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THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing GuideExpert Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - November 2017

Dying Shad Retrieve For Lake of the Ozarks Crappie

by John Neporadny Jr.

When you want a meal in a hurry, you head for the drive-up window at your favorite fast food place. However when a crappie at the Lake of the Ozarks wants a quick and easy dinner, it merely waits for home delivery.

Sitting on the front limb of its home brush pile, the crappie spies a dying shad as it flutters in a struggle to stay upright. The baitfish then falls down to the brush where the crappie gobbles up the convenient meal. A lure retrieved in a motion similar to the fluttering and falling of the crappie's favorite fast food entices even the most sluggish fish into biting. Since baitfish die for some reason or other all the time, this technique produces crappie year-round, but it works best in the fall when most shad start succumbing to cold water.

A Lake of the Ozarks angler who has been perfecting a dying shad retrieve over the years is Terry Blankenship. While fishing with his wife one day, Blankenship accidentally discovered the technique as he prepared to change locations. "We had been fishing this brush pile for about 20 minutes and had caught one or two fish," he recalls. "I was getting ready to leave and I just dropped my jig all the way to the bottom and let it set there for a second. I wasn't really fishing but I raised it up off the bottom and a fish nailed it. We wound up sitting there and doing the same tactic (dropping it to the bottom, letting it sit, then pulling it up maybe a foot off the bottom, then just stop it and let it fall) and we caught about two limits of fish off that spot. It was that big of a change just because of that tactic we used."

Depending on the weather and water conditions, Blankenship presents his dying shad retrieve either vertically or horizontally. Calm weather and colder water temperatures dictate a vertical presentation, while the horizontal retrieve is most effective on a windy day with warmer water. Casting his lure and retrieving it horizontally allows Blankenship to work his jig faster and keep his line tight in the wind, even as the lure falls. Once the water temperature drops into the low 50s and the fish cling tight to cover, Blankenship tries his dying shad retrieve by dropping the jig straight below his boat. "It's a real good technique for those sunny, high sky days when the fish are in the brush because you really provoke the lazy fish out," says Blankenship. The vertical dying shad presentation caters to even the laziest crappie as it has an easy meal delivered into its brushy lair without the fish having to move much.

When conditions dictate a horizontal presentation, such as when crappie are suspended in the tops of brush piles, Blankenship casts to a particular target and then counts down the lure until it reaches an estimated depth. "I try to cast directly over the brush and let the jig fall to the top of the cover, then I give it a reel quick crank, " Blankenship says. "The quick crank provokes a strike because it's fluttering right in the crappie's face and all of a sudden it darts off." The sudden lure movement triggers a reaction strike from the crappie as it tries to prevent its prey from escaping.

Moving his rod imparts the same lure action during this presentation, but Blankenship prefers keeping his rod at the 9 o'clock position and cranking in his line at various speeds for the best results. "I like to use the reel more than the rod because I can keep my line tighter that way. Whereas if you are using the rod a lot of times when you have to back off the brush you create quite a bit of slack in your line," he says. Depending on how fast he cranks in line, Blankenship estimates his jig moves 2 to 4 feet each time he speeds up the retrieve. Strikes usually occur between the quick cranks. "As soon as you crank it real fast and then stop, a lot of times the fish are already there."

When crappie burrow into the brush, Blankenship presents his jig vertically at various depths. "If you've got brush in 10 feet of water with shad all around there and some of them are dying, then you just drop your lure to the bottom," the tournament angler advises. "I feel like a lot of the fish are scavenging near the bottom at a certain time in the fall because there are so many shad out there dying off and the fish are just so used to feeding on that. It develops into a certain pattern. They are just hugging to the bottom then and when the bait falls in front of their face, they hit it."

If Blankenship sees shad turning on their sides near the surface, he works his jigs vertically over the top of the brush piles. He lets the lure sit for a while, then raises it suddenly and lets it fall back on a tight line. "A lot of times when you tight line it back down you will see that line slack up or you'll feel a hit," says Blankenship.

Rod movement becomes more of a factor in this presentation. When he lets the lure sit, Blankenship keeps his rod at the 9 o'clock position, then jerks up the rod about a foot with the snap of his wrists. "I've seen it work sometimes where I can really whip the rod and stop it, but a basic rule of thumb is to move the lure only a couple of feet and then let it fall back on a tight line," Blankenship says.

Water clarity determines how far Blankenship jerks the lure off the bottom. In clear water, he pulls up the jig as much as 3 or 4 feet, but shortens the distance in murky conditions where a crappie's visibility is reduced. "You don't want to pull the jig out of the range of the fish," Blankenship warns. "You just pull it far enough away from the fish, then stop it and let if fall back down to where the crappie thinks it's an easy meal." Most strikes occur as the lure falls back to the bottom.

A 1/16-ounce horse-head spinner or a Blakemore Road Runner provides the flash needed to imitate a dying shad. When the water temperature drops below 45 degrees, Blankenship switches to a jighead without a spinner since the fish prefer a more subtle lure then. His favorite lures for this tactic are Bobby Garland Baby Shads and Bobby Garland Slab Slayers.

An 1/8-ounce jighead works best on windy days or if the fish are in cover 15 feet or deeper. Tipping a Road Runner with a minnow helps when the fishing gets tough. If the bite really slows down, Blankenship sticks a Berkley Power Bait Crappie Nibble on the hook of his jig. "Crappie Nibbles are definitely a plus during this technique because it puts off a scent that will sometimes provoke a fish that probably wasn't going to bite into biting," Blankenship says. The Crappie Nibble also serves as a brush guard as it covers the hook point.

While Blankenship catches all sizes of crappie with his dying shad retrieve, he believes it's most effective on bigger fish looking for an easy meal. "The bigger crappie sees something out there fluttering around and about to die, so that fish is going to suck it up versus going out there and chasing something down," the Lake of the Ozarks angler says.

For some fast action this fall, deliver an easy meal to crappie via a dying shad retrieve.

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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