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Midwest Finesse Fishing: December 2016

by Ned Kehde   |  January 4th, 2017 0
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Kelly Morris of Gardner, Kansas, on a bitterly cold outing in northeastern Kansas on Dec. 12.

This guide to Midwest finesse fishing contains 16 logs and 12,615 words that detail how, when, and where Midwest finesse anglers fished during December, which is when Old Man Winter often exhibits his tendencies to wreak havoc with anglers’ best-laid piscatorial plans and desires. And that old man waylaid several Midwest finesse anglers this time around.

  It features the endeavors of Abe Abernathy of Greensboro, North Carolina; Rick Allen of Dallas; Burton Bosley of Sutton, West Virginia; Steve Creasey of Elkins, West Virginia; Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri; Bob Gum of Kansas City, Kansas; Ralph Manns of Rockwell, Texas; Kelly Morris of Gardner, Kansas; Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina; Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas; and John Thomas of Denton, Texas; as well as my northeastern Kansas logs. 

We are delighted that Steve Reideler proof read each log and made them more readable and understandable.

Dec. 2 log

After the first 90 minutes had lapsed during my Dec. 2 outing at one of northeastern Kansas’ heavily fished community reservoirs, I was thinking about  putting the boat on the trailer and either going  home or to another area reservoir.

The Weather Underground reported that the low temperature was 16 degrees and the high temperature was 50 degrees.   The normal low temperature for Dec. 2 is 25 degrees and the normal high temperature is 47 degrees.  Primarily, the wind was calm, and when it did stir, it angled out of the west by northwest and northwest at 3 to 4 mph.  Except for about a 30-minute spell when a series of thin cirrus clouds ventured overhead, the sun was shining everywhere. The barometric pressure was 30.17 at 12:52 a.m., 30.24 at 5:52 a.m., 30.30 at 11:52 a.m., and 30.30 at 2:52 p.m.

The surface temperature was 49 to 50 degrees. The water exhibited 3 1/2 to five feet of visibility. The water level looked to be normal.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing should transpire from 11:49 a.m. to 1:49 p.m., 12:13 p.m. to 2:13 p.m., and 6:01 a.m. to 8:01 a.m.  I fished from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

During the first 90 minutes, I fished the dam, and a main-lake point in the upper quarter of the reservoir, and a massive shallow-water and coontail-laden flat in the upper reaches of this reservoir’s primary feeder-creek arm.

The dam is lined with patches of American water willows and some patches of coontail grace the outside edges of  the American water willows.  The underwater terrain consists of rocks. The dam exhibits a 45-degree slope. It took me 45 minutes to fish it, and I caught five largemouth bass on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man Fishing Products’ pearl ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle’s Mushroom Head jig. These largemouth bass were abiding in four to seven feet of water. I caught them while I was employing either a drag-and-deadstick presentation or a swim-glide-and-no-shake retrieve.

I failed to elicit a strike at the main-lake point and one of its adjacent shorelines.

I caught two largemouth bass on back-to-back casts with the pearl ZinkerZ rig around one of the many coontail patches that grace the massive shallow-water and silt-laden flat in the upper reaches of the reservoir. One was caught on the initial drop.  The other one was caught on the swim-glide-and-no-shake retrieve. They were abiding in about four feet of water.

There was a significant number of gizzard shad milling about and dimpling the surface around the patches of coontail on this flat. In years past, Midwest finesse anglers have caught impressive numbers of largemouth bass on this flat when the gizzard shad were moseying about. But not this time: I wielded six Midwest finesse rigs and employed six Midwest finesse retrieves for about 35 minutes without eliciting a strike. At 12:30 p.m., I was at a point of piscatorial despair,  and I was ready to put the boat on the trailer. But before I started the outboard, I sashayed over to one of the shorelines that borders this flat, and I made some random and half-hearted casts with a Z-Man’s pearl Rain MinnowZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

To my surprise and delight, I caught three largemouth bass in seven minutes on the Rain MinnowZ rig. These largemouth bass were caught in three to four feet of water while I was executing a slow reel-and-pause presentation, which allowed the rig to glide along the contour of the bottom and a few inches above it. It also allowed it to glide through and above the patches of coontail.

From 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., I dissected portions of the shorelines on both sides of this flat. And when I began employing a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s California craw ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, my catch rate climbed considerably. Along one shoreline, I caught 22 largemouth bass, and on the other shoreline, I caught 24 largemouth bass. Thirty-nine of them were caught on the California craw ZinkerZ rig.

The underwater terrain of both shorelines that are immediately adjacent to the shallow-water and coontail-laden flat consists of silt and rock. And they are flat. They gradually become steeper when the submerged creek-channel meanders close to them. Along the steeper sections, which possess a 35- to 45-degree slope, their underwater terrains consist of gravel, rocks, and a few boulders.

One shoreline is lined with rock and concrete retaining walls, and it is littered with docks. It has some patches of American water willows and coontail.

There are no docks and retaining walls along the portions of the other shoreline that I fished. This shoreline is adorned with patches of American water willows and coontail, as well as several laydowns.

The deeper and steeper sections of these shorelines were not fruitful. The flatter and the moderately deep and steep sections were the bountiful ones.

Along a 100-foot stretch of the shoreline that is devoid of docks, I caught 18 largemouth bass on the California craw ZinkerZ rig. I caught six of them in back-to-back casts.  Four of the 18 largemouth bass were caught on the initial drop.  The rest of them were caught while I was employing either a drag-and-deadstick retrieve or a reel-and-pause presentation. These largemouth bass were abiding in three to seven feet of water, and most of them were near a laydown, a patch of coontail, or a patch of American water willows. The other six were caught along the flatter and shallower section of this shoreline, and they were abiding around patches of American water willows and coontail in about two feet of water, and they were caught on the initial drop.

Along the shoreline that is littered with docks, I caught 22 largemouth bass.  Five of them were caught on the pearl Rain MinnowZ rig. The rest were caught on the California craw ZinkerZ rig. Nine of them were caught along the moderately steep and rock-laden portions of the shoreline, and four of these nine largemouth bass were associated with patches of American water willows. These nine largemouth bass were extracted out of three to eight feet of water. Thirteen of the 22 largemouth bass were caught along the shallower section of this shoreline, and they were abiding around retaining walls, patches of coontail, or patches of American water willows. They were abiding in three to four feet of water. Two were caught on the initial drop. The rest of them were caught on either the drag-and-deadstick presentation or the reel-and-pause retrieve.

In sum, I caught 53 largemouth bass and inadvertently caught one black crappie. Forty-four of them were caught in 150 minutes.

It is interesting to note that the surface temperature on Dec. 2, 2008, was 40 to 42 degrees; it was 44 to 45 degrees in 2010; it was 39 to 40 degrees in 2011, and it was 42 degrees in 2013.  On this Dec. 2 outing, I saw an aquatic turtle sunning itself on top of a patch of American water willows, and two dandelions were gloriously blooming adjacent to the boat ramp. What’s more, never before have I had to deal with leaves falling from the trees and cluttering the surface around areas that I was attempting to dissect; those leaf-woes are normally an October phenomenon in northeastern Kansas.

Dec. 2 log

Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, filed a log on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 2 outing.

Here is an edited version of his log:

During the morning hours of Dec. 2, I watched a local TV meteorologist forecast that rain and 50-degree air temperatures would arrive around 6:00 p.m. on Dec. 2. And by Dec. 7, area thermometers would be hovering in the low to mid-40s.  What’s more, the rain will continue off and on through Dec. 5. This dismal weather forecast encouraged me to get out and relish one last day of fishing before the cold front and rain arrived.

When I left my driveway at about 10:45 a.m., the sky was mostly cloudy with short spells of sunshine. As I arrived at the boat ramp at about 11:30 a.m., the sky was overcast and gloomy. The morning low temperature was 43 degrees and the afternoon high was 63 degrees. As I launched the boat at 11:42 a.m., the wind was mild mannered and meandered out of the east at 3 to 7 mph. The barometric pressure measured 30.16. When I trailered the boat at 4:03 p.m., the wind had picked up significantly and blew out of the north at 15 mph. The barometric pressure had dropped to 30.08. The sky was still overcast but getting darker.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing would most likely take place from 6:10 a.m. to 8:10 a.m., 11:58 a.m. to 1:58 p.m., and 12:22 p.m. to 2:22 p.m. I fished from noon to 3:52 p.m.

The water in this U.S. Army Corps’ of Engineers’ reservoir was stained and exhibited a little over two feet of visibility. The water level was about half of a foot high. The water temperature was 60 degrees.

To start, I made a beeline to the dam, which is covered with riprap. It forms the southern boundary of the reservoir. Five other anglers in three bass boats were already there when I arrived. I slowly fished a 75-yard section of a rock-laden flat just east of the dam, but I failed to elicit any strikes.

From that rocky flat, I began fishing my way westward along the dam. I fished behind the other five anglers and caught six largemouth bass. These largemouth bass were caught in four to six feet of water on a shortened Z-Man’s pearl Hula StickZ attached to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. This combo was presented with a slow swim-glide-and-subtle-shake retrieve. While I was probing the riprap along the face of the dam, I also employed a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a shortened four-inch Z-Man’s EZ Money Finesse WormZ affixed on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, a shortened four-inch Z-Man’s Junebug Finesse WormZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and a shortened four-inch Z-Man’s coppertreuse Finesse WormZ affixed on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. I experimented with a slow drag-and deadstick retrieve, hop-and-bounce retrieve, swim-glide-and-no-shake retrieve, a slow and steady do-nothing retrieve, and a slow strolling retrieve as I drifted with the wind in 10 to 17 feet of water, but I failed to generate any strikes with these offerings and presentations.

From the dam, I moved westward to a main-lake point in the southeast region of the southwest tributary arm where I failed to entice any strikes with the pearl Hula StickZ and 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rigs.

After plying that main-lake point, I moved inside a main-lake cove, where I fished a 75-yard stretch of shoreline that is lined with the remnants of flooded terrestrial vegetation in three to five feet of water. This stretch of shoreline lies in the northeast portion of the cove. It relinquished seven largemouth bass that were relating to the outside edges of the flooded terrestrial vegetation. All seven of these bass were caught with the 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rig and swim-glide-and-subtle-shake retrieve. I was unable to engender any strikes with the shortened pearl Hula StickZ or shortened four-inch Finesse WormZ rigs.

While I was fishing inside the main-lake cove, I noticed that the wind had picked up and the main-lake areas were covered with endless ranks of white caps. I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to fight the wind and waves, so I decided to skip the remaining main-lake lairs that I had planned to fish and took refuge inside a nearby feeder-creek arm that also lies on the south side of the southwest tributary arm.

This feeder-creek arm is endowed with steep clay and gravel shorelines. Submerged rocks and boulders also litter parts of its shoreline. A marina occupies the first half of the feeder-creek arm. This creek arm is also endowed with  several steep clay and gravel secondary points, two concrete boat ramps, two small creeks that enter the creek arm from the southeast and southwest shorelines, and several shallow mud flats.

I caught two largemouth bass from a shallow and rocky flat along the northeast shoreline. They were relating to several submerged boulders in three to five feet of water. They were both caught while I was slowly dragging and deadsticking the 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rig across the bottom and adjacent to the boulders.

One spotted bass was caught in about two feet of water off one of the two concrete boat ramps. This ramp is situated on the west shoreline in the middle of the creek arm. It was caught on the 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rig on the initial cast. I failed to elicit any strikes from the other boat ramp that is positioned on the south shoreline in the back end of the creek arm.

One largemouth bass was caught off a steep clay and gravel secondary point along the east shoreline. This bass was abiding in eight feet of water. It was caught on the hop-and-bounce presentation with the 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rig.

The last largemouth bass was caught at another flat clay and gravel secondary point that is located on the south end of the east shoreline. This largemouth bass was relating to a small patch of flooded terrestrial vegetation in three feet of water. It was caught on the 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ combo and as it slowly dropped to the bottom on the initial cast.

Overall, I tangled with 17 largemouth bass and one spotted bass in three hours and fifty-two minutes. Though this catch rate may seem lackluster to many Midwest finesse anglers across the country, anglers in my neck of the woods would consider this an above average outing at this reservoir during this time of year. But I suspect that the aftereffects from the approaching cold front and cold rain will drop the water temperatures below 58 degrees in many of our waterways, and it will mark the end of our late-fall black bass bite in north-central Texas.

Dec. 3 log  

Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 3 outing.

Here is an edited and condensed version of his report:

On December 3, I had the pleasure of having Abe Abernathy of Greensboro, North Carolina,  join me for an afternoon outing. The intent was to expose Abe to the usefulness of Z-Man’s Hula StickZ.

The water exhibited two feet of visibility, which is extremely clear water for this reservoir. The surface temperature was 53 degrees.

It was mostly sunny. The low temperature was 38 degrees, and the high temperature was 54 degrees. The wind angled out of the northwest at 7 mph.

We fished from 10:00 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Abe fishes year around, and he has a well-known reputation for catching big stringers of largemouth bass early in the year. I thought the Hula StickZ would be another tool for him. He has an aversion to spinning tackle. But when the Hula StickZ is rigged on a heavier jig, it works well on a baitcasting outfit.

Alas, the largemouth bass were not foraging on the bottom, and the Hula StickZ was not effective during our Dec. 3 outing. I know that it can be retrieved off of the bottom, and I hope to work on that presentation in the future.  On this outing, a 2 1/2-inch Strike King Lure Company’s Zero and crankbaits proved a better choice.

The two largemouth bass that we photographed came from an underwater mill dam that is about six feet under the surface. And we caught six from this spot around stumps and rocks. One was caught on a crayfish-hue Rapala No. 5 Shad Rap. Four were caught on a Strike King black-back-chartreuse KVD 1.5  Shallow Crankbait. We retrieved the crankbaits with a free swimming mode. A Z-Man’s Junebug Hula StickZ affixed to a black  1/6-ounce Z-Man’s Weedless Finesse ShroomZ jig caught one largemouth bass.

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Abe Abernathy with one of the 27 largemouth bass that they caught.

After that early flurry of catching six largemouth bass, we endured a lot of casting with no success. In the third feeder-creek arm, we fished with the 2 1/2-inch Strike King purple-haze Zero affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and it caught several largemouth bass that were not on the bottom. We presented it with a slow shake-and-glide retrieve. I made hundreds of casts with a Hula StickZ before getting more engaged with the Zero.

This trip was also my first effort with a pearl Hula StickZ. It was ignored without a bite even in areas showing lots of shad.

None of the largemouth bass were caught around visible wood, but we caught some around submerged wood. All of them were caught in four to five feet of water and in the vicinity of baitfish. Areas that were devoid of baitfish were devoid of largemouth bass that we could catch. Rock-laden terrains were our primary focus, but we caught some around mud bottoms.

The largemouth bass do not have the luxury of being able to suspend in deep water.  Therefore, Midwest finesse tactics and other techniques can reach them effectively. Abe caught one nice one on a log that we had just placed in deeper water to make it more productive. He caught it on a squarebill crankbait in about five feet of water.

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Mike Poe with a handsome largemouth bass.

We caught 27 largemouth bass, and we lost two big ones because we do not carry a landing net.  About a dozen were caught on the crankbaits. Five were caught on the Junebug Hula StickZ rig.  The rest were caught on the Zero rig.

My efforts in getting Abe to use the Hula StickZ were a failure. But it was a nice way to spend a December afternoon on the water with a North Carolina bass fishing legend. He is in his mid-seventies, and he is still competing and winning team tournaments. His history of tournament wins over the years is untouched in central North Carolina.
Our weather is supposed to be deteriorating; so, it might be awhile before we get afloat again.

Dec. 4 log

Burton Bosley of Sutton, West Virginia, filed a brief on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 4 outing.

Here is an edited version of his brief:

I do not send in many reports because I am not sure if my fishing can be defined as Midwest finesse. But I always have a Z-Man’s Finesse T.R.D  or a Z-Man’s Hula StickZ on a rod and use it to catch a  fish when it is called for. But our reservoirs are filled with forest debris, which makes bottom bouncing with the little rig very difficult — not to mention expensive.

Our water temperature is finally in the high 40s, which is my favorite temperature for employing the float-and-fly technique.

On Nov. 28, the surface temperature was 50 degrees.  I fished the float-and-fly rig and a Z-Man’s Finesse T.R.D. rig. The T.R.D. rig was the most effective.  I used it in 15 feet of water with an ultra-slow presentation along bluffs.

On Dec. 3, it was overcast. The surface temperature was 49 degrees. We could see our bright little hair jig about two feet under the surface.  We presented it around house-size boulders in 15 to 20 feet of water.  We caught 27 smallmouth bass in the first 45 minutes.  By the time the outing ended, we had caught 41 smallmouth bass.  Twelve of them were caught around a bridge abutment. The rest of them were caught on the big boulder pattern.

Dec. 5 log

Kelly Morris of Gardner, Kansas, who is the proprietor of L. Morris Rods, and I fished on Dec. 5 at one of the many community reservoirs that stipple the landscape of northeastern Kansas.

The Weather Underground reported that it was 28 degrees at 3:53 a.m. and 48 degrees at 3:53 p.m. The wind angled out of the south at 3 to 21 mph. From midnight until 1:53 p.m., the conditions of the sky fluctuated from being clear to being misty to light freezing fog to being scattered with clouds to being partly cloudy and to being overcast. The barometric pressure was 30.00 at 12:53 a.m., 29.95 at 5:53 a.m., 29.86 at 11:53 a.m., and 29.78 at 1:53 p.m.

Surface temperature was 47 degrees.  The water level looked to be a few inches below normal.  The water clarity exhibited 3 1/2 to five feet of visibility.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing would occur from 2:31 a.m. to 4:31 a.m., 2:56 p.m. to 4:56 p.m., and 8:44 a.m. to 10:44 a.m. We fished from 10:15 a.m. to 2:13 p.m.

We spent the entire three hours and 58 minutes in the upper-third region of this flatland reservoir. We fished six main-lake points and short portions of their adjacent shorelines, two massive main-lake shorelines, and one short main-lake shoreline. Along the two massive shorelines, we fished seven tertiary points.

Because of the wind, we employed a drift sock more than 90 percent of the time that we were afloat.

At five of the six main-lake points that we dissected, we failed to elicit a strike.

We caught five largemouth bass at one of the main-lake points and along a short segment of one of its adjacent shorelines.  These largemouth bass were caught on either a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s California craw ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig or a Z-Man’s California craw Finesse T.R.D. affixed to a black 1/15-ounce Z-Man’s Weedless Finesse ShroomZ jig. One largemouth bass was caught on the initial drop of the ZinkerZ rig in about three feet of water near a patch of American water willows and in a patch of coontail, and it was caught about eight feet from the water’s edge  The other four were caught on either the Finesse T.R.D. rig or ZinkerZ rig as we executed either a drag-and-shake presentation or a drag-and-deadstick presentation in five feet of water adjacent to the edges of patches of coontail.  These four largemouth bass were extracted out of five to six feet of water, and they were situated from 15 to more than 20 feet from the water’s edge.

Along the short main-lake shoreline that is endowed with patches of coontail, American water willows, a rock-laden underwater terrain, and a 40-degree slope, we failed to garner a strike.

We probed about 400 yards of one of the massive shorelines, and we caught eight largemouth bass along its flatter section and one largemouth bass along its steeper section.

The underwater terrain of the flatter section consists of silt and rocks, and it is embellished with occasional patches of coontail and a few patches of American water willows. It is also littered with docks, and most of it is lined with either rock or concrete retaining walls. This flatter section possesses a 20 to 25-degree slope.

The steeper section possesses a 35-degree to 45-degree slope, and its underwater terrain consists of rocks. It is littered with docks, and virtually every inch of the steeper shoreline is lined with either a rock or a concrete retaining wall. There are some patches of coontail, but many of them are measly. Its patches of  American water willows are also measly. The entire shoreline is lined with either rock or concrete retaining walls.

These nine largemouth bass were caught on either the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s California craw ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig or the Z-Man’s California craw Finesse T.R.D. affixed to a black 1/15-ounce Z-Man’s Weedless Finesse ShroomZ jig.  Two of the largemouth bass were caught on the initial drop of our rigs.  The other largemouth bass were caught while we were employing a drag-and-shake retrieve, a drag-and-deadstick retrieve, or a reel-and-pause retrieve. These bass were caught in water as shallow as three feet and as deep as seven feet. Some were caught within two to four feet from the water’s edge, and others were caught as far as 18 to 22 feet from the water’s edge.

We fished about 350 yards of the other massive shoreline, and it yielded 30 largemouth bass. Fourteen largemouth bass were caught along its flatter sections, and 16 were caught along its steeper section. But many of the 350 yards failed to yield a largemouth bass.

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Kelly Morris with one of the 44 largemouth bass that we caught.

One largemouth bass was caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Twenty-nine of the largemouth bass were caught on either the Finesse T.R.D. rig or ZinkerZ rig.

Four largemouth bass were caught on the initial drop of our rigs. The others were caught as we employed a strolling presentation, a drag-and-shake presentation, drag-and-no-shake presentation, drag-and-deadstick presentation, and the reel-and-pause presentation. The reel-and-pause retrieve was executed along the steeper section of this shoreline, and it allowed the rig to glide about six inches above the contour of the shoreline.  These 30 largemouth bass were caught as close as four feet from the water’s edge to as far as 20 feet from the water’s edge. They were caught in water as shallow as two feet and as deep as nine feet.

The underwater terrain of the steeper portions of this shoreline consists of gravel, rocks, and boulders. It is graced with a few minor laydowns, patches of American water willows, and some meager patches of coontail.  There is one concrete retaining wall along this section.

The underwater terrain of the flatter sections of this shoreline consists of slit, gravel, and rocks.  Some of its shoreline is adorned with patches of American water willows. There are some significant patches of coontail that are growing in three to seven feet of water. Some of these patches are 20 to 30 feet from the water’s edge. There is a section of this shoreline that is lined with concrete and rock retaining walls, and there are six docks.

Along the flatter sections of this shoreline, some of the largemouth bass were caught adjacent to the outside edges of the patches of American water willows, some were extracted from the middle portions of the patches of coontail, and some were caught along the outside and inside edges of the coontail patches.

Along the steeper portions of this shoreline, we caught some largemouth bass adjacent to patches of American water willows and the meager patches of coontail. Others were caught along the rock-laden terrain. Two were caught next to the concrete retaining wall.  A few were caught in close proximity to the laydowns.

In sum, we caught 44 largemouth bass. And 43 of them were caught on either the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s California craw ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig or the Z-Man’s California craw Finesse T.R.D. affixed to a black 1/15-ounce Z-Man’s Weedless Finesse ShroomZ jig.  There was no predominant retrieve. We made hundreds of casts and retrieves that failed to elicit a strike, or in other words, we had a difficult time locating the whereabouts of this reservoir’s largemouth bass.

Dec. 6 log

Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, and I fished on Dec. 6 at a community reservoir in northeastern Kansas that is normally besieged by intense angling pressure. But on this winter-like day, we were the only anglers afloat.

The Weather Underground reported that it was 30 degrees at 2:53 a.m. and 39 degrees at 2:53 p.m. The wind angled out of the west, north by northwest, northwest, and west by northwest at 3 to 28 mph. We employed a drift sock to tame the effects of the wind at several of the areas we fished, and it is not a delightful task to pull a wet drift sock into the boat on a cold December day. The wind chill ranged from 20 degrees to 34 degrees. The sky was overcast from 12:52 a.m. to 4:53 a.m.; it was partly cloudy at 5:53 a.m., and it was clear from 6:53 a.m. to past sunset.  The barometric pressure was 29.82 at 12:53 a.m., 29.99 at 5:53 a.m., 30.12 at 11:53 a.m., and 30.08 at 2:53 p.m. Snow was reported to be in the offing, and it began snowing around 10:53 a.m. on Dec. 8.

Surface temperature ranged from 45 to 47 degrees.  The water exhibited  four to six feet of visibility. The water level looked to be normal.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing would take place from 3:27 a.m. to 5:27 a.m., 3:52 p.m. to 5:52 p.m., and 9:39 a.m. to 11:39 a.m. We fished from 10: 20 a.m. to 2:20 p.m.

From sometime in April until sometime in November, a Midwest finesse angler who plies the flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas can probe scores and scores of shorelines and points, and catch a black bass or two or perhaps three that are scattered along a significant number of those locales. On the most fruitful outings, it is possible to catch 101 black bass in four hours, and on average, about 10 black bass an hour can be caught.

Then from sometime in either November or December until sometime in either March or April, a significant number of the shorelines and points in the flatland reservoirs seem to be barren of largemouth bass that Midwest finesse anglers can catch. Then it is necessary to find the means of tolerating the somewhat boring task of making scores of casts and retrieves along these shorelines and points until a largemouth bass is caught. And when one is caught, another one usually can be caught, and at times, a minor mother lode is discovered and caught.

At the reservoirs that are blessed to have shallow-water flats that are graced with submergent aquatic vegetation, such as coontail, curly-leaf pondweed, or Eurasian milfoil, many of the catchable largemouth bass will be moseying around those flats. And it can take some doing to find where the largemouth bass are abiding on a flat that is the size of several football fields.

On Dec. 6, Frazee and I dissected three main-lake points and short portions of their adjacent shorelines, two main-lake shorelines, seven shorelines inside four secondary feeder-creek arms, and a small portion of a massive flat in the back of one of the feeder-creek arms.

We failed to catch a largemouth bass at the three main-lake points and along six of the seven shorelines inside the feeder-creek arms. We failed to elicit a strike along one of the main-lake shorelines.

The massive flat in the back of one of the feeder-creek arms was not fruitful, but we did catch four largemouth bass and one rainbow trout along the shallow shoreline that borders the flat.  This shoreline is lined with American water willows, and some paltry patches of submergent aquatic vegetation, as well as a few laydowns and one beaver hut.  Its underwater terrain consists of rock, gravel, and silt. The slope of the shoreline is about 20 degrees. The four largemouth bass were caught in three to four feet of water and about 15 feet from the water’s edge on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s California craw ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig that was presented with a drag-and-deadstick presentation.

We caught one largemouth bass along a short segment of a shoreline that is adjacent to one of the main-lake points. It was caught on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. This largemouth bass was caught  in about seven feet of water as the rig was retrieved with a drag-and-deadstick presentation. The slope of this shoreline is 45 degrees. It is bordered by American water willows and embellished with a laydown.  The underwater terrain consists of gravel, rocks, boulders, and some rocky ledges.

Along about a 250-yard main-lake shoreline in the upper quarter of the reservoir, we found five small areas that were entertaining some largemouth bass, and we caught 23 of them.  But along many yards of this shoreline, we failed to garner a strike.

The slope of this shoreline ranges from 35  to 50 degrees. It is lined with American water willows, many laydowns, and several overhanging trees, as well as a few stumps and some submergent aquatic vegetation. Its underwater terrain consists of gravel, rock, and boulders. It is endowed with two tertiary points. The boat floated in water as shallow as six feet and as deep as 14 feet.

Seven of the largemouth bass were extracted from about a 50-foot stretch of this shoreline.  The boat floated in six to eight feet of water. These bass were extracted out of four to six feet of water. One of them was caught on the Finesse ShadZ rig, and six of them were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. One was caught on the initial drop of the ZinkerZ rig, and the other six were caught on a drag-and-deadstick presentation.

One of the five small spots along this 250-yard shoreline yielded two largemouth bass. They were associated with one of the tertiary points. One was caught on the Finesse ShadZ rig and the other one was caught on the California craw ZinkerZ rig. Both were caught while we were executing the drag-and-deadstick retrieve in four to five feet of water.

The other three small spots along this shoreline were in close proximity to each other, and they yielded 14 largemouth bass. Four of them were caught on the Finesse ShadZ rig, one was caught on the pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rig, and nine were caught on the California craw ZinkerZ rig.  Three of these largemouth bass were caught on the initial drop. The other 11 were caught on a drag-and-deadstick presentation.  These largemouth bass were abiding in water as shallow as three feet and as deep as 10 feet.

In sum, we caught 28 largemouth bass, three freshwater drum, and one rainbow trout.  We endured about three hours of fruitless searching, and we were blessed with a few minutes of hand-over-fist action.

According to the weather forecasts, we might be at bay for the next seven days.

Dec. 7 log

Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, filed a log on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 7 outing.

Here is an edited version of his log:

It was a rainy day on Dec. 5, and I spent some of the day reviewing my December fishing logs from years past. I noticed that I had fished a north-central Texas U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir just once during December, and that occurred on Dec. 7, 2015.  Throughout 2016, this reservoir has been our most bountiful waterway. But on Dec. 7, 2015, it yielded only two largemouth bass during a three-hour outing, and I did not fish it again for the rest of the month.

Out of curiosity, I made a 23-mile jaunt this Dec. 7 to that reservoir to see if I could determine the dispositions and whereabouts of the largemouth bass and spotted bass that I failed to locate on Dec. 7, 2015.

When I arrived, I was surprised to see only two tow vehicles and trailers in the boat ramp’s parking lot.

Rick Allen of Dallas and I fished this reservoir on Nov. 29, and we struggled to catch 21 largemouth bass and two spotted bass in six hours. They were all caught in a feeder-creek arm that lies in the southeast end of the west tributary arm.

It was dreary and overcast. The wind angled out of the north at 3 to 6 mph. The barometric pressure measured 30.09 at 10:00 a.m. and 30.02 at noon. The morning low temperature was 35 degrees and the afternoon high temperature was 51 degrees.  Another major cold front is predicted to hit north-central Texas on Dec. 8, which will drop the air temperatures into the upper teens and low 20s at night, and the upper 30s during the day. Howling winds will also accompany the cold front, which will keep us at bay for the next several days.

The water was stained and displayed about two feet of visibility. The water temperature ranged from 56 to 58 degrees. The water level was normal. I fished in the warmer 58-degree water and avoided the colder 56-degree water.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated the best fishing would occur from 4:23 a.m. to 6:23 a.m., 10:36 a.m. to 12:36 p.m., and 4:48 p.m. to 6:48 p.m. I was afloat from about 10:30 a.m. to about 12:30 p.m. I had planned to fish longer until my wife, Nancy, called me on my cell phone and informed me that she had fallen off a step-ladder in our garage and injured her right leg and ankle. I immediately ended my outing and headed home as quickly as I possibly could.

As soon as I launched the boat, I  put my trolling motor into the water and began dissecting a riprap jetty next to the boat ramp. On my first cast, I caught a largemouth bass that was relating to some submerged riprap next to the boat ramp in five feet of water. I caught four more largemouth bass, including a handsome 4 1/4-pound specimen, from the submerged riprap along the south side of the jetty in three to eight feet of water. These five bass were caught on a shortened Z-Man’s California craw EZ TubeZ attached to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Two of the five largemouth bass engulfed the EZ TubeZ rig on the initial drop. The other three were caught on a slow swim-glide-and-shake presentation. I was unable to fish the end of the jetty or its north side because those areas were already occupied by shore-bound crappie anglers.

After I finished fishing the jetty, I moved southward and fished a main-lake point and its adjacent mud flat. The point is fairly steep and rocky. The adjacent mud flat is about 50 yards long and lined with stems of flooded terrestrial vegetation. I failed to elicit any strikes from this main-lake point. The adjacent mud flat surrendered one channel catfish that struck the shortened California craw EZ TubeZ combo. I failed to cross paths with any largemouth bass or spotted bass on this flat.

From that main-lake point and flat, I moved northward to a main-lake point and feeder-creek arm on the west side of the east tributary arm.

The main-lake point at the mouth of the feeder-creek arm is covered with clay, rocks, gravel, and thick patches of flooded terrestrial vegetation. I caught one largemouth bass adjacent to one of the patches of terrestrial vegetation near the end of the main-lake point. This largemouth was abiding in three feet of water and was caught on the shortened California craw EZ TubeZ rig and swim-glide-and-shake retrieve.

Inside the feeder-creek arm, I dissected a submerged rock ledge and two secondary points.

The submerged ledge is located near the mouth of the feeder-creek arm and parallels the south shoreline. The top of the ledge is covered with three feet of water and it quickly plummets into more than 20 feet of water. This ledge surrendered eight largemouth bass that were abiding in five to seven feet of water and in close proximity to the deep-water side of the ledge. Four were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ dressed on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The other four were caught with the shortened California craw EZ TubeZ. A slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve enticed all eight of these largemouth bass.

The two secondary points were not very fruitful. Both are fairly steep and comprised of clay, gravel, fist-size rocks, several submerged stumps, and a couple of laydowns. One point yielded a feisty freshwater drum that was caught on the shortened California craw EZ TubeZ  and a slow drag-and-deadstick retrieve. The second point relinquished one largemouth bass that was caught on the California craw EZ TubeZ  and a slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. It was at this point in the outing when I received the phone call from Nancy and I ended the outing.

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Steve Reideler with one of the 14 largemouth bass that he caught.

In sum, I caught 14 largemouth bass and inadvertently caught one freshwater drum and one channel catfish in two hours. The shortened Z-Man’s California craw EZ TubeZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught 10 largemouth bass. The 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught four largemouth bass. I did not have time to use several other Z-Man Midwest finesse baits that I had prepared for this outing.

A slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve was the most effective presentation.

Dec. 11 log

Burton Bosley of Sutton, West Virginia, filed a brief on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 11 outing.

Here is an edited version of it:

When we launched the boat in the upper end of the reservoir, it was windy. Area thermometers hovered around 22 degrees, and they eventually climbed to 42 degrees.

The water was clear above the boat ramp, and the surface temperature was 33 degrees. We failed to garner a strike in this area.

About 100 yards below the boat ramp, the water became cloudy, exhibiting about 12 inches of visibility, and the surface temperature was 44 degrees. And we spent the rest of the morning in the warmer and cloudier water.

We used a float-and-fly rig and a Z-Man’s Coppertreuse Finesse T.R.D. affixed to a black 1/15-ounce Z-Man’s Finesse ShroomZ jig, and we probed boulders, main-lake points, and shale shorelines.

The wind was troublesome, but by the end of the morning, we managed to catch 22 smallmouth bass.  Four were caught on the Finesse T.R.D. rig in 15 feet of water around the base of boulders, and 18 were caught on our float-and-fly rigs that were floating 10 feet below the float.

One smallmouth bass weighed three pounds. Many of them were in the two-pound range, and only one was less than 12 inches long.

On our first two float-and-fly outings this December, we have caught 63 smallmouth bass, and only one was less than 12 inches.

We are still learning this technique.  But to date, we have found it to be a productive system for catching  cold-water smallmouth bass — especially when they are suspended.

Dec. 12 log

The weather forecasters predicted that the high temperature on Dec. 12 would be 41 degrees. What’s more, it would be sunny, and the wind would be mild mannered.  These predictions that Old Man Winter’s recent outbursts were being corralled for a short spell motivated Kelly Morris of Gardner, Kansas, and me to get afloat for four midday hours on Dec. 12 at one of  northeastern Kansas’ community reservoirs.

The Weather Underground reported that it was 15 degrees at 7:53 a.m. and 30 degrees at 2:53 p.m. The high temperature occurred at 12:53 a.m., and it was 37 degrees. Throughout the day, the wind chill ranged from 7 degrees to 30 degrees, and while we were afloat, it ranged from 19 degrees to 25 degrees.  The sky was clear from 12:53 a.m. to 11:53 a.m., and it became partly cloudy to mostly cloudy around 12:53 p.m. The wind angled out of the north and north by northwest at 4 to 9 mph from 12:53 a.m. to 6:53 a.m., and from 7:53 a.m. to 5:53 p.m., it angled out of the south, south by southwest, and south by southeast at 4 to 9 mph, and  eventually it angled out of the north by northeast. The barometric pressure was 30.14 at 12:53 a.m., 30.16 at 5:53 a.m., 30.18 at 11:53 a.m., and 30.08 at 2:53 p.m. Ice formed on our guides, lines, and bails of our spinning reels throughout the outing. When we arrived at the boat ramp, parts of it were coated with a thin layer of ice, and the temperature was 24 degrees.  Even though we wore gloves stuffed with hand warmers, some of our fingers were cold to the bone at times. When the clouds arrived, we were cold from head to toe when we were facing and fishing into the mild-mannered breeze.

The water level was normal.  One of our thermometers indicated that the surface temperature ranged from 37 to 39 degrees; another thermometer indicated that it ranged from 39 to 41 degrees.  The water exhibited four to six feet of visibility. Ice covered a small segment of the upper reaches of the reservoir.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing would occur from 8:18 a.m. to 10:18 a.m., 8:48 p.m. to 10:48 p.m., and 2:04 a.m. to 4:04 a.m.  We fished from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Our entire four hours were spent in the upper reaches of the reservoir, where we fished portions of one relatively steep shoreline, one flat main-lake point, short portions of two flat shorelines, one massive coontail-laden flat, and one small flat.

Along the relatively steep shoreline, we caught three largemouth bass on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s California craw ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, which was retrieved with a drag-and-deadstick presentation in five to seven feet of water. The underwater terrain consists of gravel and rocks, it is embellished with some minor laydowns and a few paltry patches of coontail.

We caught six largemouth bass in four to six feet of water around patches of coontail on the flat main-lake point. They were caught on our California craw ZinkerZ rigs. One was caught on the initial drop. Two were caught on a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. Three were caught while we were executing a drag-and-deadstick retrieve.  One of these largemouth bass had a tail of a big gizzard shad protruding from its gullet.

We caught one largemouth bass in six to seven feet of water on the small flat. It was caught on the California craw ZinkerZ rig that was retrieved with a drag-and-shake retrieve. This flat is silt-laden, and the patches of coontail are rather paltry. We could not determine if this largemouth bass was abiding around a scanty patch of coontail or just moseying around the silt-laden bottom.

Along one shoreline that borders a massive coontail-laden flat, we caught three largemouth bass around some patches of coontail in about four feet of water on the California craw ZinkerZ rig that was retrieved with a drag-and-shake retrieve.  These largemouth bass were abiding more than 15 feet from the water’s edge.

On the massive  coontail-laden flat and along a shoreline that borders it, we caught 31 largemouth bass.  This area is about the size of three football fields. Twenty-nine were caught on our California craw ZinkerZ rigs. One was caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. And another one was caught on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The largemouth bass were caught in four to six feet of water. None were caught closer than 15 feet from the water’s edge, and a goodly number were caught from 60 to 90 feet from the water’s edge. A few were caught on the initial drop of our rigs. Around some of the offshore patches of coontail that were in four to five feet of water, we caught the largemouth bass by employing a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. Along other stretches of coontail, we caught them by using the drag-and-shake presentation, the drag-and-deadstick presentation, and the stroll.

We caught 26 largemouth bass during the first 69 minutes that we were afloat. During the next 171 minutes, we caught 23 largemouth bass. We failed to catch a largemouth bass on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug ZinkerZ affixed to a black 1/10-ounce Z-Man’s Finesse ShroomZ jig and an 1/8-ounce Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ShroomZ Micro Finesse Jig dressed with a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ. In total, we caught 49 largemouth bass.

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Kelly Morris with one of the 49 largemouth bass that we caught.

The weather forecasters are predicting that Old Man Winter will be administering a few of his dastardly feats on the Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas during the next five days. There are predictions that there will be freezing rain and snow on Dec. 16 and 17.  One forecaster says it will be minus-two degrees on Dec. 17, and another one says it will be minus-nine degrees.

Dec 13 log

Burton Bosley of Sutton, West Virginia, filed a brief on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 13 outing.

Here is an edited version of it:

I fished with Steve Creasey of Elkins, West Virginia. He is an old friend and a professor emeritus at Davis & Elkins College. Since he retired, he has fished with me often, and he has become a fan of the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s ZinkerZ and their Finesse T.R.D.

For the entire four hours that we were afloat, he used a Z-Man’s mud minnow Finesse T.R.D. on an unpainted 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. I used the float-and-fly rig.

Steve caught one three-pound smallmouth bass.  I failed to elicit a strike.

Dec. 21 log

Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, posted a log on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 21 outing.

Here is an edited version of that log:

I have not fished since Dec. 7, which was when my wife, Nancy, fell off a step-ladder and broke her right leg. It was a painful ordeal that required an orthopedic surgeon to reassemble her leg.

On Dec. 21, Nancy was feeling much better and encouraged me to join Rick Allen of Dallas on a four-hour outing at a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ hill-land reservoir in north-central Texas.

Rick and I rarely fish for black bass at any U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ impoundments from mid-December through mid-March. The largemouth bass, spotted bass, and smallmouth bass that inhabit these waterways become too difficult for us to locate and allure during this cold-water period. And on this first day of winter, we had low expectations and thought we would be fortunate if we could catch just one black bass during this outing.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing would occur from 4:36 a.m. to 6:36 a.m.,10:47 a.m. to 12:47 p.m., and 4:57 p.m. to 6:57 p.m. Rick and I fished from about noon to 4:00 p.m.

It was mostly cloudy with brief and sporadic periods of sunshine. The morning low temperature was 36 degrees and the afternoon high was a pleasant 65 degrees. The wind blew out of the south at 5 to 11 mph. The barometric pressure measured 30.17 at 11:00 a.m. and dropped to 30.07 by 4:00 p.m.

Our spinning outfits sported six Z-Man’s soft-plastic baits: a 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ affixed on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a shortened mud minnow Hula StickZ rigged on a black 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a molting craw T.R.D. TubeZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a pearl Slim SwimZ affixed on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and a shortened four-inch coppertreuse Finesse WormZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Bass Pro Shops jig head.

Our first spot was inside a main-lake cove located on the south side of the reservoir’s southwest tributary arm. This cove is fairly shallow and flat with a clay and gravel bottom. The shoreline along the northeast and southwest sections of this cove is lined with the remaining stems of a few patches of flooded terrestrial vegetation.

The water was stained with about 1 1/2 feet of visibility. The water temperature was 47 degrees. The water level was normal, which is unusual for this time of year. Typically, the Corps will drop the water level several feet in anticipation of heavy spring rains.

We plied a 50-yard section of shoreline on the northeast side of the cove. We positioned the boat in five to seven feet of water and probed the outside edges of the remaining flooded patches of terrestrial vegetation stems. This area was one of our most fruitful spots this past fall, but we failed to entice a single strike from this local this time around.

From that cove, we ventured westward to a nearby feeder-creek arm. This creek arm is endowed with steep rock and gravel shorelines, two concrete boat ramps, several clay and gravel secondary points, two small creeks that enter this feeder-creek arm from its southeast and southwest corners, and several shallow mud flats. A large marina occupies the first half of this feeder creek.

We caught five largemouth bass from one steep gravel and clay shoreline on the northeast end of the creek arm. They were extracted from four to 11 feet of water. Three were caught with the 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rig and the other two were caught with the molting craw T.R.D. TubeZ rig. Both of these combos were employed with a slow hop-and-bounce presentation down the slope of the steep shoreline. The boat was floating in 10 to 14 feet of water.

Another four largemouth bass were caught in eight to 16 feet of water from an east-side rock and clay secondary point in the middle of the feeder creek. Two largemouth bass were caught on the 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rig,  and the other two were caught on the molting craw T.R.D. TubeZ combo. Both of these lures were retrieved with a slow hop-and-bounce presentation across the bottom.

After that, we made a 20-minute ride to a small and narrow feeder creek on the northwest end of the impoundment. The water inside this creek exhibited about three feet of visibility. The water temperature ranged from 53 to 57 degrees. The water temperature in the main-lake area outside of this creek was 45 degrees.

We shared this creek with five other bass anglers in three boats. We kept our boat positioned near the center of the creek, floating in seven to 14 feet of water. The underwater terrain consists of mostly clay and gravel. The shorelines are fairly steep and lined with laydowns and a few submerged stumps and flooded bushes.

In this creek, we caught 19 largemouth bass, two large white crappie, and one white bass. They were abiding in less than six feet of water and were relating to the deeper sides and ends of the laydowns along the shoreline. Eleven of them were caught on the 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rig. Three were caught on the molting craw T.R.D. TubeZ.  Three were caught on the green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ. Two were caught on the four-inch coppertreuse Finesse WormZ. These four baits were presented with a slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. We failed to elicit any strikes with the shortened mud minnow Hula StickZ. The pearl Slim SwimZ rig and a slow and steady swimming retrieve garnered one strike.

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Rick Allen with one of the 28 largemouth bass and one of the two  crappie that they caught.

In our eyes, it was a delightful and astounding day by north-central Texas standards. We caught 28 largemouth bass. It was the first time that we have caught this many black bass in one outing from any Corps’ reservoir in December.

Historically, we struggle to entice one or two bites an outing in the Corps’ reservoirs in north-central Texas from mid-December to mid-March. Furthermore, we spoke with a bass angler at the boat ramp as we were trailering our boat, and he informed us that he had caught only one bass on a jig-and-pig combo the entire day.

Dec. 24 log

Bob Gum of Kansas City, Kansas, filed a brief on the Finesse News Network about his disappointing outing at one of northeastern Kansas’ power-plant reservoirs.

For winters on end, we heralded this reservoir as our most bountiful one. But after the winter of 2013-14, it has become one of our most fruitless ones.

Some anglers suspect that the largemouth bass virus is the cause of this demise, but no words about the virus have been uttered by the fisheries biologists at the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism. Some anglers contend that the heavy angler predation that revolves around bass tournaments might be a major factor contributing to this decline.

Here is a condensed and edited version of Gum’s brief:

The surface temperature along the northwestern edge of the warm-water plume was 56 degrees. Along the dam, which is outside of the plume, the surface temperature was 44 degrees. The water exhibited 18 inches of visibility.

On the way to the reservoir, I drove through some thick patches of fog, and a low ceiling of clouds persisted throughout the day.  A mild-mannered  wind angled out of the southeast. The low temperature was 24 degrees and the high temperature was 42 degrees.

I fished from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

I fished four main-lake bluffs, which lie within the warm-water plume. Two of the bluffs were fruitless.  I caught one largemouth bass on a flat point that lies between the two bluffs.   At the north end of those two bluffs, I fished a 30-yard stretch of a gravel and laydown-laden flat, where I caught one largemouth bass and one white bass.

On a massive flat that is adjacent to the third bluff, I caught two largemouth bass and two white bass.

At the third bluff, I caught six largemouth bass that were associated with rock slides and piles, and I caught one largemouth bass along the fourth bluff.

I caught two largemouth bass on the flat gravel point that lies about 250 yards from the mouth of the  warm-water outlet, and it has a significant amount of current coursing over it.

I caught two largemouth bass along the shoreline adjacent to the mouth of the warm-water outlet; this locale is graced with several slack-water spots.

A 50-yard stretch of riprap that borders the warm-water outlet failed to yield a strike. I also failed to elicit a strike along the dam’s spillway and a 50-yard-stretch of riprap near the west end of the dam.

LaCygne December 24, 2016

Bob Gum with one of the largemouth bass that he struggled to catch on Dec. 24.

In total, I eked out 13 largemouth bass  and three white bass which I caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s California craw ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, Z-Man’s watermelon-red Finesse ShadZ affixed to a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and a No. 5 Rapala shad-hue Shad Rap.

I retrieved the Z-Man’s rigs with a slow  drag-and-deadsticking presentation that was highlighted with occasional twitches.  And I kept the rod tip up when possible. The fish were caught in three to six feet of water.

Dec. 26 log   

Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, posted a log on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 26 outing.

Here is an edited version of his log:

John Thomas of Denton, Texas, had surgery on Nov. 1. He was hospitalized for 12 days, and after that, he was instructed to rest and recuperate at home. John has now recovered from his surgery, and on Dec. 26 he joined me at a heavily fished U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ hill-land reservoir in north-central Texas.

It has been unseasonably warm in north-central Texas. For instance, the daytime high soared to 76 degrees and the nighttime low was 54 degrees on Christmas Day. On Dec. 26, the high temperature reached 71 degrees and the low temperature was 46 degrees. The average low for Dec. 26 is 31 degrees and the average high is 53 degrees.

As we launched the boat at about 11:50 a.m., the sky was overcast and the wind quartered out of the northwest at 5 mph. The barometric pressure measured 30.18. When we trailered the boat at about 3:50 p.m., the sky was partly cloudy and the sun was shining. The wind angled out of the northwest at 7 mph, and the barometric pressure had dropped slightly to 30.15.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing periods would take place between 1:42 a.m. to 3:42 a.m., 7:54 a.m. to 9:54 a.m., and 8:17 p.m. to 10:17 p.m. John and I fished from about noon to 3:30 p.m.

We spent the entire 210 minutes in the northwest region of the reservoir, where we plied a small feeder-creek arm that Rick Allen of Dallas and I fished on Dec. 21. The water inside this creek arm was stained and exhibited about two feet of visibility. The water temperature was the warmest I have ever seen in this reservoir during the month of December and ranged from 61 degrees at the mouth of the creek to 65 degrees near the back third of the creek. The water level was normal. We focused on the middle portions of this creek arm.

As we slowly idled our way inside this creek arm, we were surprised to see five other bass anglers in three bass boats already dissecting the scores of laydowns, flooded bushes, submerged brush piles, and stumps that litter this creek’s shorelines. Another bass boat with two bass anglers arrived a short time later and fished behind us. All seven of these anglers were employing power tactics. We spoke to two of the anglers as they were leaving. One told us that the fishing was slow and difficult and that he had caught only four bass. The other angler was also disappointed with the fishing and had caught only two black bass. We observed another angler catch one largemouth bass on a white spinnerbait. We did not see any of the other anglers catch a fish, and they left while we were fishing.

This creek is narrow and is about 20 yards wide at its widest point. We positioned the boat in the center of the creek, which allowed us to easily cast to the many bass lairs along either shoreline. The center of the creek is covered with seven to 14 feet of water. The underwater terrain consists of mostly gravel and clay.

We were delighted to tangle with 24 largemouth bass, nine white crappie, and four large bluegills. The two largest bass looked like twins; one weighed two pounds, five ounces and the other weighed two pounds, four ounces. All of these fish were abiding in less than six feet of water and were relating to the sides and deeper ends of the laydowns along the shoreline.

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John Thomas caught this largemouth bass on a Z-Man’s 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ.

A Z-Man’s 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig was the most effective bait, and it caught 14 largemouth bass, two white crappie, and one large bluegill. Three largemouth bass, seven white crappie, and three large bluegills were caught with a Z-Man’s gudgeon CrusteaZ affixed on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. A red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig dressed with a Z-Man’s dark- melon-red Scented LeechZ caught four largemouth bass. A 2 1/4-inch tail section of a Z-Man’s Junebug FattyZ affixed on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig caught two largemouth bass. One largemouth bass was caught on a Z-Man’s mudbug T.R.D. TubeZ rigged on an orange and brown 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

The only effective presentation was a slow swim-glide-and-subtle-shake retrieve.

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Steve Reideler caught this largermouth bass on a Z-Man’s dark-melon-red Scented LeechZ.

Dec. 30 log

During most of the 240 minutes that Travis Perret of Overland Park, Kansas, and I  were afloat at a northeastern Kansas’ community reservoir on Dec. 30, Mother Nature harassed us with her windy ways. In fact, the wind was howling at such a force at times that it was nearly impossible to concentrate on making an alluring presentation with our Midwest finesse rigs.

Between 9:53 a.m. and 1:53 p.m., the Weather Underground reported that the wind angled out of the south, south by southwest, and southwest at 10 to 35 mph.  It was 23 degrees at 8:53 a.m. and 55 degrees at 2:53 p.m. In the cloudless sky, the sun was blindingly bright. The barometric pressure was 30.36 at 12:53 a.m., 30.27 at 5:53 a.m., 30.03 at 11:53 a.m., and 29.92 at 1:53 p.m.

The water level was normal. The water exhibited four to six feet of visibility.  The surface temperature ranged from 37 to 39 degrees, and during the first hour of this outing, we had to boat through and around many acres of ice. There was ice covering some areas at 2:00 p.m.

In-Fisherman’s solundar calendar indicated that the best fishing would occur from 10:41 a.m. to 12:41 p.m., 11:01 p.m. to 1:10 a.m., and 4:57 a.m. to 6:57 a.m.  We fished from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

During the winter, we have found that we can often catch a significant number of largemouth bass that abide on the shallow-water flats in the backs of the primary, secondary, and tertiary feeder-creek arms of several of our flatland reservoirs. The most bountiful flats are embellished with submergent aquatic vegetation, such as coontail, curly-leaf pondweed, and Eurasian milfoil.  These patches usually lie in three to seven feet of water. And the largemouth bass that we catch are milling about and around the patches of aquatic vegetation. The most fruitful patches are usually offshore, and if the wind blows, it is difficult to find a spot that is sheltered from the wind.  Thus, we have found that winter winds are a dreadful nemesis. The waves and wind confound our abilities to control the boat and properly execute all of the six basic Midwest finesse retrieves.

Sometimes we can control the effects of the wind by employing a drift sock. But we hate to use it during the winter, because pulling it into the boat gets our hands wet and cold. But on this Dec. 30 outing, Travis and I were relegated to using this uncomfortable task a number of times. Unfortunately, it failed to pay any dividends.

Until this outing, I had not been afloat since my Dec. 12 outing with Kelly Morris of Gardner, Kansas, when we caught 49 largemouth bass in four hours by dissecting shallow-water coontail patches in 37- to 39-degree water. After that outing, Ol’ Man Winter roared through northeastern Kansas for days on end, causing many area thermometers to plummet to minus 10 degrees or lower on Dec. 18. Consequently, our reservoirs became ice covered. I tried to fish one of our many community reservoirs on Dec. 28, but when I arrived at the boat ramp at 11:10 a.m., I discovered that about 40 percent of that reservoir was covered with ice, and across many winters of fishing, we have found that when more than 10 percent of a reservoir is ice covered that it is a futile endeavor to find and catch largemouth bass in the flatland reservoirs that stipple the countryside of northeastern Kansas.

On our Dec. 30 outing, Travis and I dissected coontail patches on the flat in the back of this reservoir’s primary feeder-creek arm, on the flats of two tertiary feeder-creek arms, and a portion of a flat in the back of a secondary feeder-creek arm.

A significant portion of the water in the back of the secondary feeder-creek arm was covered with ice, and we failed to elicit a strike in the small segment of that flat that we fished.

For the first 90 minutes that we were afloat, ice covered one of this reservoir’s most fruitful coontail patch that lies in the back of the primary feeder-creek arm, and we spent about 10 minutes breaking the ice with the boat. Eventually, the wind wiped it all out.  But to our chagrin, the wind was so ferocious that it was difficult to properly fish it after the ice disappeared.

We tried to hide from the wind for a spell by plying two relatively wind-sheltered shorelines and one main-lake point.  One shoreline was adjacent to the flat in the back of the primary feeder-creek arm. The other shoreline was a very short segment of the dam.  The main-lake point was at the mouth of one of the tertiary feeder-creek arms. We failed to elicit a strike at these locales.

Ultimately, we eked out seven largemouth bass from a series of offshore coontail patches in the primary feeder-creek arm. This area was about the size of two football fields. The patches of coontail were in four to six feet of water. We caught three largemouth bass around one of the patches.  We caught two largemouth bass and lost one around another patch. Traditionally, when we catch one largemouth bass, it is not unusual to catch several more. In fact, there have been wintertime outings in years past when we have caught scores and scores and scores of largemouth bass from a patch of aquatic vegetation that is the size of a tennis court. But the other two largemouth bass that Travis and I caught were isolated specimens, and they were many yards away from each other and the other five largemouth bass that we caught.

Two of these seven largemouth bass were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/15-ounce Z-Man’s Finesse ShroomZ jig that was retrieved with a drag-and-slight-deadstick presentation. The other five were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s California craw ZinkerZ affixed to either a red 1/15-ounce Z-Man’s ShroomZ jig or a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig with a drag-and-slight-deadstick retrieve.

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Travis Perret with one of the largemouth bass that we caught.

Around 12:45 p.m., we crossed paths with a power angler who told us that he had caught 12 largemouth bass on Dec. 29 by employing a jerkbait and a swimbait around big schools of gizzard shad that were milling about in eight to 12 feet of water in the center of the flat of the primary feeder-creek arm, which is devoid of coontail.  We joined him for about 15 minutes. We employed several standard Midwest finesse rigs and presentations. According to our sonar, we crossed paths with significant aggregations of gizzard shad, but we did not garner a strike; nor did the power angler.

Before we crossed paths with the power angler, Travis had occasionally wielded a jerkbait without eliciting a strike.

Sometimes a jerkbait can be an effective search tool to employ on these vast shallow-water flats. Once a largemouth bass is caught or a strike is elicited with a jerkbait, we can put it down and dissect that area more effectively with our Midwest finesse rigs. We have found that a Midwest finesse rig and presentation can elicit more strikes and catch more largemouth bass than a jerkbait at these wintertime locales.

After our fruitless foray with the power angler, we found a wind-sheltered shallow-water flat in the back of a tertiary feeder-creek arm. Around one small patch of coontail in about 5 1/2 feet of water, we extracted four largemouth bass. They were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s California craw ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig that was retrieved with a drag-and-subtle-shake presentation. We failed to garner another strike from the other patches of coontail that garnish this flat that is about half of the size of a football field.

In total, we caught 11 largemouth bass. It was a sorry and windy way to end 2016.

Dec. 30 log

Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, posted a log on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 30 outing.

Here is an edited version of his log:

I enjoyed an afternoon bank-walking outing at a 20-acre community reservoir located in a suburb northwest of Dallas. This reservoir was our most fruitful venue during the winter of 2015-16.

The last time that I fished it was on April 15, and Norman Brown of Lewisville, Texas, and I caught 30 largemouth bass in four hours.

On Dec. 30, the sky was partly cloudy until 1:30 p.m., and then it became overcast.  Area thermometers registered the morning low temperature at 34 degrees.  The afternoon high temperature struggled to reach 59 degrees, and when the sky became overcast, the temperature dropped to 50 degrees in less than an hour.  The wind angled out of the south by southwest at 15 mph. The barometric pressured was 30.38 around noon, and it fell to 30.21 at 3:00 p.m.

The water was stained and exhibited about 1 1/2-feet of visibility. The water temperature ranged from 53 degrees to 55 degrees. The water level appeared normal.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated the most productive fishing periods would take place from 4:48 a.m. to 6:48 a.m., 10:32 a.m. to 12:32 p.m., and 11:01 a.m. to 1:01 p.m. I fished one hour and one minute during the 11:01 a.m. to 1:01 p.m. time period, and I caught four largemouth bass. I fished from about 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m.

I started fishing along the west side of the reservoir. The water temperature was 55 degrees. The west shoreline is steep and its underwater terrain consists of gravel and sand.  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 and about five feet wide.  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 failed to garner a strike from the wall of hydrilla. The steep sand and gravel shoreline adjacent to the pier relinquished only one 15-inch largemouth bass that was abiding in eight feet of water. This largemouth bass was caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a brown 1/16-ounce Gopher jig that was retrieved with a slow hop-and-bounce presentation down the slope of the shoreline.

As I worked my way southward along this shoreline, I dissected a sand and gravel tertiary point just south of the fishing pier, and it relinquished three largemouth bass that were about ten feet from the water’s edge and abiding in about four feet of water. These three largemouth bass were caught on a Z-Man’s black-blue-flake T.R.D. TubeZ affixed on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig that was retrieved in a slow hop-and-bounce manner.

After I fished the west shoreline, I plied a smooth concrete-slab dam that forms the southern boundary of the reservoir. The water temperature was 54 degrees at this locale. The west end of the dam yielded one largemouth bass, and it was caught on the 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rig presented with a slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. This largemouth was dwelling in about three feet of water and about five feet away from the water’s edge. Two largemouth bass were caught along the middle portion of the dam on the black-blue-flake T.R.D. TubeZ rig. One bass engulfed the T.R.D. TubeZ as I was slowly swimming-gliding-and-shaking it parallel to the face of the dam in three feet of water. The other largemouth struck the T.R.D. TubeZ as it was slowly hopped and bounced across the bottom next to the dam in about six feet of water and about 15 feet away from the water’s edge.

After I fished the dam, I checked the wind-swept east shoreline. The east shoreline is curved and steep. A relatively broad and steep sand and gravel point is situated in the mid-section of this shoreline. About 20 yards north of this point lies a long clay and gravel point that extends westward toward the middle of the reservoir. The water temperature was 53 degrees in this section of the reservoir, and I failed to garner a single strike along this entire shoreline.

I spent the last 45 minutes fishing the north end of the reservoir, which encompasses a large and shallow mud flat. A small creek enters the reservoir along the east end of the shoreline. The bottom of the creek is littered with fist-size rocks and the east side of the creek is lined with tall stands of cattails. The water temperature inside this creek was 54 degrees. There was a slight but visible current flowing through the creek.  I caught 17 largemouth bass and inadvertently caught one large green sunfish in two to three feet of water from a fairly deep pool in the upper end of this small creek. The bulk of these bass were relating to the outside edges and small pockets of the partially-flooded stands of cattails on the east side of the creek. A couple of bass were caught from a small patch of softball-size rocks on the west side of the creek in three feet of water. Seven bass were caught on the black-blue-flake T.R.D. TubeZ rig. Another seven were caught on the 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ.  A Z-Man’s PB&J T.R.D. TubeZ rigged on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught three largemouth bass and one large green sunfish. All three of these baits were employed with a slow hop-and-bounce retrieve across the bottom of the creek.

The tall stands of cattails prevented me from fishing the remainder of the northern shoreline.

Overall, the fishing was pretty good for this time of the year. I caught 24 largemouth bass and inadvertently caught one large green sunfish during this three-hour foray. Twenty-two of these bass weighed between 1 1/4 pounds and two pounds, and only a couple were under 12 inches long.

Twelve largemouth bass were caught on the black-blue-flake T.R.D. TubeZ. Nine were caught on the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ. I used the PB&J T.R.D. TubeZ combo for the last 15 minutes of this outing, and during that short spell, it inveigled three largemouth bass and one green sunfish.

A slow and subtle hop-and-bounce retrieve was the most fruitful presentation; it enticed 22 largemouth bass. Two largemouth bass were caught on a slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. I failed to entice any strikes with a slow and steady swimming retrieve or a slow drag-and-shake retrieve.

 

 

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