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is the first part of a two-part series on tournament winning
patterns at the
its disguise of luxurious condominiums, million-dollar homes and
dock-to-dock shorelines lies one of
tournaments ranging in size from 10-boat bass club events to
150-boat national circuit contests are held each weekend at this
58,000-acre reservoir from February through May. With this sort of
attention, the lake receives plenty of fishing pressure, yet still
yields heavyweight stringers of bass to tournament competitors.
Lake of the Ozarks is such a popular site for bass clubs, charity
benefit organizations and regional and national circuits to hold
tournaments, let’s look at the best springtime patterns to help
make you a winner on this massive reservoir.
Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League (formerly Red Man) circuit usually gets
the early jump on the
pre-spawn bass move close to the bank on sunny days but overcast
weather causes the fish to suspend in deeper water. Some of the
heaviest stringers of the year are taken in late February and
throughout March, as big bass become active after a long winter’s
a Suspending Rattlin’ Pro Rogue or other weighted stickbaits on 8-
to 10-pound test line produces best in the clear-water sections of
the lake, including the
calm, sunny days in the early spring, a 1/4- to 3/8-ounce jig and an
Uncle Josh number 11 pork frog or plastic crawfish trailer dragged
along the rocky points and creek channels take quality bass. The
best color combinations for the jig-and-trailer include black/brown,
black/blue and black/chartreuse.
rolling a ½-ounce white-and-chartreuse spinnerbait along bluffs
produces pre-spawn bass if early spring rains turn the lake turbid.
When the lake remains clear, slow rolling the same
spinnerbait through shallow brush in the stained waters of the upper
Big and Little Niangua arms takes heavyweight bass on sunny days.
the water temperature climbs above 45 degrees in March, a brown
crawfish Storm Lures Wiggle Wart crankbait becomes an effective lure
for catching a quick limit of bass. This lure works best along the
flat gravel banks inside coves on the Osage arm above the
the crankbait pattern produces good numbers of fish throughout late
March and early April, most of the major tournaments held during
this time are won on jigs. Allen
Armour won the April 1994 Missouri BASSMASTER Invitational flipping
a Lunker Lures Rattleback Jig and Riverside Big Claw plastic trailer
to shoreline cover along creek channel banks on the Osage arm.
Takahiro Omori captured the April 1996 Missouri BASSMASTER
Invitational by working a Hula Grub on a 1/8-ounce jighead along
main lake points and chunk-rock banks on the Grand Glaize arm.
couple of Central Pro-Am Association events held in the spring were
also won with a jig. Jim
Eakins won the March 1998 Lake of the Ozarks Pro-Am pitching a
homemade brown 3/8-ounce jig and a brown Gene Larew Salt Craw to
chunk rock banks in the back of creeks around the Hurricane Deck
bridge area. His son,
Troy Eakins, took first in the April 1999 Lake of the Ozarks Pro-Am
using the same homemade jig and a green pumpkin Zoom Critter Craw,
which he pitched to ledges in the backs of cuts and shallow boat
docks on the Osage arm and the mouth of the Niangua.
tournament winner Bruce Gier earned one of his biggest victories on
his home lake by relying on a brown 3/8-ounce jig and a number 11
Uncle Josh pork frog during the April 1992 Lake of the Ozarks
Pro-Am. The local angler
moved back and forth from shallow to deep water along sandy, gravel
areas in pockets of coves in the
number of tournaments at the lake declines and the winning weights
drop sharply by late April and early May when bass move on the
spawn anywhere along pea gravel banks in pockets, but the biggest
fish usually build their nests behind boat docks where cables,
walkways, pillars and sunken brush piles offer protection from the
wind and nest intruders.
docks in the backs of coves is a key to finding spawning bass.
The back ends of main-lake condominium docks also attract
bedding fish in latter stages of the spawn.
upper Osage and other stained-water sections of the lake, pitching
or flipping with heavy line (20- to 30-pound test) and flipping
tackle behind the dock cables produces the best fish.
A ½-ounce jig and jumbo trailer or a Texas-rigged 8-inch
plastic lizard usually triggers strikes from bedding bass in water
less than 3 feet deep.
fishing can be a productive pattern in the clear sections of the
lake throughout the spawn.
Aggressive fish can be taken on a brown ¼-ounce jig and
number 11 pork frog or double-tail plastic grub worked on
bait-casting tackle and 10-pound test line.
nesting bass shun jigs, these same finicky fish can be tricked into
biting a variety of soft plastic baits tossed on spinning tackle and
6- to 8-pound test line. Top lure choices for tournament anglers
include 6-inch plastic lizards and small plastic crawfish imitators
rigged with either little or no weight to create a slow fall.
May 1995 BASSMASTER Invitational, George Cochran won the event by
catching most of his keepers on a Texas-rigged purple Riverside Air
Worm that he threw on spinning tackle and 10-pound test line. He
found spawning fish next to shallow laydowns at the mouths of
pockets in the Grand Glaize arm around the Public Beach No. 2
quality fish locked on beds can be difficult to reach sometimes,
keying on cruising bass provides an alternative method for taking
kicker fish. Run
down the pea gravel banks and make long casts with Zara Spooks, 5-
to 7-inch soft plastic jerkbaits or 6-inch floating worms. Retrieve
all of these lures at a steady pace and move the lure faster if a
dark shape starts following the bait.
bass also tend to spawn deeper—especially in clear water. The best
lures for these spawners are 6-inch plastic lizards worked on
winning weights continue to drop by late May when bass are
recuperating from the rigors of spawning. During this time, catching
a limit of 3-pounders usually ensures a high finish in most
variety of patterns pay dividends in the post-spawn stage.
In the early mornings and late evenings, quality fish can be
taken on Zara Spooks, Excalibur Spittin’ Images, and propeller
topwater lures worked along flat main lake points. Twitching a pearl
or shad-colored soft plastic jerkbait along the same structure also
tricks hungry post-spawn bass on the points. Topwater action can
last all day when the skies remain overcast.
problem tournament anglers must contend with during this time of
year is increased recreational boat traffic.
The wakes from pleasure boaters makes the surface choppy and
curtails the topwater bite. So competitive anglers resort to tactics
that allow them to probe deeper water.
most consistent pattern for taking bass during this situation is
best lures for dragging are 6-inch plastic lizards, double-tail
plastic grubs and the new creature-type baits (Zoom Brush Hog,
Riverside Lures Wooly Hawg Tail, Berkley Power Hawg and the Gene
Larew Hoo Daddy). The
most productive colors for all of these lures are green pumpkin,
watermelon, watermelon/red flake, pumpkinseed and
pumpkinseed/chartreuse. Components for the Carolina rig should
include a ½- to ¾-ounce slip sinker, plastic or glass bead, swivel
and a 3- to 4-foot leader line tied to a 3/0 hook for the plastic
lizard or 4/0 to 5/0 hooks for the plastic grubs and creature baits.
catching a limit of bass on the
water is murky on the lower end, post-spawn bass remain behind the
docks throughout May. These
shallow fish can be taken on 5/16- to 9/16-oucne jigs and Uncle Josh
number one pork frogs or plastic crawfish pitched behind the cables.
upper Osage arm also produces winning catches during the post-spawn.
The best pattern for this area is flipping black-and-blue or
black-and-brown 3/8- to ½-ounce jigs and plastic craws or 10-inch
plastic worms (pumpkinseed, red shad, electric grape or green
pumpkin) along the sides of docks in the coves. The bigger fish will
be holding at depths of 6 to 10 feet.
On windy days, plenty of keepers can be taken by running a
3/8- to ½-ounce chartreuse or white spinnerbait with willowleaf
blades through the shallow brush.
tournaments usually begin in May on the lower end of the lake.
Sunken brush piles in the 8- to 10-foot depth range along secondary
and main lake points are ideal spots for working a Texas-rigged
plastic worm after dark. The most productive plastic worm for this
pattern is the 10-inch Berkley Power Worm in dark colors (blue
fleck, black/blue, red shad, electric grape, black and tequila
For information on lodging and other facilities at the
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.