Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - August
Docks Harbor Lake of the Ozarks Bass
by John Neporadny Jr.
At first glance, the Lake of the Ozarks in
central Missouri resembles more of a pleasure boating paradise than a productive
bass fishery. But beneath the countless docks harboring off-shore racing boats,
personal watercrafts and runabouts lurk schools of black bass.
When construction of the lake's Bagnell Dam
began in 1929, Work Projects Administration (WPA) employees cleared the timber
from the areas that would eventually flood. This left the lake devoid of natural
cover for fish, but housing development around the lake created new shelters for
bass. "One thing that stands out is the amount of docks we have," says
Chad Brauer, who followed in his father's footsteps by guiding on the Lake of
the Ozarks before touring on the BASSMASTER Tournament Trail. " Lake of the
Ozarks has more docks than any lake I've fished in the United States. It
provides probably more cover for bass to hide under than any other lake in
Missouri including Truman and some of the other lakes that have standing timber
because docks provide a lot more shade and cover than a tree does."
Brauer believes this abundance of man-made
cover makes his home reservoir one of the top three bass lakes in the state
along with Table Rock and Truman. "I definitely rank it among the top 20 in
the United States for overall quality and consistency," says Brauer.
"I've fished places that have a lot more bigger fish but I've fished a lot
of places where you don't catch the 3- to 5- pounders that you catch here."
The bass population might change some over the
years but the techniques for catching bass on Lake of the Ozarks remain about
the same. "There are patterns that have remained pretty consistent year
after year and a lot of that has to do with the amount of docks we have,"
says Brauer. "That's a pattern in itself. No matter what time of year
you're fishing or what the weather conditions are, you can always fish docks and
catch some bass."
Other structure and cover also produce good
bass fishing at times. "Since we have a huge population of Kentuckies, when
the fishing gets extremely tough, you can go down a bluff, down-size your bait
and catch spotted bass year-round," Brauer suggests. Bass also key on the
lake's rocky bottom, especially the pea gravel in the spring, chunk rocks in the
early spring or bluff walls in the winter. the lake's upper ends also have
lay-down logs that hold bass in the shallows. "The big secret on Lake of
the Ozarks is the man-made cover--all the brush piles," Brauer discloses.
"It takes a lot of time to learn where they are, but once you've found them
you've found fish."
This 54,000-acre reservoir can be divided into
at least three distinct sections. The lower end close to the dam resembles a
typical highland reservoir with deep, clear water. As you move to the mid-lake
area, this section still has steep banks, but the water color becomes stained.
You encounter typical river conditions of shallower, dirty water and lay-downs
strewn along the banks as you run farther up the Osage and Niangua arms.
March is Brauer's prime month for catching
heavyweight bass since the fish move shallow during the pre-spawn. "Once
you key on where the fish are you can pretty much follow them all the way
through the spawn," says Brauer who also rates March and April as the prime
months for catching good numbers of bass. During the pre-spawn, Brauer pitches a
jig and plastic chunk along 45-degree chunk rock banks. As the water continues
to warm, the fish migrate to pea gravel banks to build nests. Brauer keys on the
back sides of docks where walkways and pillars provided shade and protection for
spawning bass. His favorite lures during this time are a spinnerbait or
crankbait for the most active fish and a jig or plastic worm when bass want a
Most bass have finished spawning by the end of
May, so Brauer starts following the fish out towards the end of the docks where
they suspend 3 to 5 feet deep under the foam of the floating structure.
Effective lures for this post-spawn pattern include Zara Spooks and soft plastic
Heavy recreational boat traffic limits bass
fishing to a nocturnal activity throughout the summer, but some good daytime
action returns in the fall. "What you're doing then is looking for
shad," says Brauer "When you find the shad you can find the bass as
well as all the other species such as white bass and hybrids."
In early fall, bass move out of the deep brush
and suspend under the foam of docks again. A productive pattern during this time
is to locate baitfish near the docks and then run a buzz bait, Zara Spook or
jerkbait along the dock's sides. As the water cools down in late fall, the
baitfish and bass migrate to the backs of creeks where they can be found on the
back sides of shallow docks.
With all those docks floating overhead, Lake of
the Ozarks bass have plenty of places to reside year-round.
For information on lodging and other
facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 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.