Casey Scanlon Flipping Bass

Catching Lake of the Ozarks Bass During the Fall Turnover


by John Neporadny Jr.




Unsuccessful autumn bass fishing elicits a common lament from

hard-luck anglers at the Lake of the Ozarks. Whether they’re tournament veterans or weekend warriors, they blame the lake turnover for their unlucky days on the



During the summer, surface water is warm and light, while

the lower layers are cooler and heavier.  The top and bottom layers

contain less oxygen than the middle section, so the fish tend to hold

in the oxygen-rich middle.


In autumn, the surface water cools and sinks, mixing with

the lower layers.  The process causes currents, which mix the sinking

surface water and the colder layers below.  Wave action from fall

winds result in the circulation of the various layers (turnover) and the mixing

of the whole lake. By late fall the water has cooled off to 39 degrees

from top to bottom.  The change causes a good supply of oxygen at

all levels of the lake, and the fish will tend to spread out and seek

new habitat.


Professional anglers Guido Hibdon and Denny Brauer

are unsure what happens to bass during the turnover on their home lake, but they agree

that the fish are affected.  “I think it almost affects them like

a cold front situation; it disorients them a little bit about what

they’re wanting to do,” Brauer says.


“I think they’re a little bit goofy about that time,” says



Before the turnover, fishing tends to improve with the cooling

water conditions.  During and after the turnover, however, fishing

tapers off.


Hibdon and Brauer, both former BASS Masters Classic champions, agree that the

average fisherman can use the turnover as a good excuse for a poor

fishing trip, but they don’t have to.


“At times, it’s probably the No. 1 reason people don’t catch

fish for a certain period of time,” Brauer says.  “It’s not that they’re

doing a whole lot wrong, it’s just that the fish aren’t biting very

well at all.  If they haven’t made adjustments, they’re

not going to catch them.”


If anglers can make the proper adjustments, though,

bass can be caught.  “I think it’s always been a big myth

that you couldn’t catch fish during a turnover,” Hibdon

says.  “It makes them tougher to catch and makes them hit differently,

but you can still catch them.”


Hibdon cites his first pro tournament as an example of how fish can

be taken while the water is changing.  During the two-day tourney,

Hibdon and his  amateur partners concentrated on the upper end of

the Lake of the Ozarks, which was turning over at the time.  Hibdon

found suspended fish in the  upper end and hit the

jackpot.  He won the tournament by a 20-pound margin, and his

partners finished first and second in the amateur division.


If an angler  feels uncomfortable fishing in turnover conditions,

he has some options.  “The majority of the time I try to avoid the

turnover,” Brauer says.  “You can pull into one cove and it can be

turning over, and you can run three or four miles down the lake and

you do not have the turnover problem.  Even if you’re locked into

one cove, there’s going to be certain areas in that cove that the

turnover isn’t going to affect as much.”


The back half of a cove will turn quicker, or it might be unaffected

by the turnover if a creek is flowing into it.  “If you’ve got good

current, more than likely you’re not going to have turnover,” Brauer

says.  “Current is absolutely great for avoiding the turnover.”


Anglers can merely glance at the water to tell whether or not they’re

fishing the dreaded condition.  The affected area almost looks like

sewer water with decaying material releasing from the bottom and floating

to the top.


Hibdon says turnover water will have a different color (usually pea

green) and “foamy stuff” from the rocks will be floating on the surface.

“You can follow that right down the lake and get ahead of it and generally

catch more fish than you would fishing right in the middle of it.”


The affected area will look like a watery graveyard–devoid of fish

and fowl.  “The area just seems dead,” Brauer says.  “If you can find

an area that’s got the water birds and shad, it’s a good indication

that it hasn’t turned over yet.”


The length of time the turnover affects fishing at Lake of the Ozarks varies.  “It can knock fish for a loop for two to three weeks,” Brauer says.  “A real

protected area can be real messed up for quite a while.”  Severe cold

weather, wind and current accelerate the turnover.  Hibdon estimates

that the turnover will normally run its course in five or six days

on impoundments without fast-moving water.


While fishing in the turnover, try to find the most stable water,

which is usually in the 1- to 2-foot range.  “That little layer of

water hasn’t really changed a whole lot,” Brauer says.  “My advice

is to get to the bank and beat the shoreline.”  He concentrates on

the shallow brush, which usually holds more active fish.  “If the

weather  conditions have been bad, I’m going to get in tight to whatever

cover I  can find, whether it’s a shallow boat dock or lay-down tree.”


The turbid water caused by the turnover can actually work to the

fisherman’s advantage in this situation.  Limited visibility prevents

bass from detecting anglers working closer to the bank.


Brauer avoids fishing weeds during the turnover.  He says weeds start

to die when a lake turns, and they will use oxygen.  When the dying

weeds deplete the oxygen in the area, the bass will seek other sanctuaries.


Once the pros find the active fish, they determine which lures and

retrieves will work best.  “As a rule, just slow down,” Hibdon advises.

Sometimes it takes 10 to 12 casts to the same brush pile before a

bass will strike.  Hibdon suggests fishing smaller baits, such as

1/8- or 1/4-ounce crankbaits and jigs.  He also recommends using

tube jigs.


Brauer’s lure choices depend on the weather.  If the weather is stable,

he will throw a 3/8-ounce chartreuse or white  buzz bait

and retrieve it slowly around stumps and lay-downs.  In an area that

receives heavy fishing pressure,  he will switch to a 3/8-ounce

buzz bait with a clacker because it produces more noise to agitate the fish.


“If you’re getting a few strikes on something or not a lot, or if

you’re missing some fish,  or if the fish aren’t really taking the

bait, then you need to experiment with sound, size or color.   If

you’ve got two guys in the boat, one guy should be throwing something

different than the other,” Brauer says.


When the weather turns nasty,  Brauer switches to a blue or black

3/8-ounce Strike King jig and a black  plastic chunk in clearer

water, or a black-and-chartreuse or black with bright green combination

in murkier water.  He will flip the jig into the heaviest

cover he can find.


His third option is to cast a 3/8-ounce chartreuse or white spinnerbait

with gold blades and a 4-inch  plastic trailer.  He’ll slow roll

the spinnerbait through the shallow cover.


When the turnover ends, don’t expect a fishing bonanza.  Both pro

anglers agree that fishing improves gradually after the turn.  “I

don’t think anyone can say, ‘Bang, the turnover’s over,'” Brauer says.


Whether the lake is just starting to turn or has already turned over,

the two pros believe bass can still be caught.  “I’m convinced that

fish can be caught under any circumstances,” Brauer says.  “There’s

no such thing as a fish that cannot be caught.  On some of them, you

just run out of time.”

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

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

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