Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - September
September Awakens Lake of the Ozarks
by John Neproadny Jr.
When those first cool nights in September start
to cool down the Lake of the Ozarks, crappie awaken from their summer siesta.
During the heat of July and August , crappie
seem to disappear at the Lake of the Ozarks as they burrow into brush piles or
drop into the depths of the main lake or creek channels. Dropping a minnow into
the deep brush or drift-fishing channel drops and bluffs still catches some
fish, but most of the crappie seem to be taking a summer vacation during this
While September days can still be hot, the
nights become cooler and the lake's water temperature gradually drops out of the
80-degree range. This drop in water temperature and the massive schools of newly
hatched shad lure crappie out of their summertime doldrums and trigger a feeding
spree that lasts throughout the fall and into early winter.
Crappie on the main lake can be taken in
September as the fish suspend over brush piles around docks, but the best action
begins in the tributaries and larger creeks. The shallower water in these arms
tend to cool down quicker than the main lake. These cooler waters draw hordes of
baitfish that arouse a crappie's appetite. Some of the best tributaries and
creeks to try for crappie in early September include the Niangua and Little
Niangua rivers, Grand Glaize, Gravois and Linn creeks. Later in the month, the
action slows down some in the creek arms but picks up on the main lake.
Live bait and artificial lure techniques both
work in September. When fishing the main lake during this time, I recommend
using minnows or a jig-and-minnow combination. In the morning, a jig-and-minnow
works best for me. Since the main lake is usually clear during this month, I
favor using jigs in colors imitating shad, such as white, gray or blue, Since I
want the lure to fall slowly for suspending fish, I select a 1/32- or 1/16-ounce
marabou jig, which I tip with a minnow to make the crappie hold onto the bait
Targeting docks and brush piles under the
floating structures, I cast to these area first. If this fails to produce or if
I catch some fish but the bite stops, I move up to the dock and present the jig
vertically into the brush piles. The crappie tend to congregate around docks on
main and secondary points 15 to 20 feet deep.
Later in the day, the sun and heat tend to
drive crappie deeper into the brush, so I switch to a minnow on a hook. I stick
the minnow on a 2/0 gold Aberdeen hook and place a split shot about 18 inches
above the bait. Moving out to the deeper brush (18 to 20 feet), I drop the
minnow straight down into the crappie beds. I vary my depth until I get a bite
because some times the fish hold over the top of the brush and on other
occasions they drop to the bottom. Using two rods at one time has helped me
catch crappie during this month. I usually lower one line with a minnow and set
it right above the top of the brush, while I keep the other rod in my hand and
work the bottom with a jig-and-minnow combination.
The stained and cooler waters of the creeks and
tributaries allows you to fish shallower for crappie. The key to finding crappie
though is to locate brush close to deep-water structure such as points, mouths
of coves and channel drops. On the upper ends of the creeks, crappie can be
taken as shallow as 6 to 8 feet, but the key depth range in the rest of the
creek is usually 10 to 15 feet.
Since the creeks contain more active fish, jigs
produce just as well as minnows. My favorite lure for crappie in the creeks is a
blue ice Bobby Garland Baby Shad attached to a 1/16-ounce jighead. The same
approach that I use on the main lake also produces in the creeks. Keeping my
boat away from the brush, I cast past the cover and count as the lure falls, so
if a crappie hits I have an idea how deep the fish are and I can present my lure
at about the same depth on subsequent casts. When I reach a certain count
(depending on the depth of the brush), I start retrieving the jig. The lure
slowly falls to the top of the brush where I lift it through the branches. Most
of the strikes occur as the lure falls into the brush or after it nudges a limb.
After making several casts to the brush pile, I
position my boat over the top of the cover and present the jig vertically. With
this presentation, I let the jig sit in one spot and rely on the movement of the
boat to impart action to the curly tail jig. If this fails to trigger a strike,
I jerk the jig up about a foot and let it flutter back down. This action
imitates a dying shad struggling to the surface and then falling back down. Any
crappie hanging around the brush can't resist such an easy meal.
An ultralight spinning rod-and-reel combination
works best for all of these techniques. I recommend using 4- to 6-pound test
line for the jig tactics and 8- to 10-pound test for dropping minnows into the
While the water cools down in September, the
crappie action heats up at the Lake of the Ozarks.
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.