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THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing GuideExpert Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - March 2010

Bagnell Dam Hybrids

by John Neporadny Jr.

They grow big and mean and can tear up your tackle quicker than any other game fish below Lake of the Ozarks' Bagnell Dam.

The hybrid striped bass, or hybrid for short, has become a popular trophy fish in recent years because of its hard-fighting reputation and ability to grow to double-digit weights. Their growth potential makes them a perfect match for the fertile Osage River system, where hybrids were stocked by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) on Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake during the 1980s. The river and these two impoundments on the Osage hold seven state fish records, including the mark for the largest hybrid, a 20-pound, 8-ounce bruiser caught below Truman Dam in 1986 on a Sassy Shad.

The tailrace at Bagnell Dam becomes an ideal spot to find hybrids in the spring when they get the urge to spawn. "They're not actually spawning but they are going through the motions," says Greg Stoner, MDC fisheries biologist. The sterile fish go through the motions by swimming upstream in search of suitable spawning waters. However their paths are blocked by Bagnell Dam where they congregate in the tailrace. In the spring, hybrids are attracted to dams by three factors: water temperature, water release flow and length of daylight. Below Bagnell Dam, Bob Abel pursues hybrids from mid-March into April. The Eldon, Mo., angler has fished the Osage River for more than 30 years and has spent the last couple of years concentrating on hybrids below the dam. He notes the best times to fish for hybrids are early morning, late evening and around midnight.

Hybrids can be taken below Bagnell Dam from a boat with jigs or drifting live bait, such as shad or bluegill, but Abel prefers fishing from the bank. His favorite areas are around the orange and yellow restriction lines close to the dam.

The most reliable way to locate hybrids in the spillway is to read the current and target the eddies. "I'll fish it to where I can get my lure into the current and then hit the outside edge of the eddy, that's where they seem to concentrate a lot of times," Abel says. "But I've also caught them out in the middle of nowhere, and eddies or whatever had nothing to do with it." In low-current situations, Abel concentrates more on rock ledges in the areas around the restriction lines.

Since he catches hybrids for sport rather than a meal, Abel uses lighter tackle and line than most hybrid anglers. The biggest hybrid he's caught weighed around 15 pounds. "I've lost a lot of big fish," he admits. "With the tackle I'm using I can't seem to catch one over the 15-pound mark." Abel prefers using a 6 1/2-foot medium-heavy action rod and spinning reel spooled with 10- or 12-pound test line. Even though long-distance casts are unnecessary, Abel still prefers the light line which allows him to cast farther than heavier monofilament.

Sassy Shads or curly-tailed plastic grubs produce best for Abel below the dam. The size of his jighead depends on the water flow. In low-current conditions, he selects a 1/8-ounce jig and scales up to 1/2-ounce during heavy flow. In low-light situations or at night, Abel selects darker colors for his plastic lures. During late morning or afternoon, white, chartreuse or blue and white seem to produce better. Sometimes though he just has to try a variety of colors to see what the fish prefer.

Most of the time, Abel uses a single lure on his line, but occasionally he ties on two jigs. The water flow also dictates the size of the jigs he uses for the double rig. When the current is slow, he selects two 1/-8-ounce jigheads and then ties on heavier jigs as the flow increases. He always uses the same size jigheads on the double rig, but he varies the colors of his two lures. "If I find one that is working better, than I put on both of the same color," Abel says.

When fishing along the orange restriction line, Abel casts upstream and lets his jig bounce along the bottom with the flow. In other areas, he just casts straight out and lets the lure sink to the bottom. He jiggles the lure a couple of times, then moves the lure and lets it drop where he jiggles it again. Abel also likes to retrieve the lure at a certain speed and then let the jig drop. The dropping lure usually triggers a strike.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 162-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. Although best known as a summer vacation hot spot, the Lake of the Ozarks has quietly become a choice Midwest location for bass anglers to visit during any season.

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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