By Brent Frazee
Anyone who knows Bill Davenport knows what he will be casting in late spring and early summer.
Davenport is known as “Jigman” in the Lake of the Ozarks area. The vanity plates on his truck even bear his nickname.
It’s little wonder. Davenport has been using jigs to catch bass at the big lake for almost 50 years, and his prowess has brought him local fame. He designed jigs for the well-known Chompers brand, and he even has a color pattern named after him – the Davenport Special, which is brown with flashes of green.
That lure will catch bass year-round, he will tell you. But at no time is it more productive than in the bass’ post-spawn stage.
“After the spawn, the bass will pull out to these points and really start feeding,” said Davenport, 74, who lives in Waynesville, MO. “If you find the right place, you can find them grouped up and you can really catch them on a jig.”
On this day several years ago, the “right place” was a point where a ledge dropped off to deep water. He started by make a long cast to the top of that shelf and let his jig and plastic trailer settle to the bottom.
He retrieved that crawdad imitation with a method known as the Davenport Hop, using an erratic hopping motion to lift the jig, then let it settle to the bottom. The jig didn’t get far until Davenport felt a tap.
He set the hook and felt the powerful tug of a heavyweight bass. The largemouth shot to the surface, and made an acrobatic leap, then made a powerful run. But it wasn’t long before Davenport had the big bass in the boat.
“That bass will go close to four pounds,” he said. “Those are the ones you want to see in a tournament.”
But Davenport will be the first to tell you that bass of that size aren’t what the post-spawn mode is all about. The biggest bass are often caught during the pre-spawn and spawn. The post-spawn period is all about numbers.
“The Lake of the Ozarks has lots and lots of 2 to 3-pound bass,” he said. “We’ll catch bigger ones every spring, but for just sheer numbers of keepers (15 inches and longer), that’s where Lake of the Ozarks stands out.”
The bass at the Ozarks’ reservoir often spawn in early May. It takes them a while to recover, but once the water temperature warms into the low 70s, they often move to the main-lake points closes to the spawning banks and go on the feed.
The bass tend to school as they herd baitfish, and the fishing can be outstanding. Davenport also uses swimbaits, topwater lures and crankbaits to catch the post-spawn bass, but the jig is his go-to bait.
Davenport and his partners have won more than 125 tournaments at Lake of the Ozarks over the years. And the jig and pig has played a part in many of those titles, he said.
He doesn’t just pull up to a point and start fan-casting. He often casts to cover he and friends have sunk.
Davenport estimates he and his fishing partners have sunk more than 500 brush piles over the years. He situates them in specific areas the bass will use each season.
For early summer, that means secondary and main-lake points not far from the gravel banks where the bass spawned.
He has caught bass as big as 9 pounds at Lake of the Ozarks, and has numerous 5 to 7-pounders to his credit.
The best post-spawn fishing often starts in late May and will last into mid-to-late June. Once the water temperatures heat up, the fish often head to mid-lake structure such as channel edges and ledge drop-offs, and the bite often gets tougher.
Even then, Davenport knows he can use his well-known jig to catch keeper bass.
“We’re fortunate at Lake of the Ozarks because we consistently have a good population of keeper bass,” Davenport said. “Other lakes may have bigger bass, but Lake of the Ozarks is tough to beat for numbers of good, solid keepers.”
Bill Davenport, a.k.a. the Jigman, knows that post-spawn can be a great time to catch keeper bass at Lake of the Ozarks.