During the last week of February Old Man Winter dumped many inches of snow on all of the boat ramps across northeastern Kansas, sequestering me to our computer room for many hours. During that spell, I spent some moments examining George Kramer’s Web site (kramergonefishing.com), and as I perused his tale about the resurrection of the Fliptail worm, it spawned several memories of the piscatorial geniuses of the late Chuck Woods and Ray Fincke, both of Kansas City.
Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, Fincke was the proprietor of one of the nation’s preeminent tackle shop. His shop was located on Southwest Blvd. in the Rosedale section of Kansas City, and historians of angling proclaim that many of the tenets of modern bass fishing — especially those theories revolving around spinning tackle and finesse tactics — geminated within the confines of Fincke’s tackle shop.
Fincke was an accomplished black bass, crappie, trout and white bass angler. His shop catered to anglers of all stripes, and Woods, who was the father of Midwest finesse fishing for largemouth bass, was the star of the lot.
One of the other stars competed in the first Bassmaster Classic in 1971, and another star won the World Series of Sport Fishing in 1967 at Lone Lake, Wisconsin, and competed in the 1972 Bassmaster Classic, and both of those anglers used tackle and methods that Fincke and Woods pioneered.
Fincke designed and tied untold numbers of flies and jigs. He also designed and assembled a plethora of fly rods, spinning rods and casting rods, as well as repaired innumerable rods and reels for area anglers. One of the rods Fincke created was for Gary Loomis, and it eventually became one of Loomis’ Classic Spin Jig rods.
In addition to Fincke’s many piscatorial contributions, perhaps his most important contribution was that he provided a spot for Woods to customized and create scores of lures, such as the Beetle, Beetle Spin, and Puddle Jumper.
As I read Kramer’s words about the Fliptail worm, one of the memories that it stirred in me was the day that I saw Woods in the back room of Fincke’ s shop, where he was applying several drops of red permanent ink into a big jar that contained two dozen blue Fliptail worm. As Woods stirred the blue Fliptail worms and red ink with a 15-inch dowel rod, the worms began to exhibit what Woods’ described as a root-beer hue.
After seeing Woods transform those icy-blue worms and listening to Woods and Fincke talk about their effectiveness for alluring the largemouth bass that abided in the waterways in northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri, many of the spinning rods of the early practitioners of Midwest finesse tactics began sporting a 1/16-ounce jig that was festooned with a root-beer-hue Fliptail worm, and I was one of them.
Back then when we purchased a bag of 7 1/4-inch blue Fliptails, we put a few drops into the bag with the worms, and then we placed the bag between the palms of our hands and rubbed them together until the all of the worms exhibited the color of root beer.
Occasionally, we would rig the 7 1/4-inch Fliptail Texas-style with a slip sinker, but our favorite method was to trim 3 1/4 of an inch off the head of the Fliptail and rig the four-inch section or tail on a 1/16-ounce jig with an exposed hook. We also used the 3 1/4–inch head of the Fliptail, which in retrospect is what today’s anglers call a stick bait or Senko-style bait. We affixed the egg-sack region of the Fliptail onto the collar of the jig, making its head the tail, and the jig’s hook was exposed.
Currently, anglers can purchase 7 1/4- and 9 1/4-inch Fliptail worms. The 7 1/4-incher is available in black, blue, cherry seed, green pumpkin, pumpkin seed, and purple. The 9 1/4-inch rendition is available in black, blue, cherry seed, green pumpkin, Junebug, purple, and watermelon. To George Kramera’s chagrin, the black-grape shade, as yet, isn’t part of this rebirth.
A bag of eight retails for $5.99. Anglers can see the early stages of the Fliptail renaissance at: shop.fliptail-lures.com.
(1) We noted above that the 3 ¼-inch head of the Fliptail worm predated the Senko or stick-bait phenomenon. But in my eyes, Woods’ Beetle-and-jig combo, which was graced with a forked tail, was the first manifestation of the Senko-style bait. The 3 1/4-inch Fliptail had a lot more wiggle and undulation than Woods’ Beetle and the modern-day stickbaits.
(2) On Feb. 19, Burton Bosley of Sutton, West Virginia, sent a delightful note to the Finesse News Network about his memories of Ray Fincke’s tackle shop and some of the bass anglers, such as Art Eby and Chuck Woods, who gathered there in the 1960s. After his Kansas City days, when he went to grade and high school and worked for Ray Fincke, Bosley eventually became a noted saltwater and freshwater guide in southern Florida. And some of his saltwater endeavors virtually spanned the globle.
Here is what Bosley wrote:
“I’ve been reading with more interest than usual about the upcoming Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake.
” Grand Lake was the first big lake I ever fished and in truth was the only one until I moved to West Virginia and thence to Florida.
“This was my BCW era (before Chuck Woods). Ray Fincke’s tackle shop was always a mecca for good fishermen and I was an avid hanger on, listening to the tales at the late Monday evening sessions that were a Fincke tradition.
“Art Eby worked for Ray Fincke in those days. At that time I was fishing Hula Poppers, Shysters, Creme Worms — you know the usual suspects. We were just beginning to understand the effectiveness of plastic worms but didn’t have them dialed in yet. We would carefully sew hooks into the worms, sometimes using two small weedless hooks. Art immediately started using the biggest weedless hook he could find: 3/0 and 4/0, and even 5/0 when he could get them. He threaded these into the head of the worm and placed a split shot six to 12 inches above the bait, which changed the way I and many other fishermen (including a few folks that appeared on TV) fished a worm.
“Art took me along on a trip to Grand Lake. We left on a Friday after Fincke’s shop closed, stopped at Art’s relatives in Quapaw, Oklahoma, where we grabbed a 12-foot aluminum boat, a five-horsepower motor, a paddle, and a broasted chicken.
“I can’t remember the name of the resort where we launched around midnight. On the first cast Art caught a five-pound largemouth, and I was stunned. We fished all that night, all day Saturday, Saturday night and on into Sunday. We napped in the boat between feeding sprees. We took turns sitting cross-legged in the bow, sculling up one side and down the other of every likely looking point. Then we would start the outboard and putt over to the next likely looking lair. We took a limit of largemouth and spotted bass on a stringer into the resort, where the owner would take pictures. Some of the strings made it onto Tulsa TV with the resort owner holding them. Neither of us had any desire for publicity, we just wanted to catch fish, and catch them we did. I had some green six-inch worms a tackle rep had given me, and they were death on the spotted bass. Several five-fish stringers of spotted bass would have easily weighed over 15 pounds. Our biggest largemouth bass weighed between six and seven pounds, and we had a lot of four and five pounders. It was the most big bass I’d ever seen. It was my first experience with split- shotting plastic worms and my first experience with an angler more avid than myself. I also discovered one broasted chicken wasn’t enough food for two men for two days.
“I became pretty proficient with plastic worms and a fair fisherman. Then Chuck Woods came into our lives and revolutionized everything, and Chuck always stopped to eat.”
In another another note, Bosley said that he became particularly fond of the root beer Fliptail worm, which he shortened to six inches. He used smaller portions of the Fliptail worm on a jig for crappie and bass, and he retrieved it gliding it, which was the way that Chuck Woods’ retrieve the Beetle.
For more information about Bosley and Woods see: