Break the Ice for Lake of the Ozarks’ Big Bass
By John Neporadny Jr.
Most winters lately in this area have been mild with Lake of the Ozarks remaining nearly ice-free allowing anglers to fish throughout the winter.
However during the coldest winters, ice buildup limits access to the lake and anglers have to wait for a thaw to get back on the water. When “ice-out” occurs, you might have to break through a thin layer of ice at the boat ramp or to get to a sweet spot, but it will be worth the trouble because you’ll have your best chance to catch some of the biggest bass of the year.
During most winters on this lake, the ice starts thawing and breaking up in February. Bass are usually their heaviest this time of the year, so most of the fish you catch will be chunks.
The best structure to try after the thaw is a little creek channel bend. Small pockets near the river or creek channel bands are also productive areas. Bass spend the winter in the channel bends and in the pockets as well. During the first warm spell, bass move up from deeper water to brush piles that are 6 to 10 feet deep in the pockets. Look for banks on the northern side of the lake that receive the most sunlight because the water in those areas will warm faster. Key on clear water areas because it’s harder to catch bass from cold, muddy water.
Boat docks are also good places to fish for ice-out bass at Lake of the Ozarks. Some bass spend the winter under docks that have deep brush piles and are near the channel bends so look for docks that are along the bends of creeks. Fish a set of docks along one bend and then move across the creek to another row of docks on the opposite channel bend.
Water temperature is not really a key factor during this time of year. I have caught bass during this time by throwing a suspending stickbait in areas where there would still be ice in the pockets.
Warm, sunny weather activates bass this time of year and coaxes the fish to move up shallow. Sometimes it only takes one sunny day to get the fish to move into those shallower brush piles.
A small hair jig tricks plenty of bass during ice-out. Another lure to try is a shad-colored tube jig, which looks like a dying shad when it falls to the bottom. A slow fall works best now so use hair jigs and tube bait jigheads in 1/8- to 1/4-ounce sizes. Let the lures flutter into the brush piles and slowly retrieve the baits through the cover. Working suspending stickbaits with a twitch-and-pause retrieve over the tops of the brush piles also triggers strikes from bass hanging around the brush.
When the lake starts to thaw and heavyweight prespawn bass start migrating to the shallows, it’s prime time to be fishing Lake of the Ozarks to catch a lunker bass.
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.
For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit jnoutdoors.com.