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THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing GuideExpert Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - December 2007

Warming Up with Wintertime Lake of the Ozarks Crappie Fishing

by John Neporadny Jr.

Neither rain, sleet nor snow shall keep some anglers away from their crappie spots in the dead of winter on Lake of the Ozarks.

While fair-weather fishermen cower in the warmth of their homes, others shrug off the cold because they know they can catch quality crappie in the winter and virtually have all the best fishing spots to themselves. One angler who spends his winter days--and even some nights--pursuing these tasty panfish is Terry Blankenship, a Lake of the Ozarks guide.

All fish feed year round, but some become harder to find during the winter time. Blankenship believes crappie are easier to locate than other species when the water turns cold as the fish concentrate more on structure and brush . Blankenship also believes he catches bigger fish but less quantity during the winter. "The average size of the fish is generally a little better then," he says.

The guide claims the Lake of the Ozarks is one of the best wintertime lakes around. He catches crappie in all sorts of winter weather, including snowstorms, from November through January. By the end of January though, the water has dipped to its coldest point and the lake level has been drawn down which seems to affect the fish. "When that happens, the combination of both makes the fishing terrible," Blankenship admits.

Crappie can be caught shallow during the winter at the Lake of the Ozarks by fishing around condominium docks at night. The lights of the docks draw baitfish to the top, and crappie follow them to the surface. Blankenship says he has actually seen some crappie hit his jig while fishing the docks at night in December and January.

When fishing during the day, Blankenship concentrates on brush piles he has placed along main lake points and other areas near deep water. Some fish be taken around docks, which also have brush piles sunk nearby. The fish usually stay at least 15 feet deep.

His favorite lure for wintertime crappie is a 1/16-ounce plastic tube jig. Water clarity determines which color plastic body Blankenship selects. For clear water, he prefers natural colors such as smoke or shad, while in dingier water he favors orange or chartreuse.

For the dingiest water, he switches to a red/chartreuse combination. Fishing a jig in cold water requires a slow retrieve. "Just holding a jig stationary sometimes provokes a strike," Blankenship says.

Since the fish are reluctant to chase anything in cold water, Blankenship keeps a lure in from of them the whole time by presenting his jig vertically rather than casting to the brush.

The guide also tries to imitate the action of a dying shad darting and fluttering on its side. "I'll use that motion when I'm jigging to try to simulate what the shad are doing," he says.

Blankenship works his jigs on a Bass Pro Shops Micro-Lite rod and MegaCast reel filled with 6-pound test Stren high visibility blue line. He prefers the high visibility line because he has to watch closely for strikes this time of year. "Sometimes a crappie will hit and you'll never feel it, you'll just see your line move," he says. Since he's fishing fairly deep, he doesn't believe the high visibility line spooks fish even in clearer water.

Whether you fish day or night, you can catch a mess of crappie if you can find the right brush piles this winter at Lake of the Ozarks. For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 152-page 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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