Early October on Lake of the Ozarks should have the fish already set up on fall patterns, but a recent spell of hot weather has them deep, shallow and everywhere in between. Luckily, fall is finally in the air for the Costa FLW Series Central Division season finale, which is presented by Evinrude, and the weights are higher than most expected.
Leader Joey Cifuentes cracked 21 pounds, 3 ounces fishing docks and the rest of the top five pros are hot on his heels doing much of the same.
2. Joel Rumsey – Waverly, Tenn. – 19-12
In just his second time at Lake of the Ozarks, Joel Rumsey is having the time of his life. While this lake is a far cry from the Tennessee River impoundments he is used to, he found enough similarities to keep him happy.
“I really like fishing [Lake of the Ozarks],” says Rumsey. “It is pretty easy to pattern when you get on a pattern. I’m used to fishing ledges on Kentucky Lake and it seems like the fish are still in their summer pattern here.
“I caught two good fish this morning and another good one a little later and that’s when I figured out where they were positioning. I didn’t have to run a lot of spots, but I knew where to focus from there, that way I can keep my hook wet for more time and I think that makes a big difference.”
Rumsey is fishing slow and not moving around much. In fact, he’s only burned 3/8 of a tank of gas so far from practice and the tournament.
“I don’t think you can get quality bites without slowing down,” adds Rumsey. “I fished 10 or so different places and I still have five more I never hit today. I only caught 10 to 15 fish today, but the fish seem to be reloading and I just have to keep rotating through my areas.”
3. Jason Vance – Battle Ground, Ind. – 19-8
Making the trek over from Indiana was Jason Vance whose love of dock fishing is being put to work this week.
“I’m used to fishing small lakes back in Indiana with docks, so I’m a dock fisherman," Vance says. "I love skipping docks, so Lake of the Ozarks is like Heaven for me."
The key for Vance was getting a limit early before switching over to find a big bite or two.
“I started on a spot that I got my limit in the first 20 minuets and my co-angler had three fish,” Vance explains. “I left them biting on that spot. I checked it every day of practice and some days it’d have small fish and some days it’d have 3- and 4-pounders. I don’t know what it’ll have tomorrow, but I know I can get bit off it.”
From there, Vance went “lunker hunting” and culled up three times. For good reasons, Vance wanted to keep the details under wraps, but says that it is a very specific deal with no pressure around him.
“Another big thing is to be around the bait,” Vance says. “If you aren’t around the shad, then you aren’t around the bass. The fish are in transition and you just have to keep following them.
“I’d also like to thank some people for the support to even be out here. I need to thank Bob Rohrman Toyota and Lew’s, because without them I wouldn’t be able to be out here doing this.”
4. David Ryan – Levasy, Mo. – 19-1
Local knowledge usually goes a long way in the Ozarks, and David Ryan took full advantage of that today to wrangle over 19 pounds after a fairly dismal practice.
“I was kind of bummed after practice,” says Ryan. “I didn’t check some of my best stuff, but I checked areas I knew some fish should be and just didn’t have much luck.
“Part of the problem is that we’ve had rising water temperatures over the last few weeks and the fish just aren’t on the bank like they should be and neither are the shad. There were actually more fish shallow back in September than there are now.”
To counter the bad practice, Ryan utilized his knowledge of what fish should be doing this time of year during a cold front and ran it to perfection.
“This time of year, knowing that a cold front was coming in like it did today, I knew I had to fish the Osage River,” Ryan says. “I didn’t practice up there, but I knew areas I could catch fish. I only got seven bites and two of them were Kentuckys (spotted bass).”
He flipped some, threw a vibrating jig and tossed a Dave’s Custom Baits Black Market Balsa crankbait (his own brand) around docks. While docks were important, the topography around the dock was the main focal point.
Despite the success he had up the river today, tomorrow is another day, and he might try something completely different.
“Man, I might just wheel it around and head the opposite direction tomorrow,” says the Missouri pro. “The conditions are going to be a little different tomorrow and on this lake fishing the conditions is a good call. I’ve lost so much sleep over the years from thinking about how to catch a green fish. I’ll probably decide what I’m doing in the morning and try to think outside the box.”
5. Dan Martin – Elmhurst, Ill. – 18-3
The common theme from the majority of the top pros seems to be learn from past experience on Lake of the Ozarks, and Dan Martin is another pro who fits that bill.
“I’ve fished the lake a few times over the years and I finally got a sense for what they should be doing this time of year,” says Martin. “I started looking for them in the backs of the creeks, but they weren’t there so I moved out until I found them. It seems like they are in a summer pattern and are staging to move back into the creeks.
“I’m targeting specific rock with brush near docks. I probably have 30 waypoints with that mixture and I only hit four or five today.”
Martin caught nearly 20 fish, but only eight of them were keeper bites. Still, it didn’t deter him from his game plan.
“I’m throwing a big worm on a shaky head around the brush and when I land in it, I don’t move the bait. My line will just start swimming off.
“I haven’t seen anyone doing what I’m doing and I feel really comfortable fishing the way I am.”