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Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, with one of the 46 largemouth bass that were caught on Dec. 9.

December’s guide to Midwest finesse fishing contains observations from Rick Allen of Dallas, Texas; Burton Bosley of Sutton, West Virginia; Bob Gum of Kansas City, Kansas; Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas; Ralph Manns of Rockwall, Texas; Susan North of Lincoln, Nebraska; Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas; Walt Tegtmeier of Leawood, Kansas; Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana; and me.

Mother Nature’s windy and wintry ways, combined with many delightful family gatherings during the glories of Christmas, adversely affected the number of hours and outings that we could fish.

Nevertheless, Brain Waldman provides us with some thought-provoking observations about how different the cold-water largemouth bass fishing is in the small flatland reservoirs of central Indiana that he fishes compared to the cold-water largemouth bass fishing that occurs in some of the small flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas. (The Dec. 7 and 12 logs explore these differences.)

What’s more, Burton Bosley reported about his float-and-fly endeavors in West Virginia, and Steve Reideler reported about how he and Rick Allen have undauntedly and incessantly battle some of the most difficult black bass fishing in America, and by employing Midwest finesse tactics, the numbers of black bass that they catch are far superior to the numbers other black bass anglers can achieve in north-central Texas waterways. In fact, Allen and Reideler’s successes have provoked Ralph Manns to begin  to dabble with a few Midwest finesse methods, and Manns’ maiden attempts at wielding one of these tactics can be witnessed in a Dec. 10 log.

Here is hoping that this guide provides readers with some details and perspectives about how, when, and where largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass can be caught at a variety of waterways during the 31 days of December.

As we have been for months on end, we are constantly thankful that Steve Reideler continues to proof read all of the logs. His work made this 20,574-word guide more readable and understandable.

Dec. 4 log

Until this outing, I hadn’t fished since Nov. 20. Most of that time was spent in San Antonio, Texas, where we visited our youngest daughter and her family.

According to Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, and Bob Gum of Kansas City, Kansas, the largemouth bass fishing was very trying at the flatland reservoirs hereabouts during my piscatorial hiatus. For example, Gum said he struggled to catch 10 largemouth bass across six hours of fishing on Nov. 29, when he fished a 2,600-acre power plant reservoir. Frazee reported that he caught only three largemouth bass on Dec. 3, when he was bass fishing for trout at a 120-acre community reservoir in the northern suburbs of Kansas City.

On my Dec. 4 outing, I returned to the 100-acre community reservoir that I fished on Nov. 20, when I caught 32 largemouth bass in four hours.

The National Weather Service in Olathe, Kansas, noted that it was 33 degrees at 5:53 a.m. and 40 degrees at 2:53 p.m. Throughout the day the wind angled out of the east at 5 to 9 mph and out of the southeast at 5 to 8 mph. It was overcast, and occasionally it was foggy and misty. The barometric pressure was 30.22 at 12:53 a.m., 30.20 at 5:53 a.m., 30.18 at 11:53 a.m., and 30.11 at 2:53 p.m.

The water level looked to be normal. The surface temperature ranged from 38 to 39 degrees, and the back portions of the reservoir’s primary feeder-creek arm was covered with a thin sheet of ice, upon which scores of Canada geese waddled. The water clarity exhibited from three to four feet of visibility.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar forecasted that the best fishing should occur from 8:02 a.m. to 10:02 a.m. and 8:28 p.m. to 10:28 p.m. There was a minor period from 1:48 a.m. to 3:48 a.m. I was afloat from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

In years past, this 100-acre community reservoir has yielded a fair number of largemouth bass during the first two weeks of December. For example, on Dec. 3, 2010, Rodney Hatridge of Shawnee, Kansas, and I caught 63 largemouth bass at this reservoir in four hours, and during the outing the surface temperature ranged from 43 to 44 degrees. Then Stacey King of Reeds Spring, Missouri, and I caught 38 largemouth bass in 3 1/2 hours on Dec. 9, 2010, when the surface temperature ranged from 38 to 40 degrees. Rodney Hatridge and I caught 69 largemouth bass on Dec. 1, 2011, when the surface temperature was 45 degrees. On Dec. 4, 2012, when the surface temperature was 45 degrees, Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, and I caught 50 largemouth bass in four hours.
On this Dec. 4 outing, I spent three hours and 45 minutes dissecting all of the best December lairs, which are primary and secondary flat points in the upper third portions of the reservoir. These are shallow points that are embellished with patches of coontail, and the boat floats in five to nine feet of water. In this upper section, I also fished portions of a massive coontail flat, where the boat floated in three to six feet of water and two steep rocky shorelines, where the boat floated in 10 to 14 feet of water.

During the last 45 minutes, I fished the lower portions of the reservoir, focusing on a shallow coontail-laden flat in the back of a secondary feeder-creek and the riprap of the dam.

Traditionally, when we catch one largemouth bass in December, we often catch several more in that vicinity. At times, we have caught as many as 25 largemouth bass from a shallow coontail lair that is 20 feet wide and 50 feet long. But not on this outing, and to my disappointment, the largemouth bass truly flummoxed me. I elicited only seven strikes and landed six largemouth bass.

I caught two largemouth bass around the coontail patches on a secondary point by employing a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve with a Z-Man Fishing Products’ PB&J Finesse T.R.D. affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle Mushroom Head Jig.

Another largemouth bass engulfed the Finesse T.R.D. on the initial drop when I was fishing the massive coontail flat. I caught one largemouth bass while I was strolling a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a 1/32-ounce Gopher jig in five to six feet of water on that flat. I hooked another fish by strolling the Finesse ShadZ rig in three feet of water on the same flat, but I failed to see it and land it.

I caught two largemouth bass around one of the patches of coontail in the back of the secondary feeder-creek arm. The top of this patch was covered with three to four feet of water, and there was eight feet of water nearby. Both of these bass were caught on the Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a 1/32-ounce Gopher jig with a swim-glide-and-shake presentation.

In sum, I endured the same vexing fishing that plagued Frazee on Dec. 3 and Gum on Nov. 30.

By the way, we received an email from Don Baldridge of Springfield, Missouri, on Dec. 5, and he said that he fished a small state reservoir in central Missouri, where he fished four hours and struggled to catch 11 largemouth bass. On Dec. 5, I also chatted with Stacey King, and he described the black bass fishing at Table Rock Lake, Missouri, where he lives, as being fairly fruitful one day and horrid the next day, and he can’t figure out why it is so radically different from day to day. Here’s hoping my Dec. 4 outing was one of the horrid days that has plagued King, and my next outing will be one of those fruitful ones that he has enjoyed.

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Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, posted this log on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 4 outing.

He wrote: “December, January, and February are my least favorite months to black bass fish in north-central Texas. In fact, the bass fishing becomes so wretched and tedious that an angler will spend an entire day attempting to generate one or two bites. Therefore, most of these anglers would consider one or two bites a decent day.
“Some black bass anglers hereabouts make a two to 2 1/2-hour drive to the warm waters of the power-plant reservoirs, where water temperatures are more moderate, and the largemouth bass begin their spawning rituals as early as mid-December.

“Unfortunately, there are only two power-plant reservoirs in this region, and I recently discovered that one of those power-plants was forced to shut down two of its three generators in order to comply with recent United States Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Consequently, the water temperature at this reservoir has now plummeted into the low 50s, and its once fruitful wintertime bass fishing has now become as slow and trying as all the cold-water reservoirs in north-central Texas. The other power-plant reservoir in this region has limited access, and only a certain number of boats are allowed on the reservoir during the weekends. Therefore, during the cold-water months, most north-central Texas anglers fish for the more cooperative species, such as white bass, hybrid- striped bass (or wipers), catfish, and crappie.

“Before I became an ardent practitioner of Midwest finesse techniques in mid-August of 2013, I was one of those anglers that pursued temperate bass during the winter and waited until mid-March to resume my black bass fishing endeavors. But during the winter of 2013-2014, I found myself chasing largemouth and spotted bass instead of temperate bass. I concentrated on the large, cold-water reservoirs in north-central Texas, and just like past winters, the bass bite in the large reservoirs was almost nonexistent.

“Therefore, during December and for the duration of the 2014-2015 winter, I have opted to fish small reservoirs that are graced with aquatic vegetation in hopes of finding more fruitful black bass fishing. And I began this undertaking today at three small community reservoirs located in a suburb northwest of Dallas.

“The day was dark and cloudy with sporadic periods of light, drizzling rain. I had high hopes that the low-light conditions and rain would make the bass more active. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 50 degrees and the afternoon high reached 64 degrees. A mild-mannered wind blew out of the southeast at 5 to 10 mph. The barometric pressure was 30.14 and dropping.

“In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing periods would occur between 8:10 a.m. and 10:10 a.m. and 8:36 p.m. and 10:36 p.m. A minor period would take place from 1:57 a.m. to 3:57 a.m. I was afoot from about 11:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

“The first reservoir I visited is about 20-acres in size, and traditionally it has been a tough nut to crack in November, December, January, and February.
“A smooth concrete dam forms the southern boundary of the reservoir.
“The west shoreline is relatively steep and straight west bank, and it has a 75-foot fishing pier.

“A large and shallow mud flat extends across the upper third of the reservoir, and it is lined with thick stands of cattails.

“The east shoreline is steep and curved. It is adorned with one long, clay, and gravel point that extends westward into the middle of the reservoir. A small brush pile is positioned on the south side of this point.

“The bottom of the reservoir is covered with hydrilla that is now turning brown.
“The water was stained with about two feet of visibility and the water level appeared normal. I was unable to measure the water’s temperature.

I fished this reservoir four times in November, and as the month progressed, each outing resulted in diminishing returns. On November 6, I caught four largemouth bass; on November 8, I eked out one largemouth bass; and on November 10 and November 29, I failed to entice a single bite.

“On this December 4 foray, I plied the steep west shoreline, the area around the fishing pier, and the concrete dam. I used only two lures: a 1/16-ounce Cabela’s black marabou jig with a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ trailer and a four-inch Yum Bait Company’s Junebug Dinger nose hooked on an Owner’s No. 2 drop-shot hook. I caught one largemouth bass in three feet of water off the face of the dam. This bass engulfed the marabou jig-LeechZ combo as it was being dragged and shaked across the bottom. The YUM Dinger and a slow lift-and-drop retrieve failed to induce any strikes.

“Though I caught only one bass at this reservoir, it is significant in the fact that it is the first bass that I have ever caught at this reservoir during the month of December, and I have been plying this reservoir since 2004.

“The second reservoir I visited was a two-acre one with steep mud banks. One point extends from the center of the south shoreline. Another point extends from the center of the north shoreline. These two points give the pond an hourglass shape. There is a small amount of aquatic vegetation that embellishes the south shoreline. One stump enhances the end of the north-side point.

“The water was stained with about 1 1/2-feet of visibility. The water level appeared to be normal.

“I probed this pond with the same 1/16-ounce Cabela’s marabou jig-LeechZ trailer combo and the same four-inch YUM dinger, but I was unable to coax any strikes from this pond.

“The last reservoir I visited is about three acres in size. I have not fished this waterway in quite some time.
“It is a crescent-shaped reservoir, which lies in an east-to-west direction. The east and west ends are shallow sand flats, and they are covered with brown hydrilla. The north shoreline is curved with steep sand banks and graced with hydrilla, a small stand of cattails, and sparse patches of brown pondweed. The south shoreline has a broad point that protrudes northward, and it is adorned with brown hydrilla, sparse patches of brown pondweed, and several brush piles. I was surprised to see small baitfish roaming along the banks at the water’s edge.

“The water was stained with about two feet of visibility. The water level looked to be normal.

“I caught only two largemouth bass from this waterway, and they were both abiding in four feet of water along the steep shoreline on the northwest end of the north shoreline. Both of these bass were allured by the 1/16-ounce Cabela’s black marabou jig and Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ that was retrieved with a slow hop-and-bounce presentation. I also employed a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s black-blue-flake FattyZ tube rigged on a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and presented with a drag-and-shake retrieve, and it produced one tentative strike.

“Overall, the slow and horrendous wintertime bass fishing is in full swing in north-central Texas. I could only eke out three largemouth bass during this four-hour endeavor. All three bass were attracted to the 1/16-ounce Cabela’s black marabou jig and Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ. Two bass were fooled by the hop-and-bounce retrieve, and one bass was bewitched by the drag-and-shake technique. The 2 1/2-inch Z-Man FattyZ tube rendered one strike, and the four-inch YUM dinger failed to garner any strikes.”
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Susan North of Lincoln, Nebraska, is a new member of the Finesse News Network, and she filed this brief about her bank-walking outing at a semi-private, 10-acre community reservoir on Dec. 4.

The National Weather Service in Lincoln noted that it was 24 degrees at 6:54 a.m. and 45 degrees at 2:54 p.m. It was sunny. Throughout the day, the wind angled out of the southeast at 5 to 9 mph and south at 6 to 15 mph. The barometric pressure was 30.25 at 12:54 a.m., 30.21 at 5:54 a.m., 30.16 at 11:54 a.m., and 30.05 at 4:54 p.m.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing around Lincoln would occur from 8:10 a.m. to 10:10 a.m. and 8:36 p.m. to 10:36 p.m. And there was a minor period from 1:56 a.m. to 3:56 a.m. She fished for two hours in the afternoon.

The surface temperature was 39 to 40 degrees, and in places, there was some ice.

Because it was a solo outing, she opted to walk the shoreline rather than climb into her kayak.

She spent the entire outing dissecting a shallow flat along the west shoreline. This flat eventually drops into 20 feet of water, and it is littered with submerged logs and piles of brush.

She caught a dozen largemouth bass on a 3 1/2-inch Z-Man’s watermelon-red ZinkerZ rigged wacky style on an unpainted 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and presented with a drag-and-deadstick retrieve. These largemouth bass were abiding in four to five feet of water. She modified the jig by adding a weed guard.

In addition to tangling with 12 largemouth bass, she saw deer, turkeys, waterfowl, and coyotes. She said: “It was a blast.”

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This is Susan North’s 1/16-ounce Gopher jig that she added a weed or hook guard to.

 

Dec. 6 log

Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, posted his log on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 6 outing with Rick Allen of Dallas.

Reideler wrote: “It was a beautiful late autumn day in north-central Texas, and I took advantage of the gorgeous weather and joined Rick Allen of Dallas for an afternoon of bank-walking at two nearby, small community reservoirs.

“The afternoon was sunny and bright, with a partly cloudy sky. The temperature gauge in my backyard registered the morning low temperature at 37 degrees and the afternoon high was a comfortable 64 degrees. The wind quartered out of the northwest at 9 to 16 mph. The barometric pressure was high at 30.40 and rising.

“In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the optimum fishing periods would occur from 9:51 a.m. to 11:51 a.m. and 10:17 p.m. to 12:17 a.m. A minor period occurred from 3:38 a.m. to 5:38 a.m.

“Rick was only able to fish from 1:00 p.m. until 1:35 p.m. So, both of us fished the first reservoir, and I fished the second one until 4:53 p.m.

“The reservoir that Rick and I fished is about 100 yards long and about 60 yards wide. The water color has had an odd muddy-gray color since November 10, which was the last time I fished it, and during that two-hour endeavor, I inveigled only two largemouth bass.

“On our Dec. 6 outing, the water exhibited about a foot of visibility. The water level has risen as a result of the rain that fell during the early morning hours of Dec. 5, and it now appears to be about three inches above normal. This is the first time that we have seen this reservoir’s water level at its normal or above normal level since the spring of 2010, which was just prior to the start of our current and persistent four-year drought.

“The north shoreline is fairly straight and shallow, and it is endowed with a thin and shallow mud flat along its eastern end. A concrete structure that surrounds a large outlet is positioned near the center section of this shoreline.  During the spring through early fall, this shoreline is lined with thick walls of submerged aquatic vegetation, but the vegetation has now turned brown and has died back.

“The west end of the reservoir is comprised of a large spawning cove. The north shoreline of this cove is steep and straight, with a large mud flat extending along the west bank of this cove. Its south shoreline is similar to the north one.
“Slightly east of the west cove is a large island that occupies the western portion of this reservoir, and it is enhanced with two creek channels that run along the north and south side of the island.

“The east end of the pond has the deepest water in this reservoir, and it is formed by a steep clay shoreline.

“The south shoreline is enhanced by a decorative concrete and stone wall that borders a shallow mud point. The remainder of this shoreline is mostly shallow and comprised of sand.

“I have recently been experimenting with a 1/16-ounce Cabela’s black marabou jig with different Z-Man plastic baits as trailers, but I forgot to bring my marabou jigs today. Therefore, we relied on our wintertime mainstay, which is a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s black-blue-flake FattyZ tube rigged on a blue 1/32- or 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and it bewitched five largemouth bass. One weighed two pounds, 12 ounces, and we weighed another one that weighed two pounds, five ounces.

“All five bass were caught in less than four feet of water and within five feet of the water’s edge, and they were allured by the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s black-blue flake FattyZ tube retrieved in a slow drag-and shake manner. We also used a 2 3/4-inch Z-Man’s black-blue flake BatwingZ rigged on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a four-inch Z-Man’s Coppertreuse Finesse WormZ rigged on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, but neither one of those baits could conjure a single strike.

“Two of the largemouth bass were caught along the steep east-end bank. One was caught on the thin mud flat that lies along the east end of the northern shoreline. One was caught along the northeast end of the island. The fifth one was caught next to the decorative concrete and stone wall on the south shoreline.

“After Rick left for work and I finished fishing this reservoir, I traveled to the second reservoir, which is about two acres in size.

“The south end of this reservoir consists of a decorative concrete and stone dam that is about eight feet high. Two large and submerged rock piles lie about 25 feet in front of the center of the dam, and both piles are covered with about three to four feet of water. A brush pile also enhances the dam area, and it is situated in four feet of water and about 15 feet in front of the east end of the dam. The entire bottom area around the dam is covered with softball size rocks.

“The east shoreline is steep, curved, and adorned with several stands of cattails and a few scattered tree limbs, which are partially submerged.

“The north shoreline of the reservoir is straight and borders a shallow mud flat. And a small creek enters the reservoir from the west end of this shoreline.

The west side of the reservoir is mostly shallow with several stands of cattails that line the shoreline.

“Upon my arrival, I observed five other anglers plying the north end of this small reservoir. Three were using bobber rigs with live bait, one was using a Texas-rigged six-inch plastic worm, and one was fly fishing. I spoke with one of those anglers, and he informed me that none of them had caught a fish, and they all left before I finished.

“I fished this reservoir for 53 minutes, and I spent the entire time plying the two rock piles, the one brush pile, and the rocky bottom in front of the dam, where I caught 15 largemouth bass, two large bluegills, and one chunky 13-inch white crappie.

“Thirteen largemouth bass, two large bluegills, and the one white crappie were caught on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, which was presented with a slow drag-and-shake retrieve. Two largemouth bass were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s black-blue-flake FattyZ tube rigged on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and retrieved with the drag-and-shake presentation.

“In total, Rick and I tangled with 20 largemouth bass, two large bluegills, and one white crappie. By north-central Texas standards, it was a splendid December outing. I also had several other strikes that I failed to hook, one bass broke off in the brush pile, and three others pulled free before I could land them. Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ beguiled 13 largemouth bass, two large bluegills, and one white crappie. The 2 1/2-inch black-blue-flake FattyZ tube enticed seven largemouth bass. The 2 3/4- inch Z-Man’s black-blue-flake Batwing Z and four-inch Z-Man’s Coppertreuse Finesse WormZ failed to garner any strikes. The drag-and-shake retrieve was the only productive presentation.”

 Dec. 9 log

On Dec. 4 I made a solo outing to a 100-acre community reservoir, where I caught only six largemouth bass in four arduous hours of wielding a variety of Midwest finesse presentations. So, on Dec. 9, I coaxed my cousin Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, to help me decipher the goings on of the largemouth bass at that 100-acre community reservoir.

The National Weather Service in Olathe, Kansas, noted that it was 28 degrees at 7:53 a.m., 33 degrees at 11:53 a.m., and 32 degrees 12:53 p.m. (It was cold enough that we occasionally had ice forming in the guides on our rods. At times, the braided line would also freeze on the spinning reel’s spool. What’s more, my fingers tingled from the cold for the entire four hours that we were afloat.) The wind angled out of the north at 8 to 15 mph from 12:53 a.m. to 8:53 a.m., out of the northeast at 6 to 9 mph from 9:53 a.m. to 1:53 p.m., then it became variable at 5 mph, and ultimately it was calm. The sky was described as fair from 12:53 a.m. to 7:53 a.m.; then it alternated from being overcast to partly cloudy to mostly cloudy. The barometric pressure was 30.30 at 12:53 a.m., 30.06 at 5:53 a.m., 30.42 at 11:53 a.m., and 30.39 at 1:53 p.m.

The surface temperature ranged from 39 to 40 degrees, and the ice that covered the back of the back portions of this reservoir’s primary feeder-creek on Dec. 4 had disappeared. The water exhibited three to five feet of visibility. The water level looked to be normal. The size of this reservoir’s many patches of coontail were diminishing, but most of the patches that we fished were still green.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing times would take place from 11:59 a.m. to 1:59 p.m. and 12:23 p.m. to 2:23 p.m. There would be a minor period from 6:11 a.m. to 8:11 a.m. We fished from 10:10 a.m. to 2:10 p.m.
From 10:10 a.m. to 1:50 p.m. we plied the upper end of this reservoir.

During the first hour, we plied three areas.

One locale was a flat and shallow main-lake point, where the boat floated in six to nine feet of water. This is a massive point, and it is endowed with six boat docks, a nearby drop off that is covered with 12 to 20 feet of water, and many patches of submerged coontail that lie in three to six feet of water.
The second area was a steep and rocky shoreline. The boat floated in 12 to 14 feet of water. This shoreline is adjacent to the main-lake point that we fished. And we fished about 75 feet of this shoreline.

The first two areas were on the west side of the reservoir. The third area was on the east side. It is a shallow flat, where the boat floated in four to seven feet of water. This flat is lined with six boat docks, oodles of submerged patches of coontail, a long concrete retaining wall that borders the water’s edge, and several concrete structures protrude from the retaining wall onto the flat. We fished about 150 yards of this flat.

At these three locales, we failed to elicit a strike. As the first hour came to an end, it seemed as if were suffering through a repeat performance of what I endured on Dec. 4.

We finally caught a largemouth bass at a large secondary point at the north end of that east side flat. This point is flat and shallow, and the boat floated in seven to nine feet of water. Several areas on this point are adorned with patches of coontail that lie in four to six feet of water. Shortly after we released that first largemouth bass, we quickly caught three more. Three of the four largemouth bass were caught on a shortened Z-Man’s watermelon-red Hula StickZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. One was caught on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. These baits were retrieved across and around the coontail patches with a swim-slide-and-shake presentation, and the shake was subtle and intermittent. After we caught those four largemouth bass, we spent about 15 minutes refishing and refishing and refishing this secondary point’s patches of coontail, and some adjacent coontail patches, and we garnered only one strike, which we failed to solidly hook.

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Rick Hebenstreit with the first largemouth bass of the outing.

After we finished fishing that secondary point, we attempted to take a page out of Brian Waldman’s Dec. 6 and 7 logs. Or in other words, we attempted to catch some cold-water largemouth bass like he does at the reservoirs around Coatesville, Indiana, by fishing a 250-yard section of a steep and rocky shoreline, as well as a steep and rocky main-lake point. As we fished this shoreline and point, the boat floated in 10 to 17 feet of water. There have been times when we have caught a goodly number of cold-water largemouth bass at this locale, but not during this outing and not for the past two winters.

When we failed to replicate Waldman’s mastery along that steep and rocky shoreline and main-lake point, we were virtually at our wit’s end. After a short debate about what we should do, we decided to move farther up the reservoir to fish a massive mud flat that is cluttered with hundreds of patches of coontail. Some of this area was covered with ice on Dec. 4. Across the years, we have come to the conclusion (but without the aid of a reliable scientific method) that significant numbers of largemouth bass that inhabit the small flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas tend to vacate the unfrozen locales of our reservoirs and migrate to the ice-covered areas, and they abide around those first ice-covered areas that are embellished with submerged aquatic vegetation throughout the winter. These first ice areas are always shallow-water lairs, and once the ice melts, the fishing can be extremely rewarding for several weeks.

On this shallow, coontail-laden flat, the boat floated in three to six feet of water, and we dissected a section of it that was about the size of two football fields. To our delight, we caught 37 largemouth bass, and 35 of them were caught on either the shortened Z-Man’s watermelon-red Hula StickZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig or the Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. One was caught on a shortened Z-Man’s PB&J Hula StickZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and another one was caught on a Z-Man’s Canada Craw Finesse T.R.D. affixed to a red 1/15-ounce Z-Man Finesse ShroomZ jig. We retrieved these baits across and around the coontail patches with a swim-slide-and-shake presentation, and the shake was subtle and intermittent.

We ended our outing by plying a coontail flat inside a small feeder-creek arm in the lower end of the reservoir. For about 15 minutes, we fished a patch of coontail that was about 25 feet wide and 50 feet long. The boat floated in four to seven feet of water. We caught five largemouth bass. Two of them were caught on the shortened Z-Man’s watermelon-red Hula StickZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and another two were caught on the Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. One was caught on the shortened Z-Man’s PB&J Hula StickZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. And we employed the swim-glide-and-shake presentation, and the shake was subtle and intermittent.

In sum, we fished four hours and caught 46 largemouth bass. And 42 of those 46 largemouth bass were caught in less than two hours and 15 minutes of fishing.

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Rick Hebenstreit with one of the 37 largemouth bass that we caught around patches of coontail on a shallow flat in the upper end of the reservoir.

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Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed this log on the Finesse News Network about his afternoon outing with Rick Allen of Dallas at a 30-acre reservoir on Dec. 9.
Reideler wrote: “The day started off dark and cloudy with dense fog covering the area until about 2:54 p.m. The National Weather Service issued a dense fog warning until 9:00 a.m., but the fog persisted until about 1:45 p.m. Then the clouds parted and allowed the sun to shine brightly for the remainder of the afternoon. The morning low temperature was 39 degrees and the afternoon high climbed to 54 degrees. A light breeze blew out of the north at 3 to 6 mph, and the barometric pressure measured 30.37.

“The In-Fisherman solunar calendar indicated that the prime fishing periods would occur from 12:08 a.m. to 2:08 a.m. and 12:32 p.m. to 2:32 p.m. Interestingly, Rick and I discussed the accuracy of solunar tables while we were afloat, and we caught the vast majority of our bass during the primary 12:32 p.m. to 2:32 p.m. period. A minor feeding period occurred from 6:20 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. Rick and I fished from about noon until 4:45 p.m.

“The 30-acre reservoir that we plied has an unique horseshoe shape that lies in a north-to-south direction. The entire reservoir is framed by a decorative stone retaining wall, and the base of the wall is reinforced by concrete bricks that extend about three feet out from the wall. Thick hydrilla beds usually flourish along the edge of the concrete bricks at the base of the wall, but they have died back, and the remaining portions of the beds are sparse and thin.

“Besides the retaining wall and hydrilla, there are two small brush piles that enhance the west shoreline of the west fork of the reservoir.

“Three concrete culverts connect this reservoir to three smaller reservoirs, two of which lie just north of this reservoir, and the third lies just west of this reservoir.

“We discovered from our boat’s sonar device that the water next to the decorative wall is three feet deep, and a shelf runs out from the base of the wall about 10 feet, where the bottom quickly drops off into depths as shallow as 10 feet and as deep as 30 feet.

“The water was slightly stained with about three feet of visibility. The water temperature was 54 degrees. The water level appeared to be normal.

“When we first arrived, we elected to launch the boat from the northeast end of the reservoir. But before we launched, we decided to make a few casts from the bank and parallel to the shoreline. We caught one largemouth bass on a 1/16-ounce Cabela’s black marabou jig with a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ trailer, and we hooked and lost a second one on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug FattyZ tube rigged on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Both baits were retrieved with a drag-and-shake presentation. Both largemouth bass were hooked about five feet from the wall in about four feet of water.

“As we slowly worked our way around the reservoir, we developed a routine of casting to the face of the decorative retaining wall and slowly dragging and shaking various baits along the bottom until the bait fell off the shallow shelf and slowly glided to the bottom in deeper water. Our boat floated in 10 to 21 feet of water. If we failed to receive a strike, we would quickly reel our lures in and repeat the procedure. In our eyes, this approach proved quite successful as we hooked 23 feisty largemouth bass, but six of these cantankerous bass were able to liberate themselves before we could land them. We also observed two bass that followed our FattyZ tubes to within a few feet of the boat before they suddenly veered off and swam away. Another bass took a swipe at Rick’s FattyZ tube as he was lifting it out of the water to prepare for another cast. We received several more tentative bites, but we failed to hook these fish. All of these bass were milling about within 10 feet of the retaining wall and none were caught in water deeper than nine feet. Eighteen of these bass were scattered along the south shoreline of the reservoir. One was relating to the north shoreline. Two were residing along the east shoreline in the northeast end of the reservoir. Another bass was extracted from the west shoreline in the same northeast end of the reservoir. One bass was caught from the west bank of the west side arm of the reservoir. We weighed several of these bass that were in the two- to three-pound class, and the largest weighed three pounds, one ounce.

“We continued our wintertime experiments with a plethora of baits. And it quickly became clear that the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s FattyZ tube on a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig remains our most effective wintertime bait.

 

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This is a  2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s sprayed grass FattyZ tube affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

 

“Fifteen of the 23 largemouth bass were attracted to the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s California Craw FattyZ tube threaded on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Four bass were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s sprayed grass FattyZ tube affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. One bass engulfed a Z-Man’s Canada Craw Hula StickZ rigged on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. One bass was caught on a 3 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin GrubZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. One bass struck a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin-orange ZinkerZ rigged on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. One bass was caught on a 1/16-ounce Cabela’s black marabou jig with a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ trailer, and one bass was lost on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug FattyZ tube.

“We failed to garner any strikes on several other baits such as Z-Man’s 2 3/4-inch BatwingZs, Z-Man’s Finesse ShadZs, Z-Man’s Scented LeechZs, and Rapala’s suspending jerk baits.

“We used all six of the Midwest finesse presentations. The drag-and-shake technique was by far the most productive technique, and it beguiled 21 of the 23 largemouth bass we hooked. The hop-and-bounce motif bewitched the other two bass.”

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Rick Allen with one of the 23 largemouth bass that he and Steve Reideler caught on Dec. 9

Dec. 10 log

I made a 73-mile journey on Dec. 10 to fish at a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir with Bob Gum of Kansas City, Kansas.

This reservoir has never been a place where a pair or even a trio of Midwest finesse anglers could reach their lofty goal of catching 25 largemouth bass an hour. Instead, it has been our wintertime refuge, where we can tangle with more than five largemouth bass an hour during the last six weeks of the calendar year or whenever our other waterways are covered or partially covered with ice in January and February. On past November and December outings, I and my partners have always caught more than 20 largemouth bass. For instance, 23 largemouth bass were caught on Dec. 5, 2009; 27 largemouth bass were caught on Dec. 28, 2010; 44 largemouth bass were caught on Dec. 28, 2011, (we failed to catch any in November and December of 2012 because my broken wrist kept me at bay); and 51 largemouth bass were caught on Nov. 25, 2013. Throughout the 89 or 90 days of winter, I and my partners also fish this reservoir a number of times in January and February. Our most bountiful wintertime catch was 73 largemouth bass, which were caught on Feb. 13, 2014.

Even though we can rarely catch bountiful numbers of largemouth bass at this power-plant reservoir, we can occasionally do battle with an impressive lunker or two, and that is a feat which we rarely encounter at the other reservoirs that we fish in northeastern Kansas.

Every winter, Gum and I team up to fish this reservoir a number of times. Then throughout a calendar year, he fishes it often with his wife, or with a friend, or by himself. Across the decades, he has caught untold numbers of largemouth bass at this reservoir and scores of lunkers to boot. In fact, one lunker weighed 9 1/4 pounds, and he has inveigled an impressive array of seven- and eight-pounders. But to his chagrin, Gum has found the largemouth bass fishing at this reservoir to be subpar throughout most of 2014.

The weather forecasters predicted that area thermometers would climb to 41 degrees, and it would sprinkle a touch during the afternoon hours. As we were driving south from Kansas City around 8:45 a.m., we noticed that several small waterways had a skim of ice floating on them, and it was drizzling and 29 degrees, and we began to suspect that it was not going to be a balmy day to be afloat, and it wasn’t.

The National Weather Service in Olathe, Kansas, noted that it was 25 degrees at 5:53 a.m. and 33 degrees at 12:53 p.m. Shortly after sunrise, it became foggy and misty, and it drizzled periodically. Throughout the day, the wind angled out of the northeast at 5 mph, out of the southeast at 7 to 9 mph, and out of the east at 5 to 8 mph. The barometric pressure was 30.33 at 12:53 a.m., 30.31 at 5:53 a.m., 30.28 at 11:57 a.m., and 30.23 at 1:53 p.m.

The combination of mist and drizzle and area thermometers hovering below and around 33 degrees made for a bone chilling ordeal. Gum actually described it as painful. We were dressed in many layers of winter wear, and we were hoping to fish five hours, but at 1:15 p.m. our fingers and toes were aching to the point that we had a difficult time casting and concentrating on our retrieves. So, after fishing for only three hours and 40 minutes, we decided to go home and get warm.

Not only was the weather a bone-aching experience, but the fishing was extremely vexing. We failed to catch a largemouth bass during the first 60 minutes of this outing. During the next two and a quarter hours, we caught only 11 largemouth bass, and none of them were lunkers.

The water level looked to be normal. There was a minor algae bloom, which limited the visibility to less than two feet. The surface temperature at the hot-water outlet was 56 degrees; elsewhere in the warm-water plume, where we fished, the surface temperature ranged from 50 to 54 degrees; along the southeastern fringe of the plume, the surface temperature was in the mid-40s. The direction and velocity of the wind can affect the range and whereabouts of the fringes of the warm-water plume.

There is a lot of riprap bordering this reservoir’s east and south shorelines. We began the outing by fishing portions of a long stretch of one of the riprap shorelines. On this outing, this riprap was situated in the southeast fringe of the warm-water plume. The surface temperature ranged from 44 to 46 degrees, which was the coolest water that we fished. The boat floated in six to 12 feet of water. When Gum fished this reservoir on Nov. 30, he caught eight largemouth bass at several locales along this massive stretch of riprap. We, however, failed to catch one, and we elicited only one feeble strike.

The second spot we fished was the riprap point and the east-side flat at the hot-water outlet, where we failed to catch a largemouth bass, while the boat floated in three to 10 feet of water. We did garner three measly strikes and landed one minute white bass.

Our third stop was at a west-side mud flat that is graced with a submerged creek channel that meanders across the flat about 50 yards off of the shoreline. The surface temperature was 54 degrees, and the boat floated in four to nine feet of water. We dissected about 100 yards of the flat and channel edge. From one 25-foot stretch along the edge of the creek channel, we extracted four largemouth bass, and we simultaneously caught two of them in about four feet of water. At the point, we were hoping that we had found a small mother lode of largemouth bass, but those were the only ones that we caught.

The fourth area that we fished was a main-lake bluff and point. The surface temperature ranged from 51 to 54 degrees. The boat floated in seven to 14 feet of water. This bluff is more than 200 yards long, and it is where Gum caught the 9 1/4-pound largemouth bass several years ago. At one rock slide along the bluff we caught three largemouth bass, which were extracted from three to five feet of water. We caught two more largemouth bass around another rock slide, and both of these largemouth bass were in three to five feet of water.

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Bob Gum with one of the largemouth bass that we caught at a rock slide on the main-lake bluff.

After we fished the bluff, we dissected a mud flat that is immediately adjacent to the bluff. This flat is littered with scores of laydowns, a few stumps, a submerged creek channel and ditch, and a point. The boat floated in six to eight feet of water. The surface temperature was 51 degrees. We did not catch a largemouth bass, and we failed to get a strike.

Our fifth stop was another massive main-lake bluff, where the surface temperature was 50 to 51 degrees. The boat floated in seven to 10 feet of water. We fished about 100 yards of this bluff, and we did not catch a largemouth bass. We did catch a channel catfish and a freshwater drum.

The last area that we fished was a shallow and flat point in the vicinity of the hot-water outlet. The surface temperature was 55 degrees. The boat floated in four to seven feet of water. This point is graced with a significant amount of current, gravel, ledges, boulders, and several shoreline laydowns. We caught two largemouth bass, which were extracted out of three feet of water near a ledge, and we hooked three fish that we failed to land. We also caught a white bass.

In sum, we wielded a variety of baits. The three baits that allured 90 percent of our paltry catch of 11 largemouth bass were a shortened Z-Man’s Junebug Hula StickZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher Jig, 2 1/2-inch Strike King Lure Company’s pink Zero on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and 2 1/2-inch Strike King green-pumpkin Zero on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Gum caught one of the largemouth bass along the submerged creek-channel edge on the mud flat with a No. 5 Rapala Shad Rap RS in a Glass Blue Shad hue. The only effective retrieve was the swim-glide-and-shake, and the shake was minimal.

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Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed this log on the Finesse News Network about an afternoon outing that Ralph Manns of Rockwall, Texas, conducted on Dec. 10 at a 15,535-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir, where the wintertime largemouth bass fishing is always difficult.
Ralph Manns is a fisheries biologist and a long-time In-Fisherman field editor. At heart, Manns is a power angler, but after fishing with Reideler several times this year and witnessing the effectiveness of Reideler’s Midwest finesse tactics in the vexing waterways on north-central Texas, he has begun to experiment with some finesse tactics.

The water at the reservoir he fished was stained, exhibiting about three feet of visibility. The water level was 10.55 feet below normal level. The water temperature was 55 degrees.

It was cloudy. The Weather Underground listed the morning low temperature at 42 degrees, and the afternoon high reached 55 degrees. The wind blew out of the south-by-southeast at 3 to 7 mph. The barometric pressure measured 30.27.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing periods would occur from 12:58 a.m. to 2:58 a.m. and 1:22 p.m. to 3:22 p.m. A minor period occurred from 7:10 a.m. to 9:10 a.m.

Here is a condensed and edited version of Manns’ report that he emailed to Reideler:

I fished the marina area, where the launch is now about 1 1/2 feet deep, but I still can get out in my little boat.

I went immediately to the rocks outside the lighthouse, thinking that the overcast sky and a 3 to 7 mph southeast wind would have stimulated some of the largemouth bass to forage along the riprap.

I set up my spinning rod with clear 10-pound-test Berkley FireLine and an eight-pound fluorocarbon leader to fish a black-hair jig instead of my usual four-inch Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits’ Senko.

After about two hours of fishing, I caught three adult largemouth bass, and the biggest one was only 16 inches long. Two of them hit the black hair jig, and one hit a slow-fished suspending jerkbait. They were caught in water as shallow as two feet and as deep as seven feet.

I was fishing the 1/32-ounce hair jig with a short plastic trailer. And I tried to present it with the Midwest finesse swim-glide-and-shake retrieve, or at least as close as I could approximate it, but my retrieve was more of a lift-slide-jiggle-and-drop technique.
A Secchi disk reading in the outer lake registered three feet. Therefore it was shadowless and dark — almost night visibility — in nine feet of water, which is the depth of the edges of the riprap along most of the areas I fished. The surface temperature was 55 degrees and likely nearly the same all the way down. A few loose schools of small shad were visible on my sonar, but they were few and far between. Inside the marina, the water was muddy and the Secchi disk reading was less than a foot due to silt stirred up when larger boats tried to launch.

When I lived in Austin, Texas, from 1973 to 1997 and fished bass clubs and local tourneys, one of my club’s most-used lures for winter and cold-water fishing at Travis, Bastrop, Fayette, and Belton lakes was the little brown- or black-hair jig. Back then, we used mainly 1/8- and 1/4-ounce ball-headed ones. Sometimes the jig was fished alone and sometimes with a small piece of a soft-plastic worm or a tiny pork frog trailer. Sometimes the jigs were retrieved with a slow glide near the bottom, but my favorite and most successful one at Travis was to let it drop to the bottom near the shoreline and then drop and lift it down into deeper water. At the top of a lift, I would jiggle the rod tip just before letting it drop again.
On Dec. 10, I was using a 1/32-ounce ball-head (crappie-size) hair jig, and that was because going deeper than 10 feet wasn’t a consideration. But, I added a piece of plastic worm tail (head parts of s plastic worm work as well) in order to give it casting weight and slow the sink rate a bit. Note that I didn’t catch any under-size largemouth bass, which I call teenagers. I suspect that the presence of hybrid stripers in the open water areas of this reservoir tends to keep fingerling and teenage largemouth bass from migrating offshore and outside of the protected shorelines. Other than along the edges of the riprap, the big largemouth bass in this reservoir are seldom found in deep-water cover. In fact, back in the days when I had a full-size bass boat, I never had much success fishing for largemouth bass around the main-river structure and woody cover, which is situated in 20 to 40 or more feet of water.

In sum, it was too cold, and the fishing was too slow, but I was glad to get out.

Dec. 12 log

Since Dec. 8, Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, and I have been exchanging email observations about how he catches cold-water largemouth bass in the flatland reservoirs of central Indiana and how some Midwest finesse anglers catch largemouth bass at some of the flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas.

In our exchanges, we noted that during the spring, summer and fall the patterns for locating and catching largemouth bass are virtually the same in northeastern Kansas and central Indiana. But during the cold-water months in central Indiana, he catches largemouth bass along rocky and steep shorelines that are adjacent to deep water in the lower regions of the reservoirs. In contrast, we catch the bulk of our northeastern Kansas largemouth bass in the upper regions or in the backs of the feeder-creek arms of our small community and state reservoirs, and these largemouth bass are abiding in three to seven feet of water on vast mud flats that are embellished with submerged aquatic vegetation, such as coontail and curly-leaf pondweed.

There are, however, some reservoirs and times in northeastern Kansas when we catch cold-water largemouth bass along rocky and steep shorelines the way Waldman does in central Indiana. This phenomenon occurs at the reservoirs that do not have a bounty of submerged aquatic vegetation growing on the mud flats in the back ends of the feeder creek arms. But there have been winters – especially before the largemouth bass virus walloped some of northeastern Kansas’ reservoirs – when we caught significant numbers of largemouth bass on the same outing along steep and rocky shorelines in six to 12 feet of water in the vicinity of the dam, and then we caught vast numbers of them in the backs of two or three feeder-creek arms in three to six feet of water on mud flats that were endowed with patches of coontail or sprouting patches of curly-leaf pondweed. But when the ice began to cover the mud flats in the backs of the feeder-creek arms, which prevented us from fishing the shallow-water patches of coontail and curly-leaf pondweed, we continued to fish the steep and rocky shorelines, and to our dismay, the number of largemouth bass that we caught declined dramatically. We concluded that a goodly number of the largemouth bass that were once inhabiting those steep and rocky shorelines in the lower portions of the reservoir the week before the ice began to develop migrated and began to reside under the ice, but, of course, we didn’t use any scientific tools to arrive at that conclusion. In essence, it was merely an intuitive summation of what happened, and some of that intuition was based upon experiences that occurred in the winters of the 1980s and early 1990s, when I spent my winters chasing white crappie in several U.S. Corps of Engineers’ flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas. At that time, I and many of my fellow crappie anglers discovered that when the ice began forming in the upper regions of those Corps’ reservoirs that the crappie that we were finding and catching in the lower sections of the reservoir in 15 to 25 feet of water began to disappear. And we didn’t find them again until the ice was thick enough that we could walk upon it. Then we found oodles of crappie up in the feeder-creek arms in eight to 12 feet of water, and they were abiding around flooded timber, humps, submerged edges of ditches and creek channels, schools of gizzard shad, and man-made brush piles. There was no aquatic vegetation in those Corps’ reservoirs.

Besides being a talented and versatile largemouth bass angler, Waldman is an avid and adroit crappie angler. And in one of our email exchanges, he said that the crappie in central Indiana behave the same way the largemouth bass behave by moving to the deepest water as winter sets in. He emphasized that point by writing: “I have several friends who ice fish any chance they get, and they have all reported to me that catching crappie through the ice in any of the shallow bays and upper ends of the reservoirs is a rare feat. They do catch a lot of bluegill though, which seem to follow the pattern of moving shallower. Our crappie, white bass, catfish and largemouth bass tend to go deeper though.”

After several days of thinking about the different ways that largemouth bass behave in some of the reservoirs in northeastern Kansas compared to the way they behave in the reservoirs that Waldman fishes in central Indiana, I decided on Dec. 12 to see if the largemouth bass had begun inhabiting some of the shallow patches of submerged aquatic vegetation in the back end of a feeder-creek arm at a nearby 195-acre community reservoir.

I hadn’t fished this reservoir since Nov. 19. On that outing I could not elicit a strike around those shallow patches of submerged aquatic vegetation in the backs of this reservoir’s feeder-creek arms. Since then some ice had covered two of these areas for a spell, and then it melted. On my Nov. 19 outing, I didn’t find one sprig of curly-leaf pondweed. But I also discovered on Dec. 12 that massive amounts of curly-leaf pondweed had begun to grow and replace the dying Eurasian milfoil, bushy pondweed, and wilting coontail. Even at the boat ramp, bits of the curly-leaf pondweed that the ducks and geese had uprooted were even cluttering the shoreline, and in my eyes, that was an encouraging site, indeed. From the perspective of Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas, the burgeoning patches of curly-leaf pondweed on the mud flats in the backs of the feeder-creek arms attract largemouth bass once the ice arrives, and after it melts, the largemouth bass stay around for several weeks, and in winters past, we have on occasions caught more than a hundred largemouth bass in four hours from these patches of curly-leaf pondweed.

 

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Here are some of the sprigs of curly-leaf pondweed that several of the 22 hooked largemouth bass tore off the bottom of the massive mud flat that I fished on Dec. 12.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing should take place from 2:49 a.m. to 4:49 a.m. and 3:10 p.m. to 5:10 p.m. There was a minor period from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. I fished from 2:05 p.m. to 3:35 p.m.

While I was afloat, the National Weather Service recorded the temperature as ranging from 52 to 53 degrees. It was overcast and hazy. The wind was out of the south at 9 mph. The barometric pressure dropped from 30.24 at 1:52 p.m. to 30.22 at 2:52 p.m.

The water level was normal. The surface temperature was 40 degrees. The water was clear, exhibiting more than five feet of visibility, which was the clearest it has been for a while.

During this 90-minute outing, I wanted to quickly dissect two areas inside one feeder-creek arm.

One of those areas is about 30 percent of the way inside the feeder creek. Before the ice formed and eventually melted in the back of this arm, I caught 35 bass from this area, but on Dec. 12, I did not elicit a strike in 10 minutes of castings and strolling a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig in four to nine feet of water around this location.

For the next 80 minutes, I quickly dissected a small segment of a massive mud flat in the back end of the feeder creek arm. This flat is about the size of five or six football fields, and it is graced with several ledges and minor humps and uncountable numbers of patches of submerged vegetation. The boat floated in four to seven feet of water. I was able to fish about 15 percent of the flat. From one of the humps and four patches of submerged vegetation, I caught 20 largemouth bass and one wiper in four to five feet of water. The Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve allured 16 of those largemouth bass. A shortened Z-Man’s watermelon-red Hula StickZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve inveigled four of the largemouth bass. The shake routine of the retrieve was quite vigorous – especially when the lure became entwined with some of the submerged vegetation. I caught one largemouth bass by strolling the shortened Z-Man’s watermelon-red Hula StickZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig along a ledge in three feet of water. Another largemouth bass was caught while I was strolling the Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig in five feet of water.

In sum, I caught 22 largemouth bass in 90 minutes. And the pattern was similar to the one that Bob Gum of Kansas City reported on in his Dec. 7 log at 160-acre state reservoir and the one that Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, and I reported on in our Dec. 9 log. Now we are hoping that during the next 45 to 60 days more and more largemouth bass will take up residence in these locales, and when the ice melts, we might be able to relish a 100-largemouth bass outing or two.

Dec. 13 log

Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, posted this log about his Dec. 13 outing on the Finesse News Network.

He wrote: “During the afternoon of Dec. 9, Rick Allen of Dallas, and I fished a 30-acre horseshoe-shaped reservoir, and while we were fishing, we noticed that there were three smaller reservoirs linked to this 30-acre reservoir by concrete culverts, but we did not have time to check out those three reservoirs during that outing.

“Two of these reservoirs are located about 50 yards north of the 30-acre one, and the third lies just west of it.

“After my Dec. 9 excursion with Rick, I began thinking about those three reservoirs and the possible fishing opportunities they could offer, and I decided to check them out on Dec. 13.

“The weather on Dec. 13 was very enjoyable with bright sunshine and a partly cloudy sky. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low at 58 degrees and the afternoon high climbed to 71 degrees. Thunderstorms were forecast throughout the day on Dec. 14. A stiff wind blew out of the southwest at 15 to 25 mph. The barometric pressure measured 30.17.

“I fished from about noon to 4:00 p.m. In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing periods would occur from 3:27 a.m. to 5:27 a.m. and 3:48 p.m. to 5:48 p.m. A minor period would occur from 9:37 a.m. to 11:37 a.m.

“I began this afternoon’s endeavor at the two-acre reservoir that lies just west of the 30-acre reservoir. This reservoir has a square shape. It is framed by a decorative stone retaining wall, and the base of the wall is reinforced by concrete bricks that extend about three feet out from the wall. It has no aquatic vegetation that I could find.

“The water was slightly stained with about three feet of visibility. I didn’t have the means to measure the water’s temperature, but since this reservoir is directly connected with the larger 30-acre reservoir that had a 54-degree temperature on Dec. 9, I estimated the water temperature in this reservoir to be close to 54 degrees as well. The water level appeared to be normal.

“One laydown graced the north shoreline, and two laydowns enhanced the south shoreline. A concrete spillway formed the west shoreline, and the connecting concrete culvert from the 30-acre reservoir formed most of the east shoreline.

“I caught nine largemouth bass from this reservoir. One was caught along the north shoreline, four were extracted from along the south shoreline, and four were caught in front of the concrete culvert. All nine of these bass were hooked in three to five feet of water and about five to 10 feet out from the water’s edge.

“Eight were allured by a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s California Craw FattyZ tube rigged on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and it was presented with a slow hop-and-bounce retrieve. One engulfed a four-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-green-flake Finesse WormZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig as it settled to the bottom on the initial cast.

“After I finished plying the two-acre pond, I then examined a 10-acre reservoir which lies northwest of the 30-acre reservoir.

“This waterway also has a square shape, as well as a small cove that cuts into the reservoir from the west shoreline. About two dozen concrete pilings line the cove’s shoreline. This reservoir is lined by a decorative stone retaining wall, and the base of the wall is also reinforced by concrete bricks that extend about three feet out from the wall. The connecting concrete culvert forms this reservoir’s southern shoreline. There are a few small patches of hydrilla scattered around the shallows inside the west-side cove.

“The shorelines along this waterway have limited bank access, and the access that is available is mostly along the southwestern bank and west cove areas.

“The water clarity and level was similar to that of the 30-acre reservoir and two-acre one.

“One of the concrete pilings in the west-side cove surrendered one largemouth bass, but I failed to entice any other bass from this waterway. This bass was situated next to the side of the concrete piling in six feet of water, and was allured by the customized 2 1/2-inch California Craw FattyZ tube and drag-and-shake presentation.

“The third reservoir I fished is about five-acres in size. It is also square-shaped. A connecting concrete culvert forms the southern shoreline and a concrete spillway forms the northern shoreline. The east and west shorelines are also framed by a decorative stone retaining wall, with the base of the wall reinforced with concrete bricks in the same fashion as the other reservoirs. I did not find any aquatic vegetation in this reservoir.

“The water in this watershed was identical to that of the other two ponds and the 30-acre reservoir, and the water level was normal.

“This reservoir relinquished only one largemouth bass and a 30-inch, 10-pound, four-ounce freshwater drum that put up a delightful and spirited tussle that lasted for several minutes. It is also the largest fish I have caught on Midwest finesse baits and small Gopher Mushroom Head Jigs. Both of these fish were caught in five feet of water in front of the concrete culvert area along the southern shoreline. The largemouth bass was caught on the 2 1/2-inch FattyZ tube with a hop-and-bounce retrieve. The large freshwater drum was caught on the four-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-green-flake Finesse WormZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and drag-and-shake presentation.

“All totaled, I eked out 11 largemouth bass and one humongous freshwater drum during four hours of fishing. I kept things simple and used only two baits: a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s California Craw FattyZ tube and four-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-green-flake Finese WormZ. Without a doubt, the 2 1/2-inch FattyZ tube has been our most productive cold-water wintertime bait, and it proved itself again today by bewitching 10 largemouth bass. The four-inch Finesse WormZ dredged up one largemouth bass and the freshwater drum. The hop-and bounce and drag-and shake methods were both fruitful presentations.

“On Dec. 9, Rick and I discussed the accuracy of the solunar calendar periods and we hooked 20 of our 23 largemouth bass during the primary fishing period which occurred from 12:32 p.m. to 2:32 p.m. But this Dec. 13 undertaking was just the opposite. Instead of finding active bass during the primary 3:48 p.m. to 5:48 p.m. time period, I found myself struggling to entice a single bite, and I could muster only one largemouth bass during this prime period. I caught 10 largemouth bass and one 10-pound, four-ounce freshwater drum between noon and 3:00 p.m., which was neither a primary nor a minor fishing period.”

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Bob Gum of Kansas City, Kansas, filed a brief about his outing with Greg Monahan of Lees Summit, Missouri, on Dec. 13 at a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir.

Gum and I fished this reservoir on Dec. 10, and we battled painfully cold and wet weather to catch only 11 largemouth bass. During and after that outing, Gum and I voiced our concerns about the state of the largemouth bass fishing in this reservoir, which used to be the finest in Kansas – especially during the cold-water months. Something seems to be askew, and it has been that way for most of 2014.

On Gum and Monahan’s Dec. 13 outing, the weather was balmy and extremely cloudy. But for some unknown reason, the surface temperature at one main-lake point inside the warm-water plume had dropped from 51 degrees to 47 degrees.

To their dismay, the fishing was worse than the fishing that Gum and I contended with on Dec. 10. They fished from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and their Midwest finesse tactics caught only four largemouth bass. In fact, the fishing was so wretched that he could not conjure any words to compose a meaningful log.

Dec. 14 log

Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, filed a brief on the Finesse News Network about his outing at a 325-acre reservoir on Dec. 14.

The National Weather Service noted that it was 41 degrees from 12:15 a.m. to 10:35 a.m. From 10:55 a.m. to 2:35 p.m., the temperature climbed from 43 to 46 degrees, and it remained 46 degrees until 4:55 p.m., when it dropped to 45 degrees. It was foggy, misty, and overcast for the entire day. The wind was calm until 9:15 a.m., and after that long calm spell, it angled out of the southeast at 3 mph and out of the south at 3 to 10 mph, and occasionally it was calm. The barometric pressure was 30.17 at 12:15 a.m., 20.16 at 5:15 a.m., 30.18 at 11: 15 a.m., 30.14 at 2:25 p.m., and 30.10 at 5:15 p.m.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing would take place from 4:29 a.m. to 6:29 a.m. and 4:50 p.m. to 6:50 p.m. There would be a minor period from 10:39 a.m. to 12:39 p.m. He fished from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Here is a condensed and edited version of his report:

The weather looks to be taking a turn for the worse around here beginning in the middle of the week, and there are predictions of three possible snowstorms in the mix between now and the end of the month. I am guessing lakes will start freezing up again shortly, or if not, it will be too nasty to fish regardless. Just in case, I topped off my gas tank in the boat to the max, added a bunch of fuel stabilizer, and then I went to the lake to run everything through the system a bit, as well as get in a few more hours of fishing this year.

The surface temperature ranged from 38 to 40 degrees.

Rather than using the 1/16-ounce hair jig, I started with a slightly more aggressive approach and used a jerkbait. It is a Lucky Craft Pointer, which I recently purchased. It had a very bright orange belly, which I did not like. So, before I fished with it, I used some 150-grit sandpaper and sanded off the majority of the orange belly so it was nearly translucent with just a hint of orange remaining. Straightway this jerkbait caught two largemouth bass. The first one weighed five pounds, and the second one weighed at 3 1/2 pounds. But during the next hour I could not get another bite on the jerkbait. So, I began using a 1/16-ounce brown hair and flash-gold jig without a trailer, and I employed a short-lift-and-drop presentation that was implemented with a swimming motif every now and then. The hair jig enticed five largemouth bass, including a three-pounder, which were extracted from six to 12 feet of water along steep and rocky shorelines in the lower portions of the reservoir.

NOV5

I must regretfully report that I did not get a chance to check the shallow upper reaches of this reservoir because it was an extremely short outing. But by chance, if I can get out one more time, I will do it. Otherwise, I will do it as soon as the ice is off in 2015.

As I am writing this report on Dec. 16, the weather in central Indiana is cold, wet, and windy. The weather forecasters say that except for one day the high temperature will not be above 35 degrees for the next 10 days. I am guessing I am done for the year, and this Dec. 14 outing was a great end to what has been a very productive year.

 

Dec. 16 log

I returned to the 195-acre community reservoir that I fished on Dec. 12, and during that 90-minute outing, I caught 22 largemouth bass that were inhabiting one of their traditional ice-off and late-winter areas on a massive mud flat in the back of a feeder-creek arm that is embellished with many patches of curly-leaf pondweed. (The Dec. 12 log explains how and exactly where those 22 largemouth bass were located and caught.)

On my Dec. 16 outing, I wanted to see if the warm weather that graced northeastern Kansas on Dec. 12, 13, 14, and 15 affected the whereabouts and disposition of the largemouth bass that had been relatively easy to catch on Dec. 12.

The high temperature on Dec. 12 was 52 degrees and the low temperature was 39 degrees. The high temperature on Dec. 13 was 55 degrees and the low temperature was 43 degrees. The high temperature hit 63 degrees on Dec. 14, and the low temperature was only 48 degrees. On Dec. 15, the low temperature was 32 degrees, and the high temperature was 52 degrees. The normal high temperature for these dates is 42 degrees and the normal low temperature ranges from 21 to 22 degrees.

After a four-day hiatus, winter returned on Dec. 16. The National Weather Service in Lawrence, Kansas, noted that it was 29 degrees at 5:52 a.m., 34 degrees at 1:52 p.m., and 33 degrees at 2:52 p.m. It was overcast from 12:52 a.m. to 12:52 p.m., mostly cloudy at 1:52 p.m., and partly cloudy at 2:52 p.m. The wind angled out of the northwest at 16 to 30 mph and out of the north at 10 to 31 mph. The barometric pressure was 30.02 at 12:52 a.m., 30.14 at 5:52 a.m., 30.31 at 11:52 a.m., and 30.31 at 2:52 p.m.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing should occur from 5:41 a.m. to 7:41 a.m. and 6:03 p.m. to 8:03 p.m. There was a minor period from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. I fished from 11:17 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The three-quarters of an inch of warm rain that fell on Dec. 14 and 15 caused the water level to rise about six inches. Thus the water level was above normal, and water was being released from the outlet at the dam. The surface temperature was 42.5 degrees, which is 2 1/2 degrees warmer than it was on Dec. 12. The water clarity in 90 percent of the reservoir was as clear as it was on Dec. 12, exhibiting more than five feet of visibility. But the water that covered the curly-leaf pondweed patches on the mud flat in the back of the feeder-creek arm where I caught the 22 largemouth bass on Dec. 12 was murky, and it became murkier and murkier the farther that I fished towards the back end of this flat.

At times around the highland reservoirs in the Ozarks during the cold-water months, a warm rain that causes warm water to flow into the reservoir will often provoke some largemouth bass to venture to the backs of some of the small feeder creeks, where they can be rather easily caught. But that phenomenon doesn’t happen in the flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas. Therefore, I was disheartened to see that murky and slightly warmer water on Dec. 16. Across many winters, Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas have found that they need relatively clear water and constantly cold water temperatures in order to have fruitful largemouth bass fishing in the backs of the feeder-creek arms that are embellished with patches of shallow aquatic vegetation, such as curly-leaf pondweed and coontail.

But to my surprise, I caught a largemouth bass on my first cast, and I caught another one on my third cast. Before the first 25 minutes of the outing had run its course, I caught and released nine largemouth bass. And my disheartenment waned.

When I caught these largemouth bass, the boat floated in five to seven feet of water. They were caught around patches of curly-leaf pound weed in four to five feet of water. Five of them were caught on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Four were caught on a shortened Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Seven were caught when I was employing the swim-glide-and-shake retrieve, and two were caught when I was strolling the Hula StickZ. And all of them were caught along the fringes of the murky water.

As soon as I left the fringes of the murky water and began dissecting the curly-leaf pondweed that was inundated with murky water, I failed to garner a strike, and I became disheartened again. I didn’t catch another largemouth bass until I arrived at a hump that was embellished with a huge patch of curly-leaf pondweed and situated along the fringes of the murky water. Here the boat floated in six feet of water, and this largemouth bass was extracted out of 3 1/2 feet of water, and it engulfed the shortened Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig that was being retrieved with a swim-glide-and shake retrieve.

DSCN0555

This largemouth bass was caught in 3 1/2 feet of water in a thick patch of curly-lead pondweed on a hump.

 

After catching that largemouth bass, I spent a lot of time strolling with the Finesse ShadZ rig and the Hula StickZ, searching for curly-leaf pondweed patches and largemouth bass in the clear-water portions of that feeder-creek arm. But I failed to elicit a strike.

Eventually, I caught one largemouth bass while I was fishing a relatively steep shoreline along a minor bluff that lies about 40 percent of the way inside the feeder-creek arm. It was caught on the shortened Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, which was retrieved with a hop-and-bounce retrieve in six feet of water. I was hoping that several of the largemouth bass that were part of that significant aggregation of largemouth bass which were abiding on the shallow mud flat in the back of this feeder-creek arm on Dec. 12 had moved to this steep shoreline in the clear water, but other than that one largemouth bass I failed to catch another one.

I spent the last 35 minutes fishing a short section of the dam, and two short sections of a shoreline inside another feeder-creek arm, which was not murky, but I could not locate any patches of curly-leaf pondweed or any other submerged aquatic vegetation. And I did not garner a strike during that last 35 minutes.

In sum, I caught only 11 largemouth bass in three hours and 13 minutes. On Dec. 12, I thought that I had found an early wintertime nirvana, which I would enjoy until ice eventually covered it. Now it looks as if the largemouth bass are in a state of limbo, which is a difficult place for anglers of all stripes to find. Therefore, we will have to wait until ice covers it again, and then the wintertime nirvana might reappear once that ice melts. (Traditionally, we enjoy the wintertime nirvana when the ice melts in late January or in February, but this year we had a cold spell in November, and ice covered the back portions of some of the feeder-creek arms in our small flatland reservoirs, and after it melted we experienced an early and unusual wintertime nirvana. For more information about the ice and largemouth bass, please see my Dec. 9 and Dec. 12 logs.

Dec. 18 log

Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed this log on the Finesse News Network about his bank-walking endeavors on Dec. 18.

He wrote: “The weather in north-central Texas is definitely transitioning from fall to winter. Dec. 17 was a cold and rainy day. Then on Dec. 18 thick grey clouds blanketed the sky and it drizzled periodically throughout the day. More rain is forecasted for the late-evening hours of Dec. 18 and throughout Dec. 19. The temperature gauge in my backyard registered the morning low temperature at 37 degrees and the afternoon high reached 48 degrees. The average low temperature for this time of year is 37 degrees and the average high temperature is 57 degrees. For most of the afternoon, the wind was calm, but occasionally, a light breeze would meander out of the north-by-northeast at 3 mph. The barometric pressure measured 30.14.

“I took advantage of the break in the rain and conducted a four hour bank-walking excursion to three small community reservoirs.

“The In-Fisherman solunar calendar indicated that the optimum fishing periods would occur from 6:56 a.m. to 8:56 a.m. and 7:21 p.m. to 9:21 p.m. A minor period occurred from 12:44 a.m. to 2:44 a.m. I fished from about 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

“The winter solstice is at hand, and the traditionally horrid mid-December to mid-March fishing period has arrived in north-central Texas. Consequently, I could only muster four largemouth bass during this four-hour endeavor.

“The first reservoir I visited is about 20-acres in size, and it is always a tough and vexing venue during this time of the year.

“A smooth concrete slab dam forms its southern boundary. A large and shallow mud flat spans across the upper third portion of this reservoir and it is lined with thick stands of cattails. The west shoreline is steep and straight and enhanced with a fishing pier that extends eastward from the bank. The east shoreline is also steep and curved, and it is endowed with a prominent clay and gravel point that extends westward into the middle of the reservoir. Most of the bottom of this reservoir is covered with hydrilla, which has now turned brown.

“I last fished this reservoir during the afternoon of Dec. 4, and though I caught only one largemouth bass that afternoon, it was the first bass I had ever caught from this reservoir in December, and I think I am beginning to make some headway in figuring out the wintertime bass fishing in this problematic waterway.

“On this Dec. 18 outing, the water was stained with about two feet of visibility. The water level appeared normal. I was unable to measure the water’s temperature.

“I used two spinning outfits for this outing. One sported a drop-shot rig with various Z-Man finesse baits nose hooked on an Owner’s #2 drop-shot hook with an eighth-ounce cylindrical drop-shot weight attached to an eight-inch leader extending below the hook. The other spinning outfit donned a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug FattyZ tube rigged on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

“I was pleasantly surprised to catch three largemouth bass from this waterway, and the largest of the three weighing three pounds, three ounces. Two were beguiled by the 2 1/2-inch FattyZ tube implemented with a slow hop-and-bounce retrieve. The third and largest bass was coaxed into striking a drop-shot rigged Z-Man’s Junebug Hula StickZ presented with a slow drag-and-shake technique. All three of these bass were scattered along the face of the dam in less than four feet of water. I was unable to entice any strikes from the large flat along the north end of the reservoir, or along the steeper east and west shorelines.

“The second reservoir I plied is about three acres in size, and I last fished this reservoir on Dec. 4.

“This waterway has a crescent shape with an east-to-west orientation. The east and west ends are shallow and sandy flats, which are covered with brown hydrilla. The south shoreline consists of a broad point that protrudes northward, and it is graced with brown hydrilla, sparse patches of brown pondweed, and several brush piles. The north shoreline is curved, steep, and sandy, and it is enhanced with hydrilla, a small stand of cattails, and sparse patches of brown pondweed. I did not see any of the small baitfish roaming along the banks at the water’s edge like I had on Dec. 4.

“The water was murky with about two feet of visibility. The water level had risen slightly from the recent rain.

“I caught two largemouth bass from this waterway on Dec. 4, but the customized FattyZ tube and drop-shot rigged Z-Man’s California Craw T.R.D., three-inch green pumpkin Scented LeechZ, and Junebug Hula StickZ were unable to elicit a single strike on this outing.

My last stop for the day was at a community reservoir that is about the size of a football field.

“The water was muddy from the recent rain, exhibiting a couple of inches of visibility. The water level was about a foot high.

“This pond features a relatively straight northern shoreline that is shallow and flat, and water was seeping over a concrete structure that surrounds a large water outlet positioned in four feet of water near the middle section of this area. The eastern border of the pond is formed by a steep and muddy shoreline. The southern shoreline is enhanced by a decorative concrete and stone wall that borders a shallow mud point. A large island lies in the western region of this waterway, and two creek channels parallel the island’s northern and southern shorelines.

“I continued to utilize the customized 2 1/2-inch FattyZ tube along with a drop-shot rigged Z-Man’s 2 3/4-inch black-blue-flake BatwingZ, black Scented LeechZ, and Junebug Hula StickZ.

“The customized 2 1/2-inch FattyZ tube and a slow hop-and bounce presentation allured one largemouth bass that was in about two feet of water and relating to a small straight section of the northern shoreline. The drop-shot rigged BatwingZ, Scented LeechZ, and Hula StickZ failed to garner any bites. The steep east shoreline, two creek channels next to the island, west cove, and the south shoreline areas failed to yield any bass.”

Dec 2o log

I made a rare Saturday outing on Dec. 20, when I returned to the 195-acre community reservoir where I found a substantial wintertime aggregation of largemouth bass on Dec. 12, and where I failed to find a substantial wintertime aggregation on Dec. 16.

On this last day of fall, the National Weather Service in Lawrence, Kansas, noted that it was 33 degrees at 3:52 a.m. and 48 degrees at 3:52 p.m. It was warm enough that more than 95 percent of the two inches of snow that fell on Dec. 18 melted, and I didn’t have to wear gloves. For the first time in many days, we saw the sun rise at 7:01 a.m., and the sun shined brightly for several hours, which brought joy to our hearts. The NWS observed that it was overcast from 12:53 a.m. to 5:52 a.m., foggy and misty in some places from 7:52 a.m. to 8:52 a.m., fair from 9:52 a.m. to 12:52 a.m., and then from 1:52 p.m. till sunset it alternated from being partly cloudy to being overcast. The wind angled out of the southwest at 5 to 12 mph, out of the south at 6 to 14 mph, out of the southeast at 6 mph, and out of the south at 10 to 12 mph. The barometric pressure was 30.21 at 12:52 a.m., 30.18 at 5:52 a.m., 30.15 at 11:52 a.m., and 30.11 at 3:52 p.m.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing would take place from 8:39 a.m. to 10:39 a.m. and 9:07 p.m. and 11:07 p.m. There was a minor period from 2:25 a.m. to 4:25 a.m. I fished from 12:05 p.m. to 3:35 p.m.

The water level looked to be about five inches above normal. There was six feet or more of visibility in the lower portions of this reservoir. The clarity diminished to about three feet of visibility in the back portions of two of the reservoir’s four feeder-creek arms, and the back 400 to 600 yards of those two feeder-creek arms were heavily stained on Dec. 16 after three-quarters of an inch of rain fell on Dec 14 and 15. The surface temperature was 39 t0 40 degrees. (It is interesting to note that the surface temperature was 41 to 42 degrees on Dec. 16, which was two degrees warmer than it was on my quick 90-minute outing on Dec. 12, when I caught 22 largemouth bass.)

The largemouth bass fishing was so vexing on Dec. 16 that I was able to catch only 11 largemouth bass in three hours and 13 minutes of wielding several Midwest finesse lures and presentations. During the three hours and 30 minutes that I fished on Dec. 20, the fishing was significantly better than it was on Dec. 16, but it was not a bonanza by any stretch of the imagination. During this 210-minute outing, I caught 25 largemouth bass, and inadvertently caught two white bass and one black crappie, which was an average of only seven largemouth bass an hour. In our eyes, a bonanza is an average of at least 25 largemouth bass an hour.

I spent three hours exploring a massive mud flat in the backend of a feeder-creek arm. This mud flat is the size of about six football fields, and it is stippled with several humps, a few minor ledges, and many patches of submerged aquatic vegetation.

The aquatic vegetation consists of many burgeoning patches of curly-leaf pondweed, scores of dying patches of Eurasian milfoil, and some diminishing patches of coontail.

As I explored this huge flat, the boat floated in three to seven feet of water. And I probed lairs that were lying in water as shallow as two feet and as deep as seven feet.

When I was quickly exploring vast stretches of the flat, I primarily worked with the strolling presentation. When I was attempting to dissect a specific locale, I executed long casts and employed either a swim-glide-and-shake or a drag-and-shake retrieve. And while I was working with all three presentations, I occasionally punctuated them with the deadsticking motif – especially when I used the drag-and-shake retrieve.

At one location that is smaller than a tennis court, I caught 14 largemouth bass, and they were abiding in three to five feet of water. On a small hump, I caught two largemouth bass, which were in four feet of water. I caught seven largemouth bass that were scattered in a helter-skelter fashion across vast stretches of this flat, and they were residing in four to six feet of water, and most of them were caught while I was strolling.

A Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught 13 of those 23 largemouth bass. A customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Sprayed Grass FattyZ tube on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught five largemouth bass. A Z-Man’s pearl Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught four largemouth bass. A shortened Z-Man’s watermelon-red Hula StickZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught one largemouth bass.

DSCN0564

This is one one the 13 largemouth bass that was caught on the Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

I spent the last 30 minutes of the outing fishing a small portion of a shallow mud flat about two-thirds of the way inside another feeder-creek arm. I had not fished this feeder-creek arm since late October, and at that time it did not yield a significant number of largemouth bass. The boat floated in 2 1/2 to eight feet of water, as I quickly searched for largemouth bass abiding in patches of submerged vegetation, and it was a rather fruitless endeavor, yielding only two largemouth bass. I caught one largemouth bass by strolling the customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Sprayed Grass FattyZ tube on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig in about three feet of water. I caught another largemouth bass by employing a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve with the Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig in four feet of water. In retrospect, I did not venture far enough inside this arm; I was more than 600 yards from the backend of it.

As for the largemouth bass that I caught inside the first feeder-creek arm that I fished on Dec. 20, most of them had moved a considerable distance from where I caught 22 of them on Dec. 12 and 11 on Dec. 16. In fact, one of the 23 largemouth bass that I caught on Dec. 20 was within 25 feet of the back edge of the flat, and it was abiding in three feet of water. A dozen of them were within 100 feet of that back edge, abiding in three to four feet of water. On Dec. 16, the 11 largemouth bass that I caught were 300 to 600 yards from the back edge of that massive flat, and on Dec. 12, the bulk of the 22 largemouth bass that I caught were caught 125 to 300 yards from the back edge of the flat.

It is interesting to note that as I was preparing to go home, I chatted with another angler who was fishing with a small jerkbait along steep and rocky shorelines in the vicinity of the dam, and he reported that he had caught only two largemouth bass in two hours.
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Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed this report on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 20 outing.

He wrote: “For the final day of autumn, I elected to make a 38-mile drive to a 250-acre reservoir. I last fished this reservoir on Nov. 7, and during that trying 3 1/2-hour foray, I struggled to catch four largemouth bass and one spotted bass.

“Dec. 20 was dreary and overcast. It drizzled for most of the day. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 46 degrees and the daytime high was just a touch warmer at 47 degrees. The wind was calm for most of the day, but when the wind did blow, it was light and variable at 3 mph. The barometric pressure was 30.25.

I was afloat from about 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated the best fishing periods would take place from 9:26 a.m. to 11:26 p.m. and 9:55 p.m. to 11:55 p.m. A minor period would occur from 3:12 a.m. to 5:12 a.m.

“The water clarity was murkier than usual, exhibiting about 2 1/2 feet of visibility. Normally, the water clarity is about five feet. The water’s surface temperature was 53 degrees. The water level appeared to be normal.

“I spent the first 105 minutes of this outing plying the 300-yard riprap-laden dam. I employed the following baits: Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, Z-Man’s Junebug Finesse ShadZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug FattyZ tube affixed on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, Cabela’s 1/16-ounce black marabou jig with a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ trailer, and Z-Man’s Canada Craw Hula StickZ nose hooked on a drop-shot rig that consisted of an Owner’s No. 2 drop-shot hook with an 1/8-ounce cylindrical weight clipped on an 18-inch leader extending below the hook. I used all six of the Midwest finesse retrieves along the dam, but I failed to garner a single strike.

“After I finished fishing the dam, I slowly idled out toward the main lake and I graphed a large school of fish that were suspended 20 feet deep in 25 feet of water. I was unable to determine the species of these fish. I slowly strolled the drop-shot rigged Hula StickZ through the school of fish, but I was unable to coax any strikes.

“I then continued to my next spot, which was a rocky main-lake point situated along the southwest shoreline of this reservoir. After two hours of executing hundreds of fruitless casts and retrieves, I caught two largemouth bass from this point. Both of these bass were hooked in five feet of water. One bass was bewitched by the 2 1/2-inch FattyZ tube and a slow hop-and-bounce retrieve. The other bass succumbed to a 2 1/4-inch Z-Man’s Junebug FattyZ tail section rigged on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and it was presented in a slow drag-and-shake manner.

“The last area I targeted was a cove located in the southwest section of the reservoir. The shorelines of this cove are enhanced with softball and baseball-sized rocks and festooned with brown water willows and cattails. A creek channel closely parallels a 50-yard section of the north shoreline, and I focused my attention on this area.

During the last 90 minutes of this foray, I was able to inveigle six largemouth bass that were inhabiting three to five feet of water and scattered along the north shoreline near the creek channel. Five of these bass were attracted to the customized 2 1/2-inch Junebug FattyZ tube, which was presented with a slow drag-and-shake retrieve. One largemouth bass was caught on the black 1/16-ounce marabou jig with no trailer and presented with a slow swim-glide-and-shake technique.

“Overall, I eked out eight largemouth bass during this trying four-hour endeavor. Six were beguiled by the customized 2 1/2-inch FattyZ tube. One was caught on the 1/16-ounce marabou jig with no trailer, and one was coaxed into striking the 2 1/4-inch FattyZ tail. The drag-and-shake retrieve was the most fruitful presentation. The green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ, Junebug Finesse ShadZ, and the drop-shot rigged Hula StickZ failed to induce any strikes. The bites were very subtle, and the only indication of a strike was a slightly heavier sensation of the lure.

“I also had the opportunity to speak with two power fisherman while I was on the lake and again at the boat ramp at the end of the outing. When we first crossed paths on the water, they were throwing large jig-and-pig combos, and they said they had not had a bite. When we spoke a second time while loading our boats at the boat ramp, they said they had caught three small largemouth bass by slowly dragging wacky-rigged Senko-type baits across the bottom. They were surprised that I had caught eight bass, and we discussed the baits that I had used, where I used them, and how they were employed. Unfortunately, they looked a little skeptical, and I don’t think they will be giving Midwest finesse techniques a try anytime soon.”

Dec. 22 log

Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed the following report on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 22 outing at a 21,280-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir in north-central Texas.

Reideler wrote: “I last fished this reservoir on Nov. 20, and during that five-hour undertaking, I could only muster four largemouth bass.

“On Dec. 22, the National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 47 degrees and the afternoon high reached 65 degrees. The day started off bright and sunny with clear blue skies, but by mid-afternoon, the skies became dark and ominous, the wind picked up significantly, and the air temperature dropped to 58 degrees. The blustery wind quartered out of the northwest at 12 to 20 mph. The barometric pressure measured 29.60.

“The water was stained with about one and a half feet of visibility. The water’s surface temperature was 53 degrees. The water level was 7.52 feet below normal pool.

“In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted the best fishing periods would take place between 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 10:59 p.m. to 12:59 a.m. A minor period would occur from 4:16 a.m. to 6:16 a.m. I was afloat from about noon to 4:00 p.m.

“My first spot was a rocky ledge covered with 10 to 18 feet of water and embellished with three brush piles stacked on the top lip of the ledge. I probed the ledge and edges of the brush piles with a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ nose hooked on a drop-shot rig that consisted of an Owner’s No. 2 drop-shot hook with an 1/8-ounce cylindrical weight clipped on an 18-inch leader that extended below the hook. The drop-shot rig was retrieved with a slow drag-and-shake presentation, but I failed to elicit any strikes from this area.

“My second locale was a steep and rocky secondary point located about halfway back inside a main-lake cove on the north side of the southwest tributary arm of this reservoir. This point is embellished with two concrete boat ramps and one covered boat house. I plied this area with a 2 3/4-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin BatwingZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and it was presented with a slow drag-and-shake retrieve. This area failed to yield a strike.

“After I finished fishing the secondary point, I had planned to fish the dam, which is positioned in the southeast portion of this reservoir. But as I slowly motored out of this cove, I noticed the wind velocity had kicked up to about 20 mph, and the water in the main-lake areas had begun to white cap. Consequently, I was forced to find relief from the wind, and I found it along the east side of two riprap-covered bridge embankments situated just west of this main-lake cove.

“The southeast embankment of the bridge yielded one largemouth bass that was relating to the embankment in five feet of water, and it was attracted to the 2 3/4-inch green-pumpkin BatwingZ presented with a hop-and-bounce retrieve. I also tried strolling a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ donned on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig parallel to the embankment, but it failed to garner a strike.

“The northeast bridge embankment surrendered six largemouth bass. Three of these six largemouth bass were relating to the riprap embankment in three to five feet of water and engulfed the 2 3/4-inch green-pumpkin BatwingZ, which was presented with a slow hop-and-bounce retrieve. Another three largemouth bass were caught on the green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ and chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig that was slowly strolled parallel to the embankment in seven to 10 feet of water. One largemouth bass was coaxed into striking the drop-shot rigged green pumpkin Scented LeechZ as it was also slowly strolled parallel to the embankment in 11 feet of water.

“The west side of the bridge embankment was inaccessible because of a construction project.

“Now that winter is here, I have had to make a mental adjustment and focus on the challenge of generating one or two bites per outing on these larger U.S. Corps of Engineers’ reservoirs. And with the slow start to today’s excursion, I was concerned that I would not be able to reach that paltry goal. But I was able to salvage this trip by catching seven largemouth bass, which is considered a good catch for this time of year in north-central Texas.

“Three of these seven largemouth bass were caught on the 2 3/4-inch green-pumpkin BatwingZ and hop-and-bounce retrieve. Another three largemouth bass were allured by the green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ as it was slowly strolled across the bottom. One largemouth bass was caught on the drop-shot rigged green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ which was also strolled across the bottom.”

Dec. 26 log

Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, posted this log about his Dec. 26 outing on the Finesse News Network.
He wrote: “For the past couple of days, north-central Texas has been relishing some unseasonably warm early-winter weather, with daytime highs in the low 60s and nighttime lows in the low to mid-50s. On December 26, the National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 54 degrees and the afternoon high slowly inched its way up to 64 degrees. The average high temperature for this time of year is 56 degrees and the average low is 36 degrees. During the morning and early afternoon hours, it was cloudy with drizzling rain. The wind quartered out of the southeast at 10 to 15 mph. But as the afternoon progressed, the cloudy skies began to clear and the sun began to shine. The wind velocity increased from 15 to 20 mph, and the barometric pressure measured 29.94. Local meteorologists have forecasted rain, high winds, and much colder weather for December 27 and 28, and a second major arctic cold front is expected to bring freezing temperatures to north-central Texas by December 30.

“I elected to take advantage of the mild weather and made a solo bank-walking excursion to two small municipal reservoirs located in a suburb north of Dallas.

“In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar listed the best fishing periods occurring from 2:01 a.m. to 4:01 a.m. and 2:28 p.m. to 4:28 p.m. A minor period took place from 8:14 a.m. to 10:14 a.m. I fished from about noon to 5:00 p.m.

The first reservoir I visited is about 12 acres in size, and I was surprised and delighted that it surrendered 10 largemouth bass. Traditionally, this reservoir is a tough and baffling cold-water venue, and for the past six winters, I had stopped fishing this reservoir between mid-December and mid-March when the bass seemed to develop lockjaw and the fishing became too miserable to pursue.
“The water in this pond is usually muddy with about one foot of visibility. But on this outing, I discovered the water had cleared somewhat from muddy to stained with about 1 1/2-feet of visibility. The water level was normal. I did not have the means to measure the water’s temperature.

“I wielded only two lures at this waterway: a four-inch Z-Man’s Junebug Finesse WormZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and a 2 1/4-inch Z-Man’s Junebug FattyZ tail section rigged on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig.

“I began the afternoon fishing this reservoir’s northern shoreline, which is mostly straight and adorned with a three-foot mud and gravel ledge that extends outward from the water’s edge and drops off into five feet of water. I caught one largemouth bass from this bank, and it was hooked in three feet of water along the top of the ledge.

“I worked my way to the eastern side of this reservoir, and this area is comprised of two coves that are divided by a prominent sand and gravel point. The northeast cove encompasses a large mud flat with a small ditch that courses across the middle of the cove from the east shoreline toward the west shoreline. This cove yielded only one bass, and it was caught along its south shoreline next to a small patch of hydrilla in about four feet of water.

“After I finished probing the northeast cove, I began plying the prominent sand and gravel point that divides the northeast and southeast coves, and it relinquished four bass that were scattered along the south side of the point in three to five feet of water.

“I then turned my attention to the southeast cove. This cove is formed by steep mud and fist-size rock shorelines. A creek channel winds its way across this cove from the south shoreline to the northeast corner of the cove. A broad mud and gravel point courses outward toward deeper water from the south shoreline and forms the southern mouth to the cove. The edges of the ditch in the northeast corner of this cove are fruitful warm-water locales, but it appeared to be bereft of bass on this excursion. I caught only one bass from this cove, and it was extracted from four feet of water along the west side edge of the ditch near the south shoreline of this cove.

“I continued to search for a significant aggregation of bass along the south shoreline, which consists of a large mud and gravel flat and a shallow ledge that extends about three feet from the water’s edge before slowly descending into five feet of water. This area yielded only one largemouth bass, and it was caught in three feet of water on top of the ledge.

“The last area I focused on was the west-side shoreline, which is similar to the north shoreline. It consists of sand, gravel, a few scattered fist-sized rocks, and a shallow ledge extending out from the water’s edge. I dredged up two more bass from the south end of this shoreline, and they were inhabiting three feet of water along the deep-water edge of the ledge. The rest of this area appeared to be devoid of any fish activity.

“The four-inch Finesse WormZ enticed six of the 10 largemouth bass, and the 2 1/4-inch FattyZ tail attracted the other four bass. Both of these lures were presented with a slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve, slow drag-and-shake retrieve, and slow hop-and-bounce retrieve. The swim-glide-and-shake presentation was the only productive one.

“I spent the remainder of the afternoon dissecting a small two-acre reservoir. This reservoir has a square shape and is framed by a decorative stone retaining wall. The base of the wall is reinforced by concrete bricks that extend about three feet out from the base of the retaining wall. I could find no aquatic vegetation in this waterway.

“The water was stained with about 2 1/2-feet of visibility. The water level appeared to be normal.

“One laydown adorns its north shoreline, and two laydowns enhance the south shoreline. A concrete spillway forms the west shoreline, and a large concrete culvert occupies most of the east shoreline.

“I caught only four largemouth bass from this reservoir and they were relating to the outside edge of the submerged bricks along the base of the south-side retaining wall in three feet of water.

“Three largemouth bass were allured by a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s California Craw FattyZ tube threaded on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and worked in a slow drag-and-shake manner. One largemouth bass was caught on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and it was manipulated with a slow hop-and-bounce retrieve.

“All totaled, I caught 14 largemouth bass during this five-hour foray. Six were allured by the four-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ and a slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. Four were enticed by the 2 1/4-inch Junebug FattyZ tail and a swim-glide-and-shake presentation. Three attacked the 2 1/2-inch customized California Craw FattyZ tube and a drag-and-shake presentation. One of them was coaxed into striking a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ with a hop-and-bounce retrieve.”

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Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, filed a brief and photograph about his Dec. 26 outing on the Finesse News Network:

He wrote: “Five days ago, my local 310-acre reservoir was frozen over completely. The rain and somewhat warmer temperatures completely thawed it yesterday, and I was able to sneak out for a few hours today and make one last go of it. The surface temperature ranged from 38 to 40 degrees.

“I managed to land six bass. All were caught on tiny hair jigs in eight to 12 feet of water.

Cmas2

One of the six largemouth bass that Waldman inveigled with a tiny hair jig.

“During the last hour, when the wind finally laid down for a spell (it blew out of the southwest at 10 to 15 mph all day), I moved out into 20 and more feet of water and caught about 15 eating-sized crappie.

“The weather forecasters predict rain tomorrow, turning to snow tomorrow night, and then brutally cold.”

 Dec. 29 log

It looked as if it would be a delightful afternoon to be in pursuit of some of the cold-water largemouth bass that traditionally mosey around the submerged, shallow, and wilting coontail patches that grace a massive mud flat in the upper end of a nearby 100-acre community reservoir.

The National Weather Service in Olathe, Kansas, noted that it was 16 degrees at 6:52 a.m. and 42 degrees at 2: 52 p.m. The wind alternated from being calm to angling out of the east at 3 to 9 mph, out of the north at 3 mph, out of the northwest at 3 to 6 mph, and out of the northeast at 12 mph. The sky was virtually cloudless, and the sun was eye-squintingly bright. The barometric pressure was 30.21 at 12:52 a.m., 30.23 at 5:52 a.m., 30.31 at 11:52 a.m., and 30.28 at 2:52 p.m.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing should occur from 4:37 a.m.to 6:37 a.m. and 5:02 p.m. to 7:02 p.m. There was a minor period from 10:49 a.m. to 12:49 p.m. I fished from 12:05 p.m. to 2:55 p.m.

The water clarity exhibited more than six feet of visibility at many locales. The water level was normal. The surface temperature was 39 degrees. But to my chagrin, all of the patches of coontail that traditionally attract significant numbers of largemouth bass to the massive mud flat in the upper end of this reservoir was covered with ice. In fact, about 20 percent of the reservoir was iced over, and when more than 10 percent of a reservoir is covered with ice, we have struggled to catch largemouth bass in the small flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas.

On Nov. 20, less than 10 percent of the upper reaches of this reservoir was covered with ice. The surface temperature around the ice-free coontail patches in the upper portions of the reservoir that I fished ranged from 40 t0 42 degrees, and I caught 32 largemouth bass from several of those patches of coontail in three hours.

All of the ice had melted when I fished this reservoir on Dec. 4. The surface temperature was 38 to 39 degrees, but across four hours of fishing, the coontail patches yielded only six largemouth bass. We have found that the largemouth bass that inhabit the massive mud flats and submerged patches of aquatic vegetation tend to band together, and they move around a lot. Sometimes they move slowly, and at other times, they move rather quickly. And because these shallow flats are so massive, it can be a difficult task to cross paths with them. But when we do cross paths with a significant aggregation of them, it is possible to catch five largemouth bass in five consecutive casts. And on Dec. 4, I failed to cross paths with one of those bands of largemouth bass.

When Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, and I fished this reservoir on Dec. 9, it was ice free, and the surface temperature ranged from 39 to 40 degrees. After much searching, we eventually crossed paths with one large band and two small bands of largemouth bass. Ultimately, we caught 46 largemouth bass in four hours, and 37 of them were caught from a band that was slowly milling about in an area that was about the size of two football fields.

Across many winters of largemouth bass fishing in northeastern Kansas, we have discovered that the easiest areas to locate and catch largemouth bass in our small flatland reservoirs takes place around submerged aquatic vegetation in the upper reaches of the feeder-creek arms, which are vast mud flats. But as soon as the ice covers those locales, it becomes a trying endeavor to locate and catch a largemouth bass in the ice-free areas. We do not possess any hard-edged scientific evidence of what transpires with the largemouth bass, but we intuitively suspect that vast numbers of them migrate under the ice. And as soon as the ice melts, we have been able on a few winter outings to catch an average of 25 largemouth bass an hour around submerged aquatic vegetation in the upper reaches of the feeder-creek arms, where the bulk of those largemouth bass are abiding in three to six feet of water, and the surface temperature ranges from 39 to 43 degrees.

It is interesting to note that we have found that burgeoning patches of curly-leaf pondweed seems to attract more largemouth bass than wilting and dying Eurasian milfoil, coontail, and bushy pondweed patches.

On this icy Dec. 29 outing, I spent a considerable amount of time fishing the outside edge of the ice, where there were patches of coontail, but I failed to elicit a strike.
I dissected three other locales that were graced with some patches of coontail, and I failed to garner a strike.

For the rest of my Dec. 29 outing, I was relegated to employing the wintertime tactics that Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, describes in his Dec. 6, 7, 14, and 26 logs. But I failed to elicit a strike along the many yards of steep, rocky shorelines that I fished. There are times when Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas can catch some cold-water largemouth bass along steep, rocky shorelines, but they never yield vast numbers of largemouth bass in December, and this has become more pronounced since this 100-acre reservoir and several others of them have been afflicted with the largemouth bass virus.

According to the National Weather Service, this was my last outing in 2014. During the next two days, it might snow, the low temperature will be four degrees, and the high temperature will be 22 degrees. Thus, it is likely that ice will quickly cover the reservoirs hereabouts, and until it melts, our next outing will be at one of our two power-plant reservoirs.

Endnotes to the Dec. 29 log

After this log circulated on the Finesse News Network, Walt Tegtmeier of Leawood, Kansas, posted a note saying that he fished this 100-acre community reservoir on Dec. 26, and its largemouth bass kayoed him, too. He wrote: “I fished from about 9:00 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. There was no ice, but I could not locate any living coontail, or much dying coontail to speak of. Maybe I didn’t go far enough back into the lower end. I stopped idling back when my graph showed five feet of water, thinking that was too shallow. I threw Z-Man’s pearl Rain MinnowZ on a 1/16-ounce orange  Gopher jig and also a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a 1/16-ounce orange Gopher. Neither one drew a strike.”

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Brian Waldman of Coatevsville, Indiana, filed the following brief on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 29 outing.

Here is a condensed and edited version of his report:

I fished a local 310-acre reservoir on Dec. 29.

The morning low temperature was 19.9 degrees between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. Our high hit 35.1 degrees just before 2:00 p.m. I launched the boat at 2:30 p.m. and fished until 5:15 p.m., at which time the temperature had dropped to just under the freezing mark. Winds were steady at 9-13 mph out of the north-by-northeast. The sky was mostly sunny at the start of the trip, but mostly cloudy by the time the trip ended. The barometer was steady at midday at 30.3 inches of mercury, but it rose all afternoon, and it topped 30.4 inches by 10:00 p.m.

About 30 percent of the reservoir was covered with ice, primarily the shallower upper end, as well as the backs of all the coves. Water clarity hovered around the three-foot mark. The surface temperature ranged from 38.6 to 39.5 degrees in the areas I fished.

I focused on two deep-water areas. One was in the mouth of a large lower- end creek arm that has 16 to 17 feet of water around it. The second one was a rocky, main-lake channel bank that has 18 to 20 feet of water next to it, and it is situated in the upper portions of the reservoir.

At both areas, I fished my standard 1/16-ounce hair jig in brown/gold/copper color. Cold fingers, light jigs, and deep water aren’t always a 100 percent efficient combination, but from the first area, I was able to land 17 largemouth bass, and at the second one, I managed 18 more, which is a total of 35 largemouth bass and a catch rate of 12.72 largemouth bass per hour for this final trip of the year. I did miss or lose a few bass that I didn’t count in those totals. All of the bass came from areas as shallow as 10 to 12 feet of water to as deep as 18 feet.

The 10-day forecast shows that only three days are supposed to reach or barely exceed the freezing point. As such, I fully expect this reservoir to completely freeze over within the next couple days, and thereby ending my open-water fishing season until the spring of 2015.

DD

This is the 1/16-ounce jig that Waldman used on Dec. 29 to catch 35 cold-water largemouth bass. It is a hand-tied craft fur jig by Don Dusanic of Pup’s Jig Works.

 

 

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Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed this log on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 29 outing.

He wrote: “For the past couple of days, north-central Texans have put up with an arctic cold front that dropped our daytime high temperatures from the low 60s to the low 40s. The weather on Dec. 29 was an improvement, giving us a short reprieve from the colder winter temperatures. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low for Dec. 29 at 28 degrees and the afternoon high warmed up to 53 degrees. A chilly breeze blew out of the south at 5 to 10 mph, and the barometric pressure was measured at 30.21. Unfortunately, Mother Nature is about to waylay north-central Texas with another major cold front that will last well into the first week of 2015. This cold front is expected to drop our daytime highs into the mid-30s and our nighttime lows into the low to mid-20s, and an ice storm or two is in the mix as well.

To finish my piscatorial endeavors for 2014, I made a 50-mile jaunt to Rockwall, Texas, where I joined In-Fisherman field editor and fisheries biologist Ralph Manns for an afternoon outing at a three-acre reservoir behind his home. I last fished with Ralph at this waterway on October 11, when we enjoyed a splendid afternoon of battling 40 largemouth bass and one unique albino tilapia during three hours of fishing. But Ralph finds this pond a trying wintertime venue from mid-December to mid-March.

According to In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar, the best fishing periods for Dec. 29 would take place from 4:43 a.m. to 6:43 a.m. and 5:08 p.m. to 7:08 p.m. A minor period would occur from 10:46 a.m. to 12:46 p.m. Ralph and I were afloat from about 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

This three-acre community reservoir has an elongated configuration that stretches out in a southeast to northwest direction. One small feeder creek enters the pond from the east shoreline in the lower third of the reservoir, and a second feeder creek enters the reservoir from the southeast corner. A mud dam forms the boundary on its northwestern end. The main creek channel courses its way northward from the southeast corner northwards through the middle of the reservoir and ends at the dam. Small patches of American water willows are scattered along the shorelines, and several small beds of submerged vegetation that occur throughout this waterway have died back. There are several laydowns, a couple of decorative stone walls, a concrete culvert and ditch that cuts across a shallow mud flat, several submerged brush piles, and a prominent mud bar covered with two to six feet of water that extends westward from the southeastern shoreline in the lower section of the reservoir.

The water was slightly stained with about three and a half feet of visibility. The water’s surface temperature was 51 degrees. The water level was normal.

I used three lures during this foray: Z-Man’s pumpkin-green-flake Finesse ShadZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s California Craw FattyZ tube on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and Z-Man’s Canada Craw Finesse T.R.D. on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Ralph primarily used a Cabela’s black 1/16-ounce marabou jig with no trailer, Cabela’s brown-and-orange 1/16-ounce marabou jig with no trailer, a 1/4-ounce black-and-blue skirted jig with a black-and-blue plastic craw trailer, a 3/8-ounce silver-blue-back tail spinner, and a 1/32-ounce black-and-chartreuse crappie jig. For the last 20 minutes of this outing, Ralph experimented with a Z-Man’s California Craw Finesse T.R.D. on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

We began this undertaking by plying several partially submerged brush piles situated along the northeast shoreline of the reservoir, and on the third cast, we landed one largemouth bass that was attracted to the pumpkin-green-flake Finesse ShadZ presented with a slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. This bass was relating to the deep-water side of a brush pile in about five feet of water.

For the next hour and twenty minutes, we worked our way along the clay dam on the north end of the reservoir and the entire west shoreline without enticing a bite. I wielded the four-inch Finesse ShadZ and customized 2 1/2-inch FattyZ tube. Ralph threw the 1/4-ounce black-and-blue skirted jig with a black-and-blue plastic craw trailer, 1/16-ounce black marabou jig, and silver-blue back tail spinner, but we were unable to provoke a strike.

When we arrived at the south end of the reservoir, I switched to the Z-Man’s Canada Craw Finesse T.R.D. and Ralph alternated between the 1/16-ounce black marabou jig, 1/16-ounce brown and orange marabou jig, and 1/32-ounce black-and-chartreuse crappie jig. The south shoreline yielded three largemouth bass that were scattered in about four to six feet of water. These three bass were allured by the Canada Craw Finesse T.R.D. and slow swim-glide-and-shake presentation.

We then focused on the mud bar that extends westward from the southeast shoreline, and it surrendered six largemouth bass. Four were beguiled by the Canada Craw Finesse T.R.D. and swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. The other two bass were caught on the black 1/16-ounce marabou jig and a slow swimming retrieve just above the bottom. Ralph also tried the brown-and-orange marabou 1/16-ounce jig and 1/32-ounce crappie jig, but these two lures failed to draw a strike.

After we finished probing the mud point, we made our way northward along the east shoreline and eastward into the east feeder creek arm. I continued using the Canada Craw Finesse T.R.D. and Ralph began experimenting with a California Craw Finesse T.R.D. The east shoreline failed to relinquish a single bite. We caught one largemouth bass from five feet of water, and it was relating to a laydown located on the south shoreline of the feeder creek. This bass was caught on the Canada Craw Finesse T.R.D. and slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. The remainder of the feeder creek arm and the east shoreline just north of the feeder creek arm failed to yield any other bass.

Overall, we eked out 11 largemouth bass during 2 1/2 hours of fishing. The Z-Man’s Canada Craw Finesse T.R.D. caught eight largemouth bass, Cabela’s 1/16-ounce black marabou jig with no trailer enticed two, Z-Man’s four-inch pumpkin-green-flake Finesse ShadZ allured one. The 1/4-ounce black-and-blue skirted jig with the black-and-blue craw trailer, 3/8-ounce silver-and-blue-back tail spinner, 1/32-ounce black-chartreuse crappie jig, and customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s California Craw FattyZ tube failed to garner any strikes. Ralph was unable to coax any largemouth bass into striking his Z-Man’s California Craw Finesse T.R.D. A slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve was the most productive presentation.

Endnotes to Reideler’s Dec. 29 log

When I first began implementing Midwest finesse tactics in mid-August of 2013, several Finesse News Network members asked me if I was seeing any significant difference in my catch rates. I replied that I was unable to make a long-term assessment at that time, but during the span of just a couple of months, I had seen a significant increase. Now that a complete calendar year has passed, I can now assess my results over a longer period of time, and what I discovered is quite astounding.

My records show that I and several companions caught 1669 largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass during 108 outings in 2014. I alone caught 1298 of those 1669 bass during 462 hours of fishing. This calculates to 15.45 bass per trip and 3.61 bass per hour.

Prior to my 2013 conversion to Midwest finesse, my best yearly bass catch rate totaled 750 largemouth bass and spotted bass. The highest catch rate per trip was 9.25 bass and 1.82 bass per hour.

All totaled, Midwest finesse tactics have increased my catch rate by 919 bass in one year, which has more than doubled my catch rate compared to my previous highest catch rate, and I would consider this a significant increase by anyone’s standards.

 

 

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