Lake of the Ozarks, Osage Beach, MO
First off, let’s just get down to brass tacks and call a spade a spade. I never had a chance. Completely lost from start to finish.
Initially, I was eager and optimistic about this derby as I have some decent knowledge of the Ozark Lakes and always around this very time of year. I had never been to LOZ but from what I came to know, it was most similar to Grand Lake but with much clearer water. Let me tell you, on this go around, ole’ LOZ was nothing like Grand, it was a beast all of it’s own.
I stayed down by the dam for much of practice and though usually I feel more comfortable up river, all my previous success on Ozark Lakes in March came on the lower end of the lake near their respected dam. Also, we were in the midst of a week long Canadian clipper that felt more like an Antarctic clipper and my initial thinking was that these clear water main-lake fish would be less effected than the shallow and dirtier water bass up river.
Saturday and Sunday of practice I found success fishing way up a main creek arm and flipping a black and blue BassTEK Tungsten Jig to tapering bluff rock that met spawning bays. The water temp was in the low 40’s and with the onslaught of rain that soaked the area ahead of this cold front I knew this bite was never going to hold up as the rain would surely muddy up my water.
Sure enough that bite vanished for me rather quickly and I instead focused my efforts on trying to back track out and fish secondary and main lake points with the tried and true methods for LOZ, a Umbrella Rig mixed in with a jerkbait.
Generally, this style fishing is not my strength but after moving to Tennessee and spending the winter learning on Lake Chickamauga, throwing both of these baits have been a mainstay. After fishing Monday through Wednesday without a keeper bite, the obvious started sinking in. This was going to be a learning deal for me.
I’ve worked very hard at learning what my electronics are telling me. Countless hours, face to screen studying my Navionics Map and breaking down structure with my Lowrance HDS network. I was very impressed with my ability to find bass in unfamiliar terrain and under unfamiliar circumstances but was disgusted with my lack of knowledge on how to catch them. I could idle main-lake points and secondary points and spot schools of bait suspended out over very deep water and I could also see small schools of bass that were hanging just beneath the shad. The key was finding the points that were near channel swings as this seem to be the general correlation. Transition banks like the one below were the key and were definitely the spots that were holding the right fish.
The problem was I had no idea how to catch these fish and even worse, I had no confidence in any creative attempt I was able to muster up. I could find these fish out in 65 feet of water but suspending about 25-35 feet down. I wish I could have got them to eat a Umbrella Rig better but the only other option was a suspending jerkbait like the Biovex Amp Stay 80. The key to capitalizing on this technique is light line, soft jerks and agonizing long pauses. Seriously, we’re talking like 15 second pauses which has got to be the hardest thing in the world when you have no confidence in the spots your fishing.
It all proved to be too much for me and I posted up a career worst and very humbling 103rd place. Never have I been so lost in an event and felt so out classed to top it off. I was forced a hard learning lesson and still have a lot to work on in this area of my fishing ability. I had never really targeted suspended fish before and the combination of cold weather and clear water made for a challenge that I was not yet ready to accept.
On the good side, after loading up and blowing out of LOZ, I headed south to hang with some buddies that were fishing Table Rock Lake. Conditions were pretty similar between the two lakes and I took what I had learned on LOZ and put it to use on old Table Rock. Toward the end of the day I was following a old creek channel toward the back of a creek. It came up and bumped a secondary point just perfectly. I threw out and caught myself a 2 and a 3 pounder and this 8 pound gorilla.
I’m getting there one day at a time and enjoying the entire ride along the way!