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Midwest Finesse Fishing: December 2015

by Ned Kehde   |  January 4th, 2016 0
Lacygne December 6 2015 003

Bob Gum of Kansas City, Kansas, with one of the largemouth bass that he caught on Dec. 6.

 

This December guide to Midwest finesse fishing contains 23 logs and 21,254 words that describe the piscatorial undertakings and perceptions of Rick Allen of Dallas; Bill Beach of Topeka, Kansas; Burton Bosley of Sutton, West Virginia; Norman Brown of Lewisville, Texas; Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas; Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri; Bob Gum of Kansas City, Kansas; Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas; Greg Monahan of Lee’s Summit, Missouri; Travis Myers of Paw Paw, West Virginia; Nathan Parker of Tulsa, Oklahoma; Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas; Andrew Trembath of Kansas City, Kansas; and me.

Throughout the month, Mother Nature and her compatriot El Niño riled many of the waterways that Midwest finesse anglers ply. In Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas, this onslaught began on Thanksgiving and continued off and on past Christmas. Ultimately, many of the waterways that they fish were in flood stage.

For instance, the water level at Table Rock Lake, Missouri, was 915 feet above sea level, which is the normal level, at 11:00 p.m. on Dec. 25. Then by 6:00 p.m. on Dec. 29, Table Rock’s water level was 933.12 feet above sea level, which was 2.12 feet above its top-flood-pool level of 931 feet above sea level.

The Corps’ dam at Beaver Lake, Arkansas, was releasing as much as 92,150 cubic feet of water per second into Table Rock Lake on Dec. 28, and the Corps’ dam at Table Rock was releasing 72,645 cubic feet of water per second  into Lake Taneycomo, Missouri, on Dec. 29, which caused parts of Branson, Missouri, to become flooded.  The water jettisoning out of Table Rock’s dam was the most in its 57-year history, surpassing the 2011 record by 3,654 cubic feet of water per second. By the morning of Dec. 29, the Corps’ dam at Beaver Lake had reduced the flow to 51,000 cubic feet per second, and Beaver Lake’s water level was 1130.38 feet, which was 0.38 feet above the top of the flood-pool level and 10 feet above the top conservation pool. 

All of the water coursing out of Beaver, Table Rock, and Taneycomo lakes radically affected Bull Shoals Lake, which borders on the state lines of Missouri and Arkansas. Bull Shoals’ water level increased from 659 feet above sea level at 11 p.m. on Dec. 25 to 676.41 feet above sea level at noon on Dec. 30, and it was still rising.

Elsewhere in the Ozarks, its rivers and streams were flowing seven to 12 feet above their normal levels on Dec. 27 and 28.

Steve Reideler’s logs contain several laments about the havoc that El Niño rendered in north-central Texas. And similar groans were expressed on the Finesse News Network about the conditions in Oklahoma.

Nevertheless, Reideler enjoyed two bountiful and record-setting outings at one of his north-central Texas waterways. And Travis Myers and Burton Bosley also relished several fruitful outings in West Virginia. We had two fairly successful outings in northeastern Kansas, but we had one on Dec. 5 and another one on Dec. 23 that were so lackluster that we could not muster the wherewithal to write a log about them.

As always, we are thankful that Steve Reideler proof read all of the logs and words. He made them more readable and understandable.

Dec. 1 log

Mother Nature tossed one of her monkey wrenches our way on Nov. 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30 by dropping several inches of cold rain (and some of it was freezing) onto many of the watersheds that flow into northeastern Kansas’ flatland reservoirs. For instance, the Weather Underground reported that a total of 2.92 inches of rain fell in Topeka, Kansas, 2.94 inches fell in Lawrence, Kansas, and 3.77 inches fell in Olathe, Kansas. Consequently, most of the streams that flow into our reservoirs were gushing with cold and muddy water. And on Dec. 1, Bill Beach of Topeka, Kansas, hopped into my boat, and we spent several hours surveying the aftereffects of Mother Nature’s rainy deeds.

It was 30 degrees at 7:53 a.m. and 43 degrees at 2:53 p.m., and it was cold enough that my hands and fingers were cold from my first cast to my last one. The wind was chilly and brisk, angling out of the southwest at 8 to 23 mph, out of the south by southwest at 8 to 10 mph, out of the west by southwest at 12 to 23 mph, and out of the west at 9 to 24 mph. The sky was clear from 12:53 a.m. to 10:53 a.m., and from 11:53 a.m. to 11:53 p.m., the sky fluctuated from being overcast to being mostly cloudy.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing would take place from 2:42 a.m. to 4:42 a.m., 3:06 p.m. to 5:06 p.m., and 8:54 a.m. to 10:54 a.m.

We fished from 11:20 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at a heavily fished community reservoir. We elected to fish it, because Mother Nature traditionally has had a difficult time turning it into a muddy mess, and she failed this time around, too. Another reason we ventured to it was that we could be sheltered from the brisk west and southwest wind.

The water level looked to be 1 1/2 feet above normal. The surface temperature ranged from 43 to 44 degrees. The water clarity in the back of the primary feeder-creek arm was stained and exhibiting about two feet of visibility, and elsewhere around this reservoir, there was three to six feet of visibility. This reservoir is graced with many patches of submerged aquatic vegetation, but they are diminishing, and the patches of American water willows that line most of the shorelines are virtually dead.

Throughout November, Bill Beach fished this reservoir with some regularity, and he employed a tactic that Midwest finesse anglers call bass fishing for trout. It is accomplished by employing either a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man Fishing Products’ ZinkerZ affixed to a Gopher Tackle’s Mushroom Head Jig or a Z-Man’s Finesse ShadZ affixed to a Gopher jig. In November, Beach primarily wielded a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Bubble Gum ZinkerZ affixed to a white 3/32-ounce Gopher jig, and until Mother Nature kept him and several of his friends at bay for five days, they had been catching an array of largemouth bass and rainbow trout, as well as an occasional walleye, white bass, and wiper. They caught the bulk of the largemouth bass and rainbow trout in the backs of several secondary and tertiary feeder-creek arms, where they slowly swam their ZinkerZ rigs around shallow-water patches of aquatic vegetation. In essence, they were dissecting mud flats, where their boats floated in 2 1/2 to eight feet of water.
We began the outing in the back of a secondary feeder-creek arm, and dissected the mud flat portions of it with three baits: a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Bubble Gum ZinkerZ affixed to a white 3/32-ounce Gopher jig, a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The boat floated in two to four feet of water, and we employed a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve.

After we failed to elicit a strike on the mud flat, we began probing the relatively steep shoreline along the south side of this feeder-creek arm, which is graced with gravel, rocks, boulders, several ledges, some laydowns, many patches of American water willows, and some wilting patches of Eurasian milfoil. As we worked our way to the main-lake point, the boat floated in six to 13 feet of water. To our chagrin, our three Z-Man rigs failed to catch a fish as we employed three different retrieves: a swim-glide-and-shake presentation, a bounce-and-hop presentation, and a drag-and-deadstick presentation.

Upon failing to elicit a strike at the main-lake point, we probed 200 feet of the main-lake shoreline adjacent to the point. This shoreline is a bluff. It is endowed with massive patches of American water willows and diminishing patches of milfoil. In addition to the aquatic vegetation, its underwater terrain contains rocks, boulders, laydowns, ledges, stumps, and several tertiary points. The boat floated in nine to 11 feet of water. At one of the tertiary points, we caught four largemouth bass. Two of them were caught on the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Bubble Gum ZinkerZ affixed to a white 3/32-ounce Gopher jig with a slow swim-glide-and-shake presentation, and two of them were caught on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig with a slow swim-glide-and-shake presentation. The other 200 feet of this bluff failed to garner another fish.

From the bluff, we ventured into the back portions of a tertiary feeder-creek arm, where we dissected a big mud flat that is graced with massive patches of wilting milfoil. Before Mother Nature’s long rainy spell, Bill Beach and his friends caught significant numbers of largemouth bass and rainbow trout from around these patches of milfoil. But on our Dec. 1 outing, we eked out only three rainbow trout, three largemouth bass, and one yellow perch. The boat floated in 2 1/2 to four feet of water. Two of the rainbow trout, two of the largemouth bass, and the yellow perch were caught by swimming the Finesse ShadZ rig through, over, and around the milfoil. One of the largemouth bass and one of the rainbow trout were caught by swimming the Bubble Gum ZinkerZ rig through, over, and around the milfoil.

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Bill Beach with one of the rainbow trout that we caught while bass fishing for trout.

 

We also fished the southwest shoreline of this tertiary feeder-creek arm and the main-lake point that lies at its mouth. The entire terrain is flat. The shoreline is lined with American water willows, as well as some patches of wilting milfoil. Its underwater geology consists of gravel, rocks, and some boulders. The boat floated in four to six feet of water. None of our rigs elicited a strike.

We also failed to garner a strike when we plied 100 feet of the main-lake shoreline adjacent to the tertiary feeder-creek arm. This shoreline is relatively flat, and it is littered with rocks and boulders. The boat floated in six to eight feet of water.

From that main-lake shoreline, we ventured inside another tertiary feeder-creek arm, where two of Bill Beach’s friends had tangled with an array of rainbow trout on Nov. 27. We dissected about 50 percent its shorelines, which are relatively steep and lined with American water willows and a few scanty patches of milfoil. Its shorelines are laden with gravel, rock, and boulders, and a few manmade brush piles. The boat floated in six to 10 feet of water. We caught one largemouth bass on the Bubble Gum ZinkerZ rig on a slow swim-glide-and-shake presentation, and we caught one hefty black crappie that engulfed a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig on the initial drop.

Our next stop was the shallow and rocky flat at the reservoir’s outlet, which is also adorned with huge patches of wilting milfoil and some patches of American water willows. There was a significant amount of water flowing over the spillway, and we were hoping that the current would attract some fish. But none of our Z-Man rigs and Midwest finesse retrieves could garner a strike. We crossed paths with a trout angler, who was fishing the outlet, and he told us that it was virtually brimming with rainbow trout before Mother Nature’s rainy spell began, but he had tangled with only one rainbow trout on Dec. 1.

After we fished the outlet, we fished the mud flat in the back of another secondary feeder-creek arm and about 200 feet of its south shoreline. It yielded only one largemouth bass, which engulfed the Finesse ShadZ rig on the initial drop. The terrain of this feeder-creek arm is similar to the first feeder-creek arm we fished, but this one has more pitches of milfoil than the first one has.

Our final stop occurred along the same main-lake bluff where we caught four largemouth bass on one of this bluff’s tertiary points. This time we probed more than 200 yards of this bluff, and it yielded 13 largemouth bass, one walleye, and one white bass. Eight of the largemouth bass were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Coppertreuse ZinkerZ affixed to a white 3/32-ounce Gopher jig that was retrieved with a hop-and-bounce presentation. Three of the largemouth bass were caught on the Finesse ShadZ rig with a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. Two largemouth bass were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Coppertreuse ZinkerZ affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig with a hop-and-bounce retrieve. The walleye and white bass were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Coppertreuse ZinkerZ affixed to a white 3/32-ounce Gopher jig that was retrieved with a hop-and-bounce presentation.

In our eyes, this was a cold and difficult outing. We caught 22 largemouth bass, three rainbow trout, one black crappie, one walleye, one white bass, and one yellow perch. It is important to note that Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas have found that a 1/32- and 1/16-ounce Gopher jig is normally more effective than the 3/32-ounce one, but there are spells when the 3/32-ouncer will out fish the smaller Gopher jigs, and the 3/32-ouncer can be especially effective when we are employing either the hop-and-bounce presentation or the drag-and-deadstick presentation along steep and rocky shorelines — similar to the bluff where we caught 17 of the 22 largemouth on Dec. 1. In retrospect, we might have caught more largemouth bass if we had dissected several other bluffs with our ZinkerZs affixed to 3/32-ounce Gopher jigs.

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Bill Beach with one of the largemouth bass that we caught while bass fishing for trout.

 

Dec. 2 log

Travis Myers of Paw Paw, West Virginia, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 2 outing.

Here is an edited and condensed version of his detailed report:

After having to work the last couple of days, I looked forward to getting out on Dec. 2 even if the weather was wretched.

It has been days since I had seen even the slightest hint of sunshine. All-day drizzle has been the norm. And since my last report on Nov. 27, our rivers are brimming with water, and the flow is four times greater than it was four days ago. The United States Geological Survey indicated that the river near our house was flowing at 429 cubic feet per second, and the water temperature had dropped to 42 degrees. Because of the rain, I couldn’t calculate the clarity.

While I was afloat the air temperature didn’t get above 44 degrees. Ultimately, a relentless drizzle turned into a downpour shortly after I began fishing.

In my last report, I stated that I was going to let a massive aggregation of smallmouth bass that inhabit a wintering hole near our house to rest in peace all winter long, and I did not harass a single one of them on this outing. So, I made my way through the extremely foggy woods at 9:40 a.m., traveling down what is essentially a three-mile logging trail barely as wide as my truck, and as I trucked along this trail I woke up and startled a goodly number of deer and turkeys.

When I reached the bottom of the trail, I launch my Jackson Tuna kayak and got on the paddle until I reached my destination, which is slightly more than 1 1/2 miles up the river. My destination is a spot that I had not visited for many months. The last time that I fished it was late in the spring, and the smallmouth bass were nowhere to be found; they had moved to their summer haunts, which could be either up or down river from this wintering hole. On that spring outing, I paddled through this area, and after three casts. I put this area in the memory bank, and in my log after that outing, I put an asterisk next to my entry with a note saying “worth a wintering look.”

This particular spot is essentially a slow moving pond — even with elevated water levels and when the river is flowing at 429 cubic feet per second.

At the head of this pond-like hole, there is a shallow riffle that is only a few feet deep, and it quickly plummets into eight and 10 feet of water on the strong side of the river and reaches a maximum depth of around 15 feet in the middle this pond-like hole, and near the tail out it gently gets shallower. The strong side portion of this pond-like area stretches three-quarters of the way across the river.

This pond-like area is the deepest water within a few miles of water in either direction. One of its most important features is its bottom, which is absolutely covered with giant boulders and very old logs that have become entangled in those boulders over a good many years. This bottom structure will not move.

Depth is only part of the equation for locating smallmouth bass in the winter on rivers. An unmoving bottom structure and an unending supply of food are also essential. And this pond-like area contained all three of these essential factors. I had never fished it this late in the year, and I decided to fish on an educated hunch that it would be a fruitful wintertime spot.
I let my chain anchor drop off the back of my kayak on the weak side of the river in three feet of water. I fished every inch of this 75-yard pond-like area. My casts were up and across the current in a grid pattern.

I had four rods and reels rigged.

I caught 16 smallmouth bass and three big rock bass on a heavily customized 2 1/4-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin-orange-and-Dirt ZinkerZ affixed to an orange 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. This ZinkerZ has a half inch of green-pumpkin-orange on the throat and the rest of its torso is the Dirt hue.
I caught eight smallmouth bass on a 3 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Dirt Finesse WormZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. This bait is well used and has caught scores of smallmouth bass.
I caught seven smallmouth bass, two big rock bass, and one large channel catfish on a heavily customized two-inch Z-Man’s The Deal EZ TubeZ affixed to an inserted and unpainted 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

A heavily customized three-inch Z-Man’s blue-steel Finesse ShadZ affixed to a blue-and-orange 1/32-ounce Gopher jig caught seven smallmouth bass and three big rock bass.

The biggest smallmouth bass was 18 1/4 inches long, and it absolutely crushed the EZ TubeZ when it was near the bottom between shakes.

All of the rigs were covered with one of my Pro-Cure Super Gel concoctions. All the barbs were removed from the hooks. I was working with six-pound-test Gamma Torque, which is a braided line.

As I positioned the kayak on the weak side of the river, my casts were up and across the strong side. I made five casts with one rig, and then I switched to another rig, and I repeated this sequence throughout the outing. All of my fish today were extracted out of 10 feet or more of water with an extremely slow and straight swim with a slight shake. The strikes would occur as I gently twitched or shook the bait when it was within a foot of the bottom.

I generally live with a 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. But the elevated water conditions made the 1/16-ounce Gopher jig more effective on this outing.

I fished a total of three hours and 38 minutes, and I was extremely pleased that I had purchased STORMR Foul Weather Gear; it performed flawlessly from head to toe.

The weather forecast indicates that there will be plenty of sunshine for the next seven days, which will allow the water levels to drop. So perhaps, we will be blessed with some great fishing during the first 10 days of December, and I aim to find out. Now it is time to dry out some of my equipment.

Dec. 2 log

Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, reports that the reservoirs that he fishes in north-central Texas are closed because of the flooding from the recent rains. It is the second time this has occurred in 2015.
He wrote: “I drove by Lewisville Lake … this afternoon and surveyed the conditions. All the entry gates were closed and locked. I could see high water covering the main and secondary roadways, all the boat ramp areas, and some of the large parking lot areas. We have also discovered that several of the smaller … ponds that we ply this time of year are not accessible or fishable either. It looks like we’re going to have a challenging time trying to find places that are both accessible and fishable this month.”

Dec. 3 log

I fished with Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, at a community reservoir that lies along the northern suburbs of Kansas City, Missouri, on Dec. 3.

The Weather Underground reported that it was 21 degrees at 6:53 a.m. and 48 degrees at 2:53 p.m. From 12:53 a.m. to 5:53 a.m., the sky alternated from being partly cloudy to being littered with scattered clouds, and from 6:53 a.m. to 11:53 p.m., the sky was virtually cloudless. The wind was mild mannered, angling from the north and northwest at 3 to 5 mph, from the west at 4 mph, and from the south and southwest at 3 to 5 mph. The barometric pressure was 30.25 at 12:53 a.m., 30.33 at 5:53 a.m., 30.40 at 11:53 a.m., and 30.37 at 3:53 p.m.

The water level looked to be more than a foot above normal. The surface temperature ranged from 45 to 46 degrees. The water was a touch stained, exhibiting two to three feet of visibility.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing would transpire from 4:12 a.m. to 6:12 a.m., 4:34 p.m. to 6:34 p.m., and 10:23 a.m. to 12:23 p.m. Frazee and I fished from 10:05 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and we employed one of our standard autumn Midwest finesse routines that is called bass fishing for trout.
During the fall and late winter, many of the community reservoirs in northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas are stocked with rainbow trout, and as we pursue the largemouth bass and smallmouth bass that abide in these reservoirs with our Midwest finesse rigs, such as a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, we periodically tangle with some rainbow trout.

Traditionally, during a four-hour outing in the fall and spring, we catch considerably more largemouth bass than rainbow trout, and on average, we catch 25 to 40 largemouth bass and five to 10 rainbow trout. But there have been some outings when we have caught more rainbow trout than largemouth bass. For instance, Steve Desch of Topeka, Kansas, and I caught 20 rainbow trout and one largemouth bass at a community reservoir in northeastern Kansas on Nov. 4, 2015, and Desch and I caught 87 rainbow trout and 17 largemouth bass at the same community reservoir on Nov. 4, 2014.

Then on Mar. 24, 2015, Frazee and I fished the same northwestern Missouri community reservoir that we fished on Dec. 3, and during that March outing, we caught 75 largemouth bass and 25 rainbow trout. According to Frazee, who regularly fishes this northwestern Missouri community reservoir, the largemouth bass fishing at this reservoir is traditionally more problematic in the late fall than it is in the late winter and early spring. Therefore, he said it was unlikely that we tangle with vast numbers of largemouth bass on Dec. 3. And because northwestern Missouri was waylaid during the last five days of November with air temperatures hovering in the mid-30s and incessant rain, which stained and cooled the waters and raised the water levels at most of the reservoirs in northwestern Missouri, Frazee and I hoped that we could catch at least 25 largemouth bass and five or six rainbow trout during our Dec. 3 outing.

Our hopes, however, were not fulfilled. We labored mightily to catch eight largemouth bass and 20 rainbow trout. We estimated that we elicited more than 50 strikes that we failed to hook, and we suspected that the bulk of those failed strikes were generated by rainbow trout.

We fished the upper reaches of this reservoir, its middle portions, and some locales in the vicinity of the dam. We dissected eight main-lake points and seven main-lake shorelines. Inside five coves, we fished six shorelines, four secondary points, and several shallow flats.

We could not establish a location pattern. For example, we caught two largemouth bass at the first main-lake point that we fished, and then five of the next seven main-lake points failed to yield a largemouth bass.

Because our catches were so random, we do not think that it is useful for us to describe or useful for readers to know where we caught such scanty numbers of largemouth bass and rainbow trout and where we failed to catch them. But we can say that we failed to catch them at most of the locales that we thoroughly dissected.

We can say, however, that we caught the largemouth bass and rainbow trout in water as shallow as two feet and no deeper than eight feet of water.

We can also note that our most effective Midwest finesse rig was a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. We caught a few on three other rigs: a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Coopertreuse ZinkerZ affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. We failed to catch a largemouth bass and a rainbow trout of a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a Z-Man’s PB&J Finesse T.R.D.affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

We caught the bulk of both species while we were executing a slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve, and the shakes were slight. We caught a few while we employed a drag-and-deadstick presentation.

For five hours and 25 minutes, it was a difficult and puzzling spell for a pair of veteran Midwest finesse devotees.

Dec. 3 log

On Dec. 2, Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about how Mother Nature’s rainy ways walloped north-central Texas during the last days of November and adversely affected the water levels and clarity at the reservoirs that he and other Midwest finesse anglers ply. Despite those wretched conditions, he possessed the wherewithal to search for some waterways to fish and catch largemouth bass.

Here is an edited rendition of his Dec. 3 log:

Between Nov. 26 and Nov. 30, north-central Texas was waylaid with 7.04 inches of rain, which inundated our hill-land reservoirs and smaller community reservoirs with cold and muddy water. All of our large U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoirs are eight to 11 feet above normal pool now, and they were closed on Dec. 1. Consequently, anglers around this region have very few fishing options left. Therefore, I am relegated to bank-fishing several smaller community and municipal reservoirs that I traditionally fish during the winter months.

Dec. 3 was a beautiful and sunny late-fall day. There was not a cloud in sight. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 38 degrees, and the afternoon high temperature reached a pleasant 60 degrees. The wind was mostly calm, but when it did stir, it was light and variable. The barometric pressure hit a high of 30.40 at 11:30 a.m., and it dropped to 30.36 by 3:00 p.m.

I spent the afternoon surveying nine municipal reservoirs that were still open and accessible, but only two of the reservoirs were fishable.

I fished one of these two community reservoirs from about noon to about 1:30 p.m. I fished the second reservoir from about 2:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted the best fishing would occur from 4:22 a.m. to 6:22 a.m., 10:33 a.m. to 12:33 p.m., and 4:44 p.m. to 6:44 p.m.

I have developed an interest in experimenting with the float-and-fly technique this winter in hopes of finding another wintertime technique to help allure the Florida-strain largemouth bass and spotted bass that inhabit the hill-land reservoirs in north-central Texas. The Florida-strain largemouth bass become nearly comatose during the cold-water period that lasts from mid-December to mid-March. I also want to give the float-and-fly technique a try at a southern Oklahoma reservoir where I and several cohorts have been pursuing smallmouth bass this year.

The first reservoir I fished is about 12-acres in size. The water was heavily stained with about one foot of visibility. The water level appeared to be a couple of feet high. I was unable to measure the water temperature.

On this Dec. 3 outing, I employed a float-and-fly rig that consisted of various colors and sizes of hair jigs attached to an 18- to 24-inch leader extended below a one-inch pear-shaped plastic bobber. I used this rig about 98 percent of the time. I also utilized a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s black-blue flake FattyZ tube on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, which I retrieved with a slow drag-and-shake presentation for about two percent of the time.

I started fishing the northern shoreline. This shoreline is mostly straight. A three foot rock and clay ledge extends outward from the shoreline and drops into five feet of water. It failed to yield a bass.

I then fished a cove in the southeastern section of the reservoir. Its shoreline is steep. The underwater terrain consists of rocks and clay. A small creek channel courses its way from the northeast corner of the cove to the south side of the cove. A broad mud and gravel point extends northward from the south shoreline, and that point forms the mouth to this cove.

I caught one largemouth bass from eight feet of water that was relating to the west side edge of the creek channel. This largemouth bass tentatively engulfed the customized 2 1/2-inch FattyZ tube. The float-and-fly rig failed to entice any strikes from this cove.

After I fished the southeast cove area, I worked my way northward and dissected a long sand, gravel, and rock point along the east shoreline. This point separates the southeast cove from a cove in the northeast corner of the reservoir. I plied this point with the float-and-fly rig, and it failed to yield any strikes.

The next area I fished was a cove that encompasses a large mud flat with a small submerged ditch that courses across the middle of the cove from the east shoreline toward the west shoreline. I continued to wield the float-and-fly rig, and I failed to elicit any strikes from this cove.

I fished about half of the west shoreline, which is very similar to the northern shoreline. It is comprised of sand, gravel, and rocks. A shallow three-foot ledge extends outward from the shoreline, and it drops into five feet of water. I continued to use the float-and-fly rig along this shoreline, and it failed to engender any strikes.

The last area I fished at this reservoir was the south shoreline. It is endowed with a large mud and gravel flat, and the deep-water edge of the flat drops off into ten feet of water. I dissected this large flat with the float-and-fly rig, and I failed to entice any strikes.

After I finished fishing the 12-acre reservoir, I made a 20-minute drive to a 20-acre community reservoir.

The east shoreline of this reservoir is steep and curved. A long clay and gravel point extends westward into the middle of the reservoir. A small brush pile is positioned on the south side of this point. A broad sand and gravel point is located along the mid-section of this shoreline, and it is steeper than the long clay and gravel point.

Its south shoreline is formed by a smooth concrete slab dam.

The west side of the reservoir is comprised of two steep shorelines. The terrain consists of sand and gravel. It is also embellished with a 75-foot fishing pier.

The north end of this reservoir encompasses a large and shallow mud flat. Tall stands of cattails line the shoreline. It is a protected migratory waterfowl nesting area, and I did not fish this portion of the reservoir.

The water was extremely muddy with less than a foot of visibility. The water level was about a foot high.

I targeted the most productive lairs at this reservoir, which lie along the face of the dam and along the east shoreline. I used the float-and-fly rig exclusively, but changed out colors and sizes of hair jigs, and I failed to induce a single strike.

So far, the first three days of December have been a piscatorial bust in north-central Texas. After I surveyed the aftereffects of the recent torrential rains, I could only find two small community reservoirs that were fishable, and I could only endure two hours of this wretched fishing before calling it quits. I eked out only one largemouth bass.

If these horrific water conditions continue to persist over the next few weeks or even the next month or two as they did this past spring, it’s going to be a long, trying, and frustrating winter for black bass fishing in north-central Texas.

Dec. 5 log

This is an edited version of the Dec. 5 log that Steve Reideler filed on the Finesse News Network.

Since the closure of our U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoirs on Dec. 1, I have been scouting small community reservoirs in this area in hopes of finding other venues that I can fish until the Corps’ reservoirs are reopened.

On the afternoon of Dec. 3, I examined nine municipal reservoirs that are situated in three suburbs north of Dallas. Of those nine reservoirs, only two were fishable, and during that three-hour excursion, I caught only one largemouth bass.

On Dec. 4, I received an email from Norman Brown of Lewisville, Texas, who suggested that we try bass fishing for trout. Norman had discovered that the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife has stocked rainbow trout in many of the municipal reservoirs across Texas, and one of those reservoirs lies a short distance from my house.

On Dec. 5, I continued my scouting activities and checked out five more local municipal reservoirs, including the reservoir that was stocked with rainbow trout.

Dec. 5 was sunny with a partly cloudy sky. The morning low temperature was 35 degrees and the afternoon high temperature was 60 degrees. The wind blew out of the south-by-southeast at 12 to 16 mph. The barometric pressure reached a high of 30.50.

According to In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar, the optimum fishing periods would occur from 5:44 a.m. to 7:44 a.m., 11:33 a.m. to 1:33 p.m., and 6:05 p.m. to 8:05 p.m. This scouting trip lasted from about noon to 3:00 p.m., but I found only one locale that was fishable, and it took me only one hour to dissect it.

Four of the five reservoirs I checked were not fishable, including the one stocked with rainbow trout. The water in these four reservoirs was cold and extremely muddy, and I could not see a Z-Man’s Space Guppy Slim SwimZ one inch below the surface of the water.

The fifth reservoir was not much better than the first four, but the water conditions were slightly better. This reservoir is about 10-acres in size. The water level appeared to be about two feet high, and as I fished and walked along the shoreline, it felt like I was walking on a wet sponge. The water was muddy with about four-inches of clarity. I did not have the means to measure the water’s temperature, but it felt cold to the touch.

The south shoreline is the only area that is accessible to shoreline anglers. It is about 100 yards long. It is flat and covered with one to three feet of water. It is graced with many patches of dead pondweed, two laydowns, and a concrete drain tower.

I caught five largemouth bass that were scattered along the outside edges of the patches of dead pondweed and situated less than five feet from the water’s edge. I did not find any largemouth bass relating to the two laydowns or the sides of the concrete drain tower.

All five largemouths were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ZinkerZ and a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig that I had rigged for rainbow trout. I experimented with the drag-and-shake presentation, the hop-and-bounce presentation, the straight swim presentation, and the swim-glide-and-shake presentation. The swim-glide-and-shake retrieve was the only productive one.

Dec. 6 log

Nathan Parker of Tulsa, Oklahoma, filed a brief on the Finesse News Network about his kayak outing with a friend at a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir in northeastern Kansas.
Here is an edited and condensed version of his report.

We launched my kayak at 1:00 p.m. and we made our last casts at 5:40 p.m. The water temperature was 52 degrees. The water at this reservoir is usually clear, but it was high and stained from the rain during the Thanksgiving weekend. The wind angled from the northwest at 5-15 mph, which made controlling the kayak very challenging. And on days like this, I miss my bass boat and trolling motor.

My partner Evan, who is a newcomer to Midwest finesse fishing, and I began fishing a windblown flat that ranged in depth from four to eight feet of water. We wielded a Z-Man’s pearl Finesse ShadZ on a 3/16-ounce scrounger-style jig.

Evan quickly caught two wipers. One wiper was a 25-inch specimen, and we estimated that it weighed around eight pounds. It was quite a fight on his medium-powered spinning rod. However, we failed to garner a strike from a black bass.

We moved to a less windy, but still windblown 45-degree shoreline that is laden with sand, gravel, and rocks. I caught a spotted bass on a shortened four-inch Z-Man’s Junebug Finesse WormZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce jig. After I caught that spotted bass, we fished 50 more yards of that shoreline with the Finesse WormZ rig and a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin-orange Finesse T.R.D. affixed to a green-pumpkin 1/10-ounce Z-Man’s Weedless Finesse ShroomZ jig, and we failed to elicit another strike.

We spent the rest of the outing plying a mud and gravel bluff in the back of a feeder-creek arm. The shoreline along this bluff is adorned with flooded terrestrial grass and brush. It was also sheltered from the wind. A submerged creek channel borders the bluff, and the depth of the water is about 15 feet.

I caught 10 black bass — all three species — along this bluff. All of them were caught on the Finesse WormZ rig. Evan, however, failed to elicit a strike on the Finesse T.R.D. rig. We speculated that the slower fall rate of the 1/16-ounce jig and the slim profile of the Finesse WormZ rig was the key element in eliciting the strikes. Unfortunately, Evan’s spinning outfit was not conducive for welding a shortened four-inch Z-Man’s Junebug Finesse WormZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce jig. Nevertheless, I think he is a convert to Midwest finesse fishing.

Dec. 6 log

Burton Bosley of Sutton, West Virginia, filed a brief about his Dec. 6 outing with a friend at a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir.

Here is an edited and condensed version of his brief:
My fishing during the summer and fall was river fishing for smallmouth and muskie, which I did not report about. But suffice to say the little Midwest finesse rigs are deadly for West Virginia’s river smallmouth bass — as Travis Myers of Paw Paw, West Virginia, writes about in his interesting posts on the Finesse News Network.

I do not know if fishing below a float should be considered a Midwest finesse tactic, but with the light line and small 1/16-ounce hair jig, it surely seems to qualify as a finesse presentation. It is also a deadly technique for suspended inactive bass in cold and clear water, and even in fairly clear water.

Now that our water temperatures are down to the low 50s and high 40s, my serious fishing begins.

I built a couple of new 10-foot float-and-fly rods for a friend and myself, and on Dec. 6 we visited a local reservoir to try them out. The water level has been drawn down 75 feet to its wintertime level, but it still has depths of more than 100 feet in places.

When we launched the boat at 7:00 a.m., area thermometers hovered around 26 degrees, and the surface temperature was 50 degrees. The first feeder-creek arm we visited was too cloudy for the little hair jig. So we used Silver Buddies, which caught seven walleyes, and we took the walleye home to eat. After we caught those walleye, we moved up lake, searching for fish. For two hours, we employed a variety of techniques, and we had very little success.

We finally found success by fishing huge (semi-truck-sized) boulders adjacent to deep water, reaching depths of more than 20 feet. I had my float set at 11 feet; my partner’s float was at eight feet. To our six- and eight-pound-test fluorocarbon lines, we affixed 1/16-ounce hair jigs. His jigs are commercially manufactured craft-hair jigs; they are white and chartreuse hair with a white head, and they are made by Punisher Lures. I tie my jigs, and they are made with brown and chartreuse bucktail with a few strands of flashabou, and they are affixed to an unpainted jig. We fished the rigs tight against the boulders. We twitched them a few times and then we let them float motionlessly. The movement created by the breeze provided most of the action. But my friend did jiggle his at times. I prefer little action other than the uncontrollable shaking from the cold, which is a malady of my advancing age.

Sometimes the float would slowly disappear, and other times it was a lift bite and the bobber would turn on its side. The bites for the most part are light and tentative, but once they were hooked, the smallmouth bass were vigorous fighters and leapers.

By moving from one main-lake boulder to the next, we caught 35 smallmouth bass, ranging in size from 14 to 18 1/2 inches.

As I have fished this reservoir across the years, I have never found a more effective technique in cold water than the little hair jig suspended below a small float. I think it would be worth trying on the clear-water strip pits in Kansas and Missouri, where Chuck Woods of Kansas City — the father of Midwest finesse — and I used to fish back in the 1960s.

Dec. 6 log

Bob Gum of Kansas City, Kansas, filed a brief about his Dec. 6 outing with Andrew Trembath of Kansas City, Kansas, at a northeastern Kansas power-plant reservoir.

Here’s an edited version of his brief:

The Weather Underground reported that it was 43 degrees at 7:53 a.m. and 53 degrees at 3:53 p.m. From 12:53 a.m. to 8:53 a.m., it fluctuated from being overcast to mostly cloudy to partly cloudy, and from 9:53 a.m. to 11:53 p.m., the sky was virtually clear. The wind angled out of the south, south by southwest, southwest, and west by southwest at 4 to 10 mph from 12:53 a.m. to 7:53 a.m., and it angled out of the west, west by northwest, and northwest at 3 to 13 mph from 8:53 a.m. to 8:53 p.m. The barometric pressure was 30.31 at 12:53 a.m., 30.28 at 5:53 a.m., 30.31 at 11:53 a.m., and 30.28 at 3:53 p.m.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar note that the best fishing would occur from 6:13 a.m. to 8:13 a.m., 6:34 p.m.to 8:34 p.m. and 12:02 a.m. to 2:02 a.m. They fished from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The surface temperature was 49 degrees along the dam, and within the warm-water plume, it was 58 degrees. The water level was more than a foot above normal. There was 1 1/2 feet of clarity at the dam.

They caught 16 largemouth bass, two freshwater drum, and two white bass, and they caught the bulk of them by employing a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ affixed to an orange 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

The three most fruitful locales were along two of the reservoir’s four bluffs and along a riprap shoreline near the west end of the dam.

When they fished the dam, they employed a strolling presentation, and they caught largemouth bass in water as deep as 10 feet. Along one of the bluffs that they fished, they caught a largemouth as shallow as one foot of water. At the wind-blown areas, they kept their rod tips down and mostly dragged their baits and executed occasional twitches. Along the wind-sheltered areas, they kept their rod tips up and allowed their baits to fall, swim, and glide, and they occasionally executed a twitch.

Dec. 7 log

Before Mother Nature poured two to four inches of rain and freezing rain upon northeastern Kansas during Thanksgiving Day and the last four days of November, the largemouth bass fishing was fruitful and almost approaching a piscatorial nirvana. But during the first seven days of December, it has been virtually fruitless and hellish.

On Dec. 7, the Weather Underground reported that it was 21 degrees at 4:52 a.m. and 60 degrees at 1:52 p.m. It was sunny, but occasionally some clouds appeared and dimmed the sun’s rays for a short spell. From 12:52 a.m. to 9:52 a.m., it alternated from being calm to having the wind stir and angle out of the east from 3 to 6 mph; from 10:52 a.m. to 4:52 p.m., the wind angled out of the south, south by southeast, and south by southwest at 3 to 23 mph. The barometric pressure was 30.31 at 12:52 a.m., 30.27 at 5:52 a.m., 30.16 at 11:52 a.m., and 30.03 at 2:52 p.m.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing might occur at 6:53 a.m. to 8:53 a.m., 7:15 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., and 12:42 a.m. to 2:42 a.m. I fished from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at a heavily fished state reservoir that lies in the exurban regions of Kansas City, Kansas.

The water level looked to be two feet above normal. The water clarity exhibited four to seven feet of visibility. But until the wind began to blow, there was a massive planktonic algae bloom that cluttered the surface, as well as several feet below the surface, and this bloom diminished the visibility. Some of the particles of algae were as large as the fingernail on my index left finger. In all of my days afloat, I have never seen anything like it; it was an ugly sight. Once the south wind began to blow, the bulk of the big algae particles cluttered along the reservoir’s north shorelines, and the water along these shorelines looked as if gallons of chartreuse paint had been poured into the water. The patches of American water willows that grace many of the shorelines exhibited the brown demeanor of winter. The patches of coontail that adorn many of the shallow-water flats are either wilted or they are wilting. The curly-leaf pondweed was beginning to erupt and grow on the same shallow-water flats where the coontail once flourished in the summer. The surface temperature was 44 to 45 degrees.

I was hoping that vast numbers of largemouth bass could be found and caught around the burgeoning patches of curly-leaf pondweed and wilting coontail on the mud flats in the back portions of this reservoir’s feeder-creek arms, which is a traditional cold-water haunt for many of the largemouth bass that inhabit the relatively small flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas. These mud flats are massive, and it takes a lot of time to thoroughly dissect them.

On my third cast and retrieve of this outing, a largemouth bass that was abiding in six feet of water along the outside edge of a patch of wilting coontail and burgeoning curly-leaf pondweed engulfed a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig that was retrieved with a swim-glide-and-shake presentation, and about 10 minutes later, the Finesse ShadZ rig caught another largemouth bass from another patch of coontail and burgeoning patch of curly-leaf pondweed. Then 15 minutes after I caught the second largemouth bass, the Finesse ShadZ rig caught a wiper and another largemouth bass around another patch of wilting coontail and burgeoning curly-leaf pondweed.

DSCN1012

Here are two samples of the aquatic vegetation that I fished on Dec. 7. The one on the left is curly-leaf pondweed. The one on the right is coontail. In December in northeastern Kansas, curly-leaf pondweed begins to sprout, and coontail begins to wilt and disappear.

 

After I caught the third largemouth bass, I spent nearly two hours dissecting the mud flats that are embellished with patches of coontail and curly-leaf pondweed, wielding the Finesse ShadZ rig, a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and a Z-Man’s pearl Rain MinnowZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. And I failed to catch a largemouth bass.

I spent the last 90 minutes of this outing probing 12 main-lake and secondary points.

One point yielded four largemouth bass. Its terrain is relatively steep and rocky, and the water’s edge is adorned with patches of American water willows. Two of the largemouth bass were caught on the Finesse ShadZ rig, and two of them were caught on the ZinkerZ rig. These rigs were retrieved with a drag-and-subtle-shake presentation. The boat floated in 12 feet of water, and the largemouth bass were extracted out of five to six feet of water along the outside edge of the patches of American water willows.

Another relatively steep and rocky point that is graced with American water willows, as well as some scanty patches of coontail, yielded four largemouth bass. Three of the largemouth bass were caught on the ZinkerZ rig, and one of them was caught on the Finesse ShadZ rig. Both rigs were retrieved with a drag-and-subtle-shake presentation. The boat floated in 8 to 10 feet of water, and the largemouth bass were extracted out of four to five feet of water along the outside edge of the patches of American water willows.

Another relatively steep and rocky point yielded one largemouth bass. The boat floated in 10 to 12 feet of water. And this bass was extracted from about three feet of water adjacent to a submerged rock fence. This largemouth bass engulfed the ZinkerZ rig on the initial drop.

At a flat and rocky point that is adorned with several patches of American water willows, the ZinkerZ rig that was retrieved with a slow swim-glide-and-shake presentation caught three largemouth bass. The boat floated in seven feet of water. They were extracted out of 3 1/2 feet of water along the edge of the American water willows.

I strolled the ZinkerZ rig along and near the bottom around a rock-laden point that is embellished with some meager patches of American water willows. The boat floated in nine feet of water, and the strolling motif extracted one largemouth bass from about seven feet of water.

At another flat and rocky point that is lined with extremely thick patches of American water willows yielded one largemouth bass, which was caught on the ZinkerZ rig with a drag-and-deadstick presentation in about four feet of water. The boat floated in six feet of water.

Six of the 12 points and their adjacent shorelines that I fished failed to yield a largemouth bass.

In total, I caught only 17 largemouth bass in four hours.

Since Dec. 1, northeastern Kansas’ largemouth bass have bamboozled me. I do not have a clue to where to find them and how to catch them. They gave Bill Beach and me a hard time on Dec. 1. Then they gave Brent Frazee and me an extremely difficult time on Dec. 3. (For more information about those trying outings, see the logs for those outings.) Moreover, they bamboozled me on Dec. 5 when I took an eight year old and a 12 year old on their maiden Midwest finesse outing to a community reservoir, where they bass fished for trout, and they caught only four largemouth bass in the two hours that they wielded a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Coopertreuse ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. I was also bamboozled on Dec. 4, when I was looking for a reservoir to take those two youngsters fishing, and on that Dec. 4 outing, I fished for two hours at an exurban community reservoir, where I caught only seven largemouth bass on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. (The Dec. 4 and 6 outings were so lackluster that I didn’t have the wherewithal to compose a log about them.)

While I was assembling this log, Bob Gum of Kansas City, Kansas, called and reported that he and a friend fished a northeastern power-plant reservoir on Dec. 6, and they struggled to catch 17 largemouth bass. As we talked, both of us feared that the combination of too many tournaments and the largemouth bass virus have adversely affected this once stellar wintertime waterway. And at this moment, Gum and I are fretting and thinking that the rest of December will be a trying time in northeastern Kansas.

Dec. 8 log

My Dec. 7 log was full of woe about the difficult and perplexing largemouth bass fishing that Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas have encountered since Thanksgiving Day, when Mother Nature began a significant deluge. But that sense of despair and woe vanished on Dec. 8 when I ventured to a state reservoir in rural northeastern Kansas.

The Weather Underground reported that it was 33 degrees at 4:53 a.m. and 54 degrees at 3:53 p.m. The Weather Underground and National Weather Service erroneously noted that the sky was clear from 12:53 a.m. to 4:53 p.m., but while I was afloat from 11:15 a.m. to 1:50 p.m., it was mostly cloudy. And while I was afloat, the wind angled out of the south by southwest and south at 6 to 9 mph. The barometric pressure was 29.94 at 12:53 a.m., 29.84 at 5:53 a.m., 29.79 at 11:53 a.m., and 29.73 at 1:53 p.m.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing should take place from 7:48 a.m. to 9:48 a.m., 8:11 p.m. to 10:11 p.m., and 1:36 a.m. to 3:36 a.m.

The water level looked to be about 12 to 13 inches above normal. To my surprise and delight, there were three to four feet of water clarity and no algae blooms. The surface temperature was 42 degrees.

Unlike my Dec. 7 outing at another state reservoir, where I spent nearly two hours dissecting mud flats that were embellished with patches of coontail and curly-leaf pondweed, I did not spend one minute exploring the shallow mud flats in search of largemouth bass inhabiting patches of submerged aquatic vegetation. Instead, I tossed out the drift sock and put the trolling motor into the water at the boat ramp, and I dissected hundreds of yards of one of this reservoir’s shorelines. There is about a 250-yard stretch of this shoreline that borders a shallow flat, and I did not fish that section of shoreline. I spent the entire outing fishing the steeper sections of this massive shoreline, where the boat floated in seven to 15 feet of water.

The shoreline that I fished is graced with seven riprap jetties, several significant laydowns, and an occasional manmade brushpile. The geology of the underwater terrain consists of rocks, boulders, and gravel. Patches of American water willows embellish 95 percent of this shoreline, and the depth of the water along the outside edges of these patches is 2 1/2 to four feet. I did not find any patches of coontail and curly-leaf pondweed along this shoreline.

During the first 35 minutes of this outing, I worked with a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Dirt ZinkerZ affixed to a red 3/32-ounce Gopher jig and a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. At one of the riprap jetties, the Dirt ZinkerZ rig that was retrieved with a hop-and-bounce presentation caught one largemouth bass, and it was abiding in about four feet of water. In the vicinity of a manmade brushpile, I was strolling the green-pumpkin ZinkerZ rig near the bottom, and it caught one largemouth bass, which was abiding in about five feet of water. While I was employing a hop-and-bounce presentation with the green-pumpkin ZinkerZ rig adjacent to patches of American water willows, I caught three largemouth bass, and they were extracted out of four to five feet of water.

At 11:50 a.m. I began casting and retrieving a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and I did not put it down until I made my last cast and retrieve at 1:50 p.m. This rig inveigled 36 largemouth bass. Eleven of them were abiding around the riprap jetties. Some of these jetties are also adorned with patches of American water willows, and four of those eleven largemouth bass were associated with the patches of American water willows. Six of the 36 largemouth bass were extracted from the vicinity of a laydown. Five of the 36 largemouth were caught along an occasional section of the shoreline that was devoid of American water willows, laydowns, and brushpiles; these areas consisted of rock, boulders and gravel. In addition to the four largemouth bass that were caught adjacent to the patches of American water willows on the riprap jetties, I caught fourteen of the 36 largemouth bass along other patches of American water willows. These 36 largemouth bass were caught in water as shallow as three feet and as deep as nine feet. The bulk of these largemouth bass were caught while I was employing a hop-and-bounce retrieve, and a few of them were caught while I executed an extremely slow-paced swim-glide-and-shake retrieve.

In sum, I caught 41 largemouth bass, three freshwater drum, and I tangled with six specimens that liberated themselves before I could detect what species they were. The two hours and 35 minutes that I was afloat on Dec. 8 were a lot more joyful than the four hours that tormented me on Dec. 7, and I am truly grateful that I found some clear and algae-free water where I could catch an average of 15 largemouth bass an hour.

Dec. 8 log

Travis Myers of Paw Paw, West Virginia, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 8 outing.

Here is an edited and condensed version of his report:

After I tended to some household duties this morning that revolved around firewood, I took a breather, and I decided to take advantage of the 53-degree air temperature and calm wind. So, I loaded the kayak into the truck and headed to the river.

The United States Geological Survey reported that the section of the river that I was going to fish was flowing at 452 cubic feet per second, and the water temperature was 41 degrees. The flow had dropped from 580 cubic feet per second on Dec. 6, and it’s still dropping at a very fast rate. Under a partly cloudy sky, I could see the bottom of the river in eight feet of water.

Twenty-five minutes after I left my driveway, I dropped my kayak’s chain anchor near an extremely sheer bluff wall on the strong side of the river.

My plan was to drag my offering uphill and to present it to as many smallmouth bass as I could that abide in this deep-water trench. And I was hoping that the smallmouth bass were huddled like cordwood in this trench. This tactic is 180-degrees different than the way most anglers would ply this stretch of water. They would be on the weak side of the river and nitpick at the strong side. I was under time constraints, and therefore I decided not to nitpick.

I used only one rod. I also had five Z-Man’s soft-plastic baits and an array of 1/32- and 1/16-ounce Gopher jigs in a variety of colors.

I caught 19 good-sized wintering smallmouth bass in just over two hours. Every one of them was caught as I executed an extremely slow straight swim presentation that coursed inches above the bottom substrate that consists of car-sized boulders with old logs intertwined with the boulders.

The three largest smallmouth bass were 18-inchers, and they were tightly huddled lengthwise near an extremely long log that sits on the bottom in 13 feet of water.

All of them were caught on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig affixed to an extremely well-used three-inch Z-Man’s Dirt Finesse WormZ that I have had tied on for a month, and it is about to be sitting in a position of honor atop of the refrigerator in our garage.

When I would lose contact with the bottom, I simply back reeled a turn with the reel handle, and that allowed the Finesse WormZ rig to make contact with the bottom. All of the strikes occurred when I was back reeling.

Dec. 9 log

Since Dec. 2, Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, has been reporting on the Finesse News Network about the horrendous black bass fishing that has perplexed him and other anglers that reside in north-central Texas. On Dec. 9, he and Rick Allen of Dallas were hoping to find a more fruitful venue in Oklahoma.

Here is an edited and condensed rendition of his report:

December is traditionally a difficult month for black bass anglers in north-central Texas. And this year has been no exception. But this December’s black bass fishing has been confounded by the incessant rain that fell upon north-central Texas during the last days of November, and all of this water flooded our reservoirs with cold and muddy water.

For example, during a three-hour outing on Dec. 3 at nine small community reservoirs located in three suburbs north of Dallas, I found only two reservoirs that were fishable. And at those two reservoirs, I could only muster one largemouth bass while attempting to learn how to employ the float-and-fly technique. During another three-hour outing on Dec. 5, I checked out five small community reservoirs in the vicinity of Denton. I found only one that was fishable, and I eked out only five largemouth bass. And during three afternoon hours on Dec. 7, I fished a 29,763-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir that was closed on Nov. 30 and reopened on the morning of Dec. 7, and I caught only two largemouth bass.

On Dec. 9, Rick Allen of Dallas joined me for a five-hour endeavor at a Civilian Conservation Corps’ hill-land reservoir in south-central Oklahoma. I last fished this reservoir on November 23 with Norman Brown of Lewisville, and during that trying five-hour undertaking, we caught 10 smallmouth bass.

Dec. 9 was a gorgeous late-autumn day. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 40 degrees and the afternoon high climbed to 73 degrees. The sky was partly cloudy, and the bright sun was shining everywhere. The wind was calm for the first three hours we were afloat, and then it began to blow out of the west-by-southwest at 6 to 10 mph. The barometric pressure measured 30.07 inches of mercury at 10:00 a.m. and dropped to 29.95 inches by 4:00 p.m.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated the best fishing periods would occur between 2:10 a.m. and 4:10 a.m., 8:22 a.m. to 10: 22 a.m., and 8:46 p.m. to 10:46 p.m. Rick and I fished from about 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The water was calm and as smooth as glass for the majority of the outing. The water clarity varied from two feet of visibility in the mid-section of the reservoir to five feet in the lower portions of the reservoir. The water level was about two feet above normal. The water temperature was 55 degrees.

We fished a long bluff in the southeast end of the reservoir. This area has been the most fruitful local that we have found on this reservoir, but it wasn’t fruitful today. We plied this area for 2 1/2 hours with the boat positioned in 20 to 51 feet of water, and we caught just one smallmouth bass.

The smallmouth bass was caught off the tip of a small tertiary bluff point, and it was suspended about 12 feet deep in 30 feet of water. It was caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s watermelon-red ZinkerZ rigged on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, which was presented with a slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. A float-and-fly outfit rigged with a 1/16-ounce Punisher Lures’ blue-chartreuse-white craft-hair jig attached to an 11-foot leader below a small Thill wood bobber failed to entice any strikes.

We plied a fairly shallow riprap-covered flat that is covered with three to 15 feet of water. This flat lies along the same southeast shoreline and adjacent to the bluff, and it yielded one freshwater drum that was abiding along the bottom in 12 feet of water while the boat floated in 12 feet of water. The freshwater drum was enticed into striking a shortened four-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig that was slowly strolled along the bottom.

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

We caught one smallmouth bass from 15 feet of water off a rocky main-lake point that is situated in the east tributary arm. This smallmouth bass was caught on a shortened Z-Man’s PB&J Hula StickZ rigged on a blue 3/32-ounce Gopher jig and retrieved with an aggressive and erratic version of the hop-and-bounce retrieve. We hooked a hefty largemouth bass from the same point on the same Hula StickZ rig, but it was able to free itself before we could land it. The boat was positioned in 10 to 23 feet of water.

We plied a submerged main-lake hump that is covered with six feet of water on the top of the hump and surrounded by 27 to 35 feet of water along its sides. The boat floated in 10 to 25 feet of water, and we failed to elicit any strikes from the top or sides of the hump.

The last spot we fished was a submerged roadbed that is embellished with basketball-size rocks and large boulders. This roadbed courses across the middle of a cove on the east side of the reservoir. The top of the roadbed is covered with water from four to 13 feet deep, and it is surrounded by water as deep as 35 feet. We caught four smallmouth bass and two largemouth bass that were relating to the top of the roadbed in eight to 12 feet of water while the boat floated in 19 to 23 feet of water. Three of the four smallmouth bass were caught on the shortened Z-Man’s PB&J Hula StickZ rig and aggressive hop-and-bounce retrieve. One smallmouth bass was caught on a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s PB&J FattyZ tube on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a subtle hop-and-bounce retrieve.
Overall, we struggled to inveigle six smallmouth bass, two largemouth bass, and we inadvertently caught one freshwater drum during this five-hour endeavor. We also had one largemouth bass that was able to pull free before we could land it.

We tried a slew of colors and sizes of Z-Man finesse baits and Gopher mushroom head jigs, as well as a float-and-fly rig. The most fruitful bait was the shortened Z-Man’s PB&J Hula StickZ and blue 3/32-ounce Gopher jig. The float-and-fly rig failed to elicit any strikes. An erratic and aggressive hop-and-bounce retrieve was the most fruitful presentation.

December continues to be a difficult and perplexing month. I have fished four times for a total of 14 hours this month, and I have caught only 16 black bass, which is a paltry catch rate of one bass per hour, and four per outing. Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come in January.

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Steve Reideler with one of the two largemouth bass that they caught on Dec. 9.

Dec. 9 log

Burton Bosley of Sutton, West Virginia, filed a brief about his Dec. 9 outing with a friend at a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir.

Here is an edited and condensed version of his brief:

My partner and I fished from 7:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the same reservoir that we fished on Dec. 6. Area thermometers noted that it was 32 degrees when we began our outing and 54 degrees when we ended it. The wind was howling.

The surface temperature was 50 degrees. The water was stained, and we could see our little jigs about 18 inches below the surface. The float-and-fly rig is supposed to be for very clear water, but as we experiment with it, we have discovered that it works well in stained-water conditions, too.

It was a very windy outing, and it took some time to locate fish and figure out how to cast a 10-foot spinning rod with a float and jig suspended 10 feet below it with any accuracy. We located the fish on some large boulders, and portions of these boulders are above the surface, and they are surrounded by 18 to 23 feet of water. By lining up the drifts of our float-and-fly rigs so that they would float and move close to the edges and corners of the boulders, we were able to net 32 smallmouth bass. We also did well on bridge pilings, catching 12 by wind drifting the float-and-fly rig close to the concrete pilings.

My partner worked with a 1/16-ounce Punisher Lures’ white-and-chartreuse craft hair jig. I used a 1/16-ounce brown-and-chartreuse bucktail jig, which I tie. The head of his jig is painted white, and mine is unpainted.

After our outing, my partner called and said one of the power fishermen who was fishing near us posted a note on Facebook that he had had a good day, and he was happy to have caught eight smallmouth on such a windy day.
In sum, floating a small jig on a windy day can be a very productive technique. The float is swimming the jig for you, and the waves give it an added action.

Dec. 11 log

Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, and I fished a heavily fished community reservoir that lies in the southwest suburbs of Kansas City, Kansas.

According to the Weather Underground, it was 37 degrees at 3:53 a.m. and 63 degrees at 3:53 p.m. (The record high temperature for Dec. 11 is 68 degrees, which was set in 1965.) Throughout the day, the wind angled out of the south, south by southeast, southwest, and south by southwest at 3 to 24 mph. (During the spells when the wind was vigorous, reaching 24-mph gusts, we had to employ a drift sock.) The sky was clear from 12:53 a.m. to 9:53 a.m. From 10:17 a.m. to 12:53 p.m., the sky fluctuated from being partly cloudy to mostly cloudy to overcast to foggy to be littered with scattered clouds, and after 1:53 p.m., the clouds began to dissipate. The barometric pressure was 29.72 at 12:53 a.m., 29.65 at 5:53 a.m., 29.60 at 11:53 a.m., and 29.54 at 1:53 p.m.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing ought to occur from 9:48 a.m. to 11:48 a.m., 10:14 p.m. to 12:14 a.m. and 3:35 a.m. to 5:35 a.m. We fished from 10:15 a.m. to 1:50 p.m.

The surface temperature was 45 degrees. The water level looked to be six to eight inches above normal. The water was a tad stained, but clear enough that we could see the lead head of a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig two feet under the surface.

Many of the patches of coontail that normally embellish the mud flats and many of the shorelines of this reservoir have diminished in size. Some of them have disappeared.

We fished for 215 minutes, and the first 195 minutes were spent plying two shorelines in the upper portions of the reservoir’s primary feeder-creek arm. One shoreline lies on the west side on this arm, and the other lies on the east side.

We spent about 75 minutes fishing the west side shoreline, which is littered with scores of boat docks. Most of it is lined with rock and concrete retaining walls. There are a few minor laydowns. Portions of its underwater terrain are laden with rock and gravel, and it becomes laden in its upper reaches with silt. Except for a 40-yard stretch, this shoreline is relatively flat. Along the steep areas, the boat floated in 10 to 13 feet of water, and it floated in four to seven feet along the flat areas. Some of the flat areas were graced with patches of coontail. This shoreline yielded 11 largemouth bass. One was caught along the steeper section, and 10 were caught along the flatter locales that were graced with some patches of coontail.

We spent about 120 minutes fishing the east side shoreline. It is cluttered with only six docks. It does not have as much rock and concrete retaining walls as the west shoreline.

About a 110-yard section of this shoreline is relatively steep, and it is lined with patches of winter-brown American water willows, an occasional patch of coontail, and a few sparse laydowns. Its geological feature is primarily gravel and rocks. The boat floated in eight to 14 feet of water. This 110-yard section yielded 14 largemouth bass, and 10 of them were extracted from a 25-yard section of it.

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Rick Hebenstreit holding one of the 45 largemouth bass that we caught on Dec. 11.

The other portion of the east shoreline is flat, and much of it is silt laden, but some of it is laden with rocks and gravel. We found six good-size patches of coontail along this shoreline. The boat floated in four to 10 feet of water. One patch of coontail that is the size of two tennis courts yielded nine largemouth bass. We extracted seven largemouth bass from another patch of coontail that is about six feet wide and 80 feet long. These largemouth bass were caught many yards from the water’s edge.

During the last 20 minutes of this outing, we plied coontail patches along parts of the shoreline and offshore portions inside a secondary feeder-creek arm. This endeavor yielded four largemouth bass.

(It is interesting to note that all of the shorelines of this reservoir are littered with hundreds of boat docks, but Midwest finesse anglers rarely catch a largemouth bass around any of them. Day in, day out, Midwest finesse anglers find that patches of coontail are the most fruitful lairs to ply for this reservoir’s largemouth bass, but there have been outings when the rock and concrete retaining walls and several of the rock-and-gravel-laden shorelines have been bountiful, too.)

We caught 45 largemouth bass. And they were caught on a variety of lures and presentations.

One was caught on a Gene Larew Lures’  Sooner Run Rally Grub affixed to a red 3/32-ounce Gopher jig. One was caught on a Z-Man’s pumpkin Hula StickZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher Jig. Two were caught on a Gene Larew Lures’ Purple Flash Shad Rally Grub affixed to a red 3/32-ounce Gopher jig. Two were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher Jig. Three were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pearl ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Four were caught on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher Jig. Thirty-two were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher Jig.

The three largemouth bass that we caught on Larew’s Rally Grub were caught while we were employing a straight and slow swimming presentation. The four that we caught on the Finesse ShadZ rig were caught when we presented it with a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. The swim-glide-and-shake retrieve with the Hula StickZ rig caught one largemouth bass. Three of the largemouth bass engulfed our ZinkerZ rigs on the initial drop. When we were employing our ZinkerZ rigs over and around the patches of coontail, we primarily used the swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. Along the outside edges of the coontail patches and the thinner patches, we caught seven largemouth bass by either dragging and deadsticking or slowly strolling the ZinkerZ rig. On the steeper shorelines, we caught the largemouth bass with three presentations: the hop-and-bouce retrieve, the swim-glide-and-shake retrieve, and the drag-and-shake retrieve.

Dec. 11 log

Travis Myers of Paw Paw, West Virginia, filed the following report about his Dec. 11 outing on the Finesse News Network.

Here is a condensed edition of his report:

The weather forecast for Dec. 11 predicted that area thermometers would reach 65 degrees. I wanted to take advantage of this balmy weather on the river.

The United States Geological Survey indicated the river where I was going to fish was flowing at 339 cubic feet per second, and the water temperature was 43 degrees. It was extremely cloudy and foggy, and it took a long time for the thick fog to dissipate from the woods around the house and even longer on the river.

After it did, I launched the kayak in the same area that I fished on Dec. 8 for only two hours.

This area is essentially a V-shaped trench that is 50-yards long and situated along the strong side of the river. There are sheer cliff walls down to the river’s edge. The bottom is littered with large boulders with large red oak trees that are largely intact and lie lengthwise along one side of this V-shaped trench. None of the bottom substrate is moving anytime soon. In my eyes, it is the best wintering spot for smallmouth bass within a two-mile stretch of the river.

Unlike the last time I fished this V-shaped trench, I planned to nitpick each inch of it. On Dec. 8, I dropped my chain anchor in 12 feet of water on the strong side. On Dec. 11, I pushed my stakeout pole into the bottom in three feet of water on the river’s weak side.

My casts were made in a grid-like pattern and calculated around the flow of the current.

I had four rods rigged. The reels were spooled with four-pound-test Gamma fluorocarbon line. One rod sported a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s ZinkerZ with a green-pumpkin- orange throat and a Dirt torso, and it was affixed to an orange 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. The second rod sported a 3 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Dirt Finesse WormZ on a fire-red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. The third rod sported a customized three-inch Z-Man’s blue steel Finesse ShadZ on a blue-orange 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. The fourth rod sported a heavily customized 2 1/4-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin EZ TubeZ with an unpainted 1/16-ounce Gopher jig on a No. 4 hook inserted inside the tube.
I made my first cast where this wintering hole rises up out of the depths and lips over a ledge to some shallow riffles. Thereafter I made my grid casts in a 40-foot stretch, and after I completed plying that gird, I moved up river, and I pushed my stakeout pole into the bottom. Every foot of this run was dissected and after every ten casts, I switched baits.

I caught 13 smallmouth bass on the ZinkerZ rig. I caught nine smallmouth bass on the Finesse WormZ rig. I caught five smallmouth bass on the Finesse ShadZ. I caught six smallmouth bass on the EZ TubeZ rig.

I wasn’t done.

It was such a beautiful December day and perhaps the best I had ever witnessed for angling pursuits.

I pulled up my stakeout pole at the head of this V-shaped trench, and I began to paddle.

Earlier in this report, I stated that this is the best wintering spot within two river miles. By that I mean the only one, and there is nothing in between. The smallmouth bass are so consolidated in the deep holes that it is useless to fish the areas in between these holes.

I headed straight down river past the truck that was parked on a rock finger that juts into the river near my mailbox. I was heading for a major wintertime hole that lies two miles down the river.

Nine falls ago, when we moved here, my nephew and I examine this hole from a high bank, and we saw seven of the biggest smallmouth bass that I have ever seen. He and I have never forgotten that sight, and we still talk about it.

It has long been my contention that big smallmouth bass winter in the river’s prime real estate, and they seem to congregate by size. My logs reveal that when I catch an 18-inch or bigger smallmouth bass from a wintering hole, I am likely to catch another big one or at least see them following a hooked smallmouth bass that I am trying to bring to my hand.

This hole or run is the deepest within 15 river miles in either direction. Most of the season it is home to gargantuan-sized carp, huge fallfish, and an occasional humongous crappie that is abiding in a submerged tree top. I rarely fish this hole, and I have never submitted a report about it.

It is 30 feet deep. The bottom is largely silted in with sand. It is a rarely used state access and swimming area. It is the most unique spot on the river. Sixteen months ago, I saw a behemoth flathead catfish suspended in this hole while I was paddling through, and it is the only one I have ever seen here.

I have in years past caught a 20-inch smallmouth bass from this spot, and I have hooked a few that looked to be bigger ones that I have failed to bring to my thumb.

Below this hole, there are miles upon miles of riffles and runs, and apparently the smallmouth bass that reside in those locales in the summer move into this hole for the winter.

It is not an ideal or textbook wintering hole by any means for smallmouth bass, but it does have some huge trees on the bottom that haven’t moved since we have moved here from upstate New York nine years ago.

Even though the smallmouth bass that abide in those miles and miles of riffles and runs below this hole seem to find this to be their wintertime nirvana, it is not what most anglers would describe as nirvana. But I will not argue with Mother Nature. Some of the larger fish that winter here are the same ones that I come in contact with when I fish the many riffles below this hole throughout the summer. Then they head to this hole in late September.

It is unlike the textbook wintering hole or run that lies two miles above it. At that hole the smallmouth bass forage downward. In this hole, the smallmouth bass are looking up, and they are suspended many feet off the bottom, and if an angler is presenting his lure below them, he will fail to allure them.

While I know every inch of this hole, there is always a log or two that flows into it over the course of the year, and that newcomer usually flummoxes me. And on my first 10 casts, I hung my rig on a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig seven times into a tree that still had all of its limbs intact. I gently shook it loose and then used a pair of pliers to realign the hook.

After that ordeal, I began employing a slow straight swim retrieve with gentle shakes, and I swam it about half to a quarter of the way above the bottom. And while I was swimming a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin-goby Scented LeechZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, I caught 13 smallmouth bass.

Then I caught 10 smallmouth bass on the 3 1/2-inch Z-Man’s blue-steel Finesse ShadZ on a blue-orange 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and these smallmouth bass engulfed it on the drop as I shook it.

One of these 23 smallmouth bass was a 20 1/4-incher, and I hooked it directly under the kayak. Four big ones were following that 20 1/4-incher for a while, and I am guessing that one of them was 22 inches or more. My biggest today was from this hole directly under my kayak that had four similar-size smallmouth bass with it that didn’t follow the hooked fish as long as those in past months when the water was warmer. It went 20 1/4 inches.

On what I promised myself was going to be my last cast of the day, I hooked and landed a 15-pound carp that was enticed by the Scented LeechZ rig.. I would have been fine if this brute had liberated itself halfway into our lengthy battle. But I did have some fun back reeling and battling it on four-pound-test line, and ultimately, I got my Gopher jig back to use on another outing.

I fished a total of 5 hours and 11 minutes.

In November, I reported about a terrific outing I enjoyed in nearby Virginia. I am hoping to get up bright and early on Dec. 12 and head to nearby Maryland. I have not seen any reports from either state on the Finesse News Network. I will be visiting both aplenty in 2016.

The river takes a toll on the body and equipment. It is time to regroup and heal, do some tackle tinkering, revamp my rods and reels, and get ready for March’s fishing. Therefore, my Dec. 12 report might well be my last report for this year.

Dec. 12 log

Travis Myers of Paw Paw, West Virginia, filed the following report about his Dec. 12 outing with his wife on the Finesse News Network.

Here is a condensed edition of his report:
At the end of my Dec. 11 outing, I noted that I was going to Maryland on Dec. 12 to get on some wintertime smallmouth bass that the masses miss. After my wife caught wind that it was forecasted to hit 72 degrees on Dec. 12, she asked if she could join me.
Of course, I obliged. We had not shared the water in quite a few weeks. And I was pleased to have my favorite fishing partner aboard. However, the pressure was on to get her on fish, which is no easy task in mid-December.

We launched the Jackson Big Tuna kayak at 11:25 a.m. at a nearby zip code in West Virginia.

On the section of the river that we were fishing, the United States Geological Survey indicated that it was flowing at 312 cubic feet per second, and the water temperature was 44 degrees. The water was clear enough that my wife and I could see the orange head and chartreuse head on our Gopher jigs in 10 feet of water.

The sky was very cloudy, and the wind was nil.

We had four rods rigged. One rod sported a 2 1/4-inch Z-Man’s The Deal ZinkerZ on an orange 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. The second rod sported a customized three-inch Z-Man’s blue steel Finesse ShadZ on a blue-orange 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. The third rod sported a heavily customized two-inch Z-Man’s Canada Craw EZ TubeZ with an unpainted 1/16-ounce Gopher jig inserted in the torso of the EZ TubeZ. The fourth rod sported a 3 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Dirt Finesse WormZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, which my wife used.
We made a very short drive to a very remote section of river, which is only accessible on a piece of land that we purchased when we moved to West Virginia. If we did not have this access point, it would be an 18 1/2-mile trek to the nearest takeout, and it is accessible only by an ATV.

This section of the river is adorned with sheer cliffs on the strong side. The bottom is absolutely covered with giant boulders, and I know they are there only because I have fished this stretch in the middle of the summer when the river is flowing under 60 cubic feet per second, and I could see them with my Costa Del Mar polarized sunglasses. What’s more, I have retrieved a jig through this area, which is the size of three and a half football fields, umpteen times across the years. The boulders that lie along the strong side are in 15 feet of water.

It is one of my favorite stretches of river anywhere I have fished up and down the East Coast. Not only is the fishing fruitful, but we relish seeing bears, eagles, owls, coyotes, and bobcats that abide around this locale. And when we retire from the workaday world, our retirement home will be overlooking this extremely remote stretch. It is absolutely nirvana for a riverine smallmouth-bass fanatic.
It holds fish year round, but starting in October, the smallmouth bass begin arriving here from the nearly 19 miles of riffles and small pools that lie below this wintering hole.
Our kayak floated in two feet of water, and both of us fished in a grid pattern. I put my stakeout pole into the weak side bottom, and we picked away at the strong side granite ledge.

Not a single smallmouth bass engulfed our baits on the drop. We caught them by executing an incessantly slow and steady shake retrieve that allowed our rigs to swim just inches above bottom, and we intermittently employed a deadstick routine. Eleven times on this outing when we were executing that retrieve, our baits got hammered like the smallmouth bass wallop them in the middle of the summer when we began to reel in for the next cast. Apparently, they eyeballed our baits that long before they decided to engulf them.

We fished 4 1/2 hours. The ZinkerZ rig caught 27 smallmouth bass. The Finesse ShadZ caught 16. The EZ TubeZ caught 17. My wife’s Finesse WormZ caught 21.

I was more than pleased to get my wife on some willing biters. It was a blessed riverine smallmouth day here in West Virginia. I could not have asked for a better one.

Dec. 12 log

Bob Gum of Kansas City, Kansas, filed a brief on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 12 outing with Greg Monahan of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, at a northeastern Kansas power-plant reservoir.

Here is an edited version of his report:

The Weather Underground reported that it was 44 degrees at 2:53 a.m. and 66 degrees at 12:59 p.m. From 12:53 a.m. to 6:18 a.m., the wind was either calm or angling out of the south a 3 to 5 mph. From 7:18 a.m. to 11:53 a.m., it was either calm or angling out of the northeast at 3 to 4 mph. From 12:08 p.m. to 11:53 p.m., it angled out of the south at 8 to 19 mph. The sky was clear until 4:18 a.m., and then it became partly cloudy, then mostly cloudy, and then overcast for the rest of the day. The barometric pressure was 29.74 at 12:53 a.m., 29.78 at 5:53 a.m., 29.81 at 11:53 a.m., and 29.78 at 3:53 p.m.

The water level looked to be normal. The water clarity along the dam exhibited two feet of visibility. The surface temperature along the dam was 52 degrees. The surface temperature inside the warm-water plume was 64 degrees.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing would transpire from 10:11 a.m. to 12:11 p.m., 4:28 a.m. to 6:28 a.m., and 4:54 p.m. to 6:54 p.m. They were afloat from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

They caught 20 largemouth bass, and seven largemouth bass liberated themselves before they could be lifted across the gunnels of the boat. They also caught four white bass, three freshwater drum, and one channel catfish.

The most effective bait was either a 2 1/2- inch Strike King Lure Company’s purple haze Zero affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig or a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. A few of the largemouth bass were caught on a Z-Man’s Mud Minnow Rain MinnowZ affixed to a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and a 2 1/2-inch Strike King’s Coppertreuse Zero affixed to an unpainted 1/8-ounce jig.

They fished four bluffs, one massive riprap shoreline, and portions of the riprap along the dam. The dam was the least fruitful location.

They primarily dragged their baits along the bottom. Each retrieve began with their rod tips held up, and they gradually lowered the tips as their baits approached the boat. They also strolled their baits behind the boat and near the bottom. During both presentations, they periodically twitched their rods, which caused their baits to shake and quiver.

Most of the largemouth bass were extracted out of three to six feet of water.

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Greg Monahan with one of the largemouth bass that they caught along a riprap shoreline.

Dec. 16 log

Travis Myers of Paw Paw, West Virginia, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 16 outing.

Here is a condensed and edited version of his report:

This outing seemed the right thing to do after I completed the undesirable task of having to visit the Department of Motor Vehicles. Dec. 15 was my birthday, and I needed to renew my driver’s license. But to my delight, and with what might be a record of being in and out of their door in ten minutes, I was on my way home to load the truck.

The United States Geological Survey noted the river was flowing at 219 cubic feet per second at the spot that I wanted to fish, and the water temperature was 48 degrees.

On Dec. 11 and 12, the river was flowing at 300 cubic feet per second, and the water temperature was 42 degrees. During those two December days, the smallmouth bass fishing was stellar; I caught more than 50 on Dec.11; then my wife and I caught just over 70 on Dec. 12.

The weather forecasters predicted that area thermometers would climb to 54 degrees.
When I launched the kayak at 11:12 a.m., it was 49 degrees and breezy.

I spent this outing focusing on a sheer cliff wall, where the water was 13.6 feet deep according to one of the new gadgets on the kayak. The bottom consists of large granite boulders that are intertwined with massive red oak trees. The water clarity is 10 feet, but the wind diminished the visibility dramatically.

I stationed the kayak on the weak side of the river, and I dissected a 75-yard stretch of the cliff wall.

I had three G. Loomis’ 6400 Spin Jig Rods rigged with the following rigs: a 2 1/4-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin-orange ZinkerZ on an orange 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, a 3 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Dirt Finesse WormZ on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and a customized two-inch Z-Man’s Canada Craw EZ TubeZ affixed to an inserted unpainted 1/16-ounce Gopher jig with a No. 4 hook.

My G. Loomis TSR 791S-1 GLX rod was rigged with a customized three-inch Z-Man’s blue steel Finesse ShadZ on a blue-orange 1/32-ounce Gopher jig.

My G. Loomis NRX 822S DSR rod was rigged with a 2 1/2-inch customized and unnamed Z-Man’s ElaZtech bait, which was affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

All of the baits were covered with one or another of my various concocted varieties of Pro-Cure Bait Scents, and I recovered them every 15 minutes. All of the barbs on my Gopher jigs were removed. All of the rigs were tied to four-pound-test Gamma Touch 100% Super Fluorocarbon Line.

Because of the occasional strong gusts of wind, I had to submerge the tip of the rod more often than not in order to prevent my line from skating along the surface.

I employed a drag and deadstick retrieve with every rig except the Finesse ShadZ.

The Finesse ShadZ was thrown well ahead of the grid box, and I allowed it to meander aimlessly through the water column, which is the classical no-feel Midwest finesse retrieve. When it got within a foot or so of the bottom, I began to execute an extremely slow retrieve, and occasionally I applied an extremely slight shake of the rod tip.

I caught nine smallmouth bass on the ZinkerZ rig. I caught 10 smallmouth bass on the Finesse WormZ rig. I caught 13 smallmouth bass on the Finesse ShadZ rig. The unnamed rig caught six smallmouth bass. Two smallmouth bass approached 18 inches in length.

I fished two hours and 47 minutes.

Try as I might to end my season so I can get some tackle tinkering done and rest up for it all to begin again in March of 2016, the weather is not allowing me to accomplish those endeavors. The weather forecast for next week says that the temperatures will be in the mid- to upper-60s. Therefore, my rods are staying out and at the ready for now.

Dec. 18 log

Mother Nature allowed El Nino to pummel northeastern Kansas with vast quantities of rain on Dec. 13. All of the Weather Underground’s reporting stations in northeastern Kansas indicated they collected record levels of precipitation on that date. And what’s more, it fell upon the watersheds of our reservoirs that were already saturated from El Nino’s rainy rampages on Nov. 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30. Therefore, even our clearest reservoirs became stained, and the others became rather muddy.

Muddy and cold water tends to flummox my abilities to find and catch the largemouth bass that abide in the many flatland reservoirs that stipple the landscape along the I-70 and I-35 corridors that stretches for about 65 miles west and 80 miles southwest of Kansas City, Kansas. Consequently, I elected to remain at bay on Dec. 14, 15, 16, and 17.

But on Dec. 18 Clyde Holscher of Topeka, Kansas, and Dennis O’Dell of Olathe, Kansas, were eager to field test a prototype of a lure that Holscher is helping Yakima Bait Company create, and we decided to do it at a nearby state reservoir that tends to be relatively clear when most of our waterways are murky.

The Weather Underground reported that it was 21 degrees at 7:53 a.m. and 44 degrees at 2:53 p.m. The wind angled out of the west, southwest, west by southwest, and south by southwest at 3 to 21 mph. It was sunny. The barometric pressure was 30.23 at 12:53 a.m., 30.22 at 5:53 a.m., 30.21 at 11:53 a.m., and 30.17 at 3:53 p.m. (Because of the wind, we employed a drift sock about 75 percent of the time, which is not a delightful task to take out of the water for an old man’s hands when the water is 41 degrees and the wind chill ranges from 26 to 37 degrees.)

The water level looked to be about two feet above normal. The water clarity was stained, exhibiting less than a foot of visibility in the upper reaches of its feeder-creek arms and about 18 inches of clarity in the vicinity of the dam. The surface temperature fluctuated from 41 to 42 degrees. All of the patches of American water willows that adorn the shoreline were exhibiting their winter-dead-brownish hue. We did not find any patches of submerged aquatic vegetation.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing should occur from 4:14 a.m. to 6:14 a.m., 4:40 p.m. to 6:40 p.m., and 10:27 a.m. to 12:27 p.m. We fished from about 11 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. O’Dell, however, had a doctor’s appointment; so, he fished for slightly more than an hour.

We spent the outing plying portions of two of the reservoir’s west-side shorelines, one wind-blown main-lake point and short segments of its adjacent shorelines, two wind-blown riprap jetties inside one of its feeder-creek arms, and the wind-sheltered riprap shoreline of the dam.

We spent most of the time fishing the two west-side shorelines, and one of the shorelines is graced with seven riprap jetties. Parts of one of the west-side shorelines were sheltered from the wind. The other west-side shoreline was a tad wind-blown in spots.
Initially, all three of us were field testing three different colors of Holscher’s lure. It is a 2 1/2-inch hard-plastic finesse bait, which he described as weighing an eighth of an ounce. Holscher is painting them to replicate the most effective colors of Z-Man’s T.R.D.s and ZinkerZs that Midwest finesse anglers employ.

(By the way, this was the first time that I have wielded a hard-plastic bait since the winter of 2014-15, when I made about 15 casts and retrieves with a jerkbait. The rest of my 2015 casts and retrieves have been made with a finesse-size soft-plastic bait affixed to a small mushroom-style jig.)

During the first 30 minutes, we caught one largemouth bass on Holscher’s green-pumpkin crankbait, and Holscher’s PB&J crankbait elicited two strikes that we failed to hook. The largemouth bass was caught along the outside edge of a patch of American water willows and near a manmade brushpile in about four feet of water. The two strikes occurred on back-to-back casts and retrieves at the tip of a riprap jetty in about three feet of water. The largemouth bass was caught and the two strikes were elicited as we employed a slow-paced retrieve that was punctuated by some occasional pauses and twitches. The style of retrieve is similar to the way we employ a neutrally-buoyant jerkbait, but at this point in time, Holscher’s baits are not neutrally buoyant, and we did not have any lead on board to make them neutrally buoyant.

Shortly after the first 30 minutes elapsed, Holscher began wielding a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Sprayed Grass ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce homemade jig, and it caught one largemouth bass along one of the steepest sections of the west shoreline while he was employing a hop-and-bounce presentation.

Eventually, I joined Holscher and employed a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. O’Dell continued to field-test some different hues of Hoslcher’s crankbait, and Holscher and I occasionally tested them, too.
Before O’Dell headed to the doctor’s office, the Finesse ShadZ rig caught two largemouth bass, the Junebug ZinkerZ rig caught two largemouth bass, and Hoscher’s PB&J crankbait caught one largemouth bass.
The PB&J crankbait caught its largemouth bass at a riprap jetty in about five feet of water.

The Finesse ShadZ caught one largemouth bass on a riprap jetty in four feet of water on a slow hop-and-bounce retrieve, and it caught another largemouth bass along a flat portion of the west shoreline in about six feet of water and 20 feet from the outside edge of a patch of American water willows on a drag-and-deadstick retrieve.
The Junebug ZinkerZ caught one largemouth bass along the outside edge of a patch of American water willows with a hop-and-bounce retrieve in about four feet of water. It caught another largemouth bass along a steep shoreline that is not embellished with American water willows, and this largemouth bass was caught in about six feet of water on an extremely slow hop and bounce retrieve.

After O’Dell left, Holscher spent the rest of the outing field-testing several different colors and sizes of the crankbait, and I worked with the Junebug ZinkerZ rig.
His Kansas-craw-colored crankbait caught two largemouth bass on a wind-blown riprap jetty in about four feet of water. And it caught one largemouth bass on a wind-sheltered riprap jetty.

The Junebug ZinkerZ rig caught two largemouth bass with a slow hop-and-bounce retrieve on the same wind-blown riprap jetty that the crankbait caught two. And it caught one largemouth bass on the initial drop at the same wind-sheltered point that the crankbait caught one largemouth bass.
The Junebug ZinkerZ caught two largemouth bass along two different steep shorelines that are not embellished with American water willows. One was caught in seven to eight feet of water with a slow hop-and-bounce retrieve. The second largemouth bass was caught in about five feet of water on the first hop of a hop-and-bounce retrieve.

We failed to garner a strike along the dam, the wind-blown point and its nearby shorelines, and the second wind-blow riprap jetty that we fished.

In short, we caught 15 largemouth bass. The prototype crankbait caught five largemouth bass. The Finesse ShadZ rig caught two largemouth bass. The ZinkerZ rigs caught eight largemouth bass.

Dec. 23 log

Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 23 outing with his father at a U.S. Army Corp of Engineers’ reservoir in northwestern Arkansas.

Here is a revised and condensed version of his log:

From Nov. 14 to Dec. 23 my father and I fished four times, focusing on the upper end of this reservoir. About every 14 days during this spell, El Niño doused northwestern Arkansas with significant downpours of rain, causing the water levels to rise and become riled. Furthermore, the wind howled, reaching to 20 to 30 mph during our outings, which made it difficult at times for me to employ a Midwest finesse rig. Thus, we spent the bulk of our time during our first two outings wielding either a Spro’s RkCrawler 55 or a Storm Lure’s Wiggle Wart inside the primary feeder-creek arm and a big secondary feeder-creek arm in the upper reaches of the reservoir, which lie more than 48 miles from the dam. It is what anglers describe as the riverine section of the reservoir.

We never fished in the clear-water sections of the reservoir.  We fished only stained-water locales, where the clarity  ranged from two to four feet of visibility, and we could  see the propeller and lower unit on the outboard motor. The visibility in the muddy areas was six inches. The surface temperature of the stained water was in the middle 50s for six weeks, which is an unusual phenomenon in late December. Normally, the surface temperature in late December is in the mid-40s. This time around, the surface temperature in the muddy-water areas of the reservoir was in the high-40-degree range.

As the water level rose and the water became murky, we moved down the reservoir to stay ahead of the mud-line, and on our third outing, we moved out of the two feeder-creek arms or the riverine section that we plied on our first two outings, and we fished in the main body in the upper reaches of  the reservoir.

On the third outing, we focused on bluffs along the main body – especially bluff ends where the geological terrain switched from rock ledges to gravel and red clay, and the most bountiful bluff ends were also endowed with flooded trees and laydowns.  Other fruitful locations along the bluffs occurred in cuts, coves, and hollows. Some of them  are about  100 yards long and 30 yards wide, and there is 40 to 50 feet of water at their mouths and eight to 10 feet of water in the backs of them. The best ones were filled with logjams and schools of shad.

When we were fishing one of those cuts, I quickly realized that a Midwest finesse rig, such as a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin-orange ZinkerZ affixed to a 1/8-ounce Prescription Plastics’ Ozarks Finesse Head jig, would outperform our crankbaits.

IMG_2889-1

The three lures that Charlie Croom and his father used on their four outings.

 

Along the bluff ends and inside the cuts, coves, and hollows, I probed the logs and laydowns in five to 10 feet of water with the ZinkerZ rig. One of the cuts yielded nine spotted bass in nine consecutive casts and retrieves.

Our final outing occurred on Dec. 23, which was three days before El Niño whacked us again, causing the reservoir’s water level to climb from 1124.5 feet above sea level on Dec. 26 to 1132.04 feet above sea level on Dec. 28.

We fished from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and we caught 18 black bass. The water level had increased more than three feet since our last outing, and the water clarity had deteriorated, too. So, we spent a lot of the time searching for areas to fish.  We worked our way down the lake until we were about 33 miles from the dam. During this time, the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin-orange ZinkerZ affixed to a 1/8-ounce Prescription Plastics’ Ozarks Finesse Head jig outclassed our crankbaits by a ratio of three to one. This rig caught a 20-incher along a bluff inside a small  feeder creek, which occurred when the boat was floating in 35 feet of water along this bluff. In a crevice or niche on this bluff, there was a sliver of shade, and I skipped the ZinkerZ rig into this crevice and allowed it to plummet to the bottom. After it fell about five feet, it stopped. I thought that it had dropped on to a ledge, but as I lifted the rod that 20-inch largemouth bass  started to swim with the ZinkerZ in its mouth towards the boat. Upon landing it, I quickly measured it and took a photograph of it, and while I was doing that I inadvertently caught a spotted bass when my ZinkerZ rig accidentally plummeted back to the bottom.

This is the  shady  and stained-water niche where Charlie Croom caught a 20-inch largemouth bass.

Here is what I learned during these four outings when the water was rising and becoming muddy: It was essential to stay slightly ahead of  the mud line as it moves down the reservoir, and this allowed us to probe the stained water lairs along the steep shorelines or bluffs on the main lake and in nearby coves and small feeder creeks. The most fruitful steep shorelines were endowed with laydowns, logjams, and flooded timber. In short, it was essential to focus on the combination of bluffs, shad, stained water, and wood, and on those four outings, we fished for 22 hours and caught 158 black bass.

Since our Dec. 23 outing, the Ozark region experienced significant flooding, and the water level at the reservoir that we were fishing reached an all-time high. So, we are going to take a break and let the water settle down before we get afloat again.

Dec. 24 log

Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, filed a log on the Finesse News Network, which noted how El Nino affected the waterways that he fishes.

Here is an edited and condensed version of his report about his bank-walking outing with Norman Brown of Lewisville, Texas, on Dec. 24.

Since the end of November, the black bass fishing in north-central Texas has been horrendous. What’s more, I have not fished since Dec. 9 when Rick Allen of Dallas and I traveled to a Civilian Conservation Corps’ hill-land reservoir in south-central Oklahoma, where we struggled to catch six smallmouth bass and two largemouth bass during five hours of fishing.

One of the reasons that I have not been fishing is that all but one of our local U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoirs are closed and they are overflowing with water, which is the result of the torrential downpours that swept across north-central Texas during the Thanksgiving weekend. The one reservoir that is open is muddy, and the water level is over six feet high. Traditionally, this reservoir has never been a good wintertime venue for black bass fishing when the water conditions are normal. Therefore, I have not been able to muster any enthusiasm to fish it.

Another reason why I have not fished since Dec. 9 is that our smaller community reservoirs, which we traditionally ply this time of year, are also cold and muddy. And those water conditions tend to make black bass fishing extremely problematic.

For the past few days, the weather in north-central Texas has been more like early November than late December. The early morning lows are in the middle 50s and afternoon highs climbed into the upper 60s to low 70s. The average low temperature for this time of year is 31 degrees and the average high temperature is 53 degrees. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature for Dec. 24 at 53 degrees and the afternoon high reached 70 degrees. The wind quartered out of the west-by-northwest at 8 to 13 mph. The barometric pressure measured 28.82 inches of mercury at 11:30 a.m., and it increased to 28.92 inches by 3:00 p.m.

I decided to make a 30-mile drive on Dec. 24 to check out two small community reservoirs that lie in two suburbs north of Dallas. Norman Brown joined me at the first reservoir, and we fished it from about 11: 30 a.m. to about 1:30 p.m. I fished the second reservoir by myself from about 2:00 p.m. to about 3:30 p.m. In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated the best fishing periods would occur from 2:50 a.m. to 4:50 a.m., 9:05 a.m. to 11:05 a.m., and 9:33 p.m. to 11:33 p.m.

The first reservoir Norman and I fished is about 12 acres in size. The water was stained with an odd chartreuse tint, and displayed about 1 1/2 feet of visibility. The water level appeared to be about normal. I did not have the means to measure the water temperature.

Before Norman arrived, I started fishing a cove on the southeastern side of the reservoir. This terrain is steep and graced with rock and clay. A small creek channel courses its way from the south side of the cove to its northeast corner. A broad mud and gravel point extends northward from the south shoreline and forms the mouth to this cove. I caught one largemouth bass from the northeast corner of this cove, and it was relating to the west side of the creek channel in five feet of water. It engulfed a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rigged on a brown 1/16-ounce Gopher jig that was presented with a slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. I failed to garner any strikes along the steep east-side shoreline, along the south end of the creek channel, or on the mud and gravel point.

After I finished fishing this cove, I worked my way westward along the south shoreline. This shoreline is comprised of rock and sand. It is endowed with a ledge. A broad point and an adjacent flat occupy the middle section and west end of this shoreline. I caught one largemouth bass on the top of the broad point in about three feet of water on the ZinkerZ rig and a slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. Norman arrived a few minutes later, and we continued to fish our way westward along this same shoreline. We caught two largemouth bass and lost another largemouth bass that were abiding in four feet of water on the west end of the flat. All three of these largemouth bass were caught on the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ implemented with a slow swim-glide-and-shake action.

After that, we plied the west shoreline. This shoreline is comprised of sand, gravel, and rocks, as well as a ledge that drops off into five to eight feet of water. This shoreline failed to yield any largemouth bass.

After we failed to entice any strikes along the west shoreline, we slowly fished our way eastward along the north shoreline. This shoreline is mostly straight. It is endowed with a rock and clay ledge that drops off into five feet of water. It failed to yield a bass.

We then probed a long sand, gravel, and rock point that extends westward from the east shoreline. This point separates the southeast cove from a cove in the northeast corner of the reservoir. We caught one largemouth bass from six feet of water on the tip of this point on the 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ and swim-glide-and-shake retrieve.

The last area we fished at this reservoir was the northeast cove. This 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 failed to surrender any bass.

Norman and I employed a variety of Z-Man ElaZtech plastic baits affixed to an array of colors and sizes of Gopher mushroom jig heads, and we could only eke out four largemouth bass in two hours.

After we finished fishing the 12-acre reservoir, Norman left to run some errands, and I made a 20-minute drive to a 30-acre community reservoir that has always baffled me during our dreaded mid-December to mid-March winter fishing period.

The water conditions at this reservoir has improved significantly since I last checked it on December 3, when the water was extremely muddy with less than a foot of visibility and the water level was about a foot high. On this Dec. 24 outing, the water was stained with about 1 1/2-feet of visibility. The water level was normal.

The north end of this reservoir encompasses a large and shallow mud flat with tall stands of cattails lining its shoreline. It is a protected migratory waterfowl nesting area.

The east shoreline is steep and curved. A long, clay and gravel point stretches westward into the middle of the reservoir. A small brush pile is positioned on the south side of this point. A broad sand and gravel point is located along the middle section of this shoreline, and it is steeper than the long clay and gravel point.

The southern border of this reservoir is formed by a smooth concrete slab dam.

The west shoreline is steep and covered with sand and gravel. A 75-foot fishing pier is positioned along the middle section of this shoreline. A thin wall of hydrilla runs underneath the fishing pier and parallels the shoreline in eight feet of water. This area is where I spent the last 90 minutes of my outing.

I stood on the fishing pier and concentrated on the thin wall of hydrilla and the steep sand and gravel shorelines that are adjacent to the pier. I wielded two rigs: a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ affixed to a brown 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a 2 1/4-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin FattyZ tail affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. This area surrendered 23 largemouth bass that were relating to the thin wall of hydrilla in eight feet of water. Thirteen largemouth bass were caught on the 2 1/4-inch FattyZ tail rig and 10 were caught on the 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rig. Both of these lures were retrieved with a slow and subtle hop-and bounce presentation that was accentuated with a five- to 10-second deadstick routine. The strikes were very tentative and occurred during the deadstick portion of this presentation.

All told, this was the most bountiful December outing I have ever experienced at this 30-acre reservoir or at any other reservoir in north-central Texas. Norman and I caught a total of 27 largemouth bass during this 3 1/2-hour endeavor, which in our eyes is an outstanding wintertime outing in north-central Texas. Fourteen largemouth bass were allured by the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a brown 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Thirteen largemouths were enticed into striking the 2 1/4-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin FattyZ tail section and chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. A slow and subtle hop-and-bounce-and-deadstick retrieve was the most fruitful presentation.

Unfortunately, local meteorologists are forecasting an end to our pleasant early-winter weather. A significant cold front that will be accompanied by severe thunderstorms is expected to plow across north-central Texas during the late evening hours of Dec. 25 and continuing through Dec. 27. They predict that 3 1/2-inches of rain will fall. We are concerned that this cold-rain event will prolong the wretched water conditions at our local waterways and extinguish the first decent bass bite that we have seen since mid-November.

Dec. 26 log

Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, filed a log on the Finesse News Network about his bank-walking outing with Norman Brown of Lewisville, Texas, on Dec. 26.

Here is an edited and condensed version of his report:

We noted in our Dec. 24 log that Mother Nature was about to put an end to our unseasonably warm weather. In fact, as I am writing this log it is raining cats and dogs, and 40-degree daytime temperatures will replace the 70-degree temperatures that we have enjoyed during the past week.

As a final hurrah to our 2015 fishing season, Norman Brown and I enjoyed an afternoon bank-walking endeavor at a 20-acre community reservoir located in a suburb northwest of Dallas. In winters past, this has been a problematic reservoir. For example, between 2003 and 2013, I and several cohorts were unable to garner a single strike from this reservoir from mid-November through mid-March, and it reached the point where we seriously considered not fishing it at all during the winter months. But our results began to change in November and December of 2014, when I was able to break that horrid famine by catching five largemouth bass during November of 2014, and four largemouth bass during December of 2014 by employing Midwest finesse tactics.

And on Dec. 24, I fished this reservoir from about 2:00 p.m. to about 3:30 p.m., and I caught and released 23 largemouth bass, which is considered a stellar outing in December at any public waterway in north-central Texas.

The purpose of our Dec. 26 outing was to determine if my Dec. 24 outing was a fluke.
According to the National Weather Service, the morning low temperature for Dec. 26 was 67 degrees and the afternoon high climbed to a balmy 80 degrees, and I was dressed in short pants and a short-sleeved shirt. It rained off and on during the early morning hours of Dec. 26, but by 8:00 a.m., the rain had stopped and the sky remained overcast throughout the day. The wind angled out of the southeast at 15 mph at 11:00 a.m., but by 3:00 p.m., the wind was howling out of the southeast at 25 to 40 mph. The barometric pressure was low and measured 28.97 inches of mercury at 11:00 a.m., and it dropped to 28.83 inches by 3:00 p.m.

Severe thunderstorms followed by a strong cold front and 60 to 70 mph winds are forecast to roar across north-central Texas during the late evening hours of Dec. 26, and the thunderstorms are expected to last into the early morning hours of Dec. 28, when the rain will change into snow flurries. Air temperatures are predicted to drop into the mid-20s at night by Dec. 27, and daytime highs will struggle to reach the low to mid-40s during the next seven days.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated the best fishing periods for Dec. 26 would take place from 4:51 a.m. to 6:51 a.m., 5:18 p.m. to 7:18 p.m., and 11:04 p.m. to 1:04 a.m. I fished from about 11:00 a.m. to about 3:00 p.m. Norman joined me a short time later and he fished from about 11:30 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m.

When I began fishing, the water was stained, exhibiting about 1 1/2-feet of visibility, but as the afternoon progressed and the wind velocity continued to increase, the wind stirred up the water and the water clarity decreased to about a foot of visibility. The water level appeared normal. I did not have the means to measure the water temperature.

I started fishing the west side of the reservoir where Norman joined me when he arrived. The west shoreline is steep and covered with sand and gravel. A 75-foot fishing pier is positioned along the middle section of this shoreline. A thin wall of hydrilla runs underneath the fishing pier and parallels the shoreline in eight feet of water. This wall of hydrilla is about 35 feet long. We stood on the fishing pier and concentrated on the thin wall of hydrilla and the steep sand and gravel shorelines that are adjacent to the pier. This wall of hydrilla yielded 24 largemouth bass that were relating to the top and deep-water edge of the hydrilla in five to eight feet of water. Nineteen largemouth bass engulfed a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a brown 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Four were caught on a 2 1/4-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin FattyZ tail on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. One was enticed into striking a Z-Man’s Junebug Finesse ShadZ and black 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. All three of these lures were employed with a slow hop-and-bounce retrieve that was punctuated with a five-second deadstick routine.

We plied a sand and gravel tertiary point just south of the fishing pier, and it relinquished four largemouth bass that were abiding in three to five feet of water and about ten feet from the water’s edge. All four of these bass were coaxed into striking the 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rig and slow hop-and-bounce-and-deadstick presentation.

We then worked our way southward toward the dam. The southern perimeter of this reservoir is formed by a smooth concrete slab dam, and it failed to yield any bass.

After that, we fished our way northward along the east shoreline. The east shoreline is steep and curved. A broad and steep sand and gravel point is located along the middle section of this shoreline. About 20 yards north of this broad point lies a long, clay, and gravel point that stretches westward into the middle of the reservoir. A small brush pile is positioned on the south side of this point.

The broad point in the middle section of the shoreline surrendered two largemouth bass that were abiding in five feet of water and about 15 feet from the water’s edge. Both of these bass engulfed the 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ and slow hop-and-bounce-and deadstick retrieve.

Twelve largemouth bass were extracted from four to six feet of water along the south side of the long clay and gravel point. They were caught on a shortened four-inch Z-Man’s Coppertreuse Finesse WormZ rigged on either a black or a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The Finesse WormZ rigs were retrieved with a drag-and-deadstick presentation.

At about 2:30 p.m., Norman left and I spent the last 30 minutes fishing the north end of the reservoir. The north end of the reservoir encompasses a large and shallow mud flat with tall stands of cattails that line the shoreline. A small creek enters the reservoir along the east end of the shoreline. I wielded the 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rig and hop-and-bounce-and-deadstick presentation, and I inadvertently caught two green sunfish from a fairly deep pool in the upper end of the small creek. The tall stands of cattails prevented me from fishing the remainder of the northern shoreline.

Overall, the fishing was outstanding. We set another new wintertime Midwest finesse numbers record for north-central Texas reservoirs by catching 42 largemouth bass in four hours, and we inadvertently caught two large green sunfish. Most of these bass were small, but they entertained us throughout the afternoon. The largest specimen weighed two pounds, three ounces.

Twenty-five largemouth bass were caught on the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ. Twelve largemouth bass were caught on the shortened four-inch Z-Man’s Coppertreuse Finesse WormZ. Four were caught on the 2 1/4-inch green-pumpkin FattyZ tail. One was caught on a Junebug Finesse ShadZ. A slow and subtle hop-and-bounce-and-deadstick retrieve was the most fruitful presentation, but the drag-and- deadstick retrieve became effective later in the afternoon.

To our delight and astonishment, this community reservoir yielded 65 largemouth bass across two outings and encompassing a span of 5 1/2 hours. In north-central Texas, that is an unheard average of 11 largemouth bass per hour.

Dec. 27 log

Travis Myers of Paw Paw, West Virginia, filed a brief on the Finesse News Network about three river outings.

Here is an edited version of his brief:

The remarkably warm weather that has graced eastern West Virginia has created the best December fishing I have ever encountered during my many years of chasing riverine smallmouth bass.
We have had plenty of rain lately. But at the steep-cliff-wall holes that I have been dissecting, it has not affected the fishing.

Yet it does take a lot of energy to get to and back from those holes, and according to the newest electronic gizmo on my kayak, it was a 7.2 mile journey downstream to the holes that I fished, and of course, it was an excruciating 7.2-mile paddle upstream to get back to the truck. I have never journeyed to these locales this late in the year.

I fished three times last week for a total of 14 hours, which does not include travel time, and I caught 193 smallmouth bass, which is a phenomenal river catch rate.

One of the smallmouth bass weighed 5.7 pounds, and I caught it on a heavily customized Z-Man’s EZ TubeZ. It was the only specimen that I weighed this year; I normally just record how long they are. It is an absolute monster on this two-cast-wide river, and it is no doubt the biggest female for miles and miles around my house. And forevermore, it will be the fish of many memories.

Dec. 31 log

Walt Tegtmeier of Leawood, Kansas, filed a brief on the Finesse News Network about his short Dec. 31 outing at a community reservoir that lies in the west suburbs of the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Here is an edited version of his brief:

The Weather Underground reported that it was 23 degrees at 3:53 a.m. and 37 degrees at 2:53 p.m. The wind angled mild manneredly out of the west, west by northwest, southwest, west by southwest, northwest, and north by northwest at 3 to 10 mph. The sky fluctuated from being overcast to clear to mostly cloudy to partly cloudy and to having a scattering of clouds. The barometric pressure was 30.39 at 12:53 a.m., 30.40 at 5:53 a.m., 30.43 at 11:53 a.m., and 30.40 at 3:53 p.m.

I fished from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The surface temperature in the vicinity of the dam was 41.2 degrees and 40.8 degrees in the upper porti0ns of its primary feeder-creek arm. About five percent of the reservoir was covered with a thin sheet of ice. The water exhibited about 18 inches of visibility.

I spent the entire outing fishing the east shoreline in the upper portions of the primary feeder-creek arm with a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a Z-Man’s Pearl Rain MinnowZ on a red 1/16-0unce Gopher jig.

After I fished more than 100 yards of that shoreline without catching a largemouth bass on my ZinkerZ rig, I began using the Rain MinnowZ and I caught a largemouth bass on my second or third cast by employing a swim-and-glide retrieve around a patch of coontail. Then adjacent to a ladder at the corner of a nearby boat dock, the Rain MinnowZ caught five largemouth bass. The Rain MinnowZ caught two more largemouth bass along the shoreline. I fished this east shoreline until I reached the ice.

Then I spent the rest of this short outing dissecting the patches of coontail near the area where I caught the first largemouth bass. This time I employed a slow drag and twitch presentation through the patches of coontail, and I hooked some of the coontail and brought it into the boat, and it exhibited its blackish-brown-wintertime hue, which makes it look as if is dying. From these patches, I caught seven largemouth bass, and several of them were caught after I ripped the Rain MinnowZ rig free when it became lightly snagged in one of the patches of coontail. Two of the seven were handsome brutes.

It was a great short winter outing.

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