Expert Articles by John
Neporadny Jr. - February
Locating Winter Crappie on Lake of the
by John Neporadny Jr.
When you want to escape from bone-chilling
winter weather, you move inside and sit in fron of a warm fire. Crappie also
search for a winter haven when the water temperature plummets on Lake of the
Ozarks Unable to find any warm spots in the shallows, crappie move to deeper
water where they seek shelter in manmade brush piles during the winter.
Brush piles provide both food and cover for
crappie throughout most of the year. "About the only time you don't find
crappie tight to brush is when they go to the bank to spawn, but usually even
then they aren't far from it," says Guy Winters, a crappie expert from
Crappie seek deeper water in the winter because
it provides a comfort zone with more oxygen and warmth. During early winter,
shad eat plankton off the limbs of sunken brush and crappie hide in the brush to
ambush the baitfish. Winters has built brush piles for years and knows the key
locations to find these crappie condos. The most productive brush piles are
usually found along certain types of bottom structure. "If you find them
very far from a creek channel, river channel or some kind ofa break on the
bottom structure, they are not going to be as productive as the ones close to
that break line," advises Winters. "If you are lucky enough to find a
spring that has some brush in it, that rascal will hold fish year-round. They'll
really congregate there in the wintertime because that water stays warmer."
Weather determines if the crappie suspend over
the top of the brush or burrow into the cover. Winters relies on a barometer to
tell him how the fish position around the brush each day. "Any time you get
a strong low pressure system, those fish are going to suck back tighter into the
brush simply because the low pressure causes them to lose their equilibrium so
they get into the brush to lean up against it and hold themselves upright,"
says Winters. "Anybody who does any serious wintertime fishing should watch
that barometer real close."
During high-pressure conditions, crappie tend
to suspend over the top of the brush at various depths. "On bright sunny,
calm daysin the winter, even if the air temperatures are as low as 20 degrees,
those fish will move up," says Winters, who theorizes crappie move closer
to the surface either seeking the warmth of the sun or a comfort zone along the
edge where the sunlight penetrates into the deep water. During calm, sunny
weather, Winters has caught crappie suspended as shallow as 8 to 10 feet deep
from brush piles where the fish had been suspending as deep as 20 feet on
previous winter days.
While barometric pressure influences how
crappie position in the brush, finding crappie becomes easier since winter
experiences fewer severe weather changes than springtime. "The weather
doesn't change on you as fast day to day, consequently those fish tend to
stabilize more," says Winters. "So if you find a hole where you can
catch them suspended over the brush out of 25 feet of water one day, chances are
the next two or three days you can do the same thing during the winter."
Using a slow vertical presentation is the best
way to catch wintertime crappie from the brush piles. "Once the water
temperature gets intothe low 40s those fish get pretty lethargic and you really
have to slow that presentation down to be successful catching them," says
Winters. The crappie expert positions his boat over the brush and drops his line
straight down into or above the cover. A depth finder helps you determine
whether crappie are suspending over the brush or holding tight to the cover. For
anglers without electronics, Winters suggest trying different depths until they
get some hits, then they should concentrate on the most productive depth.
When he finds the right depth to fish, both
Winters hardly moves his lure. "You're trying to imitate a minnow and
minnows aren't movingvery fast then," says Winters. "None of the fish
are move very fast in cold water." Lifting the rod tip causes the lure to
move too much. "A lot of times I'll let my lure down to where it hits the
brush, and let it lie there for about the count of five," says Winters.
"Then I just make two turns of the reel handle and hold it still.
If I give it any action at all I get the line
on my finger, justtwitch my finger and don't even move my rod tip." Winters
primarily uses tube jigs in cold water, but he does experiment with different
colors then. Color combinations that work best for him include red-and-pearl,
black-and-chartreuse glitter or red-and-chartreuse glitter. "Another color
combination a lot of people overlook during the wintertime is
pink-and-pearl," he says. "I find that to be an excellent hot- and
Since he wants his jig to fall slowly, Winters
selects a 1/32-ounce jighead tied to 4-pound test line. Waiting for the
light-weight jig to fall down to the brush requires patience, especially in cold
and windy weather. While cold weather makes it uncomfortable for fishing, you
can still catch a mess of Lake of the Ozarks crappie during this time by
delivering your lures to a crappie's favorite winter haven, a deep-water brush
pile. 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.