Crappie Pro Offers Lake of the Ozarks Tips
By John Neporadny Jr.  

 

Lake of the Ozarks has served as a training site for some of the best bass anglers in the world. It is also the home waters of Tony Edgar, a four-time Crappie USA Classic contender and 2003 Crappie Angler Sportsman Tour (C.A.S.T.) Classic qualifier, who honed his skills at the Lake of the Ozarks before becoming a pro. .  

The Versailles, MO, pro usually concentrates on the Upper Osage arm of the lake (around the 58-mile mark) most of the time when he’s fishing at home. He prefers this section of the lake because the water is usually stained to murky, which allows him to fish shallower,  and the area receives less fishing pressure than the lower end.  

During the winter, Edgar either vertical jigs or slow trolls for crappie holding 14 to 15 feet deep in brush. “The best places to try then are deeper flats right off the main lake,” he suggests.  

Rigging eight 12-foot crappie poles in the front of his boat allows Edgar to slowly troll a variety of lures. “It’s more of a slow hover than a slow troll where I am just keeping the baits right there next to the cover because the fish school up and I can catch a lot of them in one spot,” he claims.  

The crappie pro usually rigs his rods with two lures or hooks by tying on a three-way swivel and two leader lines of 8-pound test. His first leader is about 6 to 8 inches long and he runs a bottom leader of about 24 inches for fish holding in a tight school close to cover. If the fish are scattered and suspended, Edgar   extends his bottom leader to 3 to 4 feet. His rigs are weighed down with egg-shaped slip sinkers attached to the longer leader.  

The local angler uses medium-size shiners when he wants to fish with live bait.  He usually uses a number 2 gold Aberdeen hook and a spinner that produces added flash.  A variety of Southern Pro tubes and Crappie Pro plastic solid body lures work well for Edgar’s spider rigging tactics. Using two different lures on each rig allows Edgar to cover two depth ranges with one rod and helps him find out which lure the fish seem to prefer that day.  

For vertical jigging, Edgar relies on 4- to 6-pound Berkley Trilene Sensation line that he ties to a 1/16-ounce jig (or 1/8-ounce jig for windy days). He favors plastic tubes in black-and-chartreuse, red-and-chartreuse or orange-and-chartreuse hues.  

Edgar follows pre-spawn crappie to the secondary points three-quarters of the way back in the feeder creeks where the fish start staging in early to mid-March. “The time of month the fish start moving in is dictated by water temperature,” advises Edgar. “It might be March one year and April the next.” 

When the water temperature climbs to around the 50-degree mark, male crappie start moving to the bank to look for nesting areas.  The fish will be holding in brush 6 to 8 feet deep close to the spawning banks and will move up quickly to the shallows during a warming trend.  

Edgar tries some spider rigging for deeper fish during this time, but he catches most of his fish from the brush by flipping a 1/16-ounce weedless jig to the cover and letting it fall into the branches and limbs. He prefers using 8-pound for prespawn fish because it causes the jig to fall slower and stay in the crappie’s strike zone longer.  

The spawn usually starts when the water temperature climbs to 58 to 60 degrees.  Edgar notes the peak of the spawn is usually around April 24.   

While he can catch male crappie as shallow as 1 foot during the spawn, Edgar opts for catching the larger females in brush piles 6 to 8 feet deep along the pea gravel banks. He uses a 1/16-ounce weedless jig in a variety of colors. “I don’t think color makes much difference that time of year either,” says Edgar “If you find the males, they are guarding the nests and will hit anything. The females will also bite if you keep the bait in front of them.” Edgar keeps his lure in the strike zone longer by setting his jig about 3 feet deep below a cork and lets it sit over the top of the brush.  

The local expert finds spawning crappie along the pea gravel flats in coves.    “I will fish the north bank early in the spring and key on south banks later on because those banks don’t heat up as quickly as the north side,” he advises.  

After the spawn, crappie leave the spawning banks and recuperate around brush piles in the 10- to 12-foot range. Edgar catches these fish slow trolling with his spider rig system. Since the fish bite less during this time, Edgar relies on minnows more to trigger strikes.  

In the summertime, Edgar concentrates on steep ledges along the main channel where the fish are holding 15 to 20 feet deep. He keys on the back sides or inside edges of channel bends and vertical jigs the ledges. The crappie pro switches to 6-pound test then and a 1/8-ounce jig which he tips with a minnow or Berkley Crappie Nibbles.  

Finding wind-blown flats and baitfish activity are Edgar’s keys to catching crappie in the fall. “I just try to follow the shad with my graph and the crappie will be there feeding,” says Edgar. His fall pattern usually begins in mid-October and lasts until the water temperature drops to about 40 degrees in either December or January.   

The fish will usually be about 6 to 8 feet deep along the flats adjacent to channel drops. Edgar catches these fish either fan-casting the flats with a 1/16-ounce spinner jighead on 6-pound line or spider rigging his baits through the schools of shad.  

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 & 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.