Throughout this strange fall, there have been about as many trucks and trailers from Kansas parked at the Gravois Mills' boat ramp at the Lake of the Ozarks as ones from Missouri.
Among the cadre of Kansans who periodically journey to the Ozarks are Lawrence bass fishermen Charles Bowen, Kevin Davis and Mike Smith.
Lake of the Ozarks was a popular destination for eastern Kansas anglers when the waters hereabouts were soiled by the rains from October to early December. Even the normally productive La Cygne Lake turned sour.
Eastern Kansans could have ventured west to Sebelius, Kirwin, Cedar Bluff and Webster lakes, where the waters sparkle and bass fishing is spectacular. But the wind can play havoc at those waterways, and it howls especially hard in the fall.
So, it was a better bet to travel east for three hours, where the wind was muted by the many massive limestone bluffs that line the Osage River. Moreover, the bass fishing at the Lake of the Ozarks was white-hot. A knowledgeable angler could catch and release 40 bass a day. many were lunkers, too, weighing eight pounds and more.
Conditions were so good in early November that Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky., caught 15 bass that weighed 60 pounds, 10 ounces and won the BASSMASTER Missouri Invitational by a mere four ounces.
To catch his hefty array, Morehead employed a Mann's 3/8-ounce buzzbait with a large blade. He worked that lure along banks with rocky shelves inside large coves near the dam.
The 320 contestants caught 1,988 bass that weighed 5,484 pounds, which is a successful tournament in anybody's book.
Bowen fished that tournament, too. It was his second voyage on the waters of big-time professional bass tournaments. During the practice rounds, Bowen wielded a jig and a spinnerbait like a master, catching scads of small bass and plenty of nice ones to boot.
But a case of rookie jitters kept him from faring as well as Morehead and 267 fellow participants. Despite his poor showing on the leader board, Bowen caught plenty of small bass and found the fishing to be so exciting and easy that he hated to see the tourney end.
Now he is counting the days until his return for another tournament in late February.
Davis and Smith didn't fish the tournament. They were merely running away from the putrid fishing around Lawrence. Like Bowen, they found the bass fishing to be delightfully simple.
Smith and two friends used Storm ThinFins on shallow points that were littered with gizzard shad. This trio caught bass galore, but the keeper-sized bass eluded them.
On the other hand, Davis and a colleague employed jigs and spinnerbaits and tangled with some big bass, catching them from brush piles, boat docks and shad-laden points. Their biggest bass broached eight pounds.
Even though the lake brimming was with bass, many anglers complained it was a noisy eyesore, equaling the worst cityscape.
One angler called it a flesh-pot and hellhole, where common sense had gone awry and where the hush and even the clamor of nature has been destroyed by man's plunderous ways.