Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - May
Lake of the Ozarks Fast Lane
to Great Fishing
by John Neporadny Jr.
While cursed by many anglers,
recreational boat traffic is a blessing in disguise for bass at the Lake of the
"Bass don't get any
fishing pressure here in the summertime," says 1997 BASS Masters Classic
champion and FLW pro Dion Hibdon, who started guiding on this central Missouri
lake before he even got his driver's license. "We get very little fishing
pressure even during the spawn because most of the bass spawn in May and a lot
of the big boats are already out by then."
When balmy weather arrives in
May, the fleets of cabin cruisers, off-shore racing boats, pleasure boats, house
boats and jet skis churn the waters and chase bass anglers off the lake. Hibdon
believes this lack of fishing pressure helps bass recuperate from the spawn and
protect their fry, which increases the survival rate of young bass. "The
boat traffic then gives those young bass a good start and it shows," the
Stover, Mo., angler says. " We have just as good of a bass population as
any lake in the country." Constructed during the Great Depression,
54,000-acre Lake of the Ozarks was the largest man-made lake when it officially
opened May 30, 1931. Fed by the Osage and Niangua rivers, the reservoir can be
divided into three distinct sections. The lower end near Bagnell Dam typifies a
highland reservoir with its deep, clear water. The mid-lake section still has
steep banks, but the water turns stained. As you move up the Osage and Niangua
arms, you run into typical river conditions of shallow, dirty water and
lay-downs scattered along the banks.
"The lake has an extremely
good river system that is partly current-oriented," says Hibdon. Bass can
be caught 2 to 3 feet deep year-round in the riverine sections of the lake.
Bass-holding structure throughout the lake includes creek and river channel
bends, bluffs, points and flats. Most of the banks consist of either chunk rock
or pea gravel.
Potential bass cover vanished
when developers removed most of the timber before the lake was filled. But bass
found new havens when boat docks spread over the impoundment. "That's kind
of the ultimate cover," says Hibdon. "You can get a bait down through
grass or brush, but there is absolutely no way you can fish a boat dock
completely. Docks also have lots of places for bass fry to hide behind and get
Docks usually have another
piece of man-made cover nearby. "Every boat dock has a little dab of brush
around it," says Hibdon. Thousands of docks dot the lake, but certain ones
produce more bass. The pre-spawn (March and April) rates as Hibdon's best time
to catch quality bass and numbers of fish. The whole lake produces consistent
action in the late spring and throughout the summer, Hibdon says. During early
summer, the touring pro relies on shad-pattern crankbaits to catch bass roaming
along points or 7- and 8-inch plastic worms for fish holding in brush less than
10 feet deep. He prefers a motor oil worm in the clear water and black or
tequila sunrise worm in the stained sections of the lake. Later in the summer,
Hibdon works a 10-inch plastic worm or a deep-diving crankbait through the
brush. The boat traffic drives bass 15 to 20 feet deep on the lower end of the
lake. You can catch bass in shallower brush the farther you move up the rivers.
The summer heat and increased
boat traffic turn bass into nocturnal feeders. Night fishing is excellent on the
Lake of the Ozarks from the end of June through September on the lower end of
the lake. A five-fish limit weighing more than 20 pounds is sometimes required
to win local weeknight tournaments running 3 1/2 hours.
A black spinnerbait worked
through the brush produces at night through June. Later in the summer, local
anglers switch to a 10-inch plastic worm which they crawl along the rocky bottom
or through brush on main and secondary points.
The lake is an ideal spot to
combine a fishing trip with a family vacation. Nestled in the foothills of the
Ozarks, the lake's 1,150 miles of shoreline and its surrounding communities draw
more than 3 million visitors a year to partake in the area's limitless
recreational opportunities. Water sports include swimming at beaches and pools
at the area resorts, motels or condominiums, waterskiing, parasailing, and
boating. Full-service marinas rent speedboats, houseboats, pontoons, jet skis,
fishing boats, paddleboats and sailboats. Other recreation available in the area
includes golf, horseback riding, tennis, hiking, bowling and trap shooting.
Numerous restaurants, ranging
from fast-food to gourmet, are scattered throughout the lake area, including
several eateries located on the lake with access by land or water. Many lodging
facilities are available ranging from cabins and condominiums to hotels, motels
and luxury resorts. The lake also has plenty of public campgrounds and tent and
trailer campsites in the Lake of the Ozarks State Park. The 17,203-acre park,
the largest in the Missouri park system, also has two free swimming beaches,
boat launching facilities, boat rentals and hiking trails. Tourists also visit
Ha Ha Tonka State Park to view the area's scenic valley, high bluffs, rocky
slopes and the ruins of Ha Ha Tonka castle, a European-style mansion built in
1922 but gutted 20 years later by a fire.
Another tourist attraction is
the mile-long area near the dam known as "The Strip." This area houses
boutiques, craft, souvenirs and T-shirt shops, restaurants, arcades and
amusements for the whole family. Families can also be entertained at the lake's
amusement centers such as Big Surf Water Park, Big Shot Fun Park, Miner Mike's
Adventure Zone and the area's numerous miniature golf courses and go-kart race
Shoppers can visit the Factory
Outlet Village in Osage Beach or other craft and antique shops around the lake.
The area also hosts a variety of festivals and special events throughout the
year and offers traditional Ozark-style music shows. Scheduled shows normally
run from April through October with Christmas shows in November and December.
The Lake of the Ozarks is the
only tourist destination in the United States with four show caves within 30
miles of each other. Guided tours are available at Bridal Cave, Jacob's Cave
Fantasy World Caverns and Ozark Caverns.
There's enough attractions and
recreational activities at the Lake of the Ozarks to keep your whole family
entertained during a summer vacation. The highlight of your trip though will be
the early morning topwater action or nocturnal thrills of fighting a hefty bass
burrowed in a brush pile.
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.