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Here Comes Fall in the Ozarks

Here Comes Fall in the Ozarks

Mother Nature will deliver a big part of the story this week as the 2018 Costa FLW Series season comes to a close on Lake of the Ozarks. The tournament, which is presented by Evinrude, will wrap up the Central Division and finalize the field for the 2018 Costa FLW Series Championship scheduled for Nov. 1-3 at Lake Guntersville.

The trend of off-and-on rainy, stormy conditions in the Osage Beach, Mo., area leading up to this week’s tournament is forecast to continue on through the weekend, accompanied by a pretty drastic drop in air temperature that’ll make this at least feel like the first true fall derby of the year.

On the line are spots at the championship, the Central Division Strike King Angler of the Year title and tens of thousands in cash and prizes.

 

About the fishery

Lake of the Ozarks, as its name implies, is a pretty classic Ozark reservoir. It features a narrow, snaking main body with four primary branches and endless points and pockets, all lined by rolling hills.

The reservoir was built to generate power for St. Louis, which is located about three hours to the east and contributes a significant amount of fishing and boating pressure. It sprawls over about 93 square miles with more than 1,100 miles of shoreline.

Most non-fishing folks associate Lake of the Ozarks with the popular Netflix show Ozark, but anyone inclined to wet a line on the weekends instead of vegging out in front of a television knows the lake for its endless parade of docks, points and pockets – all fishable targets, particularly this time of year.

 

Current conditions

Fall is finally here, and everyone in the Ozarks is feeling that fact this morning. Yesterday, a streak of weather with highs in the 80s finally broke, and the temperature started to fall as a cold front made its way through the region. The forecast high for day one is only 56 degrees, and it’s likely to not get much – or any – warmer throughout the tournament. Lows in the evenings are predicted to drop down into the 40s and even the upper 30s.

A cooldown isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially in the Ozarks, where the bass are notorious for chomping in the gnarliest conditions in the fall and winter. But now it’s the second day after a front, sunny and cool, with a northwest wind blowing at about 10 mph. Those aren’t easy conditions for sorting things out. The recent span of warm weather also has the shad still scattered out, according to Missouri pro Jeremy Lawyer. He’s seen water temperatures around 80 degrees, and until that number drops and the shad bunch up in the backs of creeks, the bass don’t bother schooling up either.

The best thing anglers have going for them is the extended forecast: rain and thunderstorms expected for days two and three. Lawyer hopes this next bout of nasty weather might allow guys to get bit on reaction baits.

“Everybody is rooting for this cold front to get here because it’ll fire these fish up, but I think it’s too little, too late,” he says. “The topwater bite seems to be nonexistent. You can catch one on it, but it’s not consistent. With the absence of bait the dock bite seems like it’s not as good either.”

 

Tactics in play

Traditionally, this is topwater season in the Ozarks, though other reaction baits such as spinnerbaits and crankbaits usually play too. Right now, that bite seems to be tough to figure out.

“There are some resident fish wherever you fish because the lake has a really good population right now, but I can’t seem to put together a pattern based on the conditions. It’s not like it should be,” says Lawyer. “With this rain we’ve had they’re going to pull a little current. I think the guys that are local out here that have some deep stuff and more of the summertime thing are going to shine in this deal. There are probably a lot of fish still out deep.

“There’ll be fish caught everywhere, but as far as patterns that people make the top 10 with, I think you’ll see more of that deep stuff.”

Other probable patterns include flipping and skipping docks, cranking lead-in banks, throwing topwaters pretty much all over, and running shallow pockets with a variety of baits. The lake is slightly clearer than normal, according to Lawyer, but a possible opportunity could stem from running stained water far up the lake’s feeder creeks. A resourceful angler could even target waters around the various check-in stations across the lake where bass were released during the recent Fall Big Bass Bash tournament.  

 

Critical factors

1. Fishing pressure – The 2018 Lake of the Ozarks Fall Big Bass Bash was held on the reservoir last weekend, and hosted more than 2,000 anglers. This popular tournament is notorious for applying serious pressure to the lake’s bass, and locals often say it takes a couple weeks for things to recover. Costa FLW Series pros will be fishing right in the wake of the annual mega-derby, and they’ll likely feel some impacts from it.

2. The weather – Obviously, weather is always a factor, but it’s likely the deciding factor in this event. Lawyer believes that if the forecast for today is wrong, and some rain and cloud cover would show up early or linger on into the day, that might improve things. Otherwise, day one might be about survival, and tomorrow about moving up the ladder. 

3. The championship and AOY – The final event of any Costa FLW Series division always comes with a few strategic wrinkles for some of the competitors. Most notable is the decision of whether to swing for the fences and try to make the cut or play it safe in order to have a good finish and stay in championship contention – or do both in order to climb out of the AOY cellar. For anglers at the top of the standings, a valuable Strike King AOY prize pack is also on the line. While anyone who finds winning fish is going to try and parlay them into a trophy, pros who might be on a so-so pattern will have some decisions to make to protect their spot in the standings or try to make a move up the ranks.

 

Dock talk

Despite the fact that Lawyer describes the current conditions at Lake of the Ozarks as “abnormal,” he doesn’t anticipate a major drop-off in the weight needed to place in the top 10 or compete for the win. Likely, he expects the locals to pull a few secrets out of their hats in order to prove him right.

“Upper end, I think you’ll see somebody have 19 to 20 pounds to lead it,” he says of day one. “A two-day cut weight is probably still around 26. Somebody could put 13 together each day and probably make the top 10. I think you’ll see some guys catch 15 one day and two fish the next or something like that. There’ll be a lot of guys that do well the first day and don’t catch them the second, and vise versa. The guy that can just run the tortoise race is the guy that makes the cut.”

 

Tournament details

Dates: Oct. 11-13, 2018

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 in each category determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.

Takeoff Time: 7 a.m. CT

Takeoff Location: Public Beach #2, 711 Public Beach Road, Osage Beach, MO

Weigh-In Time: 3 p.m. CT

Weigh-In Location: Public Beach #2

Tournament details page

Tags: curtis-niedermier  morning-story  2018-10-11-lake-of-the-ozarks 

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