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John Neporadny Jr.

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About John Neporadny Jr.

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Dogwood trees blooming in April usually signals the prime time of the crappie spawn at the Lake of the Ozarks. The diverse waters of Lake of the Ozarks nearly guarantees you can find crappie spawning somewhere in this impoundment during April. By fishing the different arms of the lake throughout April you can continue to catch spawning crappie for more than a month. Most crappie on this lake begin spawning when the water temperature climbs into the 60-degree range, but you can also catch lots of fish in the pre-spawn stage. During this time, the water temperature is in the 50-degree range and the crappie are staging in brush piles at depths of 8 to 10 feet. In early April, the first areas crappie attempt to spawn are in the upper ends of tributaries and major feeder creeks such as the upper Osage, Niangua and Little Niangua rivers or the Grand Glaize and Gravois creeks. These riverine sections of the lake contain shallow, off-color water which warms quicker than the deep, clearer water on the main lake. Sometimes crappie in these sections start spawning one to two weeks earlier than their counterparts on the main channel. The last spawners on the Lake of the Ozarks can be found usually during May in the main lake pockets near Bagnell Dam. The ideal spots to find spawning crappie are pea-gravel banks in coves, but I have also taken them along rock ledges in main-lake pockets or cuts in bluff walls. Locating deep water nearby is the key to finding the best spawning banks for crappie. Even though the fish spawn in less than 2 feet of water on the flat, gravel banks. they still prefer areas near deeper structure, such as spots where the bottom contour drops 10 to 15 feet deep into a ravine or creek channel. The depth crappie spawn depends on water clarity. In the stained to murky waters of the upper Osage and some of the feeder creeks, crappie spawn as shallow as 1 1/2 feet, but the fish in the clearer waters of the dam area and lower Gravois build nests as deep as 6 feet. Lay-down logs and sunken brush piles are prime cover for spawning crappie, but anything that sticks up off the bottom holds fish. I have even caught them around a submerged patio chair that had fallen off a dock. Concrete pilings and metal posts on dock walkways are also favorite nesting areas for crappie. A variety of lures catch crappie during the spawn, but the bait that produces best for me is the plastic tube jig. The best skirt colors for fishing the clearer sections of the lake include purple-and-white, black-and-chartreuse, red-and-chartreuse, hot pink, red-and-white or yellow-and-white. My favorite hues for stained to murky water include chartreuse, blue-and-clear or white-and-chartreuse. I prefer throwing these lures on an ultra-light spinning rod and a spinning reel filled with 4-pound test green monofilament for fishing in clear water or 6-pound clear line for dirtier water. When crappie have moved into the shallows, I attach the plastic tube body to a 1/32-ounce jighead. This lightweight jighead allows the lure to fall slowly and stay off the bottom, which is a key to catching crappie in shallow water. Once I've located a good spawning bank, I cast to any visible cover and retrieve the jig in a slow and steady fashion. Watch for any slight twitch in your line during the retrieve, because this signals a crappie bite. Water clarity determines how far you need to cast to the shallow cover. If you're fishing the clear waters on the North Shore and in the Gravois, you need to make longer casts to prevent spooking crappie in the shallows. In the off-color water in the mid-lake area, you can make short pitches to the cover without spooking crappie on the beds. One of the most effective techniques for inactive crappie during this time is a "dead-fall" retrieve. After pitching to a target, I let the lure fall back towards the boat on a tight line without imparting any action to the jig. Crappie usually hit the jig as it falls down through the cover. In addition to watching my line as the jig falls, I also wrap my index finger around the monofilament which helps me feel the light tap of a crappie hitting the lure. When I guided, I found the easiest way for my clients to catch spawning crappie was to set them up with a jig-and-bobber rig. Attaching a small bobber above the jig prevents the lure from falling to the bottom and constantly keeps it in the crappie's strike zone while working the lure in the shallows. The bobber also makes it easier to detect a strike, which is indicated by the cork diving under the water or popping up and turning on its side. In off-color water I usually set the bobber about 12 to 18 inches above the lure, but will move it up the line 2 to 3 feet when fishing in clearer water. This technique requires a simple retrieve of twitching the rod tip to make the bobber roll in the water. The rolling action moves the jig just enough to attract a crappie's attention. When a strike occurs, set the hook harder than usual, because the bobber has a tendency to absorb some of the force from your hook-set, which results in lost fish. If a cold front has swept through the area and dropped the water temperature 4 or 5 degrees, I pull off the bank and look for brush piles 8 to 10 feet in front of the spawning area. The crappie usually pull back into the deeper cover where they suspend over the brush or burrow down into the wood. I switch to 1/16-ounce jigheads during these conditions an either cast to the brush for suspending crappie or present my jig vertically when the fish are holding tight to the cover. If you visit Lake of the Ozarks in April and see the dogwood trees blooming, you know it's time to go fishing because the crappie are spawning. 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.
  7. Bank Fishing at Bagnell Dam

    Fishing from the banks of a dam tailrace always kept me in suspense when I was a kid. I just never knew what I was going to hook next when I fished below dams on the Mississippi River and CarlyleLake in Illinois. Most of the time we caught crappie and white bass, but my other catches from the tailraces included walleye, sauger, largemouth bass, yellow bass, catfish, carp, buffalo, gar and paddlefish. Eldon, Mo., angler John Vernon has spent several decades bank fishing the Bagnell Dam tailrace below Lake of the Ozarks. He catches crappie and white bass throughout the year as long as some current is flowing. Bank fishing at the Bagnell Dam tailrace can be a productive yet inexpensive way to catch panfish throughout the year if you can learn how to read the water. Ask any local tailrace expert about the bank fishing in the Bagnell Dam tailrace and they will tell you it’s a waste of time to try it if there is no flow from the dam. A strong current makes it easier for Vernon to find tailrace panfish. He notices the fish move shallower along the rocks during heavy current, especially when all the floodgates of Bagnell Dam are open. A double tube jig system without a bobber works best for Vernon when fishing from a tailrace bank. He opts for tubes in red-and-chartreuse and purple-and-white color combinations with 1/8-ounce jigheads that he ties about 18 inches apart on 8-pound test line. The tailrace veteran keys on the eddies and varies the speed of his retrieve depending on the strength of the current. “It is always better to fish in the eddy or downstream slightly,” he reveals. “You also have to keep the jigs moving the whole time or you’ll get them hung up.” Using a countdown method after casting helps Vernon avoid losing too many jigs to hang-ups. “If you count to 10 seconds and get hung up, try counting to only 8 or 9 the next cast,” advises Vernon. Once he finds the right count that triggers strikes yet keeps his lures away from snags, Vernon uses the same count on the rest of his casts. Line watching also prevents Vernon from snagging his jigs. “Watch the speed of your retrieve and if your line starts to slack that means you’re going to get hung up right away,” says Vernon, who avoids hanging up by giving his rod a short yank to straighten out the line and pull the jigs away from the rocks If you’re limited to fishing from the bank, then get a 5-gallon bucket (for holding your fish), grab a rod and reel and a small tacklebox full of jigheads and soft plastic tubes and grubs and head for the Bagnell Dam tailrace. You’re bound to catch plenty of crappie and white bass and whatever else swims there. 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. The annual winter draw down of water levels at Lake of the Ozarks can be rather unsettling for both crappies and crappie anglers. Every year AmerenMO draws down the reservoir’s water level either the winter in preparation for the flood season. The lowering of the lake level provides room for the impoundment to hold runoff produced by winter or spring storms. The draw down process becomes a hassle for crappies when the dropping water level pushes the fish out of shallow feeding zones to deeper structure. Good cover for crappies becomes scarce as the lower lake level makes many of the fish attractors too shallow and unsuitable for winter sanctuaries. The crappie migration early in the draw down process and the scarcity of cover late in the draw down creates problems for crappie anglers trying to locate the fish. Then the fishing really gets tough at the end of the draw down when the impoundment is at its lowest level and the water is at its coldest point. Bluffs provide the depth crappie seek whenever the dam authority drops the lake down to winter pool. “Whenever they pull the water down it kind of scares the fish to be in shallow water so during draw-down time steep banks or bluff areas tend to be where the fish migrate to,” says Lake of the Ozarks guide Terry Blankenship. “Not only that but if it is on a channel with current it will bring the fish some bait to the rocks or brush or whatever holds the crappie.” Blankenship targets bluffs both on the main lake and in the larger coves. “The creeks are good too if you have a pretty large creek cove,” he says. “Most of those will have a bluff line somewhere which will be good because it creates that quick deep structure that will hold crappies all winter long.” Certain spots on bluffs produce better for Blankenship when Lake of the Ozarks is at winter pool. “If it is real deep water I look for a rock slide or a cut or indentation into the bluff line,” he says. The local guide claims rock slides make the bluff a less vertical structure that provides better shelter for crappies than a sheer bluff wall. Once he finds crappies along the bluffs with his Humminbird 360 imaging system, Blankenship either casts jigs or presents the lures vertically along the structure. “In the winter as the water gets colder the vertical fishing gets better and better because you just have to present that bait really slow,” Blankenship says. “It has to be a slow presentation because they are not going to chase it.” By the end of January, Lake of the Ozarks is at its lowest and coldest point. Blankenship notices the crappie fishing really gets tough then because the fish tend to suspend along the bluffs. “You have to do some serious vertical fishing and sometimes deadsticking it is by far the best technique because they just don’t seem to be very active at that time,” he says. “They are still adjusting to all of the conditions.” Relying on his Humminbird 360 unit allows Blankenship to stay on top of the suspended fish and keep his lure in the strike zone longer. Blankenship’s favorite lures for bluff crappies are Bobby Garland Baby Shads and 2- or 3-inch Slab Slay’Rs attached to 1/16-ounce jigheads. He prefers the 3-inch Slab Slay’R in the dead of winter because the shad are larger then. His favored lure colors are blue ice for clear water, bayou booger for clear and dirty water and tadpole, which resembles a minnow hue. 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.
  9. As long as the Lake of the Ozarks remains ice-free, savvy anglers know they can catch a mess of crappies in the dead of winter. Even though the cold water and frigid weather make crappies lethargic at times, the fish still have to eat so Lake of the Ozarks anglers who brave the cold and employ the right tactics can still enjoy some wintertime action for these popular panfish. During the dead of winter, crappie can be found suspended over brush piles in the backs of creek coves or hugging the bottom on main lake bluffs. With a few alterations, the same techniques that trigger strikes in other seasons also produce crappie during winter. Lake of the Ozarks guide Terry Blankenship casts jigs to brush piles to catch crappie year-round, but in the wintertime he makes a slight adjustment to his presentation. “I get a little closer to the piles so when I cast to them my jig’s fall rate is a lot slower,” he says. Blankenship keys on brush piles 15 to 30 feet deep and throws his jigs past the cover. He retrieves his lure above the brush on the first couple of casts to pick off the most aggressive fish. “If the fish are on top of the brush or above it those fish are active and they are going to bite,” he says. Letting his jig fall into the brush also produces for Blankenship. “Any time you can wiggle that jig around in that brush and then it just pops loose a little bit it creates a reaction strike,” says Blankenship, who opts for a 1/16-ounce jighead and Bobby Garland Baby Shad for his brush pile tactics. Since a suspending stickbait best resembles a crappie’s favorite wintertime meal, local angler Wayne Fitzpatrick opts for this shad imitator to work over the top of brush piles at Lake of the Ozarks. Fitzpatrick looks for the shady sides of docks along 45-degree banks in the backs of coves to catch suspended wintertime crappies. “You also have to have shad around,” he says. “If you don’t have any shad you won’t find any crappies. I have had some of my better days when the sun is shining and there is a little bit of breeze.” A clown color LuckyCraft Pointer works best for Fitzpatrick for twitching it above schools of suspending crappies. “One of the little secrets is I take lead wire and wrap it around the front hook so the bait will fall real, real slow,” Fitzpatrick says. “If you know crappies are there just let that stickbait sit and fall.” Winter crappies suspended over the brush have a hard time resisting such an easy target. 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. Although his time is limited on his home waters, Dion Hibdon can still best the local anglers in tournaments on Lake of the Ozarks. The Stover, Mo, angler proved that when he won the 2006 FLW Series event at the Lake of the Ozarks. Following in his father Guido’s footsteps, Dion Hibdon competed in his first bass tournament at the age of 12. The next year he kept up a Hibdon family tradition when he started guiding on Lake of the Ozarks. Dion joined the ranks of professional bass fishermen at the age of 18 and has won both the Bassmasters Classic and the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship. When he’s home from the tournament trail, Hibdon likes to catch bass on suspending jerk baits during the winter. “I do it with a lot smaller baits than a lot of the other guys do,” admits Hibdon. He opts for the Luckycraft Bevy Shad or the 3 1/8-inch Rapala Husky Jerk, which he tosses on 8-pound test line. His favorite lure colors include blue-and-pearl on sunny days or chrome hues for cloudy weather. Bluff ends and channel swings that run tight to the bank are Hibdon’s favorite spots for cold-water bass. “In the wintertime you don’t have to relate to the points as much,” he suggests. Hibdon prefers fishing for wintertime bass in the big creeks around the dam area where the fish will be suspended 10 to 15 feet deep over depths of 30 feet. When the water temperature rises into the high 40s and low 50s, Hibdon catches prespawn bass on a jig or a Storm Lures Wiggle Wart crankbait. He favors a green crawfish Wiggle Wart that he runs about 7 to 8 feet deep on 8- to 10-pound line. Hibdon selects a 1/8- or 1/ 4-ounce jig and a Guido’s Baby Original plastic craw to work along transition banks where the shoreline changes from a bluff to chunk rock. He usually chooses a jig-and-craw in natural colors such as amber green flake or melon pepper during this time and works the lure on 8- to 10-pound test. As the water temperature climbs into the mid 50s, Hibdon targets secondary points where he still catches some fish on a jerk bait or a Wiggle Wart. However, one of his favorite tactics for working the secondary points is to drag a Carolina-rigged soft plastic (plastic lizard, French Fry or Fluke in green pumpkin or watermelon). His rig consists of a main line of 17- to 20-pound test, a 1-ounce weight, and a 2- to 3-foot leader of 17- to 20-pound test. He drags his rig along the bottom of the gravel point at depths of 7 to 10 feet and fishes anywhere from the dam to the Grand Glaize arm. Hibdon notices bass normally spawn at Lake of the Ozarks in mid to late April depending on the full moon. Although he has seen some bass spawn in 55-degree water, Hibdon notes most bass nest when the water temperature in the 60s. “Once the fish go to the beds to spawn the whole lake is good then,” advises Hibdon. Since he prefers sight fishing, Hibdon usually concentrates on the clearer water around Tan-Tar-A and below. Most of the time the Stover, Mo., angler skips a Texas-rigged 4-inch Hibdon Tube with a 1/8- to 1/16-ounce Eagle Claw HP QuikClip weight and 2/0 Eagle Claw HP Hook) on 10-pound test line. He keys on flat banks in the creeks or flat pockets protected from the wind. “If you see a lot of smaller fish in the shallows a lot of times a bigger fish will be out in front of them in deeper water,” hints Hibdon. “A lot of the big ones will be out 5 to 6 feet deep.” Post-spawn patterns usually work for Hibdon from early to mid May when he favors throwing a topwater popper. Hibdon uses a variety of small Japanese poppers that he twitches on 17- to 20-pound line in the depth range of 4 feet or less along secondary and main lake points. His favorite area for postspawn action runs from the mouths of the Niangua and Linn Creek to the Hurricane Deck Bridge. If he spots any shad activity in the mornings, Hibdon also like to run a lavender shad Worden’s Timber Tiger square–billed crankbait along secondary points. If the fish start schooling up along the points, Hibdon works a Poe's 300 Series crankbait (in shad patterns) on 12- to 14-pound line. Bass start suspending on main lake points by the end of May and into June. “Throughout the month of June, if you fish points with a big worm and a crankbait you’ll be around the fish,” says Hibdon. He usually catches bass during this time from Proctor Creek down to the Gravois arm. The pro angler fishes for suspended bass with a Texas-rigged 10-inch plastic worm (electric blue, black grape or black) attached to 17-pound line along with a 3/16-ounce bullet weight and 4/0 hook. Hibdon cranks a Poe’s 300 Series crankbait in shad-patterns with 8- to 10-pound line and then switches to a Poe’s 400 Series crankbait when the fish move deeper in late June. In July the fish start relating to wood more, so Hibdon keys on brush piles 12- to 14-feet deep close to points. He uses the same size plastic worm but relies on a 5/16-ounce weight so he can work the lure along the bottom better. Fall patterns begin for Hibdon in mid to late September when he catches bass around docks close to points. He favors throwing the lavender shad Timber Tiger 4- to 5-feet deep along any wind-blown points with docks. In October, bass suspend under the dock foam where Hibdon catches fish either by swimming a jig or cranking a spinnerbait or shallow-diving crankbaits. His favorite lures for this pattern include a 1/4- or 3/8-ounce black jig with a shad gray or white twin-tail trailer (the bottom half of a Dion’s Classic), a 1/4- or 3/8-ounce Ninja Spin (white skirt with silver blades) and a lavender shad Timber Tiger DC-5 crankbait. He ties the jig or spinnerbait on 17- to 20-pound test and runs his crankbait on 14-pound line. If the fall weather has been mild, Hibdon prefers fishing the upper end from PurvisBay to Truman Dam. By late October and early November, bass start chasing large gizzard shad along the big dark rocks on the lower end of the lake. Hibdon favors catching these shallow bass on a Zara Spook, 1/ 2-ounce white spinnerbait with number 6 or 7 silver willowleaf blades or a 3/8-ounce buzz bait with an oversized blade (shad-pattern for clear days or black for rainy weather) tied on 17- to 20-pound line. “It’s a very fickle pattern because some years they do it and some years they don’t,” warns Hibdon. “If it doesn’t get cold enough early enough, sometimes that big gizzard shad pattern doesn’t happen.” Hibdon then resorts to a 3/8-ounce jig tipped with a Guido’s Original plastic craw that he flips to wind-blown rocky banks until the jerk bait pattern begins in early to mid-December. 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. Lake of the Ozarks' November bass

    The roar of off-shore racing boats and buzz of jet skis have been replaced by the tranquil sounds of the fall wind rustling through the wooded hills and the creaking of docks swaying in the waves. By late fall the tourists have deserted the Lake of the Ozarks, one of the busiest recreational traffic lakes in the country, leaving plenty of vacant water filled with feeding bass. November becomes an ideal time to catch bass on this central Missouri reservoir, because the fish move into the shallows on feeding forays in preparation for winter. Recreational boating activity diminishes and even the ranks of anglers decreases when several turn their attention to the state's deer hunting season, which usually falls in the middle of the month. Built during the Great Depression, this 58,000-acre reservoir was the largest man-made lake in the world when it opened May 30, 1931. Developers squandered potential bass cover when they removed most of the timber before filing in the lake. But over the years, resort and property owners have replenished these vital bass attractors by sinking brush piles near their docks. The lake also contains numerous bass-holding structure such as creek and river channel bends, bluffs and points. Bass can be taken throughout the year in the sunken brush piles, but sometimes chunk rock banks produce better than the man-made cover. The well-known vacation spot also has a reputation as one of Missouri's top bass fishing waters. "Lake of the Ozarks is right up there with the best of them," says Greg Stoner, fisheries management biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. The lake's black bass population consists of mostly largemouth and spotted bass and a handful of smallmouths. Spotted bass prefer the steeper chunk rock banks and bluffs in the lower end of the lake where they make up 30 to 50 percent of the bass population. The upper end of the lake contains a larger percentage of largemouth bass, which favor this section's shallower coves filled with brush piles. One angler who takes advantage of the November solitude on Lake of the Ozarks is Marty McGuire, a Camdenton, Mo., angler. Diminished boat traffic and cooling water temperatures draw bass to the shallows during this time. In the fall, bass can be found along drop-offs or in the backs of coves. By November, McGuire intercepts bass along steep rocky banks and bluffs as the fish start moving back to their wintertime haunts along the main channel. "This lake's so big and has so much water that a lot of times there isn't one exact pattern though," McGuire says. " Some guys will catch them out on the main channel and some will still catch them in the back of coves." The weather plays the lead role in catching Lake of the Ozarks bass throughout November. "The worse the weather is, the better the fish bite," McGuire says. "It doesn't hurt to have that first snowstorm hit in October. I've caught fish when it was 10 degrees out and the water temperature was in the 40s." Water temperatures for most of the month fluctuates from the low to mid 50s, and fall rains turn the water color dingy, which tends to bring even the wary, bigger fish into the shallows to feed on shad. "The fish are fat and healthy this time of year," McGuire says. "You catch a lot of 15-inch keeper fish, but you should be able to catch lots of 3-pound fish as well. I also see a lot of 5- and 6-pound bass caught then. " The best areas for McGuire in the late fall include the Osage and Grand Glaize arms and the lower end of the lake near the dam. He prefers these areas because they offer plenty of deep-water structure and docks, two keys to locating bass during this time of year. Spinnerbaits in the 1/2- to 1-ounce sizes lure plenty of bass in November. Other productive lures include crankbaits and jigs and chunks. "Anything that imitates a shad will work," McGuire says. "Most of the time a spinnerbait or jig works best around boat docks." A variety of patterns work since the fish can be found at different depths during this time. Bass cruising the shallows can be taken around docks on spinnerbaits and shallow-running crankbaits. Along their migration route to deeper water, some bass stop along docks that sit over water as deep as 60 feet. These fish suspend under the dock's foam where McGuire catches them by retrieving a spinnerbait or swimming a jig and trailer along the side of the dock. Suspending bass also hang less than 10 feet deep over depths of 30 to 50 feet along the bluff lines. The best techniques for these fish are running a spinnerbait barely out of sight or slowly retrieving a deep-diving shad-pattern crankbait. While the pleasure boaters hibernate, anglers can discover the late fall/early winter bass action that makes Lake of the Ozarks more than just a summer vacation hot spot. 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. Reprinted with permission from B.A.S.S. Times
  12. Lake of the Ozarks guide Jack Uxa has a simple game plan for anglers to follow during autumn. Targeting shallow isolated cover is Uxa’s recommendation. “Spend five minutes idling in the back of some no-wake cove because you know there is one big stump or log back there,” he says. “If it is isolated cover a big bass can take ownership of that and the fish can be a like a little bulldog and come up and eat a buzz bait or some other type of reaction bait like a square-bill (crankbait) or you can pitch a jig to it.” The most productive shallow cover during autumn will be in the upper sections of the Grand Glaize, Linn Creek, Niangua, Little Niangua and the various creeks up the Osage arm. Uxa notes that anglers wanting to fish the lower lake near Alhonna Resort can try Buck and Blue creeks or run up the Gravois arm. Uxa concentrates on the 20- to 30-mile mark of the Osage arm because that is the area he frequently works through his business, Jack’s Guide Service, at Tan-Tar-A Resort. So he suggests visiting anglers should also try familiar waters. “Go fish the area you know the best that way you can adapt the best,” he advises. Isolated cover less than 2 feet deep on the flats in the backs of the creeks will hold the best fish. Uxa recommends trolling around to find isolate logs, stumps, docks, sunken boat lifts, small stickups and any stuff your trolling motor knocks into that is below the surface. The most productive cover will be near deeper water. “A lot of the spots are not going to be good,” warns Uxa. “You are going to fail about 90 percent of the time but it only takes one big fish.” The presence of schools of shad or scattered baitfish will enhance the targeted area. “Baitfish are going to be just about everywhere in October,” says Uxa. On the initial approach to a piece of shallow cover, anglers should run a buzz bait or fast-moving topwater plug over the target, according to Uxa. Then they should follow up with a jig or another slow-moving lure such as a Texas-rigged Brush Hog or 10-inch plastic worm. Uxa favors a black buzz bait for his surface presentation and pitches a 1/2-ounce jig in a peanut butter and jelly hue with a green pumpkin Berkley Powerbait Chigger Chunk when he wants to probe into the cover. He prefers the heavy jig for a faster fall to trigger reaction strikes. “How that lure enters the water is really going to be critical,” says Uxa. “A lot of people are going to be making ‘somewhat okay’ casts but you want your cast to enter the water really nice and quiet.” The guide also recommends fishing the entire length of a shallow log and at different angles because a big bass could be holding anywhere on the piece of cover. One detriment to fishing shallow during October is the dreaded turnover. “Our fall could be different this year,” says Uxa. “Since the water temp was cooler in August, the turnover could be earlier this year—and maybe not as intense.” The local guide notes that turnover doesn’t occur everywhere on the lake at the same time and the lake is big enough to find areas unaffected by this fall phenomenon. “If you are out there and nothing is going on, somewhere on this lake it is too good to keep it down for too long,” says Uxa. “There is somewhere on this lake where they are going to catch them.” Anyone coming to the lake for the first time should consider hiring a guide to learn more about the lake. “I will teach you a lot about where to go, where the resorts are or if there are any dangerous areas where you need to idle,” says Uxa. “I can definitely help you out there. If you have never fished docks or humps before, I can help you do that.” 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. Falling For Lake of the Ozarks Bass

    The autumn spectacle of leaves turning the landscape into a blend of gold, red and orange hues attracts droves of sightseers to the Ozark hills. This colorful display also signals a prime time for bass fishing on Lake of the Ozarks. The shorter days and cooler nights of fall cuts down on the food-making process for trees which causes the leaves to turn colors. A different reaction occurs in the Lake of the Ozarks waters though as fall's cooler weather triggers bass into feeding heavily in preparation for winter. Fall is one of my favorite fishing seasons since the cooler temperatures provide a relief from the scorching heat of summer and the leaves changing colors adds an extra touch of scenic beauty to the lake. Fishing pressure also diminishes in the fall as some anglers turn their attention to hunting. The action can get fast and furious when you find bass feeding in the fall. In September, bass continue to hold in the man-made brush piles along the main lake structure of this massive central Missouri reservoir If the water temperature is still hot, then stay with a big (10-inch) plastic worm. The fish usually hold in the brush piles from 8 to 20 feet deep. Work the worm as slow as possible through the cover for the best results. As the water continues to cool, bass start migrating into the shallows of coves. Search for fish in shallow wood cover or along docks with sunken brush piles. Bass usually suspend over the brush during October, so try a square-bill crankbait that produces a wide wobble and dives down to only 6 feet. Retrieve the lure at a slow pace and try to bump it into the wood. Other lures that produce when bass are feeding in the coves include topwater lures and spinnerbaits. In the late fall, bass move back to the main lake chunk-rock points where they stage before moving to their deep-water winter haunts. A good lure in November is a deep-diving crankbait retrieved at a medium speed which allows it to run at depths of 12 to 14 feet. The lower end of the lake offers the most consistent fishing in the fall. The upper Osage produces some good action during autumn as well. If Truman Dam is dumping water the Osage river arm is good but if there is no flow the upper end becomes dead water. and it's hard to catch any fish. You might go up there and catch one or two big fish but at the same time a guy fishing down lake will catch a limit. 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.
  14. Bass fishing legend Denny Brauer has competed on numerous waters throughout the country so he knows what makes a good bass fishery. “Lake of the Ozarks is unique because it has a bass population from one end to the other; whereas a lot of others aren’t that way,” says the 1999 Bassmasters Classic champion. “I think it is one of the best jig lakes in the country. You can literally fish a jig 12 months a year because the lake has so much cover with the docks and the brush around the docks.” During the winter, Brauer targets bluffs and rock slides where he throws a jerkbait or a jig-and-craw. He favors a jerk bait with a blue back and chrome sides on sunny days, a black back/chrome sides model in overcast weather and the clown color in stained water. The former BASS Angler of the Year jerks the lures slowly with 10-pound test line and experiments with his presentation until he figures out how the fish want the lure retrieved. “When that water is down in the 40s I give it three jerks, kill it and let it sit for a little bit, then give it three more jerks,” he describes. The jig fishing expert also relies on a chameleon craw 1/ 2-ounce Strike King Denny Brauer Design Pro Model Jig tipped with a Strike King Denny Brauer 3X Chunk trailer in the same color. He pitches the jig to the bank on 12- to 17-pound test line and works it out to 18 to 20 feet deep. “I try to definitely make contact all the time with the bottom and make real short hops off the bottom,” he says. His favorite areas for wintertime fishing include the Niangua arm and the lower end of the lake from the mouth of the Gravois to the mouth of the Grand Glaize. As the water warms in the early spring, Brauer concentrates on the lower and middle sections of the lake to catch bass during the prespawn, which usually reaches its peak in April when the water temperature climbs to 55 degrees. Brauer still uses the jerkbait or jig during the prespawn, but he also throws crawfish-color Strike King Pro Model Series 3 and 4 crankbaits with 12- to 17-pound line. He relies on the heavier line in dirty water and scales down for clear conditions. “I just go down the chunk rock banks on into the pea gravel banks and the pockets,” says Brauer, who retrieves the lure in a stop-and-go fashion. “I try to keep it on the bottom the whole retrieve or pretty close to it. I’ll stop it now and then even if I don’t hit anything because those cold-water bass like to follow a bait.” The fish will usually be about 4 to 8 feet deep along the rocky banks of the coves and creeks. Brauer discloses that a mild winter will trigger the bass spawn in April, but a harsh winter delays the spawn until May. He fishes the lower end of the lake some when bass are on the nests, but he prefers the mid-lake area most of the time. The retired BASS pro looks for small side pockets in the big coves that have fairly flat gravel banks. He also likes certain banks lined with boat docks that are near deep water. The depth of the fish depends on the water clarity but in most cases Brauer finds nesting bass less than 5 feet deep. When he finds the right spot, Brauer flips a Strike King Denny Brauer’s Pro Model Flip-N-Tube (green pumpkin) Texas-rigged with a 5/16-ounce weight and a Mustad 3/0 or 4/0 hook. He opts for 12- to 15-pound test for flipping the tube and dips the lure’s tail in chartreuse dye if he is fishing stained water. “If the water is a little stained I am mainly pitching to targets; if the water is fairly clear I will move in and do a little sight fishing, although I prefer not to fish that way,” admits Brauer. After the spawn, Brauer works a Strike King Spit-N-King topwater lure around docks in the spawning pockets and the secondary points close to the nesting areas. He likes to cover a lot of water during this time so the pro angler retrieves his lure quickly on 12-pound test line. The fish will usually be less than 12 feet deep and will hit the lure whether it’s sunny or cloudy. “You can throw the topwater pretty much all day that time of the year,” says Brauer, who prefers fishing close to home in the mid-lake area during the post spawn. Main lake docks and some boathouses in coves are Brauer’s favorite summertime targets from Bagnell Dam to the Hurricane Deck Bridge. A pumpkin/green flake 1/ 2-ounce Strike King Denny Brauer Design Pro Model Jig and Strike King Denny Brauer 3X Chunk in the same hue is one of Brauer’s favorite lures for pitching around the docks. “The fish are feeding on bluegill around the docks so that color seems to work the best,” says Brauer. He also uses a Texas-rigged 11-inch plastic worm (pumpkinseed, June bug or electric blue) with a 4/0 Mustad hook and a 1/ 2-ounce worm weight tied on 25-pound line. Running a Strike King Pro Model Series 6 crankbait along main lake points also produces summertime bass for Brauer. He favors a blue back/white belly or blue back/chartreuse crankbait that he cranks on 12-pound test line. In the fall (October through the end of November), Brauer runs up the Osage arm where he fishes anywhere from the 50 mile marker up to Truman Dam. He looks for isolated wood and schools of shad on flats along the main channel or back in the creeks. The legendary angler’s favorite fall lures include a 1/ 2- ounce Strike King Elite buzz bait (white for sunny weather or black for rainy days) and a 1/ 2-ounce white or white-and-chartreuse spinnerbait with willowleaf blades, both of which he throws on 20-pound test line. He also likes to flip jigs and creature baits to the docks and isolated wood cover. A 1/ 2-ounce jig in a Texas craw or black-and-blue color works best if he is fishing the lure along the bottom. If the fish are suspended under docks, Brauer opts for a white 3/8-ounce jig with a white trailer that he swims along the docks with 25-pound test line. 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.
  15. Before becoming a superstar on the national bass tournament trails, Guido Hibdon honed his skills on his home waters of Lake of the Ozarks. This former third-generation guide began taking clients crappie fishing at Lake of the Ozarks when he was 13 years old. He began fishing the national tournament circuits in 1980 when he won the Bassmaster Missouri Invitational on Lake of the Ozarks. Hibdon emerged as one of the top bass anglers in the world when he won the 1988 Bassmaster Classic and two straight BASS Angler of the Year titles in 1990 and 1991. The pro angler has seen the lake change drastically since his guiding days, but he still considers it a top-notch bass fishery. “Lake of the Ozarks has a lot of pressure on it, but I still rank it in the top five in the country,” Hibdon says. “It’s still an awful good place. I wouldn’t live here if I didn’t think it was a good lake.” Hibdon scales down to a 1/8-ounce jig and 8-pound test line to catch wintertime bass at home.” We catch a ton of them on a regular crappie jig.” says Hibdon, who favors a chartreuse jighead with a white 2 3/ 4-inch homemade tube. He throws the little tube around docks and brush piles and sometimes sets it a couple of feet below a bobber. Another concoction Hibdon uses to catch wintertime bass is a trimmed white Mr. Twister twin-tail grub and a white skirt attached to a 1/8-ounce jig. The fish will be anywhere from 2 to 15 feet deep along the main channel bluffs on the lower end of the lake. “We can catch a lot of them around the docks and actually see the fish bite,” discloses Hibdon. During the prespawn, Hibdon relies on three lures that he fishes 10 to 12 feet deep around brush piles on secondary points. He favors a 1/8- to 1/ 4-ounce jig (melon pepper, green pumpkin or black-and-blue hues) tipped with a small plastic craw or Yamamoto twin tail grubs in the same colors, which he works on 8- to 10-pound test line. The Gravois Mills, Mo., angler also relies on a crawfish or shad-pattern Worden’s Timber Tiger crankbait tied on 12- to 14-pound line or a shad-pattern Rapala Husky Jerk attached to 8- to 10-pound test. The clear waters on the lower end of the lake are Hibdon’s favorite areas to try during the prespawn. He believes bass move out of the wintertime haunts to the shallows from the end of February through March when the water temperature ranges from 40 to 55 degrees. During the spawn, Hibdon likes to “go looking for them.” He sight fishes for nesting bass and skips tube baits under the dock cables. Using 10- to 12-pound line, Hibdon skips a 4-inch plastic (green pumpkin, grasshopper or watermelon/red flake hues) that he attaches to a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce jighead for fishing in open water or Texas rigs the tube with a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce Eagle Claw HP weight and 1/0 Eagle Claw HP hook for throwing behind the docks. “The bass will spawn anywhere,” he says. “I have caught spawning fish off of bluffs, but pea gravel banks pretty much are the main spawning areas.” He suggests the middle of April is the peak of the bass spawn when the water temperature rises to 62 degrees. His favorite area to catch spawning bass is around the Tan-Tar-A Resort area if the water is clear enough for sight fishing. During the postspawn, Hibdon runs to the upper end of the lake from Proctor Creek to the Buffalo creeks and throws topwater lures. He favors a Zara Spook in flitter shad (known locally as the Christmas tree color), blue shore minnow or yellow shore minnow hues. Another effective lure for postspawn bass is a pink floating worm that Hibdon threads on a 3/0 straight shank Gamakatsu hook and puts a twist in the worm’s body. He throws all of his topwater lures on 12- to 14-pound test. The tournament veteran works his lures fast and covers a lot of water. “The big males are just following the little fry around and they are just easy to catch then,” says Hibdon, who runs this pattern sometimes until the first week of July. Slowly working jigs and plastic worms through main-lake brush and along bluffs down to 30 feet deep produces bass for Hibdon during the summertime. In the hottest part of summer, Hibdon usually fishes from the Grand Glaize arm to Proctor Creek on the Osage. His favorite summertime lures include a Dion's Classic on a 3/8 or 1/ 2-ounce jighead, a 3/8-ounce to 1/ 2-ounce live rubber jig tipped with Dion’s Classic grub (blue-and-black, green pumpkin, melon pepper or chartreuse pumpkin hues) or a 10-inch black plastic worm. He works all three lures on 14- to 20-pound test line and employs a drop-shot rig for the worm (4/0 Owner wide gap hook and a 1/ 2-ounce weight set about 10 inches below the hook). About the middle of September, Hibdon fishes “wherever the wind is blowing”, especially if baitfish are present in the area. He jerks a black-and-chrome topwater popper on 20-pound test line or runs a 1/ 4- to 3/8-ounce spinnerbait (white-and-chartreuse or white with gold and silver blades) tipped with the tail section of a Dion's Classic around cover. If he’s fishing open water, Hibdon wakes a 1/ 2-ounce spinnerbait. Another topwater lure that produces for Hibdon in the fall is a white buzz bait (3/8- to 1/ 2-ounce body) with gold or copper blades. The fall patterns usually work for Hibdon until the first week of December, and then he goes back to fishing the crappie jig. 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 & Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.
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