OSAGE BEACH, Mo. – Had Annie fished the opening round of the EverStart Series Central Division tournament on Lake of the Ozarks, she surely would've left the stage singing "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow."
Indeed, the clouds that shared this morning's stage with a bright sunrise quickly took over the lead and stuck around until the closing curtain. Enough with the theatre stuff; let's look at how the fishing was affected.
For starters, Lake of the Ozarks bass are transitioning from their deep summer patterns to shallower routines mostly focused around brush piles, rocks and docks. Such definitive structure makes for easy targeting when sunny conditions compels the fish to hold tight to the shady cover. Cloudy conditions like those of today find bass roaming and therefore harder to pinpoint.
Flipping is always one of the leading tactics for this lake and those who relied on the usual mix of jigs and Texas-rigged plastics often struggled to find the quality bites they needed. Pros caught 48 limits, with three more on the co-angler side. Several fish in the 4-pound range crossed the stage and some anglers actually reported steady action. Overall, it was a challenging day, but tomorrow's forecast for cloudy skies should change the game for the better.
Topping the pro field was Robbie Dodson, of Harrison, Ark. who sacked up 19 pounds, 1 ounce and opened up a lead of 2-4. He ran up the Osage River and caught all of his fish on a Luck "E" Strike Series 3 square-bill crankbait in the copper green shad color.
"I just cranked laydowns, stumps and anything that got in my way," Dodson said. "If I could find shad in the back of a creek, I'd fish around them."
"I don't think I had a keeper at like 9:30," Dodson said. "I really didn't know if they were there, with practice being terrible with one or two fish a day. I don't know if I was just lucky or what. I may have just stumbled into a wad of them. Tomorrow I may go out and have just two keepers. That's the way practice was."
Dodson said he caught all of his fish in a quarter-mile stretch of the river. He fished his bait on 20-pound fluorocarbon and found that most of his bites came right as his bait deflected off cover.
"Every fish was on structure," he said. "Just as soon as the bait would bounce off, you'd have them."
Jigs deliver second for Berhorst
Dennis Berhorst of Holts Summit, Mo. weighed in a sack that went 16-13 and took the second-place spot on day one. He started his day with a shallow pattern and then made a deep move to look for better bites. Ultimately, the shallow deal proved most productive for him.
"I had to mix it up a little," Berhorst said. "I started out flipping and had a little luck. I caught a few and then I went out deep and caught a few, but I had to go back to flipping to catch my better fish.
"There's a lot of fish out there suspending and there's some out deep. But I'm not fishing for those. I'm fishing for the ones on the boat docks."
In the deep water, Berhorst fished a 1-ounce Omega Ledge Jig. Back on the docks, he fished Texas-rigged plastics – mainly Zoom Brush Hogs and big worms.
Berhorst said that tight confines were the determining factor for his success. "I fished around a lot of boats today so I got (the bait) in there just a little tighter than the rest of the anglers were. There were a lot of people fishing around the outsides of the docks but I caught most of my fish from inside them and beneath the hoists so it was tight fishing."
Laster buzzes into third
Ralph Laster, of Lees Summit, Mo. took third place with 16-3. One of his fish came on a jig and the others bit 3/8-ounce white War Eagle buzzbaits. According to Laster, knowing where to throw the noisy reaction bait was essential.
"I caught them all throughout the day on the buzzbait – whenever I was on the right kind of shore," he said. "Whenever I saw black rock on a point, I threw the buzz bait. The algae grow on that type of rock and the shad come up and eat the algae and those bass come up and wait for the shad to make a mistake.
"You'll see those big shad up there swimming among the black rocks. I don't know if the algae is more prevalent of if those big rocks provide them more places to hide while they're busy eating, as opposed to being out on an open shore."
Wiese takes close fourth
Just two ounces behind Laster, Mark Wiese, of High Ridge, Mo. took fourth place with 16-1. He caught most of his fish flipping jigs and worms but his biggest fish – a 5-pounder – came when Wiese gave his Plan B a try.
"I had some backup stuff on deeper docks for suspended fish, went to those and caught the big fish on a topwater," he said. "I caught a few flipping this morning that helped out, but it was really and truly a grind all day."
Wiese fished the mid-lake area and found that regardless of where he went, the fish seemed to be holding in about five feet of water. "Whether they're over 30 or 40 or 50 feet, I think the majority of fish are in five feet, or I think they're shallow in five feet."
Silber takes fifth
In fifth place with 15-12, Tom Silber, of Labadie, Mo. lamented the scattering effect of cloudy conditions. Fishing near the Bagnel Dam and in the Gravois Arm, he caught his fish on jigs and big worms. He tried to narrow down a zone of activity, but his bites were too random.
"I caught them from two feet to 20 and I just could not find something consistent," he said.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the EverStart Series Lake of the Ozarks event:
6th: Jim Young, of House Springs, Mo., 15-5
7th: Guido Hibdon, of Sunrise Beach, Mo., 14-13
7th: Jeremy Lawyer, of Sarcoxie, Mo., 14-13
7th: Ray Meredith, of Smiths Grove, Ky., 14-13
10th: Sam Rosefsky, of Morris, Ill., 14-12
Dodson and Weise shared Snickers Big Bass honors with twin 5-pound, 3-ounce largemouth.
Buzzbait and big worm give Payne co-angler lead
Arnold Payne, of Noblesville, Ind. topped the co-angler division with a day-one weight of 15-7. He caught one of his weight fish early on a white/chartreuse buzzbait and stuck his other four limit fish came on a big Texas-rigged Berkley Powerbait worm in the plum color.
"I only had five bites, but they just happened to be the right ones," Payne said.
Brush piles were where he caught his worm fish. "I didn't know where we were, so I was just dragging that worm around until I found a limb or two and that's where they were."
Jake Seifert, of Jefferson City, Mo. took second place with 12-15, while Roger Olson Jr., of Eagle River, Wisc. was third with 10-9. Fourth place went to Mark Howard, of Mesquite, Texas who caught 9-8. In fifth place, Chris Klenke, of Labadie, Mo. had 9-1.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 co-angler leaders at the EverStart Series Lake of the Ozarks event:
7th: Seth Holder, of Pittsburg, Ks., 8-14
8th: Rick Krassinger, of House Springs, Mo., 8-8
9th: Chuck Rounds, of Benton, Ky., 8-5
10th: Alan Woodford, of Winslow, Ind., 8-1
Olson's 5-12 earned him the Snickers Big Bass award.
Day two of the EverStart Series Central Division tournament on Lake of the Ozarks continues at Friday’s takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7:00 a.m. (Eastern) at Grand Glaize Recreation Area located at 711 Public Beach Rd. in Osage Beach, Mo.