Lake of the Ozarks Mid-section Offers Diverse Bass Patterns
By John Neporadny Jr.
Anglers have a chance to fish plenty of clear or off-colored water and shallow- or deep-water structure in the middle section of the Osage arm of the Lake of the Ozarks throughout the year.
The lower section around Tan-Tar-A and the confluence of the Niangua arm and Linn Creek features fairly clear water most of the year and has plenty of bluffs and other steep banks that are ideal for deep-water patterns. However the section above the Hurricane Deck Bridge usually contains more stained to murky water and has more gradually sloping banks on both the main lake and in the various creeks that are ideal for catching fish shallow throughout most of the year.
Four-time BASS Federation Divisional qualifier Brian Maloney stays close to the Tan-Tar-A area during the winter to fish the clearer and deeper water. He looks for big chunk rock and black slab rocks on the main lake or goes halfway back in the coves and targets secondary points. “On that end there are deeper v-shaped coves and once the lake drops into its winter pool in mid-January to mid-February, the fish are sucked out of the coves and stack up on those types of rocks,” he advises.
One of his favorite winter lures is a small (3/16 or 1/ 4 ounce) brown or dark green jig that he mixes with a brown or green plastic tube or craw trailer. He works the lure with 10- to 12-pound fluorocarbon line.
Suspending stick baits is his other choice for wintertime bass in this area. The Osage Beach, MO, angler prefers a green-and-white or purple-and-chartreuse model for cloudy days but opts for shad patterns (blue-and-chrome or black-and-chrome) or the clown color for sunny skies.
“If there is some ripple on the water with the wind blowing into a secondary point I will fish the jerkbait from the bank out to 20 feet deep,” says Maloney. “The fish seem to suspend in the 5- to 10-foot range. If I’m looking on my graph and don’t’ see any suspended fish then I go to the jig and drag it out to 20 feet.” He retrieves the jerkbait on 8-pound line with a series of jerks and pauses, sometimes letting it sit for as long as 30 seconds.
In early or mid-March, bass move into the prespawn stage when the water temperature climbs to around 45 degrees. Then Maloney concentrates on the flatter banks in the bigger creeks and hollows above the Hurricane Deck Bridge where he throws a medium-diving crawfish-color crankbait on 8- or 10-pound line. He moves halfway back in the coves and runs his crankbait 3 to 12 feet deep in areas where the 45-degree chunk rock banks change to pea gravel.
Some sight fishing can be done in the cleaner water around Tan-Tar-A during the spawn. Whether he’s fishing the clear or dirty water, Maloney looks for concrete pillars of dock walkways and sea wall abutments where bass usually build nests. The fish will spawn as shallow as 2 feet in the dirty water and as deep as 6 feet in the clear water.
Maloney relies on the small jig and tube trailer or a bright-colored Chompers Twin Tail grub with a 1/ 4-ounce standup jighead to catch fish on the nest. “Sight fishing makes it easy,” says Maloney. “Just cast beyond the fish’s nose and you will find somewhere in that bed where the fish will spin around and nose down on your bait.” He makes multiple pitches on 12-pound fluorocarbon line behind the docks to coax spawning fish into biting.
His favorite docks during the spawn are usually located in a small nook about halfway to three-quarters back in a cove. The spawn in this area usually begins when the water temperature climbs above 65 degrees and runs from mid-May to June.
Bass start leaving the nest in late May or early June. Maloney coaxes these sluggish postspawn fish into hitting a Carolina-rigged 6-inch plastic lizard. His rig consists of a main line of 17-pound test, a 1/ 2- or 3/ 4-ounce egg-shaped sinker, swivel, bead and 18-inch to 2-foot leader of 10- to 12-pound line and a 1/0- or 2/0 worm hook. He favors lizards in green pumpkin or dark melon that he dips the tail with chartreuse or purple dye. If AmerenUE is running water, Maloney slowly drags his rig across main or round secondary points about 20 to 25 feet deep. He keeps the lure moving along on the bottom until it hits any piece of cover and then he lets it sit for a couple of second before resuming his retrieve.
Topwater lures are also effective during the post-spawn. Maloney likes to work Zara Spooks (green-and-clear or chartreuse-and-clear) parallel to the bank along a point or any depth change near the spawning areas. On cloudy or windy days, he also catches some post-spawn bass on black ½-ounce buzz baits.
In the early summer, Maloney catches bass on Carolina-rigged lizards along the channel ledges or on deep-diving crankbaits (blue-and-chartreuse or shad-pattern hues) that he cranks into brush piles 12 feet or deeper.
Night fishing turns on as the summer gets hotter, so Maloney relies on a 10-inch Berkley Power Worm (June bug, black-and-blue or red shad) that he Texas-rigs with a ¼- to 1/ 2-ounce bullet sinker. He works the worm through brush piles 15 to 30 feet deep on main and secondary points or main lake cuts with 45-degree banks.
During the heat of summer, Maloney can also catch bass from isolated docks in the back of coves above the Hurricane Deck Bridge. He flips his 10-inch plastic worms on 17-pound line to shady areas of the shallow docks.
Fall is “fun fishing time” for Maloney. He looks for shad activity in the flats of the coves and flips his small jig to shallow docks and brush piles. When bass start suspending on the corners of the docks in about mid-September, Maloney works Zara Spooks, buzz baits and crankbaits along the sides of the boat houses. He also likes to swim a white 1/ 4-ounce jig and white plastic tube, craw or grub down the sides of the docks to catch fish suspended under the dock foam. Old docks in the backs of coves are best for the swimming jig tactic. As the water gets colder in autumn, Maloney keeps moving down lake. He fishes above Hurricane Deck Bridge until the first part of October and then tries his fall patterns in the Tan-Tar-A area until about early December.
For information on lodging 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.
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.