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.

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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.

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