Catching Spawning Bass Around Lake of the Ozarks Docks
by John Neporadny Jr.
Boat docks become a haven for black bass in the spring when it’s
time for them to spawn at the Lake of the Ozarks. While fishing with former
Lake of the Ozarks guide Jack Peischl years ago, he showed me a few tricks for taking spawning bass from these havens.
“One of the things a lot of people don’t realize on the Lake of
the Ozarks is that during this time of year bass get back in any
places where they have a lot of protection, so when they spawn their eggs don’t get washed away by the boat wakes or the wind,” says Jack Pieschl of Sunrise Beach, Mo. Some fish will be scattered on any available cover they find along the bank, but the biggest fish seek the best protection. “It seems
like the big ones are smarter,” Pieschl says. “They know that docks
offer the best protection of anything, so they’ll get back in behind
the docks where the catwalk attaches to the dock and in the shady,
flat secluded areas where you can hardly get to the fish.”
Since bass have plenty of hiding places among the lake’s myriad
docks, finding the choice spawning banks is the key to catching these
nesting bass. Pieschl looks for docks in the first or second pea gravel-pockets coming from the main channel back into a feeder creek.
He avoids coves that have heavy water flow, and targets, quiet narrow
pockets where maneuvering a jet ski or pleasure boat would be difficult.
“Almost every pocket will have one side that is pretty steep and the
other side will be a little flatter,” Pieschl notes. He concentrates
on docks along the deeper side of the pocket, which is usually where
the biggest fish build their nests. “Bigger bass tend to stay on
the deeper side,” Pieschl says. Since he prefers clear water for
locating bass on the nest, Pieschl favors the coves and pockets
close to his home in the Shawnee Bend and Horseshoe Bend areas of
the lake. Other good clear-water sections to try Pieschl’s techniques
are the Gravois arm and the North Shore area.
In the early stages of the spawn, bass are busy building their nests
so they are susceptible to bottom-bumping lures, such as jigs and
pork frogs, tube baits or plastic lizards. Pieschl’s favorite technique
for catching these fish is to throw a 7-inch plastic lizard in either pumpkinseed or pumpkinseed with a chartreuse tail into the bass’ nest. If a fish ignores the lure after it settles in the nest, Pieschl starts tapping the butt end of his casting rod to make the lure quiver. Keeping the lure quivering in the nest for a couple
of minutes tends to aggravate the bass into hitting the lizard.
Pieschl often has to fish in close quarters behind docks, so he selects
a 5 1/2-foot rod with a fast tip that allows him to skip his bait
under the dock cables. When flipping behind the docks, he relies
on a 6 1/2- to 7 1/2-foot heavy-action rod that has enough backbone
to pull the fish away from the dock’s cables and other obstacles.
He uses 8-pound test line for skipping his lures and 10- to 12-pound
test for pitching and flipping.
When the fish are guarding the nest or roaming around it later in
the spawn, Pieschl switches to a suspending Rattlin’ Rogue that he jerks
behind the docks. This technique is especially effective for bigger
bass that spawn behind the deeper docks. ‘The bigger bass want to
spawn on the back of docks where the water is at least 3 or 4 feet
deep,” Pieschl says. Sight fishing can be difficult in this situation
due to the shadows of the docks and a bottom-bumping lure tends to
blend in with the bottom when it sinks 3 to 4 feet deep. By using
the Rogue, Pieschl can see the lure during his whole presentation
and the fish will move off the nest to take a swipe at the flashing
bait. “Those are fish that a lot of people don’t fool with,” says
Pieschl. “When they sight fish here, they spend a great deal of time
fishing for the bass that are easiest to see.”
Pieschl moves in behind the docks and pitches his Rogue over the
cables and under the catwalks to the bass lurking in the shadows.
“It’s very important that you can cast exactly where you want the
bait to land,” he says. An errant cast could wrap your lure around
a cable or catwalk. Pieschl prefers for the lure to splash when it
hits the water, which attracts the bass’ attention.
His technique works best on calm, sunny days because the fish hold
tighter to the docks then. Bass tend to roam more on cloudy days.
Pieschl selects a medium-diver Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue with chrome sides for
sunny days and a gold-bodied Rogue for cloudy weather.
After pitching behind the dock, Pieschl pulls the Rogue with his
rod tip down, which causes the lure to dive about 1 foot. He
tries to bounces the lure up and down in the same spot on a slack
line. Pulling the lure too hard causes the Rogue to move too far
towards him and away from the fish. The Rogue hovering in one place
resembles a bluegill darting around the nest, which triggers the
bass into attacking this intruder. “Bass are reluctant to chase
things very far during this time,” Pieschl says. “But if they are
behind those docks, they are on the nests and they’ll guard them closely.”
Sometimes Pieschl lets the lure sit on the surface and barely twitches
it to make the Rogue wobble. This action causes some bass to move
up and smash the lure on top.
The Rogue technique allows Pieschl to cover the back of a dock with
one retrieve that lasts about 30 seconds. If he knows the spot has
a big fish on the nest, he will cast to the same area five or six
times before moving to the next dock.
Even though the fish can probably see him, Pieschl claims they still
repeatedly strike at the lure and eventually get hooked. The Rogue’s
three sets of treble hooks stick even fish that just bump the lure
as they try to knock it away from the nest.
The fun begins after the fish is hooked. “Most of the time you have
them on only 15 to 20 foot of line and they can get under the dock
or into the brush behind the docks,” Pieschl says. The guide relies
on bait-casting equipment and 10- to 12-pound test line to horse
the fish out from behind a dock. Since he’s constantly fishing over
the cables, Pieschl frequently reties his line.
When you fish the Lake of the Ozarks this spring, look for docks
in secluded pockets to twitch a Rogue or quiver a lizard around for
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.