Though one should take additional safety precautions when fishing during cold weather, crappie fishing can be outstanding in Midwestern impoundments. That's very true on Lake of the Ozarks as winter Crappie tend to "school up" and cooperate with anglers. Though one can certainly find crappie schools in open water, in the interest of time and consistency, we usually target crappie around larger condo docks in deep water that offer crappie cover, shade, bait fish, and ambush points. We typically utilize side scan to locate crappie schools and switch to forward facing sonar to present our baits to fish accurately and effectively. In terms of gear, we prefer to target winter crappie with an ultralight rod and reel spooled with 4-6 pound test line. Its been my experience that 4 pound line will outperform 6 pound line in terms of number of bites and fish caught in clear water. We generally use 2-3 inch Jigs in natural colors on a 1/16 ounce jig head. Since late summer 2023 I've been using a variety of jig styles and colors from "Ol Blue Tackle" with good success. Their Slapper and Squid jig bodies have been quite productive for our guides and clients. Depending on the day, one may have to experiment with jig color, style, jig head weight, retrieve speed, scent attractants and other variables to optimize your catch, but that's part of crappie fishing. At times scent attractants such as Crappie Niblets (Pink or Chartreuse) and Hawg Jam can improve one's catch and we routinely use them.
A few tips for winter anglers: Dress in layers for comfort, wear your life jacket, bring a dry blanket and extra clothes in the boat, fish with a buddy, check for ice on the boat ramps before attempting to launch your boat, and lookout for navigational hazards such as patches of ice, floating debris, etc. Consequences of on the water mishaps or mistakes are significantly elevated when the water temp drops in the winter. We hope to see you on the water soon and wish you a safe, enjoyable, and productive winter!