March 12, 2011 by David A. Brown
OSAGE BEACH, Mo. - Going into the final round of EverStart Central Division action on Lake of the Ozarks, David Ryan knew his chances of victory were pretty steep. Starting the day nearly four pounds off the lead, the Missouri pro took that theme to heart and pulled out the win in dramatic fashion.
The Levasy, Mo. pro took eighth place on day one with 17 pounds, 14 ounces and rose to third on day two with 16-15. On day three, with some of the lake's top sticks poised for final round heroics, Ryan filled the weigh-in tank with the largest bag of day three - a 17-pound, 10-ounce effort that yielded a total of 52-7.
Ryan said that intensifying his practice effort paid off in a big way, as he identified steep banks in creeks as the scenario that produced the quality fish he needed. His ability to pinpoint the right pattern actually came from a recent competition in which he was not satisfied with the caliber of fish he was catching.
"I've been on the water for a while now," Ryan said. "I fished a local tournament last weekend and didn't do as well as I would have wanted. Right after I weighed in on Sunday, I went to another boat ramp and fished until dark because I knew I was not catching the right fish in order to be able to compete in this event.
Ryan caught his fish on a Black Market 110 jerkbait from his Dave's Custom Baits selection. Missouri Shad was his most productive color. Fortunately, he equipped himself with a backup, as he inadvertently damaged his main lure.
"It's a good thing I had another of the baits I was using, because I broke the other one," Ryan said. "The fish were very shallow. I felt a little tick and I thought it was a fish, but it was a rock. When I went to (set the hook), it broke the bill right off the bait. That happens in the cold water - they get brittle."
Ryan used 10-pound Berkley 100 percent Trilene fluorocarbon, which helped sink the bait and keep it down for a slow, subtle presentation.
"That was the key - you couldn't be very aggressive with your twitches; you had to let it sit," he said. "I went through a lot of fish. I probably had 12-15 keepers the first day. I absolutely blew their doors off yesterday. I had over 20 keepers. Today, I leaned on them pretty good and I had at least 15 keepers."
Ryan said that, despite the week's fluctuating weather - cold and cloudy on day one, sunny and clear for day two and returning clouds on day three - Lake of the Ozarks showed its merit.
"This is an exceptional fishery," Ryan said. "If a person was going to make a top-10 list of fisheries across the nation, this place is in it. Thank God I'm here."
Brueggemann sticks with jigs
Illinois pro Dan Brueggeman is an admitted jerkbait fan. However, when his favored Lake of the Ozarks bait wasn't doing the trick, he switched to a jig and kept himself near the top of the field the entire event. His 19-pound, 3-ounce limit on day one put him in third place and 16-15 on day two moved him up to second. He finished in the second place position after a limit of 14-9 on day three gave him a total weight of 51-8.
Brueggemann targeted transitional banks with chunk rock and pea gravel in the Lake's Osage Arm. He had been catching his fish on a 3/8-ounce Chompers Standup jig with a scented, brown trailer made by Hold On Hand Poured Plastics, but he ran out of those baits on day two. He substituted a Chompers hula grub on day three.
Brueggemann used a medium-heavy rod with 15-pound Vicious fluorocarbon and slowly dragged his jig across the bottom. The bites, he said were very light, as the fish just sucked up the bait as it imitated a crawfish. Brueggemann said he noticed that many of the fish he caught in practice were feeding on crawfish, as evidenced by their rosy grins.
"It's unbelievable how red the top lips get on these bass when they're feeding on crawfish (and bumping rocks)," he said. The redder the better.
"A jerkbait pattern won this tournament, but I gave him a run with the crawdad pattern. That's how Lake of the Ozarks pans out. There are two patterns that you can get on."
Slow bite drops Hawk to third
Shallow water specialist Roy Hawk led the pro field on days one and two. He set the early mark with a limit catch of 22-6 - the event's heaviest sack. He followed up with 16-4 and concluded day three with 10-13 and a final weight of 49-7.
Hawk spent the entire tournament fishing a Spro Little John MD in a secluded creek that afforded plenty of room to fish his way.
"I just got in there really tight, in stained water and just cranked and cranked and cranked," Hawk said. "I made really accurate casts, right along the bank and covered tons and tons of water.
"Thank goodness the creek I was in wasn't crowded and I was able to spread out and fish that crankbait. If I had been in one of (the lake's) other creeks that was more crowded, there would be no way."
Jones jumps up to fourth
Matthew Jones, of Spokane, Mo. earned a final round berth with his eighth place performance on day two. He made a big move on day three, gaining four spots to finish fourth with 48-7.
Jones fished a Megabass jerkbait in the Ito Natural color over a mile-long stretch of bank in the lake's Gravois Arm. Stained water was essential to the spot's productivity.
"Normally, I would catch them in the brush piles, but the fish were really shallow," Jones said. "I caught eight or nine keepers the first day and 10 or 12 the second day. I only got six bites today but they were quality."
Wenners hits docks for fifth
Peter Wenners, of Galena, Mo. held the fourth place spot for two days before dropping to fifth in the final round with 45-13. Throwing a 3/8-ounce jig with a Zoom Critter Craw trailer around heavy cover near shallow docks in the backs of creeks was the productive pattern for Wenners.
"I came into this tournament intending to catch them on a jerkbait but during the last day of practice I started getting into some jig fish," Wenners said. "Everybody was throwing jerkbaits, but I got on this little deal with the jig. The docks had to have no more than five or six feet in front of them and I was catching the fish in the backs - in two to four feet."
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the EverStart Series Lake of the Ozarks event:
6th: Dennis Berhorst, of Holts Summit, Mo., 44-1
7th: James Stamper, of Montreal, Mo., 41-15
8th: Greg Bohannan, of Rogers, Ark., 36-13
9th: Randall Hutson, of Washburn, Mo., 36-10
10th: Earl K. Garrison, IV, of Bull Shoals, Ark., 36-4