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Sunday, May 28th
Few Clouds - Wind: 3.47 Mph
56.1 °F

Winter Cranking with Dirk Sluyter

The three-time BFL Ozark Division Angler of The Year, Dirk Sluyter, has proven time and time again that he is one of the best fishermen on Lake Of The Ozarks. I say fishermen instead of Bass fisherman because Dirk is skilled with all species that swim in the Lake. From catching Bass, Crappie, Catfish, even crawfish, Dirk’s name is well-known when referencing top anglers on the Lake. For this article, we got to talk winter cranking with Sluyter. Year-round he keeps an eye out for a crankbait bite, whether it’s deep cranking in the summer and fall or winter cranking in December and January. Winter cranking is a great way to catch Bass when the water temperature is falling. Often overlooked as most anglers choose to throw stick baits, Alabama rigs and small finesse jigs. Dirk agrees with these other tactics but would include winter cranking as one of his top ways to catch big fish in winter months. 

When setting out to winter crank, Sluyter first looks at water temperature. “Fifty degrees and lower is key” says Dirk. “Anything above fifty degrees is still a fall pattern.” Once the right water temp is established Dirk heads to the channel banks. “When I’m winter cranking it is usually on a channel bank with rock change.” Often the channel banks that Sluyter targets are the last one in the bigger creeks on Lake of The Ozarks. In early winter when the water temp is 45-50 degrees, Dirk sticks with wiggle warts and rock crawlers. Sluyter states “I like a tight wobble bait compared to a roll bait in early winter.” At these temps the crawfish are still so active, so the Cranking King loves to burn the warts and rock crawlers through the rocks of a channel bank. “When I do hit a big rock with my wiggle wart or rock crawler, I like to let it pause for a second. When the water is cold, I let it pause for 4-5 seconds, just to give the fish time to eat. During early-winter I like to use a 6’8” to 7’ medium rod with an extra fast tip. I like to feel every rock I come across.” When selecting line and reels, Dirk goes with ten-pound fluorocarbon line with a 6.1.1 reel. “You don’t need a superfast reel in winter months; you want to keep a nice normal pace to your baits” states Sluyter. 

42-degree water becomes dirks cut-off for winter time cranking. “Now weather conditions come more into play. I like to see steady temps for a couple days in a row” says Sluyter. Now is the time that spinning rods and reels come more into play for the three-time BFL angler of the year. The baits Dirk likes best in the low-water temps are rapala shad wraps, cotton Cordell rattling shad, and the strike king lucky shad. Now is when he uses more of a shad resembling bait, compared to a crawfish bait. “Shad is what these fish tune into in the colder winter months, so my baits change from craws to shad” Says Sluyter. He will change to a stick bait and Alabama rig, but on those steady weather conditions for days in a row he can catch them on these shad wraps. Sluyter explains: “I judge it like this. I throw my stick bait up close to the bank and if they bite it right away, I pull out a shad wrap because I can cover water a lot faster and the fish just are still active on the bank.” When its snows, “it’s on” says dirk. “I pick up a shad wrap on six-pound line on a spinning rod and I know I’m going to catch them.” One good piece of information Dirk provides is color of baits on certain days. “Cloudy days I like the fire tiger pattern, where sunny days I like as natural shad look as I can get.” 

Winter cranking can be a lethal way to catch the biggest and best Lake of the Ozarks fish during the winter months. “Don’t ever rule it out” Says Sluyter, “Always at least check it out, or you could be missing something special.” I’d like to give a special thanks to Dirk Sluyter for giving us some very helpful winter cranking tips!

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