Articles by John Neporadny Jr. -
Figuring Out Winter Warm-Ups
By John Neporadny Jr.
The weather has been frigid and blustery most
of the winter and you’ve been cooped up in the house far too long. Then along
comes a break from the winter doldrums with a couple of balmy days that give you
the chance to relieve your cabin fever. With all that sunshine on a calm day,
you figure the water should be warming quickly and the fish should be biting, so
you hook up the boat and race to the Lake of the Ozarks.
I’ve been in this scenario many times on my
home waters of Lake of the Ozarks during the middle of winter and most of the
time I’ve blanked because I can never seem to figure out whether the fish have
moved up shallow or have stayed deep. Usually by the second or third day of a
winter warm-up I start catching a few fish, but then winter returns with a fury
and I’m driven back into the house to start writing again.
Various factors determine how bass react to a
winter warm-up at the lake. Water clarity and time of day are keys to figuring
out how to find bass when winter briefly turns balmy.
Water clarity dictates how much the water
temperature will climb on a sunny winter day. “A lot of times that dirty water
will warm up a lot faster,” says Roger Fitzpatrick, a veteran tournament
angler from Eldon, Mo. “A lot of times the first fish to move up there are the
good ones (especially after a couple of warm days) and most people don’t even
The longer the water is exposed to sunshine,
the warmer it gets and the more active bait and bass become during a winter warm
spell. During foul weather winter tournaments, Fitzpatrick still catches bass on
a MegaBass suspending stickbait, but he has struggled to catch bass on the same
lure when bluebird skies and calm conditions prevail in a winter warming trend.
“On those high pressure days they will get off of that stickbait unless there
is some breeze,” he warns. So in recent winters Fitzpatrick has changed his
strategy and developed a timetable for selecting lures based on light intensity
throughout the day. During the lowlight hours of morning, the local angler
starts with the stickbait that he slowly works around banks with mixed rock
(gravel and large chunk rocks).
When the sun is at its highest point around
noon, Fitzpatrick switches to a jig-and-craw combo that he pitches along rock
banks, shallow brush and the shallow sides of boat docks. The water around all
three of these types of cover usually warm up quicker in the afternoon sunshine.
His favorite bottom-bouncing combo for winter warm-ups is a 3/8-ounce Omega Baby
J Finesse jig tipped with a Zoom Critter Craw (a mixture of brown and green
pumpkin hues for the jig and craw).
Since the water temperature is usually still in
the low to mid 40-degree range, Fitzpatrick wants his jig to fall slowly and
maintain bottom contact as it crawls along the bottom. When he feels the jig
touch a rock or limb, Fitzpatrick avoids hopping or jerking it over the
obstacle. Instead he barely pulls it over the snag and lets it fall to the
bottom. “When it falls back is usually when the bite comes” he says. A
warm-up in the middle of winter soothes the souls of many anglers by allowing
them to get out of the house, and it can be especially gratifying if they figure
out the right spot, lure and time to catch Lake of the Ozarks bass.
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.