For almost 40 years, I’ve celebrated the arrival of spring at Lake of the Ozarks.

When the redbuds and dogwoods bloom, I want to be in a boat on the big lake, casting for bass and crappies.

It’s a time when the giant reservoir shows its mild side, long before the water is busy with traffic. Spring arrives on a mild breeze, and the true beauty of the area is on full display.

Big bass cruise the clear water at the back of coves, crappies hiding in brush piles near docks snap at jigs, and an occasional trophy catfish stretches lines.

But it’s not all about the fish you run across. It’s also the people, some of whom I look forward to seeing each April.

Let me tell you about some of my most memorable trips.

The birthday bass

Four years ago, I received a birthday present I’ll never forget. On April 28, the day I turned 64, I got to fish with legendary bass fisherman Guido Hibdon at Lake of the Ozarks.

We were friends already; I had covered his career for The Kansas City Star since he broke into the pro game in the early 1980s. But this trip was special. Guido took me to some of the banks he had fished since his childhood, and I got to view some of the magic that had helped him become one of pro fishing’s all-time greats.

We caught and released more than 20 bass that day, including a 5-pounder than Guido brought to the boat. I could see him breathe a sight of relief when we were done.

“The fishing hadn’t been that good until you got here,” he said. “I guess the bass must have known it was your birthday.”

Guido passed away in 2018 and I will miss him. When I go to Lake of the Ozarks in coming years, I’m sure I’ll always remember that morning and say a little thanks to Guido for making my birthday special…

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Brent Frazee is an award-winning outdoors writer from Parkville, Mo. He was outdoors editor for The Kansas City Star for 36 years before retiring in 2016. He continues to freelance for magazines, newspapers and blogs.