Night Light Lake of the Ozarks Largemouth
By John Neporadny Jr.
The heat and humidity of a summer day in Missouri make fishing a survival test rather than a relaxing time on the water.
Combine the steamy weather and searing sun with rolling waves from an armada of pleasure boaters and your fishing day becomes a hot and frustrating experience. The heat, sun and boat traffic must have about the same affect on largemouth bass as well, because the fish seem reluctant to bite on busy Lake of the Ozarks during a summer day.
All is not lost though if you want to catch bass during your summer vacation at one at the lake. Changing your fishing time schedule to take advantage of the night life of Lake of the Ozarks allows you to avoid the heat and recreational boat traffic and experience the best bass action of the summertime.
Everything changes for the better once the sun sets on the lake. The air cools down, the pleasure boats disappear and the bass become more aggressive in the low-light conditions. Now’s the prime time to be casting to your favorite bass spot even if you can’t see it.
Limited visibility can make night fishing hazardous, but you can make it a pleasurable experience by taking some precautions and carrying the proper equipment. Missouri state law requires that any fishing boat when underway must exhibit red and green sidelights that are visible for at least one mile on a dark clear night. The boat must also have an all-around white stern light that is visible for at least two miles on a dark clear night. All boats are required to use a white light visible from all directions whenever the vessel is anchored between sunset and sunrise.
The best way to minimize navigation problems after dark is to scout the areas you plan to fish a couple of hours before sunset. Use your electronics to determine the structure and depth you will fish that night. Ideal summertime structure to look for on the lake includes drop-offs and river or creek channels. Sunken brush piles at depths of 10 feet or deeper make ideal starting points for a night trip.
While scouting spots in the daylight, look for familiar landmarks on the bank that you will be able to find again after dark. Plan a milk run of spots and pay close attention to the route you take to each spot so it will be easier to find your way around once the sun sets. Starting at your favorite spot at sunset is another way to minimize your nocturnal movements.
Special equipment you should use for nighttime tactics include flashlights and a black light that you can position on the bow of your boat. Using a black light and high visibility line in blue fluorescent or solar green hues makes strikes easier to detect since the black light illuminates your line and makes it look like a laser beam shooting through the inky darkness. Flashlights or headlamps are handy for finding tackle in the boat or tying knots. Carrying insect repellent in your boat is also recommended because mosquitoes can ruin your nocturnal outing if you leave your skin unprotected. I usually wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts to deter the mosquitoes as well.
A bunch of tackleboxes and rods and reels strewn out all over the boat’s deck after dark can result in broken tackle or a quick trip overboard. So keep your boat deck clean and prevent any mishaps by picking a handful of productive lures for nocturnal bass. Minimize your lure choices to plastic worms, soft plastic creature baits, jigs and plastic trailers and spinnerbaits for your nighttime trip. Before darkness sets in, you should have your boat organized with plenty of walking space available and lights positioned in strategic locations.
A moonlit night increases your visibility, but it isn’t a necessity for catching nocturnal bass. I’ve caught bass at night in the rain and in the moonlight. The type of day probably affects the night fishing more than the nighttime weather. If the day has been cloudy or rainy, the best fishing sometimes occurs during the late evening or the first couple of hours after sunset. If there has been a few weeks of real hot weather with nothing but sunshine and bluebird skies, the fish tend to bite all night long on some reservoirs.
Heavy boat traffic makes the lake nearly impossible to fish during a summer day, yet it is probably one of the best lakes to fish at night. Lights from hundreds of docks and heavily developed shoreline makes it easy to see and navigate after dark and a plethora of sunken brush piles provide plenty of nocturnal haunts for bass.
In the middle of summer, Skip Surbaugh of Lake of the Ozarks Guide Service, targets brush piles he has planted on the lower end of the lake from the dam to the Lodge of the Four Seasons. “I probably don’t fish as deep of brush piles as a lot of guys do,” admits Surbaugh. “I fish brush piles from 10 to 15 feet generally located close to deep water (channel drops of 25 to 40 feet).
On calm nights, Surbaugh opts for dark-colored 10-inch Berkley Power Worms or 5-inch Berkley Power Hawgs that he Texas rigs with a 5/8-ounce weight. “I want the weight heavy enough that I can get the bait down into the bottom of the brush piles, so I work it real slow in the brush,” describes Surbaugh. “I like to hit every limb as I am bringing it out.”
If the wind blows at night, Surbaugh switches to a black 3/4-ounce spinnerbait with a number 7 or 8 gold or black Colorado blade. He throws all of his nighttime lures on 15-pound test line.
The guide believes the key to successful night fishing at Lake of the Ozarks is to make a milk run of brush piles rather than counting on one brush pile to produce several keepers. The night action here produces plenty of bass in the 5- to 6-pound range. “We actually catch some of our bigger fish at night than we do during the day,” says Surbaugh. “This lake right now is loaded with 4- to 5-pound fish.”
The night life was good for Surbaugh’s clients last summer. “We would catch about 15 to 20 fish a night with about two-thirds of them being keepers,” says Surbaugh. “There were lots of nights last year where we were catching 30 to 40 fish a night with 20 keepers.”
When the sun sets and the air cools, take a break from the summer heat and enjoy the bass fishing night life at the lake. 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.
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.