Sunday, March 1, 2020

Going for big Lake of the Ozarks bass


By John Neporadny Jr.

During my early years of bass fishing, my Dad and I set a 6-pound largemouth bass as a benchmark catch for having a mount made by a taxidermist.

Even though I have now surpassed that benchmark by about tenfold (including a 12-pounder I caught in Mexico) when fishing Missouri waters I still consider a 6-pound largemouth a trophy catch.  While rivers and lakes filled with Florida-strain largemouth throughout the South and in California offer the best opportunity to catch that once-in-a-lifetime bass, Lake of the Ozarks is  capable of producing double-digit largemouth.

The biggest bass I have caught at Lake of the Ozarks weighed  8 pounds, 1 ounce and   I have also caught a 7 1/4-pounder and some 6-pounders from my home lake.

On March 15, 2016, a client of Lake of the Ozarks Guide Jack Uxa caught a 10-pound, 11-ounce largemouth bass on a spinnerbait. “The majority of the day we were catching fish on main lake points, but that particular fish came off a secondary point,” Uxa recalls.

Another 10-pounder was caught a couple of weeks later in the same area Uxa released his client’s fish. Uxa and MDC Fisheries Biologist Greg Stoner concur that the second 10-pounder was probably the same bass Uxa’s client caught previously. 

Stoner notes 6-pound bass are common catches at Lake of the Ozarks but 7- and 8-pounders are rare.  “We just don’t have a long enough growing season to consistently produce those 8- and 9-pound bass like they get in Alabama or Mississippi,” he says.

A large population of gizzard shad helps increase the growth rate of Lake of the Ozarks bass.   “We have a very stable forage base,” Stoner says.  “We do have a real consistent shad population.”  

Uxa also notices bass have plenty of sunfish to eat at his home lake.  “Just about every dock on this lake has got bluegill around it in the summertime,” he said. The guide suggests bass have a chance to grow larger on this lake because the fish can hide under the large condominium docks where it is difficult for anglers to reach them.

Spring is the best time to catch a Lake of the Ozarks trophy bass.   “There is something special about that March 15 to April 10 time frame before bass go on the spawn,” Uxa says. “The bass weigh the heaviest that time of year.”    His clients also consistently catch 5-pound-plus bass in June. 

Uxa’s best lures for catching heavyweight prespawn bass at Lake of the Ozarks includes Carolina-rigged soft plastic creature baits such as the Berkley Pit Boss or Thief, spinnerbaits, suspending stickbaits and crawfish-color crankbaits such as the Berkley Digger or Storm Lures Wiggle Wart.  The guide targets secondary points and transition banks for catching big bass in the spring.   “Those secondary points always have fish going in and out of them,” he says.    He finds bigger bass also hiding in brush piles about 10 feet deep along the banks were the rocks transition from chunk rocks to pea gravel. 

During June, Uxa sets up his clients with a Texas-rigged 10-inch Berkley plastic worm to catch quality bass on main lake points.  “You can hardly beat that plastic worm then because you can swim it, flip it and drag it on those big, long points when current is moving,” Uxa says.  The guide also has his clients use a 5/16-ounce shaky jighead with a Berkley Rib Snake to catch hefty bass along the tapering points and bluff points.

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 funlake.com.  

For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Lake of the Ozarks Bass Forecast


Predicting the bass fishing each year at Lake of the Ozarks is similar to listening to a broken record.

Listening to a broken record can be annoying, but the annual predictions for Lake of the Ozarks bass fishing are pleasing to the ears of visiting anglers.  

“The bass population on this lake is very high,” said Ed Franko of Big Ed’s Guide Service.  “We have a tremendous amount of fish up to 15 inches and we do have a good population over (15 inches). I think nothing but positive things here on this lake. “ 

Tournament weights were consistently high throughout the year.  “It takes 20 pounds to ever do any good on this lake,” Franko said. “Very seldom do you see a five-fish limit less than 20 pounds down to about 16 pounds that wins. So you are looking at a 2 1/2- to 3-pound average just to get you a check and a lot of times that won’t even get you a look.”

The Gravois arm and the northern banks of the dam area produce best for Franko and his clients in the early spring.  Franko finds prespawn bass along secondary points and gravel banks near the main channel and tempts the fish with shad-pattern or chartreuse-and-white suspending stickbaits, Carolina-rigged green pumpkin Zoom Brush Hogs and red crankbaits.

The Lake of the Ozarks guide notices bass usually start spawning around mid-April on his home waters.  He finds nesting bass along pea gravel banks where he skips finesse worms on wacky rigs behind the docks.

Franko’s clients caught some of their biggest fish during the post-spawn in June when bass move out to the main lake points.   ““That’s where you can sock them,” Franko said.  “That is when a big deep diving crankbait (Strike King 10XD) comes into play. We caught several over 5 pounds then but we didn’t have any over 6 pounds.

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 funlake.com.  

For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Change Up for Lake of the Ozarks Bass with Wild and Crazy Colors


By John Neporadny Jr.

Look in a clearance bin at any bait and tackle store and you are likely to notice wild-colored lures you think a Lake of the Ozarks bass would never touch.

Yet you better think twice about passing up on those lures decked out in wild and crazy colors because those hues do trigger strikes in certain situations.  Lake of the Ozarks experts frequently search clearance bins and lure shelves in quest of those loud-colored baits they know attract bass.

Former Bass Fishing League All-American Champion Marcus Sykora chooses lures in wild and crazy colors to catch pressured bass.  “In today’s age I think these bass get so much pressure and they kind of see everything,” Sykora says.  “The whole industry has always been match the hatch that I think whenever you go against the grain it can have an advantage. (A wild color) is something completely different that the fish haven’t seen before and it stands out against every other lure they have seen for that period of time.”

FLW Tour pro and Lake of the Ozarks guide Casey Scanlon also likes to go against the grain by throwing lures in bright hues. “It’s something that your average tournament fisherman isn’t going to throw so it gives me confidence,” Scanlon says.  “Sometimes if I can find a color that is abstract and different from the norm I feel confident going behind other boats and fishing it.” 

Crazy color choices

Sykora selects crazy colored lures that are factory painted or hand painted by Dave’s Custom Baits.  “In the factory colors everyone wants to buy the one that looks the most realistic like a gizzard or threadfin shad or a bream, but I like to throw the ugliest ones on the store shelf that no one else will buy,” Sykora says.  The Osage Beach angler also looks for lures in discontinued wild colors.
Bright tints Sykora picks for his lures include pink, red, lime, neon green and variations of yellow.  One of his favorite colors for Zara Spooks is a “juicy fruit” yellow that he calls school bus.  A favorite hue for his 6th Sense Provoke Jerkbaits is a hue he calls “ditch weed”, which features red painted on one side of the lure and yellow on the other side. 

Several of the wild colors Scanlon chooses are on factory-painted lures. “There are plenty of crazy colors out there on the shelf to choose from,” he says. “A lot of the stuff I am using is straight out of the package. I also like to tinker with stuff so I have powder paint and permanent markers that I use to doctor up baits. “

The Rocky Mount pro  opts for hard plastic lures such as crankbaits and jerkbaits in multiple colors. “You can find some real wild colors,” he says.   A lot of the colors made for bass really don’t necessarily resemble a baitfish of any sort or exactly something they would prey on.”  His multi-colored lures include mixtures of chartreuse, pink and purple.

 “Purple might not be a crazy color on some lures because you see it a lot on the back of crankbaits and things like that, but an all-purple buzz bait is something that works,” he says. “It is something not seen much for that particular bait.”

Crazy colors work best for Scanlon on hard plastic jerkbaits, soft plastic stick worms, spinnerbaits and square-bill crankbaits. He suggests you can also “get crazy” with a multicolored jig.

Wild color seasons

Winter is wild color season for Sykora because he notices big bass seem to bite better in the cold on at Lake of the Ozarks and heavyweight bass are drawn to loud colors of his 6th Sense Provoke Jerkbaits. 

Sykora searches for the clearest water he can find to throw his brightly colored lures.  “That goes so far against the grain of anything we have ever known,” Sykora says.  However he believes big bass in clear water have trouble resisting suspending stickbaits in “loud nasty colors” that sit so long in front of their face. 

“It gives me the confidence that I know I am throwing something that is completely unique, which means I am going to fish it slower and more thorough,” Sykora says.

Suspending stickbaits in crazy colors also produce big bass for Sykora in springtime tournaments. He relies on his unique-colored lures to catch kicker bass in tournaments when Lake of the Ozarks receives heavy fishing pressure in the spring.

Scanlon observes wild colors are especially effective in the spring when sight fishing for bass because the bright colors are easier to see on nests and the gaudy hues irritate bedding bass. “(Wild colors) excel in the springtime but I wouldn’t limit it to any season for sure,” Scanlon says.

Changeup craziness

The strange-looking suspending stickbaits have been excellent changeup lures for Sykora during the winter and spring.  “If I know the fish are keying in on a certain color I will throw it once or twice but before I leave an area I will make a pass with that different special color and that color is the one I will catch the biggest bass out of that group of fish a lot of times,” he says.  After catching a limit in a tournament while using a stickbait in normal colors, Sykora will also change up with a wild color to target kicker bass the rest of the day. 

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 funlake.com.  

For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.