The Bass Pro Tour took Stage Four of its 2022 season to Missouri’s legendary Lake of the Ozarks, a staple of the pro tours for decades, and a venue that has launched the careers of many legends, including Hall of Famer Denny Brauer. You want to know why Denny may be the greatest flipper who ever lived? It’s because you can’t fire a cast in any direction on the big lake without coming close to or hitting a dock.
Yes, boat docks just about always play a role on this fishery – and they were key to the win this time around -- but they’re not the only game in town.
The first wave of spawners were on beds when the competitors arrived, but the full spawn was still coming. That left competitors in position to search for areas that would replenish as the tournament progressed. These guys are the best in the world at that. However, with several heavy rains during the event and the water rising, the best bedding areas got deeper and harder to find, and the new fish didn’t come up as expected. That made this a true test of the best.
Mossy Oak Fishing Lake Breakdown
Host: Osage Beach, Missouri
Launch Site: Grand Glaize Marina Recreation Area
Lake Description: Lake of the Ozarks is a premier recreational and vacation destination for fun lovers from throughout the Midwest. It has a surface area of 54,000 acres, and the main channel of the Osage Arm is 92 miles long with several other tributaries providing significant fishing opportunities. The Bagnell Dam was completed in 1931, and many towns were flooded to create the lake.
Navigation: Lake of the Ozarks has well-defined river channels and is tailor made for easy recreational boating, with few unmarked hazards. The only occasional complication is the flotilla of pleasure boats – some of them massive – which stir up the water.
Bass Species Present: Most fish weighed in at tournaments on Lake of the Ozarks are largemouth bass, but there are also spotted bass. All bass had to be 2 pounds or heavier to be scorable in this event.
Other Species Present: Lake of the Ozarks is one of the world’s best crappie fisheries and also has substantial populations of various catfish. Walleye are regularly stocked.
Weather: Over the six days of competition, the Bass Pro Tour anglers were treated to a wide range of temperatures, which made layering and planning a fishing strategy critical. There were several heavy rains during practice and competition, which led to rising water and a tricky bite – the bass wanted to be shallow in full-blown reproductive mode, but were hesitant to make the commitment.
Top Lures at Lake of the Ozarks
Looking at how the top ten fished, there’s a pretty even distribution among finesse plastics, flipping baits and jigs, with several competitors mixing and matching to get the job done. This was a shallow water event, with a plurality or majority of the fish being caught off beds – seen or not. In between the docks and the bedding zones, several anglers utilized vibrating jigs to cover water and pick up “bonus” fish.
Lake of the Ozarks gets not only a lot of fishing pressure but a lot of intelligent fishing pressure, and that put a premium on little hacks aimed at getting an extra bite or two. Fish had to be 2 pounds or heavier to count, and in the final round the winner prevailed by just over the weight of a single bare keeper.
How to Fish Lake of the Ozarks in Late Spring
Over the next few weeks, the spawning bass that dominated this event should continue to trickle in, but the ones who have completed the ritual will start to turn to other pursuits. On Lake of the Ozarks, there’s always a dock fishing bite, so don’t look for them to all go deep, but you might need to catch them in different ways. The jigs, flipping baits and finesse soft plastics that dominated in Stage Four will continue to produce, but look for some other techniques to come into play. There may be a bite on topwaters and flukes around fry guarders, and look for some fish to move offshore, where they’ll be susceptible to crankbaits and Carolina Rigs. One notable factor that will increase this time of year is boat traffic, so look for out-of-the-way places or try to do your damage early.
Top Mossy Oak Performer
Right on the heels of his stellar victory at the 2022 Redcrest Championship, Jordan Lee kept his foot on the gas. No, he didn’t win, or even finish in the top 10, but with a solid 23rd place performance he held onto second place in the year-long Angler of the Year race. That’s familiar territory for the multi-tour champion.
Meanwhile, Kevin VanDam may not have been at his best in Missouri, but he likewise didn’t cede much ground in the year-long marathon for the title. With seven Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles under his belt, if he’s in the hunt as the season comes to a close, everyone ahead of him had better watch out.
Another former Champ, Ott DeFoe, wasn’t at his best on Lake of the Ozarks, but with the Bass Pro Tour heading to Watts Bar Lake in his East Tennessee stomping grounds in just a few weeks, look for him to get back on track with gusto.
What They’ve Been Wearing
With the wide range of temperature changes throughout the tournament, and indeed, even throughout each day, layering was critical. If you’re headed out this month and you want to be able to see the bass and protect yourself from the sun at the same time, consider the Mossy Oak Elements Tournament Tech Hoodie. It’s a favorite of the pros and you’ll look great in it while staying comfortable.