Anglers head to the Lake of the Ozarks for the best catches of the year.
If there are hundreds of good golf holes, the Lake of the Ozarks has thousands of good fishing holes sprinkled along its 1,150 miles of shoreline. There are fishing holes that make you go, “Wow, what fun!” And, unfortunately, there are holes that make you go, “Wow, that one got away.”
As we leave the steamy days of summer, we head into perhaps the best two fishing months at the Lake, September and October.
“It’s some of the best fishing we have all year,” Jim Divincen says, “because the fish start feeding and getting ready for the winter. It’s just amazing.”
Divincen is the administrator for the Lake of Ozarks Tri-County Lodging Association. Unofficially but equally as important, locals consider him an ambassador for the entire Lake area, from fishing to hunting to shopping and restaurants.
“You will not find a more friendly and family-user lake than this one,” Divincen says, “especially at this time of year with the ideal weather.”
An added bonus is that the local noisy aircraft carriers have been put away for the summer.
The Lake hosts more than 500 fishing tournaments a year (looking at the calendar and doing the math, that would be more than one a day), some of which draw more than 1,300 anglers and offer $200,000 in prize money.
Large- and small-mouth bass lead the way in quantity and poundage in these tournaments and also rake in the most prize money for anglers. In addition to bass, the Lake offers plentiful supplies of crappie, blue gill catfish, paddlefish and walley, to name a few.
“There a lot of good lakes out there, but the Lake of the Ozarks is just a really good fishing lake,” says professional fisherman Dennis Berhorst, who calls the Lake his home fishing hole.
Berhorst says that it means not only knowing how to catch the fish, but it’s also knowing where they are stationed. “It’s all a pattern, from the spawn, to the post-spawn, to the summer pattern, to the winter pattern, to the pre-spawn pattern,” he says. “You learn by experience where the fish are, how they move, the reason they move… It’s all about food.”
In September 2012, Berhorst pocketed $70,000 for winning a tournament at the Lake — though it wasn’t easy.
“I stuck with where I know the fish were,” Berhorst says. “I never bailed out. A lot of times, you bail out because you don’t catch a fish for two hours. I didn’t do that. I just kept my head up, stuck in there and fished where I knew I had to fish. Eventually I caught them.”
Berhorst includes bassinbob.com in his arsenal of scoping out the fish. He is one of several professionals who reside at the Lake.
Three winners of the Bass Masters Classic (the Super Bowl of fishing) who call the Lake home include Denny Brauer and Guido and Dion Hibdon. Guido and Dion won the championship in the following few years. Brauer was the only angler to be featured on a Wheaties box (1998).
The Lake also serves as home to Marcus Sykora, who won the All-American — call it the NCAA football championship for fishing — this spring in Alabama. He collected $100,000.
“It’s obviously the pinnacle of my fishing career so far,” Sykora says. “It was an amazing feeling; what an emotional high. There are a lot of hobbies out there that are all expenses. This is a hobby that has the potential for profit. It’s just an awesome thing.
“I’ve seen some awesome sunrises [many on his home waters] that most people don’t see because I’m out there on the water,” he continues. “The sheer grace of our country and the beauty of our region, it’s just amazing.”
It’s an amazing lake. Sure, it has oodles of tournaments worth boodles of money. But just as important is the father-and-son fishing experience the Lake has to offer on a beautiful fall afternoon.
“Absolutely,” Berhorst says. “Just to get out on the water with your kids on a great day to go fishing, the Lake of the Ozarks is the premier lake for that. Starting in late August and going through November, it’s just an awesome fishing lake for anybody…for the average fisherman to the professional fisherman to the beginner.”
“I think,” Divincen says, “Dion Hibdon said it best: ‘When it comes to fish in the two- to three-pound range, Lake of the Ozarks is the No. 1 fishery in the country.’”
You notice how many great fishermen have roots at the Lake? This is no accident. The great ones in all sports will be found hanging out at the great venues. And you can get in there right with them, no green fees required, with multiple chances on every hole. As many as you want.
Experience fishing at the Lake of the Ozarks: Saturday afternoon, on the water, casting a few lines, with family or friends and enjoying 78 degrees of sunshine. Maybe there will not be a boat full of fish and cash at the end of the day, but there will certainly be a boat full of smiles and memories.