OSAGE BEACH, Mo. – The cool and wet conditions continued for the Knockout Round of the Bass Boat Technologies Stage Four Presented by Bass Cat on Lake of the Ozarks, and a wholesale shift away from sight fishing is in full effect as the eight advancing pros prepare for the Championship Round.
Wesley Strader made a third-period run to the top of SCORETRACKER® to pass Andy Morgan for the lead and eventually won the round with 11 bass for 34 pounds, 2 ounces. Missouri pro Jeremy Lawyer was able to secure the final spot in the top eight by just 10 ounces over ninth-place Cody Meyer to secure Lawyer’s first Championship Round berth in his Bass Pro Tour career.
Strader is the round winner but admitted once his day was done that the Knockout Round really isn’t the round you want to win. Still, he was able to build some confidence in his bait and pattern: blind casting a 3/8-ounce compact jig and a Zoom Speed Craw trailer.
“I just hope they bite as good (Thursday) as they did today,” Strader said. “I think I found an area of the lake that’s got some fish willing to bite. Some of them are up spawning and some of them aren’t. I know I’m gonna have to have a better day than I had today to win.”
The Tennessee pro cast to bedding fish in roughly 2 feet of water. While the sight-fishing bite has slowed, that doesn’t mean that Strader’s — and other anglers’ — ability to catch bedding fish has dwindled.
“I saw them on beds, but most of the time I’m just blind casting to a bed,” Strader said. “I’m catching bedding fish, but I’m not actually sight fishing, if that makes sense. The key is going to be to find the right area that has fish moving up or aggressive fish. You want to find fish that are either aggressive protecting their bed or aggressive feeding. If you can find both, even better.”
Mark Rose, Dean Rojas and Jonathon VanDam each are moving on to the Championship Round of Stage Four thanks to their moves into the top eight in the final period. Rose moved up from 10th place to seventh, VanDam from 12th to sixth, and Rojas made a massive move from 26th all the way to fourth.
Rojas caught a 2-14, 4-2, 3-12 and 5-4 in the final 90 minutes of the day to secure his spot. Rojas seems to be working mainly with a vibrating jig and fishing for sight fish when he happens to come across them in the pockets he’s fishing up the Osage River.
VanDam says he caught all his fish on Wednesday using a ¾-ounce wobble head with an Alabama Craw Googan Baits Bandito Bug. VanDam is fishing in a little bit deeper water — around 5 to 10 feet — but he’s still working near boat docks.
“It’s kind of a grinder out there, but I feel like I’m doing the right thing,” VanDam said. “I haven’t been fishing near anyone all week and I feel like I have my area kind of all to myself. I feel like I’m around the quality of fish to keep me in the running.”
Rose stayed away from sight fishing on Wednesday, catching his fish up the Osage River with a jig. The Arkansas pro was able to bring in the Berkley Big Bass of the Day with a 6-1 largemouth, as well as a 5-6 and a 4-4 to finish with seven total bass for 24-5.
MLF NOW! on-the-water reporter Rob Newell mentioned at the end of the broadcast that as the rain continues to fall, the backs of the creeks and pockets where we’ve seen sight fisherman all week are starting to get muddied up. He mentioned as the rain poured for much of the day Wednesday, he noticed muddied water draining into many of the pockets and creeks. That could spell the end of the sight-fishing derby that dominated for much of the first four days of competition.
“I just don’t think there’s a big giant wad of fish coming up to spawn shallow anymore,” VanDam said. “I think some of the sight fishing has been depleted a little bit. I think it’s starting to shift more toward being in the right area rather than finding them with your eyes up shallow.”
Jacob Wheeler qualified for the Championship Round after winning his group by sight fishing. He mentioned after he had clinched that he knew he wouldn’t be able to win just sight fishing. His prediction seems that it might hold true.
More rain and cooler temperatures are expected overnight and for at least Thursday morning. We’ll see how the weather continues to affect the anglers’ ability to see bedding fish shallow.
Stage Four concludes with the Championship Round on Thursday. The final 10 anglers will each vie for a shot at the $100,000 prize. Weights will reset to zero once again and the angler with the most weight on SCORETRACKER® after three periods of fishing will be crowned the Stage Four Champion. Lines are in at 8 a.m. CT. Live coverage begins at 7:45 a.m. CT on the MLF NOW! live stream. Watch for free on MajorLeagueFishing.com, the MLF app, or the MyOutdoorTV app.