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John Neporadny Jr.

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  1. 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)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
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