Excellent bass population could counter boat traffic for Bassmaster Open at Lake of the Ozarks

Lake of the Ozarks has much to offer, but during the St. Croix Bassmaster Open Division 2 event on the 54,000-acre Osage River impoundment, Elite Series pro Cody Huff said anglers have to take the good with the not-so-good.

Competition days will be Sept. 22-24 with daily takeoffs from Public Beach #2 at 7 a.m. CT and weigh-ins each day at 3 p.m. Full coverage will be available on Bassmaster.com with FS1 broadcasting live with the leaders on Sunday morning beginning at 7 a.m.

Huff, who hails from Ava, Mo., said the combination of a 93-mile-long waterway and the seasonably pleasant boating weather will present the most formidable challenge for competitors seeking to uncover the largemouth treasure that lives here.

“If we get warm, sunny, pretty conditions, the pleasure boaters are going to absolutely trash some of the areas anglers want to fish,” Huff explained. “Their wakes are going to make it super-hard to get around, and they’re going to make it super-hard to get back (to weigh-ins) in the afternoon.

“People are going to make a nice, long run in the morning; it’s going to be nice and slick, and then, after that, there are going to be a lot of giant boats on the water. You’re going to have to be very careful.”

As Huff notes, recreational boating traffic won’t necessarily deter bass feeding activity. The fish see this every summer, so they’re used to it. The challenge, he said, is safely and efficiently fishing the lake’s primary cover — docks.

“The boat wakes won’t mess up any of the fishing. It’s just going to make it pretty hard for guys to get around without beating up their equipment,” Huff said. “They’re going to be trying to fit into small spaces and skip a bait back behind docks.

“When you have big waves, it’s hard to make that jig go where you want it to. The boat wakes will make it hard for them to get to the targets they want to fish a lot of the time.”

On the upside, Lake of the Ozarks offers plenty of areas where anglers can flee the main-lake mayhem. Even departing the main tributary arms and fishing smaller creeks and pockets will offer relief from the daily increasing wave action.

“This lake is absolutely huge, so they can get into some more protected areas where they can fish,” Huff said. “It bends and twists and you can run as far as you want. It’ll just be hard to get back.

“That will be something to consider in practice. You’ll want to have some stuff to fish if it does get busy out there.”

About a week prior to the tournament, the Lake of the Ozarks water level stood at approximately 1.85 feet below full pool. Huff said he’s not expecting any dramatic changes — and considering this lake’s annual drawdown typically starts in December, significant fluctuation is unlikely.

Rainfall can bear some degree of impact, mostly via the runoff that can affect the river section and the lake’s numerous major and secondary creek arms. The long-range forecast suggests thunderstorms just before the start of the event, but duration and volume will determine their effects.

Fortunately, no major weather changes are expected, so Huff predicts the usual summer reservoir scenario.

“From everything I’ve been hearing, it should be pretty normal,” he said. “When you get up the river, the water is going to have some stain to it. Down at the lower end, you’ll have probably 4 to 6 feet of visibility, while up the river, you’ll have 2 to 3 feet.”

While points, laydowns and various offshore sneaky spots will factor into this event’s action, those docks will see most of the attention. As Huff observes, Lake of the Ozarks offers an enormous number of structures, but time efficiency will require anglers to dial in the high-value targets.

“It can be kind of overwhelming,” Huff said. “You have to get on a pattern on that lake and run with it. You might get on a pattern where you fish the first three docks in a pocket, or it might be the last three docks in the back of a pocket.

“The docks with the best brushpiles will be the most productive. You’ll see some guys catching them behind docks, but most of it will be on stuff you can’t see.”

In addition to skipping docks with jigs, Huff looks for Texas-rigged plastics, shaky heads and buzzbaits to produce. Crankbaits and swimbaits could play into the equation, and if the bite gets tough, someone may figure out a finesse pattern to save the day.

Overall, Huff said he’s looking for a strong showing. With plenty of 5-pounders and the occasional 6-plus making an appearance, Lake of the Ozarks is well known for its big-bag potential. Huff predicts 18 pounds a day will make the Top 10 cut and 20 pounds a day will win.

“I’ve been seeing some weights from local tournaments, and they are smashing them,” he said. “It looks like they’re biting, so it will be a fun tournament.”

The Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitor Bureau is hosting the tournament.