Bass Fishing Below Bagnell Dam

By John Neporadny Jr.

    The Osage River below Lake of the Ozarks harbors a variety of fish throughout the year and the spillway section of Bagnell Dam offers plenty of opportunities for anglers in a boat or on the bank.

    Bank fishing is permitted on both sides of the spillway. Both banks are open to the public. Spring is the prime season to fish below the dam since walleye, white bass, hybrid stripers, catfish and paddlefish congregate at various times to spawn in the spillway. However, fish can be caught year-round from the river as long as some current exists.

    One of the best kept secrets at Lake of the Ozarks is the bass fishing on the Osage River. “It’s really good bass fishing that tends to get overlooked there,” claims Rich Duncan, a long-time Osage River fisherman and former owner of Riverview Campground on the south bank of the river. Bass can be caught throughout the year in the tailrace and the river but may not be possessed from March 1 through the Friday before the fourth Saturday in May. Most of the bass taken from the river are largemouth, but some spotted bass and an occasional smallmouth are also caught.

    The water flow dictates where the bass will be on the river.  “Bass don’t like current so if there is a lot of water running, the fish tend to go up in the creeks and pockets,” advises Duncan.

    During the winter, Duncan throws either a 1/ 4-ounce chartreuse spinnerbait or a shad-pattern Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue along downed timber either on the main river or in the pockets. In the spring, he uses the same lures in the tributaries of the river where the fish will hold 4 to 8 feet deep around the root wads of  lay-downs.  He throws the spinnerbait on 25- to 30-pound test line and scales down to 10- to 12-pound line for his Rogues.

    During the spring and summer, some bass are also taken accidentally in the spillway area on live bait by anglers fishing for crappie or white bass.  Early in the mornings, current created by the generators attracts bass, and these fish can be taken on various topwater lures or Sassy Shads.

    Duncan concentrates on the main river during the summer and targets downed timber and root wads in shallow water. “If they are not running water you can hardly find any spots more than 8 to 10 feet deep but generally you will catch the fish in 2 to 3 feet of water,” says Duncan. His favorite lure for summertime is a Texas-rigged 6-inch plastic worm in plum or purple that he works on 10- to 12-pound line.

    In autumn, Duncan sticks with the plastic worm and throws a spinnerbait along the main river. If fall rains create heavy flow on the river, Duncan then tries the same tactics in the creeks and pockets.

    An access area maintained by the Missouri Department of Conservation is available at the dam for anglers who want to fish the tailrace from a boat. Fishing is prohibited in the marked restricted zone within 225 feet below Bagnell Dam.. Since the river fluctuates frequently due to periods of water flow from the dam, anglers should call the AmerenUE lake level information telephone number (573) 365-9205 for updates on the spillway’s discharge rates.

    For information on lodging at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 152-page vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at

 Copies of John Neporadny's book, "THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide" are  available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site .