end of the lake. Hibdon favors catching these shallow bass on a Zara Spook, 1/ 2-ounce white spinnerbait with number 6 or 7 silver willowleaf blades or a 3/8-ounce buzz bait with an oversized blade (shad-pattern for clear days or black for rainy weather) tied on 17- to 20-pound line.
“It’s a very fickle pattern because some years they do it and some years they don’t,” warns Hibdon. “If it doesn’t get cold enough early enough, sometimes that big gizzard shad pattern doesn’t happen.” Hibdon then resorts to a 3/8-ounce jig tipped with a Guido’s Original plastic craw that he flips to wind-blown rocky banks until the jerk bait pattern begins in early to mid-December.
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.