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John Neporadny Jr.

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  1. On May 23, 1997, Governor Mel Carnahan signed a bill designating the channel catfish as the official fish of Missouri. The governor’s choice was a wise pick considering channel catfish can be found in nearly all waters throughout the state including Lake of the Ozarks. Blue and flathead catfish are also abundant in the lake so Lake of the Ozarks anglers have plenty of opportunities to catch some type of catfish, especially in the summertime. Fishing for Mr. Whiskers in June can be great or tough since catfish can be in various stages of the spawn throughout the month and are more concerned with building or protecting nests than eating. Drift fishing is the best way for the clients of Lake of the Ozarks guide Jack Uxa to catch catfish in June. Uxa sets up his clients with 7-foot medium-heavy spinning rods and spinning reels filled with 30-pound SpiderWire line. He has his clients drift with a magnum drop shot rig of a 6/0 Gamakatsu octopus hook followed by a 1 1/2-foot drop line tied to a 1-ounce barrel weight. The guide baits his hooks with chunks of freshly cut bluegill, green sunfish or shad. Finding baitfish with his side-imaging unit is the key for Uxa in setting up a successful drift. Since baitfish tend to roam, Uxa checks out flats or points on the main lake and in coves. He prefers drifting areas that have consistent depth, usually in the 20- to 35-foot range. Uxa favors drifting the middle section of the lake from the Hurricane Deck Bridge down to the toll bridge. His drifts during June produce “some bonus channels” but mostly blue cats in the 3- to 5-pound class. “You never know what you are going to catch though,” he says. “Sometimes you can catch 20-, 30- or 40-pounders.” Limb-lining along bluffs and channel swing banks with live crawfish, green sunfish or large goldfish works best for bigger flathead cats. Anglers can also catch flatheads tight-lining with a big wad of nightcrawlers other other live baits. Tight-lining off of docks is a productive tactic for catching channel catfish throughout the summer. Productive baits for channel cats include live green sunfish, cut bait, prepared baits and nightcrawlers. For information on lodging 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. 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.
  2. John Neporadny Jr.

    Lake of the Ozarks Topwater Largemouths

    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 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.
  3. Find a shallow brush pile and drop an anchor. Cast out a couple of minnows with bobbers and start hauling in crappie. Springtime crappie fishing used to be that easy, but heavy fishing pressure has caused many anglers to change tactics. Prime spawning spots get worked over daily. If you're the first angler to dunk some minnows at one of these spots, you have a chance to catch some fish. But if you arrive after the area's been visited by four or five other boats, your chances diminish drastically. This trend has led some anglers to adopt bass fishing's run-and-gun philosophy of moving around to several spots and firing off a couple of casts in each area. Aggressive fish can be taken this way, but complicating the situation are detractions such as high pressure weather fronts and falling water levels. During these conditions crappie tend to leave the shallows or cling to cover and develop a case of lockjaw. There are some techniques to overcome tough conditions you face during the crappie spawning cycle at Lake of the Ozarks. You can track down fish in three different stages of the crappie's procreation cycle. The stages are pre-pre-spawn, pre-spawn and spawn. In the pre-pre-spawn, the fish suspend in schools along the mouths of creeks and coves. The fish will suspend at various depths depending on the weather. On warm, sunny days, the fish will be up higher. Crappie in the first stage are least affected by weather conditions and falling water levels since they reside in deep water (20 to 30 feet). But they can still be hard to find and even more difficult to catch Your electronics make the search much easier. Watch your graph and keep a marker buoy in hand while cruising along potential staging areas. When you find a school of crappie, drop a buoy and start fishing over it. Either fish vertically over the school or use your trolling motor and the wind to drift your lure through the mass of crappie. Keep track of the school and determine the depth of the fish of fish by constantly watching the fish finder on the bow of your boat. After determining the depth of the greatest concentration of fish, set your lure at that depth to keep it in striking range. After catching a fish, work the area thoroughly because you have a good chance to catch some more. When you have that many fish together, some of them are going to hit. If you're lucky enough to be out there when they're feeding, you can catch one about every time you drop your line in. To increase your odds, use a dual jig setup, which sometimes results in catching two fish at one time. Tie on a plastic-skirted jig with a 1/32-ounce head first, then adds a 1/16th or 1/8th-ounce plastic-skirted jig of a different color 18 inches to 2 feet below the first lure. The selection of jig colors depends on water clarity. In clear water, select bright colors such as yellow or fluorescents. The best hues for murky water include red or purple. The first phase of the spawning migration usually lasts one to two weeks. During stage two (pre-spawn), the crappie move back into the coves and closer to the bank. They're not actually in the spawning beds yet; they just relate close to them. The fish will be staging 12 to 16 feet deep. Some will be suspended and others will be moving in and out of the shallows checking on spawning conditions. Crappie in the second stage tend to be more moody. Let the fish tell you how to fish for them because sometimes they want the jig held perfectly still and other times they'll want a horsehead-type jig with a blade on it reeled steadily. You should try different colors and different retrieve speeds until you find what triggers the fish. High barometric pressure or cold fronts push the fish into deeper water. You have to slow your presentation down and stick it right in front of their nose then. During these periods, you might have to resort to vertical jigging and drifting methods or a "dead fall" technique. When you cast and retrieve, the jig moves a lot faster than it does on a dead fall. The "dead fall" method resembles a light-tackle version of bass fishing's flipping technique. Trade in your dual jigs for a single 1/16th-ounce jig then. Before flipping, measure out about 10 to 12 feet of line. Flipping the jig propels it to the shallows pulling along the unspooled line. A longer rod helps keep slack out of your line and gives you a better feel of the lure as it falls back towards the boat. Most of the time, you impart little or no action to the lure as it drops. The slow-falling jig tempts crappie into investigating the intruder that has moved into their domain. Since fish don't have hands, the only way a fish can tell what something is, is to swim up and grab hold of it with their mouth. When you feel the fish need coaxing, try twitching the lure to trigger a fish into hitting. Crappie think it's trying to get away or is injured and other times they hit it out of curiosity more than out of a desire for food. Using the "dead fall" method, you can catch fish that are suspended when the lure sinks and also take fish on the bottom as the jig drags along after it has fallen back toward the boat. Sometimes you can let the jig drag along the bottom while flipping out another line. By keeping track of both lines you can catch fish cruising in the shallows and the crappie staging in the deeper water next to the spawning bank. Catching crappie gets easier when the fish move into the spawn stage because the fish hit at anything that moves into their bedding area. When the fish are spawning, they're not really feeding, they're protecting their territory. They grab hold of your bait and try to get it out of there. The spawning period offers the best opportunity to catch fish shallow, but the fishing can be spotty at times. One day you'll work along the bank and load up the livewell, but the next day its as if the fish disappeared. Remember that not all the fish move to the bank at one time, and there will be crappie in the 10- to 12-foot range near by. If you work the shore and don't catch any fish on the beds, back up a little bit. There will be fish out a little bit deeper from where you caught them the day before spawning. Probing the deeper water can also result in catching larger crappie. If you continually catch small fish along the bank, turn your boat around and start working the same area in a little deeper water. Bigger fish usually spawn first and they usually spawn deeper. When the fish establish themselves in the shallows, they usually stay put. Once it gets to where conditions are right, it's hard to keep them from spawning. Rather than abandon the shallows during high pressure or cold fronts, the crappie will burrow into the thickest cover they can find. Since casting to these areas usually results in your lure becoming a brush pile decoration, flipping becomes the most effective way to haul the reluctant fish out of the cover. Look for the best looking cover available along the spawning bank. The bigger fish always get the choicest spawning and feeding spots. If you fail to catch a fish or take only small fish along the outer edges of the cover, flip your jig into the middle of the brush where you can usually catch slab-size crappie. If your favorite spawning bank fails to produce this spring, remember that the fish are still there and can be caught by slowing down your presentation and maybe fishing a little deeper. 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. 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.
  4. John Neporadny Jr.

    Lake of the Ozarks’ Hot Bass Fishing

    Spring provides some of the hottest bass fishing action of the year and probably the best chance for catching that once-in-a-lifetime lunker at Lake of the Ozarks. The action heats up first in the tributary sections of the lake such as the Gravois, Grand Glaize and Niangua arms and then spreads throughout the rest of the lake as the spring weather continues to warm and the hours of daylight increase. My home lake always has a good population of largemouth bass because it consistently has stable water levels in the spring which insures good reproduction every year. Electroshocking sampling by MDC Fisheries Biologist Greg Stoner indicated that his catch rate per hour of legal-size bass (15 inches or longer) has remained about the same for the last five years. The MDC relies on a metric known as RSD15 which is the percentage of legal size largemouth sampled during electroshocking. During a recent spring electroshocking on the Grand Glaize arm the RSD15 for largemouth bass was 20 percent. “One out of five fish is good,” Stoner said. “There were fair numbers of 4- and 5-pounders (in the sampling) and fewer 6-pounders and a 7-pounder every once in a while but nothing over that. We are never going to produce loads of 7- and 8-pound fish.” March is a prime time for catching heavyweight prespawn bass moving out of their winter sanctuaries to the spawning banks. Alabama rigs, suspending stickbaits and slow-rolling spinnerbaits are the best choices for catching these fish along chunk rock transition banks. Running a Storm Lures Wiggle Wart in a crawfish hue along pea gravel banks in the coves is one of the most effective ways to catch Lake of the Ozarks bass in early April. Twitching soft plastic jerkbaits in the shallow pockets and dragging Carolina-rigged plastic lizards along the sides and in front of boat docks also tricks bass during the late stages of the prespawn. The spawn traditionally starts in mid-April and lasts until the first week of May. Sure signs of the bass spawn at Lake of the Ozarks are a full moon and dogwood trees blooming. During the spawn try a variety of soft plastics including lizards, tubes, finesse worms, craws, stickworms and jerkbaits in green pumpkin or watermelon hues in the clear water or black, blue and dark red colors in murky water. The moon phase is also a key to determining when bass are spawning on the lake. Some of the biggest bass in the Lake of the Ozarks might spawn on a full moon in March but most bass throughout the lake will spawn around the full moons in April or May if the water temperature is right (usually in the mid-60s to low 70s). The increasing hours of daylight in the spring also triggers bass into nesting. Many sources such as calendars and solunar charts in fishing magazines show the moon phase for each month. Weather apps for mobile phones are another good source for finding the moon phases. 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. 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.
  5. While cursed by many anglers, recreational boat traffic is a blessing in disguise for bass at the Lake of the Ozarks. "Bass don't get any fishing pressure here in the summertime," says 1997 BASS Masters Classic champion and FLW pro Dion Hibdon, who started guiding on this central Missouri lake before he even got his driver's license. "We get very little fishing pressure even during the spawn because most of the bass spawn in May and a lot of the big boats are already out by then." When balmy weather arrives in May, the fleets of cabin cruisers, off-shore racing boats, pleasure boats, house boats and jet skis churn the waters and chase bass anglers off the lake. Hibdon believes this lack of fishing pressure helps bass recuperate from the spawn and protect their fry, which increases the survival rate of young bass. "The boat traffic then gives those young bass a good start and it shows," the Stover, Mo., angler says. " We have just as good of a bass population as any lake in the country." Constructed during the Great Depression, 54,000-acre Lake of the Ozarks was the largest man-made lake when it officially opened May 30, 1931. Fed by the Osage and Niangua rivers, the reservoir can be divided into three distinct sections. The lower end near Bagnell Dam typifies a highland reservoir with its deep, clear water. The mid-lake section still has steep banks, but the water turns stained. As you move up the Osage and Niangua arms, you run into typical river conditions of shallow, dirty water and lay-downs scattered along the banks. "The lake has an extremely good river system that is partly current-oriented," says Hibdon. Bass can be caught 2 to 3 feet deep year-round in the riverine sections of the lake. Bass-holding structure throughout the lake includes creek and river channel bends, bluffs, points and flats. Most of the banks consist of either chunk rock or pea gravel. Potential bass cover vanished when developers removed most of the timber before the lake was filled. But bass found new havens when boat docks spread over the impoundment. "That's kind of the ultimate cover," says Hibdon. "You can get a bait down through grass or brush, but there is absolutely no way you can fish a boat dock completely. Docks also have lots of places for bass fry to hide behind and get bigger." Docks usually have another piece of man-made cover nearby. "Every boat dock has a little dab of brush around it," says Hibdon. Thousands of docks dot the lake, but certain ones produce more bass. The pre-spawn (March and April) rates as Hibdon's best time to catch quality bass and numbers of fish. The whole lake produces consistent action in the late spring and throughout the summer, Hibdon says. During early summer, the touring pro relies on shad-pattern crankbaits to catch bass roaming along points or 7- and 8-inch plastic worms for fish holding in brush less than 10 feet deep. He prefers a motor oil worm in the clear water and black or tequila sunrise worm in the stained sections of the lake. Later in the summer, Hibdon works a 10-inch plastic worm or a deep-diving crankbait through the brush. The boat traffic drives bass 15 to 20 feet deep on the lower end of the lake. You can catch bass in shallower brush the farther you move up the rivers. The summer heat and increased boat traffic turn bass into nocturnal feeders. Night fishing is excellent on the Lake of the Ozarks from the end of June through September on the lower end of the lake. A five-fish limit weighing more than 20 pounds is sometimes required to win local weeknight tournaments running 3 1/2 hours. A black spinnerbait worked through the brush produces at night through June. Later in the summer, local anglers switch to a 10-inch plastic worm which they crawl along the rocky bottom or through brush on main and secondary points. The lake is an ideal spot to combine a fishing trip with a family vacation. Nestled in the foothills of the Ozarks, the lake's 1,150 miles of shoreline and its surrounding communities draw more than 3 million visitors a year to partake in the area's limitless recreational opportunities. Water sports include swimming at beaches and pools at the area resorts, motels or condominiums, waterskiing, parasailing, and boating. Full-service marinas rent speedboats, houseboats, pontoons, jet skis, fishing boats, paddleboats and sailboats. Other recreation available in the area includes golf, horseback riding, tennis, hiking, bowling and trap shooting. Numerous restaurants, ranging from fast-food to gourmet, are scattered throughout the lake area, including several eateries located on the lake with access by land or water. Many lodging facilities are available ranging from cabins and condominiums to hotels, motels and luxury resorts. The lake also has plenty of public campgrounds and tent and trailer campsites in the Lake of the Ozarks State Park. The 17,203-acre park, the largest in the Missouri park system, also has two free swimming beaches, boat launching facilities, boat rentals and hiking trails. Tourists also visit Ha Ha Tonka State Park to view the area's scenic valley, high bluffs, rocky slopes and the ruins of Ha Ha Tonka castle, a European-style mansion built in 1922 but gutted 20 years later by a fire. Another tourist attraction is the mile-long area near the dam known as "The Strip." This area houses boutiques, craft, souvenirs and T-shirt shops, restaurants, arcades and amusements for the whole family. Families can also be entertained at the lake's amusement centers such as Big Surf Water Park, Big Shot Fun Park, Miner Mike's Adventure Zone and the area's numerous miniature golf courses and go-kart race tracks. Shoppers can visit the Factory Outlet Village in Osage Beach or other craft and antique shops around the lake. The area also hosts a variety of festivals and special events throughout the year and offers traditional Ozark-style music shows. Scheduled shows normally run from April through October with Christmas shows in November and December. The Lake of the Ozarks is the only tourist destination in the United States with four show caves within 30 miles of each other. Guided tours are available at Bridal Cave, Jacob's Cave Fantasy World Caverns and Ozark Caverns. There's enough attractions and recreational activities at the Lake of the Ozarks to keep your whole family entertained during a summer vacation. The highlight of your trip though will be the early morning topwater action or nocturnal thrills of fighting a hefty bass burrowed in a brush pile. 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. 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. (Reprinted with permission from Bassmaster Magazine)
  6. During those halcyon days of bass fishing in the 1960s, the bucktail jig and pork split tail eel was one of the deadliest combos for Lake of the Ozarks bass. Now the bucktail and other animal hair jigs have been replaced by flipping, casting and finesse jigs adorned with silicone or living rubber skirts and various soft plastic chunks, craws and grubs serve as substitutes for the pork eel. Despite being replaced for most bass fishing applications, the venerable hair jig still shines in cold-water situations for FLW star Guido Hibdon on his home lake. The Lake of the Ozarks pro has tried deer hair in the past, but has found that the best material for his hair jig comes from black bears. A co-angler from West Virginia has stocked up Hibdon with plenty of bear hair, which he ties on a 1/8 – or 3/16-ounce ball or banana-shaped jighead. Hibdon used to attach a pork split tail eel as a trailer for his hair jig, but now he tips the jig with either a black 3-inch Luck “E” Strike Grub or the tail section of a black plastic worm. The hair jig shines for Hibdon whenever the Lake of the Ozarks is at its coldest point during the winter. “I have thrown it up on the edge of ice and whenever it would fall off and hit the bottom the fish would get it,” recalls Hibdon. “You can fish it in mighty cold water.” Since his hair jig best mimics a crawfish, Hibdon throws the lure along rocks where bass forage on the crustaceans even in the coldest water. Ledges and bluffs in the 15- to 18-foot range are Hibdon’s favorite places to work the jig, and if he has to fish deeper, he will switch to a different tactic. While slowly reeling the jig along the bottom, Hibdon tries to keep the lure bumping into the rocks. “I move it 2 or 3 feet and then make a little hop with it,” Hibdon describes. “The majority of the fish will hit it on that hop. I think they are following it around and when you hop that jig it seems like that is when they really get after it.” Hibdon casts his hair jig on a 6 1/2-foot medium action spinning rod with a fast tip and a spinning reel filled with 8-pound fluorocarbon line. For information on lodging 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. 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.
  7. Tournaments keep the Grand Glaize arm of the Lake of the Ozarks well stocked with bass throughout the year. Nearly every weekend, a bass tournament is held at the Lake of the Ozarks State Park Grand Glaize Public Beach 2 (also known as PB2). The popular access area hosts most of the major tournaments that visit the lake and countless club, buddy and charity events. The constant releasing of fish around the access area keeps the Glaize arm stocked with plenty of keeper bass (15 inches or longer) and some trophy fish. The biggest bass I’ve ever taken from the Lake of the Ozarks was an 8.10-pounder that I caught on a clown-colored Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue on the Glaize arm one Thanksgiving weekend. Lake Ozark, MO, angler Greg West estimates the average size bass an angler can expect to catch on the Glaize during the winter runs from 2 1/ 2 to 4 pounds. In a fall tournament last year on the Glaize, West and his partner caught a five-fish limit weighing 18 pounds. “It can produce a 16- to 20-pound stringer if you catch it at the right time,” says the tournament competitor. The Grand Glaize arm runs about 16 miles from its confluence with the Osage arm to the swinging bridges area where the tributary narrows down to a stream. The arm contains several large branches and hollows throughout its length including Watson Hollow, Red Bud Hollow, Brushy Hollow Cove, AndersonBay, Honey Run Hollow, Brasher Cove and Patterson Hollow. Bass-holding structure on this arm includes creek channel drops and bends, bluffs, humps, long gradual gravel points and gravel flats. The upper end of the Glaize also contains the only lily pad patch in the lake. “There aren’t as many docks on the Glaize but there are a lot more brush piles,” says West. A large section of the Glaize arm runs through the wooded and undeveloped Lake of the OzarksState Park, so most of the docks on this arm are confined to the first couple of miles around the Grand Glaize bridge and some spots from the 26- to 30-mile mark. West discloses the key to fishing the undeveloped part of the Glaize is to find the humps, ridges and sunken brush piles. Starting in December, West relies on one lure to catch bass throughout the winter. He opts for a Chompers twin-tail plastic grub that he attaches to either a 3/8- or 1/ 4- ounce jighead. If it’s a calm warm day he will try the 1/ 4-ounce jig, but on windy days or if the fish have moved into deeper water he switches to the 3/8-ounce model to stay in better contact with his lure. He usually ties his grubs on 8-pound test line although he will upgrade to 10-pound test in murky water. West’s favorite hues for his Chompers grubs are root beer green flake on sunny days or green pumpkin in overcast weather. He also dips the tails in chartreuse dye. “When the fish get in the brush piles during the winter months I just drag that thing slowly,” says West of his presentation. With this tactic, West can work an area thoroughly yet still cover a lot of water. The fish will be 20 to 25 feet deep on main lake humps and ridges throughout most of the winter. During the cold months, West prefers fishing the upper half of the Glaize. “The farther up you go the better, but you have to get into some coves that have deep water,” he recommends. “If they keep dropping the lake too much then you have to keep coming back down lake. His favorite stretch for wintertime fishing is from AndersonBay to about the 27- or 28-mile mark. The brown Jewel Eakins’ Pro Model Jig tipped with a Chompers twin-tail grub also produces for West during early winter on the Glaize. When the water turns colder, the other predominant winter pattern is slowly twitching a Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue (silver-and-black, silver-and-blue and clown) over brush piles or along steep rocky banks. The patterns usually remain stable throughout most of the winter when the fish congregate on the structure. “When the water gets colder in January and February the fish start stacking up and you might fish four rounded points and not get a bite, but then the fifth point will have fish bunched up on it,” says West. The water color on the Glaize arm usually has more color to it than the other arms of the lake during the winter. “It is a little murky,” describes West. “You can usually see down about 1 foot to 1 1/ 2 feet.” Since so many bass are released around the PB2 area, the lower end of the Glaize usually receives the heaviest fishing pressure. West notes the pressure diminishes the farther you run up the Glaize. Other areas of the Lake of the Ozarks probably produce bigger stringers of bass in the winter than the Glaize, but if you want consistent action on a cold day, then try the undeveloped stretch of the Grand Glaize. 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. 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.
  8. Tournaments keep the Grand Glaize arm of the Lake of the Ozarks well stocked with bass throughout the year. Nearly every weekend, a bass tournament is held at the Lake of the Ozarks State Park Grand Glaize Public Beach 2 (also known as PB2). The popular access area hosts most of the major tournaments that visit the lake and countless club, buddy and charity events. The constant releasing of fish around the access area keeps the Glaize arm stocked with plenty of keeper bass (15 inches or longer) and some trophy fish. The biggest bass I’ve ever taken from the Lake of the Ozarks was an 8.10-pounder that I caught on a clown-colored Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue on the Glaize arm one Thanksgiving weekend. Lake Ozark, MO, angler Greg West estimates the average size bass an angler can expect to catch on the Glaize during the winter runs from 2 1/ 2 to 4 pounds. In a fall tournament last year on the Glaize, West and his partner caught a five-fish limit weighing 18 pounds. “It can produce a 16- to 20-pound stringer if you catch it at the right time,” says the tournament competitor. The Grand Glaize arm runs about 16 miles from its confluence with the Osage arm to the swinging bridges area where the tributary narrows down to a stream. The arm contains several large branches and hollows throughout its length including Watson Hollow, Red Bud Hollow, Brushy Hollow Cove, AndersonBay, Honey Run Hollow, Brasher Cove and Patterson Hollow. Bass-holding structure on this arm includes creek channel drops and bends, bluffs, humps, long gradual gravel points and gravel flats. The upper end of the Glaize also contains the only lily pad patch in the lake. “There aren’t as many docks on the Glaize but there are a lot more brush piles,” says West. A large section of the Glaize arm runs through the wooded and undeveloped Lake of the OzarksState Park, so most of the docks on this arm are confined to the first couple of miles around the Grand Glaize bridge and some spots from the 26- to 30-mile mark. West discloses the key to fishing the undeveloped part of the Glaize is to find the humps, ridges and sunken brush piles. Starting in December, West relies on one lure to catch bass throughout the winter. He opts for a Chompers twin-tail plastic grub that he attaches to either a 3/8- or 1/ 4- ounce jighead. If it’s a calm warm day he will try the 1/ 4-ounce jig, but on windy days or if the fish have moved into deeper water he switches to the 3/8-ounce model to stay in better contact with his lure. He usually ties his grubs on 8-pound test line although he will upgrade to 10-pound test in murky water. West’s favorite hues for his Chompers grubs are root beer green flake on sunny days or green pumpkin in overcast weather. He also dips the tails in chartreuse dye. “When the fish get in the brush piles during the winter months I just drag that thing slowly,” says West of his presentation. With this tactic, West can work an area thoroughly yet still cover a lot of water. The fish will be 20 to 25 feet deep on main lake humps and ridges throughout most of the winter. During the cold months, West prefers fishing the upper half of the Glaize. “The farther up you go the better, but you have to get into some coves that have deep water,” he recommends. “If they keep dropping the lake too much then you have to keep coming back down lake. His favorite stretch for wintertime fishing is from AndersonBay to about the 27- or 28-mile mark. The brown Jewel Eakins’ Pro Model Jig tipped with a Chompers twin-tail grub also produces for West during early winter on the Glaize. When the water turns colder, the other predominant winter pattern is slowly twitching a Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue (silver-and-black, silver-and-blue and clown) over brush piles or along steep rocky banks. The patterns usually remain stable throughout most of the winter when the fish congregate on the structure. “When the water gets colder in January and February the fish start stacking up and you might fish four rounded points and not get a bite, but then the fifth point will have fish bunched up on it,” says West. The water color on the Glaize arm usually has more color to it than the other arms of the lake during the winter. “It is a little murky,” describes West. “You can usually see down about 1 foot to 1 1/ 2 feet.” Since so many bass are released around the PB2 area, the lower end of the Glaize usually receives the heaviest fishing pressure. West notes the pressure diminishes the farther you run up the Glaize. Other areas of the Lake of the Ozarks probably produce bigger stringers of bass in the winter than the Glaize, but if you want consistent action on a cold day, then try the undeveloped stretch of the Grand Glaize. 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. 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. This post has been promoted to an article
  9. The wind is almost always an angler’s best friend in autumn so Lake of the Ozarks anglers should keep that in mind while chasing bass. When fishing in the shallows of the river arms, accomplished tournament angler Roger Fitzpatrick looks for the wind to find the most active bass. “I fished a tournament about 10 years ago and started on a spot around the 80-mile marker (of the Osage arm),” says Fitzpatrick. “It was morning and there wasn’t a hint of breeze on it. I knew fish were there because I caught them there the week before, but my partner and I fished through there and never got a bite. “ They tried some other spots that day and when Fitzpatrick noticed a breeze blowing, he returned to his morning spot. “As soon as you see that ripple on the lake starting to hit the side of the dock, especially if it is hitting the same side as the shade on the dock, it is game on,” says Fitzpatrick. “We went back through that same row of docks later on and caught about a dozen keepers. They were there all along, they just didn’t bite earlier.” The upper Osage is a favorite fall hot spot for Roger Fitzpatrick and his brother, Wayne, the owner of Fitz Fishing Tackle and Supplies and an accomplished Lake of the Ozarks tournament competitor. “Usually in October the gizzard shad in the rivers will start to move to the flats,” says Roger Fitzpatrick. “Anytime you are up there and hit your trolling motor and those gizzards start to flip out of the water, if you see those hand-size gizzard shad, those are the ones big bass like the most. So whatever shallow cover is next to those shad is what I would key on.” The wind dictates how far up the Osage Fitzpatrick will run throughout the day. If the weather is calm he will key on brush about 15 feet deep from the 30- to 40-mile mark of the Osage. However if winds of 20 miles per hour are forecast he will run up to the stretch from the 60-mile mark to Warsaw to target shallow bass. “In the mornings a lot of times you won’t have the wind and if that is the case you might fish some brush piles or some deeper docks or throw a buzz bait on some of the flat nothing-looking points up there,” says Fitzpatrick. He believes bass in this area roam the flats at night and remain there in the mornings and then tuck under the shallow docks when the sun rises higher. The Eldon, Mo., angler favors a black 3/8-ounce Omega Alpha Shad buzz bait with black or copper blades for buzzing the flats. He removes the skirt of a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce Omega jig and matches the jighead with a Damiki Hydra tube-style trailer for skipping under docks. When fishing a jig along the shallow docks, Fitzpatrick either swims his lure or drags it along the bottom depending on how the fish want it presented that day. “I fished a tournament years ago on a Saturday and caught 18 pounds on a row of docks swimming a jig. I went back to it Sunday in a different tournament and swam that jig by every corner and never got a bite. I spun right back around and let that jig go to the bottom and then caught 18 pounds off the same row of docks. They just wanted it different that particular day.” Quality electronics and an angler’s comfort level at fishing deep are critical in catching heavyweight bass from the clear waters of the lower lake. “There are some fish in some guts and a lot of bass that are relating to nothing but shad in the fall of the year,” says Fitzpatrick. ”If you are blessed enough to have a good graph and can see shad in 40 feet of water on a flat, you should put on a 1-ounce jig and drag it around in those shad because there are giant bass out under those shad and you are fishing where other people aren’t fishing.” When fishing deep in the dam area, Fitzpatrick matches a brown or green 1-ounce jig with a green pumpkin Berkley Chigger Craw. He jerks the jig off the bottom in depths of 20 to 40 feet to trigger a reaction strike from bass foraging on schools of shad. Fitzpatrick suggests anglers who want some topwater action on the lower lake should throw a Zara Spook for bass suspending around docks over depths of 30 to 40 feet. Work the topwater lure along the windy sides of the docks and the shade of the dock wells for the best results. 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. 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.
  10. Accomplished tournament angler Marcus Sykora knows heavyweight bass on his home waters of Lake of the Ozarks like to hang out in the shade and eat big meals. “There are a couple of things that anglers need to explore,” says Sykora. “What you should really focus on is what portion of the water column you are most comfortable with. If you want to fish shallow it doesn’t mean you have to fish in shallow water. There are an abundance of docks out there and what I do is take a big swimbait or something like that and throw it along those bigger docks because there is a ton of big bass tournament-winning fish that reside under those docks.” The local angler suggests using a 5- or 6-inch swimbait that stays in about the 5-foot depth range. “You can cover a ton of water with that technique and it is usually very easy, very friendly because you don’t have to go in-between the docks,” Sykora says. “You can continue on a straight line with your trolling motor. The odds of you being able to catch a giant are great.” The tournament veteran notes this tactic also produces plenty of 3- and 4-pounders that can earn anglers money during the semi-hourly weigh-ins. Sykora usually catches his biggest fish in early October from the Gravois arm to Bagnell Dam and up the Grand Glaize arm. “From the Gravois to the dam the water is so clear those bigger fish have the opportunity to pick and choose their feeding periods a little bit more precisely which means they are less catchable,” says Sykora. “So there are more of them available.” Visiting anglers should focus their efforts on main lake docks. “I would just start at the dam and keep going until I ran out of time,” says Sykora. After fishing so far down one direction, Sykora would run to the opposite bank and work his way back towards the dam. “Typically you want to run the swimbait just out of sight on the windy side of a dock in combination with shade,” says Sykora. “So try to find a stretch of the lake that has wind and shade impacting the same side of the docks.” The ideal target for Sykora’s swimbait tactic is where the wind is blowing into the swim platform side of the dock, which provides the most amounts of shade and protection for bass to use as an ambush point. Bash anglers should also try the front corners and stalls of the condo docks. Bass will set up on any of the main channel docks during the fall. “It doesn’t really matter whether it is 50 feet deep on the end of that dock or if it is 25 feet deep,” Sykora says. Sykora opts for swimbaits in natural shad or bream colors, but if these fail to produce he changes to lures in highly visible wild colors. “The color is so contrasting that it gets the fish’s attention and the fish has to make the commitment on whether or not it wants to go and eat that bait,” he says. A swimbait with a slow fall rate is Sykora's choice for working the main lake docks. “If you can keep that thing in the strike zone, the slower you can reel it the more action that bait has,” he says. Since he is fishing in open water next to the dock, Sykora favors an open hook on the top of his swimbait and adds a number 2 or 1/0 treble hook to his rig to increase hookups. He either slips the treble hook on his main line of 20- to 25-pound fluorocarbon before tying on the bait or attaches the treble to the hook of the swimbait. When he notices big fish following his bait but eventually turning away from it, Sykora changes his retrieve to trigger a strike. Sykora continues to steadily retrieve the lure and as it reaches the end of the dock or shade line, he quickly turns the reel handle three to four times and then stops cranking to allow the swimbait to flutter down and tempt the following fish into biting. If the swimbait pattern fails to produce, Sykora suggests anglers run halfway back into the creeks and key on brush piles along the flats. “I am looking for the migrators then, “says Sykora, who probes the 15- to 18-foot range with a deep-diving crankbait. “I am looking for the fish that are following shad. I like the deep-diving crankbait because 1) I can cover so much more water; 2) it has a big profile; and 3) it is just a big fish bait. With the amount of pressure on the lake you need to keep covering water and keep yourself in high percentage spots.” The key to this technique is to bang the crankbait into the brush piles. “Whenever I am working that bait and I feel the line coming up on the pile, sometimes I reel that thing as fast as I can and crash that bait and then just kill it,” says Sykora. “As it starts floating up the fish will get it.” Sykora picks about the same colors for his crankbaits as he does for his swimbaits in either natural shad hues or off-the-wall bright colors of orange, red or yellow. He usually has three crankbait rods on his deck with three different line sizes; 12-, 15- and 20-pound fluorocarbon. Cranking with the 12-pound line allows his lure to reach brush piles that top out at 16 feet. He opts for 15-pound test when probing brush that tops out at 12 feet and switches to 20-pound test when cranking brush tops at 8 feet. If he catches some fish from a brush pile but the fish stop hitting the crankbait, Sykora will probe the cover with a big jig or Texas-rigged Zoom Brush Hog or magnum-size plastic worm. Other tactics Sykora recommends for tricking a big bass in the fall include throwing a black buzz bait on 65-pound test braided line in the mornings; working a 3/4- or 1-ounce football jig (peanut butter-and-jelly hue with a green pumpkin trailer) along bluff ends; and casting 3/4- or 1-ounce jigs to suspended bass hanging on the cables of condo docks. 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. 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.
  11. A bountiful bass population will make for an exciting fall at Lake of the Ozarks, but one of Mother Nature’s annual quirks could slow down some of the action. “From a fisheries biologist standpoint it is a pretty boring population because it never changes,” says Greg Stoner, Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) fisheries biologist. “It is always good because we don’t see fluctuations in year-class strength and growth rate like they do in some other lakes. In this lake we have very stable recruitment and very stable growth rates so the population doesn’t change much from year to year.” Tournament weights have increased in recent years, which could be an indication of a couple of years of above average recruitment in the bass population. “You will see that reflected in the tournament catches and angler catch rates because there is a higher percentage of big fish out there,” says Stoner. The fisheries biologist notes the Lake of the Ozarks scored high on the RSD metric, which is a stock density measurement that determines the percentage of catchable bass (8 inches or longer) in a body of water. The percentage for Lake of the Ozarks was determined by dividing the number of legal-size bass (15 inches and larger) by the number of bass under legal size that were taken during electrofishing sampling by the MDC. “That number generally runs about 22 to 25 percent of the fish, so about a quarter of the catchable fish in the lake at any given time are legal fish,” says Stoner. A major factor aiding the yearly recruitment of Lake of the Ozarks bass is the abundance of docks that provide plenty of cover for young bass. “We probably have more cover in this lake than Truman or Pomme de Terre have,” Stoner says. “There are 25,000 docks on this lake and maybe a third of the people put brush out around their docks so that is a lot of brush. “ With such a large bass population the fishing should be easy during this fall since the water is cooling down and bass are feeding heavily in preparation for winter. However the fall turnover could curtail some of the action. Stoner believes anglers can use the turnover as a viable excuse for struggling in the fall if they are fishing in an affected area. “I don’t know if the fish feed differently then or all of sudden they can go anywhere,” says Stoner. Bass can go anywhere during or after the turnover due to a mixing of oxygen through various water layers. “To understand turnover you have to understand the characteristic of water in lakes called stratification,” says Stoner. “When coming out of the winter and into the spring, water starts warming up and you will get a layer down to 25 feet called the thermocline. Above that there is an area called the epilimnion where all the photosynthesis takes place and where your oxygen is at. When you get to the thermocline there is a rapid drop in temperature but also a rapid drop in oxygen. Below the thermocline is a layer called the hypolimnion which is devoid of oxygen in the summer. So by the end of summer you have these three distinct layers set up. “ The top layer of water is lighter in density than the thermocline, but when cooler weather arrives in the fall, the warmer top layer cools down and becomes denser. As the water continues to cool, the surface water’s density continues to increase causing the layer to drop and mix with the thermocline. The turnover occurs when the upper zone cools to the same temperature (somewhere in the 50-degree range) as the bottom so there is no difference in water density and stratification has broken down. This allows the similar densities and temperatures of the water layers to mix and create the turnover. Water affected by the turnover usually has a milky green tint to it. Some areas will be covered on the surface with bits of moss and bubbles, which is the result of algae dying and decomposing in the cooler water. Turnover typically occurs from mid- to late October but will start sooner if the weather has been unseasonably cooler in late summer or early fall. Stoner notes the upper tributaries turn over first, and it might take three weeks to a month for the turnover to spread throughout the whole lake. That means anglers will always be able to find sections of the lake unaffected by turnover. Another fall phenomenon anglers should pay attention to is the shad migration. Stoner believes the cooler water temperatures and food supply in the fall draw shad to the backs of coves. “If there is a good warm, sunny day the baitfish will be in the backs of the coves,” he says. “They are also putting on the feedbag for winter and they feed on plankton. When the water is warm on sunny days there will be more production of plankton in the coves. “If the sunlight can hit the bottom sediment it is going to make it a little warmer and algae will grow on the sediments that the shad will feed on,” says Stoner. “Shad don’t just swim around and pick plankton out of the water. If you go to the back of the coves and see bubbles coming up, that is where the shad are pecking at algae on the bottom.” The biologist also suggests looking for gulls in the coves to find large concentrations of baitfish. Stoner recalls winning a tournament at Lake of the Ozarks during the fall by keying on big schools of shad in the back end of a tributary. He caught all of his fish throwing a 3/4-ounce Rat-L-Trap that he let sink 10 to 15 feet deep into the schools of suspended shad. 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. 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.
  12. When I was a kid, I always cherished our summer fishing trips more than any of our other family vacation excursions. When I moved from St. Louis to Lake of the Ozarks with my own family, we spent a lot of our summers at home where my daughters learned to fish, swim and water ski. We also visited most of the local attractions including Big Surf water park, HaHaTonkaState Park, the Bagnell Dam Strip and BridalCave. So I have spent a lot of family fishing outings at one of the best lakes in the state, which can also be a great family-friendly vacation destination. Heavy recreational boat traffic makes fishing tough on my home lake during the summer, but families can still catch plenty of fish if they pick the right times and locations. When I guided on the lake, I would usually take my clients out bass fishing early in the morning and try to get off the water before noon. In June, we would catch keeper bass and plenty of sub-legal fish on Texas-rigged plastic worms, medium-diving crankbaits, topwater chuggers and Carolina-rigged plastic lizards. I would usually start out on the main lake points in the early morning and as the boat traffic increased I would head for the backs of the major coves and have my clients work plastic worms through the brush piles around docks. Catfish provide plenty of action for families on vacation at Lake of the Ozarks. Blue and channel catfish can be taken on juglines, trotlines or drifting with cut shad or tight lining from the resort docks with stink baits, nightcrawlers or chicken livers. Kids can catch bluegill and green sunfish all day long off the resort docks or seawalls. Attaching a small bobber to their lines and baiting their hooks with red wigglers, crickets or even pieces of bread or hot dogs will keep the kids busy until they get tired of catching fish. Resort owners usually sink brush piles around their docks, which makes these spots ideal for catching crappie at night under the lights. Minnows and jigs are all a family needs to catch some nighttime crappie in June. The lake area offers families plenty of amenities and attractions when they come off the water. Popular activities at the lake include visiting Big Surf water park, Miner Mike’s Indoor Family Fun Center, HaHa Tonka State Park, Bridal Cave and the Bagnell Dam Strip or shopping at the Osage Beach Premium Outlets mall. 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. 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.
  13. Bass live a transient lifestyle in their constant quest for the comforts of home. While warm heaters, cool air-conditioners, a soft bed and a roof over our heads give us a comfortable year-round place to live, a bass must constantly roam its watery world to avoid the heat and cold, and find a spot to eat and procreate. An abundance of cover and lack of deep water causes some bass to stay put throughout the year, especially in river and shallow lakes. However, Lake of the Ozarks bass migrate more throughout the seasons to take advantage of the diversity in water depths, cover and structure. My home waters of Lake of the Ozarks serves as a classic example of a man-made reservoir filled with plenty of cover and structure to accommodate migrating bass. The following are seasonal patterns from my home lake. Prespawn Prespawn bass move from their winter haunts and follow the creek and river channels to staging areas along secondary points or main lake bluff-ends in the early spring. These spots allow bass to move up shallow to feed during sunny days, then retreat and suspend over deeper water when the weather turns cold and nasty. As the days grow longer and the water temperature rises, the fish migrate to transition banks from the mouths to about halfway back in the coves and pockets. The banks feature shoreline transformations where the rocks change from slab to chunk or chunk to pea gravel. These areas give bass quick access to the adjacent spawning flats and a deep-water sanctuary for any severe spring cold fronts. Jerking suspending stickbaits such as a Rattlin’ Rogue produces the biggest bass in the early spring when the heavyweight fish are suspended along the various staging areas. A jig and plastic crawfish dragged over the rocky bottom also takes quality bass on calm, sunny days. A crawfish-colored crankbait or spinnerbait works best along the transition banks on sunny, windy days. If early spring rains turn the lake turbid, prespawn bass can be taken slow rolling a 1/2-ounce spinnerbait along the bluff ends or secondary points. When the fish move to the transition banks, pitching a jig-and-craw combination to lay-downs and the shallow sides of boat docks takes prespawn bass in murky water. Spawn Typical spawning banks on my home lake are pea-gravel flats in the backs of coves or gravel shores in small protected pockets. Some coves feature vast expanses of gravel flats, but the best spawning sites usually can be found within close proximity to deep-water structure such as secondary points and creek channel swings. Bass prefer building their nests on hard bottoms and in spots protected from wind and boat waves. The fish spawn almost anywhere along the gravel bank, but the biggest bass prefer building their nests deeper in hard-to reach areas. The favorite nesting areas of quality bass include the walkways and pillars behind boat docks, fallen logs and sunken brush piles. Boat docks are ideal refuges for bass during the spawn. The fish can hold in the sunken brush piles next to docks before locking onto their nests or can suspend under the boathouses during inclement spring weather. Sight fishing the shallows with a variety of soft-plastic baits takes nesting bass in the clear water, while dragging a plastic lizard or finesse worm 6 to 10 feet deep along the gravel flats produces the biggest spawners. In murky water, flip or pitch a jig and jumbo trailer or a Texas-rigged 8-inch plastic lizard to shallow cover or behind boat docks to trigger strikes from bedding bass. Postspawn After leaving their nests, bass follow about the same migration route they used during the prespawn. The fish in the backs of coves return to the transition banks first and then key on the secondary points as the water temperature continues to rise in late spring. Bass in the small pockets migrate to the first available drop-off or the bluff-ends. When early summer arrives most of the post spawn fish in reservoirs have moved to long, tapering gravel points. This structure provides bass a multitude of depths for feeding, recuperating from the spawn and gradually retreating to their summertime haunts. Postspawn bass can feed in the shallows during the early morning, then follow baitfish to the mid-depth ranges for a brief brunch. The point's drop-off serves as an afternoon resting spot for these weary fish. Standing timber and sunken brush piles provide excellent cover for recuperating bass along the postspawn migration route. The fish also favor hugging the rocks on long gravel points or the sharp drops of bluff ends. Working a Zara Spook or topwater chugger along gravel points is a popular early morning tactic during the post spawn. Some fish can also be taken on Texas-rigged plastic worms worked through the wood cover. The most consistent pattern for postspawn fish though is dragging a Carolina-rigged plastic lizard or finesse worm from the mid-depth ranges to the drop-offs on the primary and secondary points. Summer Hot surface water drives bass to a cooler comfort zone of the lake’s deep structure. Summertime bass relate to bluff ledges, creek and river channel bends and the deep ends of points and humps. Sunken brush piles in the 20- to 30-foot depth range become key targets throughout the summertime on my home waters. The fish either suspend over the top of the brush or burrow into the wood cover. Current caused by power generation causes some fish to move up on the points and humps to feed during the day. Working magnum-size Texas rigged plastic worms or craws through the deep brush at night produces the most consistent summertime action. Slow rolling a spinnerbait through the brush or along the bluff ledges also catches some nighttime bass. The best patterns for daytime bass include dragging a Carolina- or Texas-rigged plastic worm or running a deep-diving crankbait along the points and humps affected by current. Fall Baitfish migrate to the backs of creeks where bass follow the forage. An autumn feeding frenzy usually occurs on the flat side of the creek where bass chase shad in the shallows. Bass relate more to forage than cover now so finding baitfish is the key to success. As the water turns colder and the annual reservoir drawdown begins in late fall, baitfish and bass evacuate the shallows. The fish make a brief stop for a week or two along secondary points, then head to the transition banks (where the rock changes from chunk to slab) close to the mouths of the creeks or to the shallows of main lake points. Bass remain in these spots until frigid weather forces them to their wintertime havens. A variety of patterns work throughout the fall. Buzz baits, spinnerbaits and crankbaits trick bass chasing shad in the shallows of the coves and creeks or when the fish move back to the main lake points and steeper rocky banks. Inactive fish can be taken flipping a jig-and-craw to shallow cover or working a Texas-rigged plastic worm through brush piles on secondary points and transition banks. Winter Bluff ends and main-lake points adjacent to channel swings are two prime wintertime hideouts for reservoir bass. The fish either suspend in the open water under schools of baitfish or cling to the bottom at the edge of a drop-off. On mild, sunny days, some fish move to brush piles 10 to 15 feet deep in the main lake pockets. Docks sitting along steep channel banks on the main lake or in the bigger creeks also attract winter bass. Three patterns work best for bass in these wintertime haunts. Jerking a Suspending Pro Rattlin’ Rogue close to the baitfish schools and around the main lake docks coaxes lethargic suspended bass into biting. Dragging a double-tail plastic grub attached to a heavy football jighead along the channel drops catches bottom-hugging fish while a tube jig works best in the brush piles of the deep pockets. Weather and water conditions slightly alter the timetable of these seasonal migrations, but the basic destinations remain about the same every year. By following the natural highways of creeks and river channels, you can find bass any time of the year on the Lake of the Ozarks. 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. 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.
  14. John Neporadny Jr.

    Lake of the Ozarks Boat Dock Bassing

    When hunting for the ultimate bass cover on most lakes, we program ourselves into looking for a patch of weeds, a row of stumps or partially-submerged logs. But on Lake of the Ozarks you will usually pass up rows of the best bass havens on the lake if you search for those types of cover. Although harboring a boat is its primary function, boat docks on Lake of the Ozarks also serve as underwater magnets for bass. While other cover might attract a couple of bass and bunches of fishermen, docks provide enough hiding places to shelter whole schools of fish during the summer and are oftentimes overlooked by most anglers. A well-known tournament angler who realizes the fish-holding qualities of boat docks is Guido Hibdon, Gravois Mills, Mo. He believes fishing docks is one of the most consistent patterns for taking bass at Lake of the Ozarks in the summertime. Docks are prime fish attractors because they offer shade for bass and baitfish. Algae growing on the posts and other parts of docks provides food for baitfish. The feeding baitfish draw in bass which use the shade and dock cover to ambush their prey. Sunken brush piles under some docks also attract bass. "It's pretty simple to run down a bank and pick out the docks that have brush around them," Hibdon says. The easiest way to find which docks have sunken brush piles is to look for fishing rod holders on the structure. Docks become even more appealing to Hibdon because this type of cover produces best during hot, sunny weather. "A sunny day is without a doubt the best weather to fish docks because the sun causes the fish to tighten up in the shady area, " Hibdon says. When searching for ideal docks, location plays a key role during the summertime. "I very seldom ever fish in a creek during the summer," Hibdon says. "I always fish the main lake." The popular tournament angler believes main lake docks hold bigger bass and attract more baitfish than docks in coves. Even though bass can be found in the shallows during the summer, Hibdon concentrates on docks that sit over deep water. "I very seldom fish a dock that is in less than 10 feet of water," he says. When he finds an ideal dock, Hibdon keeps his boat a safe distance from the structure to prevent banging into it and spooking any bass suspended under the dock. Hibdon even positions the stern of his boat into the wind to prevent waves from slapping into the boat's bow and making any additional noise that could scare the fish. Hibdon works the docks in a slow, methodical manner using a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce black-and-blue jig with a black-and-blue crawfish trailer as his top lure for fishing docks. Other lures that produce for him are a tube jig with a 1/32-ounce jighead and an 11-inch plastic worm. The touring pro always fishes the shady side of a dock where he finds bass either suspending about 2 feet under the dock's foam or hiding in the brush 15 to 20 feet deep. The veteran angler pitches his jig toward the dock, lets the lure sink a couple of seconds and then hops it once or twice. If this fails to produce a strike, Hibdon reels in the lure and pitches to another target in the shade. Although they don't look like much to the average angler, Lake of the Ozarks docks definitely appear attractive to a bass searching for a summertime residence. 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. 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.
  15. Postspawn bass at Lake of the Ozarks need some rest to recuperate from the rigors of spawning but these famished fish also need to eat to build up their strength again. Although it seems as if postspawn bass should be inactive while recovering from the spawn, hunger pains turn these fish into aggressive feeders. Early in the postspawn, male bass are also extremely belligerent when they are guarding fry and will attack anything that gets near their hatchlings. May is a prime time to take advantage of the aggressiveness of postspawn bass on Lake of the Ozarks. The latest spawners on my home waters of Lake of the Ozarks are usually finished by mid-May. Topwater lures are most effective during the postspawn since these surface baits imitate an easy meal for bass. In the clear waters on the lower arm of the lake, I like to throw a Zara Spook early and late in the day around boat docks in the spawning pockets immediately after bass come off the beds. The Heddon Zara Spook is my all-time favorite topwater lure for tempting postspawn bass to explode on the surface. The walk of a Zara Spook as it sashays across the surface is simply irresistible to a recuperating bass looking for an easy meal. Twitching the rod tip and reeling at the same time causes the Spook to glide from side-to-side—a retrieve commonly called walking the dog. I use the original size Zara Spook in the baby bass or flitter shad hues for my postspawn topwater fishing on Lake of the Ozarks. I have found that 14-pound test monofilament works best for the walking the dog retrieve. A 1/8- or 1/4- ounce shaky head jig tipped with either a finesse worm, creature bait or beaver-style bait also triggers strikes from postspawn bass hanging under the boat docks. During the early postspawn stage, I also look for bluegill beds where avenging bass get even with the sunfish that were constantly harassing bass previously on the nests. I flip around the sunfish beds with small jigs and plastic chunks or Texas-rigged 5-inch plastic worms in bluegill hues or work Rebel Pop-Rs or Smithwick Devil’s Horse prop baits over the nest to catch bass feeding on the nesting bluegill. By late May, I start keying on secondary and main lake points where postspawn bass hang around the docks or close to the drop-offs. I still catch those fish on Zara Spooks or Rebel Pop-Rs early and late in the day. The shaky head with a creature bait or beaver-style bait also works great for pitching into the dock wells and the front ends of the boathouses. The postspawn on the upper Osage arm of the lake usually begins in early May. Zara Spooks and topwater poppers draw strikes from bass on main and secondary points. When current flows across main channel points throughout the month, try jigs and spinnerbaits in flooded brush or along boat docks. 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 www.jnoutdoors.com.
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