UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Kentucky / Barkley Lake

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Fall is on the way at Lake of the Ozarks

Fall is on the way at Lake of the Ozarks

After finishing practice under calm and summery conditions, competitors in the last Costa FLW Series Central Division event of the season might face much different weather by the end of the week. Taking off from Public Beach #2 on Lake of the Ozarks, the event is presented by Evinrude and hosted by the Tri-County Lodging Association. With the leaves just beginning to turn in the Missouri mountains, the time feels ripe for one of the first truly “fall” tournaments of the year.

 

About the fishery

Lake of the Ozarks is a gigantic fishery. Running more than 90 miles long with over 1000 miles of shoreline, it offers everything an angler could want outside of grass. With rocks, points, timber, laydowns, offshore structure and a bazillion docks, the bass have plenty of places to live and grow. About 100 feet deep at the deepest, Lake of the Ozarks is a fairly steep lake, with hundreds of creeks and pockets off the main lake to choose from. The vast majority are upward of 20 feet deep in the middle. The depth and size of the lake make for great fishing most times, and for largemouth bass, it is almost unquestionably the best of the Ozark lakes. Of course, it isn’t limited to just that, and a big smallmouth or spotted bass could certainly show up in a weigh bag or two. The primary forage in the lake is shad (threadfin and gizzard), but there are plenty of crawfish as well as a few bluegill in the mix.

 

Current conditions

Lake of the Ozarks is currently at regular summer pool, and just at the front of the summer-to-fall transition. Even though it is October, the region hasn’t been hit by a frost yet, and the last week was decidedly summery. The water is still warm, but not wicked hot like it was back in July, and there are no water clarity issues to be aware of.

One factor that is very visible, but might not matter much is the shad. In most of the creeks, there are absolute piles of small shad. Though the shad are omnipresent, most of the anglers have reported that it is difficult to actually target bass around them.

The wild card this week is an approaching cold front. Sometime between Thursday and Friday, the temperature is slated to drop about 20 degrees as the wind switches from south to north. If the forecast is to be believed, the field should stay fairly dry, but during that change-up Thursday night, there’s rain in the forecast as well. Also based on the forecast, Saturday looks to be solidly post-frontal, which will really give the anglers three totally different days of fishing to deal with.

 

Tactics in play

“From topwaters to deep crankbaits to docks, you’ll have them caught just about every way,” says Dion Hibdon, who should know as well as anyone. Effective baits will run the gamut. Nevertheless, he’s of the opinion that shallow is the way to go. “I’m almost sure fishing shallow will win, but it will be on a variety of baits. They live there, but it’s not easy right now. There might be a day where the guy who wins weighs one caught on a shaky head.”

Per to Hibdon, because the bass are all over the place this time of year, the local advantage is mitigated quite a bit, which should be good news for Joey Cifuentes, of Clinton, Ark., who is 14th in points – on the cusp of qualifying for the Walmart FLW Tour from the FLW Series as well as the co-angler side on Tour.

“There’s no doubt in my mind,” says Cifuentes. “I think mostly it's going to be shallow.”

Cifuentes is also on board with the crowd that thinks there are too many shad back in the creeks.

“I’ve been back in the creeks, and it seems the farther back the more shad there are and the fewer bites I get,” says Cifuentes. “It’s hard to compete with all those shad. Your jig doesn’t look like much when every dock has a hundred of them on it.”

Even with all the shallow talk, some of the locals think that offshore bass might be a factor.

“I think this is going to be one of those years where someone who is local with knowledge of the deeper stuff really plays,” says Jeremy Lawyer, who hails from Sarcoxie, Mo., and won the BFL All-American this summer. “It’s been warmer this year than usual, and sweet spots on the channel swings or brush piles that only locals know might be strong.”

Prior to practice, Marcus Sykora declared that he intended to fish offshore, and just that additional factor is enough to give at least some pause to the idea of shallow fish dominating. Sykora has five BFL wins on Lake of the Ozarks, so anything he says carries a good deal of weight in this situation.

 

Critical factors

Pressure – Last weekend, the Lake of the Ozarks Big Bass Bash was held. In the event, more than 3,000 anglers plied the waters looking for lunkers. According to many, that amount of pressure affected the bite, and Lawyer says that it often takes two weeks for the lake to fish “normal” again. It might require moving offshore, or it might take a bait change, but the pros who can adjust best might be primed to do well.

The weather – With some big weather on the way, the pattern a pro fishes on day one might not last through day two. While it will take some adjustment, pros such as Greg Bohannan and Lawyer agree that some nasty weather should be great for the fishing. Historically, the Ozark bass respond very well to wind and rain, and the approaching front could go a long way toward getting the fish out of the post-Big Bass Bash funk.

 

Greg Bohannan, Bill McDonald

Dock talk

A BFL Super Tournament held in late September produced striking catches across the board, and Ed Young won with 37 pounds, 13 ounces over two days. Most pros don’t expect quite that level of success this week.

“I think 13 pounds a day, maybe a little more will make the cut,” says Cifuentes. “I think it is tougher than what people who aren’t out fishing think.”

“I’d say you need at leas two 15 1/2-pound bags to get into the top 10,” says Richard Ison of North Vernon, Ind. “That big bass thing knocked them in the head pretty good, but a couple of days will make it better.”

“Fifteen pounds per day will probably win it,” says Hibdon. “I’ve won here before this time of year, and 30 to 32 pounds over two days is normally what wins this time of year.”

As an additional note, Hibdon says that the key to a really big bag isn’t a limit of 4-pounders, but rather a lot of 3-pounders and then a big kicker.

 

Points watch

Lake of the Ozarks is the culmination of the Central Division season, and indeed, the entire regular season of the Costa FLW Series. With the end of the season comes the Strike King Angler of the Year award. The reward from winning can be rich, as the $2,000 prize package includes deposits for the 2017 season of FLW Series competition, and the winning pro as well as the rest of the top 40 pros and co-anglers qualify for the Costa FLW Series Championship.

Currently, Daniel Kweekul is leading the pack with 494 points. He’s on fire this year, and hasn’t finished outside of the top 10 yet, banking a runner-up finish to start at Lake Dardanelle and a sixth-place finish on Kentucky Lake. This time around, he’s not exactly brimming with confidence, and doesn’t believe he’s around big fish.

Behind Kweekul, Christopher Jones, Steve Floyd and Teddy Bogard each have 487 points and are in hot pursuit. Lurking farther back, in eighth and ninth place, respectively, renowned Ozark anglers Marcus Sykora and Mark Tucker have 454 and 452 points and are perhaps just within striking distance.

 

Three BFL All-American champions.

The All-American Champs

Though FLW Bass Fishing League All-American champions have come from all over the country, in recent years the Ozark Division has reigned supreme when it comes to winning the workingman’s championship, the BFL All-American. Left to right, Jeremy Lawyer (the 2016 champ), Marcus Sykora (2014) and Brian Maloney (2012) are all champions who have spent plenty of time on Lake of the Ozarks, and got their shot at the big time in part because of the Ozark Division. All three are fishing this week, and each figures to be a strong contender for the win. 

 

Tournament details

Format: All boaters and co-anglers will compete for two days. The top 10 boaters and co-anglers based on cumulative weight after two days of competition will advance to the third and final round, with the winner determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.

Takeoff Time: 7:00 a.m. CT

Takeoff Location: Public Beach #2, 711 Public Beach Road, Osage Beach, Mo. 65065

Weigh-In Time: 3:00 p.m. CT days one and two, 4:00 p.m. CT on day three

Weigh-In Location: Public Beach #2 on days one and two, day three at Walmart, 4252 Highway 54, Osage Beach, Mo. 65065

Complete details

Tags: jody-white  morning-story  2016-10-06-lake-of-the-ozarks 

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