The winding Niangua arm of the Lake of the
Ozarks resembles a large river more than a reservoir since it has
few major coves and a narrow main channel for most of its length.
However this riverine section annually yields some big bass.
“Most of the banks there all look the same so you have to fish
something with some type of drop-off to it,” suggests Marty McGuire,
a veteran bass tournament competitor and owner of Marty’s Marine in
Osage Beach. No major creeks run into the Niangua, but it is fed by
another large tributary, the Little Niangua River.
Since it’s farther away from the popular tournament site at PB2, the
Niangua seems to experience less fishing pressure from bass anglers.
However, the arm receives plenty of traffic—especially in the
spring--from crappie anglers, who launch their boats at the Larry R.
Gale Conservation Access.
This section of the lake has a reputation of producing big bass each
year. “There are a lot of great big fish on that arm, but you don’t
just go up there and catch one of them,” warns McGuire, who believes
the largest concentration of heavyweight bass are probably in the
milfoil of the HaHa Tonka Springs cove. “You could go up there and
fish a month and never get a bite and then pull up in there one day
and catch 20 out of it, including a 10-pounder. Probably 90 percent
of the fish that I’ve caught over 7 pounds on this lake have come
from the Niangua.” He rates April as the prime time to catch a big
bass on the Niangua, but September and October are also good months
for lunkers there.
In extremely cold weather during January, McGuire relies on a 3-inch
green pumpkin Fat Gitzit tube attached to a 1/8- or 1/ 4-ounce
jighead. He slowly works the lure on 8-pound test line through brush
piles and along points.
When the water temperature ranges from 39 to 45 degrees in January
and February, McGuire depends on a medium-diving Smithwick
Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue that he twitches on spinning tackle with
8-pound line. The “Christmas tree” Rogue (black back, yellow and
green sides and chartreuse belly) is his favorite hue for clear
water, while the gray ghost model (black back and gray sides)
produces best for him in tinted water.
McGuire slowly pulls the Rogue over brush piles 10 to 12 feet deep
along bluff points and pockets. “The slower you fish it, the better
chance a bass has to eat it,” he advises.
When the water temperature climbs above 46 degrees, McGuire switches
to a Storm Lures Wiggle Wart crankbait that he runs on 8- to
10-pound test along flatter banks leading into pockets. His favorite
crankbait colors are black-and-chartreuse for dirty water and
brown-and-orange in clear water.
The local angler also relies on a brown-and-chartreuse or
brown-and-orange Jewel Eakins’ Pro Model Jig tipped with a green
pumpkin plastic craw that he ties on 8- to 10-pound line. McGuire
pitches to the bank and crawls the jig back over big rocks and logs
6 to 8 feet deep. “The fish don’t seem to get awful deep there,”
claims McGuire. “Even when the water temperature is around 40
degrees I catch most of my fish from 6 to 10 feet deep.”
During the spawn, some bass can be caught by sight fishing around
docks in the clear water section near the Highway 5 Bridge. McGuire
looks for nesting fish behind docks and along seawalls in the flat
pockets. His favorite lures for bedding bass include white, pink or
green floating worms and Zoom Flukes, white tube baits and the Jewel
Eakins’ jig-and-craw combo. McGuire also uses floating stickbaits
that he rips through the nest to trigger a reaction strike. Spinning
tackle and 8- to-10-pound test line are McGuire’s choice for the
soft plastics; he relies on bait-casting tackle and 15-pound test
line for fishing the jig behind the docks. Depending on the moon
phases and the weather, the spawn on the Niangua usually occurs in
the middle to latter part of April, McGuire discloses.
1 / 2-ounce Crock-O-Gator buzz bait produces bass for McGuire during
the post spawn. He favors a white buzzer on sunny days and a black
model during overcast weather. If the fish blow up and continue to
miss the buzz bait, McGuire switches to a Heddon Super Spook in
black, clear or shad pattern hues. He works the topwater lures
around big rocks, concrete pillars of docks or shallow brush in
areas close to the spawning banks.
Bass sometimes can be taken flipping a jig-and-craw during a hot
summer day. “It is so unpredictable there in the daytime of summer,”
cautions McGuire. “You can go up the rivers, get on the mud flats
and flip the shallow boat docks and one day you may catch 50 fish,
but you may go back and not have a bite there for a month.” McGuire
also flips a Texas-rigged magnum tube (green pumpkin or black with
red flake) to the shallow docks.
The most consistent bass action on the Niangua is at night. McGuire
opts for 10-inch Berkley Power Worms or 6- to 7-inch paddle tail
worms that he drags through brush piles 10 to 15 feet deep along
main lake points, ledges and steep banks. His favorite worm colors
are red shad or black for the Power Worms and green pumpkin for the
paddle tails. He throws the worms on 20-pound line throughout most
of the summer, although he scales down to 15-pound test late in the
season to get more bites.
In September, McGuire continues to flip the jig or tube along rows
of shallow boat docks. When the water cools down to the lower 60s in
October, McGuire runs a spinnerbait or swims a jig along the sides
of docks. He selects a white 3/8- to 1/ 2-ounce jig combined with a
white pork chunk to imitate shad in the fall and attaches the combo
to 20-pound test line. Most of the time, McGuire steadily cranks the
jig next to the dock’s foam and lets it drop at the corner of the
dock before reeling it in for another pitch.
For information on lodging at
the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 152-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 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