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Lake of the Ozarks Grand Glaize Offers Consistent Crappie Action

Grand Glaize Offers Consistent Crappie Action

By John Neporadny Jr.

While tournaments keep the Grand Glaize arm of Lake of the Ozarks well stocked with bass throughout the year, this section of the lake also contains a large population of crappie.

The Grand Glaize arm runs about 16 miles from its confluence with the Osage arm to the swinging bridges area where the Glaize narrows down to a stream. The arm contains several large branches and hollows throughout its length. Fish-holding structure on this arm includes creek channel drops and bends, bluffs, humps, long gradual gravel points and gravel flats.

Although this section of the lake has less boat dock than the other arms, it still contains plenty of sunken brush piles in the undeveloped Lake of the Ozarks State Park, section. Most of the docks on this arm are confined to the first couple of miles around the Grand Glaize Bridge and some spots from the 26 to 30 mile marker.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

Terry Blankenship, a veteran crappie tournament angler from Lake Ozark, Mo., considers the Glaize a medium-size feeder stream that creates different types of fishing opportunities for crappie. “In the early spring it seems like there is a movement of fish up the creek, and in the late fall there is a movement of fish coming back down the creeks on the upper Glaize,” he discloses.

During the winter, Blankenship concentrates on main channel structure where he finds crappie 12 to 15 feet deep. He catches wintertime crappie with a 1/16-ounce Laker Nailer tube jig (smoke hues for clear water and chartreuse for dirty conditions) tied to 6-pound test, the line size he uses for most of his crappie tactics throughout the year.

In the spring, Blankenship heads to the upper Glaize where he pitches a bobber-and-jig combo around shallow stickups and lay-downs. He sets his jig about 18 inches below the bobber and casts the rig past his target. Cranking the bobber close to the cover, Blankenship stops his retrieve and allows the jig to fall next to the wood, which usually triggers a strike.

The upper Glaize warms quicker so the spawn in this section usually occurs during the third week of April when the water temperature rises into the 60- to 65-degree range. The last week of April is usually the peak of the spawn on the lower end, Blankenship says. During the spawn, Blankenship keys on pea-gravel banks and fishes about 1 to 2 feet deeper than the water visibility level. He uses the bobber-and-jig combination if the water is murky but casts a jig in clear-water situations.

Postspawn crappie can be taken by trolling small shad-pattern crankbaits or casting 1/8-ounce Roadrunners along secondary points. “A lot of the fish are suspended then,” he says. “I know a lot of people have success after the spawn by trolling along the banks with jigs or Roostertails.”

Main lake bluffs on the Glaize arm offer crappie stable water conditions during the summertime and quick access to both deep and shallow water. Blankenship usually keys on bluff points with sunken brush piles or rock formations where crappie suspend over this cover. “I find a lot of fish suspended over the deep side of that brush where they can stay in deeper water and find the right comfort zone,” he discloses.

The local angler also prefers fishing ledges and cuts along the bluffs rather than sheer rock walls. “Those spots seem to hold fish better because they have more horizontal structure than then the straight up-and-down wall of the bluff,” he says. The pockets or cuts usually feature rock slides or wash-out areas that extend beyond the rock wall and provide a shallow spot for crappie to move up from the depths to feed.

During the hottest part of summer, Blankenship probes the 20- to 25-foot range for crappie along the walls, but he moves up into the 10- to 15 foot zone in late summer. As the water continues to cool down in the early fall, he moves up the ledges as shallow as 2 to 6 feet deep.

Horizontal and vertical presentations both work along bluffs for Blankenship. He either casts Laker Lures Nailer tubes to the bluff and swims the lures back over the brush and rocks or he will drop the lure straight down into the cover. When the water is still warm, Blankenship attaches a Berkley Crappie Nibble to the hook to enhance his jig.

By the middle of September, crappie on the Glaize start following baitfish to the back of coves, which offer cooler water. Some fish will move as shallow as 2 to 3 feet, but most of the crappie in the fall will be in the 6- to 10-foot range. Blankenship catches autumn crappie on a Nailer tube while employing a dying shad retrieve. If Blankenship sees shad turning on their sides near the surface, he begins his presentation by working his jigs vertically over the top of the brush piles. He lets the lure sit for awhile, then raises it suddenly and lets it fall back on a tight line to trigger a reaction strike from crappie holding tight to brush.

The best fall fishing usually occurs when the water temperature ranges from 50 to 60 degrees. Once the water drops below 50 degrees, the biggest concentration of crappie move back to the deep water again. “December is an excellent month for catching schooling fish in deeper areas,” suggests Blankenship.

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.

Catch Lake of the Ozarks Bass in Brush Piles

Brushing up to catch Lake of the Ozarks bass

By John Neporadny Jr.

Bass have finished spawning and are on the move to their summertime haunts in deeper water at Lake of the Ozarks.

During this transition phase and when they reach their summer hideouts, bass are attracted to some type of cover that provides shelter and an ambush point. Some lakes contain enough natural cover for bass, but Lake of the Ozarks features man-made brush piles as an integral part of the fish’s habitat.

My home reservoir of Lake of the Ozarks is a prime example of how sunken brush piles improve the fishing on an old reservoir devoid of natural cover. Before the lake was filled in the 1930’s, the timber in the river valleys was clear-cut so there was no natural cover left for the fish after the lake formed. So boat docks and sunken brush piles are the main habitat for bass now on this aging lake.

Placing brush piles at strategic locations helps angler find fish throughout the year, but this type of cover seems to produce best in the summertime. The best time to target brush piles on Lake of the Ozarks is when the water temperature climbs into the 70- to 85-degree range.

The depth of the most productive brush piles depends on the water clarity. In stained or dirty water, brush piles at depths of 6 to 15 feet along main and secondary points and flats are key targets for summertime bass. In the clear-water sections of the lake, guides sink brush 25 to 30 feet deep on a main or secondary point to improve a spot for deep vertical presentations.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

Guides and tournament anglers on Lake of the Ozarks build their brush piles out of large branches or sections of hardwood trees (oak, sycamore or cedar). Sycamores are good for sinking because these trees feature a heavy wood that requires less weight to sink and has wider branches that make it easier to run a crankbait through without snagging.

I used to sink brush piles in the lake but have discovered it’s a lot easier now to find the work of others with my Humminbird side imaging unit. If you don’t have side imaging, you can still find brush with standard electronics in a short period of time if you know where to start your search. On Lake of the Ozarks, boat docks are a good starting point, especially the boat houses with fishing boats, cleaning stations, rod holders and lights hanging over the water. I usually skip past docks harboring large cruisers because the owners of these docks usually are more infatuated with boating than fishing.

Drop-offs are also good areas to find man-made cover. When fishing unfamiliar waters, you can also locate brush by dragging a Carolina rig on the main lake or running a crankbait in the back of a creek.

Once you find a brush pile, figure out how the cover lies on the bottom to make your lure presentation easier. Approach the brush from the deep end and cast to either side of the cover first, which allows you to quickly pull fish away from the snags. If the sides fail to produce any bites, throw down the base of the tree. By sinking the brush with the trunk of the tree facing the bank and the limbs pointing towards deeper water you can work your lure through the middle of the cover without hanging up in the limbs.

After working you lures along the sides and through the middle of the brush from the deep end, position your boat on the side of the brush and cast across it. Sometimes finicky fish are positioned a certain way so you have to turn your boat to the side the fish are on. After a couple of casts from the side, try circling the brush pile and throwing from the other side to work the brush from another angle.

If wind is blowing, assume bass will be facing the wind. So position your boat downwind from the brush pile and cast past the sunken cover. Once again make sure to work your lures along the edges of the brush pile before trying the middle of the cover.

Time of day can also determine how to work a brush pile. Early in the morning, you can run buzz baits and topwater lures over the top of the cover, but later in the day switch to slow-moving baits and concentrate on the fish burrowed into the thicker part of the brush.

A plastic worm is a must lure for catching summertime bass from the brush piles. On Lake of the Ozarks a red shad or blue fleck 10-inch Berkley Power Worm is ideal. You can create a slow fall by Texas-rigging the worm with a 1/8-ounce sinker. You want the worm to fall as slowly as possible and the lighter weight makes it easier to lift the worm into and out of the limbs without having to jerk it real hard, which could lead to more hang-ups.

After letting the worm fall to the bottom, make sure you keep your rod movements to a minimum as you crawl the lure through the limbs. Moving your rod tip even a couple of inches will cause the worm to jump 3 to 4 inches, which could be too much movement.

Find a brush pile planted in Lake of the Ozarks and you can increase your chances of harvesting a limit of summertime bass.

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.

Catch Catfish at Lake of the Ozarks

Catfish Like Variety At Lake Of The Ozarks

by John Neporadny Jr.

Catfish at the Lake of the Ozarks are an obliging sort. They will eat just about anything you put on a hook and can be taken with a variety of methods throughout the summer.

The three most popular species to catch at the lake are channel, blue (or white cats as the local anglers call them) and flathead catfish. The lake has a reputation for yielding big blue cats each year and has also produced the state record flathead catfish, a 66-pounder caught by Howard Brownfield in 1987. Greg Stoner, the Missouri Department of Conservation fisheries management biologist for the Lake of the Ozarks, notes there are several 4- to 5-pound flatheads in the lake.

Every year the lake produces a few 40- and 50-pound flatheads, Stoner says. Channel cats run much smaller. “If you catch a 10-to 12-pound channel cat, then that’s a big one,” Stoner says.

While some areas produce better at certain times of the year, the catch rates for catfish on all arms are about the same, according to Stoner. The upper Osage arm (above the 60-mile mark) is one of the best areas to catch catfish on the Lake of the Ozarks. The area is attractive to catfish because the lake narrows and has more riverine qualities, including a stronger current which blue catfish favor. “If they are releasing water out of Truman Dam, that flow will attract not only catfish but a lot of other gamefish as well,” Stoner notes. The Niangua arm and other lower lake areas seem to attract more channel catfish. “Channel cats seem to be more of a calm-water fish, whereas blue cats relate a little more to current,” Stoner says. Flatheads are scattered throughout the lake.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

Catfish can be taken during the early summer, especially during the pre- and post-spawn periods on medium-diving crankbaits and spinnerbaits when they are up on the pea-gravel flats or in the logjams of shallow coves. During most of the summer though, catfish prefer the real thing over artificial lures. Anglers fishing a tight line with a rod and reel can catch numerous catfish at the lake. You should use 14- to 20-pound test line with a 3/0 short-shank hook to catch channels and blues. Use as little a weight as possible, and in some cases you’re better off not using any weight at all.

The best places to fish tight-line are from the shallows to a creek bank drop-off or along a rocky bank during the day. In the evening, try the shallows where catfish will usually be feeding. “Catfish seem to feed better during the low-light hours, but I have caught them all day and I know other people who catch them all day long,” says Stoner. Some anglers also do well fishing at night during the summer.

The most productive bait for tight-lining is shad from the lake. Shiners are second best, while a mixture of cheese and blood baits also work well.

Other popular rod-and-reel methods at the lake are fishing from a dock and drift fishing from a boat. Fishing off a dock with a tight line accounts for most of the catfish taken during the hotter summer months, but drift fishing is gaining in popularity. Anglers catch plenty of channel and blue catfish by heading for the back of a creek and tight-lining while their boats drift out toward the main channel. Other productive areas to drift include main lake bluffs and flats where the fish will be anywhere from 15 to 60 feet deep.

Cut shad works best for drifting, but if shad are unavailable, you can still catch plenty of cats on minnows, creek chubs or cut perch. Use a number 6 gold hook and pinch on a buckshot-size sinker about 1 foot above the hook. Drifting with about 75 to 100 yards of line out allows the sinker to bounce along the bottom, causing the shad to flutter around–an irresistible sight to catfish. Stoner says one of the most effective ways to catch catfish on this method is to drift along a flat toward a channel drop. As the bait bounces along the bottom, it drops off into the channel, which is usually where a strike occurs.

To catch the biggest fish, some anglers prefer using trotlines. You should use a braided line with 4/0 to 6/0 stainless steel offset hooks. The depth to set a trotline usually depends on the oxygen level at the various depths, but most of the time, the lines are set anywhere from 4 to 15 feet deep. Blue and channel catfish eat practically anything alive or dead, so the same baits that produce for rod-and-reel fishermen will also work on trotlines. However, a flathead prefers a live bait, so goldfish are best to stick on trotlines for these cats.

Lake of the Ozarks

Other less frequently practiced methods for catching catfish at the lake include jug fishing and limb-lining. Jug fishing requires a 2- or 3-foot lead line and the same bait and tackle as rod-and-reel or trotline anglers use. Some anglers anchor their jugs while others free-float them, starting in the back of a cove and letting them drift out to the main channel.

Limb-lining usually produces best in the spring and fall, but some fish can be caught during the summer on this method. You should use a 9-inch, 120-pound test line and 4/0 hook baited with goldfish or shiners. A goldfish set on a limbline a few inches under the surface is an excellent way to catch flatheads. The best locations on the lake to set limblines are rock eddies and straight rock wall banks.

The best months to catch channel and blue catfish at the lake are from June to August. These fish become more active in hot water and are usually late spawners, sometimes spawning into late summer. The best seasons to catch flatheads are early spring and fall.

If the bass and crappie fail to cooperate for you as the water temperature rises, you’ll find the catfish on Lake of the Ozarks will bite just
about whatever you put on a hook this 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.

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.

Key on Brush for Lake of the Ozarks Bass

Brush up for Lake of the Ozarks bass

By John Neporadny Jr.

The rigors of spawning are over and now it’s time for Lake of the Ozarks bass to find a good place to recuperate.

Manmade brush piles are the place for Lake of the Ozarks bass to rest before migrating to deep water. A brush pile provides cover and shade and draws baitfish that feed on its algae-covered limbs—all the essentials postspawn bass require for their recovery process. “When the fish get done spawning they hole up in those brush piles from 6 to 10 feet deep and recuperate before they move back out on the ledges,” says Mark Tucker, winner of the 2013 Everstart Lake of the Ozarks tournament.

The Missouri pro targets points adjacent to spawning flats for pinpointing Lake of the Ozarks postspawn bass. Time of day dictates which lure Tucker selects for probing the brush pile. “The biggest thing is how to figure out how the fish are positioned in the brush pile,” says Tucker. “A lot of times early in the morning the fish will get up on top of it and hit the lure on the initial fall. Very seldom will you have to work it through the brush. When the sun gets up you will have to sink it a little more and work a jig up and down to get the bite.”

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

A green pumpkin or watermelon candy Zoom Trick Worm attached to a 1/8-ounce jighead is Tucker’s choice for Lake of the Ozarks postspawn bass suspended above the brush. “Eighty percent of the time the fish hit it on the initial fall,” he says. If the fish fail to nab it on the descent, Tucker lets the worm fall to the bottom and shakes it three times before reeling it in for another cast. He tosses his Trick Worm into the brush with a 6 1/2-foot medium action E21 Carrot Stix rod and Abu Garcia Revo Premier PRM30 spinning reel spooled with 6-pound Berkley Trilene 100 % Fluorocarbon.

For bass holding tight to the cover Tucker opts for a 1/4-or 5/16-ounce Jernigan Jig and Zoom Junior Chunk or Critter Craw in a color mixture of brown, purple and chartreuse. He hops the jig through the brush on 10- or 12-pound Trilene 100 % Fluorocarbon with a 7-foot medium-heavy Carrot Stix rod and Abu Garcia Revo baitcast reel.

Another brush pile option for Tucker is a green pumpkin or watermelon Texas-rigged Zoom Brush Hog with a 4/0 Gamakatsu Sproat Hook and 5/16-ounce sinker. “If the bass fry have hatched, hop that Brush Hog along so it will look like a bluegill trying to eat those fry,” says Tucker. He snaps the lure hard with an 8-foot Carrot Gold Carrot Stix rod and Abu Garcia Revo reel filled with 17-pound Trilene 100 % Fluorocarbon.

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

High School Anglers to Compete on Table Rock Lake

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: John Neporadny
Phone: (573) 365-4296
Email: John@JNOutdoors.com

Teen Anglers Heading for Table Rock

Kimberling City, Mo.- Young anglers will get a chance to test their skills on one of the best bass fisheries in the state during a Teen Anglers tournament April 17 at Table Rock Lake.

The Teen Anglers bass tournament will feature two high school anglers and a middle school contestant along with an adult boat captain in each boat. The competitors will follow a set of rules compiled by Teen Anglers from the State of Missouri laws and boater safety regulations.

In last year’s Teen Anglers event in May at Table Rock, Republic High School’s Brandon Durr and Hunter Gill teamed up to top a 94-boat field with a five-fish limit weighing 12.33 pounds. Catching postspawn schooling bass on Zara Spooks and jigging spoons was the key to victory for Durr and Gill last year.

Conditions will be different for the Teen Anglers event this year at Table Rock. The lake is at its normal level and stable, according to Table Rock guide Pete Wenners. “We’ve had stained water all winter but the water is really clearing up now,” Wenners said. “The White River from Baxter on up is just about normal with 5 to 6 feet of visibility. The Aunts Creek area is nice and clear. The dirtiest water right now is from Kimberling (City) to the dam.”

The water temperature throughout the lake has been ranging between 55 to 60 degrees and Wenners has found some bass on spawning beds in the Upper White and mid-lake areas. “A lot of the fish are in a prespawn funk right now,” he said. “They are not really suspended like they normally do on the points.” Most of the fish are 6 to 15 feet deep along gravel points and pockets. The most productive lures for the prespawn bass are finesse baits, Ned Rigs, wobble-head jigs with soft plastic craws and crank baits.

Teen Anglers, Inc. was created last year as a fishing circuit for high school fishing clubs to compete in three qualifying bass tournaments with a championship in June. The circuit was originally open to Missouri high school students but membership has been expanded to middle and high school students from Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas. The next Teen Angler event will be May 22 at Stockton Lake with the circuit’s championship set for June 18 and 19 at a site to be announced later.

For more information about Teen Anglers, visit www.teenanglers.net or e-mail teenanglers@lews.com.

Lake of the Ozarks Crappie

April Is Prime Time For Lake of the Ozarks Crappie

by John Neporadny Jr.

Dogwood trees blooming in April usually signals the prime time of the crappie spawn at the Lake of the Ozarks.

The diverse waters of Lake of the Ozarks nearly guarantees you can find crappie spawning somewhere in this impoundment during April. By fishing the different arms of the lake throughout April you can continue to catch spawning crappie for more than a month. Most crappie on this lake begin spawning when the water temperature climbs into the 60-degree range, but you can also catch lots of fish in the pre-spawn stage. During this time, the water temperature is in the 50-degree range and the crappie are staging in brush piles at depths of 8 to 10 feet.

In early April, the first areas crappie attempt to spawn are in the upper ends of tributaries and major feeder creeks such as the upper Osage, Niangua and Little Niangua rivers or the Grand Glaize and Gravois creeks. These riverine sections of the lake contain shallow, off-color water which warms quicker than the deep, clearer water on the main lake. Sometimes crappie in these sections start spawning one to two weeks earlier than their counterparts on the main channel. The last spawners on the Lake of the Ozarks can be found usually during May in the main lake pockets near Bagnell Dam.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

The ideal spots to find spawning crappie are pea-gravel banks in coves, but I have also taken them along rock ledges in main-lake pockets or cuts in bluff walls. Locating deep water nearby is the key to finding the best spawning banks for crappie. Even though the fish spawn in less than 2 feet of water on the flat, gravel banks, they still prefer areas near deeper structure, such as spots where the bottom contour drops 10 to 15 feet deep into a ravine or creek channel. The depth crappie spawn depends on water clarity. In the stained to murky waters of the upper Osage and some of the feeder creeks, crappie spawn as shallow as 1 1/2 feet, but the fish in the clearer waters of the dam area and lower Gravois build nests as deep as 6 feet.

Lay-down logs and sunken brush piles are prime cover for spawning crappie, but anything that sticks up off the bottom holds fish. I have even caught them around a submerged patio chair that had fallen off a dock. Concrete pilings and metal posts on dock walkways are also favorite nesting areas for crappie.

A variety of lures catch crappie during the spawn, but the bait that produces best for me is the plastic tube jig. The best skirt colors for fishing the clearer sections of the lake include purple-and-white, black-and-chartreuse, red-and-chartreuse, hot pink, red-and-white or yellow-and-white. My favorite hues for stained to murky water include chartreuse, blue-and-clear or white-and-chartreuse. I prefer throwing these lures on an ultra-light spinning rod and a spinning reel filled with 4-pound test green monofilament for fishing in clear water or 6-pound clear line for dirtier water.

When crappie have moved into the shallows, I attach the plastic tube body to a 1/32-ounce jighead. This lightweight jighead allows the lure to fall slowly and stay off the bottom, which is a key to catching crappie in shallow water.

Once I’ve located a good spawning bank, I cast to any visible cover and retrieve the jig in a slow and steady fashion. Watch for any slight twitch in your line during the retrieve, because this signals a crappie bite. Water clarity determines how far you need to cast to the shallow cover. If you’re fishing the clear waters on the North Shore and in the Gravois, you need to make longer casts to prevent spooking crappie in the shallows. In the off-color water in the mid-lake area, you can make short pitches to the cover without spooking crappie on the beds. One of the most effective techniques for inactive crappie during this time is a “dead-fall” retrieve. After pitching to a target, I let the lure fall back towards the boat on
a tight line without imparting any action to the jig. Crappie usually hit the jig as it falls down through the cover. In addition to watching my line as the jig falls, I also wrap my index finger around the monofilament which helps me feel the light tap of a crappie hitting the lure.

When I guided, I found the easiest way for my clients to catch spawning crappie was to set them up with a jig-and-bobber rig. Attaching a small bobber above the jig prevents the lure from falling to the bottom and constantly keeps it in the crappie’s strike zone while working the lure in the shallows. The bobber also makes it easier to detect a strike, which is indicated by the cork diving under the water or popping up and turning on its side. In off-color water I usually set the bobber about 12 to 18 inches above the lure, but will move it up the line 2 to 3 feet when fishing in clearer water. This technique requires a simple retrieve of twitching the rod tip to make the bobber roll in the water. The rolling action moves the
jig just enough to attract a crappie’s attention. When a strike occurs, set the hook harder than usual, because the bobber has a tendency to absorb some of the force from your hook-set, which results in lost fish.

If a cold front has swept through the area and dropped the water temperature 4 or 5 degrees, I pull off the bank and look for brush piles 8 to 10 feet in front of the spawning area. The crappie usually pull back into the deeper cover where they suspend over the brush or burrow down into the wood. I switch to 1/16-ounce jigheads during these conditions an either cast to the brush for suspending crappie or present my jig vertically when the fish are holding tight to the cover.

If you visit Lake of the Ozarks in April and see the dogwood trees blooming, you know it’s time to go fishing because the crappie are spawning. 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’ Hot Bass Fishing

Lake of the Ozarks’ Hot Bass Fishing

By John Neporadny Jr.

Spring provides some of the hottest bass fishing action of the year and probably the best chance for catching that once-in-a-lifetime lunker at Lake of the Ozarks. The action heats up first in the tributary sections of the lake such as the Gravois, Grand Glaize and Niangua arms and then spreads throughout the rest of the lake as the spring weather continues to warm and the hours of daylight increase.

My home lake always has a good population of largemouth bass because it consistently has stable water levels in the spring which insures good reproduction every year.

Electroshocking sampling by MDC Fisheries Biologist Greg Stoner indicated that his catch rate per hour of legal-size bass (15 inches or longer) has remained about the same for the last five years. The MDC relies on a metric known as RSD15 which is the percentage of legal size largemouth sampled during electroshocking. During a recent spring electroshocking on the Grand Glaize arm the RSD15 for largemouth bass was 20 percent. “One out of five fish is good,” Stoner said. “There were fair numbers of 4- and 5-pounders (in the sampling) and fewer 6-pounders and a 7-pounder every once in a while but nothing over that. We are never going to produce loads of 7- and 8-pound fish.”

March is a prime time for catching heavyweight prespawn bass moving out of their winter sanctuaries to the spawning banks. Alabama rigs, suspending stickbaits and slow-rolling spinnerbaits are the best choices for catching these fish along chunk rock transition banks.

Running a Storm Lures Wiggle Wart in a crawfish hue along pea gravel banks in the coves is one of the most effective ways to catch Lake of the Ozarks bass in early April. Twitching soft plastic jerkbaits in the shallow pockets and dragging Carolina-rigged plastic lizards along the sides and in front of boat docks also tricks bass during the late stages of the prespawn.

The spawn traditionally starts in mid-April and lasts until the first week of May. Sure signs of the bass spawn at Lake of the Ozarks are a full moon and dogwood trees blooming. During the spawn try a variety of soft plastics including lizards, tubes, finesse worms, craws, stickworms and jerkbaits in green pumpkin or watermelon hues in the clear water or black, blue and dark red colors in murky water.

The moon phase is also a key to determining when bass are spawning on the lake. Some of the biggest bass in the Lake of the Ozarks might spawn on a full moon in March but most bass throughout the lake will spawn around the full moons in April or May if the water temperature is right (usually in the mid-60s to low 70s). The increasing hours of daylight in the spring also triggers bass into nesting.

Many sources such as calendars and solunar charts in fishing magazines show the moon phase for each month. Weather apps for mobile phones are another good source for finding the moon phases.

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.

Winter Crappie at Lake of the Ozarks

Winter Spots to Catch Lake of the Ozarks Crappie

by John Neporadny Jr.

Biting winds numb the fingers and toes and the frosty air constantly ices up rod tips.

Yes, winter weather can be pretty darn harsh on anglers, but there is a bright side to this gloomy scenario. The good news is crappie at Lake of the Ozarks still bite despite the cold and can be taken even in the bitterest weather if you know where to find them.

Crappie tend to bunch up during this season, so you can fill your stringer and make the cold tolerable if you find their wintertime haunts. So bundle up in layers of warm clothing and head for one of these two winter crappie hot spots.

Private Boat Docks

Boathouses provide plenty of shelter for crappie during the winter. On Lake of the Ozarks, crappie suspend under the floating docks or burrow into the sunken brush piles placed strategically under the docks. Crappie also seek shelter next to the posts of some floating docks or suspend on the supporting steel cables of marina docks. So when the cold water makes a crappie lethargic, the panfish uses the cover of a dock to ambush any baitfish that wanders into its lair.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

Deep water is the key to finding the most productive docks. Key on docks located along drop-offs, creek and river channel banks, bluff-ends and steep- sloping points. The best docks at Lake of the Ozarks usually sit over depths of at least 20 feet.

Fishing from the dock is the easiest and most comfortable way to try this winter spot—if you can gain permission from the dock owner. This opportunity allows you to fish brush piles in the back of dock wells and other spots inaccessible to anglers fishing from a boat.

When fishing from a boat, try the deep water along the sides and in front of a dock. Telltale signs on the dock indicating sunken brush include rod holders, chairs, lights hanging over the water and storage sheds, which also serve as excellent wind breaks while fishing on the boathouse.

A vertical presentation with jigs or minnows works best when crappie hold tight to the brush. Try casting a jig and counting it down to various depths when the fish are suspended under the docks. A minnow or jig set below a bobber also takes crappie seeking the warmth of a dock’s floating foam on sunny winter days.

Heated Docks

The most comfortable way to catch cold-weather crappie is from an enclosed heated boathouse. Some resorts on Lake of the Ozarks cater to their wintertime customers by providing enclosed docks furnished with rocking chairs, toaster ovens, coffee makers, televisions and wood-burning stoves.

The weather outside might be frightful, but inside some of these docks it’s a balmy 70 to 80 degrees. The warmth and shelter from the wind provided by these fishing houses makes it much easier to detect the light strikes of wintertime crappie.

These floating structures are usually sitting over deep water (20 to 30 feet). Inside the docks are large wells filled with brush sunken on the lake’s bottom or hanging on wires at various depths. Some resorts also bait the wells with hay bales, dog food or oatmeal to attract minnows and shad.

Casting in the well is impractical, so pick a spot and drop your jig or minnow straight down. Look for any cables hanging in the water, which indicates a brush pile tied to it.

Target bottom-hugging fish by letting your bait fall to the lake’s floor and then cranking the reel handle once. If this fails to produce, slowly reel up or stitch the line in your hand. When a strike occurs, keep track of the depth so you can present your bait at the exact location with your next offering. If the dock isn’t crowded, move around the well to fish different sections of brush.

For information on lodging and heated docks 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.

Making Artificial Brush Piles Using Pipe Trees

Pipe Trees at Lake of the Ozarks

By John Neporadny Jr.

Seasoned anglers know all too well the hassles of sinking brush piles at Lake of the Ozarks.

They’ve spent countless hours cutting down and dragging trees into their boats and then struggling to lift these tangled messes of limbs and concrete blocks over the side of the boat and into the water. Some of them have invested in old johnboats or pontoons they use specifically for sinking brush, but others depend on their fishing boat for planting crappie beds, so they’ve also had to spend time cleaning out the limbs and other debris and buffing out scratches on the gunwales.

However, these anglers persist in being part-time lumberjacks and two-boat owners because their efforts usually pay off in livewells loaded with bass or crappie.

Sinking these crappie beds improves their chances of catching fish on Lake of the Ozarks since its devoid of natural cover, but cutting down trees isn’t always the best option. One innovative anglers has discovered a cleaner and more efficient way to build crappie beds without using trees.
Lake of the Ozarks guide Skip Surbaugh could be mistaken for a plumber when he visits the local hardware store to purchase his material for crappie beds. The guide usually buys 1- and 4-inch PVC pipes, PVC pipe cement and Quickrete bags for constructing artificial trees.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

His pipe tree costs more (about $20 apiece) than the real thing, but Surbaugh believes it is worth the investment since the piece of cover seems to last indefinitely and is nearly undetectable by sonar. “It’s very hard to find. You have to know exactly where it’s at,” suggests Surbaugh. “It does not show up on a locator. If anything shows up at all it will look like one small vertical structure.” He believes once algae accumulates on the PVC, the trees start showing up as thin vertical lines on a depth finder but those lines are usually unrecognizable to other anglers.

The pipe trees offer two other advantages over brush piles. Surbaugh suggest the manmade cover is ideal for crappie fishing because jigs rarely hang up on the PVC. “This method is also perfect for guys who don’t want to scratch up their boat because the pipe will lie flat in the boat and all the other stuff is already drilled and weighted beforehand,” he says.

Surbaugh’s tree consists of 10 1-inch pipes for the limbs, a 10-foot piece of 4-inch pipe for the trunk, a 2-foot section of 4-inch pipe weighted with Quickrete for the bottom and a couple of 3-inch metal or self-threading wood screws. Tools for this project include a hacksaw or band saw for cutting the pipes and a power drill and 1 3/8-inch hole cutter.

The guide drills the screws into the 2-foot pieces of pipe and stands them in his gravel driveway. Then he mixes the Quickrete and pours it into the pipes where the cement hardens around the screws. The bases for seven or eight trees can be made with one bag of Quickrete.

“Once you’ve got your bases poured you can have a tree ready to go in less than 10 minutes,” suggests Surbaugh. The next step is to drill the holes into the trunk for the limbs. Surbaugh drills into the 4-inch pipe at an angle so when he inserts the smaller pipe it wedges tighter to the trunk. He also drills a couple of extra holes in the top of the tree which allows the main pipe to fill with water and sink faster.

The local guide then loads all the pieces into his bass boat and heads for the lake where final assembly is done. When he locates a good spot for planting, Surbaugh then attaches the trunk to the base and daubs the connections with PVC cement to keep it secured. Then he inserts the pipe limbs into the trunk and cements them in place. “All you have to do then is grab the middle of the pipe and drop it over the side so you don’t have to mess with any concrete blocks or rocks in your boat,” he says.

The guide plants his trees as either horizontal or vertical cover. “A lot of times I’ll cut the limbs down into 10-foot sections, drill a hole in the top of the trunk and hang a wire attached to a concrete block and lay the trees down flat,” says Surbaugh. Since the limbs spread out about 5 feet on each side of the tree, Surbaugh extends the wire on the anchor to about 6 feet to prevent the weight from pulling down and smashing the bottom limbs. He usually drops these trees in depths of 10 to 12 feet.

When he wants to sink the cover in deeper water, the guide constructs his trees with the 20-foot pieces of pipe to create 10-foot limbs. Surbaugh attaches a heavy plastic bottle near the top of the tree trunk so when the tree falls to the bottom, the bottle floats up and keeps the cover erect.

The submerged pipe tree usually starts accumulating algae in about 10 days, which is when the crappie and bass also start hanging around the cover. Surbaugh has been planting his pipe trees in Lake of the Ozarks for the last four years and estimates he has 40 pieces of cover in the lake. The heavy fishing pressure and boat traffic on this reservoir takes its toll on submerged brush piles after a couple of years, yet Surbaugh has noticed his pipe trees remain intact.

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.

Fishing Lake of the Ozarks During the Holiday Season

Lake of the Ozarks Holiday Fishing

By John Neporadny Jr.

When the holiday season arrives at Lake of the Ozarks, even the fish get in on the holiday feasting.

Some of the best fishing of the year occurs on this Missouri reservoir during November and December as largemouth and spotted bass, crappie and white bass feast on forage in preparation for winter. As the water cools down, the fish become more active and move shallower. Recreational boat traffic has diminished and fishing pressure is minimal since many anglers have turned to hunting during the late fall/early winter period.

“The crappie are schooled a lot during those months so I have a tendency when it gets cooler to keep fishing shallower and shallower,” says Coast-Guard licensed guide Terry Blankenship. “Normally the crappie during this time are very aggressive and it seems to be an excellent time to catch big numbers of fish. Typically you can catch more fish out of a spot more than any other time of the year.”

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

During November Blankenship relies on a 1/16-ounce jig for a faster descent rate when he is shooting the lure to docks or casting to brush piles. When the water temperature drops into the low 40s in December he switches to a 1/32-ounce jig for a slower fall and tries more vertical jigging then. Blankenship matches his jighead with a Bobby Garland Baby Shad or a 3-inch Slab Slayer in blue ice, electric chicken or bayou booger hues.

A spinnerbait and buzz bait are Blankenship’s top lure choices for bass in November when the fish are feasting on shad in the coves. He runs the buzz bait or wakes the spinnerbait over big rocks along the flats of the larger creek coves. As the water temperature continues to cool down during November, Blankenship starts to target brush piles at depths of 10 to 18 feet and slow rolls a 3/8-ounce spinnerbait (double willowleaf blades with white-and-chartreuse skirt) through the cover.

When the water temperature drops below 45 degrees in December, Blankenship keys on steeper banks and cuts in the coves close to the main channel. He catches both bass and crappie on this structure by slowly twitching a suspending stickbait that has a tint of blue, purple or chartreuse on the lure. “It seems like blue is an excellent color to have available for both bass and crappie on this lake,” Blankenship says.

White bass gang up on wind-blown points along the main lake throughout November. One of my favorite tactics for catching whites in the shallows then is to continually jerk a 4-inch Rebel Minnow (black back/chrome sides). The stickbait also triggers vicious strikes from heavyweight hybrid stripers lurking in the shallows.

Popping a topwater chugger and jig combination usually produces better numbers of white bass for me along the gravel points. I remove the front hook of the chugger to prevent line fouling and then tie about a 2-foot trailer line on the rear hook. I complete the rig by tying a white 1/16-ounce marabou jig on the trailer line.

The white bass action usually ends by the beginning of December when the water cools into the low 50s and the fish move out to school in deeper water.

For information on lodging 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.