Expert Articles by John
Neporadny Jr. - May
Topwater Time At Lake of the Ozarks
by John Neporadny Jr.
There's no greater thrill in bass fishing than
watching a calm surface suddenly explode and your topwater lure instantly
This scene will be played out many times this
month as the waters become warm enough to activate bass into feeding on top. May
has always been a prime topwater time for me on my home impoundment, the Lake of
the Ozarks. My favorite springtime topwater lure is the Heddon Zara Spook, but
I've also caught plenty of bass on the surface with topwater chuggers and
A number of factors stimulate bass into
striking at objects on the surface during late spring. Mike Kruse, MDC fisheries
biologist, suggests this time of year, particularly in a bass' post spawn stage,
is a period of heavy feeding when water temperatures are optimum for largemouth
bass and food is abundant. "It's just an overall period of optimum
conditions for growth and feeding when bass' metabolisms are running full bore
and they are looking for food," the biologist says.
Bass might be looking toward the surface during
this time because a lot of terrestrial insects, such as locusts and
grasshoppers, fall in the water, Kruse says. But probably the main reason why
male bass key in on the surface during May is to protect their fry. "A lot
of times the fry hover just under the surface, so the adult males tend to be
fairly close to the surface anyway," says Kruse.
These fish also tend to be extremely aggressive
and strike at anything that approaches them along the surface. The speed at
which you work a topwater lure during this time of year depends on the water
temperature. Typically, the cooler the water, the slower the retrieve.
A multitude of boat docks makesLake of the
Ozarks an ideal place to fish topwater lures in May. Bass use these floating
structures for cover throughout the spawning cycle. "A lot of guys are
afraid to get behind the docks, because they don't want to scratch up their
boats on the cables, but that's where the fish are a lot of times in the
spring," says Mark Dahl, a former guide and owner of Dahl's Mini-Mart bait
and tackle/convenience store at the Lake of the Ozarks.
Bass tend to congregate at the back ends of
docks in the first half of the month, depending on the spawning conditions.
During the post-spawn later in the month, some bass can still be found behind
the docks, but others tend to move out to the sides or even the front of the
floating structures where they suspend over sunken brush piles or under the
dock's foam. When fishing behind the docks, Dahl throws his topwater lures on
braided line to cut down on line breakage if he hooks a fish next to the dock's
In early May, the water temperature is usually
in the upper 50s to low 60s so Dahl slowly retrieves topwater chuggers, such as
Rebel Pop-R's or Storm Lures Rattlin' Chug Bugs. He also catches sluggish bass
by slowly swimming or twitching a floating minnow across the surface. By the end
of the month, he has switched to Zara Spooks, buzz baits and topwater propellor
plugs that he works at a faster pace since the water has warmed into the
The backs of pockets and coves are productive
topwater areas for Dahl. He looks for dark-color bottoms which tend to hold heat
better and warm the water faster. Most bass gather on the pea-gravel banks
during the spawn and then move to the chunk rock banks during the post-spawn.
Areas close to deep water are best. Even when fishing in coves, Dahl
concentrates on the areas where there is 15 to 18 feet of water in the back end.
In addition to targeting docks, Dahl also throws his topwater lures around any
lay-downs or any brush piles he sees along the shoreline.
Dahl notes that the lake's size allows you to
move from one area to another and enjoy prime topwater fishing for three weeks
to a month. The best areas for topwater fishing are in the clear-water mid and
lower sections of the lake.
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.
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.