LAKE OZARK, Mo. -- No sooner had Michael Spriggs commented on how big the crappies have been running at Lake of the Ozarks this spring than he produced the proof.
After he cast a multicolored jig to the edge of a boat dock, he watched a dark crappie dart up and take the offering. Spriggs' ultralight fishing rod bent sharply and the fish pulled out drag. But moments later, he was lifting a fish he estimated at 12 inches into the boat.
"That's a big fish, and it's a male," Spriggs said as he admired his catch. "See how dark it is? That's a male crappie in its spawning colors.
"Usually, it's the females that are the big ones. But this spring, we've even been catching big males."
Indeed, it's been a spring to remember at Lake of the Ozarks. Big crappies have shown up in big numbers as the fish have moved shallow to spawn.
The erratic weather has tempered the fishing somewhat. A string of cold fronts followed by warmer weather has had the crappies yo-yoing back and forth from deep water to the shallows. But when there have been a few days of consistently warm weather, the fishing has been impressive.
"People are throwing back crappies they would have kept in the past," said Spriggs, who owns Point Randall Resort near Bagnell Dam.
Spriggs and his fishing partner, Jimmy Joe Myers, caught some of those extra-large crappies on a recent outing. A cold front had pushed the crappies out from their spawning banks, slowing the fishing. But on their fourth stop, they finally found the big crappies schooled near a large dock.
Spriggs and Myers combined to plunk five big fish in the livewell before the action slacked and it was time to move to another spot.
"That's the way it has been," Spriggs said. "A lot of times, you'll catch four or five, then they quit.
"But if you have enough spots, you can still catch a limit (15 daily)."
Lately, the fishing has been best in the evening after the afternoon sun has had time to warm the water temperature a few degrees, Spriggs said. With the water clear, he has been positioning his boat in 10 to 20 feet of water and casting to shallower water to get the fish to hit.
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