Expert Articles by John
Neporadny Jr. - April
Lake of the Ozarks Bass Like
To Rock In April
by John Neporadny Jr.
The countless fleet of boat docks attracts bass
at the Lake of the Ozarks most of the time, except in April when the fish feel
the urge to spawn. Then the bass shun their classical floating cover for the
temptations of rock (chunk and pea gravel rather than Van Halen or Aerosmith).
This 58,000-acre reservoir lost most of its
natural cover when the standing timber was cleared before the lake was formed in
1931. New cover has developed over the years as dock owners and anglers have
planted brush piles throughout the lake. Bass also relate to natural structure
such as steep bluffs, chunk rock and pea gravel banks, dropoffs and points.
Lay-downs and logjams attract bass in the undeveloped coves. Normal pool
elevation for the lake is 660 feet above sea level.
The massive impoundment consists of three
distinct sections--(1) the lower end including the North Shore and Horseshoe
Bend areas and the Gravois arm; (2) the middle lake including the Osage arm from
Shawnee Bend to the Hurricane Deck bridge, Linn Creek, the Grand Glaize and the
Niangua and Little Niangua; (3) the upper end on the Osage from Hurricane Deck
bridge to Truman Dam. Giving tips on how to fish these three sections will be
local tournament anglers Bruce Gier and Roger Fitzpatrick, both from Eldon, MO,
and Marty McGuire, Camdenton, MO. Let's look at how these three anglers fish
their favorite sections of Lake of the Ozarks during April.
This section of the lake has the deepest and
clearest water so it also turns on last in the spring. Whereas bass could be in
the prespawn stage on the river arm of the lake, the bass in the dam area could
still be deep in mid-April. "That time of year concerns me. If it was
March, there would be no problem," says Gier, who is tough to beat in early
spring tournaments when bass prefer weighted stickbaits. But in mid-April, the
fish start moving off the winter pattern to the pre-spawn stage on the lower end
of the lake. "It can be tricky on the North Shore and Gravois then or it
can be won there too," Gier admits.
The water temperature could be in the 40s then,
but usually it's in the 50-degree range. When the water temperature moves into
the 50- to 60-degree range, bass in transition become harder for Gier to
pattern. "They don't know whether to chase a Rogue or catch a
crawdad," he says. Bass start moving off the chunk rock banks to the pea
gravel or into the brush piles less than 8 feet deep. On sunny days, some fish l
suspend under the foam of boat docks. "Those fish are tough to get to
strike, though" Gier says. The fish start scattering from one end of a cove
to the other, but the biggest bass will still hold on the main lake points and
other main channel structure.
If the fish remain on the main lake points,
Gier throws a clown-colored Luckycraft Pointer in April. When the water
temperature climbs above 50 degrees and the wind starts blowing, he switches to
a 1/2-ounce chartreuse-and-white J & J Lures spinnerbait with a gold
willowleaf blade and a silver Colorado blade he bumps along the chunk rock
Bass that have moved to the flat gravel banks
fall for crawfish-color Wiggle Warts during this time. "Every time you come
to a 5- to 8-foot deep brush pile, you better flip a jig into it," advises
Gier, who relied on a jig and pork frog to win the 1992 Lake of the Ozarks
Pro-Am in April. . "They will hit a jig anytime in April." In clear
water, Gier prefers pitching a brown 3/8-ounce jig with a brown number 11 pork
frog or if the water is off-colored he opts for a black-and-blue combination. If
the water temperature rises to 55 degrees, Gier starts dragging a
Carolina-rigged plastic lizard in green pumpkin, watermelon seed or pumpkinseed
and chartreuse along the gravel banks
Gier believes the lower end of the lake offers
more consistent fishing than the other sections. "You can catch a limit
easier there, but you might catch a wad of 15-inchers," Gier warns.
"I've come in a lot of times with six fish that have weighed 12 pounds.
The diversity of structure in this section of
the lake give anglers a multiple choice of patterns to try in April "You
have shallow-water fishing. You can flip boat docks. You can fish points,
dropoffs, bluff lines and brush piles," suggests Marty McGuire. "You
can fish every depth of water you want from 2 to 25 feet." The back ends of
the feeder creeks and upper ends of the other tributaries offer stained to murky
water for flipping, or a move to the main channel allows you to fish 20 feet
deep in clear water.
"If you can find the fish normally you can
catch a good limit in between the Glaize and the Hurricane Deck bridges,"
McGuire says. There are just so many different things you can do in that area.
That part of the lake will produce just as many consistent winning stringers as
any part of the lake." While bigger fish come from the upper end of the
lake during April, this area produces more consistent fishing and has one
particular arm that's similar to the upper Osage. "The Niangua is just like
the river. It can produce the big stringer or it produces nothing," McGuire
advises. "You can catch a big bag of fish there or you may never have a
bite all day long." The Grand Glaize arm has dirtier water in the spring,
but is a small area that succumbs easily to fishing pressure. McGuire notes the
section of the Grand Glaize near the Highway 54 bridge offers better fishing
because the area has more boat docks to hold bass.
The water temperature in the mid-section of the
lake will range anywhere from the mid-40s or low 50s on the main lake to around
60 degrees in the backs of the tributaries. While some fish will still be deep,
the majority of the bass will hold 4 to 9 feet deep. If the water and weather
remains cold, McGuire still catches bass on a weighted Rattlin' Rogue on the
main lake points or in the back ends of some coves. He uses a black and gray
Rogue for clear water and a fire tiger model for stained conditions.
As the water continues to warm, bass start
moving into the back ends of coves to the pea gravel banks. "If they aren't
on pea gravel, they will be at the first bank that has chunk rock close to the
pea gravel," McGuire says. Under normal water conditions, these fish can be
taken on Carolina-rigged Zoom plastic lizards in green pumpkin or watermelon
seed and chartreuse tail. Crawfish color Wiggle Warts and Bomber Model 6A or 7A
crankbaits or a shad-colored Rapala Shap Rap also works well on the gravel
During high and muddy water conditions, McGuire
flips a black, black-and-blue or brown 3/8-ounce jig and number 11 or 1 Uncle
Josh pork frog into flooded bushes along the secondary points and farther back
in the coves. If the lake level remains high but just below the bushes, McGuire
searches for the steeper chunk rock banks in the sunshine. "The fish will
move right up in them rocks and right up on the banks in the sawdust,"
This section of the lake has the same structure
and cover as the other areas, but it tends to have more stained water that warms
up faster in the spring. The section also contains plenty of chunk rock and pea
gravel banks bass prefer during that time of year. In the shallower muddy creeks
or the upper end of the river, the water temperature could be in the 60- to
65-degree range by mid-April while the water down by the Hurricane Deck bridge
could be in the mid 50s.
"The river can be awfully good in
April," says Roger Fitzpatrick, who grew up fishing this section of the
lake. "I like the Hurricane Deck area because there's some 'nothing
looking' banks there that nobody ever fishes with a crankbait." Other areas
he favors include the Little and Big Buffalo, Cole Camp and Turkey creeks.
Most fish in the river section will be in the
prespawn stage although some will be attempting to nest. One of the biggest
drawbacks to this area in the spring is the influence of Truman Dam. "If
everything is stable up there at that time of year, you can really have a good
day. If the fish are trying to go up on the beds and they are sucking the lake
down, it makes it a little tougher there," says Fitzpatrick, who suggests
fishing down around the Hurricane Deck area since the staging fish in that
section are less affected by Truman Dam.
Wiggle Warts and Bomber Model A crankbaits
produce plenty of bass during mid-April on the upper Osage. Fitzpatrick suggests
throwing the crankbaits on 10- to 12-pound test line and retrieving the lure
slowly. The key is to keep the lure in contact with the gravel bottom in the
Fitzpatrick also targets lay-downs and boat
docks less than 5 feet deep along the flats in the coves. He usually tries to
catch a limit of fish by flipping a 3/8-ounce jig and craw in a black-and-blue
combination, then he pursues kicker fish by slow rolling a chartreuse-and-white
or yellow-and-white spinnerbait with gold blades.
When fishing the Lake of the Ozarks this April,
remember the bass start to rock on this reservoir just before the recreational
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.