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THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing GuideExpert Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - February 2009

Lake of the Ozarks Bass Bunch Up In February

by John Neporadny Jr.

If he can break through the ice, Bruce Gier will head for one of his 10 favorite spots on the North Shore of the Lake of the Ozarks during February.

The Eldon, Mo., tournament angler admits that other sections of the lake, such as the Gravois and Niangua arms, are probably better during this month because they contain warmer water, but the fish tend to scatter out. He favors the North Shore because big bass tend to bunch up in confined areas in this section of the lower lake. "There could be 11 giants hanging around one little piece of brush off of a point over 20 feet of water," Gier says. The owner of Gier's Bass Pro & Liquor Shop in Eldon claims he has 10 such spots that produce big fish every year.

During this time, water is being released through Bagnell Dam every day, so bass on the North Shore key on slack-water areas along secondary points. "The fish won't be lying in the current but they will be just off of it around the corner of the point, Gier says. "You can't see any current, but the fish sure notice it." The water temperature, which is usually around 42 or 43 degrees, makes bass sluggish in February, so they try to avoid the current.

Most of the year, Lake of the Ozarks bass hang around docks or brush piles, but during February they seek the warmth of rocky banks that receive a lot of sunshine. Ideal locations include sunny pockets near the corner from where the current breaks around a secondary point. Bass desire an easy meal during this month and the lake offers them a bountiful forage. "There are a lot of dying shad in February," Gier says. "If you look down about 8 or 10 feet in that clear water, you'll see those little 3-inch shad lying on their side, just barely staying alive. If you see that, look out! You're going to have yourself quite a day. Things are going to happen."

Gier makes things happen by tantalizing the fish that are suspended over depths of 20 feet or more with a suspending Lucky Craft stickbait. To make sure the lures reaches its maximum depth, Gier works the lure on 8-pound test line.

When Gier pulls the stickbait down to the right depth, he lets it stay in the same spot and watches his line the same way a youngster watches a bobber while waiting for a panfish to bite. The lure imitates a dying shad by fluttering in its suspended state, and any line movement that occurs during this time signals that a fish has engulfed the stickbait.

If the fish are hugging the bottom or have moved into shallow brush piles, Gier switches to 6-pound test line and a plastic grub or Fat Gitzit on a 1/8-ounce jighead. His favorite color combination for these lures is light brown/green flake. He slowly swims these lures over brush piles or along the bottom and occasionally allows the plastic baits to tick off the brush or rocks. The tube jigs produce best when the fish have moved from the 20-foot range to 8 feet deep in the pockets after a couple of sunny days have warmed the shallows.

Weather plays a key role during the month. Gier says on a sunny day he might catch more than 20 keepers even in 30-degree weather, but on an overcast day he might take only three legal-size fish. He also makes sure he hits the right spots at the right time, when they are receiving the most sunshine. "The time of day is pretty important in February," Gier says. "I've got some spots where the sun doesn't hit them until 2 o'clock so those are usually my last banks of the day to hit."

Big bass remain in schools throughout the entire month on North Shore. "That's when you can catch 'Big Mo'," Gier says. The four biggest bass he has caught on Lake of the Ozarks (ranging from 8 pounds to 8 pounds, 4 ounces) were caught on a stickbait from mid-February to mid-March. When the water warms in March, the fish start scattering along the banks.

Whether he has an ice-free access to the lake or he has to bust through the ice, Gier will make his rounds to his 10 favorite spots on Lake of the Ozarks' North Shore because he knows big fish are always bunched up there. 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.

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