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Fishing Reports

Fishing Report For March 2014

Saturday, March 1, 2014

This report is from the Bassing Bob monthly meeting with Bassing Bob’s experts covering the months of February and March. We were fortunate this month because all of Bassing Bob’s experts were able to attend. Present for our discussion: Jack Uxa of Jack’s Guide Service; Wayne Fitzpatrick, owner of Fitz Fishing Tackle & Supplies in Osage Beach; James Dill, owner of Crock-O-Gator Bait Company; and Denise Dill, Bassing Bob’s professional women’s advisor. Joining us as a guest this month was Mike Malone, a well-respected successful tournament fisherman at Lake of the Ozarks.

This report is from the Bassing Bob monthly meeting with Bassing Bob’s experts covering the months of February and March. We were fortunate this month because all of Bassing Bob’s experts were able to attend. Present for our discussion: Jack Uxa of Jack’s Guide Service; Wayne Fitzpatrick, owner of Fitz Fishing Tackle & Supplies in Osage Beach; James Dill, owner of Crock-O-Gator Bait Company; and Denise Dill, Bassing Bob’s professional women’s advisor.  Joining us as a guest this month was Mike Malone, a well-respected successful tournament fisherman at Lake of the Ozarks. 

This report can be viewed as an audio report on the Bassing Bob video page. There are 5 videos for this report. Look under the “Videos” tab for the videos titled “February and March Expert Bass Fishing Meeting at Lake of the Ozarks, Part 1 of 5, Part 2 of 5, Part 3 of 5, Part 4 of 5, and Part 5 of 5.

The experts agree that it’s been a tough winter for fishing because of the cold and ice and they’re looking forward to warmer days. Fitzpatrick says this is the toughest bite he’s seen in the winter since he’s been fishing. Fish are suspended at 2-35 feet deep. Usually at this time of year he says you can catch them at 10-15 feet.

Winning weights at the tournaments have been low compared to normal for this time of year. Some anglers believe the colder than normal temperatures are a good thing though because it kills off the shad; this in turn makes it easier to get a hungry bass to go after a shad-patterned lure in the spring because they take advantage of the easy meal a dying shad presents.

Malone says he and his fishing partner have been catching fish deep, and that December, January and February are his favorite months to fish this lake. He’s lived here about 20 years and has caught four fish over eight lbs in these months and a whole host of seven pounders. He says he’s caught his biggest fish in those three winter months, usually on an A-rig. Malone says to have success in a tournament this time of year, if the tournament allows an A-rig, you almost have to throw it.

The North Shore holds the warmest water throughout the winter months, and that’s where Malone’s been fishing. He uses his electronics to help figure things out.

Dill says not only do you have to fish deep right now, but you have to choose carefully where to fish. Anglers need to look for some sort of transition, such as shelf rock to boulder rock, or maybe a creek channel bend at the mouth of the main lake. Look for places where fish are migrating out further but still wanting to be close to shallower water. The fish want to be able to move up and down the column to feed and regulate their temperature.

With the hours of daylight changing, fish know it’s that time of year when they need to start feeding to get ready for spawn even though the temperatures are cold. Our experts don’t think things will change fast, but do agree that though shallow water cools fast, it also warms up fast. Once we start getting 55-60 degree days and it rains 2-3 inches, it’ll stir things up on the bottom, the crawfish will start coming up, and the backs of the creeks will warm quickly. A water temperature difference of just five degrees is huge for bass.

Bob Bueltmann asked the experts if the fish will still be in the back of the creeks, just under the ice. Dill thinks they don’t ever leave the creek beds. He says he won a tournament by literally throwing his lure on top of the ice, pulling it off and letting it sink to the bottom. The fish are still moving and continuing their migrations, even though there’s ice on the surface.

The experts gave example of some major creeks that actually get a flow of water, such as Buck Creek, Cartwright, Pin Oak, Jennings Branch, Cedar Creek, and Indian Creeks. They say if you go to the backs of those coves right now, you’ll actually see some open water because of the steady flow of water coming in.

Denise Dill says that as the ice melts, she’ll throw a jig shallow and work it off the bottom. A lot of times she says what she decides to throw will depend on what the person at the front of the boat is doing. She also says an A-rig would be a good choice.

As the ice melts though, fishing may still be tough. Experts suggest exploring the backs of creeks and places where you think water may be a bit warmer.

Until the water gets up into the upper 40s and low 50s, the winter bite will probably still be on. Fitzpatrick thinks as long as the water temperature is in the high 30s and low 40s, anglers may go into the middle of March still using jerkbaits, A-rigs and jigs. Once the ice thaws, he says to start fishing the first deep bank from the back ends of coves. If they’re not there, move to secondary points and main lake points.

Uxa says if you’re a natural shallow water angler or jig fisherman, your boat electronics are not as important as your map and temperature gauge. On the other hand though, if you’re fishing deep with an A-rig, your graph can be pretty important because you want to find the bait and the brushpiles.

Bob asked when they’ll make the decision to give up on the shallow bite with a jig and go fish brushpiles with a jerkbait or A-rig. Dill says you have to switch it up. If a jig isn’t working, you may need to go back to a stickbait. If you know the fish are there, you need to fish it several different ways until you get some kind of sign as to what’s going on. It may take a couple days to figure it out.

To fish the shallow bite with a jig at this time of year, Dill says he’ll stay with a small 3/8 oz, though he may go with a ½ oz. His preference is a 3/8 oz Zapper in a natural color or a creature bait, like a Swamp Bug that has a lot of movement.  Dill says you have to let it sit in the strike zone as long as you can. You just have to pull it a little bit, crawl it, hop it, really feeling what the bait’s doing. You won’t get a hard bite, and sometimes you can’t even tell you’ve got a fish on the hook. Sometimes you have to take a chance and try to set the hook even if you’re not sure. Dill says if he’s having trouble, he’ll have to go heavier so he can feel the bite. He’ll go as light as he can and still feel the bite.

Dill says just a couple of weeks ago his dad was fishing up near Truman Dam and discovered hundreds of pincers that were along the shoreline, evidence that the crawfish are getting eaten by ducks, raccoons, etc. He says it’s probably because of the drawdown and as they’re being exposed on the shoreline, they’re moving around. The pincers were all different colors, so changing up the colors of your bait from orange to green to blue/purple, that could make a difference in whether the fish bite or not.

Experts discussed line weight with a jig. At this time of year, Dill likes to go with 10-12 lb test Berkley fluorocarbon because he can really feel the bite. He’ll bump up the weight once he starts getting harder bites.

Uxa says that in general, March is a time of big change, and every couple of days you may need to try something new. You have to be flexible.

Bob talked about Fitzpatrick’s 10 lb catch last February on a jerkbait, and asked him for some advice on fishing LOZ with a jerkbait in conditions like this, and what he might do when it starts to warm up. Fitzpatrick says he’ll continue to visit the places he knows he’s caught big bass in the past. He’ll concentrate on places where a point meets a deep bank, and on little transitions where deep meets shallow. He will also keep an eye on where the shad are.

Malone pays close attention to the weather conditions. With a jerkbait, he says you can tell pretty fast if the fish are interested. He’ll throw a bright color if it’s sunny, but likes colors like French Pearl in cloudy conditions. If there’s no wind, he may throw an X80 on a spinning reel with 6 lb test and let it slowly fall. Malone likes to be prepared to change things up and he’ll usually have four or five different rods rigged up.  

Bob asked Malone about the size of jerkbait this time of year. Malone says the tougher the bite, the smaller the jerkbait, but the problem is that with the water as cold as it’s been, you can’t get the jerkbait down to where the fish are without the treble hooks getting caught on the bottom. At least with an A-rig, you’re fishing on 65-lb braid so you can pull it up hard if it gets hung up. Malone says if he’s fishing in a tournament and his partner is throwing a jerkbait, he’ll be slow rolling a ½ oz War Eagle spinnerbait or working an A-rig.

If the fish aren’t biting a jerkbait, Malone likes to throw a Crock-O-Gator Swamp Bug, which all the experts agreed is a real fish catcher at Lake of the Ozarks. It comes in 5 colors, and those subtle color changes can sometimes make a big difference. Dill and Fitzpatrick both suggested rigging the Swamp Bug on a ¼ – 3/8 oz jig head for maximum effectiveness.

Fitzpatrick says even in cold water conditions, he’ll usually fish a jerkbait in the shade. Uxa says he’ll also favor the shade. With a jerkbait, you’re trying to call the fish up to take the bait and the shade will make it more attractive. Even on sunny banks, you’re more likely to find a bass hiding in the shade of a rock or stump. Sometimes though, Dill says he finds the bass will come up on a sunny bank into the shallows to feed after the sun’s been hitting it for a few hours.

Bob asked Dill how deep he will actually fish a jig this time of year. Dill says for him “shallow” is anywhere from 6 inches to 10 feet. Deeper than 10 feet is getting too deep for Dill to throw a jig. He’s looking for fish committed to the bank that are up there to feed. He’ll be looking shallow, especially in the backs of coves because sometimes the water temperatures there jump up several degrees, and that makes a huge difference to the fish.

The experts agreed that fish do strange things in the spring. Fitz told a story about fishing two March Anglers in Action tournaments one year where they caught big bass on the same bank two weekends in a row. The next weekend was in late March and the water was warming up. They went to that same bank and couldn’t get a bite. Fitz and his partner decided to try fishing a pea gravel main channel point and that’s where they found the fish. For some reason, Fitz says, the fish will move out of the coves back out to the main channel for a week or two in late March, early April, and then go back in again to their spawning grounds. When this happens, he’ll throw a Wiggle Wart or a spinnerbait, especially when this happens in the North shore area.

Alabama Rig – Malone says when he fishes an A-rig, he’ll have two rigged up, one with spinners and the other with no spinners. He’s also found it to be pretty effective to have different bait sizes on the two rigs. On one of them he’ll have 3” Junior Swimmin’ Flukes  and on the other one will have bigger baits, but the dummies will be smaller than the hooked baits. He’s also found it effective to change the color of the bait in the middle, and he has had really good success with green pumpkin. He’ll use a slow retrieve. He says if the A-rig is allowed in a tournament, you almost have to throw it to be competitive.

Bob asked Malone how deep his fishes the A-rig. Malone says he’ll have his boat sitting in 30-35 feet of water and fishing anywhere from 10-20 feet deep on a really steep 90 degree bank.

Uxa says he’s caught a lot of fish on an Alabama rig fishing it a lot of different ways, on isolated brushpiles or alongside docks. If there’s no wind though, an A-rig isn’t as good. The more wind the better.  Uxa suggests Texas rigging the hooks to keep from getting hung up so much, and he’ll super glue the bait to the jighead to keep from losing them. He’ll throw it on heavy 25-30 lb mono or fluorocarbon.

Malone & Fitzpatrick both prefer not to rig the A-rig baits weedless. Fitz likes slow rolling an A-rig through a brushpile, and he prefers an exposed hook, but has problems getting hung up. So he experimented and came up with a ¼ oz jighead with a fiber weed guard with a 3/0 wide gap hook that crawls right through the brush. Malone will take a red magic marker and put a red streak right down the fiber weed guard. Instead of using super glue, a keeper will also help keep the bait on the jigheads.

Bob asked when the A-rig becomes less effective. Fitz says the last part of March, first week of April, the fish will start getting up on the banks staging, getting ready to spawn. When that happens, that’s when you should start using a jig, a Wiggle Wart, or slow rolling a spinnerbait. Fitz says the best thing that could happen is a big, warm rain.

Dill says the fish are all doing the same thing across the lake, just at different times. All the bass will be staging on steeper banks close to pea gravel pockets.  This will start first upriver which warms up the fastest. The big water down by the dam will take awhile to warm back up. The river water is dirtier and shallower, so it’s probably about 4-5 degrees ahead of the rest of the lake, and that makes a lot of difference in the spring.

Dill says a cold rain can really change things up too, moving the fish that have come in shallow back out of the coves.

Generally, March is not a great month for dock fishing. March is a month where you’re just all over the place. Just about anything could happen and the fish move hourly. It could be a great jerkbait month, but if you get muddy water, the jerkbait bite disappears and you’ll have to move to a black and blue jig or a spinnerbait.

Bob asked all of the experts to pick a specific part of the lake they’d choose to fish this time of year and to choose two baits.

James Dill – Dill would fish the major creeks and backs of creeks, or Hurricane Deck and above. He’d take a Swamp Bug if the water is 45 degrees and under, and his 2nd choice would be a Zapper jig with a Ring Craw on it.

Denise Dill – Denise would fish the Shawnee Bend area Mid Lake with a jerkbait or a jig.

Uxa – Jack would fish some stretches of the Niangua with a ½ oz black and blue jig and a white/chartreuse double willow spinnerbait. He’d mix up the blade colors.

Fitzpatrick – Fitz says he’s still a river rat, and he likes going upriver into the dirty, shallow water. He would take a black neon tube if water has color to it, green pumpkin if it’s clear and drag it along the channel banks. His 2nd choice would be a white/chartreuse spinnerbait with silver blades in clear water, and a big Colorado thumper blade in dirty water.

Malone – Mike would fish the Nianguas and he’d alternate between a chartreuse/white War Eagle Spinnerbait with copper blades and a crankbait. His 2nd choice would be a Swamp Bug on 20 lb line.

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