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John Neporadny Jr.

Fishing Lake of the Ozarks winter drawdown stages

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Knowing the plans for preventing floods in the spring can improve your chances of catching wintertime bass on Lake of the Ozarks.

AmerenMissouri annually draws down lake levels during the winter to prevent flooding in the spring, so Lake of the Ozarks anglers must adapt to the falling water to catch bass.

 A typical winter drawdowns usually leads to three phases that anglers must adjust to in order to keep track of bass throughout the winter and early spring. Phase One occurs when the drawdown begins and bass move from the shallows to deeper sanctuaries. Next comes Phase Two when the drawdown bottoms out and bass bunch up in certain holes during the dead of winter.  Phase Three follows in early spring when the lake is still low and shoreline cover is high and dry, but bass have the urge to move shallower in search of warmer water.

Here’s a look at how FLW Tour pro and Lake of the Ozarks guide Casey Scanlon tracks and catches Lake of the Ozarks bass during each phase of the winter drawdown.

Phase One

The first drawdown phase on Lake of the Ozarks usually starts slowly in late November or early December and then Scanlon notices the water levels drop sharply at some point.  Scanlon keys on main and secondary points where bass are feeding on larger meals for winter. “Those fish are up there eating those big (gizzard) shad,” he said.

During the early stages of the drawdown, Scanlon relies on a Luck E Strike Buzzbait or other topwater lures to catch bass chasing the gizzard shad.  As the lake level continues to fall, bass start suspending on points and vertical structure on the main lake so Scanlon tempts these fish with a Luck E Strike RC STX Jerkbait or a 3/4-ounce spinnerbait that he slow rolls.

Phase Two

The guts of creeks and main lake pockets are Scanlon’s favorite targets during the bottom-out stage of the winter drawdown.  He finds Lake of the Ozarks bass suspending at 8 to 10 feet over a depth of 20 feet or greater and casts his lures down the middle of the guts. “In the middle of winter, I use a (suspending) jerkbait and I am also going to throw some kind of an Alabama rig.” He throws an Alabama rig without blades in clear water on calm, sunny days but changes to a bladed version of the rig in windy or cloudy conditions.

Phase Three

This is the trickiest phase of the drawdown since bass want to move to warmer water in the shallows, but shallow cover is sparse and cold fronts can send bass retreating back to deeper water.

Scanlon concentrates on boulders and docks in the shallows along points and bluffs in the backs of creeks.  “I look for just any type of cover available on the bank and I will throw a (1/2-ounce Trophy Bass Company) jig with a big trailer to slow the fall rate down,” Scanlon said.  He also throws a suspending jerkbait and a Luck E Strike G5 crankbait for bass suspended in deeper water.

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.


Reprinted with permission from B.A.S.S. Publications

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2 hours ago, Northsider said:

Hello Ozark Anglers! For my first post I'll just mention that I hope they bring the level back up sooner than they did last year.

Me too !    They totally hosed up the white bass run the last 2 years by keeping the level below 658 until mid May.

It also caused property values to drop significantly on homes situated in the backends of coves.  People looking to buy lakefront property now avoid areas with shallow water like the plague.  

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Ameren and the USACE coordinate with the National Weather Service (NWS) at least daily during routine 

operations and multiple times a day during heavy rain events. During routine operations, when neither LOZ 
nor Truman is above flood levels, we can use weather forecasts to make adjustments to our discharges as 
appropriate. However, once a lake goes above flood level (LOZ above 660’ or Truman above 706’), we must 
manage the flood waters per our operating manuals. During flood conditions, both operating manuals are based 
on actual lake levels, not forecasts of rain. We use the forecasts to help prepare and plan for what is coming, but 
not to actually adjust discharge flows during floods.
Keep in mind, to make several feet of changes in LOZ level would mean that either upstream or downstream 
property owners are going to suffer actual impact. Either Truman will have to flood additional land by holding 
back extra water or Bagnell Dam will have to discharge larger flows onto the Osage River property owners to 
draw down LOZ. Imposing these actual impacts based purely on forecasts is not deemed appropriate. While 
the NWS forecasts continue to get more and more accurate, they still have limitations. To make any significant 
impact on flooding, major changes in flows would have to be taken at least 5 to 7 days in advance. While the 5 day 
forecasts have proven to be fairly accurate in the total amount of precipitation to occur in that window, they do 
not so accurately depict how fast the rain will come on any given day or exactly what the boundaries of the rain 
storm will be. 
The forecast for the December rainfall showed the area below Truman Dam was to receive 4-7 inches of rain. The 
actual observed amounts were 7-9 inches. The 48 hour forecast for the July, 2015 flooding event showed the area 
below Truman would recieve 1.5-3 inches of rain but actually received over 9 inches of rain in this two day period. 
If we reacted to 5 or 7 day forecasts, we would have to fluctuate the LOZ levels by three or four feet frequently. At 
times this could result in draining water from the Lake and then the storm move out of our drainage basin, leaving 
the LOZ low for several weeks or even months. This could have significant impact on the tourism industry at LOZ. 
The final point is to recognize the significance of the amount of rain actually received in the July and December, 
2015 flood events. Both events were preceded by several weeks of heavy rains, saturating the soils and putting 
Truman into its flood pool and required higher discharges from the flood pool. As discussed earlier, it is not 
possible to make major changes in LOZ level when Truman is having heavy discharges from their flood pool. 
Truman and Osage Plant had heavy discharges throughout June and December attempting to evacuate the 
already stored flood waters as rapidly as possible to prepare for additional rains to come. To have lowered LOZ 
level by any substantial amount would have meant holding back already stored water in Truman based only on a 
projection of rains to come. 
Major Operational decisions are not based on 
weather forecasting and inflow forecasting.

It was my understanding that 706.0 was Truman's "normal pool'.  But now they are calling it the "flood stage line". 

Reading that whole report carefully it is abundantly clear that no matter what happens it is either the NWS or FERC's fault.  😄

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