Hot water, mixed fishing at Lake of the Ozarks - Major League Fishing

Hot water, mixed fishing at Lake of the Ozarks

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Day 1 at Lake of the Ozarks got off to a beautiful start. Photo by Patterson Leeth.
September 28, 2023 • Sean Ostruszka • Toyota Series

OSAGE BEACH, Mo. – Your calendar may say it’s nearly October, but that might be a hard sell this week.

Sure, there are a few pops of fall color around Lake of the Ozarks, but the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Plains Division finale looks like it’s going to be fished in gorgeous conditions you might find at the end of August, not September. 

Lows in the 60s and highs in the mid-to-upper 80s, with plenty of sun, have the lake pretty far behind in the fall transition and has the fish pretty scattered and should give anglers a tough time trying to figure out patterns.

Still, it’s Lake of the Ozarks. Pros and Strike King co-anglers alike are going to catch plenty of fish, especially with the Bassmaster Open last week showing what some of the top patterns could be for this event.  

All and all, should be a fun few days to wind down the season.

Heavily developed, Lake of the Ozarks is a unique and very productive fishery.

About the fishery

Lake of the Ozarks has been on the Toyota Series Central or Plains Division schedule every year since the series’ inception; so there are few secrets.

Though “Ozark” is right in the name, Lake of the Ozarks doesn’t really fish exactly like the famous lakes on the White River. The water is hardly dirty, but it doesn’t have that same clear blue quality that Beaver Lake and Bull Shoals boast. Also, largemouths are almost the exclusive target of tournament anglers at Lake of the Ozarks. The lake is also heavily developed – more like Grand Lake than some of the other Ozark lakes where bluffs and gravel banks are the predominant shoreline features.

As such, the patterns in play are generally less finesse-oriented and at least somewhat unique to Lake of the Ozarks. In years past in the fall, fishing topwaters, skipping docks, and fishing offshore brush and rock have all played.

Current conditions

Shorts, flip flops and sunscreen are going to be just as important this week as fishing gear.

As stated earlier, the weather looks to be pretty beautiful for the next three days. Though, as pleasant as it will be to fish in, it’s not making things ideal for the anglers in terms of actual fishing.

“The water is really hot for this time of year,” said Andy Newcomb, who made the Top 10 in the Bassmaster Open. “It’s 76-77 degrees at takeoff and might get up to 80 midday. Typically, by the second week of October, we’re in the 60s. So, it should definitely be 5-6 degrees cooler.”

That definitely has the fish holding off from rushing toward the backs of creeks like they normally would this time of year. Yet, Newcomb thinks the water level being dropped two weeks ago may be hindering the bank rush even more.

With that, Newcomb says there are fish pretty much everywhere.

“You might catch a good fish in a foot of water and catch another good fish in 40 feet of water,” Newcomb said. “I mean, I have a thousand deep spots here and a thousand shallow spots. Problem is, last week I didn’t know which way to go, because either could work. You just didn’t know.”

Tactics in play

This time of year is usually all about one thing on Lake of the Ozarks – topwaters. Thing is, the conditions may not let that bite play out, as the shad aren’t up shallow just yet.

So, while there will still be anglers fishing shallow with spinnerbaits and big swimbaits, don’t be surprised to see a lot of focus on deep brush piles with jigs, drop-shots and shaky heads. Some of the best locals on the lake are notorious for having fresh brush piles in sneaky places or strategically placed around special docks. That will definitely be a be player this week.

There’s a lot on the line from a points perspective this week. Photo by Patterson Leeth

Critical factors

  • Kickers – Anglers are going to catch piles of fish this week, and there’s an abundance of 3-pounders in the lake. Catching those heavy 4- and 5-pounders every day are what will be needed to separate yourself from the pack.
  • Shallow or deep – This might be the hardest decision, and the most critical, as either could be the winning pattern … or the losing one.
  • Local additions – While plenty of local anglers fished the Bassmaster Open, some notable ones like Roger and Corey Cook, and Lawson Hibdon didn’t because they had to fish a Wednesday night championship during off-limits for that event. They’ll be back in this one, though.
  • Angler of the Year – Basically, it’s a three-horse race between Brad Jelinek (509 points), Drew Gill (508) and Cole Breeden (503).

Dock talk

It’s your typical fall event on Lake of the Ozarks in terms of dock talk, which means one thing.

“Oh, there’s a lot of complaining about catching a ton of small fish and not being able to find quality,” Newcomb said. “But that’s just how it is here every year.

“This year is definitely a weird bite. So I think finding that quality bite may be a little tougher. Dialing in a pattern is definitely going to be tougher on guys. It’s going to be a grinders’ derby.”

That said, Lake of the Ozarks is as healthy as Newcomb has seen it in awhile, and thus, he’s still expecting a few 20-pound bags. And as for weights to win, he doesn’t expect much drop-off from what it took to win the Open.

“It took 17 pounds a day to win the Open,” Newcomb said. “So, I’d say maybe 16 pounds a day to win this one. Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the Cooks blow this thing away, or someone who finds a magic brush pile.”