This is the second installment of Drew Reese’s history of Midwest finesse fishing. The first one was published on June 5.
Reese resides in rural Rantoul, Kansas, and he spends his summers fishing in Ontario, Canada.
In the days to come, his Finesse News Network reports about how, when, and where he uses his Midwest finesse tactics in Canada will be published here. The first one will focus on catching walleye with a Z-Man’s Finesse ShadZ that is affixed to a jig, and it will be published on June 25.
Although Ned Kehde and I both started our fishing careers at about the same time in the 1960s and had many of the same people as mentors, we developed slightly different approaches as we matured. I remember us nightfishing together for white bass with 1/16- and 1/8-ounce black marabou jigs when we were in our 20s. I think we would have been seen as unusual to be fishing ultra-light spinning gear with four-pound-test line during the dark of the moon and catching an ice chest full of white bass while casting our jigs onto shallow-water points.
As time passed, we talked maybe once every five years, and across these many years, I enjoyed Ned’s in-depth articles in In-Fisherman magazine about everything from catfish to crappie. During this time, I remained primarily a black bass fisherman.
For a while, I lived in Springfield, Missouri, and primarily night fished the highland reservoirs in the Ozarks. Much of my night fishing was done with casting equipment. But whenever I was on the lake during the day, it was strictly spinning tackle and light line.
From Springfield, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and I lived for 14 years on Old Hickory Lake. Even though Old Hickory was created on the Cumberland River, it was a dingy-water reservoir. Yet despite the water color, I still found the finesse approach more effective than power tactics.
In the early 1970s, Dwight Keefer –who resides nowadays in Phoenix, Arizona, but grew up in the Kansas City area — gave me a couple Shakespeare Back Country Special spinning rods. These five-foot, 10-inch fiberglass rods finally gave me the power in the butt and light tip action that was perfect. And the late Ray Fincke of Overland Park, Kansas, also customized these two Back Country Specials by replacing the original handles with Tennessee handles, and to this day, all of my spinning rods have Tennessee handles.
In regard to my taste in spinning rods, my world changed dramatically in 1979 when I was visiting Ray Fincke in his tackle shop on Southwest Boulevard in the Rosedale section of Kansas City. Ray knew how much I loved light spinning rods with a light tip and stiff butt, and he showed me one of his newest creations, which was a light G. Loomis spinning rod with a stiff butt. To give this light-action rod more backbone, Ray slid it through an eighteen-inch butt section of a broken rod. Of course, I had to try one, and I was immediately impressed. Ultimately, these rods became known as the “Stinger”. Gary Loomis flew Ray to the factory, and they began to produce the rod, and the serial numbers of these rods are SJ6400 and SJ700. The SJ6400 is a five-foot, four-inch model, and the SJ700 is a five-foot, 10-inch rod. I still use these rods today. In fact, I caught three lake trout recently on the SJ6400 and four-pound-test line. I have also added the SJ720 and SJ721 to my rod repertoire, and they are six-foot rods with a light tip and stiff butt.
Over the years, my choice of reels went from a Shakespeare 2062 to a Cardinal 3s, and then finally Shimano Stellas in the 1000 and 2500. The general smoothness and drag consistency of the Stellas are something to behold.
In my opinion the greatest finesse revolution was the introduction of Berkley FireLine. The braided and super-line phenomenon allowed most anglers to use the same diameter line as they always used but the line was stronger. But it allowed me to use four-pound-test Berkley FireLine that had a smaller diameter than the four-pound-test monofilament line that I used to use. More than 99 percent of my fishing is done with either four- or six-pound-test FireLine. I attach a nine-foot fluorocarbon leader in either eight- or 10-pound test with a Seagur knot. The combination of strength and sensitivity is incredible. That line combination has allowed me to feel like I am just as capable or possibly even more capable of a fisherman as I was when I was young man and in my prime.
I have provided this information simply to help clarify some of the things I do differently than a lot of what I read on the Finesse News Network.
The first thing that makes my approach different is I target numbers but with a constant aim of trying to find larger fish. Ned often states his goal of 101 bass in four hours. If you gave me the choice of reaching that goal or 40 smallmouth with one over four pounds and six more over three pounds, I would go for the 40 every time.
The second thing is I am completely dedicated to consistency. All of my rods, reels and line are the same. It is important to me that my lures are straight, hooks are sharp, and that my lure stays attached to the head of the jig. At the same time I do not care about the color of the jig’s head or scent, because I have never been in a situation that I could see a difference. In my mind, any variable I add that does not show consistent improvement in my catch rates becomes a distraction. I have watched Ned catch fish after fish with a lure that is a mess. The problem that creates for me mentally is that when that lure is gone I do not have another lure like that to fish with and that gets in my head. I want things that I can duplicate.
I pay no attention to lunar tables, wind direction, or things out of my control to determine when to fish. Ray Fincke said it best. “The best time to go fishing is when you get a chance”
The last thing is retrieves. I believe that most of the time fish are either feeding up or down. Some days they are just feeding and any lure retrieve works.
Those are our favorite days. The vast majority of the time it is important to determine how the fish are feeding and that often determines where they are likely to be. If the first fish of the day regurgitates minnows or has white feces, they are probably feeding up. If the feces is orange or they regurgitate crayfish, then they are probably feeding down.
I have two basic retrieves. For upward feeding fish, I like to swim lures above the fish with an occasional pause. The depth, number of pauses and the duration of pauses can vary during the day. If they are feeding down I try to imitate a crayfish. The best way to explain the retrieve is to wade down the shore of a clear lake or stream and turn over some rocks, and watch the crayfish move. They rapidly swim above the bottom with a shaking cadence, and then they stop swimming and glide back to the bottom. I try to duplicate that action. I experiment with speed of the rise off of the bottom and the length of the pause, and that can change during the day.
As a final note I would like everyone to know I am doing this as a payback to all of the people that helped me develop my skills as a fisherman. Ned introduced me to Z-Man products a little over three years ago. I am an excellent tube fisherman and that had been my go-to bait for about 10 years. I bought at least 700 green-pumpkin Tender Tubes from Bass Pro Shops ever year. When Ray Fincke died on Mar. 15, 2011, I saw Ned at Ray’s memorial service. It was the first time we had seen each other since the early 1970s, and we talked quite a bit, and he kept raving about Z-Man’s ElaZtech baits.
We decided we needed to go fishing together again. On that outing to a 55-acre community reservoir in northeastern Kansas, Ned had nine largemouth bass in the boat and another eight strikes, and I was still looking for my first strike, I was in shock. I borrowed a bait from Ned and my fishing has improved dramatically ever since that fateful day. I am firmly convinced ElaZtech baits catch significantly more fish than other soft-plastic baits.
Since that introduction in the spring of 2011, I have developed some baits for Z-Man, such as the Hula StickZ, as well as several that are either in production or will soon be in production. I do not receive any compensation from Z-Man, and in order to keep my integrity intact, I buy my lures from Z-Man rather than getting them free as a field tester or part of the professional staff.
In the days to come, as I file reports on the Finesse News Network, everything I write will be the exact information about the baits and tactics that I have found effective. My hope is that other anglers will find a few ideas and methods that will help them improve their fish-catching abilities.
Here are links to other stories that feature Drew Reese:
(1) Reese played a significant role in the two days that are described in “Z-Man goes to Canada.” ( http://www.in-fisherman.com/2013/10/01/z-man-goes-canada/).
(2) The details described in “Midwest Finesse: Another Z-Man Saga From Canada” focus on Reese’s finesse endeavors during the late spring and summer of 2013. (http://www.in-fisherman.com/2014/02/01/midwest-finesse-z-man-saga-canada/ ).
(3) This story describes how, when, and where Reese used finesse tactics during the late spring and summer of 2012 in Canada. ( http://www.in-fisherman.com/2013/04/04/finesse-news-network-gear-guide-z-mans-hula-stickz-finesse-shadz-and-2-12-inch-zinkerz-in-canadian-waterways-an-update/.
(4) “Finesse Tactics for Smallmouth Bass” features the way Reese fished in the late spring and through the summer of 2011.( http://www.in-fisherman.com/2011/10/02/finesse-tactics-for-smallmouth-bass/ )
(5) Reese is featured in the Chuck Woods’ segment in “Legends of the Heartland.” ( http://www.in-fisherman.com/2012/06/10/legends-of-the-heartland/)
(6) “A Short History of Midwest Finesse Fishing for Black Bass, 1955 -2013 ” mentions some of Reese’s contributions. ( http://www.in-fisherman.com/2013/01/17/a-short-history-of-midwest-finesse-fishing-for-black-bass-1955-2013/)
(7) This is the link to part one of “Drew Reese’s History of Midwest Finesse Fishing .” (http://www.in-fisherman.com/2014/06/05/drew-reeses-history-midwest-finesse-fishing/)