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Shaky Head Worm Fishing on Lake of the Ozarks

Jig worm fishing on Lake of the Ozarks

By John Neporadny Jr.

Many touring pros have dubbed it shaky head fishing but Lake of the Ozarks legend Guido Hibdon likes to call it jig worm fishing.

The Godfather of Finesse Fishing’s label best describes this tactic because it requires using a jighead and a plastic worm. The term shaky head derives from having to shake the jig and worm to trigger strikes but Hibdon doesn’t always need to shake his jig worm to catch Lake of the Ozarks bass.

“Every day will tell you a different story on how to work it,” Hibdon says. “I hop it a little bit. Sometimes I just throw it out there and crank it real slow and let it just bump the bottom every now and then. The next time I might have to pick it up and pull it a little bit and hop it once or twice.”

Taking a break from the FLW Tour, Hibdon has returned to guiding on his home waters of Lake of the Ozarks. During an outing with Hibdon, I got a chance to learn some of the legendary pro’s tricks for catching finicky bass on a jig worm. Despite facing some tough conditions (calm bluebird skies and bass recuperating from the spawn) we still managed to catch 15 keepers with our best five fish probably weighing around 15 pounds. Almost all of the fish we caught that day was on a hop-and-fall presentation.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

When guiding Hibdon frequently sets up his clients with a jig worm. “A jig worm is one of those deals that anybody can do,” Hibdon says. “It is the simplest fishing that anybody can possibly do. I get a big kick out of it.”

Hibdon’s clients get a big kick out of it too because not only does it catch lots of fish, it also coaxes big bass into biting. “You bet it will, “Hibdon claims. “The biggest fish I have seen this year a guy caught out of the back of my boat on it. He had an 8-pound, 6-ounce fish that he caught on 8-pound line with a jig worm on one of my rods. The heck of it was if you took his best five fish he would have ended up with 26 or 27 pounds.”

Using a light jighead is the key to jig worm fishing. “The lighter you can keep the head the better off you are, “says Hibdon. The former Bassmaster Classic champ uses 1/16-or 1/8-ounce jigheads for most of his jig worm applications but he will upgrade to a 1/4-ounce head on windy days to prevent his line from bowing.

Lake of the Ozarks

Pouring his own jigheads allows Hibdon to make models with different size hooks. So when he fishes 4-inch finesse worms the veteran guide opts for a jighead with a 3/0 or 4/0 hook and switches to a model with a 5/0 hook for 6-inch or larger trick worms. “You don’t have to use a real small bait to do it,” says Hibdon, who matches his jighead with a Zoom Magnum Trick Worm during the summertime and fall.

Before rigging the worm on the jig, Hibdon slightly pushes down on the bend of the hook with a pair of pliers which helps the worm lay straighter on the hook and assures a better hook set. The key to rigging the combo is to make sure the worm sits straight on the hook. “If the worm has a little crook in it the line will get twisted all the time,” Hibdon warns. When rigged correctly the point of the hook should be barely under the skin of the worm body to make the combo weedless.

Hibdon ties his jighead with a Palomar knot onto an 8-foot leader line of Berkley Trilene 100 % Fluorocarbon followed by tying a main line of yellow 10-pound Trilene braid with a Double Uni or Albright knot. “I don’t use straight fluorocarbon because I can’t see it and if I use anything heavier than 8 pounds on the (spinning) reel you can’t keep it on the reel,” he says. “It just spins off of their too easily (and will create a tangled mess).”

The longtime FLW Tour pro prefers the yellow braid so he can see the line easier, but Hibdon adds the fluorocarbon leader to prevent fish from detecting his line. “I get paranoid knowing fish can see that yellow line, so that determines how long I make my leader,” says Hibdon. In the clearest water, he lengthens his leader to 10 to 12 feet. In dirty water he still throws the same fluoro-braid combination but opts for a leader of 12- to 15-pound fluorocarbon and a main line of 15-pound braid.

Hibdon recommends throwing the jig worm on a 7-foot medium-action spinning rod that has a strong backbone yet a fast tip for casting accuracy and distance. He favors using a Lew’s spinning reel with a medium size spool.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 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 funlake.com.

For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.

Lake of the Ozarks Crappie

Dock shooting for Lake of the Ozarks slabs

By John Neporadny Jr.

“Dock shooting” is one of the most effective tactics for catching Lake of the Ozarks crappies tucked up in the shady areas of docks.

A local guide who shoots for crappie at the lake is Terry Blankenship. He had to learn the technique in order to compete with the shooters on his home waters of Lake of the Ozarks since the lake contains thousands of docks.

The technique can pay big dividends for those who learn how to become expert marksmen since the tactic reaches fish that are inaccessible for anglers with 10- or 11-foot dipping poles.

“The tendency of crappies is that they like to get under the darkest areas of those docks,” says Blankenship. “A lot of times whenever you shoot a jig way back into those dark areas a lot of your better fish are the first ones that will bite and they will bite really quickly in 2 to 4 foot of water.”

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

Blankenship’s favorite skipping lure is also a large plastic projective, a 3-inch Bobby Garland Slab Slayer attached to a 1/16-ounce Bobby Garland Mo’ Glo jighead. He believes the 1/16-ounce jighead is the ideal size for skipping, since a 1/32-ounce head is too light to propel the lure and a 1/8-ounce model tends to plow into the water and dives too fast.

The local guide skips his lures with 6-pound test Vicious Panfish HiVis Yellow line that allows him to detect any line movement indicating a bite when the lure falls in the dark spaces of the dock. “One of the key things is to get a line that doesn’t coil up real bad,” says Blankenship, who soaks his spool with line conditioner before a tournament.

A good lure launcher is another key to effective dock shooting. When he was a kid, Blankenship learned he could sling persimmons farther on a longer hickory stick, so he relies on the same principle today with his shooting rod. He uses a 7-foot Lew’s medium-action spinning rod that has plenty of flexibility for loading up the line like a bowstring yet is stout enough to allow Blankenship to control his shot in close quarters.

Relying on Humminbird side imaging units have made it easier for Blankenship to find the best docks among the thousands to choose from on Lake of the Ozarks. “For crappie fishing that side imaging is one of the greatest tools I have ever seen for locating fish,” the local angler says. “If there is a row of 10 docks if I take my time and check those docks out, I can minimize my time greatly by finding the one dock with fish on it instead of having to fish all 10. I can go about anywhere on the lake and feel like I can catch fish, whereas before I felt like I had to work a little harder at it.”

His side imaging units have taught Blankenship that the looks of a dock above water can be deceiving compared to what’s happening below the surface. Most anglers target the dock wells and walkways where they suspect brush piles are hidden, but Blankenship notices more crappies under the swim platform and large deck areas of docks. “Those are the ones that the fish really seem to school under more than just the 4-foot walkways,” he says.

When scanning a uniform row of docks, Blankenship sets his unit’s side imaging range at 40 feet to show the most detail on his screen. With his unit fine-tuned, Blankenship can discern the difference between crappies and baitfish on his graph. “Crappies basically show up as a bunch of little specks,” says Blankenship. “The difference between crappies and shad is the shad seem to be more of a cloud on the screen whereas crappies tend to be more of a bunch of specks.” Blankenship originally suspected the specks were gizzard shad when he first started using the side imaging unit, but he soon learned the images were crappies when he would shoot his jig into the targeted area and kept catching fish.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 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 funlake.com.

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 www.jnoutdoors.com.

Clearwater Lake Smallmouth Bass

Upper Clearwater Lake Alabama Rig

Clearwater Lake is Great Smallmouth Fishery

By Marc Rogers

Nestled in the northeast Ozark Mountains lies a smallmouth bass fishery few are aware exists. Clearwater Lake, a small impoundment on the Black River, is located just minutes west of Piedmont, Missouri. Clearwater Lake is controlled by the Army Corp of Engineers and its normal summer pool level covers just 2,000 acres. However, the lake level varies drastically, and during heavy rains it can reach flood stage and cover 10,000 acres or more as the water backs up into the Black River and Logan Creek arms.

Many local residents flood to the lake on holiday weekends and throughout the summer months. They take advantage of the many area campgrounds and resorts near the shoreline of the lake and river below the spillway. While enjoying the boating and swimming, something is happening below the water surface that is known mostly to only local anglers. Clearwater Lake is growing some big bass willing to entertain the anglers during any season.
The most overlooked opportunity Clearwater Lake has to offer is the smallmouth bass fishing during the fall through spring. As the temperatures begin to cool in the fall, the smallmouth bass travel from their shallow summer hideouts in the Black River downstream to Clearwater Lake. Some tagged smallmouth bass have been reported to travel as far as 30 miles to the lake during this annual migration.

Once arriving in the upper ends of the lake, the smallmouth have only one goal. Smallmouth bass are intent to fatten up for the coming winter conditions, and stories of anglers catching trophy smallmouth are not uncommon around the town of Piedmont.

Due to the size of the lake, big boats are not necessary to cover the entire surface during a day of fishing. Small aluminum craft, as well as fully loaded bass boats are all common on Clearwater Lake. mft-logo

Several tournaments are held throughout the entire year on the lake and the heaviest bags weighed in are during the cooler weather from November through March. Many times the winning weight exceeds 20-pounds and all five fish are smallmouth bass.

The techniques used most often by local anglers consist of crankbaits, jerkbaits, jigs, shaky heads, and the Alabama Rig. Crankbaits and jigs are usually a crawdad pattern while jerkbaits are most often shad patterns or bright colored chartreuse patterns. The most productive Alabama Rigs consist of soft plastic shad baits with several chrome blades on each wire for added flash.

My favorite crankbait for any season on Clearwater Lake is the Storm Wiggle Wart. While the crawdad patterns catch big bass, I often throw a shad pattern with great success when bass are keying on the abundant shad population. Seldom do I find reaching depths of more than 15-feet with any crankbait is necessary to catch bass in these waters. During the cooler seasons, the smallmouth bass are mostly taken in water less than 15-feet deep and at times less than 5-feet deep.

When fishing a Wiggle Wart, I maintain a steady retrieve while digging the lure’s lip into the bottom. Anytime the lure is paused by hitting underwater debris, or deflects off the many rocks and stumps on the lake’s bottom, it is subject to getting engulfed by a big bass.

Jerkbaits are popular with Clearwater Lake anglers. Most prefer lures in shad or chartreuse patterns that will suspend just below the water surface. A twitch-and-pause retrieve is deadly on the winter-time smallmouth bass in the shallow area of the upper creek and river arms. However, both largemouth and spotted bass can be just a eager to strike this offering

Jigs are a favorite of many local anglers during the cooler weather due to the ability to present the lure slowly and maintain bottom contact. A jig in a crawdad pattern is one of the best ways to imitate a slow moving crawdad and are known to catch big bass in any water. Local anglers Aaron and Alton Hunter log many hours on Clearwater Lake and reside just minutes away from the lake’s shoreline. They report fishing a Midwest Fishing Tackle football head jig and slowly dragging it along the bottom during any season. “My biggest bass from Clearwater have come on football jigs”, Aaron said. “I sometimes throw a brush head jig in the heavy cover as well as a soft plastic craw on a jig head with no skirt, poured in a custom-made mold”, Alton added.

At times, a shaky head presentation is needed to coax finicky smallmouth bass to inhale anything. When a finesse lure is needed, a shaky head rigged with a 4-5 inch finesse worm is ideal. Natural colors such as green pumpkin, watermelon and pumpkin seed are most productive.

When bass are actively chasing shad, the Alabama Rig is hard to beat. “I use a 5-wire rig with custom made jig head on my A-Rigs”, Aaron reported. The jig head is a special made round head with a light-wire hook and a hand-made lure keeper wire. “I like the light-wire hooks because when they get hung I can bend them and get my rig back. I use heavy braid line with the A-Rig”, Aaron said. Both Aaron and Alton say catching doubles on the Alabama Rig is not uncommon when the smallmouth bass are after schools of shad.

Clearwater Lake is a great fishery during any season. Anglers pursue all species of fish including bass (largemouth, spotted and smallmouth), crappie, bluegill and catfish during every season. The lake rarely freezes over and public boat ramps are open all year. However, if your desire is a trophy smallmouth bass, visit Clearwater Lake from November through March for some phenomenal results.

Topwater for Lake of the Ozarks Bass

Topwater Tactics For Lake of the Ozarks Bass

by John Neporadny Jr.

The greatest thrill in bass fishing occurs when you’re watching a calm surface suddenly explode and your topwater lure instantly vanishes.

This scene will be played out many times this month on Lake of the Ozarks as the waters become warm enough to activate bass into feeding on top. A number of factors stimulate bass into striking at objects on the surface during spring. They are up shallow after a long winter’s
nap; they’re aggressive and hungry. They will also go into an area where they are going to spawn and clear out anything else in that area.

Their aggressive nature during the spawning cycle make bass susceptible to a variety of topwater lures including chuggers, stickbaits and propellor baits. Two popular lures for most for surface action at Lake of the Ozarks are a Rebel Pop-R and a Heddon Zara Spook. The Pop-R will bring
up all sizes of bass, but the Spook is more or less a big fish bait in the spring.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

Clear-water areas in the middle to lower ends of the lake produce the best topwater action during the spring. You need to have at least a foot of visibility to get anything on the Pop-R. The fish will be in 3 to 5 feet of water, but they will come up for that lure. The best springtime topwater spots include long, rocky points, pockets in coves and main channel cuts. In April, the fish move into the backs of coves where they can be caught in pockets and around any stickups. By the end of the month and throughout May, the fish migrate back to deeper water, but can still be caught in the shallows around wood cover in main channel cuts and along extended main lake points.

Mornings and evenings are the best times for topwater action at Lake of the Ozarks. Any low-light conditions work better than bright sunshine for topwater fishing. When you get cloudy weather, you can fish topwater all day long with the same success. When the sun gets high they will leave those lures alone. Wind also prevents you from working a Zara Spook effectively, but you can still throw a Pop-R if there’s a chop on the water.

When the water’s calm, retrieve the Pop-R as slow as possible. Just barely twitch it every couple of seconds. When a fish strikes at it start moving the lure otherwise the fish will turn around and leave it. After casting a Spook, let it sit until the ripples from the splash disappear, then retrieve the lure in the traditional walk-the-dog fashion. The Pop-R and Spook work best before and after the spawn, but another topwater technique produces better when the fish are on the nest. One of the best lures during the spawn is a (Rattlin’) Rogue because bass think it is a perch or a sunfish coming into their nest. Jerk the lure down in front of a nest and lets it sit there until the bass can no longer resist snapping at the Rogue.Lake of the Ozarks

Throw both the Pop-R and Spook on heavier line (15- to 20-pound test) to bring out the best action in both lures. Lighter line causes the lures to sink down under the water some when you jerk the rod, which especially hampers the action of the Pop-R. The Rogue works better with 12- to 14-pound test line.

The topwater bite usually starts the first part of April if the water temperature climbs into the mid 60s. The pattern usually lasts until about the middle of May or even the first part of June during a cool spring. If you get cool rainy days, you can still use that topwater in the early summer.

For more information on lodging and fishing at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 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 funlake.com.

For a copy of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide, call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.

Lake of the Ozarks Crappie

Finding Lake of the Ozarks Crappie Through the Spawning Cycle

by John Neporadny Jr.

When crappie spawn on Lake of the Ozarks, catching them can be as simple as casting a jig or minnow to a shallow brush pile. Within a matter of minutes you’ll be hauling in a mess of these popular panfish.

Since the actual crappie spawn can be short-lived, some anglers who depend on catching them in the shallows miss out on some good action by not fishing the entire crappie spawning cycle from pre-spawn to post-spawn. The following tips will help you to find and catch crappie through the spawning cycle on Lake of the Ozarks.

This central Missouri reservoir probably offers the most consistent year-round crappie fishing in the state, but its best action occurs during the spawning cycle. The pre-spawn begins when crappie stage in March 5 to 8 feet deep near the spawning banks (a mixture of pea gravel with chunk rock in the backs of coves or pockets of river bends). Crappie move into the pre-spawn stage when the water temperature reaches 45 degrees.

In clear water, throw a light pink (shrimp-colored) tube jig with either a 1/16-or 1/32-ounce jighead. For darker colored water, select a purple-and-white or black-and-chartreuse hues. If the fish refuse to these offerings, switch to a marabou jig. Use ultralight spinning tackle and 4-pound test line.

Retrieve the jig slowly, but if the water has warmed, switch to a Roadrunner and swim it through the brush. When a cold front hits and drops the water temperature, attach a bobber about 6 feet above your jig and let this combination dangle over a brush pile. The bobber-and-jig system allows
you to keep your lure in the crappie’s strike zone longer than his other presentations.

Lake of the Ozarks crappie move in to spawn when the water temperature ranges from 52 to 62 degrees. In early April, they fish will just about
be on the bank spawning. The fish will be in about 1 1/2 to 6 feet of water along the pea gravel banks.

Nesting areas are easy to find if the water is clear. The fish fan out about an 18-inch to 36-inch diameter nest. When you look at the bottom, it will look like silver dollars down where they’ve fanned all the silt away from the rocks.

A variety of plastic-bodied jigs, including Sassy Shads, tube jigs or curly tail bodies, work during the spawn. Five basic colors to try are purple-and-white, chartreuse tail with yellow body, hot pink, a red/yellow combination and pearl.

During the spawn, the fish become more aggressive and attack anything that gets close to the nest. Try a 1/8th-ounce jig and attach a small cork set about 1 1/2 feet above the lure.

Cast the jig and cork toward the spawning area. Roll the cork with your rod which moves the jig just enough to attract attention. When on the nest, a crappie will attack it.

After the spawn (usually late April and early May), crappie will start moving deeper. As the water gets progressively warmer, the fish will go progressively deeper. Anglers need to fish the same type of brush where they found crappie in the pre-spawn, usually in the 8- to 12-foot range. Whereas the crappie bite all day during the spawn, the best fishing now will be in the early morning, late evening or at night.

If the surface temperature jumps into the 70- to 80-degree range, the crappie will seek shady hideouts 15 to 20 feet deep. Hang a lantern on a dock to catch crappie at night. The best bait is a minnow fished straight down in the brush.

In late May, the crappie are nearly in a summertime pattern. Start looking for beds closer to the main channel because the water’s cooler there. Look for fish in the 12-foot range and then probe deeper until you find crappie.

Minnows are the exclusive bait during this time of year. The shad population replenishes during this time, and the crappie start pursuing livelier and larger prey than a jig offers. Hook medium-size minnows behind the dorsal fin to prevent driving the hook through the bait’s vital parts and killing it. The bait rig should include a number 4 to 6 hook and a 1/16-once split shot set 6 to 8 inches above the hook The spawning cycle ends when crappie return to their deep brush piles (18 to 20 feet deep) for the summer.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 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 funlake.com.

For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.

Lake of the Ozarks Offers Great Bass Fishing

Lake of the Ozarks’ great bass fishing

By John Neporadny Jr.

While other Missouri lakes have up and down years of bass fishing, Lake of the Ozarks experiences good bass fishing every year.

Stable water conditions and good shad production create good bass fishing year after year at this Central Missouri Lake. “There is really not a lot of variation from year to year so our (bass) spawning is pretty consistent,” says MDC Fisheries Biologist Greg Stoner. “It looks like we have a slug of fish that is coming on just below the length limit in that 12- to 14-inch range and I expect fishing to be better.”

Longtime tournament pro and guide Guido Hibdon notices there is an abundance of keeper size (15 inches or longer) bass in Lake of the Ozarks now. “The lake is probably as full of bass as I have ever seen it,” he says. “Two-pound fish are thick in the lake now.” His clients have caught quality fish including one fellow who boated an 8–pounder and on a return trip caught two 6-pounders.

Hibdon suggests the best patterns for catching prespawn Lake of the Ozarks bass are throwing Wiggle Wart crankbaits, suspending stickbaits and 1/8 or 5/16-ounce jigs with plastic chunks or craws to transition banks of chunk rocks and gravel. Most of the time a big fish comes from a transition bank,” he says. The prespawn stage varies from one end of the lake to the other and might last for two months.

During the spawn, Hibdon targets the backs of boat docks in protected areas where he casts a shad color tube bait or a jig-and-worm combo.

“Lake of the Ozarks is so good during the spawn because there are so many docks that fish can get anywhere and spawn,” Hibdon says. Spawning usually occurs during a couple of full moons during the spring months.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 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 funlake.com.

For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.

February Crappie Fishing at Lake of the Ozarks

Catching Early Slabs at Lake of the Ozarks

By John Neporadny Jr.

February can be a real tease for Lake of the Ozarks crappie anglers.

The month is still in the throes of winter doling out snow, ice and bitter cold, but it also shows hints of spring with certain days radiating sunshine and warmth. The lake has gone through the annual winter drawdown to its lowest level and the surface waters have dropped to the coldest temperatures of the year. During an average winter, the reservoirs north of I-70 are usually covered with ice that is too thick for boats to break through yet too thin to attempt any ice fishing. So the Lake of the Ozarks in the central part of the state offers crappie anglers the best chance to catch a mess of slab crappie—weather permitting.

You might have to break through a thin layer of ice at the boat ramp in the morning, but it will be well worth the effort for the chance to catch some of the biggest crappie of the year. Savvy crappie anglers know that the biggest fish usually move to the shallows first, so they find any possible way to get to open water when that first warming trend of the month arrives.

Throughout the winter, Lake of the Ozarks crappie suspend over deep-water haunts waiting for warmer weather to trigger their spring migration to the shallows. A couple of warm, sunny days in February prompt some of those suspending fish to move closer to the surface to feed on baitfish that rise to the warmer surface water. Slab crappie suspended over a creek channel close to a flat or a bluff with a shallow ledge will move up quickly on the shallow structure after a couple of balmy weather days.

I have lived at the lake for more than 30 years and have never seen it freeze over completely, but during most winters we do have to contend with breaking through ice especially in the coves and the narrower sections of the Niangua arm, upper Osage and the Gravois and Grand Glaize creeks. A mild winter last year allowed me to fish for crappie the whole month of February on my home waters, but during the previous two winters my cove was covered with ice and I was unable to get my boat out until the first week of March.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

When the weather cooperates, February can be one of the best months for catching the biggest crappie of the year on the central Missouri lake. “Once the lake gets pulled down and stabilizes and the sunlight starts warming up the water it brings the fish up pretty shallow in February,” says guide Terry Blankenship. The Osage Beach angler believes the biggest crappie move shallower faster than the rest of the panfish during the warming trends of February, especially in areas containing dirtier water. He recommends trying the Grand Glaize arm and Indian Creek of the Gravois arm for early slabs in the shallows since the waters in these tributaries tend to warm up faster than the main lake.

Two patterns produce best for Blankenship when he pursues slab crappie throughout February. When the surface water temperature climbs after two or three warm, sunny days, Blankenship knows shad and slab crappie move closer to the surface so he relies on techniques that keep his lures suspended in the shallower strike zone. His favorite tactics for catching these fish are jerking a suspending stickbait and working a jig-and-bobber rig.

Slab crappie will suspend over various depths in February and during the warming trends the fish hold 4 to 8 feet deep on flats in the 10- to 15-foot range or along steeper banks in 20 to 25 feet of water. Blankenship searches for baitfish on his electronics to pinpoint the depth and location of slabs during the warming trends.

The stickbait tactic works best for Blankenship in clear water since the fish can see farther to move up and snatch the suspending lure. So Blankenship favors jerking the stickbait for crappie in the clearest section of the lake from Bagnell Dam to the 10-mile mark and the lower Gravois arm.

The Megabass 3 3/4-inch Vision 95 Is Blankenship’s favorite stickbait to catch both numbers and slab crappie, but the 4 1/3-inch Vision 110 model usually produces the biggest crappie. The guide opts for stickbaits with a tint of blue on the lures such as blue-and-chartreuse. He also likes the lures to have some shades of purple.

Once he finds the baitfish, Blankenship casts to the spot and jerks the stickbait five to seven times on 6- or 8-pound test to make the lure dive down to its maximum depth. Then he lets the lure sit for various lengths of time before twitching it again. “if the water is fairly cold you really have to slow it down a lot,” he says.

After the bite stops on the stickbait, Blankenship will throw the jig-and-bobber setup to the same spot. “A lot of times you can really tear them up then,” he says.

Blankenship uses a small egg-shaped clip-on bobber that he sets about 4 to 6 feet above a 1/16-ounce jighead. He attaches either a Bobby Garland 3-inch Slab Slayer or Baby Shad in blue ice, threadfin shad or bluegrass colors.

The local guide also uses a slow presentation for his bobber tactics. “You can throw it out there and let it sit for 30 seconds sometimes and if you are in the midst of a school one will finally whack it,” he says. Blankenship occasionally twitches the bobber a couple of times and then pauses it, but most of the time he casts the rig beyond his target and slowly reels to where the bobber sits above the fish. In dirty-water situations, he sets his bobber so the jig rests slightly above the tops of brush piles.

The ideal weather for Blankenship’s tactics is a partly cloudy day with a 5 to 10 mph breeze. He notes it is tougher to catch slabs on sunny, calm days, which tend to push the fish down into the brush or under docks.

The pattern for slabs tends to change towards the end of February when the backs of creeks become 5 to 8 degrees warmer than the main lake. “When you find that warmer water the bigger fish have a tendency to go toward the warmer water because the baitfish go there too,” he says.

Although he has caught 15-inch crappie on his home lake in February, Blankenship mostly catches limits of 12-inch slabs during the month. “When you catch a limit of 12-inch fish off of this lake you have really done something,” he says.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 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 funlake.com.

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 www.jnoutdoors.com.

Lake of the Ozarks Osage Arm

Osage Arm Offers Consistent Lake of the Ozarks Fishing

By John Neporadny Jr.

Despite heavy development throughout the years, the lower Osage arm of the Lake of the Ozarks continues to produce good fishing year round.

The Osage arm from the 6 to the 24 mile marker winds around three peninsulas known as Horseshoe, Shawnee and Turkey bends. Running through the heavily populated Osage Beach area, this section of the lake contains several coves loaded with rows of boat docks.

Numerous marinas and huge condominium docks cover large expanses of shoreline in this area. Recreational boat traffic is heavy in this section from Memorial Day to Labor Day, especially at the mouth of the Grand Glaize arm and around the Lodge of the Four Seasons.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

The water in this section has a little more color in it than the dam area and the Gravois, but still offers good visibility most of the year. Water temperatures stay a little cooler on this main river section so fishing picks up a little later in the spring than on the other parts of the lower lake. However some early season action usually occurs in the bigger coves such as North Buck and Buck creeks.

Here are some tips on how to catch the following species on the lower Osage.

Crappie

During those first couple of warm days in the winter key on brush piles ranging from 10 to 30 feet deep and float a bobber-and-jig combination over the cover for suspended fish. Set the jig 2 to 3 feet below the plastic bobber and throw the combination around docks, which have brush piles either tied at certain depths along the sides of the boat houses or sunk on the bottom. Docks on the main lake and in the deeper coves produce best for winter crappie.

Use a 1/32-ounce jig in clear, smoke or gray hues for the bobber-and-jig tactic. You can also catch some fish throwing a 1/16-ounce Roadrunner around the same docks.

Lake of the Ozarks

When spring arrives, you can still rely on the bobber and jig but move to shallower docks along the pea gravel shores in the coves and pockets. When working along a barren gravel bank, cast a 1/32-ounce Roadrunner, but if you see a shallow brush pile, toss the bobber and jig to the cover.

After casting the jig past the brush, wind the bobber right into the cover. Waves cause the bobber to rise and fall, which imparts action to the jig below yet keeps the lure in the strike zone longer. The bobber allows you to control the depth of your lure to keep it in front of crappie longer, letting you move the lure slowly to entice sluggish fish holding tight to the cover.

During autumn, throw Roadrunners as you cruise down the banks of wind-blown coves. Sometimes you can find the fish in the same brush piles where they spawn in the spring. However most of the time, you should key on points where you should throw a 1/16 or lighter tube jig.

Use 4- to 6-pound test line for all of your crappie tactics throughout the year.

White Bass

Summer and fall are the two best seasons to fish for white bass in this section of the lake. You can find whites along the main channel in the summertime and fish for them early and late in the day. Late evening is probably the best time to try for white bass.

A favorite tactic of local anglers for summertime is working a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce jigging spoon (white with red eyes) or a white-and-red 1/4-ounce marabou jig 25 to 30 feet deep along the channel break. Select 12- to 15-pound line for the jig and spoon tactics.

Fall is the best season for catching whites on the lower Osage. You can usually start catching fish in late September and pursue whites until November. “October is the prime month for whites though.

A popper-and-jig combination works best along wind-blown points. Remove both hooks from a Rebel Pop-R topwater lure and tie a 24-inch leader line to the rear hook eye, then attach a 1/16-ounce marabou jig (white with red head) to the end of the leader. Just pop it like you normally would work a Pop-R and tie the popper on 15-pound line with 10-pound line for the jig trailer.

The fish chase shad extremely shallow on the points so throw this rig within a couple of feet of the bank. Limits of 15 white bass can be taken easily by running from one windy point to the next, especially on cloudy days.

Catfish

When the bass fishing gets tough in this section during the summertime, local anglers have another alternative. From June through August, you can keep busy by catfishing.

A favorite tactic for catching catfish is with a modified Carolina rig. Use a main line of 15- to 20-pound test and slip on a 1/2- to 3/4-ounce bullet sinker followed by a swivel. Attached to the swivel is a 48-inch leader with a 2/0 hook on the other end. Complete the rig by cutting a Styrofoam bobber in half and clipping it about a foot above the hook. The float keeps the hook out of the mud so the fish can eat the bait easier. A favorite bait is lake shad, but you can also use bait shrimp, crawfish, liver or hot dogs for this Carolina rig.

Drift coves and try to keep your boat over depths of 6 to 25 feet deep for catfish. For the best results, go with the wind whichever way it is blowing. If it is blowing from the back end of the cove forward, then start at the back end or vice versa.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 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 funlake.com.

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 www.jnoutdoors.com.

Lake of the Ozarks Crappie

Shaky-Head Fishing For Lake of the Ozarks Crappie

By John Neporadny Jr.

One of the latest bass fishing rages is starting to catch on with Lake of the Ozarks crappie anglers as well.

The combination of a jig head and small finesse worm known as a shaky head worm has become the rig many bass pros rely on when the fishing gets tough. A couple of savvy crappie anglers have also discovered a miniature version of the shaky head worm produces fish especially on heavily pressured waters.

While fishing with a buddy a couple of years ago on Lake of the Ozarks, Phil Gardner threw a tube bait around the docks and his partner rigged an Eagle Claw Nitro Trailer on a jig head. “He started absolutely waxing me with those things,” recalls Gardner.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

When Gardner borrowed some of his partner’s trailer worms and rigged up his own shaky head, he immediately started catching fish. Since then he has employed the jig head and Eagle Claw worm to present to crappie suspended around large private and community docks in the fall and winter on his home lake. “I have become a firm believer in the thing because I guarantee it will out catch a regular crappie tube 5 to 1,” Gardner says.

A variety of jig heads will work with the Eagle Claw worm, but Gardner prefers a CT Minnow Jig, which has a bullet-shaped head and a keeper barb to secure the worm to the jig better. When rigged properly, the worm should be straight in line with the jig head. “I think it falls a little better (with the minnow head) and that bullet-style head comes through the brush a lot better than a round head,” says Gardner.

Throughout autumn and early winter, Gardner prefers his shaky head to fall at a faster rate so he opts for a 1/16-ounce jig head. However, when the fish become sluggish in the dead of winter, Gardner selects a 1/32-ounce jig for a slow-falling shaky head. The Missouri angler favors a chartreuse Nitro worm for most of his shaky head presentations, but he sometimes tries a white worm that he colors the tip with a dash of chartreuse Spike-It spray.

Gardner’s presentation consists of pitching his shaky head along the sides or into the wells of docks and letting the lure pendulum back to the boat without reeling in line. He believes the worm has a more natural fall with the pendulum presentation, and he creates more tail action on the worm when he shakes his rod as the lure sinks.

The crappie veteran claims the key to his presentation is pinpointing the depth of the fish. Once he discovers the strike zone, Gardner can lengthen or shorten his pitch so his shaky head will swing back to the same depth each time he presents the shaky head. When Gardner guesses the combo has reached the strike zone, he starts shaking the worm to trigger a bite.

“Most of the time they will hit the thing on the fall if they are really aggressive,” says Gardner. “A lot of the fish will be suspended 2 to 4 feet deep under the foam and they will knock 6 inches of slack out of your line.” While the fish will thump the shaky head some days, there are other times Gardner has to pay close attention to his line for that telltale mushy feeling or watch for the line to go slack on the descent.

Although line watching is essential to his presentation, Gardner prefers using clear 4-pound P-Line because he believes a high-visibility line spooks the fish in clear water. He pitches his shaky head on a 5 1/2-foot light-action Bass Pro Shops Wally Marshall Signature Series Spinning Rod with an ultralight Shimano spinning reel.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 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 funlake.com.

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 www.jnoutdoors.com.

GEORGIA’S FISHER WINS COSTA FLW SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP ON TABLE ROCK LAKE

November 5, 2016 by FLW Communications

BRANSON, Mo. – Pat Fisher of Colbert, Georgia, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 15 pounds even Saturday to win the Costa FLW Series Championship on Table Rock Lake, which featured 192 of the top semi-pro boaters and co-anglers from across the globe. Fisher’s three-day total of 15 bass weighing 40 pounds, 4 ounces, earned him $50,200 and a coveted spot in the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing.

“I haven’t fished at this level in years, so this tournament was like a family reunion,” said Fisher, who spent eight years on the FLW Tour before stepping away in 2008. “I’ve always been very competitive, so it feels great to win.

“I came into this event after having the worst practice I’ve ever had,” Fisher continued. “On Day One, I went to a 200-yard stretch of bank way up the James River that I had a little success on. I sat in about 4 feet of water, throwing to bass that were shallower – maybe about a foot down. It was cloudy, so I threw a ¼-ounce white and blue-colored Boogerman Buzzbait and was able to catch nine keepers including a decent kicker.”

On Day Two, competitors were held at the marina for two hours due to excessive fog. Although the delay cut a large chunk out of Fisher’s day, he said he was still able to salvage a solid limit.

“I ran back up to the James River area and arrived at 11 a.m.,” said Fisher. “It was bright and slick so I knew they wouldn’t eat the buzzbait. I picked up a custom shaky-head rigged with a green pumpkin-colored Zoom Trick Worm and threw it around for a while. The largest piece of laydown in the area – a tree – produced around 30 fish for me. It was my magic tree.”

Fisher said he capped off the event by returning to his main stretch on Day Three, but this time, he was able to cover water more efficiently.

“I left two really big fish up there, so I narrowed my area to a 75-yard stretch,” said Fisher. “I threw to any cover I could. After the sun came out, I went back to my magic tree and caught six or seven big ones on the buzzbait. I guess it took me some more time during the tournament to figure them out.”

The top finishing boater from each of the six Costa FLW Series divisions that qualified for the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup were:

Southeastern

1st: Pat Fisher, Colbert, Ga., 15 bass, 40-4, $50,200

Southwestern

2nd: Cody Bird, Granbury, Texas, 15 bass, 38-11, $25,000

Central

4th: Old Spice pro Greg Bohannan, Bentonville, Ark., 15 bass, 33-1, $15,000 + $2,000 Ranger Cup bonus

Northern

11th: Joel Richardson, Kernersville, N.C., 10 bass, 19-14, $4,000

Western

29th: Roy Hawk, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., six bass, 15-10, $2,500

International

51st: Hyo chul Kim, South Korea, six bass, 11-15

Additionally, the overall top five finishers that were not already selected as the highest finisher in their division qualify for the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup. Those five anglers were:

3rd: Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla., 15 bass, 36-14, $20,000

5th: Christopher Jones, Bokoshe, Okla., 14 bass, 31-7, $10,100

6th: Travis Fox, Rogers, Ark., 12 bass, 28-3, $8,000

7th: Jeremy Lawyer, Sarcoxie, Mo., 14 bass, 28-0, $7,000

8th: Bradford Beavers, Ridgeville, S.C., 14 bass, 27-14, $6,000

Complete results can be found at FLWFishing.com.

The 2017 Forrest Wood Cup will be held Aug. 11-13 at Lake Murray in Columbia, South Carolina.

Tyler Sheppard of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, won the co-angler division and $30,100, including a Ranger Z175 boat with a 90-horsepower Evinrude outboard with a three-day total of 10 bass weighing 23 pounds, 10 ounces. Michael Black of Toledo, Illinois, finished in second place with 10 bass weighing 22 pounds, 1 ounce, worth $12,500.

The top 10 co-anglers finished:

1st: Tyler Sheppard, Hermitage, Pa., 10 bass, 23-10, $30,100

2nd: Michael Black, Toledo, Ill., 10 bass, 22-1, $12,500

3rd: Richard Jordan, Muncy Valley, Pa., eight bass, 16-5, $10,000

4th: Robert Myers, Broken Arrow, Okla., seven bass, 13-8, $7,550

5th: David Hudson, Jasper, Ala., five bass, 11-2, $5,000

6th: Raymond Tak, Los Angeles, Calif., five bass, 10-14, $4,000

7th: Benjamin Tawney, Slippery Rock, Pa., five bass, 10-8, $3,500

8th: Joe Lane, Republic, Mo., five bass, 9-5, $3,000

9th: Jonathan Shockey, Fort Smith, Ark., three bass, 8-7, $2,500

10th: Rob Bueltmann, Osage Beach, Mo., four bass, 8-6, $2,000

The Costa FLW Series Championship at Table Rock Lake was hosted by ExploreBranson.com.

In Costa FLW Series regular-season competition, each division competes in three tournaments, with competitors vying for valuable points to earn their way into the top 40 and the opportunity to fish in the Costa FLW Series Championship.

For complete details and updated information visit FLWFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Costa FLW Series on Facebook at Facebook.com/FLWFishing and on Twitter at Twitter.com/FLWFishing.

For More News From FLW Fishing visit FLWFishing.com

About FLW

FLW is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, providing anglers of all skill levels the opportunity to compete for millions in prize money in 2016 across five tournament circuits. Headquartered in Benton, Kentucky, with offices in Minneapolis, FLW conducts more than 235 bass-fishing tournaments annually across the United States and sanctions tournaments in Canada, China, Mexico, South Africa and South Korea. FLW tournament fishing can be seen on the Emmy-nominated “FLW” television show, broadcast to more than 564 million households worldwide, while FLW Bass Fishing magazine delivers cutting-edge tips from top pros. For more information visit FLWFishing.com and follow FLW at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat: @FLWFishing.