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Fishing in Missouri: Lake of the Ozarks

Lake of the Ozarks is recognized as one of the Midwest’s most popular destinations for fishing. Here are some tips on how to bag a trophy.

Lake of the Ozarks is a fishing destination
Credit: Missouri Division of Tourism

Considering Lake of the Ozarks is known as one of the most-developed lakes in the nation, and attracts nearly 3 million visitors a year, it still boasts an incredibly productive fishery and is recognized as one of the Midwest’s most popular destinations for fishing, especially among national, regional and local bass tournament clubs.

Given that this area sees a high amount of tourism activity and recreational boat traffic, especially between Memorial Day and Labor Day, many anglers prefer to restrict their fishing activity to Monday through Thursday, or if during the weekend, before 8am or after 8pm. Early morning or late evening are the times when boat traffic is lightest and fishing activity can really be at its peak.

Much of the land around Lake of the Ozarks is privately owned and respect for private property—especially boat docks—is required. Fishermen have the legal right to operate a boat and fish in all parts of the lake and its tributaries. However, common courtesy goes a long way toward preventing arguments with local landowners.

Since no timber was left standing when Lake of the Ozarks was originally impounded, approximately 75 percent of the cover found in the lake is man-made. The rest (deadfalls, logjams, and buck brush) has accumulated naturally. Man-made brush piles, especially around boat docks, form the primary fish-holding cover. Many fishermen, especially savvy tournament bass anglers, recognize this unique occurrence and often base their fishing techniques and patterns around fishing these private docks.

For a more detailed lake map and real-time fishing reports follow the Lake of the Ozarks waterway page on Fishidy.

Here are some tips for locating and catching fish on Lake of the Ozarks:

  • The thousands of boat docks on the lake are recognized as the most important bass-location factor. However, identifying productive ones are the key. Look for docks with seats bolted to the dock, or rod holders attached to the dock railing. These are sure signs a fisherman owns the dock, and that a submerged brush pile is present.
  • As a general rule, coves near the main river and creek channels offer the best crappie fishing. Focus on the pea gravel banks, brush piles and drowned timber. Tube jigs and minnows are productive. White, hot pink, red, yellow and chartreuse are the most popular tube colors. Also, minnows suspended beneath a fixed or slip bobber are effective.
  • White bass and hybrid striped bass can be found in the tributaries early in the spring and on main lake points in the late spring and fall. In summer, they often school over the flats in the middle of the larger coves. This pattern of schooling gains strength in autumn as both species engorge themselves on shad. White and chrome are popular colors in selecting in-line spinners, crankbaits, jigs, Rat-L-Traps and suspending jerkbaits.
  • Prime areas for catfish action include the riprap around the bridges crossing the main river channel, particularly the Grand Glaize Bridge on Highway 54. Other good regions include the mouths of coves, major creek channels feeding into the main river channel, and the channel side of bluffs.
  • Although the Missouri Department of Conservation is working to enhance the lake’s walleye fishing, the only spot that offers dependable action is downstream from Truman Dam in the upper Osage during spring. Although large walleye are sometimes caught in the main lake, they are seldom fished for specifically. Deep-diving crankbaits and bottom-bouncer live bait rigs are effective presentations.