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

Lake of the Ozarks Is Popular Tournament Site
by John Neporadny Jr.

Under that disguise of luxurious condominiums and dock-to-dock shoreline lies one of the state's top bass lakes. Although younger reservoirs appeal more to the bass angler's eye with all the flooded timber and undeveloped shoreline, the Lake of the Ozarks entices bass tournaments with its hidden charms. This 58,000-acre reservoir lost most of its natural cover when the standing timber was cleared before the lake formed in 1931. New cover has developed over the years as dock owners and fishermen have planted brush piles throughout the lake. Other bass-holding structure includes steep bluffs and chunk-rock banks. Lay-downs and logjams hold bass in the undeveloped coves.

Normal pool elevation for the lake is 660 feet above sea level. Once considered a turbid impoundment due to siltation, the lake has cleared considerably since the formation of Truman Dam. Heavy boat traffic on the lake limits the tournament season mostly to spring and fall. The lake's clarity though has attracted more summertime night tournaments and even some winter tourneys. Tournament anglers will have no problem finding a place to stay since this vacationland spot has more than 160 resorts scattered throughout the lake area. A thriving bass population, including numerous 15-inch keepers, makes the lake even more appealing. Local anglers who have been successful in tournaments on their home lake are Bruce Gier and Roger Fitzpatrick, both of Eldon, Mo., and Bill Hickman of Sunrise Beach, Mo. Here's a look at how they catch bass at Lake of the Ozarks.

Gier wins most of his tournaments in the spring on a weighted Rattlin' Rogue with 8-pound test line. He uses a weighted deep-diving Rattlin' Rogue in frigid water and then switches to a weighted medium-diving version when the sun warms the water later in the day. Gier starts with a slow, pulling retrieve in the morning and increases the speed of his lure's action as the water warms. The fish will move close to the bank on sunny days, while overcast weather causes them to suspend in deeper water. Gier finds most of his fish on secondary points or suspended over brush piles in the coves of the North Shore area.

During a Central Pro-Am tournament victory, Gier went after bigger fish with a brown 3/8-ounce jig and a number 11 pork frog during early April. He moved back and forth from shallow to deep water along the spawning banks (sandy, gravel areas in pockets of coves). Gier throws his jig-and-pig combination on 12-pound line or less, and tries to imitate crayfish colors by using a black jig and black pork frog in the early spring, then switches to a brown-on-brown combination during the spawn.

The weighted Rogue is also one of Hickman's top lures on overcast days in the early spring. He uses a large diver Rogue in silver-and-blue, Fire Tiger or gold with black back hues to catch bass suspended 10 to 12 feet deep over brush piles or creek channels. His favorite areas to work the Rogue include the clear waters of the North Shore, Gravois and Osage around Horseshoe Bend. On calm, sunny days, Hickman favors dragging a jig and pork frog over rock piles along the bottom of points and creek channels. He selects 1/4- to 3/8-ounce jigs with number 11 pork frogs in color combinations of black or brown mixed with chartreuse or blue. Hickman ties his Rogues on 10-pound test most of the time, and he uses 14-pound test for his jig-and-frog combo.

Later in the spring, Hickman searches for colored water on the Grand Glaize arm. He likes to slow roll a white or chartreuse 1/2-ounce spinnerbait with gold willow-leaf blades and bump the rocks of the bluffs. Since his lure is constantly hitting the rocks, Hickman uses heavier line (17- to 20-pound test).

Fitzpatrick travels to the upper end of the Osage arm in the spring. He catches almost all of his fish on jigs and pork frogs or spinnerbaits. While flipping and pitching a black-and-blue 3/8-ounce jig and number 11 pork frog, he concentrates on the rock banks in the creeks. He also slow rolls a spinnerbait with a single Colorado blade and then later in the spring switches to a willow-leaf version when the fish move into the brush.

During the summer, Gier fishes brush piles 12 feet deep along the main channel at night. His favorite nocturnal lures are 10-inch Berkley Power Worms on 20-pound test line. Hickman also fishes brush piles around docks with a magnum-size plastic worm or a 3/8-ounce jig and number 11 pork frog. Fitzpatrick fishes the main channel of the upper Osage arm on summer days. He looks for visible brush, points, islands and docks. When the current flows, Fitzpatrick likes to throw a big-bladed spinnerbait or a red shad 6-inch paddle tail worm.

Fall fishing can be unpredictable on Lake of the Ozarks. "They'll bite like crazy on a windy, overcast day," Gier says. "But then the next day the sun pops out and the water gets as smooth as glass and you can't get a bite." He throws a chartreuse 1/2-ounce spinnerbait with gold willow-leaf and Colorado blades. He cranks the lures fast enough so that it remains visible during his retrieve. Brush piles and rocky points are Gier's favorite fall targets. "If they're pulling any water you need to get close to an area where the water breaks around the back side of a point," Gier says.

In September and early October, Hickman flips a jig and pork frog or a plastic worm around the shallow docks on the upper Osage. During late fall, Hickman returns to the lower end of the lake and fishes a 1/2-ounce spinnerbait along the bluff banks.

The creeks of the upper Osage lure Fitzpatrick again in the fall. If the wind blows into the creeks, he'll throw a green-and-white 1/4 ounce spinnerbait with twin willow-leaf blades around shallow visible cover.

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 & Visitor Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor 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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