OSAGE BEACH, Mo. – When the schedule came out, everyone circled Phoenix Boats Stop 4 Presented by Mystik Lubricants as a surefire spawning slugfest. It seemed like a guarantee that the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals pros would descend on Lake of the Ozarks with tons of big ones on beds, and with a field that includes some of the premier sight-fishermen in the country.
After three days of practice, highlighted by brisk winds and cool nights, pretty much everyone in the field believes they can catch a million bass. Unfortunately, actually pinning down a pattern to put tournament-winning fish in the boat seems to be pretty tricky.
One of several interesting locals in the event, Brock Reinkemeyer has a Toyota Series win to his credit on Lake of the Ozarks and has proven to be plenty capable outside of his home turf as well. According to the Warsaw, Missouri, pro, there’s a lot on the table.
“I think they’re in all three stages,” he detailed. “I’ve been catching prespawn, postspawn and spawning fish. There are a lot on the beds, a lot of small ones. And where I’ve been, there are a lot of empty beds. You’ll see sight-fishing because the lake is clean, super clean in places. You’ll have your river guys that will just go up there and flip at the bank or wind a ChatterBait. You might even see a little bit of offshore stuff, not too much, but maybe offshore in the pockets and the spawning areas.”
Reinkemeyer doesn’t think the weights will be extraordinary but definitely expects good things.
“I’m excited for this one,” he said. “A limit isn’t the problem, you need a couple big ones a day. I would say like 18 a day, maybe 17 a day, to win. Unless somebody finds the right ones and they all bite. That spawn time is funky, either they bite like mad or they don’t bite at all. I think a typical 13 or 14 pounds a day will get you paid, and 17 or 18 a day to win.”
Having never seen Lake of the Ozarks before, Nick Hatfield was hoping for a straightforward spawning derby. But, he’s resigned to that not being the case.
“If the weather would have been warmer and better, I think this week would have been fun,” he said. “But, with the cool nights, I think we’re like a week early. Maybe if it’s warm next week it’ll be going off. I’ve never been here, but what I’ve heard is that when they’re spawning, you can go in a pocket and find 20 or 30 of them. Now, you can find one or two, and most of them are just bucks.”
Still, it doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to get bites.
“You can have a lot going on, you can catch a pile of fish,” said the 2022 Polaris Rookie of the Year. “But, catching keepers and catching good ones is hard. Somebody probably has them found doing one thing, and they’re probably going to catch them really good. But, I’m going to have to do several different things to put together a good bag.”
One of the storylines this week might be rapidly fluctuating weather. Day 1 started off pretty nippy, but it should rapidly warm. Day 2 is set to be warm, windy and wet, and the final day could be nearly perfect, with highs approaching 90 and plenty of sun. Combined, the windows for perfect sight-fishing are going to be slim.
Hatfield thinks the best time to catch a big one on a bed may be in the last few minutes of the event.
“I told the boys I’m staying with last night, if you make it to Saturday, from lunch to weigh-in on Saturday is probably going to be really good. I’d say you could probably find some big ‘uns,” he said.
Of course, getting to Saturday may take more than just bed fish. But, Reinkemeyer thinks the conditions in the offing aren’t necessarily negatives.
“I think it’s going to hurt some sight fishermen for sure,” Hatfield opined. “But the swimbait, glide bait, topwater stuff should be better in the low light.”
So, stand by. Lake of the Ozarks is one of the best lakes in the country when it’s on, and it has a really tremendous population of bass. This week could prove to be very tricky, or it could turn out to be one of the most interesting events of the year.