Winter’s Best Bass Fishing at Lake of the Ozarks
by John Neporadny Jr.
Blowing snow stings your face and the wind pierces through gloves
to numb your hands. Even though the frigid temperatures turn your
rod tip into an ice cube after nearly every cast, you tolerate these
inconveniences in anticipation of catching the bass of a lifetime.
While the lakes in the northern half of the state freeze over during
the winter, Lake of the Ozarks usually
offers an ice-free spot to catch lunker largemouth bass throughout
January and February. Heavyweight bass in this central Missouri reservoir
reside along main lake structure and feed on dying shad that succumb
to the cold water. A lure resembling the fluttering action of a
dying shad, such as a suspending stickbait, works
best during this time of year. Fishing pressure will also be minimal
since fair-weather fishermen hibernate
in their warm homes.
Anglers willing to bear the cold for a chance to catch quality wintertime
largemouth should pack the thermal underwear and insulated coveralls
and head for the lake. Try the following tips for catching Lake of the Ozarks bass during winter.
Channel bends in the clear-water stretch from the dam to the 14-mile
mark hold schools of big bass during the winter at this
reservoir. Any time bass have a channel bend they can move up from
the deep water onto a flat and eat shad.
Lake of the Ozarks bass tend to congregate below schools of shad
in 12 to 20 feet of water. The shad usually suspend 8 to 12 feet
deep and bass hang right below them. The fish usually stay 4 to 5 feet
under the baitfish so they can follow the shad school around.
Even though bass feed on baitfish during this time, some anglers avoid
areas loaded with schools of shad because they believe bass have too much food to
choose from there. So these local anglers try channel bends with
sparse numbers of baitfish where they can work a weighted stickbait
without much competition from the natural forage.
A suspending stickbait in the clown color produces bass during this time. With four or five turns of the reel handle you can make the
stickbait dive down to a depth of 4 to 5 feet. If the lure is properly
weighted, it will suspend at the same depth or sink slowly.
Let the lure sit for about 20 seconds and then twitch it once or
twice. A word of caution: the more you twitch the lure, the smaller the fish
you will catch. Even though the lure usually only dives down about 5 feet,
its action imitates a dying shad, which draws bass out of the depths
to strike it.
When the weather turns nasty, key on chunk rock points.
The worse the weather, the better the fishing so when the
wind blows real hard and it’s snowing, the fish will come up on
the rocky points.
If you can stand the cold, this is the best time to catch a 9- or
10-pound bass at the Lake of the Ozarks. This pattern usually lasts until the end of March when the water warms
and bass start chasing crankbaits and spinnerbaits.
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.