Archive for Lake of the Ozarks Crappie

Crappie Outlook for Lake of the Ozarks

Lake of the Ozarks Early Crappie Outlook

By John Neporadny Jr.

The spring crappie fishing outlook should be good to excellent whether you decide to dunk a minnow or pitch a jig at Lake of the Ozarks.

Crappie abound throughout the lake and springtime crappie fishing heats up in early March and continues to excel on some parts of the lake until almost Memorial Day.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

Lake levels remain fairly constant throughout the years at Lake of the Ozarks so crappie reproduction is pretty consistent most years.

Warm spells of two to three days in February can trigger some good shallow-water action, according to guide Terry Blankenship. “One of the most fun patterns for me in February is bobber fishing,” he says. “You can catch large numbers of fish in February because the crappie are starting to prepare for their spring fattening up for the spawn.”

“That time of year the shallower long coves and creek arms will warm the quickest,” Blankenship says. “If there is a lot of south wind warming the water and rolling it onto the north banks, the baitfish will go to those shores which will bring in gamefish. “

Blankenship suggests you can catch the biggest fish of the year as shallow as 2 feet deep during the warm days of February and early March. His favorite lures to stick below a bobber are Bobby Garland Baby Shad and Baby Shad Swim’R soft plastics on 1/16-ounce jigheads. He also relies on a Bobby Garland 3-inch Slab Slay’R for dock shooting in the early spring.

The veteran guide rates the Grand Glaize, Niangua and Little Niangua arms and Indian Creek on the Gravois arm as the best areas to try for early spring crappie action.

Prespawn crappie usually bunch up in brush piles 8 to 15 feet deep in the coves throughout March and early April. The spawn begins on the upper reaches and tributaries of the lake in early April and spreads down lake to the dam by the end of April. Ideal spawning areas are pea gravel pockets laden with boat docks or laydowns.

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

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

Winter Crappie at Lake of the Ozarks

Casting for Lake of the Ozarks Winter Crappie

By John Neporadny Jr.

As long as the Lake of the Ozarks remains ice-free, savvy anglers know they can catch a mess of crappies in the dead of winter.

Even though the cold water and frigid weather make crappies lethargic at times, the fish still have to eat so Lake of the Ozarks anglers who brave the cold and employ the right tactics can still enjoy some wintertime action for these popular panfish. During the dead of winter, crappie can be found suspended over brush piles in the backs of creek coves or hugging the bottom on main lake bluffs.

With a few alterations, the same techniques that trigger strikes in other seasons also produce crappie during winter.

Lake of the Ozarks guide Terry Blankenship casts jigs to brush piles to catch crappie year-round, but in the wintertime he makes a slight adjustment to his presentation. “I get a little closer to the piles so when I cast to them my jig’s fall rate is a lot slower,” he says.

Blankenship keys on brush piles 15 to 30 feet deep and throws his jigs past the cover. He retrieves his lure above the brush on the first couple of casts to pick off the most aggressive fish. “If the fish are on top of the brush or above it those fish are active and they are going to bite,” he says.

Letting his jig fall into the brush also produces for Blankenship. “Any time you can wiggle that jig around in that brush and then it just pops loose a little bit it creates a reaction strike,” says Blankenship, who opts for a 1/16-ounce jighead and Bobby Garland Baby Shad for his brush pile tactics.

Since a suspending stickbait best resembles a crappie’s favorite wintertime meal, local angler Wayne Fitzpatrick opts for this shad imitator to work over the top of brush piles at Lake of the Ozarks.

Fitzpatrick looks for the shady sides of docks along 45-degree banks in the backs of coves to catch suspended wintertime crappies. “You also have to have shad around,” he says. “If you don’t have any shad you won’t find any crappies. I have had some of my better days when the sun is shining and there is a little bit of breeze.”

A clown color LuckyCraft Pointer works best for Fitzpatrick for twitching it above schools of suspending crappies. “One of the little secrets is I take lead wire and wrap it around the front hook so the bait will fall real, real slow,” Fitzpatrick says. “If you know crappies are there just let that stickbait sit and fall.” Winter crappies suspended over the brush have a hard time resisting such an easy target.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

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

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

Catch Fall Crappie at Lake of the Ozarks

Tackling turnover to catch Lake of the Ozarks fall crappie

By John Neporadny Jr.

The bane of bass anglers in the fall can also lead to cases of anxiety for crappie anglers when cooler weather arrives at Lake of the Ozarks.

Bass anglers frequently use the fall turnover as an excuse for their tough day on the water and crappie anglers can do the same because the turnover has the same numbing effect on crappie as it does on bass. However savvy crappie anglers at Lake of the Ozarks know fish will still bite when a lake is turning over.

Lake of the Ozarks guide Terry Blankenship heads for the shallows when the fall turnover occurs on his home lake. “You can catch some big fish during that turnover too,” he says. “The bigger fish seem to be more adapted to that water change and adjust better.”

When Lake of the Ozarks turns over, Blankenship heads to the backs of coves and creeks where shad have migrated to the cooler water. “As the baitfish go the game fish go after them,” he says.

Fall Crappie Lake of the Ozarks

Blankenship looks for any laydowns or submerged logs near the bank where crappie hold close to the cover. He also targets shallow docks. “A lot of times you can find those fish tight to the docks right up underneath them,” he says.

When keying on the shallow wood, Blankenship prefers casting to the cover with a jig-and-bobber rig. He favors an egg-shaped float with about a 3/4-inch diameter. “I try not to get one too big because I don’t want the fish to have to fight that bobber,” he said. The guide also likes that size bobber because it is easier to cast than smaller floats.

Blankenship’s favorite lures for bobber fishing are Bobby Garland Baby Shads, Baby Shad Swim’Rs and 3-inch Slab Slay’Rs in blue ice or bright colors (white/chartreuse, pink/chartreuse, red/chartreuse or yellow). He attaches his soft plastics to a 1/16-ounce jighead most of the time but will downscale to a 1/32-oucne jighead for fishing in ultra-shallow water.

The local guide suggests using little or no movement for the jig-and-bobber presentation. “It is typical to move it a bit if you have a feeling fish are in that cover sometimes it doesn’t hurt to let it sit for a little bit because that fish has the bait in its strike zone but it is just not that active. So the lure is just sitting there and a lot of times the fish just can’t stand it so it will go ahead and hit the jig.”

When targeting shallow docks Blankenship prefers shooting his lures to catch crappie hanging under the dock’s floatation. His standard dock shooting setup for turnover crappie is a 3-inch Slab Slay’R on a 1/16-ounce jighead. He favors the Slab Slay’R because it skips well under the dock and is a larger bait that draws strikes from bigger fish.

While shooting a dock Blankenship immediately starts retrieving his lure after it stops skipping because he knows crappie will be closer to the floatation than the bottom. He usually retrieves his jig anywhere from near the surface to about 6 feet deep.

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

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

Lake of the Ozarks Crappie Fishing

Lake of the Ozarks’ Niangua arm popular spot for crappie anglers

By John Neporadny Jr.

It’s farther away from the popular tournament site at Lake of the Ozarks State Park PB2 access so the Niangua arm seems to experience less fishing pressure from bass anglers. However, the arm receives plenty of traffic—especially in the spring–from crappie anglers, who launch their boats at the Larry R. Gale Conservation Access.

The winding Niangua arm resembles a large river more than a reservoir since it has few major coves and a narrow main channel for most of its length. No major creeks run into the Niangua, but it is fed by another large tributary, the Little Niangua River.

Guy Winters lives on the Niangua arm and has fished for crappie on Lake of the Ozarks for more than 20 years. He also has conducted seminars on crappie fishing at boat shows throughout the Midwest.

Vertical jigging the brush piles and big rocks along the bluffs and channel breaks is Winters’ best tactic for catching wintertime crappie on the Niangua. The fish will move up to 15 feet deep if the barometer has been steady, but will drop to the bottom 18 to 25 feet if the weather turns nasty. Winters relies on Laker Nailer tubes and Curlybugs (red-and-white or smoke-and-pearl) attached to 4-pound test line.

During the prespawn stage (55- to 60-degree water) crappie move up to brush piles 10 to 12 feet deep and progressively move shallower as the water continues to warm. Winters targets the north banks, which warm up quicker, and looks for chunk rocks. He switches to a 1/16-ounce jighead and Curlybug that he retrieves at a slow pace. If the water is muddy, Winters opts for a chartreuse or chartreuse-and-pearl Curlybug, but if the water is clear, he selects the smoke-and-pearl model.

“The Niangua is a shallower arm of the lake so consequentially it warms up quicker and cools down quicker and the timing is different there,” suggests Winters. “The fish will spawn earlier because the water warms up faster, and they will move toward deep water earlier in the fall of the year than they do the rest of the lake.”

The spawn on this arm usually occurs the last week of April or the first week of May when the water temperature is 64 to 65 degrees. Winters uses a 1/16-ounce Curlybug and 8-pound test line so the lure will fall slowly in the shallows. Some fish will stay in the brush piles 10 feet deep while others move 4 to 5 feet deep or as shallow as 18 inches if the water is dingy. “The lake has been clearing up over the years so you might have to fish in 6 to 8 feet of water,” advises Winters.

After the spawn, Winters follows crappie along the same migration route the fish used during the prespawn. If the wind is blowing he can catch crappie all day on a Curlybug and 6-pound line, but on sunny calm days, the best action is early in the morning and late evening.

Catching crappie can be tough during the summer; so Winters suggests fishing off of docks with lights at night. The best docks sit over a least 20 feet of water and have plenty of brush underneath. A light shining into the water attracts baitfish and crappie.

“The bigger fish are on the outer perimeter of the light almost in the shade of it,” discloses Winters. “There is also a bottom perimeter of light because it only penetrates so deep. You catch a lot of little fish in the light but a lot of times I use an 1/8-ounce jighead to get it down through the smaller fish and work the outer perimeter to catch bigger crappie.” His favorite jig colors for night fishing include chartreuse, black-and-chartreuse or shad patterns.

A fall feeding binge usually occurs for about two weeks when the fish move as shallow as 3 feet. This feeding spree can run any time from October to December depending on the weather. A drop in the water temperature into the low 50s triggers this action, and it usually ends when the water dips below 42 degrees. Winters catches these active fish on the same lures he uses in the springtime.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

“The fall fishing is the best on the Niangua,” hints Winters. “There is less competition then, and you are going to catch bigger fish than you do during the spawn because the females feed more in the fall than they do in the spring.”

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

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

Lake of the Ozarks Cold Water Crappie

Hot Tips for Cold Water Lake of the Ozarks Crappie

Some of the largest crappie of the year are annually taken at Lake of the Ozarks by anglers jerking suspending stickbaits for bass.

About 10 years ago I went crappie fishing on Lake of the Ozarks with Roger Fitzpatrick, a local bass tournament competitor, who had refined a suspending jerkbait tactic to catch slab crappie. During a couple of hours of fishing, we caught 28 fish in the 11- to 13-inch range and on a couple of occasions we scored doubles. I also caught the largest crappie I’ve ever taken on my home lake –a 15-inch fish that weighted 1 pound, 14 ounces.

Since then, I have jerked a LuckyCraft Bevy Shad 60 in a ghost minnow hue to catch crappie throughout the winter. The key is to find brush piles in the 12- to 15-foot range and slowly work the stickbait over the top of the brush. I throw past the brush pile, reel the lure down to its maximum depth and then employ a twitch-twitch-twitch-pause cadence with the pauses lasting about five to 10 seconds. I throw the stickbait on 8-pound monofilament line with a 6 1/2-foot medium-action spinning rod. Scaling down to 6-pound line will make the lure dive deeper, but I prefer the 8-pound line for added strength in case a hefty largemouth or hybrid white bass-striper nabs the stickbait.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

The stickbait technique produces quality fish, but when I want to catch numbers of crappie I resort to horizontal and vertical presentations with jigs. My favorite jighead size for casting is a 1/16-ounce model which is heavy enough to cast and control on a windy day, yet is light enough to slowly fall through a school of suspended crappie. On calm, cloudy days, I will occasionally throw a 1/24-ounce jighead to make the lure fall even slower for suspended fish. I can also vary the fall rate of my jigs by tying the lures on 4- or 6-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon line.

Two of my favorite soft plastics for casting in the wintertime are the Bobby Garland Baby Shad and the 3-inch Bobby Garland Slab Slayer in blue ice, chartreuse-and-white, butter belly, pearl glow and chartreuse glow hues. The glow colors produce best for me when I shoot the lures into the dark areas of a dock or cast to the shadowy side of a dock.

The same brush piles that yield crappie on stickbaits also produce when I am casting a jig. I always cast past the brush and count down my jig (usually an 8- or 10-count). I keep my line semi-taut so the lure will pendulum towards the brush and hopefully tick the tips of the limbs when I start reeling. While slowly turning the reel handle I occasionally twitch my rod to make the jig hop slightly. Strikes frequently occur while the jig is falling towards the brush or after it has ticked off of a limb.

If I notice on my depth finder that baitfish are suspended high in the water column and crappie are ignoring the Baby Shad and Slab Slayer, I will switch to a technique similar to the shaky head finesse tactic for bass I attached either an Eagle Claw Nitro Trailer worm or a Berkley Gulp Alive Fish Fry in chartreuse or white to a 1/16-ounce jighead and cast it to the deep ends of boat docks over depths of 20 to 30 feet. As the jig slowly falls through the suspended fish, I occasionally shake the jig-and-worm combo. I let the jig pendulum all the way back to the boat on a semi-taut line and watch for indications of a strike, such as a twitch in the line or if I feel my line getting heavier. When my the shaky head is directly below the boat I let it sit there for a short while before reeling it in to make another presentation to the dock.

Vertical jigging is usually my last resort. Whenever I approach a brush pile, I will cast to it first to catch the most aggressive fish. Once the action stops, I will position my boat over the brush and drop my jig until I feel it hit the cover and then I will make one turn of the reel to keep my jig slightly above the snag. I drift back and forth over the brush pile occasionally letting the jig bang into the branches, which usually triggers a strike.

A 1/8-ounce jighead works best for me when I am vertical fishing in deeper brush because I can feel the heavier jig better. I vertical jig with either a fuzzy-grub style jig or the Slab Slayer. The marabou of the fuzzy grub and the limber soft plastic tail of the Slab Slayer generate plenty of tantalizing movement even when I am holding my rod still, so these lures are ideal for holding in front of an inactive crappie and teasing it into biting.

Catching a trophy bass on a suspending stickbait in the winter is an once-in-a-lifetime thrill, but when I want some hot action on a cold winter day I get my fix by chasing after those calico panfish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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