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.