Tag Archive for winter bass fishing

Winter Bass Fishing On Table Rock Lake

By Marc Rogers

Located in Southwest Missouri, just minutes from Branson, is a beautiful body of water often overlooked by tourist seeking entertainment along Branson’s famous Highway 76 strip.  Table Rock Lake is an Ozark impoundment featuring deep pristine water created with the construction of Table Rock Dam on the White River in 1958.  The lake covers over 43,000 surface acres at 915 feet above mean sea level and has shoreline of 745 miles.  All but a small area of the lake is within the borders of Missouri.  A small portion is in Arkansas.

Table Rock Lake is home to many species of fish but the most sought by anglers are the Largemouth, Smallmouth and Kentucky (Spotted) Bass.  There are fishing tournaments available for competitive anglers almost every weekend of the year.  Table Rock Lake has been host to national events by B.A.S.S. and FLW Outdoors featuring professional bass anglers from around the world.

The lake receives most of its recreational pressure from late spring to early fall by water-sport enthusiasts seeking opportunities for boating, scuba diving, water skiing and fishing.  During the winter season the temperatures seldom get cold enough to cause freezing on the lake’s surface providing anglers with a year-round fishery.  Some of the best fishing opportunities are during the winter when seasonal anglers do not frequent the lake.  Many times seasonal anglers prefer not to fish in the colder temperatures and/or do not have the knowledge to catch bass in the colder water.

Most local anglers feel the Table Rock Lake has made the transition to winter conditions when the lake’s surface temperatures fall into the 40-degree range.  During this time the successful angling techniques of spring through fall have changed drastically.  Two Table Rock Lake professional guides have agreed to share their most productive methods for bass fishing on the lake during the winter season.

Don House is a full-time licensed guide on Table Rock Lake with over 15 years experience on the lake.  He has honed his skills fishing tournaments and guiding clients and is an expert deep-water angler.  Chris Tetrick is a full-time licensed guide on Table Rock Lake with over 20 years fishing these beautiful waters.  He has perfected the skills necessary to offer clients the opportunity to catch Table Rock Lake bass throughout the year.  Both Chris and Don spend over 250 days on the water keeping up with the seasonal patterns of the bass that call Table Rock Lake their home.

Chris and Don both feel winter fishing techniques prevail when the surface water of the lake reaches the middle to upper 40-degree range.  These two expert anglers agree that a jerkbait is very effective for catching cold-water bass.  Don prefers a Megabass X-80 Trick Darter in Tennessee Shad and Table Rock Shad colors while Chris likes a Suspending Rogue and McStick.  Don added he puts the finishing touches on the Megabass lure by “placing a stick-on, 1/16 ounce weight just in front the rear hook to give the bait a downward suspension of the tail.  Not to much weight or you lose the suspension feature of the bait”, he says.

Both also frequently use a spoon to take wintertime bass positioned deep in the lake.  Common weights are ½ – ¾ ounce spoons and colors range from silver, white and chartreuse.  Don added “The only thing I do is replace the treble hook with a High Performance wide gap treble hook and also add a stinger hook, single or treble on the line with a oval snap ring this allow the stinger hook to free fall on the line.”  When presenting a spoon Chris and Don both target deep fish following schools of shad or suspended above submerged treetops.  Chris says, “One of the more reliable patterns is looking for the deep fish. Mostly schools of Kentucky (Spotted Bass) following baitfish in the larger creek arms suspended 35 – 65 feet deep, over deeper water, either roaming with the shad or suspended in tree tops.  I use both spoons and grubs on a jig head to take the deep fish.”  Don agrees but says he prefers spoons for a deep presentation and his most productive depths are 25 – 50 feet deep.

Table Rock Lake is generally clear throughout the year but there are times when the water clarity is reduced because of heavy rain.  If faced with less than clear water Don says, “I present a jerkbait with slower retrieves and longer pauses between jerks of the bait.  Spoons require less jerking of the lure for a slower presentation.”  Chris added, “There are no worse conditions than cold and muddy water.  This condition requires a slower retrieve with any presentation.”

Both Chris and Don said their rod of choice for a jerkbait presentation is a 6’ 6” rod paired with a bait-casting reel featuring an adjustable braking system.  Many times conditions require casting these lures into the wind and the braking system is essential in preventing backlashes.  Chris says, “I like a 6’6” rod for the jerkbait to keep from hitting the water on twitches, one with a lighter tip action to absorb a violent strikes inflicted by the bass.  For a vertical presentation I use a 6′ to 6 ½’ rod to help keep the bait in the transducer cone better.”  Don says, “I use a 6’6” Grandt All-American Crankbait casting rod for jerkbaits teamed with a Ardent XS-1000 (6.3:1 gear ratio) with a Ardent replacement high volume spool.  For spoons I use a 6’6” Grandt All American medium heavy casting rod paired with an Ardent F-700 Flipping reel.”

Don and Chris do not share the same feelings about the choice of line.  Don says, “I use nothing but Seaguar Invix Fluorocarbon.  Eight – ten pound test for a jerkbait and 15 pound test for a spoon.”  Chris agrees about the benefits of fluorocarbon line for jerkbaits.  He says, “Fluorocarbon sinks, getting a jerkbait down a bit deeper but it is harder to work with.  I think the benefit of the depth may be worth the added stiffness in the line.  For a vertical presentation, using a spinning outfit, monofilament falls off a spinning reel better because it is more pliable, especially in the cold.”

Both Don and Chris stated that having high quality electronics on their boat are essential for locating deep fish. They also agreed that an angler must know how to use each feature of the units to be effective in locating bass.

Any angler who can brave the cold weather should visit Table Rock Lake during the winter season.  Some of the best fishing the lake has to offer can be found during winter.  Chris Tetrick and Don House can be contacted using the following information.

Chris Tetrick
http://www.midlakesguide.com

Don House
http://www.bransonfishingguideservice.com

Winter Bass Fishing On Millwood Lake

Fishing The Arkansas Jungle With Mike Siefert

By Marc Rogers

Often the casual angler avoids winter bass fishing one of two reasons.  First, many think of fishing as a summer activity and do not give it much thought as the fall season converges on their favorite waters.  Second, they feel that the cold temperatures cause bass to stop feeding and cannot be caught.  Both of these fallacies cause anglers to miss a great opportunity during the colder season.

In Southwest Arkansas, Professional Fishing Guide Mike Siefert, reports bass can be caught on his home waters of Millwood Lake during any season.  Mike said, “We fish Millwood year round, but summer and winter bass fishing on Millwood Lake require a very similar approach.  The main difference is how the bass feed based on the expected changes in the bass’ environment.”  As winter approaches bass will begin feeding heavily on shad in preparation for the colder season.  This occurs because bass know the shad will begin to die-off and the food source will diminish.  Many anglers feel the colder temperatures trigger this fall feeding frenzy but Mike has a different view.

Mike says bass learn from cause and effect conditioning and what humans detect as colder water temperatures do not affect the bass as much as many anglers believe.   Anglers generally monitor surface temperatures on the water but the surface temperatures change rapidly due to weather conditions.  Mike said, “The reduced surface temps may trigger the shad die-off, but I feel the bass are in a different mode altogether.  Ten feet below the surface water temperatures change much more slowly.  I think the fall feeding period is triggered by the reduction in sunlight due to shorter daylight hours in the fall with the approach of winter.  Much like a deer’s rut is triggered by reduction of photoperiod or reduced light entering the brain triggers key hormones.  In fact, between 10-15 feet of depth, the water temperatures remain fairly constant year round on this lake, normally between 60º-70ºF all year.  I have only seen the northern lake’s shore freeze once, in over 40 years of fishing Millwood, and that was extremely rare, about 10 years ago.”

As I questioned Mike about winter season bass fishing he offered some sound advice for Millwood Lake that is essential to all bodies of water.  He feels winter techniques should be used when the surface temperatures reach middle to low 40-degrees range.  Because Millwood Lake is a relatively shallow body of water the only real deep water is located in the submerged river channels.  Mike looks for areas where channels make a turn near a point and concentrates on the outside bend.  These areas will offer the bass a refuge from the quickly changing temperatures near the surface and allows them to move vertically to find a comfort zone.

Mike said, “Bass positioned deep in the water column stay put on a more consistent basis making them easier to locate.  I have seen many warm, sunny days where the water temperature goes from 40 to 48 degrees and the bass will move up shallow but the are scattered, spook easily and more difficult to catch than the bass positioned deeper.”  He reported he fishes up to 45 feet deep in the winter to catch bass located on the vertical edges of the river channels.  Also, the deeper, suspended bass are not near as susceptible, nor affected by, widely fluctuating temperatures as the air changes temps, like what affect the shallow water areas much more rapidly.

For anglers not having the opportunity to spend the amount of time on the water he does, Mike offered the following advice.  “Locate points and cut-banks and present a ¾ to one ounce (red beginning around early February) Rat-L-Trap with a slow retrieve.  I basically choose colors based on water clarity, and primary forage base at the current time.”   His favorite models for cold weather deep structure fishing are the Pro-Trap and Spin-Trap.  The Spin-Trap has a willow leaf blade in place of the rear hook.  The Pro-Trap also has the willow leaf blade and also features a hole through the lure allowing for the hook to be tied directly to the line.  This added feature allows the lure body to slide away from the hook and fish, preventing the likeliness of a fish throwing the hook during battle.  Both lures now have the new Set-LokÒ hooks.  Mike emphasized, “No longer does a fisherman have to change out the factory hooks!  Rat-L-Trap listened to their customers and Pro-Staff members, and improved the hook beginning late last year.  Now all Traps have the new Set-LokÒ hooks that are extremely sharp.”

This technique allows him to determine how the bass are locating to cover.  Mike said, “When the gates on the dam are open bass will generally position on the down current side of cover to conserve energy and wait for the food to come to them.  When there is not any current being generated they tend to scatter throughout the cover waiting in ambush for baitfish.”  If the bass are holding tight to cover and require a vertical approach Mike will present the Rat-L-Traps like many anglers present a jigging spoon.  He says many anglers miss a great opportunity the Rat-L-Trap offers if they fail to make a vertical presentation with this lure.  Once the bass are located Mike said he would go to a slow moving lure only if necessary.  He said, “Jigs and worms are great winter season lures, but they do not allow anglers to cover as much water as faster moving lures like crankbaits and spinnerbaits.  Once I locate fish and determine their “mood” then I normally will switch over to a jig, tube, creature lure (or worm) because crawfish are their main staple of diet after the shad die-off and shad aren’t as plentiful during colder weather and their focus shifts to the crawfish.”

Millwood Lake is considered clear when visibility is 2 – 3 feet and when water is stained to muddy Mike opts for slow moving spinnerbaits.  His spinnerbait of choice is a War Eagle bait with large Colorado blades.  He prefers the Colorado blades because the fish can detect the “thumping vibration made by the blades and locate the lure easier in muddy, stained, or off-clarity conditions.”  He recommends using bright colors like chartreuse and white for the dirty water conditions.

For rod and line choices he offered the following advice.  “Millwood Lake is considered clear when the visibility is 2-3 feet.  We don’t have much need for fluorocarbon line and I always use the heaviest line I can get away with without effecting the lure presentation.  My choice of line is Excalibur Silver Thread in 17-25 pound test matched with a Lamiglas rod.  Millwood Lake is filled with timber, vegetation, and stocked with almost 2 million huge Florida Bass, so opting for light line will create a broken-hearted angler when a Millwood giant breaks off.  Mike said, “Medium Heavy, to Heavy rods and tackle only, apply here; and guys bringing reels spooled with less than 15lb test have had lots of hearts broken over the years with the one that got away.  We have literally lost count of the bass between 8-12 pounds in the last 6-8 years here and it really is like fishing a jungle.”

As expected Mike spend most of his fishing time on Millwood Lake.  However, the advice he offered can be applied on similar bodies of water.  With over 20 years of guiding anglers on his home waters, over 40 years experience on Millwood, and 5 guides, he has a vast amount of bass fishing knowledge.  Mike’s Pro-Staff Sponsors include Rat-L-Trap, War Eagle Lures, SilverThread, Heddon, Bomber, Bass Assassin, Lamiglas, Dual Pro Chargers, Pro-Tec, and others.  To contact Mike Siefert visit his website at http://MillwoodGuideService.com


Winter’s Best Bass Fishing at Lake of the Ozarks

By John Neporadny Jr.

Blowing snow stings your face and the wind pierces through gloves to numb your hands. Even though the frigid temperatures turn your rod tip into an ice cube after nearly every cast, you tolerate these inconveniences in anticipation of catching the bass of a lifetime.

While the lakes in the northern half of the state freeze over during the winter, Lake of the Ozarks usually offers an ice-free spot to catch lunker largemouth bass throughout January and February.  Heavyweight bass in this central Missouri reservoir reside along main lake structure and feed on dying shad that succumb to the cold water. A lure resembling the fluttering action of a dying shad, such as a suspending stickbait, works best during this time of year. Fishing pressure will also be minimal since fair-weather fishermen hibernate in their warm homes.

Anglers willing to bear the cold for a chance to catch quality wintertime largemouth should pack the thermal underwear and insulated coveralls and head for the lake.  Try the following tips for catching Lake of the Ozarks bass during winter.

Channel bends in the clear-water stretch from the dam to the 14-mile mark hold schools of big bass during the winter at this reservoir. Any time bass have a channel bend they can move up from the deep water onto a flat and eat shad.

Lake of the Ozarks bass tend to congregate below schools of shad in 12 to 20 feet of water. The shad usually suspend 8 to 12 feet deep and bass hang right below them. The fish usually stay 4 to 5 feet under the baitfish so they can follow the shad school around. Even though bass feed on baitfish during this time, some anglers avoid areas loaded with schools of shad because they believe bass have too much food to choose from there. So these local anglers try channel bends with sparse numbers of baitfish
where they can  work  a weighted stickbait without  much competition from the natural forage.

A 5 1/2-inch medium-diver Rattlin’ Rogue or a Luckycraft Pointer 100 in the clown color produces bass during this time. With four or five turns of the reel handle you can make the stickbait dive down to a depth of 4 to 5 feet. If the lure is properly weighted, it will suspend at the same depth or sink slowly. Let the lure sit for about 20 seconds and then twitch it once or twice.  A word of caution: the more you twitch the lure, the smaller the fish you will catch. Even though the lure usually only dives down about 5 feet, its action imitates a dying shad, which draws bass out of the depths to strike it.

When the weather turns nasty, key on chunk rock points. The worse the weather, the better the fishing so when the wind blows real hard and it’s snowing, the fish will come up on the rocky points.

If you can stand the cold, this is the best time to catch a 9- or 10-pound bass at the Lake of the Ozarks.  This pattern usually lasts until the end of March when the water warms and bass start chasing crankbaits and spinnerbaits.

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.

Slow Presentation is Key in Winter Bass Fishing

By Marc Rogers

The key to a successful winter bass fishing outing is to use a slow presentation.  Bass are cold-blooded creatures and their metabolism slows to a snail’s pace during cold-water conditions.  A bass needs far less food during the winter months compared to the summer months when water surface temperatures can reach into the 90-degree range.

One of the most effective winter bass offerings is a jig.  The jig can be slowly crawled along the bottom to mimic a crayfish.  Again, slow is the key because not only is the bass operating in slow motion so are the crayfish.  To look natural it too must also be slow-moving.

Through many years of trial and error I have found the football head jig is the best for crawling along the bottom of most bodies of water.  When the lakes and rivers are full of rocks on the bottom the football head jig excels.  The wide head design reduces the chances of it getting hung in the many crevices on the bottom.

Anglers should target areas where shallow water is close to deep water; depth is relative to the overall body of water.  Shallow water points leading into main-lake bodies are a great starting point for using this approach.  Jigs should be cast into areas approximately 10 feet deep and slowly crawled into deeper water.  If this depth range is not productive small movements to position the boat in deeper water are easily done with the electric motor.  Continue to repeat this process until you find success or eliminate the area.

A second approach is to locate areas where submerged ledges are available, dropping from 10 to 30 or more feet deep.  Cast the jig into the shallow water and slowly drag it until you find the ledge.  When the lure begins to fall through the water allow it to free fall keeping a close watch on your line.  If a bass takes the offering it will be a very subtle bite and the only indication may be the lure stopping before it reaches the bottom.  Many times bass interested in feeding during the winter will stage near the ledge keying on the shallow water for food.

Many anglers never reach for soft-plastic lures during the winter season.  Soft-plastics are still effective during the colder months, especially the crayfish imitators.  They are best presented slowly on the bottom like a jig and can be rigged on a jig-head or Texas style.  Soft-plastic lures also feel more realistic when taken by a weary bass.

Another effective lure for cold water bassin’ is a jerkbait.  Suspending models are generally more effective because they allow for a slower presentation.  Anglers should make long casts, work the lure down to the approximately four feet deep and then stop it momentarily.  It will suspend in place and mimic a slow moving baitfish.  Water density changes with temperature so adding weights may be required to get the action desired.  Using jerkbaits is a very popular technique to take winter bass throughout the Ozark region.

Crankbaits should never be discounted when chasing cold-water bass.  Deep diving models are capable of attaining depths necessary to entice bass.  Again, the key is to work them slowly while keeping them digging into the bottom and using lighter line will aide in reaching desired depths.  Fluorocarbon line will sink while monofilament line floats.  Fluorocarbon, therefore, adds to the ability of getting lures deeper.

Bass caught in the winter tend not to fight as aggressively as those hooked during the warmer months so the lighter line causes few problems in landing them.  A long rod specifically designed for crankbaits – they have a slower action and are more flexible – are often appreciated by anglers when fighting bass on crankbaits with light line.

While lures popular with warm water anglers will catch bass in the winter, a slower presentation is the key to make them effective winter lures.  In my experience the lures mentioned earlier have been the most productive.  However, anglers should still not discount the fish catching ability of any lure that is presented more slowly in the winter.

Nasty Weather Pattern Produces Hefty Bass On Lake of the Ozarks

by John Neporadny  Jr.

Those cold, nasty days in February can produce some of the heaviest stringers of the year while jerking a suspended stick bait on Lake of the Ozarks.

“All the days I can remember in February where we’ve caught a lot of fish were always the nastiest days where you would almost freeze to death,” says Marty McGuire, a Camdenton, Mo.,  angler who has finished in the money in B.A.S.S. invitationals held on his home lake and the owner of Marty’s Marine in Osage Beach, Mo.  While some fish can be caught on McGuire’s Rattlin’ Rogue technique on sunny days, his pattern produces its best numbers of fish and biggest bass in cold, windy and snowy weather.

Water temperature also plays a key role in this pattern. The water temperature varies from 39 to 45 degrees in February. “The fish seem to be really biting on this technique when the water temperature hits about 42 degrees,” McGuire says.

Water clarity is also important, so McGuire concentrates on the clear water areas around the dam and in the Gravois arm during this time of year. When the water starts to warm in March, the technique then works anywhere from the dam to the 35- or 40-mile mark of the Osage arm.

A low lake level, which usually occurs in February, helps pull the fish out of any shallow cover and position them  on the deeper structure, making bass easier to pinpoint. Even though the fish are near deep water, McGuire believes 90 percent of the time the bass will be suspended less than 10 feet deep over the structure.

The most productive structures for this pattern are bluff ends, pockets in bluff lines and points. McGuire has also taken bass suspended over brush piles in 10 to 12 feet of water or hiding in the shade under docks along the main channel. “You have to pretty well stick to the main channel,” he advises.

While his boat is sitting over 60 to 70 feet of water, McGuire throws his Rogue to bass that are within 5 to 8 feet of the surface.  “Most of the time you can find them in schools where they are out there trying to get a bite of shad every once in a while,” says McGuire. He knows he has found a promising spot when he sees dying baitfish fluttering to the surface. The suspending Rogue imitates the action of a dying shad.

McGuire likes to throw what he calls a “Christmas tree Rogue” (black back, yellow and green sides and chartreuse belly) or a ghost or shad-color model. He prefers using the medium diver (4 1/2 inch) Rogue over the magnum model (5 1/2 inch). “You can catch bigger fish on the magnum, but you can catch a lot of 4- and 5-pound fish on that medium-size Rogue,” McGuire says.  “Most of the time when you catch 4- or 5-pound fish you’re doing okay.”

He makes his Rogue suspend by mashing plumber’s lead around the front hook. “It definitely has to suspend or rise, not sink. If it sinks, it’s no good,” he says.   “I have never caught a fish on this lake with a Rogue that sinks.”  A Rogue that barely rises can also be productive, especially in warming water conditions. “As the water warms, the more rise you want out of the Rogue.”

McGuire works his Rogue on a fairly stiff 6 1/2-foot spinning rod and a spinning reel filled with 8-pound test line. He feels he can throw his lure farther into the wind with the spinning tackle. “The farther you can throw at the start, the better chance you have of finding the fish.” Long casts allow him to position his boat farther from the shoreline, which becomes necessary since the fish will be anywhere from  the bank out to 100 yards off  the shore.

An extremely slow retrieve works best since the water is cold and the fish aren’t in a chasing mood.  “Some guys say the retrieve is slow enough to where you can stop and drink a soda,” McGuire says.  “The slower you fish it, the better chance a bass has to eat it.” McGuire never jerks the lure; he just slowly pulls it down to the strike zone and then lets it sit for awhile before pulling again.  “Ninety-nine percent of the time the fish will hit the bait when it is sitting still,” he says. Feeling resistance on your line when you pull the lure signals a strike.

Fishing on a cold, miserable day in February might be well worth the trouble if you can pull that Rogue through a school of heavyweight Lake of the Ozarks bass.

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.

Snow Bassing at Lake of the Ozarks

By John Neporadny Jr.

 

Bass Fishing in the Snow

The first winter storm of the season for central Missouri arrived just as competition began for the 1997 BASSMASTER Central Invitational at Lake of the Ozarks.

The heaviest snowfall occurred on the first day of competition when some areas around the lake received 1 to 2 inches of accumulation. Light snow mixed with rain was the norm for the next two rounds.

Snowy days scare off fair-weather fishermen, but hard-core anglers know it’s worth the trouble to bear the wet and cold because snow turns on bass. “I think it makes (fishing) pretty good actually,” says Jay Yelas, the winner of the Lake of the Ozarks event he has dubbed the Snow Bowl. “The first thing it does is it acts like a rainstorm. It’s a low-pressure system coming in and it gets real dark. You can catch fish a variety of ways then.”

The Texas angler relied on a slow presentation with a 1/2-ounce Berkley Rattle Power Jig and a Berkley Power Frog to take 11 bass weighing 41 pounds, 4 ounces during three days of miserably cold and wet weather. Yelas’ pattern consisted of crawling the jig-and-frog combo through brush piles and along the rock bottom about 10 feet deep next to docks. Even though the dark skies should have kept the fish active throughout the tournament, Yelas stuck with his slow presentation because he believed the dropping water temperature drove his fish to the bottom.

The weather prior to a snowstorm can affect how bass react. Bass become active if the weather has been warm for awhile and then a drastic change leads to a snowstorm. However, if it snows after several days of cold, big bass in particular get locked on the bottom.

One Lake of the Ozarks angler looks forward to snow days. “I like to fish those days,” says Roger Fitzpatrick. “Normally (the snow) makes it a lot better. If it is snowing there’s a front coming through and whenever that happens any time of the year the fishing is a lot better.  But the day after when it’s gone and there are bluebird skies is when it gets tougher. That even holds true during the winter.  When you have wind and clouds and the water is clear, the fishing is a lot better.”

While some guys stay inside when it’s sleeting or snowing on practice days of a tournament, Fitzpatrick bears the inclement weather. “If I’ve got a day off or a chance to go fishing, I go regardless of the weather because sooner or later that is going to happen on a tournament day,” says Fitzpatrick. “And then I will know those spots where a load of big bass might show up on those type of days, whereas under normal conditions those big fish don’t bite.”

Snowstorms throughout the seasons affect fishing differently. “The fishing is a lot better during a fall snow than it is during a spring snow,” suggests Yelas. “A spring snow just knocks the water temperature down so low that there is hardly any activity, but generally in the fall the main lake is still petty warm so the falling water temperature doesn’t affect the fish nearly as much.” The situation is reversed in the spring as the main lake is cold and active fish are in the warmer, shallow pockets. So when the snow and cold hits, the water temperature drops drastically in the shallows and bass become lethargic.

Fitzpatrick has taken Lake of the Ozarks bass during snowstorms in the fall, winter and spring. He recalls catching bass on a buzz bait on a day mixed with snow and sleet around Thanksgiving. “That’s different,” Fitzpatrick says of the fall snow days. “The water hasn’t gotten cold yet and the fish are feeding up for the winter.”

During the mid-November 1997 Bassmaster invitational at Lake of the Ozarks, some of the contestants fared well on buzz baits and spinnerbaits during the snowy weather. “Any time it’s raining or snowing, a general rule of thumb is to pick up a spinnerbait,” advises Yelas. He recalls Springfield, MO, competitor Basil Bacon took second place and caught a limit all three days on a spinnerbait. The tournament veteran used his Brush Rat spinnerbait, a long-armed 3/8-ounce model with a pair of large Colorado blades, that he waked over launch ramps and secondary points where the bank changed from gravel to chunk rock.

Van Buren, AR, angler Ricky Scott tied for third in the Bassmaster event by relying mainly on a crankbait pattern in the snow. Scott bumped a shad-colored Bandit crankbait into the tops of brush piles to take most of his fish. A fast-moving bait also worked for St. Charles, MO, angler Chris Randell as he finished fifth in the Snow Bowl event. Despite the dropping water temperatures, Randell stuck with a 1/2-ounce white Strike King Pro Buzz with a red blade and finished with a three-day total of 12 bass weighing 37 pounds, 6 ounces.

During the winter and early spring, Fitzpatrick drags a plastic grub along the bottom on calm, sunny days, but when the wind starts to blow and the snow falls he prefers a faster moving lure to catch heavyweight bass. If the water temperature is frigid, he depends on a suspending stickbait for snowy days. When a snowstorm hits in March after the water has warmed into the upper 40s, Fitzpatrick uses either a spinnerbait or Storm Lures Wiggle Wart crankbait.

Water clarity plays a key role in determining where to fish on snowy days. Both Yelas and Fitzpatrick prefer fishing the lake’s clear water when it snows. During the BASSMASTER invitational, Yelas noticed the action continued to slow up the Osage arm where the water was dirty. So he concentrated on the clearer water of the Osage arm around the Grand Glaize bridge. Bacon consistently caught fish each day in the clear-water stretch from the Grand Glaize bridge to the Shawnee Bend bridge and Randell also took his fish on the lower end of the Osage.

Any time it’s cloudy, windy, rainy or snowy, Fitzpatrick seeks the clearest water he can find. Even when he’s fishing the stained upper end of the lake, Fitzpatrick looks for the clearest water available if the weather turns from sunny skies to clouds and snow. “The fish can see the lure better (in the clear water) and I think they are feeding then so they are going to come and get it,” says Fitzpatrick.

Tournament anglers have proven throughout the years that snowstorms produce big sacks of bass from late fall to early spring. So the next time you’re on the Lake of the Ozarks and the skies look threatening, you might want to start singing that old Christmas jingle,  “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”

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.

Lake of the Ozarks Bass Bunch Up in February

By John Neporadny Jr

 

Lake of the Ozarks Bass Fishing in February

If he can break through the ice, Bruce Gier will head for one of his 10 favorite spots on the North Shore of the Lake of the Ozarks during February.

The Eldon, Mo., tournament angler admits that other sections of the lake, such as the Gravois and Niangua arms, are probably better during this month because they contain warmer water, but the fish tend to scatter out. He favors the North Shore because big bass tend to bunch up in confined areas in this section of the lower lake. “There could be 11 giants hanging around one little piece of brush off of a point over 20 feet of water,” Gier says.  The owner of Gier’s Bass Pro & Liquor Shop in Eldon claims he has 10 such spots that produce big fish every year.

During this time, water is being released through Bagnell Dam every day, so bass on the North Shore key on slack-water areas along secondary points. “The fish won’t be lying in the current but they will be just off of it around the corner of the point, Gier says. “You can’t see any current, but the fish sure notice it.”  The water temperature, which is usually around 42 or 43 degrees, makes bass sluggish in February, so they try to avoid the current.

Most of the year, Lake of the Ozarks bass hang around docks or brush piles, but during February they seek the warmth of rocky banks that receive a lot of sunshine. Ideal locations include sunny pockets near the corner from where the current breaks around a secondary point.

Bass desire an easy meal during this month and the lake offers them bountiful forage.  “There are a lot of dying shad in February,” Gier says.  “If you look down about 8 or 10 feet in that clear water, you’ll see those little 3-inch shad lying on their side, just barely staying alive. If you see that, look out! You’re going to have yourself quite a day. Things are going to happen.”

Gier makes things happen by tantalizing the fish that are suspended over depths of 20 feet or more with a suspending Lucky Craft stickbait. To make sure the lures reaches its maximum depth; Gier works the lure on 8-pound test line.

When Gier pulls the stickbait down to the right depth, he lets it stay in the same spot and watches his line the same way a youngster watches a bobber while waiting for a panfish to bite. The lure imitates a dying shad by fluttering in its suspended state, and any line movement that occurs during this time signals that a fish has engulfed the stickbait.

If the fish are hugging the bottom or have moved into shallow brush piles, Gier switches to 6-pound test line and a plastic grub or Fat Gitzit on a 1/8-ounce jighead. His favorite color combination for these lures is light brown/green flake. He slowly swims these lures over brush piles or along the bottom and occasionally allows the plastic baits to tick off the brush or rocks. The tube jigs produce best when the fish have moved from the 20-foot range to 8 feet deep in the pockets after a couple of sunny days have warmed the shallows.

Weather plays a key role during the month.  Gier says on a sunny day he might catch more than 20 keepers even in 30-degree weather, but on an overcast day he might take only three legal-size fish.  He also makes sure he hits the right spots at the right time, when they are receiving the most sunshine. “The time of day is pretty important in February,” Gier says.  “I’ve got some spots where the sun doesn’t hit them until 2 o’clock so those are usually my last banks of the day to hit.”

Big bass remain in schools throughout the entire month on North Shore.  “That’s when you can catch ‘Big Mo’,” Gier says.  The four biggest bass he has caught on Lake of the Ozarks (ranging from 8 pounds to 8 pounds, 4 ounces) were caught on a stickbait from mid-February to mid-March. When the water warms in March, the fish start scattering along the
banks.

Whether he has an ice-free access to the lake or he has to bust through the ice, Gier will make his rounds to his 10 favorite spots on Lake of the Ozarks’ North Shore because he knows big fish are always bunched up there.

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.

Cold Water Crankbaits

By Marc Rogers

 

Fishing Crankbaits in Winter

Many anglers rely almost exclusively on a jig to catch bass during the winter season. This is mainly because the metabolism of the bass is extremely slow during this time of year. When surface temperatures of lakes and rivers reach the low 40-degree mark, or lower, the jig has proven to be quite effective as the jig can be worked extremely slow to match the conditions.

During the cold-water season many of the baitfish have been depleted and the crawdads become the main source of food for the bass. The cold water temperatures also affect the crawdads so they become easier for the bass to catch. This is why a lure like the jig has developed a reputation for being such a good producer during the colder seasons. The jig and trailer is by far the best lure for imitating a crawdad.

The most overlooked lure for cold water is the crankbait. Crankbaits can be presented to depths of 20 feet quite slowly and is the best shad-imitating lure on the market. There are hundreds of different crankbait styles and many colors available. Anglers not using a crankbait during the cold-water seasons are missing out on a great opportunity because bass will feed on baitfish year-round. While there may be fewer baitfish available only enhances the opportunity to use a crankbait.

There are many schools of thought on what type of crankbait is best during the winter. Some anglers prefer the plastic lures for various reasons. Many like the suspending models available in plastic and there are more suspending crankbaits available on the market that are manufactured from plastic.  However, there are a few available made from wood as well. Balsa wood is more buoyant than cedar which sometimes makes cedar the choice for wood crankbaits in winter.

Regardless of the material all can be modified to suspend by attaching lead wire to the hook shanks or adding stick-on weight such as Suspend Dots/Strips from Storm Lures. Some anglers even drill holes in wood lures and pour lead into the opening for added weight. Doing this makes the modifications much more permanent than adding the stick-on weights and trial and error testing is more difficult.

For a deep diving crankbait in the winter my choice is the Poe’s 400 series made from cedar. I add Suspend Dots between the lip and the first hook hanger to make them suspend. Adjustments are easily made on the water by moving or adding/subtracting weight to fine-tune the presentation.

Line of ten-pound test has proven the best choice for presenting these lures. Ten-pound test is heavy enough to land big bass while not impeding the maximum depth range of the lure. During the first few cranks of the reel I start the bait fast, to get it to the maximum depth, and then slow down the retrieve.  After reaching the desired depth, it is best to move the lure only fast enough to keep it down in the water column.  Remember, the bass will generally not chase a lure during this time of year. Most strikes come from a reaction of a bass thinking a possible easy meal is escaping. The lure should be hitting the bottom and digging into the rocks and cover causing it to deflect off cover and structure. Many times this erratic action is what triggers the strike.

Experiment with different lures until you find the one that works best under the current conditions.  However, a slow moving suspending crankbait should be the first choice for wintertime bass fishing.

Bluffing the Cold

By Marc Rogers

 

Bass Fishing Bluffs in Winter

The winter season can prove a difficult time for many anglers.  When the water temperatures fall into the 40-degree range and below the bass’ metabolism slows drastically.  They become lethargic and feed infrequently, sometimes only once per week.  This lethargic behavior makes them more difficult to catch.

Presenting slow moving lures along bluff walls is a very productive technique to catch bass in cold-water conditions.  Bluff walls have some key features that other structure lacks.  Bluff walls allow bass to reach a comfort zone in both temperature and depth with less distance to travel by moving vertically.  If the bass desires a ten-foot depth change they have the opportunity to move just ten feet when positioned along bluff walls.

The key to bluff fishing in the colder seasons is a slow, vertical presentation.  Jigging spoons and jigs tend to be the most productive.  While both lures can be productive the jig is a little more versatile than the spoon for a slow presentation and bass key on crawfish for a cold season diet.

Finesse jigs are often a good choice for winter bass fishing.  The slow metabolism of the bass, a cold-blooded creature, requires much smaller meals in cold water conditions.  The presentation of the jig should also be slow because crayfish are also cold-blooded creatures.  A fast moving crayfish in cold water is very unnatural and not effective for catching bass.  Also, bass will not chase bait when its metabolism is running at such a low rate.

The finesse jig presented to the bass should be natural crayfish colors.  Bright colors are great for grabbing the bass’ attention in warm-water conditions but cold water is a completely different situation.  Natural colored jigs, presented slowly, are much more effective during the winter.  The best colors to use are brown and dark green colors.  Under most winter conditions water clarity is not a factor in color choice because the lack of rain allows for the water to remain clear.  Clear water allows these natural colors to be seen easily by the bass.

Larger jigs are effective at times and many anglers believe this is because the bass will look for bigger meals at fewer intervals to conserve the energy required to pursue prey.  Others believe the larger profile attract the bass’ attention and it is the slow presentation that is the key to the baits effectiveness.  Regardless of the thoughts, it is ideal to tie both baits onto two different outfits and present both in the same areas throughout the day.

Football head jigs are the best choice when presenting jigs in rocky areas.  The football head design keeps the jig positioned upright because of the wide profile of the jig head.  Also, the wide profile minimizes the chance of the jig head getting wedged in crevices throughout the bluff.

Bluff walls offer a variety of structure and cover for the bass.  The broken rocks, strewn throughout the bluffs, are ideal for Smallmouth bass.  Smallmouth bass tend to prefer rock cover more so than Kentucky and Largemouth bass.  Also, Smallmouth bass will often school with others of similar size during the winter.  If a Smallmouth bass is caught the angler should spend some additional time in the same area to target the possible school.  Anglers targeting Largemouth bass should look for fallen trees (commonly called dead falls) along bluff walls.  The Largemouth bass prefer the additional cover provided by the fallen timber.  However, the lure presentation for Largemouth bass is generally the same as for Smallmouth.

Spinning gear is a better choice for presenting lures to bluff walls.  The spinning reel allows an angler to leave the reel’s bail open, which aids in the vertical presentation, by allowing the lure to free-fall through the water column.   To get a true vertical presentation with a bait casting reel anglers must pull line off the spool while the lure is falling.  With either reel, if the spool is locked after the cast a lure will fall with a pendulum like presentation and not keep in contact with the structure.   Keeping the jig in contact with the structure is key to mimicking a crayfish falling along the bluff.  Once the jig rests on the many small ledges on the bluff it should be moved slightly, allowing it to fall to the next ledge.  The key to detecting a strike is paying close attention to the line after the lure lands on a ledge.  Many times the strike is so light an angler cannot feel it.

There are many effective cold-water presentations available to anglers pursuing bass in impoundments.  Current weather and water conditions play a major roll in which ones are most productive on any given day.  However, if you find you favorite impoundment to have water temperatures to be in the low 40-degree range or lower you should spend some of your time presenting jigs on bluff walls.  Clear water conditions will make this presentation even more productive.