Tag Archive for Bass Fishing Tournament

Lake of the Ozarks’ Grand Glaize

Lake of the Ozarks’ Grand Glaize Loaded With Keepers

By John Neporadny Jr.

Tournaments keep the Grand Glaize arm of the Lake of the Ozarks well stocked with bass throughout the year.

Nearly every weekend, a bass tournament is held at the Lake of the Ozarks State Park Grand Glaize Public Beach 2 (also known as PB2). The popular access area hosts most of the major tournaments that visit the lake and countless club, buddy and charity events. The constant releasing of fish around the access area keeps the Glaize arm stocked with plenty of keeper bass (15 inches or longer) and some trophy fish. The biggest bass I’ve ever taken from the Lake of the Ozarks was an 8.10-pounder that I caught on a clown-colored Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue on the Glaize arm one Thanksgiving weekend.

Lake Ozark, MO, angler Greg West estimates the average size bass an angler can expect to catch on the Glaize during the winter runs from 2 1/ 2 to 4 pounds. In a fall tournament last year on the Glaize, West and his partner caught a five-fish limit weighing 18 pounds. “It can produce a 16- to 20-pound stringer if you catch it at the right time,” says the tournament competitor.

The Grand Glaize arm runs about 16 miles from its confluence with the Osage arm to the swinging bridges area where the tributary narrows down to a stream. The arm contains several large branches and hollows throughout its length including Watson Hollow, Red Bud Hollow, Brushy Hollow Cove, Anderson Bay, Honey Run Hollow, Brasher Cove and Patterson Hollow. Bass-holding structure on this arm includes creek channel drops and bends, bluffs, humps, long gradual gravel points and gravel flats. The upper end of the Glaize also contains the only lily pad patch in the lake.

“There aren’t as many docks on the Glaize but there are a lot more brush piles,” says West. A large section of the Glaize arm runs through the wooded and undeveloped Lake of the Ozarks State Park, so most of the docks on this arm are confined to the first couple of miles around the Grand Glaize bridge and some spots from the 26- to 30-mile mark. West discloses the key to fishing the undeveloped part of the Glaize is to find the humps, ridges and sunken brush piles.

Starting in December, West relies on one lure to catch bass throughout the winter. He opts for a Chompers twin-tail plastic grub that he attaches to either a 3/8- or 1/ 4- ounce jighead. If it’s a calm warm day he will try the 1/ 4-ounce jig, but on windy days or if the fish have moved into deeper water he switches to the 3/8-ounce model to stay in better contact with his lure. He usually ties his grubs on 8-pound test line although he will upgrade to 10-pound test in murky water.

West’s favorite hues for his Chompers grubs are root beer green flake on sunny days or green pumpkin in overcast weather. He also dips the tails in chartreuse dye.

“When the fish get in the brush piles during the winter months I just drag that thing slowly,” says West of his presentation. With this tactic, West can work an area thoroughly yet still cover a lot of water. The fish will be 20 to 25 feet deep on main lake humps and ridges throughout most of the winter.

During the cold months, West prefers fishing the upper half of the Glaize. “The farther up you go the better, but you have to get into some coves that have deep water,” he recommends. “If they keep dropping the lake too much then you have to keep coming back down lake. His favorite stretch for wintertime fishing is from Anderson Bay to about the 27- or 28-mile mark.

The brown Jewel Eakins’ Pro Model Jig tipped with a Chompers twin-tail grub also produces for West during early winter on the Glaize. When the water turns colder, the other predominant winter pattern is slowly twitching a Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue (silver-and-black, silver-and-blue and clown) over brush piles or along steep rocky banks.

The patterns usually remain stable throughout most of the winter when the fish congregate on the structure. “When the water gets colder in January and February the fish start stacking up and you might fish four rounded points and not get a bite, but then the fifth point will have fish bunched up on it,” says West.

The water color on the Glaize arm usually has more color to it than the other arms of the lake during the winter. “It is a little murky,” describes West. “You can usually see down about 1 foot to 1 1/ 2 feet.”

Since so many bass are released around the PB2 area, the lower end of the Glaize usually receives the heaviest fishing pressure. West notes the pressure diminishes the farther you run up the Glaize.

Other areas of the Lake of the Ozarks probably produce bigger stringers of bass in the winter than the Glaize, but if you want consistent action on a cold day, then try the undeveloped stretch of the Grand Glaize.

For information on lodging and other facilities 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.

Co-Angler For a Weekend

By Derek Vahey

In the past I have fished out of the back of other anglers boats while competing in team tournaments and have had some less than desirable experiences.  Many boat issues occurred because my partner did not maintain his equipment very well.  When I decided to compete in the Bass Fishing League Ozark Division as a co-angler, it was a difficult decision.  The bad experiences from the past as a back seat partner weighed heavily on my mind.  To save some money fishing my first full season, I made the decision to compete as a co-angler even though I could have utilized my own boat.

The first tournament of the year held on Table Rock Lake in early March.  I traveled from St. Louis and settled in awaiting the pre-tournament meeting for pairing and rules review.  This meeting is required for all anglers participating in the tournament.  After arriving at the local Wal-Mart where the meeting and weigh-in were to take place I noticed many beautiful boats and tow vehicles.  The crowded parking lot full of anglers was adding to my excitement as the pairings were issued.  I was going out number twenty with a field of 102 boats.

After waiting a long time I realize my partner, the boater, is not at the meeting.  This meeting is mandatory per the BFL rules and my partner has not shown up.  The decision to compete as a co-angler is quickly becoming a very bad choice.  After the tournament officials found I was left without a partner they asked if I would like to call him; I had no choice and said “absolutely”.  The first call resulted in a voice mail so I immediately called again and got an answer.  He reported he was having some battery issues and still planned to attend the tournament.  I made it clear he should be there by take-off as I had a lot of time and money invested in this event.  In addition, I told him our boat number, boat check-in time and take-off time.

The uncertainty is causing me some issue with trusting if he will actually show up for the tournament.  Realizing the situation is now out of my control I prepared for the morning take-off with the assumptions he will show up.  Considering the circumstances, I slept rather well and was waiting at the boat ramp at 5:30am.  Twenty-five minutes later, I called my partner and he said he was in line at a ramp across the lake.  He expected to meet me in about 20 minutes; my concerns began to fade.

My partner calls me when he reaches the ramp to pick me up and reality set in quickly.  His boat was just a few years old but its condition was horrible at best.  The boat was filthy dirty and his equipment was scattered throughout the boat.  Rods, hooks, old line and lures were everywhere.  I settled in, stowed my gear and asked, “How far are we going to run to our first stop?”  He replied, “about a half an hour”.  My rods were rigged with jerkbaits, Midwest Custom Tackle Football Jigs and a grub.  I was ready for my first cast.

His Bass Cat was rigged with a 250hp Mercury ProXS and it was fast.  We made our first stop in record time.  We were in the back of a creek arm in about eight feet of water.  I had done extensive research for fishing Table Rock Lake and assumed we would be targeting main and secondary points trying to catch fish staging to spawn.  Instead, we were going to beat the banks and I am not sure why he chose this strategy.  While I am casting to deeper water as he beat the banks he reported, “I pre-fished this area a few days ago and did not catch any keepers.”  Trying to prepare for my hopes of catching some legal sized fish I asked where he kept his net and he replied, “Man, I knew I forgot something in the truck.”  We are fishing for thousands of dollars and he forgot the net in his truck.

We had fished down the banks for about an hour while he continually threw a wiggle wart.  He finally connected with a short fish and I had not had a bite.  After bouncing off some flooded timber I notice he is fumblinging around in the front of the boat.  He turns and says, “Man, we are screwed.  The trolling motor batteries are dead.”  During the rest of the day, we positioned the boat with the big motor and drifted with the wind to fish this same cove all day long.  He caught about six fish all day with just one nice keeper  and I did not catch a single fish.  Words cannot express my frustration and disappointment.

During the long ride home I made yet another decision.  I will never enter another tournament as a co-angler as long as I have my own boat.  I am sure there are many good partners available for each tournament but this experience is something I will never forget.

Preparing for a Bass Tournament

By Marc Rogers

Preparing for a bass tournament begins at home long before heading to the water.  Getting your boat in top operating condition, your tackle organized and rods/reels cleaned and spooled with new line are what most anglers concentrate on when preparation begins.  However, studying maps and water conditions are also key and often overlooked.

Buying quality topographical lake maps are is something today’s anglers overlook when they have a boat equipped with the latest electronics having GPS with pre-loaded lake maps.  This equipment is great to have aboard your boat but if you don’t have a copy of a lake map you can’t start studying the body of water before hitting the water unless you want to study from the console of your boat.

Use a pen to mark key areas you find while reviewing the maps.  You should consider using different color ink for different categories of cover and structure as this can make finding areas quicker while on the water. Make notes on the margins of each page of the map close to the key areas you discover and later make notes of catches from these areas as well.

Anglers should concentrate on finding areas that will hold bass during the time of year they will be on the particular body of water.  An example would be if the tournament were held during the spawning seasons look for and mark areas of shallow flats, small coves and pockets or any area where bass may use to spawn.  Once on the water visit these areas prior to the competition day(s) to check for the current conditions.  Lakes levels could drastically affect these areas depending on low, normal or high water conditions.

If permitted to do so, arriving a day early for weekend angler is ideal for scouting the areas before the competition begins.  If there is an “off-limits” period anglers should plan a trip prior to this time and conduct scouting.  However, if you are limited to not having time to scout the water before the tournament begins at least you will have an idea of what to expect when the take-off begins.  Knowing the lake level is five feet above normal pool will allow you to know that the normally three feet deep flat is going to have eight feet of water over it instead of the normal three feet.

Study the lake conditions from past tournaments on the Internet.  Do keyword searches for the particular body of water and look for tournament results from years past.  Many times anglers will share more information once the event is over during the weigh-in.  This information allows for a starting point for the scouting process.  You may find the current conditions are very similar to years past during the same time period.

Look for lures and techniques that have done well on the water in the past.  Bass are creatures of habit and will generally follow the same patterns during similar conditions.  By no means should you throw only jigs because last year’s tournament was won on a jig during similar conditions but you should try them during practice and scouting.

Once you have chosen about a dozen key areas to concentrate on tie on some lures to get a feel for what the bottom of the lake has in cover and structure.  A crankbait that will reach the bottom of key areas will help indicate what type of cover and bottom composition is present.  Crankbaits allow you to cover water quickly and give you a feel for what the lake holds below the surface.

A Carolina rigged lure will also allow you to cover water quickly and a heavy sinker will also indicate what lies below.  If you are wanting a more detailed feel of what the bottom holds try a heavy jig and work it slowly by dragging it along the bottom.  Brush piles and submerged cover are easily detected with this lure.  Let it drag and hang up in the cover in hopes of getting debris stuck to the lure for an even better idea of what lies below.

While time on the water catching fish is priceless for anglers to gain experience, preparation begins long before launching the boat.  Just because you have high tech electronic equipment onboard doesn’t mean you should stop looking at maps before setting out on your next trip.  Maps are a great means to do some preparation long before you hook up the boat and head for the water.

Locating Bass Fishing Areas

by Marc Rogers

Anglers of all skill levels are constantly in search of productive fishing areas and getting the maximum reward for their efforts. Fishing areas that have the ability to hold bass for extended periods will not hold feeding bass throughout an entire day of fishing. The bass that use the area as their home will only feed at certain times during a day. Successful anglers are able to locate the areas where bass live and determine the times they feed.

The first step in this process is to locate areas where bass reside most of the time. While bass are caught shallow at anytime, they seldom reside in shallow water for an extended period. Therefore, deep-water bass are more predictable when it comes to locating them. Deep water is a relative term and bass holding in deep water are affected by the thermocline when it is present. Lowland lakes deep- water holding areas are much shallower than deep-water hideouts highland lakes.

Locating bass fishing areas is a seasonal approach. During the summer and winter, bass generally live in deeper areas. Spawning bass will hold in shallow water for longer periods to complete the spawning cycle. In the fall, bass will scatter more than other seasons and is the most frustrating season for some anglers. Some will still be holding in deep water while others have already made the move to shallow areas to chase schools shad.

Isolated, submerged cover will concentrate bass better than a lot of scattered cover in the similar areas. They will sometimes use this cover for ambush points to attack prey that venture close to the cover. However, bass will also wonder outside the cover to chase unsuspecting prey. In addition, sometimes bass will use only one part of the cover more than to ambush prey for reasons not evident to anglers. When presenting lures to cover, anglers should do so from all available directions as well as over the top and through the center of the cover.

When locating bass fishing areas, Midwest Fishing Tackle Staff Member, Aaron Hunter reports “Main and secondary points are always my first stop. If I can find cover located on these points I target that cover.” Regardless of the season and water temperatures, Hunter says, “Points always have the ability to hold bass. Points are like highways for bass to travel from deep to shallow water. The seasons do not matter, when bass have deep water close to points that have shallow banks, bass will be close by.”

When choosing lures offer the bass a variety until they indicate what they prefer. Do not limit lure selection due to cover you are fishing. Many anglers use only Texas rigged plastics and jigs for fishing cover. Crankbaits are one example of lures effective for covering a lot of water and are effective when fishing brushy cover. The crankbait bill will somewhat protect the hooks when retrieved and are better at getting through cover than many anglers realize.

Deep-diving crankbaits on ten-pound test florocarbon line is an effective technique to find isolated cover on points. The lures will reach depths of 20-feet or more and contact the available cover giving away its location on the bottom. When crankbaits deflect off the cover, they will draw a reaction strike from nearby bass.

Carolina rigged plastics are another way to cover water quickly and locate the available bottom cover. The heavy sinkers allow anglers to distinguish between rock and wood cover.  Slowly dragging a Carolina rigged soft plastic will draw strikes from lethargic bass that will not take a fast moving crankbait.

Once productive cover is located jigs and Texas rigged plastics are a great technique to slowly pick apart of piece of cover. The slow moving lures often aggravate bass into striking because they want to chase off or kill the lure.

Because bass are not always feeding, the second key to getting the most from these areas is to be fishing them at the time the bass decide to feed. Many productive areas have been abandoned by anglers because they determined the bass were not present when the bass were not feeding during the time the angler was there. It is best to have located a few potential areas close to each other and rotate between them throughout the day. This increases the chances you will be on at least one of them when the bass decide to feed.  Aaron Hunter says, “I rotate between a few spots throughout each day on the water. Bass do not always feed at the same time on each spot and I feel I have more opportunities each day by doing this. Also, I can still get reaction strikes from bass that are not actively feeding.”

To better your chances of catching bass pick a few areas and patiently present lures to all sides and in the middle of the available cover. Rotate between these areas during your fishing time and visit each several times throughout the day.

Lake of the Ozarks’ Tournament Strategies, Part 2

By John Neporadny Jr

This is the second part of a two-part series on tournament winning patterns at the Lake of the Ozarks. Part One focused on how to pattern bass throughout the spring from pre-spawn to post-spawn, while Part Two will discuss the top patterns for summer and fall tournaments at the lake.

The massive size of Lake of the Ozarks plays a key role in tournament strategy for the summer and fall.

The heavy recreational boat traffic becomes a burden for tournament anglers throughout the warm-weather months, so they usually have to compete at night or in the upper arms of the major tributaries. Most daytime tournaments in the summer and early fall take off from the Drake Harbor access in Warsaw, which is the extreme upper end of the Osage arm. This end of the lake provides the best daytime action during the heat of summer and has the least amount of boat traffic.

Night tournaments are popular throughout summer and early fall on the lower end of the lake where the winning catches are frequently five-fish limits weighing more than 20 pounds.  These nocturnal events usually take off at Grand Glaize Public Beach 2, Shawnee Bend and the Coffman Bend access.

Here’s a look at the best summer and fall patterns to help make you a winner at the Lake of the Ozarks.


In June, a short-arm, ½-ounce spinnerbait with a single number 5 Colorado blade takes bass at night. Best colors for this spinnerbait pattern are black or black-and-red skirt with a gold blade.

This tactic works best pumping the lure off the bottom and letting it flutter down along chunk rock points.  The fish will be holding anywhere from 1 to 15 feet deep throughout the night.

From mid-June to the latter part of July, nighttime action for bass turns on in the Big and Little Niangua arms where the fish hold in brush piles around docks. Flipping behind docks can also be productive after dark on the Little Niangua arm.

During the last part of July and throughout August, the brush piles on the lower end of the lake produce the best nighttime action. Some of the most productive areas during this time include the Gravois arm, North Shore area, and the Osage arm around the Lodge of the Four Seasons.

The depth of the fish varies throughout the night as bass come up to feed at certain times.  Start the evening keying on brush piles 15 to 20 feet deep and when the fish stop biting in the brush, move up shallower to search for bass feeding behind docks.

Magnum-size plastic worms (10 or 11 inches) and jigs consistently produce victories during night tournaments.  Berkley Power Worms in darker hues, such as black, blue fleck, June bug and red shad work well, along with a brown or black 3/8-ounce jig with a rattle and some type of plastic trailer (craw or double-tail grub) in a bluegill color.   Cast the worms beyond the brush pile and slowly crawl the lure through the limbs to trigger a strike.

During windy nights, slow-rolling a spinnerbait along main lake chunk rock banks also produces summertime bass on the lower end of the lake. Try a 3/8- or ½-ounce model with a silver willowleaf blade and a black twin-tail plastic trailer for the best results.

Main channel brush piles on the lake’s lower end also yield good stringers of bass during the daytime for any anglers with enough persistence to withstand the constant barrage of large wakes. The fish will be holding tight on the brush or the bottom, so slowly work a Texas-rigged 8- to 10-inch plastic worm over the rocks and through the wood cover.

The upper Osage offers tournament anglers a break from the daytime pleasure boaters. The main channel of this section provides the most consistent summertime action since bass stay cooler and have more oxygen created by water flowing from Truman Dam. Key areas to try in this riverine section include points, islands and docks on the flats. Lay-downs and shallow brush piles are also prime targets to try for summer bass.

When the current flows, throw a ½-ounce spinnerbait with large blades or flip a red shad 6-inch worm to the docks and other shallow cover.  On calm, sunny days, pitching a 10-inch Berkley Power Worm deep into the wells of shallow main lake docks usually produces the biggest bass.


The upper Osage continues to generate the best daytime action in early autumn.  Major creeks in the upper end, such as Proctor, Big and Little Buffalo, Rainy, Turkey and Brush, start to turn on in September.  The water starts to cool down quicker in this section of the lake and bass become active in various spots, including the shallow weeds in the coves, along points and flats near the main river or creek channels and laydowns on the main channel.

Flipping 8- to 11-inch ring worms (motor oil, pumpkinseed or fire n’ ice hues) into the shallow weeds produces keepers throughout early fall.  The big flats in the creeks are excellent spots to catch quality fish on 3/8- to ½-ounce buzz baits.

The main lake points remain productive throughout September. Bass remain 10 to 14 feet deep and can be taken on magnum-size plastic worms or black-and-blue or brown-and-black jigs with number 11 pork frogs or plastic craws.

Touring pro Randall Hutson relied on a magnum worm pattern when he won the Central Pro-Am Association’s September 2000 Lake of the Ozarks Pro-Am. Hutson pitched an 11-inch red shad plastic worm to docks about halfway back in the creeks of the Osage arm and caught most of his fish bumping the worm slowly along the bottom and through brush 7 to 9 feet deep.

An effective lure for taking kicker fish on the upper Osage through September and October is a ½-ounce Tennessee shad Rat-L-Trap. The lure works especially well on points when bass bust the surface.

October can be a tough month throughout the lake because the upper ends start to experience turnover and the lake’s lower end hasn’t cooled off enough to activate the big fish. Running a 3/8-ounce white or chartreuse spinnerbait along the sides of shallow docks on the main lake flats of the Osage arm above the Hurricane Deck bridge is one of the most productive patterns for October.  Swimming a ¼-ounce white jig with a white pork or plastic trailer is an effective way to catch kicker fish from the same docks.

Brush piles on the lake’s lower end still produce some quality fish in October.  Work a Texas-rigged 8- to 10-inch plastic worm through the brush in the 10- to 15-foot depth range along main and secondary points.

November is the most popular fall month for two major tournament circuits to visit the Lake of the Ozarks.  The Missouri BASSMASTER Central Invitational had been held on the lake every November since 1998 until 2002 and the Central Pro-Am circuit frequently runs its Fall Pro-Am Spectacular event there.

The winning patterns for the last four BASSMASTER events show how diverse the fishing can be during this month.  In all four tournaments, the winners relied on patterns that were different in lure selection, structure, cover and area of the lake.  Weather and water conditions played key roles in dictating the best pattern for these fall events.

During the 1997 BASSMASTER event, daytime temperatures never climbed above 32 degrees and the water temperature dropped into the 50-degree range so Jay Yelas relied on a slow presentation to catch his winning stringer.  Stopping at more than 100 docks each competition day on the Osage arm near the Grand Glaize bridge, Yelas worked a ½-ounce black-and-blue Berkley Rattle Power Jig and a black-and-blue Berkley Power Frog along the bottom next to each dock.  His most productive docks were on points with brush piles at depths of 10 feet.

The lake showed why its one of the top bass fisheries in the country during the 1998 BASSMASTER tournament when Dan Morehead won with an impressive catch of 15 bass weighing 60 pounds, 10 ounces.  The lake was abnormally high and murky for November, which made conditions ideal for shallow buzz bait action. Morehead keyed on the unusually dirty waters in the dam area and threw a 3/8-ounce Mann’s Hank Parker Classic Buzzbait.  Positioning his boat parallel to the bank, Morehead ran his buzz bait in water less than 1 foot deep along algae-covered rocks on secondary points. A buzz bait also produced several fish for the other top five finishers in this event.

The lake was lower and clearer for the 1999 BASSMASTER Invitational and the bass were reluctant to hit a buzz bait. So tournament winner Randy Jackson headed for the Niangua arm and concentrated on chunk-rock banks and boat docks near channel swings. In the mornings, he ran a white ½-ounce Crock-O-Gator 4×5 spinnerbait along the shallows of rocky banks and in the afternoons he flipped a Crock-O-Gator Heavy Tube (watermelon/red flake) along the dock foam.

Relying on a pattern usually applied during the winter, Curt Lytle won the 2000 BASSMASTER tournament last November.  Early in the competition, he took keepers running a brown-and-white crankbait in pockets between bluffs in a creek on the upper Osage arm. But as the weather got colder throughout the week and the water temperature continued to drop, Lytle switched to a slower presentation. Positioning his boat parallel to the bluffs in the creek, Lytle slowly twitched a chrome-and-blue suspending jerkbait to catch bass suspended along the rock walls.

Another winning technique was revealed when Central Pro-Am held its Bass Pro Shops Fall Pro-Am Spectacular event the weekend before the BASSMASTER Invitational. Relying on a traditional fall pattern, Gary Carrier won this event by keying on wind-blown points on the Osage River above Hurricane Deck bridge. However Carrier avoided fishing the bank and ran a shad-colored Bomber Model 7A crankbait for bigger largemouth bass holding in the 4- to 8-foot depth range.

Take your pick. The Lake of the Ozarks has plenty of water for trying a variety of patterns. It’s just a matter of narrowing down those choices to find a winning combination.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 152-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.

Lake of the Ozarks’ Tournament Strategies, Part 1

By John Neporadny Jr

This is the first part of a two-part series on tournament winning patterns at the Lake of the Ozarks. Part One will focus on how to pattern bass throughout the spring from pre-spawn to post-spawn, while Part Two will discuss the top patterns for summer and fall tournaments at the lake.

Under its disguise of luxurious condominiums, million-dollar homes and dock-to-dock shorelines lies one of Missouri’s top bass tournament lakes.  Although younger reservoirs appeal more to the bass angler’s eye with all the flooded timber and undeveloped shoreline, the Lake of the Ozarks entices bass tournaments with its hidden charms.

Numerous tournaments ranging in size from 10-boat bass club events to 150-boat national circuit contests are held each weekend at this 58,000-acre reservoir from February through May. With this sort of attention, the lake receives plenty of fishing pressure, yet still yields heavyweight stringers of bass to tournament competitors.

Since Lake of the Ozarks is such a popular site for bass clubs, charity benefit organizations and regional and national circuits to hold tournaments, let’s look at the best springtime patterns to help make you a winner on this massive reservoir.

Pre-spawn Tactics

The Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League (formerly Red Man) circuit usually gets the early jump on the Lake of the Ozarks tournament season by holding events in February.  As the days get longer and warmer throughout this month, bass begin their pre-spawn staging on secondary points.

These pre-spawn bass move close to the bank on sunny days but overcast weather causes the fish to suspend in deeper water. Some of the heaviest stringers of the year are taken in late February and throughout March, as big bass become active after a long winter’s slumber.

Jerking a Suspending Rattlin’ Pro Rogue or other weighted stickbaits on 8- to 10-pound test line produces best in the clear-water sections of the lake, including the North Shore, Gravois, Grand Glaize, Big and Little Niangua and the lower half of the Osage arm. The most productive stickbait colors are clown (yellow, red and white), silver/blue, silver/black and fire tiger.

On calm, sunny days in the early spring, a 1/4- to 3/8-ounce jig and a plastic crawfish trailer dragged along the rocky points and creek channels take quality bass. The best color combinations for the jig-and-trailer include black/brown, black/blue and black/chartreuse.

Slow rolling a ½-ounce white-and-chartreuse spinnerbait along bluffs produces pre-spawn bass if early spring rains turn the lake turbid.  When the lake remains clear, slow rolling the same spinnerbait through shallow brush in the stained waters of the upper Big and Little Niangua arms takes heavyweight bass on sunny days.

When the water temperature climbs above 45 degrees in March, a brown crawfish Storm Lures Wiggle Wart crankbait becomes an effective lure for catching a quick limit of bass. This lure works best along the flat gravel banks inside coves on the Osage arm above the Hurricane Deck Bridge.

While the crankbait pattern produces good numbers of fish throughout late March and early April, most of the major tournaments held during this time are won on jigs.  Allen Armour won the April 1994 Missouri BASSMASTER Invitational flipping a Lunker Lures Rattleback Jig and Riverside Big Claw plastic trailer to shoreline cover along creek channel banks on the Osage arm. Takahiro Omori captured the April 1996 Missouri BASSMASTER Invitational by working a Hula Grub on a 1/8-ounce jighead along main lake points and chunk-rock banks on the Grand Glaize arm.

A couple of Central Pro-Am Association events held in the spring were also won with a jig.  Jim Eakins won the March 1998 Lake of the Ozarks Pro-Am pitching a homemade brown 3/8-ounce jig and a brown Gene Larew Salt Craw to chunk rock banks in the back of creeks around the Hurricane Deck bridge area.  His son, Troy Eakins, took first in the April 1999 Lake of the Ozarks Pro-Am using the same homemade jig and a green pumpkin Zoom Critter Craw, which he pitched to ledges in the backs of cuts and shallow boat docks on the Osage arm and the mouth of the Niangua.

Perennial tournament winner Bruce Gier earned one of his biggest victories on his home lake by relying on a brown 3/8-ounce jig and a number 11 Uncle Josh pork frog during the April 1992 Lake of the Ozarks Pro-Am.  The local angler moved back and forth from shallow to deep water along sandy, gravel areas in pockets of coves in the North Shore area.

Spawn Techniques

The number of tournaments at the lake declines and the winning weights drop sharply by late April and early May when bass move on the nests.

Bass spawn anywhere along pea gravel banks in pockets, but the biggest fish usually build their nests behind boat docks where cables, walkways, pillars and sunken brush piles offer protection from the wind and nest intruders.

Targeting docks in the backs of coves is a key to finding spawning bass.  The back ends of main-lake condominium docks also attract bedding fish in latter stages of the spawn.

On the upper Osage and other stained-water sections of the lake, pitching or flipping with heavy line (20- to 30-pound test) and flipping tackle behind the dock cables produces the best fish.  A ½-ounce jig and jumbo trailer or a Texas-rigged 8-inch plastic lizard usually triggers strikes from bedding bass in water less than 3 feet deep.

Sight fishing can be a productive pattern in the clear sections of the lake throughout the spawn.   Aggressive fish can be taken on a brown ¼-ounce jig and number 11 pork frog or double-tail plastic grub worked on bait-casting tackle and 10-pound test line.

If nesting bass shun jigs, these same finicky fish can be tricked into biting a variety of soft plastic baits tossed on spinning tackle and 6- to 8-pound test line. Top lure choices for tournament anglers include 6-inch plastic lizards and small plastic crawfish imitators rigged with either little or no weight to create a slow fall.

In the May 1995 BASSMASTER Invitational, George Cochran won the event by catching most of his keepers on a Texas-rigged purple Riverside Air Worm that he threw on spinning tackle and 10-pound test line. He found spawning fish next to shallow laydowns at the mouths of pockets in the Grand Glaize arm around the Public Beach No. 2 weigh-in site.

Since quality fish locked on beds can be difficult to reach sometimes, keying on cruising bass provides an alternative method for taking kicker fish.   Run down the pea gravel banks and make long casts with Zara Spooks, 5- to 7-inch soft plastic jerkbaits or 6-inch floating worms. Retrieve all of these lures at a steady pace and move the lure faster if a dark shape starts following the bait.

Bigger bass also tend to spawn deeper—especially in clear water. The best lures for these spawners are 6-inch plastic lizards worked on Carolina or split-shot rigs. Drag these lures on the bottom along the front or sides of docks at depths of 8 to 10 feet.

Post-spawn Tricks

The winning weights continue to drop by late May when bass are recuperating from the rigors of spawning. During this time, catching a limit of 3-pounders usually ensures a high finish in most tournaments.

A variety of patterns pay dividends in the post-spawn stage.  In the early mornings and late evenings, quality fish can be taken on Zara Spooks, Excalibur Spittin’ Images, and propeller topwater lures worked along flat main lake points. Twitching a pearl or shad-colored soft plastic jerkbait along the same structure also tricks hungry post-spawn bass on the points. Topwater action can last all day when the skies remain overcast.

A problem tournament anglers must contend with during this time of year is increased recreational boat traffic. The wakes from pleasure boaters makes the surface choppy and curtails the topwater bite. So competitive anglers resort to tactics that allow them to probe deeper water.

The most consistent pattern for taking bass during this situation is dragging a Carolina rig along main lake points and humps.  After the topwater bite ends, try dragging a rig in the 8-to 10-foot depth range and eventually move out to depths of 20 to 25 feet.

The best lures for dragging are 6-inch plastic lizards, double-tail plastic grubs and the new creature-type baits (Zoom Brush Hog, Riverside Lures Wooly Hawg Tail, Berkley Power Hawg and the Gene Larew Hoo Daddy).  The most productive colors for all of these lures are green pumpkin, watermelon, watermelon/red flake, pumpkinseed and pumpkinseed/chartreuse. Components for the Carolina rig should include a ½- to ¾-ounce slip sinker, plastic or glass bead, swivel and a 3- to 4-foot leader line tied to a 3/0 hook for the plastic lizard or 4/0 to 5/0 hooks for the plastic grubs and creature baits.

After catching a limit of bass on the Carolina rig, you can try for a kicker fish in the backs of creeks.  Head for the last docks on each side of the creek and pitch a plastic worm in back and down the sides of the dock. Bluegill are plentiful around the docks and are a post-spawn bass’ prime forage. You should mimic this bait by using  5- to 6-inch ring worms in bluegill hues, such as camouflage, pumpkinseed/chartreuse, green pumpkin or rootbeer/green flake.

If the water is murky on the lower end, post-spawn bass remain behind the docks throughout May.   These shallow fish can be taken on 5/16- to 9/16-oucne jigs and Uncle Josh number one pork frogs or plastic crawfish pitched behind the cables.

The upper Osage arm also produces winning catches during the post-spawn. The best pattern for this area is flipping black-and-blue or black-and-brown 3/8- to ½-ounce jigs and plastic craws or 10-inch plastic worms (pumpkinseed, red shad, electric grape or green pumpkin) along the sides of docks in the coves. The bigger fish will be holding at depths of 6 to 10 feet.  On windy days, plenty of keepers can be taken by running a 3/8- to ½-ounce chartreuse or white spinnerbait with willowleaf blades through the shallow brush.

Night tournaments usually begin in May on the lower end of the lake. Sunken brush piles in the 8- to 10-foot depth range along secondary and main lake points are ideal spots for working a Texas-rigged plastic worm after dark. The most productive plastic worm for this pattern is the 10-inch Berkley Power Worm in dark colors (blue fleck, black/blue, red shad, electric grape, black and tequila sunrise).

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 152-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.

Bass Fishing Lessons the Hard Way

By Marc Rogers


On the Water Bass Fishing Lessons

The majority of anglers consider non-productive days on the water as something close to a failure. Some even express disappointment when just a few fish are caught and sometimes say things like “I should not have gone fishing today”. However, times when fish are not caught there are still lessons that anglers can learn from their day on the water.

Anglers experiencing poor catch rates should record the conditions and what they tried on that particular day so they know what did not work. While it is nice to discover what did work for a great day on the water, this process of elimination can be very helpful on later outings. I have had countless multi-day fishing outings where what was learned on the first day helped tremendously during later days. If I did not catch fish on the first day, and the second day presented similar conditions, I knew what not to do on day two of the fishing trip.

One recent bass tournament situations comes to mind when I think about learning while not catching fish.  I competed in a tournament where sub-legal bass were easy to catch in shallow water. While catching more than 50 bass I was able to weigh in just one legal size bass at the event. This bass was caught in 8 feet of water, with a jig, 30 minutes before the end of the tournament. While reflecting back on this day it became clear to me that I waited too long to make a presentation or lure change. There were many limits brought to the scales that day by other anglers and they too reported catching numerous small bass. What I discovered was the small males were moving into the shallow water to get the beds ready for the spawn and the larger females were still staging in 8 – 12 feet depths. The larger bass were not as aggressive like the smaller ones were so my fast and shallow lure presentations did not entice them into biting lures.

Two weeks later I entered another tournament on the same lake. The weather conditions caused the water temperature in the lake to remain similar to the prior event’s conditions. The water temperatures had increased about three degrees not much else had changed. During this event I stayed away from the shallow water and used crankbaits that maintained a depth of eight feet.

The smaller bass were still active at this depth as well, but I was able to catch a limit of legal size bass along with many smaller ones. The largest bass of the day was over 6 ½ pounds and won the big bass money of the event. These larger bass were all taken on a crankbait at approximately eight feet deep.

The larger females spend a very short time in the shallow water during the spawn. After moving onto the banks they deposit eggs in a bed and move out again to recover from the stress of the spawn. It is the males that spend the most time in the shallow water, guarding the nest and young from predators. The window of opportunity for catching the larger females in shallow water is small.

There were really two lessons learned from my poor performance of the prior tournament. First, I should not have spent all day catching sub-legal bass without trying a different approach. Second, was the lesson of moving to deeper water to take the larger females that were staging to move up into the shallow water to spawn.

Bagnell Dam: Cold-water Hot Spot

by John Neporadny Jr.

Finding active bass in the dead of winter can be a numbing experience.

Winter Fishing Below Bagnell Dam

Freezing temperatures, blustery winds and a vast body of water in which fish congregate in a small area can leave anglers feeling cold and frustrated after a day on their favorite lake.

Reservoirs do have an area that offers some shelter from the wind and contains plenty of active fish. When the fishing shuts down on the lake, anglers should concentrate on the downhill side of the dam.

A favorite wintertime spot of Eldon, Mo., angler Harold Stark is the Osage River below Lake of the Ozarks‘ Bagnell Dam. Stark, a veteran tournament angler, has been fishing the river for more than two decades and has discovered certain patterns for catching bass below the dam during the winter.

The Missouri angler notes that spillway water tends to remain warmer throughout most of the winter. From November to mid-January, the water temperature below the dam stays in the 45- to 50-degree range. The area finally loses its warm water in late January when the lake and spillway water temperatures drop to the 39-degree mark. The spillway area also keeps anglers warmer because the dam and the hills alongside the structure serve as windbreaks.

Stark lists November, December and January as the best winter months to fish below the dam. Stable water conditions during this time create an excellent opportunity for any anglers willing to brave the cold weather and still catch plenty of bass.

Two stable conditions needed during this time are clear water and a constant water level. Water clarity is crucial, since cold, murky water can completely shut down fishing. But the lack of rain during a normal winter keeps the river clear. The lake’s winter drawdown also helps the fishing by producing a steady flow in the spillway area, which positions the fish in certain areas and keeps the water level stable.

The wintery weather has little effect on spillway bass. Current has more of an influence on their daily routine. “When the water’s up and moving, anything that blocks the current has the probability of holding fish,” Stark says. “The current has everything to do with finding fish. It positions everything the fish do, whether they’re resting, feeding or moving from one place to another.”

The stronger the current, the easier it is to find bass. “It can stack every fish of a certain area in one spot,” Stark says. During heavy flow, Stark looks for bass in eddies close to the bank. “They’ll really stack up in those places.”

Stark catches most of his fish 1 to 10 feet deep from structure next to the bank. Prime structure includes rock dikes, bridge pilings, boat docks, flooded timber or laydowns.

The most productive methods for taking these cold-water bass are slow-rolling a spinnerbait and flipping a jig and plastic chunk. Stark lets the water flow determine which size lure he’ll use.

During a heavy flow, Stark will throw a white or white and chartreuse 1/2-ounce spinnerbait with a nickel-colored number 5 willow leaf blade to catch active fish. He selects a 1/2-ounce jig with a Zoom Super Chunk Junior for a strong current. His favorite colors are a brown jig with black and chartreuse chunk or a black-and-blue combination.

The heavier lures help him maintain contact with the bottom where the fish will be concentrated. The Missouri angler also uses lighter line with his spinnerbait to make the lure sink better. “Whenever there’s a lot of current, you almost have to go down to 10- or 12-pound test line with a spinnerbait so it can actually get down,” Stark says. Heavier line has a tendency to drag the lure along with the current.

When fishing a 1/2-ounce jig, Stark chooses lines up to 17-pound test. He can use the heavier line because jigs fall quicker than spinnerbaits and stay down in the rocks better.  Since the lure bangs around in the rocks which nick the line, a heavier monofilament receives less damage when bumped along the bottom.

Maintaining boat control in a strong current can be difficult. Stark usually points his boat upstream and drifts with the current rather than trying to move upstream.

Since river bass face the current to pick off any morsels that drift by, the most natural way to present a lure is to cast it upstream from the structure and let the current push it into the  ambush area. The bass position themselves on the outermost part of the structure, such as the farthest point of a log, where they can nab baitfish. In the eddies, they will hang right behind a rock and right at the edge of it. “They’ll be positioned right at the edge of any kind of break in the eddy itself,” Stark says.

Stark slow rolls his spinnerbait along with the current. He tries to pull the lure along the bottom, letting it nick the rocks every once in a while. He also works his jigs in a slow manner. “I throw it up against the bank, swim it back and just skim the bottom.”

When the current weakens, the bass tend to move to new locations. “You need one of the two extremes to catch bass, either a lot of running water or none at all,” Stark says. “When there’s no current, the bass will scatter out and find the deeper holes to lay in. They’ll also bury up into the thickest part of the cover.”

Lure sizes should be scaled down as the current loses velocity. Stark switches to a 1/4-ounce spinnerbait with a number 4 willow leaf blade during a light flow. When the current ceases, Stark switches to tube baits and single or double-tail 3-inch plastic grubs in blue or chartreuse hues. He’ll throw the tubes on a 1/16-ounce jig head and the plastic grubs on a 1/8-ounce jig.

While working a deeper hole or thick cover, Stark presents the bait in a subtle manner. He  lets the bait flutter into the bass’ lair and avoids moving the lure more than an inch at a time. Even inactive bass can be taunted into sucking up  a slow-falling plastic tube or plastic grub.

Although more bass can be caught in the lake, Stark catches heftier limits in the spillway waters. “I can catch more limits of 3-, 4- and 5-pounders out of the Osage River than I can out of the Lake of the Ozarks.” He says he has taken six-fish limits up to 20 pounds from the river. Stark has also caught bass weighing up to 7 pounds below the dam. Anglers can expect to catch an equal share of largemouths and spotted bass from the spillway area.

While the fishing can be great during the winter below a dam, it can also be hazardous to your bass boat. Stark warns that anglers should watch out for trees that wash off the bank and become lodged in gravel bars in the middle of the river. Anyone navigating below a dam should also be aware of constantly changing jetties, wing dams and gravel bars, all menaces to your boat’s lower unit. According to Stark, the ideal rig for fishing spillway areas is a john boat with a jet-drive motor because of its capability to run in extremely shallow water.

Despite the navigational hazards and frigid weather, fishing the lee side of a dam can satisfy an angler’s craving for some wintertime bass action.

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

Adapting to Changing Conditions During Competition

By Marc Rogers

Bass Fishing Conditions are Constantly Changing

During the fall of every year, national, regional and local bass fishing organizations hold their year-end championships. Fall is a season of constantly changing conditions on most bodies of water.  Weather fronts move quickly, forcing fishing conditions to change just as fast.  Anglers who fail to adapt to the changing conditions often see great fishing situation fade to difficult situation overnight.

Many times weekend anglers arrive a few days early to practice for the upcoming competition.  They spend this time trying to develop a pattern for the tournament and many are successful in doing so.  However, if weather and water conditions change between practice and competition days some will fail to adapt to the changing conditions and a successful pattern developed during the practice period no longer applies.

The following situation really took place during the Anglers in Action 2009 Championship on Stockton Lake in Missouri.  Stockton Lake is an Ozark Lake with generally clear water.  The lake has two major arms (The Sac and Little Sac Rivers) that run north and south from the upper ends to the dam.  The water surface is choppy to rough due to the windy conditions that are normal on the lake.  It is known as the best sailing destination of the Midwest for good reason.

Launching the boat on Thursday (two day prior to the two day tournament) at daylight the winds were light with heavy cloud cover.  Air temperatures were in the high 40-degree range and the water was clear with approximately 36 inches of visibility in the main lake.  The upper ends were stained with approximately 18 inches of visibility.  Surface water temperatures were 60-62 degrees throughout the lake.  Just after daylight the winds increased to a steady 10-15 mph.

The Southwest Missouri area had received up to 10 inches of rain the week before pushing the water level 6 ½ feet above summer pool.  This rise in water left a lot of shoreline cover flooded in 6 feet of water.  Most of the shoreline cover is short brush and some of it was completely submerged with most partial under water.

At my first stop my partner and I started pitching jigs to the edges of the visible cover and in the first hour caught what would have been a limit of legal largemouth bass.  We continued to find similar areas and were able to repeat the same results all day.  Friday was different as we continued to target similar areas and again was able to put together a limit of bass.  When loading the boat on Friday afternoon we had about 15 areas where we were confident we could catch a limit of bass each day of competition.

Saturday, the first day of competition, was again cloudy with similar weather conditions.  We started targeting the same areas where we caught bass on the two previous days.  Our first stop was a secondary point where we had found the best fish the prior days.  After several sub-legal bass boated we made a move to another area where we had previously taken legal bass but again were only able to boat sub-legal fish.  After several more moves throughout the day my partner was able to catch a 2.6-pound legal bass.  It would be the only legal sized bass we took to the scales on Saturday.

Sunday brought clear skies and cold temperatures.  After the one hour delay for take-off due to heavy fog, the air temperature was in the upper 30-degree range but the water temperature remained constant at 60 degrees.  On Saturday night we had decided I would target the deeper water with slow moving crankbaits while my partner continued to present a jig in the flooded cover.  After a couple of hours with the crankbait with only one small bass to show for my efforts I put it away.  With the bright skies I assumed the bass had moved tighter to the flooded cover so we started pitching jigs deeper into the flooded brush.

As the end of the second day of competition came to a close we had not boated a legal size bass.  Frustration and second-guessing our strategy was the topic of discussion during the long drive home.  In the past I have seen scattered bass holding to the edges of cover move tighter into the cover when the conditions changed from cloudy to sunny.  However, I failed to realize this usually was on water that was not as clear as Stockton Lake and once home I had an interesting thought.  I sent an email to Marty Thompson (Marty is a full-time professional guide on Stockton Lake) asking him his opinion on where I went wrong.  After telling him how the situation took place throughout the four days on the water Marty sent me the following reply:

“When fish migrate, like elk, or deer, the big ones are the last to move.  Before our recent flood, shallower water was occupied mainly by 2-year-old fish, which are about 13 inches.  They move a lot because they have not found their pecking order home yet.  Because of the high water, and the lower water temps (fall pattern), older fish in the 3rd year (2+ pounds) will move into these shallower areas where they are more readily caught.  That’s good.  You catch 4 or 5 keepers in this area, but your bigger fish or the keeper bass will lay off in deeper water (15-20 feet).  Guys that fish a tournament start catching legal fish and they get tunnel vision and forget that you need something extra.  They don’t take the time or the effort to cash in on the big fish that will push them over the top.

“The fish moved and slowed down, and you needed to adjust to that.  They were in the same area that you caught them the day before, but deeper and you needed to fish for them slower.  Just because you caught fish on one day doesn’t mean they will do the same thing the next day.  The guys that win tournaments consistently have learned how the fish react to environmental changes, particularly drastic rise and fall of barometric pressure.”

After reading his reply it became clear to me that my fishing more shallow and tighter to cover was where I went wrong.  The fish had moved out to deeper water and became less active.  I should have presented slow moving baits in deeper water for the bigger bite.  There are many valuable lessons anglers can learn from catching a lot of fish but I believe it is just as important to learn something from failing to catch fish as well.

Visit Thompson Fishing Guide Service for more tips and advice from Marty Thompson