Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - February
Bass Fishing on Lake of the Ozarks’ North
By John Neporadny Jr.
The North Shore arm contains some of the
deepest and clearest water on the Lake of the Ozarks. This section of the lake
stretches from Bagnell Dam to the mouth of the Gravois at about the six mile
The North Shore features five long coves on the
north side that warm up quickly to produce some of the earliest bass action in
the spring. The major coves on the Horseshoe Bend side warm up slower and
produce better fishing later in the spring. Secondary and main lake points are
the key structures to fish most of the year on this arm.
The deep waters of the North Shore annually
yield some of the biggest bass taken from the lake. The biggest bass are usually
caught in the early spring or at night during the summer. Bruce Gier, a former
guide and one of the top bass tournament competitors at the lake, has caught
tons of bass on the North Shore.
During the winter, Gier’s cold-water weapon
is a weighted minnow bait. The owner of Gier’s Bass Pro Shops in Eldon used to
rely on a deep-diving Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue to take winter bass but his
favorite lures now are the LuckyCraft suspending stickbaits (Bevy Shad 75,
Pointer 78, Pointer 100 and Staysee). His favorite colors are ghost minnow or
Aurora blue in clear water and Nishiki or clown (red head, gold back and white
belly) for stained to murky water. He retrieves the lure with a series of
twitches and long pauses that cause the stickbait to twitch and wobble like a
The tournament veteran finds bass in the
pockets if the lake level is low or the fish will stack up along secondary
points if water is running through the dam. Twitching the stickbaits over brush
piles in the 8- to 20-foot range allows Gier to catch suspended bass.
In February, North Shore bass seek the warmth
of rocky banks that receive a lot of sunshine. During this time, water is being
released though Bagnell Dam so ideal locations for bass include pockets near a
corner where the current breaks around a secondary point. “The fish will be
just out of the current around that corner of the point,” advises Gier. “You
can’t see any current but the fish sure notice it.”
If the fish are hugging bottom or have moved
into shallow brush, Gier switches to a small brown Super Bass jig and tips it
with a Zoom Critter Craw. For the most aggressive fish he tips the jig with a
twin-tail plastic grub.
These two patterns usually produce for Gier
until the middle of April when the water temperature climbs into the 50- to
60-degree range and the bass move into the pre-spawn stage. During this time,
bass move off the chunk rock banks to the pea gravel and into brush piles less
than 8 feet deep.
In early April, Gier catches some fish throwing
a crawfish-color Storm Lures Wiggle Wart along the flat gravel banks in the
coves. His favorite lure for big bass in April though is a 3/8- or 5/16-ounce
brown Super Bass jig and plastic twin-tail trailer tied on 8-pound test line. He
works the lure slowly along the bottom or through brush 5 to 8 feet deep in
pockets of the coves or on the main lake. His favorite jig colors are green
pumpkin or a brown-and-copper combination. If the water is off-colored, he opts
for a black-and-blue combo.
When the water temperature climbs above 55
degrees Gier starts Carolina-rigging with a plastic lizard for the most
aggressive fish and switches to a Centipede on a split-shot rig for lethargic
bass. Best colors for these lures include green pumpkin, watermelon and
The fish begin their spawning ritual when the
water temperature reaches the 60-degree mark usually in late April and the spawn
last sometimes until the second week of May. Gier usually catches these fish
behind docks in the pockets of coves where he pitches jigs and plastic craws or
tube baits, finesse worms and a variety of other soft plastics.
“They’ll get under those cables around the
docks,” says Gier. “That’s their number one spawning place—just where
they can really deal you some havoc when you lay into one of those big babies.”
By the end of May, North Shore bass have
completed the rigors of spawning and recuperate around boat docks near the
gravel banks in coves. Slowly dragging a Carolina-rigged finesse worm or plastic
lizard catches some fish along the sides of docks, but Gier’s favorite tactic
for these fish is sweeping a jig over the top of the fish. The technique
requires pitching a jig-and-craw to the shallows, then pulling it away from the
bank about 5 to 6 feet, which triggers strikes from bottom-hugging bass. “You
can have a heck of a good time doing that all day long,” says Gier.
Night fishing produces the biggest bass at
North Shore throughout the summer. “The last two weeks of June through July is
the best time to night fish on the North Shore, says Harold Stark a former BASS
Federation National Championship qualifier who has fished the lake since 1978.
“The fish are in a stable pattern then and once you find two or three spots
that are holding fish, you can go back there and keep taking fish out of those
The Eldon, MO, angler starts his evening on the
water at 7 p.m. and concentrates on brush piles 15 to 25 feet deep next to the
main river channel. “It helps if there is a dock around or a lot of docks
where the fish can get in there and congregate,” he suggests. It’s also
easier to find the brush piles in the dark if the cover is near docks with
His top three lures for night fishing include a
plastic worm, jigs and pork frogs and spinnerbaits. He uses an 8-inch or longer
plastic worm in red shad, electric blue, black and black neon hues and Texas
rigs the worm with a 5/16- or 7/16-ounce bullet sinker. His other night lure
choices include a blue 1/ 2-ounce jig with a blue or black number 11 pork chunk
and a 1/ 2-ounce black or purple short-arm spinnerbait with a blue number 11
pork frog trailer.
The tournament competitor works all three lures
on 15- to 25-pound test line with bait-cast tackle. He retrieves all three lures
in the same fashion by crawling the baits through the limbs of the brush piles
or along the drop-offs.
“August is a good time to start throwing that
spinnerbait,” Stark says. “The fish see those plastic worms and jigs all the
Fishing can be tough in the early fall when the
fish are in transition moving from deep structure to the shallows. As the water
temperature cools, bass move extremely shallow and stay there throughout autumn.
“The fish get so shallow on the North Shore in the clear water that they can’t
swim straight up and down underneath the foam of the dock,” discloses Gier.
Good spots to try in the shallows are the floating supports of dock walkways
either in the main lake cuts or in the backs of coves.
Topwater chuggers and Zara Spooks are good
lures for fall fishing, but Gier prefers 1/ 2-ounce buzz baits and 3/8- or 1/
2-ounce spinnerbaits with white-and-chartreuse skirts. If the water is
off-colored he opts for spinnerbaits with painted blades, but switches to gold
blades in clear-water conditions.
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 www.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.