Expert Articles by John
Neporadny Jr. - January
Lake of the Ozarks’
Tournament Strategies - Part 2
By John Neporadny Jr.
This is the second part of a two-part series on
tournament winning patterns at the Lake of the Ozarks. Part One focused on how
to pattern bass throughout the spring from pre-spawn to post-spawn, while Part
Two will discuss the top patterns for summer and fall tournaments at the lake.
The massive size of Lake of the Ozarks plays a
key role in tournament strategy for the summer and fall.
The heavy recreational boat traffic becomes a
burden for tournament anglers throughout the warm-weather months, so they
usually have to compete at night or in the upper arms of the major tributaries.
Most daytime tournaments in the summer and early fall take off from the Drake
Harbor access in Warsaw, which is the extreme upper end of the Osage arm. This
end of the lake provides the best daytime action during the heat of summer and
has the least amount of boat traffic.
Night tournaments are popular throughout summer
and early fall on the lower end of the lake where the winning catches are
frequently five-fish limits weighing more than 20 pounds. These nocturnal events
usually take off at Grand Glaize Public Beach 2, Shawnee Bend and the Coffman
Here’s a look at the best summer and fall
patterns to help make you a winner at the Lake of the Ozarks.
In June, a short-arm, ½-ounce spinnerbait with
a single number 5 Colorado blade takes bass at night. Best colors for this
spinnerbait pattern are black or black-and-red skirt with a gold blade.
This tactic works best pumping the lure off the
bottom and letting it flutter down along chunk rock points. The fish will be
holding anywhere from 1 to 15 feet deep throughout the night.
From mid-June to the latter part of July,
nighttime action for bass turns on in the Big and Little Niangua arms where the
fish hold in brush piles around docks. Flipping behind docks can also be
productive after dark on the Little Niangua arm.
During the last part of July and throughout
August, the brush piles on the lower end of the lake produce the best nighttime
action. Some of the most productive areas during this time include the Gravois
arm, North Shore area, and the Osage arm around the Lodge of the Four Seasons.
The depth of the fish varies throughout the
night as bass come up to feed at certain times. Start the evening keying on
brush piles 15 to 20 feet deep and when the fish stop biting in the brush, move
up shallower to search for bass feeding behind docks.
Magnum-size plastic worms (10 or 11 inches) and
jigs consistently produce victories during night tournaments. Berkley Power
Worms in darker hues, such as black, blue fleck, June bug and red shad work
well, along with a brown or black 3/8-ounce jig with a rattle and some type of
plastic trailer (craw or double-tail grub) in a bluegill color. Cast the worms
beyond the brush pile and slowly crawl the lure through the limbs to trigger a
During windy nights, slow-rolling a spinnerbait
along main lake chunk rock banks also produces summertime bass on the lower end
of the lake. Try a 3/8- or ½-ounce model with a silver willowleaf blade and a
black twin-tail plastic trailer for the best results.
Main channel brush piles on the lake’s lower
end also yield good stringers of bass during the daytime for any anglers with
enough persistence to withstand the constant barrage of large wakes. The fish
will be holding tight on the brush or the bottom, so slowly work a Texas-rigged
8- to 10-inch plastic worm over the rocks and through the wood cover.
The upper Osage offers tournament anglers a
break from the daytime pleasure boaters. The main channel of this section
provides the most consistent summertime action since bass stay cooler and have
more oxygen created by water flowing from Truman Dam. Key areas to try in this
riverine section include points, islands and docks on the flats. Lay-downs and
shallow brush piles are also prime targets to try for summer bass.
When the current flows, throw a ½-ounce
spinnerbait with large blades or flip a red shad 6-inch worm to the docks and
other shallow cover. On calm, sunny days, pitching a 10-inch Berkley Power Worm
deep into the wells of shallow main lake docks usually produces the biggest
The upper Osage continues to generate the best
daytime action in early autumn. Major creeks in the upper end, such as Proctor,
Big and Little Buffalo, Rainy, Turkey and Brush, start to turn on in September.
The water starts to cool down quicker in this section of the lake and bass
become active in various spots, including the shallow weeds in the coves, along
points and flats near the main river or creek channels and laydowns on the main
Flipping 8- to 11-inch ring worms (motor oil,
pumpkinseed or fire n’ ice hues) into the shallow weeds produces keepers
throughout early fall. The big flats in the creeks are excellent spots to catch
quality fish on 3/8- to ½-ounce buzz baits.
The main lake points remain productive
throughout September. Bass remain 10 to 14 feet deep and can be taken on
magnum-size plastic worms or black-and-blue or brown-and-black jigs with number
11 pork frogs or plastic craws.
Touring pro Randall Hutson relied on a magnum
worm pattern when he won the Central Pro-Am Association’s September 2000 Lake
of the Ozarks Pro-Am. Hutson pitched an 11-inch red shad plastic worm to docks
about halfway back in the creeks of the Osage arm and caught most of his fish
bumping the worm slowly along the bottom and through brush 7 to 9 feet deep.
An effective lure for taking kicker fish on the
upper Osage through September and October is a ½-ounce Tennessee shad
Rat-L-Trap. The lure works especially well on points when bass bust the surface.
October can be a tough month throughout the
lake because the upper ends start to experience turnover and the lake’s lower
end hasn’t cooled off enough to activate the big fish. Running a 3/8-ounce
white or chartreuse spinnerbait along the sides of shallow docks on the main
lake flats of the Osage arm above the Hurricane Deck bridge is one of the most
productive patterns for October. Swimming a ¼-ounce white jig with a white pork
or plastic trailer is an effective way to catch kicker fish from the same docks.
Brush piles on the lake’s lower end still
produce some quality fish in October. Work a Texas-rigged 8- to 10-inch plastic
worm through the brush in the 10- to 15-foot depth range along main and
November is the most popular fall month for two
major tournament circuits to visit the Lake of the Ozarks. The Missouri
BASSMASTER Central Invitational had been held on the lake every November since
1998 until 2002 and the Central Pro-Am circuit frequently runs its Fall Pro-Am
Spectacular event there.
The winning patterns for the last four
BASSMASTER events show how diverse the fishing can be during this month. In all
four tournaments, the winners relied on patterns that were different in lure
selection, structure, cover and area of the lake. Weather and water conditions
played key roles in dictating the best pattern for these fall events.
During the 1997 BASSMASTER event, daytime
temperatures never climbed above 32 degrees and the water temperature dropped
into the 50-degree range so Jay Yelas relied on a slow presentation to catch his
winning stringer. Stopping at more than 100 docks each competition day on the
Osage arm near the Grand Glaize bridge, Yelas worked a ½-ounce black-and-blue
Berkley Rattle Power Jig and a black-and-blue Berkley Power Frog along the
bottom next to each dock. His most productive docks were on points with brush
piles at depths of 10 feet.
The lake showed why its one of the top bass
fisheries in the country during the 1998 BASSMASTER tournament when Dan Morehead
won with an impressive catch of 15 bass weighing 60 pounds, 10 ounces. The lake
was abnormally high and murky for November, which made conditions ideal for
shallow buzz bait action. Morehead keyed on the unusually dirty waters in the
dam area and threw a 3/8-ounce Mann's Hank Parker Classic Buzzbait. Positioning
his boat parallel to the bank, Morehead ran his buzz bait in water less than 1
foot deep along algae-covered rocks on secondary points. A buzz bait also
produced several fish for the other top five finishers in this event.
The lake was lower and clearer for the 1999
BASSMASTER Invitational and the bass were reluctant to hit a buzz bait. So
tournament winner Randy Jackson headed for the Niangua arm and concentrated on
chunk-rock banks and boat docks near channel swings. In the mornings, he ran a
white ½-ounce Crock-O-Gator 4x5 spinnerbait along the shallows of rocky banks
and in the afternoons he flipped a Crock-O-Gator Heavy Tube (watermelon/red
flake) along the dock foam.
Relying on a pattern usually applied during the
winter, Curt Lytle won the 2000 BASSMASTER tournament last November. Early in
the competition, he took keepers running a brown-and-white crankbait in pockets
between bluffs in a creek on the upper Osage arm. But as the weather got colder
throughout the week and the water temperature continued to drop, Lytle switched
to a slower presentation. Positioning his boat parallel to the bluffs in the
creek, Lytle slowly twitched a chrome-and-blue suspending jerkbait to catch bass
suspended along the rock walls.
Another winning technique was revealed when
Central Pro-Am held its Bass Pro Shops Fall Pro-Am Spectacular event the weekend
before the BASSMASTER Invitational. Relying on a traditional fall pattern, Gary
Carrier won this event by keying on wind-blown points on the Osage River above
Hurricane Deck bridge. However Carrier avoided fishing the bank and ran a
shad-colored Bomber Model 7A crankbait for bigger largemouth bass holding in the
4- to 8-foot depth range.
Take your pick. The Lake of the Ozarks has
plenty of water for trying a variety of patterns. It’s just a matter of
narrowing down those choices to find a winning combination.
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.