Lake of the Ozarks Bass Fishing
By Trey Schroeder
Editor’s note: Our former blogger Trey Schroeder finished his first semester at McKendree University and his mom reported he is doing great balancing school and fishing. She said he always struggled with writing until he started writing about what he loved. He started with a writing strategies class at McKendree to help him with his writing and the professor told him he could write about fishing. Here is one of his essays from his writing class.
It was a clear crisp morning in the lower end of Lake of the Ozarks. The green had just begun to peep out of the rich rocky soil, water temperatures were on the rise and there was a full moon preparing to illuminate the cool March evenings. Nights were getting shorter and days longer which meant only one thing… the spawn.
The spawn is a magical time in any body of water. Everything has to fall in line for it to take place. The bass has been lethargic and deep all winter long. Warming spring days have the fish in the mood to take to the bank and get their freak on. When the fish flood the shores, they look for pockets protected from a north wind so the water temperature won’t fluctuate much. Also, the sun will shine on a north facing bank all day, keeping a consistent warmth instead of short periods in the morning or evening. Once the bass explores the shoreline they like to relate to any hard piece of structure or anything irregular in the water. This could be a logjam, a divit in the bottom, a road-bed even a piece of trash thrown overboard by a careless angler. Once the male bass finds a suitable spot he then fans the bottom of the lake or river with its tail. This cleans any silt from the desired bedding area so the female can lay her eggs on a clean surface.
Being able to see the fish is one of the most unique aspects of bass fishing during the spawn. Most of the year the behemoth bass focus on staying hidden, lurking the deep drop-offs and ditches in the waters of Lake of the Ozarks. In the spring fish of this magnitude are the most vulnerable since most of their attention is drawn toward spawning and protecting the bed. Just because these bass are as stupid as they will be all year, they still have an unimaginable IQ and succeed to outsmart most fishermen. This can be the best or worst time to be on the water bass fishing. Although like any seasoned angler I know if I want to come face to face with the fish of a lifetime, then I need to spend as much time on the water that I can.
I start my day of fishing running 68 miles an hour to the Bagnell Dam. The bone-chilling run is 72 miles long and takes me an hour and twenty-three minutes after I stop to refuel in hopes of making it home. The morning air temperature is 43 degrees today and there is a good cloud cover. I make it to my first stop and when I arise from my frozen leather seat I am greeted to the sound of paper thin ice from the dew this morning crunching and breaking off of my frigid rain suit.
I hadn’t been fishing for an hour when I saw my first bed. Two fish both a male and female, the males are usually smaller and this one was only about 2 pounds but was paired with a much girthier female that was probably about 3 pounds. I decided to leave this pair to their business in hopes of stumbling across a much larger opponent. I see bedded fish the whole way into the crystal clear creek, but I didn’t stop to agitate any pairs until the very end. On the very last logjam in the creek is where I saw her bedded up and instantly I knew I had met my match.
This pair was unlike any I had ever seen… the male was larger than any female I had encountered this morning and the female was a staggering size. Instantaneously I dropped to a squatted position and reached into my rod locker for my weapon of choice. A long heavy-action rod and 25-pound fluorocarbon was my preference and for the entree a hefty sized jig.
My first flip onto the bed agitated both the male and female bass. Before I could click the reel into gear the male had made my jig completely disappear and was bolting off the bed. I swung and hit the male hard in the mouth driving my trailer like jig into the roof of his Velcro laced lips. The blow stunned the fish and I was able to gain some line before lifting and dropping the 4 1/2-pound male into the bottom of my Ranger boat. I placed the male in the livewell so the female was alone and my only target, this is a common bed fishing tactic.
Pumped full of adrenaline and excitement I made my next flip onto the bed. The female was slightly more wary about how she ate the jig. She would grab the two meaty pinchers and carry it off the bed sort of like what a cat does with a kitten. I had seen this before and found myself working on the beast for almost 30 minutes with the same aggravating and pitiful result. My next move was to bump her nose with the jig and get her to react. The next flip I hopped the jig and bumped her nose perfectly. She sucked the jig into her bucket mouth with ease, not knowing that she had just bit off more than she could chew.
Again I swung hard and lodged the bulky jig into her mouth. My line screamed under the extreme pressure as it cut through the water following the behemoth bass. I leaned back and pulled hard trying to reel but the fish was too heavy and too strong. She had me locked up and with the gear, I was using this should not have been happening. At this moment I realized what I had gotten myself into and that I had finally met a worthy opponent. She was running hard to the right so leaned left with everything I had again putting unbearable amounts of pressure on my line. No matter what I did the fish wouldn’t turn and I knew that I was going to have to tire her out if I wanted a chance at this finned freak of nature. All of a sudden she turned right to me and charged the boat, surprisingly my reel was able to keep up and I tried to lift her beastly figure out of the water. Lifting her head out of the cold clean water we made eye contact and her eyes were bigger than mine. The sound of thrashing water was muted when the worst imaginable sound snapped through the crisp morning air. My cable-like line snapped under the weight and stress of the fish. She hit the starboard side of my boat and bounced back into the water with my jig still in her mouth. I watched her swim away as she abandoned her newly made bed and made her way back toward the deep water.
With my jaw to my toes and slight salty tears in my eyes, a dark cloud of shame and disgust hovered over my head. I remembered then that I hadn’t re-tied my jig after storing it in my rod locker. The agony and self-hate sunk into my heart like a bone cold dagger. The image of the fish’s eyes and her hitting the side of my boat was burned into my mind and on an endless loop. Landing a bass of that magnitude had always been a dream of mine. I have spent countless dollars chasing after these fish preparing everything so when this moment came I could execute. On this day I had her at my fingertips and the smallest, simplest factor had just shattered my dream into pieces. Some people may take this as a defeat or a cold heartbreaking ending. Me I took this battle as a learning curve. This brief encounter with a fish of a lifetime fueled an untamable flame in my heart to continue in my pursuit of monster fish.