Cold & Dirty Water Challenge’s Anglers to Adjust
Over the last few years Lake of the Ozarks has a reputation for being one of the best options in the Midwest for spring anglers suffering from cabin fever. Unfortunately, mother nature (and the Corp of Engineers) had a little trick up their sleeves as anglers gathered for the first Qualifier of the year on March 17th & 18th. Due to heavy rains and a rapid draw down of the Lake the normal clear to slightly stained water of LOZ was replaced with cold dirty water from the dam to mid-lake. The only options for anglers was either to adapt to the cold, dirty water or limit their efforts to the clearer areas of the lake in the Gravois arm or in the back of the larger creeks. Adding to these tough water conditions was the usual variable spring weather that delivered sunny skies with highs of 70+ degrees for practice and cloudy days with lows of near freezing at take-off for the tournament.
These conditions we met by large field of strong field anglers which included local experts like Brian Maloney and Jody Hughes along with many veterans of the TBF events with impressive resumes like Don Heiser, Roger Edwards, Farron Morris, Ken Whitfield, Mick Maples, Tim Merkh, Trace Hannaford, Darren Woebke, Greg Lampton and Jerry Lovell. The co-angler side was also loaded with past Qualifiers in Gary Martin, Patrick O’Neal and Troy Richter just to name a few. In addition to the strong field of Missouri TBF veterans we were excited to welcome our new member clubs from Owensville Anglers, Osage Valley Bass Anglers and Show Me Statewide. While these were new clubs to Missouri TBF they included several experienced tournament anglers like Tom McGovern, Wes Proctor, Kaleb Chockley and Andrew Schoenekase. As a result of the solid turnout from current members along with the addition of the new clubs, we were able to field 21 boaters and 20 co-anglers for the event!
The first practice day on Thursday was sunny and warm with highs in the low 70’s followed by colder, damp weather on Friday. The official two-day event began Saturday with strong North winds for take-off with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees. This made for rough water which further limited anglers who may have been considering big runs to get to clearer water up the Osage. Several nice fish were brought to the scales, led by Troy Ladehoff (5.49 lbs) and Tim Merkh (4.96 lbs) on the boater side and Kaleb Chockley (4.26 lbs) and Shelby Thacker (3.34 lbs) on the Co-angler side. These big fish pushed Jerry Lovell (13.53 lbs) and Kaleb Chockley (9.57 lbs) to the top of the day one leader board. Sunday started out even colder but with lighter winds and less boat traffic. While this may have made the anglers more comfortable, the new conditions changed the bite requiring everyone to adjust their patterns again. Big bass was won on day 2 by Brian Maloney (6.05 lbs) and Thomas Kaufman (5.96 lbs) as boaters and John Driver (5.35 lbs) and Wes Proctor (4.91 lbs) on the co-angler side.
Topping the field on the boater side after day 2 was one of our new members, Robert Hime. While Robert may be new to Missouri TBF, he is a proven veteran tournament angler who is very familiar with Lake of the Ozarks. He used this local experience and a pair of crankbaits to sack 28.03 pounds of bass under very tough, variable conditions. On Saturday he fished from the takeoff towards the dam taking advantage of a good early bite. He focused on the cleaner coves/cuts, but had lots of boat traffic to compete with for the key spots. On Sunday he concentrated on areas around Grand Glaze which presented a different challenge with it’s dirtier water. He used a classic Ozark-pattern custom painted Wiggle Wart by Commemorative Creations along with another crawdad colored medium diving crankbait to land his fish. The key to his success was his consistency and patience, as the only angler to bring 5 fish to the scale each day.
Finishing second on the boater side was Brad Tyer who used an A-rig and Rock Crawler to bag 19.35 pounds. He focused on channel swing backs in the Gravois arm, looking for clean fishable water. He remained focused through a tough morning bite, catching most of his fish in the afternoon. The tough bite also meant that Brad had to make every opportunity count and was able to land all of his 8 keeper bites in the 2-day event.
Completing our boater team was veteran boater and co-angler Troy Ladehoff (18.03 lbs). He connected on an early bite on Saturday using a KVD jerkbait and was able to land 3 keepers by 8 AM. After a pause in the bite he finally boated his 4th keeper at about 1:30 on a Rock Crawler. Sunday followed a similar pattern with an early bite followed by a lull, landing his last 2 keepers at about 1:30 only 5 casts apart! Troy said he had several other keeper bites, but as we know it’s tough to land spring fish on jerkbaits and cranks. By keeping his cool and staying focused he was able to nip local legend Brian Maloney who finished just .63 pounds behind. Troy used his Lowrance graph to locate schools of shad from the mouth of the Gravois to the dam. He covered lots of water looking for key areas to find active fish
On the Co-Angler side was won by a dominating second day performance by Wes Proctor. After a solid first day with 3 fish put him in 6th place, Wes was able to land the largest co-angler bag of the tournament on day 2 (13.07 lbs) pounds giving him a total of 18.78 pounds. As with all co-anglers Wes showed his versatility by catching both spotted and largemouth bass on both a jig and hot vintage Wiggle Wart. Sadly, the bait died a hero and was lost to an old metal dock on his last cast of the event (but I think he knows a guy that has another one for sale!). Wes not only had to adjust to 2 different boaters but had to fish 2 separate areas, catching his fish near Shawnee Bend on Saturday and near the dam on Sunday.
The second-place co-angler, John Driver, used 2 different strategies too. On Saturday he delivered a solid 3 fish bag and decided to follow the “fewer is better” strategy on Sunday with only two big fish that weighed 9.67 pounds on Sunday giving John a total of 15.81 pounds. On Saturday he followed his boaters pattern and threw a jerk bait to land his fish early with a late fish caught in the PM to round out his sack. On Sunday he was sitting on a “zero” at 11:30 when he pulled out the A-Rig on a dirty water bank and caught his 5.35 and 4.32 pound females on the same point!
Finishing 3rd on the co-angler side was Shelby Thacker with 5 quality keepers for 15.63 pounds. He used his local knowledge to team up with some less experienced Ozark boaters to find fish in familiar spots in the Gravois. He used a shaky head worm (yes, I said shaky head) to catch fish on an uncommon bait in uncommon spring water in depths up to 20 feet! Now we just need to work with him on some truck driving issues I am told?
We would like to thank all the boaters and co-anglers for competing at our first Qualifier. As with any event, not everything goes as planned and the Board appreciates everyone’s support and patience. I received several compliments from new members on our boater and co-angler sportsmanship which should make everyone proud to be a member of the Missouri TBF. greatly appreciated. We are excited about the rest of the 2018 schedule and hope that all of you can join us at Stockton for our second Qualifier and at Truman Lake for our First Annual Team Championship!