As the searing summer sun heats up the water, bass relax in the cooler realm of deep water or the shade of heavy cover. Since the fish become reluctant to leave this cool domain during the heat of the day, you are limited to using lures that remain in the bass’ comfort zone longer.
However when the sun goes down and the water cools, the bass’ comfort zone expands from top to bottom, especially in the clear water sections of the Lake of the Ozarks. As bass become more active during the nocturnal hours they start craving a late-night snack. So now your lure choices expand to a wider array of options ranging from topwaters to bottom-bouncing baits.
Veteran nighttime anglers know a bunch of tackleboxes and rods and reels strewn out all over the boat’s deck after dark can result in broken tackle or a quick trip overboard. So they keep their decks clean and prevent any mishaps by picking a handful of productive lures for nocturnal bass.
A local angler who enjoys the nightlife on Lake of the Ozarks is Marty McGuire, who competes in night tournaments nearly every week during the summer on his home waters. The night-fishing experts offers the following selections as the best lures for catching bass after sunset.
When bass burrow into cover or hug the bottom at night, McGuire relies on a slow-moving lure such as a plastic worm for fishing in clear water or a jig in murky or stained conditions.
His home lake is filled with sunken brush piles so McGuire prefers a Texas-rigged worm or weedless jig for working through the limbs. If fishing pressure is heavy, McGuire uses a 7-inch plastic worm, but his favorite lure for most nights is a 10-inch black or blue fleck Berkley Power Worm impaled on a 4/0 or 5/0 hook. The Missouri angler opts for the magnum-size worm because he believes in the theory that bigger fish prefer bigger baits.
Since he mainly fishes the worm in the 10- to 20-foot depth range, McGuire rigs his worms with the same size weight (1/4-ounce bullet slip sinker) most of the time. “It gets to the bottom quick enough but it also falls slow enough in case the fish are hitting on the fall,” suggests McGuire.
The worm produces for McGuire during the middle of summer along main lake points and ledges or along steep banks halfway back in coves and creeks. Sunken brush piles are McGuire’s favorite target for nighttime worm fishing but he also takes bass from rock piles and steel support poles or boat hoists on docks.
Slowly lifting and dropping the worm works best for McGuire, especially when fishing brush. “I usually let it get down into the brush pile, then just raise my rod up (to the 11 or 12 o’clock position),” describes McGuire. “I usually hold the rod a little higher than most people to pull the worm up over the limbs and work it through the brush real slow. Then I drop the rod down to let the worm fall back to the bottom while keeping contact with the bait the whole time.”
If he’s fishing off-colored water at night, McGuire switches to a jig and heads for the shallows. Pitching a jig behind boat docks is one of McGuire’s favorite tactics for shallow nocturnal bass.
The night-fishing expert prefers a 3/8- to 1/2-ounce live rubber jig in black or blue combined with a Zoom plastic chunk in the same colors.
McGuire also relies on his rod to impart action with his jig, but he retrieves this lure different than the worm. His retrieve consists of three to four quick pumps of his rod tip (1 to 2 inches at a time), reeling up slack and then another succession of quick pumps. “It really doesn’t move the jig up and down a whole lot it is more like a shake,” says McGuire.
Since presentations for both lures are similar, McGuire uses the same tackle for the worm and jig. He opts for a 7- to 7 1/2- foot medium-heavy to heavy action rod and a high-speed baitcast reel (6.1:1 or higher gear ratio) spooled with 20-pound test line. The veteran night angler prefers the heavy line and high-speed reel for quickly jerking bass away from brush and boat docks.
If the summer sun makes fishing unbearable on Lake of the Ozarks during the day, you can still enjoy some hot bass action after dark. For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.
Copies of John Neporadny’s book, “THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide” are available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com.