Plop, plop, plop. Ka-Woosh.
Any Lake of the Ozarks angler who has experienced the thrill of topwater action knows these sounds of a plug popping across the surface followed by the attack of a largemouth bass.
All other tactics for catching bass pales in comparison to the excitement of a largemouth busting the surface to engulf a topwater bait. Lake of the Ozarks bass can be coaxed into attacking topwater lures from late spring to late fall but late April through May is the prime time for surface action. During this time bass will be feeding heavily before going on the nest, guarding a nest or guarding fry which makes them vulnerable to any lure buzzing, popping or walking above them.
During the summer, you have to throw surface lures early and late in the day to trigger strikes, but I have experienced good topwater action all day long—even on sunny afternoons—during May. Water clarity often dictates which topwater lure works best. Buzz baits generally produce best in murky water while a variety of surface plugs catch bass in stained to clear water.
Largemouth on my home lake usually start busting surface lures in late April when the fish are on the beds, and the topwater action heats up in May during the postspawn. My favorite topwater for Lake of the Ozarks is the Heddon Zara Spook in either baby bass or flitter shad (known locally as the Christmas tree color). The Spook is so effective because it can be worked at various speeds, but I have found the best presentation is a steady walk-the-dog retrieve. On many occasions I have seen fish follow the lure and I have drawn more strikes by speeding up my retrieve rather than stopping the lure.
I prefer fishing the clear-water section of the lake from the Gravois arm to the dam area where I key on the protected gravel pockets during early May. Male bass will either be on nests behind dock cables or along sea walls from 3 to 6 feet deep, but the hefty females will usually be suspended along the sides of the docks. You can catch plenty of 2-pounders working the Spook along the sea walls and open banks, but you need to walk the plug along the back or the shady side of a dock to catch 4- to 5-pounders.
This is the only time of the year when I prefer fishing topwaters on sunny afternoons. The sunshine warms the water to activate bass and baitfish and the bright conditions position the bigger fish in the shady areas under the dock, which makes them susceptible to the Spook sashaying in front of them.
From the middle to the end of May bass have moved out to either secondary or main lake points. The fish will still hit a Spook, but these open areas tend to have more wind so a Rebel Pop-R usually works better. On the windiest days, I switch to a Gilmore Jumper, a large double-blade prop bait that produces a lot of splash when jerked hard.
For information on lodging at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 162-page vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.
Copies of John Neporadny’s book, “THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide” are available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com