OSAGE BEACH, Mo. – Most of the dock talk on this brisk Ozark morning consisted of many anglers griping and groaning about the bite on Lake of the Ozarks right now. While this 54,000 acre body of water is known for its fantastic largemouth and spotted bass fishing, the outlook for the opening EverStart Central Division event of the year seems to be up in the air.
One of the biggest factors in fishing this time of year is the weather. Lake of the Ozarks is a place that is known to have some great fishing in cold weather – it seems as though oftentimes the fish even bite better the colder it gets. Consistency is king as far as weather is concerned. Cooler water temperatures put the fish in a more lethargic mood to begin with, but they do get accustomed to cold or warm days just as long as it remains stable one way or another.
But the conditions around Lake of the Ozarks over the last few weeks have been far from that. With lows down into the 20’s on occasion and highs ranging all the way up to the 70’s, the fish just don’t seem to know what to do. Not to mention a recent snow storm that hammered the area, followed by a warming trend that melted all but a few small piles on the shore.
“It’s definitely pretty tough out here right now,” said Payden Hibdon of Sunrise Beach, Mo. “I think that snow runoff changed the lake some. I haven’t gotten as many bites as you usually should for this time of year. It seems like after the melt it pushed some fish that were already shallow, up shallower. And some of the deeper schools of bass and shad also moved deeper.
“The one nice thing is that the bites I have gotten have been quality, good fish. Somebody is still going to catch them, but I just don’t think everyone will.”
Both today and tomorrow are supposed to provide the warmest days the anglers have seen since last week.
“The water is still pretty cool, like low 40’s,” the 22-year-old pro said. “With this warm weather the fish are liable to come up shallow – that would really help the bite.”
This lake is known for two primary tactics to help put fish in the boat. One main pattern is throwing a jig. There is no shortage of crayfish in these waters, and a jig pitched to rock transitions or bluffs has proved reliable year after year. Another bait that should see significant water time is a jerkbait. Given the fishing conditions many pros have described, a suspending jerkbait with a long pause could help cure the Ozarks blues. Something that will be interesting to see is just how big of a role the Alabama rig will take on this week, considering it appeared on plenty of boat decks at takeoff.
One angler who looks to use a jig to its full advantage this week is Tennessee pro Josh Douglas.
“I’ve fished Table Rock and Grand before and done well there,” said Douglas, who is an EverStart Central Division rookie. “This week has been my first trip to Lake of the Ozarks and it seems like its fishing tough. I’m either zigging when I should zag or what, but I have been fishing from daylight to dark and its tough.
“I didn’t get enough bites in practice to give me the confidence to run around so I am just going to go where I caught some in practice and hunker down. There are clearly fish around me, I can see them on my Lowrance electronics, but I just need those bigger fish to bite. I’m hoping that with some sun and wind today it will move the fish up.”
Ironically, Douglas said that his best days of fishing were this past weekend when the weather was cooler and rainy.
Something that anglers will have to compete with is the slot length on Lake of the Ozarks. All largemouth and smallmouth have to be a minimum length of 15 inches to be legal. Spotted bass on the other hand, need to only make the 12-inch minimum length in order to ride in the boat.
While Douglas and Hibdon both feel like the weights this week won’t be record setting by any standard, they did agree that some big bags will still be caught. The standard 13- to 16-pound limits will be commonplace among the top places on the leaderboard, with a few bags reaching near 20 pounds.
Anglers will take off from Grand Glaize Recreation Area located at 711 Public Beach Road in Osage Beach, Mo., at 7 a.m. daily. Thursday and Friday’s weigh-ins will be held at the takeoff site beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday’s final weigh-in will be held at the 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.
On the Web
For those who can’t catch the weigh-in action in person, FLWOutdoors.com offers FLW Live, an online application that brings fans real-time weigh-in results, streaming video and audio.
Sunrise: 7:22 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 33 degrees
Expected high temperature: 68 degrees
Water temperature: 41-43 degrees
Wind: SW 10-20 mph
Maximum humidity: 64 percent
Day’s outlook: Partly cloudy with winds increasing