The numerous tournaments held at the lake indicate how good the springtime bass fishing is at Lake of the Ozarks.
Despite the heavy fishing pressure from all tournaments, the Central Missouri lake continues to produce one-day winning limits of 20 to 25 pounds from March through May. The lake annually yields bass in the 5- to 7-pound range during the spring, with a few 8- or 9-pounders caught as well.
In March, a client of Lake of the Ozarks Guide, Jack Uxa, caught a 10-pound, 11-ounce largemouth bass on a spinnerbait. Another 10-pounder was caught a couple of weeks later in the same area. Uxa released his client’s fish. Uxa and former Missouri Department of Conservation Fisheries Biologist Greg Stoner concur that the second 10-pounder was probably the same bass Uxa’s client caught previously.
Lake of the Ozarks bass leave their winter sanctuaries and migrate to the shallows to spawn in the spring. Here’s a look at the most productive patterns for springtime Lake of the Ozarks bass during the three stages of the spawn.
The upper ends of the lake’s tributaries, such as the Niangua, Little Niangua, and Osage rivers, the Grand Glaize and Gravois creeks warm up the quickest and are the first areas to start yielding prespawn bass.
When the water temperature reaches 45 to 50 degrees, local experts target prespawn bass in the tributary arms along 45-degree chunk rock banks and in brush piles behind boat docks. Flipping a 3/8-ounce jig with a plastic chunk will catch the shallowest fish along the rock banks or in the brush piles. A crawfish-colored medium-diving crankbait such as a Storm Lures Wiggle Wart works best for bass suspended in the 6- to 7-foot range. When the wind blows, a 1/2-ounce white spinnerbait is the best bet for aggressive bass in the shallows.
Prespawn bass usually remain deeper in the early spring in the clearer waters of the middle and lower end of the lake. Twitching suspending stickbaits along chunk rock secondary points and over brush piles, 10 to 15 feet deep tricks suspended prespawn bass. A 1/2-ounce football jig tipped with a double-tail plastic grub is ideal for catching prespawn bass hugging the bottom. When the water temperature climbs into the 50-degree range, prespawn bass move from the chunk rock to pea gravel banks, where the fish are susceptible to crawfish-colored crankbaits or jigs flipped to shallow cover 8 feet deep.
The spawn is usually on when the water temperature climbs into the 60-degree range. On the upper ends of the lake, bass spawn around laydowns or behind boat docks along the rock banks of pockets. Nesting bass will be as shallow as 1 to 2 feet deep in the murky water and can be caught on jigs and Texas-rigged plastic lizards or creature baits.
Bass on the lower end of the lake tend to spawn deeper (4 to 8 feet) if the water remains clear during the spring. The fish will build their nests in pea gravel pockets sheltered from the wind. Smaller bass tend to spawn along the open banks, but the biggest fish usually build their beds behind docks or brush piles.
A wide variety of lures will catch spawning bass on the lower end of the lake. If the water is stained or murky, 3/8-ounce jigs tipped with a plastic craw, and Texas-rigged plastic lizards or creature baits will trigger strikes from bedding bass. The best lures for catching spawning bass in clear water include wacky-rigged Senkos, Flukes, floating worms, finesse jigs, plastic tubes, shaky head worms, and finesse worms on drop shot rigs. Sight fishing is usually an option in the clearer waters on the lower end of the Gravois arm and the dam area.
Topwater lures provide the most exciting action for Lake of the Ozarks bass on any lake section. In the dirty waters of the tributaries, buzzbaits and Zara Spooks are the top producers. Postspawn bass in the mid-lake and lower end will attack a variety of topwater lures, including Zara Spooks, poppers, chuggers, prop baits and wake baits. The fish will still be in the spawning pockets immediately after the spawn but eventually, migrate to secondary and main lake points when the water temperature climbs into the upper 70s.
Swimming jigs or running spinnerbaits down the sides of docks along flats is another productive pattern for postspawn bass in the tributary arms. Dragging a Carolina-rigged plastic lizard or creature bait is effective for postspawn bass hugging the bottom along secondary and main lake points 10 to 25 feet deep. Another tactic that tricks bottom-hugging postspawn bass is ripping a 3/4- or 1-ounce jig and plastic trailer 1 to 2 feet off the bottom and letting it fall back to the lake floor.
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 website at funlake.com.
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