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Bass Fishing On Lake Of The Ozarks’ North Shore

Phil Lilley

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by John Neporadny

The North Shore arm contains some of the deepest and clearest water on the Lake of the Ozarks. This section of the lake stretches from Bagnell Dam to the mouth of the Gravois at about the six mile mark.

The North Shore features five long coves on the north side that warm up quickly to produce some of the earliest bass action in the spring. The major coves on the Horseshoe Bend side warm up slower and produce better fishing later in the spring. Secondary and main lake points are the key structures to fish most of the year on this arm.

The deep waters of the North Shore annually yield some of the biggest bass taken from the lake.  The biggest bass are usually caught in the early spring or at night during the summer. Bruce Gier, a former guide and one of the top bass tournament competitors at the lake, has caught tons of bass on the North Shore.

During the winter, Gier’s cold-water weapon is a weighted minnow bait.  The owner of Gier’s Bass Pro Shops in Eldon used to rely on a deep-diving Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue to take winter bass but  his favorite lures now are the LuckyCraft suspending stickbaits (Bevy Shad 75, Pointer 78, Pointer 100 and Staysee).  His favorite colors are ghost minnow or Aurora blue in clear water and Nishiki or clown (red head, gold back and white belly) for stained to murky water.   He retrieves the lure with a series of twitches and long pauses that cause the stickbait to twitch and wobble like a dying shad.

The tournament veteran finds bass in the pockets if the lake level is low or the fish will stack up along secondary points if water is running through the dam. Twitching the stickbaits over brush piles in the 8- to 20-foot range allows Gier to catch suspended bass. 

In February, North Shore bass seek the warmth of rocky banks that receive a lot of sunshine. During this time, water is being released though Bagnell Dam so ideal locations for bass include pockets near a corner where the current breaks around a secondary point.  “The fish will be just out of the current around that corner of the point,” advises Gier. “You can’t see any current but the fish sure notice it.”

If the fish are hugging bottom or have moved into shallow brush, Gier switches to a small brown Super Bass jig and tips it with a Zoom Critter Craw. For the most aggressive fish he tips the jig with a twin-tail plastic grub.

These two patterns usually produce for Gier until the middle of April when the water temperature climbs into the 50- to 60-degree range and the bass move into the pre-spawn stage. During this time, bass move off the chunk rock banks to the pea gravel and into brush piles less than 8 feet deep.

In early April, Gier catches some fish throwing a crawfish-color Storm Lures Wiggle Wart along the flat gravel banks in the coves. His favorite lure for big bass in April though is a 3/8- or 5/16-ounce brown Super Bass jig and plastic twin-tail trailer tied on 8-pound test line. He works the lure slowly along the bottom or through brush 5 to 8 feet deep in pockets of the coves or on the main lake. His favorite jig colors are green pumpkin or a brown-and-copper combination. If the water is off-colored, he opts for a black-and-blue combo.

When the water temperature climbs above 55 degrees Gier starts Carolina-rigging with a plastic lizard for the most aggressive fish and switches to a Centipede on a split-shot rig for lethargic bass. Best colors for these lures include green pumpkin, watermelon and pumpkinseed/chartreuse.

The fish begin their spawning ritual when the water temperature reaches the 60-degree mark usually in late April and the spawn last sometimes until the second week of May. Gier usually catches these fish behind docks in the pockets of coves where he pitches jigs and plastic craws or tube baits, finesse worms and a variety of other soft plastics.

“They’ll get under those cables around the docks,” says Gier. “That’s their number one spawning place—just where they can really deal you some havoc when you lay into one of those big babies.”

By the end of May, North Shore bass have completed the rigors of spawning and recuperate around boat docks near the gravel banks in coves. Slowly dragging a Carolina-rigged finesse worm or plastic lizard catches some fish along the sides of docks, but Gier’s favorite tactic for these fish is sweeping a jig over the top of the fish. The technique requires pitching a jig-and-craw to the shallows, then pulling it away from the bank about 5 to 6 feet, which triggers strikes from bottom-hugging bass. “You can have a heck of a good time doing that all day long,” says Gier.

Night fishing produces the biggest bass at North Shore throughout the summer. “The last two weeks of June through July is the best time to night fish on the North Shore, says Harold Stark a former BASS Federation National Championship qualifier who has fished the lake since 1978. “The fish are in a stable pattern then and once you find two or three spots that are holding fish, you can go back there and keep taking fish out of those spots.”

The Eldon, MO, angler starts his evening on the water at 7 p.m. and concentrates on brush piles 15 to 25 feet deep next to the main river channel.  “It helps if there is a dock around or a lot of docks where the fish can get in there and congregate,” he suggests. It’s also easier to find the brush piles in the dark if the cover is near docks with lights.

His top three lures for night fishing include a plastic worm, jigs and pork frogs and spinnerbaits. He uses an 8-inch or longer plastic worm in red shad, electric blue, black and black neon hues and Texas rigs the worm with a 5/16- or 7/16-ounce bullet sinker. His other night lure choices include a blue 1/ 2-ounce jig with a blue or black number 11 pork chunk and a 1/ 2-ounce black or purple short-arm spinnerbait with a blue number 11 pork frog trailer.

The tournament competitor works all three lures on 15- to 25-pound test line with bait-cast tackle.  He retrieves all three lures in the same fashion by crawling the baits through the limbs of the brush piles or along the drop-offs.

“August is a good time to start throwing that spinnerbait,” Stark says.  “The fish see those plastic worms and jigs all the time.”

Fishing can be tough in the early fall when the fish are in transition moving from deep structure to the shallows. As the water temperature cools, bass move extremely shallow and stay there throughout autumn. “The fish get so shallow on the North Shore in the clear water that they can’t swim straight up and down underneath the foam of the dock,” discloses Gier. Good spots to try in the shallows are the floating supports of dock walkways either in the main lake cuts or in the backs of coves.

Topwater chuggers and Zara Spooks are good lures for fall fishing, but Gier prefers 1/ 2-ounce buzz baits and 3/8- or 1/ 2-ounce spinnerbaits with white-and-chartreuse skirts. If the water is off-colored he opts for spinnerbaits with painted blades, but switches to gold blades in clear-water conditions.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 152-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.  

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