Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - November
Catching Lake of the Ozarks Bass During the Fall Turnover
by John Neporadny Jr.
Unsuccessful autumn bass fishing elicits a common lament from hard-luck
anglers at the Lake of the Ozarks. Whether they're tournament veterans or
weekend warriors, they blame the lake turnover for their unlucky days on
During the summer, surface water is warm and light, while the lower layers
are cooler and heavier. The top and bottom layers contain less oxygen than the
middle section, so the fish tend to hold in the oxygen-rich middle.
In autumn, the surface water cools and sinks, mixing with the lower layers.
The process causes currents, which mix the sinking surface water and the colder
layers below. Wave action from fall winds result in the circulation of the
various layers (turnover) and the mixing of the whole lake. By late fall the
water has cooled off to 39 degrees from top to bottom. The change causes a good
supply of oxygen atall levels of the lake, and the fish will tend to spread out
and seek new habitat.
Professional anglers Guido Hibdon and Denny Brauer are unsure what happens to
bass during the turnover on their home lake, but they agree that the fish are
affected. "I think it almost affects them like a cold front situation; it
disorients them a little bit about what they're wanting to do," Brauer
"I think they're a little bit goofy about that time," says
Hibdon.Before the turnover, fishing tends to improve with the cooling water
conditions. During and after the turnover, however, fishing tapers off.
Hibdon and Brauer, both former BASS Masters Classic champions, agree that the
average fisherman can use the turnover as a good excuse for a poor fishing trip,
but they don't have to.
"At times, it's probably the No. 1 reason people don't catch fish for a
certain period of time," Brauer says. "It's not that they're doing a
whole lot wrong, it's just that the fish aren't biting very well at all. If they
haven't made adjustments, they're not going to catch them."
If anglers can make the proper adjustments, though, bass can be caught.
"I think it's always been a big myth that you couldn't catch fish during a
turnover," Hibdon says. "It makes them tougher to catch and makes them
hit differently, but you can still catch them."
Hibdon cites his first pro tournament as an example of how fish can be taken
while the water is changing. During the two-day tourney, Hibdon and his amateur
partners concentrated on the upper end of the Lake of the Ozarks, which was
turning over at the time. Hibdonfound suspended fish in the upper end and hit
the jackpot. He won the tournament by a 20-pound margin, and his partners
finished first and second in the amateur division.
If an angler feels uncomfortable fishing in turnover conditions, he has some
options. "The majority of the time I try to avoid the turnover,"
Brauer says. "You can pull into one cove and it can be turning over, and
you can run three or four miles down the lake and you do not have the turnover
problem. Even if you're locked into one cove, there's going to be certain areas
in that cove that the turnover isn't going to affect as much."
The back half of a cove will turn quicker, or it might be unaffected by the
turnover if a creek is flowing into it. "If you've got good current, more
than likely you're not going to have turnover," Brauer says. "Current
is absolutely great for avoiding the turnover."
Anglers can merely glance at the water to tell whether or not they're fishing
the dreaded condition. The affected area almost looks like sewer water with
decaying material releasing from the bottom and floating to the top.
Hibdon says turnover water will have a different color (usually pea green)
and "foamy stuff" from the rocks will be floating on the surface.
"You can follow that right down the lake and get ahead of it and generally
catch more fish than you would fishing right in the middle of it."
The affected area will look like a watery graveyard--devoid of fish and fowl.
"The area just seems dead," Brauer says. "If you can findan area
that's got the water birds and shad, it's a good indication that it hasn't
turned over yet."
The length of time the turnover affects fishing at Lake of the Ozarks varies.
"It can knock fish for a loop for two to three weeks," Brauer says.
"A real protected area can be real messed up for quite a while."
Severe cold weather, wind and current accelerate the turnover. Hibdon estimates
that the turnover will normally run its course in five or six days on
impoundments without fast-moving water.
While fishing in the turnover, try to find the most stable water, which is
usually in the 1- to 2-foot range. "That little layer of water hasn't
really changed a whole lot," Brauer says. "My adviceis to get to the
bank and beat the shoreline." He concentrates onthe shallow brush, which
usually holds more active fish. "If theweather conditions have been bad,
I'm going to get in tight to whatever cover I can find, whether it's a shallow
boat dock or lay-down tree."
The turbid water caused by the turnover can actually work to the fisherman's
advantage in this situation. Limited visibility prevents bass from detecting
anglers working closer to the bank.
Brauer avoids fishing weeds during the turnover. He says weeds start to die
when a lake turns, and they will use oxygen. When the dyingweeds deplete the
oxygen in the area, the bass will seek other sanctuaries.
Once the pros find the active fish, they determine which lures and retrieves
will work best. "As a rule, just slow down," Hibdon advises. Sometimes
it takes 10 to 12 casts to the same brush pile before a bass will strike. Hibdon
suggests fishing smaller baits, such as1/8- or 1/4-ounce crankbaits and jigs. He
also recommends using tube jigs.
Brauer's lure choices depend on the weather. If the weather is stable, he
will throw a 3/8-ounce chartreuse or white buzz bait and retrieve it slowly
around stumps and lay-downs. In an area that receives heavy fishing pressure, he
will switch to a 3/8-ounce buzz bait with a clacker because it produces more
noise to agitate the fish.
"If you're getting a few strikes on something or not a lot, or if you're
missing some fish, or if the fish aren't really taking the bait, then you need
to experiment with sound, size or color. If you've got two guys in the boat, one
guy should be throwing something different than the other," Brauer says.
When the weather turns nasty, Brauer switches to a blue or black 3/8-ounce
Strike King jig and a black plastic chunk in clearerwater, or a
black-and-chartreuse or black with bright green combination in murkier water. He
will flip the jig into the heaviest cover he can find.
His third option is to cast a 3/8-ounce chartreuse or white spinnerbait with
gold blades and a 4-inch plastic trailer. He'll slow roll the spinnerbait
through the shallow cover.
When the turnover ends, don't expect a fishing bonanza. Both pro anglers
agree that fishing improves gradually after the turn. "I don't think anyone
can say, 'Bang, the turnover's over,'" Brauer says.
Whether the lake is just starting to turn or has already turned over, the two
pros believe bass can still be caught. "I'm convinced thatfish can be
caught under any circumstances," Brauer says. "There's no such thing
as a fish that cannot be caught. On some of them, you just run out of
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.