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THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing GuideExpert Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - April 2015

Catching Clear-Water Lake of the Ozarks Crappie In The Shallows

By John Neporadny Jr.

The clearer the water, the deeper crappie will spawn.

A 12-year study conducted by the Missouri Department of Conservation came up with this conclusion after determining with a secchi disk the depths at which crappie spawned. The department discovered that at a water visibility level of 10 feet, the crappie spawned about 2 feet deeper, and below 10 feet the fish made nests 3 to 4 feet deeper.

While the study’s findings probably hold true in many instances, I have seen crappie on nests in 2 to 3 feet of water and sight-fished for the spawners many times on my home waters of Lake of the Ozarks. A crappie veteran who has caught these spawning panfish in the shallows of Lake of the Ozarks’ clear water is Terry Blankenship, a local guide.

If he had his druthers, Blankenship would fish for shallow crappie in stained to murky water. But he has encountered situations on his home waters of Lake of the Ozarks when the water was dirty and the crappie made their beds in the shallows but then the lake cleared enough to where he saw fish on the nests. He has noticed the fish will remain in the clear, shallow water (6 feet deep or less) as long as the lake level remains stable.

“The clearing of the water doesn’t affect them as much as the level of the water,” Blankenship says. “If the water is fluctuating a lot it just seems to back them off and they may even re-bed.”

On his home waters, Blankenship finds crappie spawning along pea gravel pockets or flat banks with a mixture of pea gravel and chunk rock. Any shallow brush along the bank usually holds nesting fish in clear-water situations.

When he can see the nests in the shallows, Blankenship can occasionally trick some fishing into biting, but he prefers to target these fish during low-light conditions or windy days. “When you have a calm, clear day and you can see those fish they are hard to catch,” Blankenship admits.

Since he is also a construction worker, Blankenship gets off work on those cloudy, rainy days so he has plenty of experience fishing in those conditions for shallow crappie in clear water. If he has to fish on a sunny day, he prefers trying in the early morning or when the wind creates a constant ripple on the water.

When the water is calm or there is a slight chop, Blankenship tempts shallow crappie in the clear water with a jig-and-bobber setup. His favorite lure for clear-water crappie is a Bobby Garland Baby Shad in the blue ice hue with a 1/16-ounce jighead.

Whenever he sees a shallow brush pile, Blankenship casts his bobber and jig well past the cover to prevent from spooking the fish and slowly twitches the combo up to the brush. “Typically you want to be moving it at a slow pace to control your depth,” he says. “But there are times when you know you are in a good area where you just let that bobber sit for a while. I have caught a lot of good fish by just letting it sit.”

A Baby Shad attached to a 1/16-ounce spinner jighead produces best for Blankenship on windy days when the fish are most aggressive. He casts close to the bank and retrieves the jig at a steady pace with occasional jerks to imitate a fleeing baitfish.

Blankenship is also an advocate of using high visibility line in clear water. Since Blankenship prefers line-watching to detect bites he opts for 6-pound test fluorescent blue Berkley Trilene line. “I feel like I will miss more crappie if I can’t see my line than if I had a real low visibility line because crappie tend to hit a bait and push it forward,” he says. “So a lot of times you won’t feel the bite, you will just see it.”

Being able to see male crappie on the nests also gives Blankenship an idea where to look for the larger female crappie. When he sees the males, he backs off into deeper water and looks for brush piles in the 6- to 10-foot range. He usually finds the females suspended just above the cover. “Try to fish a little higher than whatever the brush is,” suggests Blankenship. “If the brush is 12 feet deep, then fish 10 feet.”

Clear-water crappie will come to the shallows to spawn in certain situations, so sight fishing is an option if you use a stealthy approach and make the right presentations to catch these skittish 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 www.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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