Archive for Lake of the Ozarks Crappie

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 funlake.com.

Copies of John Neporadny’s book, “THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide” are
available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com.

Lake of the Ozarks Crappie

Dock shooting for Lake of the Ozarks slabs

By John Neporadny Jr.

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

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

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

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

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.

Copies of John Neporadny’s book, “THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide” are available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com.

February Crappie Fishing at Lake of the Ozarks

Catching Early Slabs at Lake of the Ozarks

By John Neporadny Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.

Copies of John Neporadny’s book, “THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide” are available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com.

Lake of the Ozarks Crappie

Shaky-Head Fishing For Lake of the Ozarks Crappie

By John Neporadny Jr.

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

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

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

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.

Copies of John Neporadny’s book, “THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide” are available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com.

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.

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.

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.

Catching Lake of the Ozarks Spawning Crappie

Catching Lake of the Ozarks Suspended Spawners

By John Neporadny Jr.

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.