Tag Archive for Lake of the Ozarks

Catching Fall Bass at Lake of the Ozarks

By John Neporadny Jr

 

Lake of the Ozarks Fall Bass Fishing

Fishing for bass in the fall can be a most rewarding experience for an angler’s body and soul. The cooler temperatures provide a relief from the scorching heat that you had to endure during the summer and the leaves changing colors creates an eye-pleasing scene that lulls you into a state of tranquility.

The fishing this time of year can be just as enjoyable, since the cooling water temperature triggers bass into gorging themselves on shad in preparation for winter. The action can get fast and furious on a variety of shad-imitating lures when you find bass feeding on baitfish.

Turbid water and an abundance of flats in the upper ends of Lake of the Ozarks’ tributaries makes these areas ideal for bass in September. Some consistent fall patterns can be found on the Lake of the Ozarks in the upper reaches of the Osage, Grand Glaize, Gravois and Niangua arms.

Favorite targets of local anglers are shallow docks along flats. The shad forage is tremendous both on the main lake and in coves during this time. Although patterns tend to be inconsistent in the fall due to the shad scattering throughout the lake, one type of cover always holds fish. Boat docks along flats are the best bets for good fall action, especially on the mid to upper Osage arm, which has plenty of these bass havens.

A favorite fall pattern is flipping a ½-ounce black-and-blue jig and plastic crawfish on 20-pound test line behind docks or in the brush alongside docks 5 to 7 feet deep. Docks along the flats seem to produce better than the floating structures on the channel banks. The fish typically hold tight to cover so flip or pitch around the docks and let the jig fall into the cover. Allow the lure sit in the cover for a couple of seconds and shake your rod to make the jig rattle. If this fails to induce a strike, move on to the next target.

A secondary pattern also works on docks or along flat points. Tie on a 3/8-ounce white or chartreuse spinnerbait with a silver single number 4 willowleaf blade and wind it in with a slow, steady retrieve along the sides of docks.

The jig pattern usually begins in late summer and lasts through October. The spinnerbait pattern works best in September and October. Since sunshine draws bass tighter to cover, the flipping technique produces better in sunny weather. The spinnerbait pattern calls for windy weather.

The turnover completely shuts down fishing in the upper ends for a few days. You can usually avoid this situation by heading down lake to the clearer water areas by the dam, which usually turns over last.

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. 

Best Lures For Lake of the Ozarks Night Bassin’

By John Neporadny Jr

 

Lures for Lake of the Ozarks Night Fishing

As the searing summer sun heats up the water, bass relax in the cooler realm of deep water or the shade of heavy cover. Since the fish become reluctant to leave this cool domain during the heat of the day, you are limited to using lures that remain in the bass’ comfort zone longer.

However when the sun goes down and the water cools, the bass’ comfort zone expands from top to bottom, especially in the clear water sections of the Lake of the Ozarks.  As bass become more active during the nocturnal hours they start craving a late-night snack. So now your lure choices expand to a wider array of options ranging from topwaters to bottom-bouncing baits.

Veteran nighttime anglers know a bunch of tackle boxes and rods and reels strewn out all over the boat’s deck after dark can result in broken tackle or a quick trip overboard. So they keep their decks clean and prevent any mishaps by picking a handful of productive lures for nocturnal bass.

A local angler who enjoys the nightlife on Lake of the Ozarks is Marty McGuire, who competes in night tournaments nearly every week during the summer on his home waters. The night-fishing expert offers the following selections as the best lures for catching bass after sunset.

Plastic Worms

When bass burrow into cover or hug the bottom at night, McGuire relies on a slow-moving lure such as a plastic worm for fishing in clear water or a jig in murky or stained conditions.

His home lake is filled with sunken brush piles so McGuire prefers a Texas-rigged worm or weedless jig for working through the limbs. If fishing pressure is heavy, McGuire uses a 7-inch plastic worm, but his favorite lure for most nights is a 10-inch black or blue fleck Berkley Power Worm impaled on a 4/0 or 5/0 hook. The Missouri angler opts for the magnum-size worm because he believes in the theory that bigger fish prefer bigger baits.

Since he mainly fishes the worm in the 10- to 20-foot depth range, McGuire rigs his worms with the same size weight (1/4-ounce bullet slip sinker) most of the time. “It gets to the bottom quick enough but it also falls slow enough in case the fish are hitting on the fall,” suggests McGuire.

The worm produces for McGuire during the middle of summer along main lake points and ledges or along steep banks halfway back in coves and creeks. Sunken brush piles are McGuire’s favorite target for nighttime worm fishing but he also takes bass from rock piles and steel support poles or boat hoists on docks.

Slowly lifting and dropping the worm works best for McGuire, especially when fishing brush. “I usually let it get down into the brush pile, then just raise my rod up (to the 11 or 12 o’clock position),” describes McGuire. “I usually hold the rod a little higher than most people to pull the worm up over the limbs and work it through the brush real slow. Then I drop the rod down to let the worm fall back to the bottom while keeping contact with the bait the whole time.”

Jigs

If he’s fishing off-colored water at night, McGuire switches to a jig and heads for the shallows. Pitching a jig behind boat docks is one of McGuire’s favorite tactics for shallow nocturnal bass.

The night-fishing expert prefers a 3/8- to ½-ounce live rubber jig in black or blue combined with a Zoom plastic chunk in the same colors.

McGuire also relies on his rod to impart action with his jig, but he retrieves this lure different than the worm. His retrieve consists of three to four quick pumps of his rod tip (1 to 2 inches at a time), reeling up slack and then another succession of quick pumps. “It really doesn’t move the jig up and down a whole lot it is more like a shake,” says McGuire.

Since presentations for both lures are similar, McGuire uses the same tackle for the worm and jig. He opts for a 7- to 7-½ foot medium-heavy to heavy action rod and a high-speed baitcast reel (6.1:1 or higher gear ratio) spooled with 20-pound test line. The veteran night angler prefers the heavy line and high-speed reel for quickly jerking bass away from brush and boat docks.

If the summer sun makes fishing unbearable on Lake of the Ozarks during the day, you can still enjoy some hot bass action after dark. 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.

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

Cashing In On Lake of Ozarks Bank Changes

By John Neporadny Jr.

How to Locate Bass on the Bank

Bass live mostly in a state of transition either following their food or their urges to reproduce.

These aquatic nomads migrate from deep-water haunts to the shallows by following traditional migration routes. In the Lake of the Ozarks, the migration routes are usually creek and river channels that allow the fish to move from deep-water structure where the fish reside in the summer and winter to the shallow flats where bass spawn in the springtime and gorge on baitfish in the fall.

The key to finding bass as they make their seasonal treks is to locate transition banks, which serve as holding areas along the migration routes. “A transition bank is where you really have to key on the change in the rocks,” says Scott Pauley, a tournament angler from Columbia, MO. “In other parts of the country you look for grass and other things along the banks but here  we look at the angle of the bank and the type of rocks as keys to finding bass. So here a transition is where the bank changes from bluff rock to chunk rock to pea gravel.”

Looking at a topographic map will help you find some transition banks before you head out onto the lake. Pauley  looks for spots on the map where the depth lines tighten. “But I’ve got to look at the rock or the bank itself before I can tell for sure if it is a good transition spot,” he says.

Pauley honed his skills while fishing Eldon Bass Club tournaments at Lake of the Ozarks.  He has discovered bass in this Osage River reservoir use the creek channels as roadways to move from the steeper banks to the flat gravel banks throughout the seasons.

Classic examples of transition banks at Lake of the Ozarks are spots where the channel swings in tight close to a point and the bank changes from bluffs to chunk rocks. The spot where chunk rocks change to pea gravel is another key transition area on these lakes.

Transition banks on these impoundments can vary in length. “It seems like at Lake of the Ozarks when you are fishing the transitions you can be on the exact spot where a bluff bank meets a chunk rock bank or the exact spot of where a chunk rock bank meets a pea gavel bank,” says Pauley.

Transition spots next to points might require fishing the whole point, while other transition banks only require keying on a smaller area. “Sometimes the fish are exactly in a spot no bigger than the length of your boat and then sometimes they are down a half mile,” suggests Pauley.

Sweet spots can be found along the transition banks. “Look for any swing or indentation along the bank whether it is a bluff, chunk rock or pea gravel bank,” advises Pauley. “If all of a sudden there is a little indentation—maybe the size of a table—that spot will seem to hold one or two fish more than any place else along the bank.”

Isolated cover also becomes sweet spots along these banks. Boat docks at Lake of the Ozarks are the best shelters for bass along transition banks.

Seasonal patterns dictate which transition banks produce throughout the year at Lake of the Ozarks. In the winter, Pauley keys on the steeper banks where he works a Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue or a jig-and-craw combination. When the water warms in the early spring (late February to early April), Pauley focuses on the chunk rock banks and  throws a Storm Wiggle Wart crankbait or a jig.  From late April to June, Pauley follows the bass to the pea gravel banks and catches spawning and post-spawn fish on jigs, tube baits, topwater lures and Flukes. As the water continues to heat up, the fish move back to the drop-offs where Pauley catches them on plastic worms or tube baits.

During the fall, Pauley keys on isolated stickups and root wads along transition banks in the major creeks. His favorite tactic is to burn a 1/ 2-ounce Rat-L-Trap in a Silverado color along the wood cover, a technique that helped Pauley grab the lead in the opening round of the 1999 Missouri Bassmaster Invitational at Lake of the Ozarks.

Weather conditions and the presence of baitfish will also determine where bass will be positioned on transition banks. “If the shad are at 10 feet then the bass will be feeding at 10 feet,” suggests Pauley.  He also believes wind moves the fish up to the shallows and positions them in the indentations along the bank. However post-frontal conditions call for a change in tactics or location.

“If you’re catching them the day before on a spinnerbait or crankbait but they won’t touch it you have to go to the jig and slow down,” recommends Pauley. “They may be in the same place but you may have to slow down to catch them or the fish may pull out a little bit deeper.”

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.