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.

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