Catching Lake of the Ozarks Suspended Spawners
I was catching spawning crappie in the shallows behind my dock each morning at Lake of the Ozarks, but the action died on sunny afternoons until I discovered a new batch of fish hanging around my dock well.
On one of those sunny afternoons, I happened to glance down in the well and spotted several slab-size crappie suspended in the shade below one of our boat lifts. I immediately grabbed a rod and reel with 4-pound line and jigged a tiny tube above the suspending fish. I watched a couple of fish rise to the lure and one engulfed it.
After catching three of the suspending crappie, I watched the rest of the school descend and finally disappear. The bite stopped then, but when I returned to the well about an hour later the fish were back under the boat lift again and I caught a couple more fish before the school disappeared again.
From this experience and other springtime trips, I have learned to look for bigger fish suspended out in front of the spawning banks whenever crappie are nesting in the shallows. Savvy anglers at the lake know that while smaller male crappie are building and protecting nests in the shallows, females are suspended around cover in deeper water.
Two Lake of the Ozarks anglers target floating docks to catch larger crappie during the spawn. Jamie Bryant and Andrew Renken, a Crappiemasters Tournament Trail team from Laurie, Mo., usually catch their biggest fish during the spawning season along the sides and in front of the docks.
“The thing to keep in mind is females spawn in different stages,” says Bryant. “They move in and they move out and suspend.”
Pitching a jig to the dock and letting it pendulum back to the boat is Bryant’s favorite way to catch suspended springtime crappie. He chooses a Slab Buster jig, Kalin’s grub or 1 1/2-inch Bass Assassin Shad with a 1/8-ounce jighead that he delivers on 4- to 6-pound solar green Berkley Trilene line. The Missouri angler opts for the 1/8-ounce jig because it falls faster to trigger a reaction strike, but if he perceives the fish are holding tighter to the foam or boat lifts, he switches to a 1/32-ounce jig so the lure will descend slower and stay in the strike zone longer.
A jig set 3 to 5 feet below a weighted bobber is one of Renken’s most productive tactics for suspending crappie around docks. “Occasionally I will catch them in front of a well if I cast up into the well,” says Renken, who will also vertical jig with a 1/16- or 1/32-ounce jighead.
When tossing a weighted cork around the docks, Renken pulls the bobber down to about a 90-degree angle and then lets it sit upright again. “You can almost keep your rod still while you do that but you will still get movement to the jig,” says Renken, who lets the jig sit for about 30 seconds after moving the cork. “A lot of times that slow movement triggers a reaction strike more so than a fast retrieve. If you let it sit there, the fish hammer it.”
Running the banks can produce a lot of crappie during the spawn, but if you prefer catching a limit of Lake of the Ozarks slabs, look for docks in deeper water to hook up with some suspending heavyweights.
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.