Missouri's two most centrally-located lakes both have big-bass potential. (April 2007)
Photo by Steve Chaconas
Missouri has bass lakes and streams that rival any state in the union -- that's what guides at Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake say. Both lakes are in the same river system. And therein lies the key to the great bass fishing.
The two lakes are quite different. Lake of the Ozarks, the oldest, was built in the 1930s to supply electricity to central Missouri. Development around the lake has produced one of the most popular tourist areas in Missouri. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built Truman Lake in the 1980s for flood control and electricity. It limited development to select areas, creating a great fishing lake with limited recreational boating.
To learn more about bass fishing on the two lakes, I interviewed guides from each lake.
LAKE OF THE OZARKS
Keith Enlow is an easygoing individual who's spent a lifetime guiding anglers on Lake of the Ozarks. I asked him where he would recommend that anglers fish during the spring spawn, post-spawn, and summer doldrums.
"I like (the) midlake area," said Enlow after a moment's thought. "The midlake runs from about mile 10 to the mile 33. It seems like that is the most productive area."
Enlow recommends that anglers access the lake from PB-2 in the state park or at Shawnee Bend access near mile 10. These accesses provide anglers quick access to the midlake area.
During the spawn, he recommends, fish the backs of coves with pea-gravel bottoms. "Most bass during the spawn are in the backs of the coves on pea-gravel flats. If it should be a late spawn, you can find bass in the transition zone between the pea gravel and tennis-ball-size rocks."
Enlow has a certain set of lures he uses during the spawn. "Right now," he offered, "I use nothing but a Chompers Hula grub fished on an 1/8-ounce grubhead or a 4- or 6-inch Zoom Lizard. I like the colors in root beer green, watermelon red, or just plan watermelon. I throw Chompers and lizards religiously, because I catch so many fish on them."
I also talked to Enlow about where he fishes for post spawn bass. "When females finish, they head out to the main lake, stopping on the first large main-lake point, where they really go to feeding," he said. "During this period I like Norman's crankbaits. I use what they call a canary color -- blue and chartreuse with a white belly -- or Norman's pearl and purple, whitish with a pearl tinge. They'll run about 12 feet deep. I like to rake them on the rocks. If I want to go to something with more finesse, I'll go with Chompers.
"Once males get off the nests and leave off guarding fry, I look to the main-lake points -- the deeper main lake points. There I'll jump up to a 7- or 10-inch Berkley Power worm. I like the blue flake, plum worm. In June, there is no mistaking the post-spawn bite. Bass will take the worm and just thump the rod. I mean -- they are hungry."
I asked Enlow to explain Lake of the Ozarks' producing so many large bass and its providing such great bass fishing. "My personal opinion is that Lake of the Ozarks is one of the best bass lakes in the country for 3-, 4-, and 5-pound fish, with a few 9- and 10-pound fish caught every year. In my 20 years of guiding, the largest bass I've caught was 8 pounds 4 ounces. A client caught a 10-pound, 2-ounce bass in July. There are some 8-, 9-, 10-pound bass in the Lake of the Ozarks, but not a gob of them."
According to Enlow, the lake is clearing, and anglers interested in catching large bass need to change tactics, especially in July, August and September. "In the past seven or eight years, this lake has gotten clearer and clearer, especially in July, August and September," he observed. "I'm starting to fish below the 25-foot mark in the lake as it clears. Some anglers say they can't catch these big fish anymore. If they'd back off to 40 feet or more and fish down around 25 feet or deeper, they'll catch those large fish. They need to fish like anglers do on Table Rock or Bull Shoals lakes."
If you would like to fish with Keith Enlow or just talk with him about fishing Lake of the Ozarks, write him at 207 S. Pine, Eldon Mo 65026, or call (573) 480-4001.
To learn about Truman Lake's bass fishing, I visited with Marvin Deckard, who guides out of Bucksaw Marina. A 20-year Army veteran who's been fishing Truman Lake since 1983, he's been guiding for the past 10 years.
He started out by talking about where to fish and what lures to use during the spring spawn. "When the water's really cold," he said, "I throw a lot of little jerkbaits like Rattling Rogues. I'm talking about February and March. Once water temperatures reach the 50s, I'll throw spinnerbaits: single spins with a No. 5 Colorado blade on a 3/8-ounce head, with light wire."
There are definitely certain places on Truman that Deckard recommends over others. "Early in the spring, you want to use a jerkbait fishing down near the dam, in (the) mouth of Tebo Creek and the Pomme de Terre River," he said. "The water is a little clearer. Bass will be on the steeper banks and points. As water warms, I move up the Grand River arm and Osage River arm. The water is a little dingier, and it seems like water warms up a few degrees quicker than in the clear water."
In Lake of the Ozarks, bass spawn in the backs of coves with a pea-gravel bottom; Truman is a little different. "In Truman, bass usually spawn in creeks," Deckard asserted. "I don't fish really steep banks for spawning bass. I like a 45-degree or less slope, and bass'll spawn out on those real long points. They like pea-gravel bottoms; however, I find bass spawning around old black stumps with washed-out root systems. I concentrate a lot on bigger stumps, and you need a little gravel."
Once bass spawn, they're going to relocate into deeper water. "They're going to pull off out into a little deeper water, on your secondary points. I fish more at creek mouths, on points in a little deeper water. I throw a lot of crankbaits after the spawn. Anything from a 4-footer to a 10-footer with a square bill, like a Bagley. I also throw a lot of Bombers. Most run about 4 feet deep.
"I don't fish straight banks," Deckard continued. "I want a point or two, along with a ditch or two coming in along the bank. I'll fish where there are a couple of ditches coming in -- something to break up the bottom a bit.
"That's during the first month after the spawn. After that bass start the summer pattern. I concentrate on main lake stuff -- fencerows, old roadbeds, treelines. I flip 1/4-ounce spinnerbaits. I don't fish very deep; 10
or 12 feet is the deepest I fish."
Truman is noted for spreading out during flood periods, and often the Corps holds water for flood control, which changes the approach to bass fishing.
"I love it when the ol' lake comes up," said Deckard. "Of course, it depends on the time of the year. In spring or fall, I go to the back of those little washes and ditches, and fish in the flooded vegetation using spinnerbaits. Topwater is going to work; you can catch fish on buzzbaits for a day or two or super flukes, like a Slug-Go. I throw flukes without any weight in flooded vegetation, then twitch it back in.
"On Tebo arm I like Clear Creek and Big Creek. There's an island; I fish around that island, near the back of the island.
"On Grand River arm, I usually start fishing about mile number 16, where the water starts getting a little dingy, and I'll fish up to about mile 30. There's a couple of big creeks I like; one right near Bucksaw Marina, Cedar Creek, and another Otter Creek about mile 30.
"On the Osage I don't usually start fishing until I get past mile 30 near Berry Bend; I fish up to Telley Bend near the recreation area.
"I like the mouth of the Pomme de Terre River; I only fish up to about mile 21. You need to know how to run the Pomme. It's shallow, and you need to stay in the river channel.
"What I like about Truman: Different from Lake of the Ozarks, in summer you don't have all of that recreational-type boating. You're going to be fishing up in the creeks, in the trees and stumps; pleasure-boaters are out on the main lake. That's why I picked Truman to guide on. You can find about any type of water you want to fish; clear water, dingy water, or even muddy water. I personally like dingy water, because bass stay shallower."
If you would like to fish with Marvin Deckard or just to find out what's happening on the lake, write him at Bucksaw Marina, 670 S.E. 803 Rd., Clinton, MO 64735, or call (660) 477-3900.
Regardless of what lake you fish or whom you fish with, Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake provide great bass fishing. They're Bass Central for Missouri.