Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - April
Catching Clear-Water Lake of the Ozarks
Crappie In The Shallows
By John Neporadny Jr.
The clearer the water, the deeper crappie will
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
“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
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,”
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.