Tips to reel in crappie and white bass.
Spring heralds the arrival of the best fishing season at Lake of the Ozarks for some of the Lake’s most sought-after gamefish. Visiting anglers who want to fish the prime time for Lake of the Ozarks bass, crappie and white bass should circle March and April on their calendars to plan for a trip to the Lake.
March marks the prespawn stage for bass and crappie when the fish leave their wintertime haunts and make their move to the shallows in search of spawning banks. The spawn is usually on for bass, crappie and white bass somewhere on the Lake during April.
Based on my experiences and information I have gathered from guides and other local experts for articles about Lake of the Ozarks’ fishing, here are patterns that produce bass, crappie and white bass during March and April.
In the early part of the month, heavyweight bass move up shallower on secondary points and transition banks where the shoreline changes from slab rocks to chunk rocks. The water is still cold, so the best tactics to try include slowly twitching a suspending stickbait or slow-rolling a magnum-size spinnerbait or Alabama rig. This is a prime time to catch that once-in-a-lifetime bass at the Lake.
As the weather and water continues to warm during the month, greater numbers of bass will move up shallow along the secondary points and transition banks. The suspending stickbait will continue to catch bass and jigs with plastic craw trailers and crawfish-colored crankbaits also start to produce. By the end of the month, bass migrate to the transition banks of chunk rock to pea gravel where the crawfish-color crankbaits and jig-and-craw combos shine.
Crappie move into brush piles 8 to 10 feet deep near the pea gravel spawning banks and stage there throughout most of the month. Limits of crappie can be taken from one brush pile on jigs or minnows if the piece of cover is near a good spawning bank.
My Favorite Month
If I could pick only one month to fish Lake of the Ozarks, April would be my choice. As the weather turns balmy the water temperature ranges from the mid-50’s to low 60’s and bass, crappie and white bass begin their spawning rituals in the shallows. With so many fish in the shallows at this time, the fishing gets a lot easier even for novice anglers.
I have noticed throughout the years that crappie usually start spawning before the bass and white bass at the Lake. The best spots for finding spawning crappie are pea gravel pockets that are sheltered from the wind. Spawning crappie can be found less than one foot deep in murky water and as deep as eight feet in clear water. The best techniques for catching bedding crappie are tossing a minnow or jig set one to three feet below a bobber to shallow brush piles or fan-casting a variety of soft plastic baits attached to 1/32- or 1/1s6-ounce jigs along the pea gravel banks.
During early April, bass also move to the shallows of the pea gravel banks where crawfish-colored crankbaits and jigs continue to produce. Bass usually seek the same pea gravel pockets as crappie use to build spawning nests. The fish will also spawn at about the same depths as crappie depending on the water clarity.
Once bass move onto the nests, the most productive lures then are a variety of soft plastic baits including plastic lizards, creature baits, beaver-style baits, floating worms, Senkos, Flukes and plastic tubes. Dragging a Carolina-rigged plastic lizard or walking a Zara Spook topwater lure along the sides of docks in the pea gravel pockets are great techniques to catch bigger female bass hanging out in deeper water. By the end of the month, throwing topwater lures to bass guarding fry produces the most exciting bass action of the year.
White bass run up the Lake of the Ozarks tributaries such as the Little Niangua, Gravois, Little Gravois and the Grand Glaize to spawn along gravel shoals throughout April. Hundreds of white bass will congregate in the shallow riffles or the deeper holes below the riffles at about the same time the bass and crappie are spawning in the Lake. My favorite lure for catching spawning whites is a fire tiger floating Rapala, but you can also catch plenty of fish in the streams on Roostertails, Mepps spinners and Swimming Minnows.