Posts Tagged ‘Lake of the Ozarks’

It is almost October in Missouri. For fisherman, that means that it is time for the annual Fall Big Bash Bash (BBB) at Lake of the Ozarks. The fall tourney is always the first full weekend of October and draws thousands of fisherman in search of one great bite that will mean pay day.

Big Bass Bash

7.04 largemouth

The Big Bash Bash is an excellent tournament because it gives everyday fisherman the chance to compete for real money like the big boys of the FLW or Bassmasters do on their circuits. This tournament is different, however, from regular fishing tournaments. In the BBB, fisherman are really only looking for one good bite. Big fish for the day will win someone $100,000. Second place will take home $20,000, third is $10,000 and fourth is $5,000. More than $105,000 guaranteed in bi-hourly payouts with a total of 240 places paid. 30 places will are paid for each of the four time slots (7-9, 9-11, 11-1, 1-3). Typically, fisherman are looking to weigh five fish for the heaviest weight.

I have had several friends fish recent Big Bash Bashes on Lake of the Ozarks, and I have always been curious about their strategy. A few of them have taken checks in recent Bashes which is really quite an accomplishment given the number and quality of anglers. After listening to them as well as formulating my own plan of action, I have my own roadmap to hopefully take a check at this year’s BBB.

1 – Just fish
I know this sounds funny, but how many times have you been pre-fishing for a tournament and hook into a nice 4 lb.+ bass. I believe that I fish better when I am not under pressure to win. Take your time and enjoy the day. Fish like you want to fish, and don’t be inundated with information from anyone and everyone on the Internet and friends of friends. Go out and fish the way that is comfortable to you, and gives you the best confidence in catching fish.

2- Do something different than the rest of the crowd
There are going to be a ton of boats on the Lake for this tournament. Chances are that at some point in the day, I will be following someone down a bank. When that happens, I am going to be very aware of what the people in the boat in front of us are throwing. My plan will be to show the fish something different. If they are fishing, jigs, I am going to switch to a large swim bait or spinnerbaits and search for fishing in a different part of the water column. I could also use a different type of bottom bouncer to present to the fish something different. If they are fishing show and picking apart a piece of structure, I might try a faster presentation and go for a reaction strike.

3 – Use big-bass lures
While I will have a few “regular” lures tied on my line, the majority will be large jigs, swim baits or other large-profile baits. I am looking for one bite all day. If a fish hits one of these baits, it will most likely be a money fish.

4 – Target out-of-the-way brush piles
If you have had the chance to place your own brush piles in the Lake, then you are in luck. If not (like me), you have to rely on the handy work of others. When pre fishing for any tournament, I am always very aware of other fishermen on the water. I pay special  attention to those boats who are camped on a bank that would not be a “typical” bank. A good example would be someone who is fishing a do-nothing bank, and they are not moving very fast. Chances are, they are fishing some out-of-the-way brush. Once they leave, I go check out what was making stay in that spot for such a long period of time.

5 – Hope for some serious luck
Someone is going to win, it might as well be you. There are always a lot of anglers on the Lake. Luck goes a long way when searching for big fish. I always tell my partner that we have a 50/50 chance to win…either we will or we won’t. I never did well at statistics…






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How to Tell the Difference between a Kentucky/Spotted Bass and a Largemouth Bass

When I first started fishing lakes that contained both Kentucky and Largemouth bass, I did not care about identifying which one was on the end of my line. I just enjoyed catching fish. However, once I started fishing tournaments, I had to differentiate between the two species on lakes that have different size limits for each one. For example, Lake of the Ozarks and Bull Shoals Lake each have a 15” limit on black bass but a 12” limit for Kentucky bass.

I will never forget my first tournament on that lake, my partner and I were catching a ton of “bass” on Chompers…and we were having a fantastic time doing it. Neither of us knew, for sure, how to differentiate between the two species. All we had heard was that Kentucky bass have a rough patch on their tongue. We didn’t know HOW rough of a patch…just a rough patch. So…when we started catching fish after fish, if we felt anything AT ALL on the tongue, into the live well it went!

We were a red faced at weigh in and VERY lucky that a conservation agent did not stop us on the water to check our fish. Most of our 12-inch fish were, in fact, largemouth bass! Lucky for us, it was tournament that consisted of a bunch of friends, so we were simply mocked and made fun of instead of receiving monetary penalties.

Differences between a Largemouth Bass and a Spotted Bass

The Tongue

As stated above, spots have a rough patch on their tongue. Largemouth bass do not. Please note that the rough patch is very noticeable on a spotted bass, and you might feel “something” on the tongue of a largemouth.

The Hinge of the Mouth

There is a reason that largemouth bass are called largemouth! If you were to draw a line straight down from the back of a largemouth’s eye to the bottom of the jaw, the end of the hinge of its mouth would be behind that line. Kentucky bass, on the other hand, will have the hinge in front of that line.

Kentucky Bass

The jaw of the Kentucky Bass is in front of the back of the eye.

Largemouth Bass

The hinge of the Largemouth's jaw extends behind the back of the eye.


The Dorsal Fin

Both species have a set of dorsal fins. The front one is larger than the rear fin. The difference is that, on a spotted bass, there is little to no separation between the two. A large mouth will have as distinct ending and beginning between the two.

Kentucky Bass

Little or no separation between dorsal fins.

Largemouth Bass

There is a definite separation between the fins.


Both species of bass have a lateral line running down the middle of their body. Spotted bass have blotches or “spots”

above their lateral line. They also have a bluish/green tint to their color. Largemouth bass on the other hand, favor the green side of the color wheel!

The Cheek Scales

Cheek scales on a largemouth bass are the same size as the rest of the scales on its body. Spotted bass have noticeably smaller scales on their cheeks.

Another big difference between the two species is how they fight on the end of the line. Largemouth bass tend to come straight to the top of the water and try to shake the lure out of their mouth. Kentucky bass fight more like a smallmouth. They head to the bottom and resist every inch of the way to the surface.

Hopefully the next time you hook a bass at your favorite lake, you will be better able to identify the football on the end of your line.

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I was watching the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament in the California Delta on ESPN2 a few weeks ago. They were highlighting Mike Iaconelli on the opening morning of the tournament. When Mike got to his first bank, someone who was not in the tournament was already there fishing. Mike started to talk to the guys in the boat. Their conversation went something like this (I’m paraphrasing):

Ike – “How’s it going?”

Other Boat – “Fine.”

Ike – “Are you guys tournament fishing?”

Other Boat – “Nope…Aren’t you Mike Iaconelli?”

Ike – “Yes – I’ve been fishing this bank for four days.”

Other Boat – *silent*

Ike – “Can I go ahead and jump in front of you?”

Other Boat – *silent*

Mike then went ahead and started fishing in front of these guys because he thought that, since he was fishing a tournament, he was somehow more important and more deserving to fish that particular bank at that time.

I have seen this many times, especially on Lake of the Ozarks (LOZ) in Missouri. LOZ is pounded by both recreational and tournament fisherman on a daily basis. I have had MANY boats cut in on me on many occasions, and it infuriates me when it happens.

I wish I could have been the guy in the “other boat” from the conversation above. If so, the conversation would have gone something like this:

Ike – “I’ve been fishing this bank for four days.”

Me – “You must have done pretty good to fish it for four days…what were you catching them on?”

Ike – “I’m fishing a tournament, can I jump in front of you?”

Me – “No…I worked all week and this is the only time I get to fish for the next three weeks. You have fished for four days straight. I was here first and you can jump in behind me if you like, but please don’t crowd me because I’m getting some great fish.”

Ike – *kicks breaks his rear running light and throws it in the water while screaming,* “But I’m Mike Iaconelli…Elite Series Tournament Pro.”

Me – “Never give up, Mike…never give up.”

I feel etiquette should dictate that a boater, if he/she is going to fish a bank that is already occupied by someone else, should jump in BEHIND the existing boat. Most tournament rules require that a distance of 50 yards should separate boaters, but it says nothing about which side of an existing boat is acceptable (to my knowledge).

It seems that tournament fisherman think that, since there is money on the line, they somehow get bank priority over recreational fisherman. Fishermen weigh many factors when developing a “game plan” for a tournament…even for just a day of recreational fishing. Wind, temperature, barometric pressure, channel location, water color, cloudy vs. clear skies, etc. all factor how and where you should fish. In my mind, having other boaters on the water is simply another factor you have to weigh to determine fishing location.

Do I want to fish a bank that has been pounded for three weeks straight? Probably not. I would get out but not an obvious place for fisherman to find. If I get to a bank, and it already has someone on it, my first response is, “I should have hit this bank first and I could have had it to myself.” If I absolutely HAD to fish that bank, I would hop over to a nearby bank and wait until that fisherman was done and THEN go to the bank.

Maybe I am wrong and am reading too much into this. How many of you have been fishing on a bank and had a boat jump in front of you? I would love to know your thoughts on this.

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10 years ago, my new wife and I went to Marco Island, Florida for our honeymoon. We had the most of the trip paid for my awards points from my wife’s traveling through work. Her Marriott points paid for the hotel for the entire week. Her Diner’s Club points paid for the car rental and air fare. The only thing we had to pay for was fishing and cocktails by the pool.

I am a very lucky man because my wife loves to fish as well as just being on the water. Whenever we go on vacation, we like to hire a guide to take us fishing on the local waters. This trip, we chose Lake Okeechobee in central Florida.

I have always watched the Saturday morning fishing shows with legendary anglers like Bill Dance, Jimmy Houston, Virgil Ward (yes…that long ago) and Roland Martin. I had heard that Roland Martin had a resort on Lake Okeechobee and we decided to hire a guide search for one of the lunkers that these guys have promoted in their shows.

Once we arrived at our hotel in Marco, I did an internet search for guides at Lake O and found one that looked good. We made arrangements for one night at Roland’s place and told the guide we would be ready to go the following morning.

On our way to the lake, I tried to envision what the lake would be like. Most of my bass fishing has been done in Missouri reservoirs like Lake of the Ozarks, Bull Shoals, Table Rock, Norfork, etc. I guess my thoughts painted a better picture of the lake than reality did.

We hit central Florida and, man, what a disappointment. We drove through Clewiston and our jaws hit the floor. I was expecting something that resembled a resort town (Elden or Camdenton, MO). Instead, we found a very rural town with little development. I remember thinking that Roland’s resort must be in the good area. Again…I was wrong. The resort was a glorified Motel 8 but the rooms were cool and the sheets were clean. Even though I was disappointed with the accommodations, I still had hope of a great fishing experience.

The next morning, our guide met us at the boat ramp. Since we were there in September, the fishing was not predicted to be great, and Florida was in the middle of a draught and the shallow lake was even lower.

My goal on any fishing trip is to catch at least one fish. Not a lofty goal, but a realistic one. Some days are great and some days are tough. My captain said that our best chance of catching quality fish was by using shiners and a float. I have been fishing a long time, and live bait has never been an option for me. Since we were paying a lot of money, we agreed to using shiners and a bobber.

Our first stop was fairly close to the boat ramp. I was amazed at how shallow the lake was. Getting to our spot, our captain basically ran his lower unit through the sand to get there. I typically fish in lakes where six feet of water means shutting the motor off! What we did was the equivalent locking in the 4-wheel drive to get to our spot.

Our first spot was the best of the day. I caught a few 2+ lb. fish. The guide told us to watch the bobber. When a bass was getting close to the bait, the shiner would begin to panic and make the bobber go crazy. Within a few minutes, my wife’s bobber was going crazy…and then it disappeared. She set the hook and the battle was on. She did a great job of keeping the fish from jumping and throwing the hook. When she got it to the boat and the guide picked it up, her jaw hit the deck of the boat. It was a 7lb. 1oz. bass…the biggest bass of her life.

Dawn's biggest bass from Lake Okeechobee

10 years ago, I did not have a digital camera…just my Pentax K1000 35mm. I managed to take a one good of the nice bass. My wife was speechless and had the biggest smile on her face. She was so proud that she caught a fish her dad (who is also a big fisherman) would be proud of.

While we did not catch any more lunkers that day, we had a great time. That fish made our day…as well as the rest of our trip. We let the fish go and our captain gave us a lunker certificate which we still have to this day.

After we got back to the ramp, we packed our gear in the car and headed back to Marco for some poolside margaritas to celebrate a great day on the water as well as the beginning of our marriage.

One of my next blogs will cover our 5th anniversary trip to the Florida Keys in search of bone fish, permit and tarpon.

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