Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - May
Night Light Lake of the Ozarks Largemouth
By John Neporadny Jr.
The heat and humidity of a summer day in
Missouri make fishing a survival test rather than a relaxing time on the water.
Combine the steamy weather and searing sun with
rolling waves from an armada of pleasure boaters and your fishing day becomes a
hot and frustrating experience. The heat, sun and boat traffic must have about
the same affect on largemouth bass as well, because the fish seem reluctant to
bite on busy Lake of the Ozarks during a summer day.
All is not lost though if you want to catch
bass during your summer vacation at one at the lake. Changing your fishing time
schedule to take advantage of the night life of Lake of the Ozarks allows you to
avoid the heat and recreational boat traffic and experience the best bass action
of the summertime.
Everything changes for the better once the sun
sets on the lake. The air cools down, the pleasure boats disappear and the bass
become more aggressive in the low-light conditions. Now’s the prime time to be
casting to your favorite bass spot even if you can’t see it.
Limited visibility can make night fishing
hazardous, but you can make it a pleasurable experience by taking some
precautions and carrying the proper equipment. Missouri state law requires that
any fishing boat when underway must exhibit red and green sidelights that are
visible for at least one mile on a dark clear night. The boat must also have an
all-around white stern light that is visible for at least two miles on a dark
clear night. All boats are required to use a white light visible from all
directions whenever the vessel is anchored between sunset and sunrise.
The best way to minimize navigation problems
after dark is to scout the areas you plan to fish a couple of hours before
sunset. Use your electronics to determine the structure and depth you will fish
that night. Ideal summertime structure to look for on the lake includes
drop-offs and river or creek channels. Sunken brush piles at depths of 10 feet
or deeper make ideal starting points for a night trip.
While scouting spots in the daylight, look for
familiar landmarks on the bank that you will be able to find again after dark.
Plan a milk run of spots and pay close attention to the route you take to each
spot so it will be easier to find your way around once the sun sets. Starting at
your favorite spot at sunset is another way to minimize your nocturnal
Special equipment you should use for nighttime
tactics include flashlights and a black light that you can position on the bow
of your boat. Using a black light and high visibility line in blue fluorescent
or solar green hues makes strikes easier to detect since the black light
illuminates your line and makes it look like a laser beam shooting through the
inky darkness. Flashlights or headlamps are handy for finding tackle in the boat
or tying knots. Carrying insect repellent in your boat is also recommended
because mosquitoes can ruin your nocturnal outing if you leave your skin
unprotected. I usually wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts to deter the
mosquitoes as well.
A bunch of tackleboxes and rods and reels
strewn out all over the boat’s deck after dark can result in broken tackle or
a quick trip overboard. So keep your boat deck clean and prevent any mishaps by
picking a handful of productive lures for nocturnal bass. Minimize your lure
choices to plastic worms, soft plastic creature baits, jigs and plastic trailers
and spinnerbaits for your nighttime trip. Before darkness sets in, you should
have your boat organized with plenty of walking space available and lights
positioned in strategic locations.
A moonlit night increases your visibility, but
it isn’t a necessity for catching nocturnal bass. I’ve caught bass at night
in the rain and in the moonlight. The type of day probably affects the night
fishing more than the nighttime weather. If the day has been cloudy or rainy,
the best fishing sometimes occurs during the late evening or the first couple of
hours after sunset. If there has been a few weeks of real hot weather with
nothing but sunshine and bluebird skies, the fish tend to bite all night long on
Heavy boat traffic makes the lake nearly
impossible to fish during a summer day, yet it is probably one of the best lakes
to fish at night. Lights from hundreds of docks and heavily developed shoreline
makes it easy to see and navigate after dark and a plethora of sunken brush
piles provide plenty of nocturnal haunts for bass.
In the middle of summer, Skip Surbaugh of Lake
of the Ozarks Guide Service, targets brush piles he has planted on the lower end
of the lake from the dam to the Lodge of the Four Seasons. “I probably don’t
fish as deep of brush piles as a lot of guys do,” admits Surbaugh. “I fish
brush piles from 10 to 15 feet generally located close to deep water (channel
drops of 25 to 40 feet).
On calm nights, Surbaugh opts for dark-colored
10-inch Berkley Power Worms or 5-inch Berkley Power Hawgs that he Texas rigs
with a 5/8-ounce weight. “I want the weight heavy enough that I can get the
bait down into the bottom of the brush piles, so I work it real slow in the
brush,” describes Surbaugh. “I like to hit every limb as I am bringing it
If the wind blows at night, Surbaugh switches
to a black 3/4-ounce spinnerbait with a number 7 or 8 gold or black Colorado
blade. He throws all of his nighttime lures on 15-pound test line.
The guide believes the key to successful night
fishing at Lake of the Ozarks is to make a milk run of brush piles rather than
counting on one brush pile to produce several keepers. The night action here
produces plenty of bass in the 5- to 6-pound range. “We actually catch some of
our bigger fish at night than we do during the day,” says Surbaugh. “This
lake right now is loaded with 4- to 5-pound fish.”
The night life was good for Surbaugh’s
clients last summer. “We would catch about 15 to 20 fish a night with about
two-thirds of them being keepers,” says Surbaugh. “There were lots of nights
last year where we were catching 30 to 40 fish a night with 20 keepers.”
When the sun sets and the air cools, take a
break from the summer heat and enjoy the bass fishing night life at the lake.
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.