Our January guide to Midwest finesse fishing contains 15 logs and 11,732 words that describe the endeavors and insights of Burton Bosley of Sutton, West Virginia; Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas; Bob Gum of Kansas City, Kansas; Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas; Mike McPherson of Siler City, North Carolina; Preston Parks of Pittsboro, North Carolina; Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina; Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas; Joel Schroeder of Overland Park, Kansas; Aaron Shafer of Memphis, Tennessee; Walt Tegtmeier of Lenexa, Kansas; John Thomas of Denton, Texas; Sam and Jean Ting of Carrollton, Texas; and me.
El Niño riled many of the waterways that Midwest finesse anglers ply, and Mother Nature’s wintery ways kept many of us at bay. Nevertheless, Charlie Croom and Steve Reideler reported that they caught more black bass than they have ever caught in January.
As always, we are thankful that Steve Reideler proof read all of the logs and words. He made them more readable and understandable.
Jan. 1 log
Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, filed the following log on the Finesse News Network about his banking-walking endeavors on New Year’s Day.
Here is an edited and condensed version of his log:
January is the coldest and most difficult month for black bass fishing in north-central Texas. Consequently, many anglers in north-central Texas turn their attentions to other species.
An example of how difficult the black bass angling can be in these parts is reflected by the eight outings that Rick Allen and I endured during January of 2013. During those eight outings, we fished for 30 1/2 hours, we caught 32 largemouth bass. And 32 largemouth bass are the most that we have ever caught in January.
On Jan. 1, 2016, our local U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoirs are still closed because they are flooded. Therefore, I thought I would start the year off with a couple of spinning rods in hand and meandered along the shorelines of a 20-acre community reservoir located in a suburb northwest of Dallas.
On Dec. 23, 2015, I fished this reservoir for about 1 1/2 hours and was astounded when I caught 23 largemouth bass. Then on Dec. 26, 2015, Norman Brown of Lewisville and I plied this same waterway for four afternoon hours, and we were ecstatic after we tangled with 42 largemouth bass.
In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted the best fishing periods on Jan. 1, 2016, should take place between 3:42 a.m. and 5:42 a.m., 9:53 a.m. and 11:53 a.m., and 4:03 p.m. and 6:03 p.m. I fished from about 12:30 p.m. to about 3:30 p.m.
Jan. 1 was overcast and chilly. The morning low temperature was 34 degrees and the afternoon high barely reached 48 degrees. A cold north wind blew steadily at 12 mph. The barometric pressure was high and measured 30.56 at noon.
Because of the recent onslaught of rains, the water was muddied, displaying about one foot of visibility. The water level was slightly high, and a steady stream of water poured over a concrete spillway located at the southwest corner of the reservoir. I was unable to measure the water’s temperature.
I began the outing fishing the west side of the reservoir, which has been the most fruitful area of this reservoir since Dec. 23. A 75-foot fishing pier is situated in the middle of the west shoreline, and a thin wall of hydrilla runs underneath the fishing pier and parallels the shoreline in eight feet of water. 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 was surprised when this area failed to yield any strikes or largemouth bass.
I then plied a sand and gravel tertiary point just south of the fishing pier, which has also been a fruitful spot on this reservoir, and it also failed to surrender any strikes or largemouth bass.
After I failed to entice any strikes from the west side of the reservoir, I checked the dam area, which forms the southern perimeter of the reservoir, and I failed to cross paths with any largemouth bass.
After that, I fished my way north along the east side shoreline. The east shoreline is steep and curved. A long, clay, and gravel point protrudes westward into the middle of the reservoir from the north end of this shoreline. A broad, steep, sand, and gravel point is located along the mid-section of this shoreline
After executing scores of casts and retrieves during the first 63 minutes of this outing and failing to engender a strike, I finally coaxed my first strike, and I landed a four-pound, 13-ounce largemouth bass. This robust specimen was dwelling in four feet of water along the south side of the long clay and gravel point, and it engulfed a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man Fishing Product’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ affixed on a brown 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle’s Mushroom Head jig, which was presented with a slow drag-and-shake retrieve.
The broad point in the middle section of the shoreline failed to surrender any largemouth bass.
I finished the afternoon fishing a feeder creek that flows into the northeast end of the reservoir. I concentrated on a fairly deep pool that is about seven feet deep, and the bottom is strewn with fist-size rocks, clay, and gravel. The east side of the creek is lined with tall stands of cattails. The water was much clearer in this creek than it was in other areas of the reservoir, exhibiting about two feet of clarity, and a slow but visible current ran through this portion of the creek.
This pool relinquished 35 largemouth bass and four pumpkinseed sunfish that were relating to the edges of the cattail stands in three feet of water and the fist-size rocks on the bottom of the creek in seven feet of water. The 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rig enticed 11 largemouth bass and two pumpkinseed sunfish. Eleven largemouth bass and two pumpkinseed sunfish engulfed a 2 1/4-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin FattyZ tail rigged on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. Ten largemouths were caught on a customized 2 3/4-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin EZ TubeZ rigged on an exposed blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Three largemouths were caught on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ affixed on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. All of these lures were presented with a slow and subtle hop-bounce-and-deadstick retrieve.
Overall, I caught 36 largemouth bass and four pumpkinseed sunfish in three hours. By employing Midwest finesse tactics, I was able to surpass the January 2015 record in three hours. By north-central Texas standards, I enjoyed an unbelievable catch rate of 12 black bass per hour average. Moreover, it was a gratifying way to begin 2016.
Jan. 5 log
Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, and I made our maiden outing for 2016 on Jan. 5, and at times during this endeavor, we called it ice fishing for largemouth bass. This outing transpired at a heavily fished community reservoir that lies in the western suburbs of the metropolitan Kansas City area, and even on this wintery day, there were two other anglers plying this waterway.
The National Weather Service reported that it was 21 degrees at 7:53 a.m. and 36 degrees at 2:53 p.m. The wind angled out of the southeast at 5 to 13 mph and out of the south at 10 to 15 mph. During most of our outing, the sun was shining everywhere, but at times some scattered clouds covered the sun, which made it feel very chilly around wind-blown locales. The wind chill fluctuated from 10 to 27 degrees, and my fingers were cold from my first cast to my last one. The barometric pressure was 30.40 at 12:53 a.m., 30.37 at 5:53 a.m., 30.34 at 11:53 a.m., and 30.26 at 1:53 p.m. An inch or two of snow covered the terrestrial terrain.
The water level was flowing over the spillway at a rapid clip. Normally the water is virtually crystal clear in January, but since November, El Niño had pummeled this reservoir’s watershed with vast quantities of rain, and thus the water exhibited a yellowish hue on Jan. 5, the visibility ranged from 15 to 20 inches. To our eyes, it looked a tad clearer when the sun was covered with clouds. The reflection of the sun’s rays on the suspended particles in the water adversely affected the clarity in our eyes. The surface temperature ranged from 36 to 39 degrees. More than 10 percent of the surface of this reservoir was covered with ice.
In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing would take place from 6:19 a.m. to 8:19 a.m., 6:43 p.m. to 8:43 p.m., and 12:08 a.m. to 2:08 a.m. We fished from 10:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.
If I were writing this log during the spring, summer, and fall, I would be kvetching about how we caught only 20 largemouth bass in four hours. But because the water was stained and we spent a lot of time casting around sheets of ice and maneuvering the boat around those sheets of ice, a catch of 20 largemouth bass was quite remarkable. In winters past, we have been kayoed when we have been confronted with similar scenarios of ice and stained water.
During this outing, we thoroughly dissected five areas.
The first area that we fished is halfway inside a small feeder-creek arm. Nearly 35 percent of it was ice covered. We spent about 15 minutes probing a few of its offshore patches of coontail. The boat floated in six to eight feet of water. We failed to elicit a strike.
The second area that we fished is a massive and flat main-lake point in the upper reaches of the reservoir and adjacent to the mouth of the primay feeder-creek arm. It was ice free. We fished scores of coontail patches that are in four to seven feet of water with five Midwest finesse rigs. The boat floated in seven to 12 feet of water. We failed to garner a strike, and we fished it twice.
The third area that we fished is an offshore flat in the upper reaches of the reservoir’s primary feeder-creek arm. We focused on a series of coontail patches in a section of this flat that is slightly smaller than a basketball court. To our surprise and delight, we extracted 20 largemouth bass that were abiding in five to eight feet of water. The boat floated in seven to 11 feet of water. At times, we zigzagged around thin sheets of ice. During this outing, we fished the offshore patches of coontail three times, and we caught largemouth bass every time we fished it.
From our perspective, it seemed as if the largemouth bass found us, and they caught us instead of Rick and I finding and catching them. We thought that they were milling about on this massive flat, and when they moseyed through and around the patches of coontail that we were dissecting, we caught one or two of them. After we caught one or two of them, we would make untold numbers of casts and retrieves without eliciting a strike. When they disappeared, we think that they went under the nearby ice.
Two of the largemouth bass were caught on a Z-Man’s California Craw Hula StickZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. We caught two of them on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Five were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Junebug ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. A Z-Man’s pearl Rain MinnowZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught five largemouth bass. And a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught six largemouth bass. Besides the 2o largemouth bass that we hauled across the gunnels of the boat, we failed to haul one over the gunnels that was hooked for a spell on the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
Nineteen of these largemouth bass were caught when we were employing a dragging-and-deadstick retrieve that was highlighted periodically with some subtle shakes. One of them engulfed the 2 1/2-inch Junebug ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig on the initial drop. We were retrieving our Midwest finesse rigs so slowly that at times it seemed as if we were fishing for channel catfish rather than largemouth bass.
In the upper reaches of the reservoir, we also fished a steep shoreline that is graced with rocks, gravel, laydowns, bits of coontail, and winter-dead patches of American water willows. It is adjacent to the offshore flat where we caught the 20 largemouth bass. It was ice free. The boat floated in eight to 11 feet of water, and we failed to garner a strike.
The fifth area that we fished was a flat shoreline in the upper reaches of the reservoir. It is endowed with docks, concrete retaining walls, and scattered patches of coontail. Its geological features consist of silt, rock, and gravel. Some of the coontail patches lie many yards off of the shoreline. The shoreline was ice free, but this locale was encircled by ice. The boat floated in five to seven feet of water, and we failed to garner a strike.
During the winter, when the water is clear, the largemouth bass that abide in the flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas are handsome creatures. Their markings and color patterns are vivid and distinctive. But on this outing, we noticed that the aftereffects of El Niño have caused the markings to be dimmer than normal. All of the largemouth bass that we caught exhibited a dim yellowish and muddy hue rather than their usual bright gold, green, and black hues.
As we noted earlier in this log, at any other time of the year, we would have considered this 20-largemouth-bass outing to be a disappointment. But across the decades, we have found that it is always a difficult task to locate and catch largemouth bass when more than 10 percent of a flatland reservoir in northeastern Kansas is covered with ice. In our eyes, catching 20 of them on this four-hour outing is a noteworthy endeavor. It is so noteworthy that Rick and I have no idea how we did it, and it is unlikely that we will ever be able to do it again.
Jan. 6 log
Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his bank-walking endeavors on Jan. 6.
Here’s a slightly edited version of his report:
I made an impromptu decision to conduct a solo bank-walking outing at two small reservoirs in my neck of the woods. One of them is a 12-acre reservoir that lies in a suburb north of Dallas, and I fished it from about 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The second one is a 20-acre reservoir located in a suburb northwest of Dallas. I fished this reservoir from about 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated the best fishing periods should take place from 12:57 a.m. to 2:57 a.m., 7:10 a.m. to 9:10 a.m., and 7:34 p.m. to 9:34 p.m.
It was an overcast and dreary winter day, and it drizzled off and on throughout the day. The National Weather Service reported that the morning low temperature was 33 degrees and the afternoon high temperature was 48 degrees. The wind quartered out of the southeast at 5 to 12 mph. The barometric pressure measured 30.19 inches at 11:00 a.m., and it fell to 30.06 inches by 3:00 p.m. Thunderstorms were forecasted to erupt during the evening hours of Jan. 6 and last into the early morning hours of Jan. 7.
The largemouth bass bite at the first 12-acre reservoir was nonexistent. The water was stained 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. I failed to entice a single strike.
After I was kayoed at the first reservoir, I traveled to the 20-acre reservoir. This one surrendered 36 largemouth bass on Jan. 1, but a major cold front waylaid north-central Texas during the early morning hours of Jan. 2, and it seemed to have adversely affected the bountiful bass fishing that I had enjoyed from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1. Rick Allen of Dallas and his grandson plied this reservoir on Jan. 3 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and they found the bass fishing horrendous; in fact, they failed to garner a single strike.
The water conditions had deteriorated since I fished it on Jan. 1, when the water was stained and exhibited about 1 1/2 feet of clarity. Rick Allen called me after his awful Jan. 3 outing and reported that the water was muddy with about four inches of visibility. On my Jan. 6 outing, the water in the main-lake areas of this reservoir remained muddy, and it displayed less than four inches of visibility. But the small feeder creek that flows into the northeast end of the reservoir had the clearest water with about two feet of visibility. The water level was normal.
I fished three areas in 1 1/2 hours.
The first area I fished was a relatively deep pool in the northeast feeder creek. In the middle of this pool, the water is about seven feet deep. The bottom is littered with fist-size rocks and gravel. The east side of the creek is lined with tall stands of cattails. The west side is cluttered with basketball-size boulders.
This pool yielded 12 largemouth bass and one large bluegill. Eight largemouth bass engulfed a customized 2 3/4-inch Z-Man’s PB&J EZ TubeZ rigged on an exposed blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. Four largemouth bass were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Nine of these bass were extracted from the small open pockets along the deep-water edge of the cattail stands in about three feet of water. They engulfed the lure as it was deadsticked in the pockets for 30 to 60 seconds. The only indication of a strike was a slight tightening of the line or a slight heavy sensation to the lure. Three largemouth bass and the one large bluegill were lured from the bottom of the deepest portion of the pool, and they also engulfed the lure as it was deadsticked on the bottom for 30 to 60 seconds.
The second area I plied was along the south side of a long, clay and gravel point that lies along the north end of the east shoreline. I slowly dissected this area with the 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ, the PB&J EZ TubeZ, and a shortened four-inch Z-Man’s Coppertreuse Finesse WormZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and I failed to entice a strike.
The last area I fished encompassed two steep sand and gravel shorelines with a 75-foot fishing pier in the mid-section of this shoreline. This area is enhanced with a thin wall of hydrilla that courses underneath the fishing pier and parallels the shoreline in about eight feet of water. I plied this area with the ZinkerZ, EZ TubeZ, and Finesse WormZ rigs, and I failed to entice any strikes. A 2 1/4-inch tail section of a Z-Man’s Junebug FattyZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig enticed one largemouth bass from the deep-water edge of the hydrilla wall in about eight feet of water. It was presented with an extremely slow drag-shake-and-deadstick motif, and the strike occurred during the long 30- to 60- second deadstick portion of the retrieve.
This outing turned into an unusual but eye-opening lesson in the effectiveness of deadsticking. I caught a total of 13 largemouth bass and one large bluegill, and they were all caught while the lure was deadsticked for at least 30 seconds and as long as 60 seconds. I failed to elicit any strikes if I moved the bait before this 30- to 60-second pause was completed.
Jan. 9 log
Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, filed a brief on the Finesses News Network about his Jan. 9 outing with Mike McPherson of Siler City.
Here is an edited and condensed version of his report:
It was 45 degrees and misting.
In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing might take place from 9:22 a.m. to 11:22 a.m., 9:49 p.m. to 11:49 p.m., and 3:09 a.m. to 5:09 a.m. We fished from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
I am guessing that the surface temperature was in the high 40s to the low 50s. The water was very stained, exhibiting only a few inches of visibility.
We tangled with 15 largemouth bass, but we landed only eight of them.
My finesse presentation was limited to a 2 1/2-inch Strike King Lure Company’s Coppertreuse Zero affixed to a 1/10-ounce weedless Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShroomZ jig. I used it a lot – especially along the bluff shorelines that have been fruitful in the past, and it elicited only one bite.
The largemouth bass that we caught were abiding on flat points adorned with winter-dead patches of American water willows; this is traditionally where we catch them in August rather than January.
At first I thought it was an accident, but eventually we determined that it was an ideal locale for this heavily overcast day. We caught every one of them by employing a horizontal presentation with a 3/8-ounce Z-Man’s black-blue-white Chatterbait. These bass ranged in size from 1 1/2 pounds to 5 1/4 pounds.
My one bite on the Zero rig was a big one, and I immediately cussed the weed guard as being the problem, but my son-in-law Preston Parks of Pittsboro, North Carolina, was floating the river at the same time, and he caught 11 largemouth bass on the 1/10-ounce weedless Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShroomZ jig, and he assured me that the problem was not with the jig and its weedguard. He dressed his jig with a Z-Man’s Junebug Hula StickZ. The area that he was fishing is a traditional wintering area, and on many trips to it, he catches from 50 to 70 largemouth bass, but the murky water seemed to adversely affect his efforts on Jan. 9.
Despite the disparaging words that I uttered after I failed to hook the strike that I elicited on the Finesse ShroomZ jig, I think it is an amazing jig; I like the bait keeper and the upright position it creates with the Zero when it is on the bottom.
(I also need to note that on Jan. 11, when area thermometers were hovering in the mid-30s, Preston fished the same water that McPherson and I fished on Jan. 9, and along the bluff and vertical shorelines where I failed to catch a bass with the Zero rig, he caught 11 largemouth bass on the Z-Man’s Junebug Hula StickZ affixed to the 1/10-ounce weedless Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShroomZ jig. His biggest weighed 6 1/2 pounds, and one weighed 4 1/2 pounds, and he caught three three-pounders.)
Jan. 14 log
Our son, John, and grandson Logan joined me for a very brief outing at a northeastern Kansas power-plant reservoir during the afternoon of Jan. 14. In the wintertime at this reservoir, anglers are restricted from launching their boats when the velocity of the wind reaches 20 mph, and when we arrived at the boat ramp at 2:20 p.m., we were informed that it was blowing at 25 mph. Instead of turning around and returning to our homes, we decided to wait around at the boat ramp with hopes that the wind would drop below 20 mph. Our hopes were realized at 3:o5 p.m.
Anglers are required to be off the water an hour before sunset, and the sunset on Jan. 14 occurred at 5:23 p.m. So, we were able to fish for about an hour and 10 minutes.
Before the wind climbed into the 20-mph range, there had been eight boats afloat, and all of them had left an hour or more before we arrived. The security guards at the boat ramp informed us that those anglers reported that the fishing was extremely lackluster. The guards also told us that the fishing had been poor for many weeks. What’s more, a Finesse News Network member reported in December that he and a FNN member spent about five hours field testing a new finesse crankbait at this power-plant reservoir, and they failed to catch a black bass.
In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar for Jan. 14 indicated that the best fishing might occur from 1:50 a.m. to 3:50 a.m., 8:03 a.m. to 10:03 a.m., and 3:15 p.m. to 4:20 p.m. We were in the only boat on the reservoir from 3:05 p.m. to 4:23 p.m, and we caught more fish during the last 15 minutes than we did during the first 53 minutes.
The Weather Underground reported that it was 28 degrees at 5:53 a.m. and 59 degrees at 2:53 p.m. The sky exhibited a China-blue hue, and the sun was shining everywhere – especially in our eyes. The angle of the sun and its brightness virtually blinded us at times. The wind angled out of the south, south by southeast, south by southwest, and west by southwest at 6 to 25 mph. The barometric pressure was 29.84 at 12:53 a.m., 29.75 at 5:53 a.m., 29.65 at 11:53 a.m., and 29.54 at 4:53 p.m.
The reservoir was slightly above brimful. Its surface temperature at the boat ramp was 45 degrees and inside the heart of the warm-water outlet it was 61 degrees, which was 10 degrees cooler than it has been in Januaries past. The water exhibited two to three feet of visibility.
During the 68 minutes that we fished, we plied portions of a long riprap jetty inside the warm-water outlet, which was sheltered from the wind. Throughout the winter, this area is heavily fished, and we suspected that it had been pummeled by the eight boats that were afloat before the wind knocked them off of the reservoir earlier in the day. For the 70 minutes that we were afloat, we were the only boat on this reservoir.
We caught four smallmouth bass, one largemouth bass, one white bass, and one freshwater drum on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin-orange ZinkerZ affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig that was retrieved with either an extremely slow hop-and-bounce or a drag-and-deadstick presentation.
A Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Rain MinnowZ affixed to a 1/32-ounce red Gopher jig with a drag-and-deadstick retrieve caught one largemouth bass.
A Z-Man’s Canada Craw Finesse TRD affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig with a drag-and-deadstick presentation caught one largemouth bass.
As we plied the riprap, the boat floated in seven to 12 feet of water. A significant current that is created by the water that is jettisoned out of the power plant courses along the riprap. In winters past, we found that the largemouth bass and smallmouth bass preferred a presentation that allowed our baits to slide and glide with the current and ricochet gingerly off of the riprap as we employed a very slowly executed swim-glide-and-shake retrieve with a Rain MinnowZ or 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ affixed to a 1/32-ounce jig. But that tactic was not fruitful on our Jan. 14 outing, and a 1/16-ounce jig garnered the bulk of our strikes. One smallmouth bass was caught about four feet from the water’s edge in about three feet of water. The three largemouth bass and the other three smallmouth bass were caught from 10 to 15 feet from the water’s edge in six to nine feet of water.
As we were fishing, John, Logan, and I remarked several times that it felt more like a day in the middle of March in northeastern Kansas than one in the middle of January. But one weather forecaster is telling us that Old Man Winter is about to return, and it will be 12 degrees on Jan. 16 and minus-two degrees on Jan. 17.
At the end of every outing at this reservoir, anglers are required to report to the security guards how many hours they fished and what species they caught and how many they caught. And the security guards said they were surprised that we were able to catch nine fish.
Jan. 14 log
Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his bank-walking endeavors with two friends on Jan. 14.
Here is an edited and condensed version of his report:
Sam and Jean Ting of Carrollton, Texas, joined me for an afternoon bank-walking excursion at a 20-acre community reservoir located in a suburb northwest of Dallas. It was their maiden Midwest finesse fishing outing, and we fished together from about noon to 2:00 p.m. The Tings left at about 2:00 p.m., but I continued to fish until 3:00 p.m.
It was an unusually warm and sunny day, and an irksome wind blew incessantly out of the south at 18 to 25 mph. The National Weather Service listed the morning low temperature at 44 degrees and the afternoon high temperature was a delightful 69 degrees. The average high temperature for this time of year is 53 degrees and the average low is 33 degrees. The barometric pressure measured 29.15 at 11:00 a.m., and it fell to 28.94 by 3:00 p.m.
In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the optimum fishing periods would occur from 1:53 a.m. to 3:53 a.m., 8:06 a.m. to 10:06 a.m., and 2:19 p.m. to 4:19 p.m.
Rick Allen of Dallas and I began fishing this reservoir in 2003, and between 2003 and 2013, it had been our most challenging wintertime black-bass- fishing venue. But during the winter of 2014-2015, we have made some headway on figuring out this perplexing waterway, and so far, it is our most fruitful wintertime reservoir.
The water in its main-lake portions has remained muddy since Jan. 2, when north-central Texas was drenched with 3 1/2-inches of rain. On this Jan. 14 outing, it displayed less than four inches of visibility. The small feeder creek that flows into its northeast end continues to have the clearest water, exhibiting about 2 1/2 feet of visibility. The water level was normal. I did not have the means to measure the water’s temperature, but it felt cold to the touch.
I fished this reservoir on Jan. 6, and during that 1 1/2-hour foray, I caught 13 largemouth bass.
The Tings and I concentrated our efforts in a small pool in the upper end of the northeast feeder-creek arm, two main-lake points along the east shoreline, a small ditch that lies along the east shoreline, three small sections along the face of the concrete slab dam that forms the south boundary of the reservoir, and two steep sand and gravel shorelines on the west side of the reservoir.
The first area we plied was the deepest pool in the northeast feeder creek. This pool is about 50 feet long and 15 to 30 feet wide. It is usually about seven feet deep in its center, but it was only about five feet deep today. The east side of the creek is lined with tall stands of cattails. The west side is littered with basketball size boulders. The bottom of this feeder creek is adorned with fist-size rocks and gravel.
We caught 14 largemouth bass that were relating to the rocks along the bottom of the feeder creek in about five feet of water. Two other largemouth bass were able to liberate themselves before we could land them. Twelve of these largemouth bass were caught on a customized 2 3/4-inch Z-Man’s PB&J EZ TubeZ rigged on a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and they engulfed this lure as it was deadsticked for five to 10 seconds in the nooks and crannies between the fist-size rocks. Two were caught on a 2 1/4-inch tail section of a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin FattyZ attached to a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. This bait was also deadsticked in the same manner as the 2 3/4-inch EZ TubeZ in the rocks along the bottom.
After we fished that pool, we dissected the two main-lake points and small ditch on the east side of the reservoir, the dam area, and the two steep sand and gravel shorelines along the west side. They failed to yield any largemouth bass or any strikes.
When the Tings left, I returned to the small pool in the northeast feeder creek and fished there for an hour. I caught 21 largemouth bass and one large green sunfish that were abiding in the openings of the cattails in about three feet of water. These largemouth bass and the one green sunfish were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rigged on a brown 1/16-ounce Gopher jig with a deadstick presentation.
This Jan. 14 outing was a bountiful one for this time of year in north-central Texas. We inveigled a total of 35 largemouth bass and one large green sunfish during three hours of fishing. All of these bass were small specimens, but they provided us with an afternoon of fun.
The 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ caught 21 largemouth bass and one green sunfish. Twelve largemouth bass were caught on the customized 2 3/4-inch Z-Man’s PB&J EZ TubeZ. Two largemouth bass were caught on the 2 1/4-inch tail section of a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin FattyZ. A deadstick presentation was the only productive retrieve.
Jan. 15 log
Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his smallmouth bass outing on Jan. 15.
Here is an edited and condensed version of his report:
Since I became a Midwest finesse aficionado in August of 2013, I developed an itch to chase smallmouth bass. Now this itch has become a full-blown passion. That is not to say that my desire to catch oodles of largemouth bass and spotted bass has diminished, but I will go out of my way every chance I get to tangle with a smallmouth bass or two.
I will be the first to admit that my knowledge about smallmouth bass fishing is quite limited compared to some of my Midwest finesse colleagues. The learning curve has been quite steep for me, but when I and my north-central Texas friends find success, it has been a very exhilarating and gratifying experience.
I should also mention that I have never fished for smallmouth bass during the cold-water months. So, for my maiden wintertime smallmouth bass foray, I elected to drive 71 miles to a Civilian Conservation Corps’ reservoir in south-central Oklahoma.
The last time I visited this reservoir was on December 9, 2015, when Rick Allen of Dallas and I struggled for five hours to catch six smallmouth bass and two largemouth bass.
The weather on Jan. 15 was above average for this time of year. The beautiful indigo-blue sky was partly cloudy and filled with plenty of bright sunshine. The morning low temperature was 43 degrees and the afternoon high temperature climbed to 57 degrees. The average temperature for this portion of southern Oklahoma on Jan. 15 is a low of 32 degrees and a high of 51 degrees. The barometric pressure was 29.83 at 11:00 a.m. and it fell to 29.79 at 4:00 p.m. The wind was problematic. It was forecast to be in the 5 to 10 mph range, but when I arrived at the boat ramp at 10:23 a.m., it was quartering out of the northwest at about 15 to 20 mph.
In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the prime fishing periods would most likely occur between 2:15 a.m. and 4:15 a.m., 9:05 a.m. and 11: 05 a.m., and 3:18 p.m. to 5:18 p.m. I was afloat from about 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
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 appeared normal. The water temperature was 47 degrees.
I was disheartened to see the northwesterly wind whipping the water into endless ranks of white caps, which hindered my efforts throughout the day. There were only two other boats afloat on the reservoir. Wind-protected areas were few and far between, and the two areas that I did find were barren of any fish activity. I used my sonar unit to examine many acres of this reservoir in search of shad and some smallmouth bass or some sort of fishlife. When the sonar failed to pinpoint any shad or fishlife, I did not make a cast, and this no-cast scenario repeated itself many times throughout the outing.
I investigated five main-lake humps that were covered with water as shallow as six feet and as deep as 35 feet. All of these humps were surrounded by 25 to 51 feet of water, and I failed to find any smallmouth bass or shad activity.
I checked seven main-lake points. Three were fairly shallow and covered with five to 11 feet of water. Four were deeper and situated in 15 to 25 feet of water. I did not find any smallmouth bass or fishlife relating to any of them.
I fished a submerged roadbed that is enhanced with basketball-size rocks and a few 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. I employed a shortened Z-Man’s PB&J Hula StickZ rigged on a blue 3/32-ounce Gopher jig and a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin GrubZ affixed on a chartreuse 3/32-ounce Gopher jig. I attempted to retrieve the Hula StickZ rig with a slow drag-and-shake presentation, but the wind was too strong and disrupted my casts and retrieves. I employed a slow and steady swimming retrieve with the GrubZ rig, and this allowed me to cover the top of the roadbed a bit more efficiently in the wind, but I failed to elicit any strikes. After I finished trying to probe the top and sides of the roadbed, I graphed it with my sonar unit, and I did not find a single baitfish or other fish relating to the top or sides of this structure.
At this point of the outing, I was tired of battling the wind and waves, and I was ready to call it a day. But I decided to examine a long bluff located in the southeast region of the reservoir before I headed back to the boat ramp.
To save time, I slowly idled the boat parallel to the bluff while I watched my sonar unit in hopes of finding some fishlife. I finally found a few scattered baitfish suspended about 10 feet deep in 35 feet of water along a 25-yard section of the bluff. I fished this small section of the bluff with a variety of shortened Hula StickZ, GrubZ, Finesse WormZ, and ZinkerZ rigs. A 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve caught a two-pound smallmouth bass. This smallmouth was suspended about 15 feet deep in 35 feet of water and about 25 feet out from the side of the bluff. I was unable to entice any strikes with the other lures.
My first wintertime smallmouth bass outing was a dismal affair. I was unable to locate any concentrations of baitfish or smallmouth bass. I eked out only one smallmouth bass, but it was a significant one for me. Not only was it my first smallmouth bass of the year, but it was also my first wintertime one.
As I was driving home, I realized the learning curve is steeper than I thought, and I have a lot more work to do.
Jan. 16 log
Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, filed a report on the Finesses News Network about his Jan. 16 outing with Preston Parks of Pittsboro, North Carolina. Parks is Poe’s son-in-law.
Here is an edited and condensed version of Poe’s report:
This was our first outing together in a while, and Preston schooled me in the merits of Z-Man’s Hula StickZ.
Our outing began at 9:30 a.m. Area thermometers ranged from a low of 38 degrees to a high in the upper 50s. The sky was cloud covered in the morning, and eventually it became partly cloudy and sunny.
It rained on Jan. 15, and the runoff from that rain created a significant mud line in the tributary where we launched our boat. The surface temperature was in the low 40s.
During the first two hours, I tried horizontal presentations with a skirted jig and trailer and a Z-Man’s ChatterBait, while Preston primarily used a green-pumpkin 1/10-ounce Z-Man’s Weedless Finesse ShroomZ jig affixed to a Z-Man’s Junebug Hula StickZ . We went fishless during this period.
Preston’s Hula StickZ rig finally caught a 1 1/2-pound largemouth bass along a fence. Then about 50 yards down the shoreline, his Hula StickZ rig caught a beautiful 6 3/4-pound largemouth bass from some shallow rocks in front of a patch of dead American water willows. Then he hooked another largemouth bass on the Hula StickZ; it looked to be a five-pounder, but when Preston got his hand on that brute, it twisted free before he could lift it across the gunnels of the boat.
During that spell, I was using a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Coppertreuse ZinkerZ on a black 1/10-ounce Z-Man’s Weedless Finesse ShroomZ jig.
After Preston failed to lift that five-pounder into the boat, I affixed a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug ZinkerZ to my black Finesse ShroomZ jig, which caught two small largemouth bass.
But when Preston’s Junebug Hula StickZ rig caught a four-pound largemouth bass, I removed the Junebug ZinkerZ and attached a Junebug Hula StickZ to my black jig.
As both of us were wielding our Hula StickZ rigs, Preston caught a five-pound largemouth bass. After that impressive catch, I caught four largemouth bass on my Junebug Hula StickZ, and in my eyes, it salvaged my day a touch.
We fished for seven hours and caught only 12 largemouth bass, but the size of most of them was impressive. Five of them weighed more than four pounds, and three of them weighed from three to four pounds. The big ones were caught on our Junebug Hula StickZ rigs.
They were abiding in three to five feet of water in rocky areas in front of winter-dead patches of American water willows. All of these largemouth bass were in the stained-water sections rather than the extremely muddy-water areas of the reservoir. The bluffs and shorelines buffeted by a submerged creek channel were fruitless.
Our power tactics and other baits failed to elicit a strike. Our Midwest finesse tactics bore the only fruit of this outing.
Ten of the largemouth bass were caught when we were employing a dragging presentation. Two of them were caught when I employed a steady swim–and-shake retrieve near the bottom in three feet of water.
This was the first time I had used the Hula StickZ. It will certainly not be my last.
Every year we have improved our wintertime catches by using Midwest tactics on reservoirs that typically are not fished during this time of year. In fact, this is the fourth straight weekend of not seeing another boat afloat. Apparently, other anglers hereabouts think that largemouth bass cannot be caught in cold and dirty water.
Jan. 17 log
Burton Bosley of Sutton, West Virginia, filed a brief and a photograph on the Finesse News Network about his Jan. 17 outing at Dale Hollow Lake, Tennessee.
During Bosley’s Kansas City days in the 1960s, he was mentored by Chuck Woods and Ray Fincke, who taught him the ins and outs of Midwest finesse fishing. Until he moved to West Virginia several years ago, he resided in Florida, where he was a heralded freshwater and saltwater guide in Florida. Now he is retired and a contributor to FNN. He is an ardent and talented Midwest finesse angler who has also become a devotee of the float-n-fly rig. For more information about float-and-fly tactics, see his Dec. 6 log at this link: http://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/midwest-finesse-fishing-december-2015/.
Here is an edited and condensed version of Burton’s Jan. 17 report:
I visited Dale Hollow on Jan. 17 to try out our float-and-fly technique, and to see how we measured up against the difficult to catch smallmouth bass that reside in this storied reservoir, where the float-and-fly technique was perfected.
Winter shortened our fishing to one windy frigid day, but we managed to catch five smallmouth bass all of which were 18-inchers or better.
Area thermometers ranged from 24 to 32 degrees. The water temperature was in the high 40s. The wind was 12 to 20 mph from any and all directions.
I brought the little Midwest finesse rig along, but the wind and depth of the smallmouth bass kept me on the float with the little jig 12 feet below it.
It is the same 1/16-ounce hair jig I have used for years. I tie it on an unpainted ballheaded jig, using chartreuse and brown bucktail, which I have found to be effective for bonefish and bass of all persuasions. Nowadays, I add a strand or two of flashabou, and it seems more effective with it.
We have also discovered that Berkley’s NanoFil sheds ice better than braid, and so our reels are spooled with it.
After hours of fruitlessly fishing bluffs and steep rocky shorelines, we found the smallmouth bass abiding on what we termed “Billy Westmorland banks,” which are sloping points with gravel, red clay and black shale. I let the wind action work my float-and-fly rig.
Once a smallmouth bass engulfed the fly, it put up a whale of a donnybrook, electing to dive into deep water rather than leaping about on the surface.
This technique is a simple and inexpensive finesse technique. It is great for cold-weather fishing. One does not have to keep casting and retrieving all the time. In fact, I kept one hand in my pocket whilst watching the float. What fun.
Jan. 23 log
Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his bank-walking outing on Jan. 23 with John Thomas of Denton at two community reservoirs located in two suburbs northwest of Dallas.
Here is an edited and condensed version of his report:
In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted the prime fishing periods should take place from 3:24 a.m. to 5:24 a.m., 9:37 a.m. to 11:37 a.m., and 10:03 p.m. to 12:03 a.m. John and I fished the first reservoir from about 11:30 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m., and the second reservoir from about 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The day started off cold and overcast, but around 10:00 a.m., the skies cleared and the sun began shining brightly. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 31 degrees and the afternoon high temperature reached 49 degrees. The barometric pressure measured 30.32 at 11:00 a.m. and it fell to 30.18 by 5:00 p.m. The wind was light and quartered out of the southwest at 4 to 8 mph.
John and I began the outing at a 20-acre community reservoir.
The water in the main-lake section of this reservoir has been muddy since Jan. 2, and it has displayed less than four inches of visibility. The black bass fishing in this portion of the reservoir has been virtually nonexistent since Jan. 1.
The most fruitful area at this reservoir is a deep pool in the upper section of a small feeder creek that lies along the reservoir’s northeast end. This area is where we opted to spend the majority of our time. This pool is about 50 feet long and about 30 feet wide at its widest point. The east side of the pool is lined with tall stands of cattails. The west side is littered with basketball size rocks. The mid-section of the pool is about five feet deep, and the bottom of the pool is cluttered with large rocks and gravel.
The water in this pool usually exhibits about 2 1/2 feet of visibility, but when we arrived on this day, we discovered the water in the feeder creek exhibited about a foot of visibility and it displayed an unusual blue tint that we suspect is a dye used in a large decorative fountain pool in front of a nearby office complex that overflowed during a rainstorm on Jan. 21, and the dyed water in that fountain drained into this reservoir. The water level was normal. We were unable to measure the water temperature.
We caught 25 largemouth bass and incidentally caught seven green sunfish that were relating to the rocks along the bottom of the pool in about five feet of water. Another five largemouth bass liberated themselves before we could land them.
Eight largemouth bass were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rigged on a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. Seven largemouth bass and six green sunfish were caught on a 2 1/4-inch tail section of a Z-Man’s California Craw FattyZ on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. Six largemouth bass and one green sunfish were caught on a customized 2 3/4-inch Z-Man’s California Craw EZ TubeZ affixed on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. One largemouth bass was caught on a customized 2 3/4-inch Z-Man’s PB&J EZ TubeZ on a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. One largemouth bass was caught on a shortened four-inch Z-Man’s Coppertreuse Finesse WormZ on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. One largemouth bass was caught on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ on a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. One largemouth bass was caught on a Z-Man’s dark melon-red Scented LeechZ on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. All of these lures were presented with a slow hop-bounce-and-deadstick retrieve. The deadstick portion of the retrieve was implemented for five to 20 seconds. All of these fish were relating to the large rocks that lie along the bottom of the pool. We also experimented with a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve and a drag-and-shake retrieve, but they failed to garner any strikes.
We also fished a main-lake point on the east side of the reservoir, the west end of the dam, which is situated along the south end of the reservoir, and two steep sand and gravel shorelines along the west side. These areas failed to yield any strikes.
After we finished fishing this 20-acre reservoir, we spent the next 1 1/2 hours checking the water conditions at two other nearby community reservoirs and a 10,600-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir. The last reservoir we visited was a small two-acre community reservoir. We fished this waterway from about 4:00 p.m. to about 5:30 p.m.
The south end of this reservoir consists of a decorative concrete and stone dam that is about eight feet high. Two large and submerged rock piles lie about 25 feet in front of the center of the dam, and both piles are covered with about three to four feet of water. A brush pile also enhances the dam area, and it is situated in four feet of water and about 15 feet in front of the east end of the dam. The entire bottom area around the dam is covered with softball size rocks.
The east shoreline is steep, curved, and adorned with several stands of cattails and a few scattered tree limbs, which are partially submerged. This shoreline was receiving the most direct sunlight, and we could see a significant amount of small insect activity on the surface of the water close to the water’s edge.
The north shoreline of the reservoir is straight and borders a shallow mud flat. A small creek enters the reservoir from the west end of this shoreline.
The west side of the reservoir is mostly shallow with several stands of cattails that line the water’s edge. It was also shaded from the sun.
The water was stained and exhibited about 1 1/2 feet of clarity. The water level was about normal. We did not have the means to measure the water temperature.
We caught five largemouth bass that were relating to two small tertiary points along the east shoreline in five feet of water. Two other largemouth bass were able to liberate themselves before we could land them. All five of these largemouth bass engulfed a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rigged on either a chartreuse or blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and retrieved with a slow drag-shake-and-deadstick presentation.
The northern and southern sections of the reservoir were fruitless. We did not fish the western portion of this watershed.
John and I inveigled a total of 30 largemouth bass and seven large green sunfish during our 4 1/2 hours of fishing. The largest largemouth weighed three pounds.
The most fruitful lure was the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rig. A slow hop-bounce-and-deadstick retrieve was the most productive presentation.
Jan. 28 log
Only two of the many reservoirs that stipple the countryside of northeastern Kansas are ice free, and they are power-plant reservoirs. Bob Gum of Kansas City, Kansas, Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, and I fished one of them on Jan. 28.
According to the Weather Underground, it was 34 degrees at 3:53 a.m. and 52 degrees at 2:53 p.m. The sun was shining everywhere. The barometric pressure was 30.03 at 12:53 a.m., 29.97 at 5:53 a.m., 29.97 at 11:53 a.m., and 29.94 at 2:53 p.m. The wind angled out of the west, west by southwest, west by northwest, and northwest at 4 to 24 mph, and the gusts of wind sent chills directly to our bones and made the trolling motor work overtime and prevented us from plying several locales.
In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing should transpire from 1:18 a.m. to 3:18 a.m., 1:39 p.m. to 3:39 p.m., and 7:29 a.m. to 9:29 a.m. We fished from 9:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. And the fishing was worse than wearisome.
The water level looked to be nearly two feet above normal, and we have never seen it this high. The water was stained, exhibiting six to 10 inches of visibility. We plied one area that was 100 yards from the outside edge of the warm-water plume, and the surface temperature was 45 degrees. Along the edges and within the plume of warm water, the surface temperature ranged from 51 to 57 degrees.
We tangled with only eight largemouth bass.
The first largemouth bass was caught at a bluff end in about four feet of water on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Coppertreuse ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, which was presented with a drag-and-subtle-shake retrieve.
The second one was caught at the same bluff end in about six feet of water by strolling and dragging a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
The third one was caught along a bluff, where the boat floated in 12 feet of water. It was extracted out of about five feet of water on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Coppertreuse ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, which was retrieved with a drag-and-subtle-shake presentation.
The fourth largemouth bass was caught along the same bluff as the third one. The boat floated in 10 to 12 feet of water. This bass was extracted out of about four feet of water on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a drag-and-subtle-shake retrieve.
The fifth one was caught on a flat point, where a significant amount of current courses across it. The underwater terrain consists of gravel, rocks, boulders, several ledges, stumps, and laydowns. The boat floated in three to six feet of water. The largemouth bass was caught in about three feet of water, and it engulfed the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Coppertreuse ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, which was retrieved with a drag-and-deadstick presentation.
The sixth bass was caught at a bluff end in three to four feet of water, and the boat floated in six to seven feet of water. The largemouth bass was caught on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and an extremely slow swim-glide-and-shake presentation.
The seventh largemouth bass was caught on a small flat that lies between two bluffs. The underwater terrain is littered with scores of laydowns and some stumps. A flat point, a ditch, and a submerged creek channel also grace this flat. This bass was abiding in about three feet of water, and it was caught on the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Coppertreuse ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, which was retrieved with a swim-glide-and-subtle-shake presentation.
The eighth largemouth bass was caught on the same flat as the seventh one, and it was caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig that was presented in a swim-glide-and shake retrieve. It was abiding in about four feet of water.
After we caught largemouth bass No. 8, we fished 105 minutes without eliciting another strike. Once those 105 minutes had expired, we called it an outing and headed home in hopes that the other northeastern Kansas reservoirs would soon be ice free and we would not have to return to this piscatorial hell-hole, which until two winters ago was one of the finest wintertime largemouth bass spots in the heartland. But something is definitely awry with this once heralded waterway, and it is no longer a fun place to fish.
Endnote to the Jan. 28 log:
Joel Schroeder of Overland Park, Kansas, filed a brief on the Finesse News Network about his Jan. 28 outing at the same power-plant reservoir that Bob Gum, Rick Hebenstreit and I fished. Schroeder fished from 7:00 a.m. to noon, and he noted that the water clarity and fishing was the worst that he had ever seen and experienced at this reservoir. He caught two dinky white bass and one freshwater drum.
But on Jan. 27, Schroeder fished the other northeastern Kansas power-plant reservoir, where he caught 17 smallmouth bass, seven largemouth bass, and one channel catfish on a Z-Man’s black/blue-flake Hula StickZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/15-ounce Z-Man’s Finesse ShroomZ jig. He caught these fish in the warm-water outlet.
Clyde Holscher and I spent a few hours on Jan. 29 plying one cold-water haunt at the same power-plant reservoir Schroeder fished on Jan. 27. (We didn’t employ any of the Midwest finesse tactics that we use nowadays in northeastern Kansas. Therefore, this is not a normal Midwest finesse log.) The area that we fished is bordered by a steep riprap jetty, which is almost bluff-like. The surface temperature at this locale ranged from 40 to 41 degrees. There was a minor insect hatch occurring. Holscher estimated that there was six to eight feet of clarity. While we were afloat it was sunny, the wind angled out of the south and south by southeast at 8 to 15 mph, the temperature ranged from 50 to 70 degrees, and the barometric pressure dropped from 29.83 to 29.64. Holscher worked the entire time fine tuning a finesse-size crankbait that he has been working on for several months, and he hopes to send several dozen prototypes to the manufacturer during the first week or two of February. I worked with two spinning rods. One was a 10-footer that sported a float-and-fly rig, and the fly was a 1/16-ounce olive marabou jig, and the bobber was set 10 feet above the bobber. The other rod was a standard Midwest finesse spinning rod with a classic 1/16-ounce Leroy Spellman’s silver-gray marabou jig. Back in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010, we spent a lot of time plying several of the cold-water lairs at this reservoir with either a 1/32-ounce or a 1/16-ounce Spellman’s silver-gray jig. And after Holscher read Burton Bosley’s Jan. 17 log about his float-and-fly tactics at Dale Hollow Lake, he asked me to try it while he fine-tuned his baits. It was the first that I had ever used one in pursuit of black bass. The float-and-fly rig caught a largemouth bass and a smallmouth bass in 11 to 12 feet of water along the edge of a hump, where the boat floated in 17 feet of water. Spellman’s silver-gray jig, which was retrieved with a subtle hop-and-bounce presentation, caught a smallmouth bass at that same spot. Spellman’s jig and the hop-and-bounce retrieve also caught a largemouth bass in about 15 feet of water along a steep section of riprap, where the boat floated in 25 feet of water.
Jan. 28 log
Jan. 29 log
Aaron Shafer of Memphis, Tennessee, filed this report about his bank-walking endeavors at a 30-acre gravel pit and swamp on Jan. 29.
Here is an edited and revised edition of his log:
I am an urban bass fisherman, and I fish a number of gravel pits within the confines of Memphis. They were formed when Interstate Highway 40 was constructed. Most of these pits or lakes are directly fed by the Wolf River. The Wolf River is a tributary to the Mississippi river, and when the Mississippi’s water levels reach flood stage, the Wolf River starts to flow backwards from west to east, and that causes the Wolf River to spill into numerous oxbows and gravel pits.
In-Fisherman’s solunar table indicated that the best fishing might transpire from 1:46 a.m. to 3:46 a.m., 2:07 p.m. to 4:07 p.m., and 7:56 a.m. to 9:56 a.m. I fished from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
The water temperature was 45 degrees, which was four degrees warmer than it was on Jan. 23 and 24, when we had the first snow of the winter. The water was two feet higher than its normal summertime level. The water was stained from the heavy rains and floods during early January; it exhibited no more than 12 inches of visibility.
Area thermometers hovered around 55 degrees. The wind was angling from the northwest at 5 mph during the early morning hours, but while I was fishing it was variable and about 5 mph, and at times, it was calm. The barometic pressure, according to the Weather Underground, was 30.05 and dropping. The next few days should be interesting; the weather forecasters are predicting that the high temperatures will be in the 60s and the low temperatures will not dip below 50 degrees.
In addition to fishing the 30-acre gravel pit, I fished an adjacent swamp. Except during flood stages, the swamp is separate from the gravel pits, and it is full of swamp mallow, which makes for some very challenging and fun fishing, and catching a largemouth bass is usually a race against the bass diving into the bushes and breaking off the line.
At the gravel pit, I plied lairs that were covered with two to five feet of water. I caught a largemouth bass that looked as if it would weigh around 2 3/4-pounds. It was caught on a 2 1/2-inch Strike King Lure Company’s green-pumpkin Zero affixed to a green-pumpkin 1/16-ounce Prescription Plastics’ Ozark Finesse Head jig.
At the adjacent swamp, the Zero rig caught a largemouth bass that weighed about one pound.
I retrieved the Zero rig by using a combination of three different presentations: hop, deadstick, and drag.
Jan. 29 log
Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas, filed a report and two photographs on the Finesse News Network about his Jan. 29 outing on a northwestern Arkansas stream, where he caught smallmouth bass, spotted bass, meanmouth bass, and rock bass. He saw several largemouth bass, which he failed to inveigle. He noted that it was the most fruitful outing that he has ever enjoyed on an Ozark stream in Janurary.
Here is an edited and condensed version of his report:
In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing might occur from 2:50 a.m. to 4:50 a.m., 3:12 p.m. to 5:12 p.m., and 9:01 a.m. to 11:01 a.m. I fished from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The Weather Underground noted that the low temperature was 30 degrees and the high temperature was 68 degrees. It was sunny. At 12:55 p.m. the wind was blowing out of the southwest at 16 to 22 mph, and it was blowing out of the south at 12 to 17 mph around 5:15 p.m. The barometric pressure was 29.86 at 12:55 p.m. and 29.75 at 4:55 p.m.
The river’s water level was normal, flowing around 165 cubic feet per second. It was gin clear, which allowed me to see the bottom in 10 to 15 feet of water. The surface temperature was 49 degrees, which was 10 degrees warmer than a community reservoir that I fished on Jan. 29. I am pretty certain this stretch of river is heavily spring fed, and the temperature of the water flowing out of the springs hereabout is typically 50 degrees year-round.
The 600-yard stretch of water that I fished is graced with a bluff wall on the strong side and an oxbow on the weak side. I fished this 600-yard stretch the entire four hours. The flood that occurred around Christmas completely changed the layout of this section of river. There are deep runs where a massive gravel bar used to be. Some of the deep pools are now filled up with gravel from bank to bank. It took me an hour to get reacquainted with this stretch of creek.
I employed a three-pound anchor on my NuCanoe Frontier 12. The wind was gusting upstream making it extremely difficult to keep the canoe stationary, and my battles with the wind and the anchor cost me an hour of fishing time.
I worked with a six-foot-and-nine-inch, medium-power spinning rod that is made for drop-shot rigs. My spinning reel was spooled with eight-pound-test Yo-Zuri Hybrid line. To the line I attached a 1/8-ounce Prescription Plastics’ Ozark Finesse Head jig and a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin/orange ZinkerZ.
I made casts towards the bluff wall from the weak side. When I employed a drag-and-deadstick presentation, I failed to catch a fish. But I noticed the bass would bump the bait when I initially started to reel the bait back to the canoe for another cast. That was the first clue that they wanted the bait swimming just above the bottom. Finally, I pulled the anchor in and paddled the canoe over to a laydown next to the bluff wall. I was able to lodge the boat between the branches of this laydown. From this locale, I could see that this laydown was breaking the current. The deepest part of the river and its fastest current flowed along the weak side of the laydown. What’s more, I could see bass swimming about 12 inches above the bottom, which was 10 to 15 feet deep.
From the laydown, I made casts towards the weak side of the river, which is the gravel-bar area, and I let the ZinkerZ rig sink on a semi-tight line. I caught them by employing two presentations.
One of them was what I call the pendulum retrieve, which allowed the ZinkerZ rig to swing towards the canoe just off the bottom.
The other one was the swimming retrieve, which required me to rotate the reel handle very slowly. If I rotated it too fast, I could not elicit a strike. I had to turn the reel so slow that it took two to three seconds to make one revolution of the handle. The bait would bump along the bottom, and I could feel the bass thumping the bait as it bumped along. Some of the bass would bite during a steady retrieve, and at other times, they would bite it when I sped up the retrieve slightly. They never hit the ZinkerZ rig when I stopped it. This was baffling to me, and it was a painfully slow presentation – similar to the way a sloth would turn the handle. I made repeated casts to the weak side, and I would let the bait fall to the bottom before I started my sloth-like retrieve. For about an hour, I would get a bite on about every other cast. Many times, they followed the ZinkerZ so close to the boat that my line was vertical. At times, I could see a bass make a pass at the ZinkerZ rig. As the sun got lower and the shadows got longer, the bass got shallower, and they moved into about six feet of water.
After the bite slowed down around that log, my next stop was under an old rope swing that was hanging from a twisted sycamore tree growing on the bluff wall. This spot had no gravel on the strong side of the river, but the bottom was endowed with big table-top-sized boulders. I could, however, see the gravel bottom on the other side of the river. The wind was still blowing, and I tied the canoe to a branch at the base of the sycamore tree. Once I got settled in, I spent the next hour catching bass out of the heart of the river channel. To accomplish that task, I made casts from the strong side to the weak side of the river, angling each cast slightly upstream so I could employ a cross-current retrieve. I was casting into six feet of water and retrieving the bait into 12 feet of water. From this area, I caught 12 bass. Most of them were caught after the ZinkerZ rig fell to the bottom on the weak side, and I started the sloth-like retrieve.