OSAGE BEACH, Mo. – It's a beautiful time of year on Lake of the Ozarks and the gleaming sunrise that overhung the day one launch bespoke the bright hopes of anglers heading into the EverStart Series Central Division tournament.
A bank of clumping clouds helped capture the gilded radiance but these meteorological messengers bespoke the mild cool spell bound for Central Missouri. Nothing drastic; in fact the slightly cooler temperatures will help usher in the fall transitions. Some believe that the lake is right on the cusp of change, while others like Chevy pro Dion Hibdon say the autumn adjustment is already underway on Lake of the Ozarks.
"I think we're right in the middle of the fall transition; there's a lot of fish going from deep to shallow and they're kind of scattered," Hibdon said. "We're in that period where they're in limbo, but there will be a lot of fish caught."
Well-known for his dock-flipping prowess, Hibdon said he's starting his day shallow. He didn't dial into anything spectacular during practice, but he suspects he can find a few good bites early by throwing a jig around some particular shoreline rocks.
"Normally, I would never do that (start shallow), but I caught a 4-pounder the other day in a foot of water and that's what I'm going to go chase after for a little bit," Hibdon said. "I probably won't do that all day. I'll go fish some deeper docks and deeper structure later.
"Those deeper fish – one day they bite, one day they don't. But if we get some cloud cover today, that's when they're supposed to bite."
Rich Dalbey, who recently placed third as a co-angler in the Forrest Wood Cup, competes this week as a pro on Lake of the Ozarks. His plan involves fishing brush piles early and then flipping docks most of the day. If the dock bite fizzles, or if breezy conditions ensue, he'll start looking for shallow reaction bites.
"If the wind picks up, I'm going to go to a square-bill crankbait and a spinnerbait," Dalbey said. "I've seen a lot of fish up there cruising the shallows the last few days. It's just a matter of finding the ones that are aggressive.
Tom Murphy, of Richland, Mo. said that the amount of shad flipping and splashing in the lake motivated him to tie on an umbrella rig. State regulations limit rigs to three hooks, so his sports a trio of small shad bodies, while silver willow leaf blades enhance the bait ball appearance.
Murphy also had a topwater plug tied on for possible morning opportunities, but his go-to bait will be a shaky head with a Zoom Mag Finesse worm. He'll start out with a green pumpkin worm and move to a blue glitter color later in the day.
Texas pro Cody Malone said he had a strong practice and hopes to carry that momentum into the tournament. He's targeting fish that are just starting to make their fall move and transitional banks that go from chunk rock to pea gravel on sharp breaks seems to be the ticket. Malone held his cards low on bait specifics, but he did note that he's fishing slowly with a bait that hits a particular area of the water column.
"I'm lucky enough to have one (solid) pattern and I'm going to do it all day," said Malone, whose No. 1 take-off position ensured him first crack at his best spots. "I had 18 pounds the first day of practice and 17 the second and then I took yesterday off to get my mind right and get the boat ready. There's no telling what will happen, but if I can get five bites from the right fish, I'll be right there in the lead."
"It's been tough to get a bite, for me," King said, "but the ones I'm catching are pretty good ones. I can't catch them on anything unless it's slow. You have to fish slowly."
Anglers will take off from the Grand Glaize Recreation Area located at 711 Public Beach Rd. in Osage Beach, Mo., at 7 a.m. daily. Weigh-in will be held at the takeoff site on Thursday and Friday beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday’s final weigh-in will be held at Walmart located at 4252 Highway 54 in Osage Beach beginning at 4 p.m. Takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.
Pros will fish for a top award of $35,000 plus a Ranger Z518 with a 200-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard if Ranger Cup guidelines are met. Co-anglers will cast for a top award consisting of a Ranger Z117 with 90-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard and $5,000 if Ranger Cup guidelines are met.
The EverStart Series consists of five divisions – Central, Northern, Southeast, Texas and Western. Each division consists of four tournaments and competitors will be vying for valuable points in each division that could earn them the Strike King Angler of the Year title along with $5,000 for the pro and $2,000 for the co-angler. The top 40 pros and co-anglers from each respective division will qualify for the EverStart Series Championship that will be held on the Ouachita River in Monroe, La., Nov. 1-4.
Sunrise: 6:51 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 68 degrees
Expected high temperature: 76 degrees
Wind: North 7-10 mph
Humidity: 40 percent
Day’s outlook: Mostly cloudy