Midwest Finesse Fishing: February 2014
March 02, 2014
Mother Nature's wintry and windy ways regularly checkmated Midwest finesse anglers in February.
Therefore, those of us who live in northeastern Kansas were unable to get afloat for enough hours to locate the whereabouts of some of the largemouth bass that abide in our flatland reservoirs and to determine the most effective presentations to catch them.
For example, I was able to fish only twice. Both outings were at a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir. Once I joined Ronny Denayer of Butler, Missouri, and on the second outing, I fished with Bob Gum of Kansas City. Across those two outings, we fished about 11 hours and caught 111 largemouth bass. A description of those two Midwest finesse endeavors are detailed in the Feb. 13 and 22 logs.
Of the five Finesse News Network contributors to this month's guide, Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, fished and wrote the most. His focus was on trying to allure Florida-strain largemouth bass with Midwest finesse tactics in the frigid waterways of north-central Texas. He also helped edit these 12,621 words.
Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, wrote about his Midwest finesse attempts at a 2,534-acre natural lake in Pinellas County, Florida, on Feb. 5-8.
Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, contributed three logs about his trying wintertime outings.
Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas, provided some insights about catching Florida-strain largemouth bass that abide in a 500-acre power-plant reservoir in northwestern Arkansas.
In sum this month's guide to Midwest finesse fishing is rank with tales about failure. But perhaps the anglers who wrote them can garner some solace by pondering the keen insights of Sava Dimopoulous, who is a noted particle physicist at Stanford University. He said: "Jumping from failure to failure with undying enthusiasm is the secret of success." If we acknowledge the truth of Dimpoulous' insights, we will eventually understand that this trying winter provided us with some piscatorial wisdom that we would not have been able to ascertain any other way. So, here's hoping these 15 logs will provide readers with some insights to how difficult times and failures can make all of us better anglers.
Feb. 2 log
Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, sent the following report to the Finesse News Network about his outing on a 150-acre community reservoir.
He said that the reservoir was covered with ice on Feb. 1, but after he had attended church and eaten lunch on Feb. 2, he noticed that much of the ice had melted, which allowed him to launch his boat around 3:00 p.m., and he fished until 5:30 p.m. The water exhibited a cloudy tint.
The National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 42 degrees and the afternoon high temperature hit 57 degrees. At 2:52 p.m., the barometric pressure was 30.10 and dropping. For spells the wind was nil, and at times, it angled from the west at 6 to 9 mph and then from the southwest at 6 to 8 mph.
He focused on sunny shorelines, where a submerged creek channel bordered the shorelines. He wielded a 2 ½-inch Strike King Lure Company's green-pumpkin Zero affixed to a 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head Jig, No. 2 Rapala Shad Rap in a crayfish hue, Z-Man Fishing Products' 3/8-ounce chartreuse-white-gold-blade Chatterbait, and Strike King's black-and-blue-flake Rage Tail Craw affixed to a half — ounce Strike King black-blue Denny Brauer Premier Pro-Model Jig.
He used the Zero and Strike King jig combo along the steep portion of the shorelines, and along the gradual-sloping shorelines, he worked with the Chatterbait and Shad Rap. And none of his presentations garnered a strike.
Feb. 3 log
Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, posted a note on the Finesse News Network on Feb. 3, saying "I have never seen Riss Lake frozen for such a length of time. I have cabin fever and I see no cure in sight."
Feb 8 log
Before Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, joined the Finesse News Network late in the summer of 2013, a goodly number of FNN members suffered with the grand illusions that Texas was a nirvana for largemouth bass anglers. But once we began reading about Reideler's Midwest finesse struggles, it provoked us to examine the results of some recent professional bass tournaments at Texas reservoirs. We wanted to see if the professional anglers encountered some of the same difficulties that plagued Reideler, and we were amazed at the sorry largemouth bass fishing that confounded the anglers at these tournaments.
For example, at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open on Lewisville Lake, Texas, on Feb 9-11, 2012, Brent Chapman of Lake Quivira, Kansas, caught only 20.9-pounds of largemouth bass across three tournament days, and then during the tiebreaking fish-off on the fourth day, he caught one largemouth bass that weighed six pounds, five ounces, to win the event.
At the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open on Lake Amistad near Del Rio, Texas, on Feb. 6-8, 2014, Chapman caught only three largemouth bass that weighed only 7.7 pounds and finished in 81st place. Another veteran northeastern Kansas professional angler by the name of Cecil Kingsley of Lawrence, Kansas, caught only 1.13-pounds of bass. What's more, the famed Denny Brauer, who now resides at Amistad, caught only 8.3 pounds of bass and finished in 78th place. Nineteen of the professional competitors, which included the renowned Rick Clunn of Ava, Missouri, failed to catch a bass. Fifty-four of the co-anglers or amateurs failed to catch a bass.
After reading and pondering about the trials and tribulations that Reideler and other anglers endure at many Texas waterways, those of us who currently reside in the icebound and snowbound areas of the Midwest -- such as in eastern Kansas, western Missouri, and central Indiana — think that we are blessed to have the easy and bountiful bass fishing that we have, where we can catch an average of nine to 11 largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass an hour. We readily confess that it is not fun to be snowbound and icebound as many of us have been for weeks on end during this harsh winter of 2013-14. But we remember that we had crocuses blooming in our gardens in Lawrence, Kansas, on Feb. 9, 2013 and Feb. 7, 2013, we caught 49 largemouth bass between 12:30 p.m. and 3:40 p.m. and on Feb. 8, 2013, we caught 45 largemouth bass between 11:15 a.m. and 2:25 p.m., and those memories provide some comfort to our souls and cold bones. And while Mother Nature conspires with Old Man Winter to keep us at bay, we can gain some piscatorial insights by reading about how, when, and where Steve Reideler tries to catch his allusive quarry in the waterways he fishes around Lewisville.
Here's a report that Reideler filed with the Finesse News Network about his Feb. 8 outing.
He wrote: "February started off cold and windy in north central Texas, and it kept me at bay since January 31. But on February 8, we received a reprieve from Mother Nature's wintry ways; the daytime temperatures rebounded from an early morning low of 35 degrees and climbed to an afternoon high of 53 degrees. The morning started off cloudy with light fog covering the area, and ultimately the afternoon skies cleared and the sun began shining brightly. The wind was steady out of the southeast at 10 mph, and the barometric pressure measured 29.99.
"I made an afternoon bank-walking foray to four local community ponds.
"In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated the optimum fishing periods were between 5:31 a.m. to 7:31 a.m., and 5:55 p.m. and 7:55 p.m. I began fishing at noon and finished at 3:00 p.m. I did not have the means to measure water temperatures.
"The first three ponds I visited are located on the southern edge of Lewisville. The first pond I fished is about an acre in size, and is situated just west of the second pond. This pond's major features consist of a small green hydrilla bed near its eastern bank and a creek channel that traverses through the center of the pond. The water was slightly stained with about three feet of visibility. I caught four bass from this pond on January 31, but the bass were not as cooperative today. I began plying the hydrilla bed with a customized 2 ½-inch Z-Man's watermelon-red-flake FattyZ tube rigged on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and I caught a keeper largemouth bass on the second cast. On the fourth cast, I landed a two-pound channel catfish. About 15 minutes later, I enticed a second largemouth bass from the edge of the creek channel on a four-inch Z-Man's watermelon Finesse WormZ rigged wacky-style on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. At about 12:30 p.m., the weather conditions changed from cloudy and foggy to clear and sunny, and the bass bite quickly fizzled out. On this pond, I also employed a customized 2 ½-inch Z-Man's California Craw FattyZ tube and a 2 1/2-inch green- pumpkin FattyZ tube, but these baits failed to elicit any strikes.
"The second pond I fished is about 100 yards long, 40 yards wide, and it is embellished with a large island near its western shore. The water was stained with about one and a half feet of clarity. I slowly plied this pond with a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's black-blue-flake FattyZ tube bait affixed to a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and a four-inch Z-Man's green pumpkin Finesse WormZ wacky-rigged on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. I was unable to garner any bites from this pond.
"The third pond I fished is situated just south of the second pond, and is about five acres in size with stained water that exhibited about one and a half feet of visibility. A large mud flat spans the south end of the pond, and the north end is enhanced with steep mud banks, a large hydrilla bed, a small rock pile, and a short but steep point that extends from the west bank. I slowly worked this pond with the black-blue-flake FattyZ tube and wacky-rigged green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ, and like at the second pond, I failed to allure any largemouth bass.
"The last pond I visited is located on the southeastern border of Lewisville. This pond is about 30-acres in size and has a unique U-shape configuration. The banks are lined with a decorative stone wall and thick hydrilla beds flourish throughout this pond. I probed this pond with a Z-Man's green-pumpkin-blue- flake ShadZ affixed to a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, 2 1/2-inch black-blue-flake FattyZ tube, and a four-inch green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ rigged on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. The thick hydrilla beds relegated me to only two retrieve styles: the swim-glide-shake retrieve and the straight do-nothing swim motif. This pond also refused to yield any bass to me.
"In sum, wintertime bass fishing in north central Texas remains tedious and agonizingly slow. I fished for three hours and caught only two largemouth bass and one channel catfish. The customized 2 ½-inch Z-Man's watermelon-red FattyZ tube rigged on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig inveigled one largemouth bass and one catfish. The four-inch Z-Man watermelon Finesse WormZ wacky-rigged on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig allured one largemouth bass. The FattyZ tube was employed with a drag-and-deadstick retrieve. The wacky-rigged Finesse WormZ was utilized with a subtle twitch-and-deadstick motif. All three fish were caught from the first pond during fog and overcast conditions. Once the skies cleared and became sunny, the bass bite became nonexistent."
Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his largemouth bass endeavors at a 2,534-acre natural lake in Pinellas County, Florida, on Feb. 5-8.
Claudell's stay in Florida allowed him to escape the ice and snow that encrusted the landscape of northeastern Kansas for weeks on end, But to his chagrin, the only time that he saw the sun in Florida was when he arrived at the airport in Tampa on Feb. 4 and at the airport when he was boarding the plane for his return trip to Kansas City.
What's more, he said area thermometers struggled to reach the upper 50s, and thus, he did not don any of the shorts and short-sleeve shirts that he packed. And every time he was afloat it rained, forcing him to wear a rain suit on every outing.
In January of 2013, he fished this same waterway, and during that time, many of the lake's largemouth bass were milling about in spawning areas. This year Claudell failed to any largemouth bass moseying around in spawning areas, and local anglers thought that the several flurries of unseasonably cool weather had stymied the spawning season.
Claudell said that his Midwest finesse tactics, which revolved around wielding a a four-inch Z-Man's black-neon & June bug Finesse WormZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, were more fruitful this year than they were in 2013. And across six hours of employing Midwest finesse methods, he caught a dozen largemouth bass; the biggest weighed three pounds.
Claudell spent most of his time fishing with live shiners with a friend. His friend inveigled a seven-pound largemouth bass with a shiner, and Claudell caught a four-pounder. Another acquaintance caught a 10-pound largemouth bass with a shiner.
Shortly before Claudell arrived at this lake, employees of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had spread herbicide to kill the patches of Eurasian water milfoil. And Claudell suspected that it adversely affected the fishing, noting that several of the largemouth bass that he and his friend caught were sickly looking, and they also saw two dead largemouth bass.
Feb. 9 log
Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his Feb. 9 outing on a 150-acre community reservoir.
The National Weather Service recorded the low temperature at 45 degrees and the high temperature at 58 degrees. The wind was calm for many hours, and then it became variable, angling out of the southeast at 3 to 6 mph, east at 3 mph, south at 6 to 23 mph, and southwest at 8 to 9 mph. At 11:55 a.m. the barometric pressure was 30.08 and falling.
Poe fished from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times occurred at 6:23 a.m. to 8:23 a.m. and 6:47 p.m. to 8:47 p.m.
The surface temperature was in the low 40s. Water level was normal. The water was stained with a visibility of six to eight inches.
He caught nine largemouth bass. Eight were allured by a 2 ½-inch Strike King green-pumpkin Zero affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and one was enticed by a Zoom Bait Company's WEC Mutt Crankbait in a red-crayfish hue.
He said, "The bass I caught were on steeper banks in the back thirds of the two feeder-creek arms. For three years now that has been the first spots in this 150- acre community lake to yield bass."
He retrieved the 2 ½-inch Zero by employing a subtle shake-and-drag retrieve in about six feet of water. He said, "Only one bite was felt the others were just there when I moved the bait. All the bass were caught on just three channel-swing banks." He failed to garner a strike at the other locales that he fished.
He was impressed with the size of the bass: none weighed less than two pounds, and four of them weighed from 3 ½ to four pounds.
After he failed to elicit a strike at this reservoir on Feb. 2, Poe said he was "totally surprised and delighted" to catch nine largemouth bass on this outing.
He suspected that he would not have fared as well if had not used the 2 ½-inch green-pumpkin Zero and red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. A Strike King's black-and-blue-flake Rage Tail Craw affixed to a half — ounce Strike King black-blue Denny Brauer Premier Pro-Model Jig failed to elicit a strike. He wielded the WEC Mutt Crankbait across rocky and flat terrains, and it elicited only two strikes. The fruitful shoreline exhibited significant slope, and they were situated near the deepest water in the back thirds of the feeder-creek arms.
Feb. 13 log
According to the National Weather Service in Lawrence, Kansas, Feb. 13 was the first time since Jan. 30 that area thermometers climbed above 32 degrees. What's more, it was the first time that I had made a cast since Jan. 13, when I was afloat at a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir from 10:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. and tangled with only five largemouth bass.
On Feb. 13, I returned to that power-plant reservoir and fished with Ronny Denayer of Butler, Missouri.
Denayer is a 32-year-old railroad engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad and talented black bass and crappie angler. He fishes recreationally and competes on several bass tournament venues in Missouri — such as the Joe Bass Team Tournament trail. For years he has been a power angler who occasionally wields some finesse tactics, but his finesse methods are what Midwest finesse anglers describe as power finesse. (Power anglers exhibit an incessant wont to feel what their baits are doing during the retrieve process. Thus, they affix their soft-plastic finesse baits to 3/32-, 3/16-, and 1/4-ounce jigs. In contrast, Midwest finesse anglers never want to feel what their baits are doing during the retrieve, which is why it is often referred to as no-feeling fishing. To attain that no-feel presentation, Midwest finesse anglers work with 1/32- and 1/16-ounce jigs, but there some scenarios when they wield a 3/32-ounce jig — such as when they work with a grub, have to deal with a pesky wind, or probe lairs that are situated in water deeper than 12 feet.)
Since Mar. 4, 2013, Denayer has been a member of the Finesse News Network, and he has recently expressed an interest in learning more about how, when and where to employ Midwest finesse tactics. And in essence, this Feb. 13 outing was his maiden Midwest finesse expedition.
The National Weather Service at Olathe, Kansas, recorded the morning's low temperature at 23 degrees and the afternoon high temperature at 45 degrees. The wind angled out the southwest and west at 8 to 13 mph. The barometric pressure was 29.87 and falling at 9:52 a.m. The sun brightly illuminated the wintry and snow-laden landscape; after enduring scores of dreary days since our first snowfall on Dec. 5, 2013, we relished its warmth and radiance with much gusto and praise.
The water level looked to be normal. The water was stained and even murky in some locales, exhibiting a clarity of six to 15 inches. We spent our entire outing within the heart of the reservoir's warm-water plume, which was 57 degrees at the outlet along the east side of the reservoir and 54 to 55 degrees on the west side of the reservoir. When Denayer launched his boat, he had to break up the ice that covered the water at the boat ramp, and we estimated that about 20 percent of the reservoir was covered with ice. For many weeks, the power plant was not generating a lot of electricity, which caused the water temperature to plummet and ice to form, and in fact, the 57 degrees that Denayer and I registered was the warmest temperature that we had found the surface temperature to be at the outlet since Nov. 25, 2013, when it was 59 degrees.
We fished from 9:55 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. In-Fisherman's solunar calendar noted that the best fishing occurred from 8:54 a.m. to 10:54 a.m.
The first area that we fished was on the east side of the reservoir. It is a shallow and massive flat point that separates two coves. It is endowed with two humps, two submerged creek channels, several significant ledges, some stumps, gravel, clay, rocks, and laydowns. It is also graced with some current that is produced by the power plant. Ranks of waves also pummeled the entire point. The surface temperature was 55 degrees. We caught 12 largemouth bass, two white bass, one wiper, once crappie and one channel catfish at this location, and they were extracted from two to three feet of water. They were allured by two baits: Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and Zoom Bait Company's green-pumpkin Fat Albert grub (slightly more than an inch was trimmed off of its head) on a 3/32-ounce homemade green-pumpkin mushroom-style jig. We fished part of this area again around noon, and we caught two largemouth bass on the Finesse ShadZ and Fat Albert during that spell. The Fat Albert was retrieved with a slow swimming presentation. The Finesse ShadZ was presented with a drag-and-deadstick presentation, at times the drag was enhanced with a shake or two, and occasionally the Finesse ShadZ was strolled behind the boat.
Our second stop was on the west side of the reservoir at the confluence of a mud flat, submerged creek channel and a point at the end of a bluff. The surface temperature was 54 degrees. The mud flat and submerged creek channel failed to yield a fish. At the point of the bluff, we caught four largemouth bass and one crappie, which were allured by the green-pumpkin Fat Albert with a slow swimming retrieve and green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ with the drag-and-deadstick motif. These fish were abiding in two to four feet of water. During this outing, we probed this point two more times, and we failed to elicit a strike on those two subsequent endeavors.
The third area we fished was along the bluff that lies to the north of the point where we caught the four largemouth bass and one crappie. It is about 200 yards long, and it is endowed with laydowns, man-made brushpiles, rock slides, boulders, ledges, and a submerged creek channel. The boat floated in 10 to 16 feet of water. The surface temperature was 54. We fished about 125 yards of the bluff and caught only one largemouth bass, which was extracted from six feet of water. It was allured by a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Rain MinnowZ and chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig that was retrieved with a drag-and-shake retrieve. On the next cast, a hefty freshwater drum engulfed the Rain MinnowZ rig, and after tangling with that freshwater drum, we failed to elicit another strike.
The fourth area that we fished was a large shallow flat on the east side of the reservoir that was buffeted by a significant amount of current coursing across from the power-plant's warm-water outlet. In addition to the current, ranks of mild-mannered waves traversed the entire flat. The terrain consisted of clay, rocks, gravel, and boulders. The surface temperature was 56 to 57 degrees. We found two groups of largemouth bass and gizzard shad that were moseying around in about two feet of water. From these two concentrations of fish, we caught 51 largemouth bass and three white bass. We caught them by wielding a green-pumpkin Fat Albert grub on a green-pumpkin 3/32-ounce homemade mushroom-style jig, a pearl Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and a watermelon-red-flake grub on a 3/32-ounce green-pumpkin homemade mushroom-style jig. Some of the largemouth bass engulfed these baits on the initial fall, but most were allured by employing a slow swimming retrieve as the baits moved with the current.
The fifth locale was a shallow and flat cove on the east side of the reservoir, which had some warm-water current and waves flowing into it. Scores of laydowns cluttered its shallow shoreline. We caught only one largemouth bass in this entire cove, and it was inveigled by the green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ that was retrieved with a drag-and-deadstick presentation.
Our sixth stop was a west-side mud flat that lies between two bluffs. It ranges in depth from two to nine feet of water. It is littered with a plethora of laydowns, brushpiles, logs, ledges, stumps, a ditch, and a nearby submerged creek channel. The surface temperature was 55 degrees. On the first cast, we caught one largemouth bass from five feet of water on a pearl Finesse ShadZ and chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig while we were executing a drag-and-deadstick retrieve. In addition to that one largemouth bass, we caught one white bass on a Megabass Vision ONETEN jerkbait in the M Shad hue.
The seventh and final spot was a 150-yard stretch of a very long bluff on the west side of the reservoir. It is adorn by rock slides, laydowns, brushpiles, boulders, ledges, and two submerged creek channels. The surface temperature ranged from 54 to 55 degrees. This massive area yielded only one largemouth bass, which engulfed the green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ and chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig that was retrieved at a 45-degree angle behind the boat with a drag-and-deadstick presentation. This largemouth bass was extracted from about four feet of water.
During the five hours and 20 minutes that we were afloat, Denayer occasionally wielded some power baits, such as a big swim bait, skirted jig with a soft-plastic trailer, jerkbait, and large under-spin bait. None of his power offerings allured a largemouth bass, but his jerkbait inveigled one white bass. In total, the Finesse ShadZ on a 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and the shortened Fat Albert grub on a 3/32-ounce homemade mushroom jig caught 72 largemouth bass, five white bass, two crappie, one channel catfish, and one wiper. The green-pumpkin Rain MinnowZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught one largemouth bass and one freshwater drum. We failed to garner a strike on several hues of the 2 ½-inch Z-Man ZinkerZs that were affixed to a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ spin on a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, Z-Man's green-pumpkin Scented Leech on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and four-inch watermelon-red-flake grub on a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
Our catch of 73 largemouth bass would not have won a bass tournament, nor was it worthy of a television show. But from a recreational point of view, Denayer and I called it an extremely entertaining jaunt, and it also opened his eyes to the effectiveness of Midwest finesse tactics.
Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed the following report on the Finesse News Network about his Feb. 15 outing with Rick Allen of Dallas.
He wrote: "Rick Allen joined me for an afternoon outing at a 40-acre community reservoir in the northeastern Dallas suburb of Lucas.
"The weather in north-central Texas has been quite delightful for the past three days, allowing the afternoon high temperatures to rise into the mid and upper 60s. On Feb. 15, the sky was partly cloudy, the morning low temperature was 37 degrees, and the high temperature was 70 degrees. A blustery wind blew incessantly out of the south at 20 to 25 mph, interfering with our casting accuracy and confounding our retrieving techniques. The barometric pressure measured 29.98.
"Rick and I were afloat from 11:15 a.m. to about 5:15 p.m. In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated the best fishing period occurred between 10:27 a.m. to 12:27 p.m.
"Rick and I last fished this reservoir on November 16, 2013, and we struggled to catch 13 bass in five and a half hours.
"The water was stained with two feet of visibility. The water temperature was 44 degrees when we began, and it warmed to 46 degrees by the end of the day. The water level looked to be a foot below normal.
"Rick and I selected the following array of lures for today's outing: a three-inch Charlie Brewer Slider Company's plum-glitter Bass/Walleye/Striper Grub rigged on a red1/16-ounce Gopher jig; a four-inch Charlie Brewer Slider Company's plum-glitter Slider Worm affixed to a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; a variety of different colored Z-Man Finesse ShadZs rigged on a variety of Gopher jig heads; a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's watermelon-red ZinkerZ threaded onto a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's black-blue ZinkerZ rigged on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; a four-inch Charlie Brewer Slider Company's black-blue Slider Worm dressed on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; a 2 1/4-inch Z-Man's watermelon-red FattyZ tail rigged on a red 1/16-ounce; a four-inch Z-Man's black-neon Finesse WormZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and wacky rigged on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; and a four-inch Z-Man's black-blue-flake Finesse WormZ rigged on a 1/16-ounce red Gopher jig.
Rick and I began the day plying a small flat on the northwest corner of the lake that is adorned with patches of hydrilla. We quickly landed two keeper-sized largemouth bass on the three-inch plum glitter Slider grub, which was presented with a slow do-nothing retrieve. Both of the largemouth bass were suspended in five feet of water.
"We then proceeded to the south end of the lake and plied a large mud flat that is embellished with hydrilla beds, a scattering of stumps, and some laydowns. The wind made boat control extremely difficult. Thus, we elected to anchor the boat on the deep-water side of the mud flat, and we executed a series of fan casts across the flat with the three-inch plum-glitter Slider Bass/Walleye/Striper Grub, four-inch plum-glitter Slider Worm, and a variety of Z-Man's Finesse ShadZs, but we failed to entice a strike.
"From the wind-blown flat, we moved to the west shoreline, where we slowly worked our way along several hydrilla-covered points and small flats. The blustery winds forced us to continue anchoring our boat, and from those anchored positions, we dissected the points and flats by employing fan casts. We inveigled four largemouth bass on the three-inch plum-glitter Bass/Walleye/Striper Grub and one largemouth bass on the four-inch plum-glitter Slider Worm with the slow do-nothing retrieve. These five bass were scattered across the area and suspended in four to seven feet of water.
"We then turned our attention to the east side of the reservoir, and began working down several more hydrilla-covered points and small flats that lie between the points. We tangled with 10 largemouth bass, which were also scattered and suspended in four to six feet of water. The 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's watermelon-red ZinkerZ beguiled four largemouth bass. The four-inch plum-glitter Slider Worm beguiled two largemouth bass. The 2 1/4-inch Z-Man's watermelon-red FattyZ tail and 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's black-blue ZinkerZ allured one largemouth bass each. Two more largemouth bass were bewitched by Brewer's four-inch black-blue Slider Worm. The swim-glide-and-shake retrieve enticed eight of the bass, and a slow hop-and-deadstick presentation accounted for the other two bass.
"The fifth area that Rick and I plied was a steep shoreline along the reservoir's north side. It is a mud terrain that is cluttered with thick stands of cattails and patches of hydrilla, and it drops sharply into 15 feet of water. We slowly dissected this area and caught three largemouth bass, which were widely scattered and abiding in eight feet of water. They were caught on the four-inch black-blue Slider Worm that was presented with a slow hop-and-deadstick retrieve. The four-inch Z-Man's black-neon Finesse WormZ and black-blue-flake Finesse WormZ failed to elicit any strikes.
"We finished the day at the northwest end of the lake, where we caught two largemouth bass earlier in the afternoon. We slowly worked two points and three flats, and we eked out two more largemouth bass on the four-inch black-blue Slider Worm, which was retrieved with the hop-and-deadstick motif. We also tried wacky-rigging the four-inch Z-Man's black-neon WormZ, but it failed to draw any bites.
"Today's results were the best we have experienced this winter. In total, we tangled with 22 bass in six hours. Only two of them were less than 12 inches long. Six of them weighed over two pounds, and one extremely thin 20-inch largemouth bass, which had an unhealthy appearance, weighed only three-pounds, 10-ounces. All of the largemouth bass that we caught were widely scattered.
"The Brewer's four-inch black-blue Slider Worm inveigled seven bass. Brewer's three-inch plum-glitter Bass/Walleye/Striper Grub enticed five bass. Z-Man's 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZs caught five bass. Brewer's four-inch plum-glitter Slider Worm beguiled four bass. The 2 1/4-inch Z-Man's watermelon-red FattyZ tail allured one bass. Z-Man's Finesse ShadZs, four-inch black-neon Finesse WormZ, and four-inch black-blue-flake Finesse WormZ failed to garner any strikes.
"The swim-glide-and-shake retrieve was the most fruitful technique, catching eight largemouth bass. The slow do-nothing retrieve caught seven. The hop-and-deadstick retrieve allured seven largemouth bass."
Feb. 16 log
Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about a Feb. 15 outing he and his father had at a 500-acre power-plant reservoir.
The National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 28 degrees and the afternoon high temperature at 64 degrees. The sky was sun drenched. The barometric pressure was 30.13 and falling at 11:53. Initially the wind was calm, then variable, and eventually it angled out of the east at 7 to 17 mph.
The water level was normal. The surface temperature ranged from 64 to 67 degrees. Croom said the water looked to be slightly stained with a minor algae bloom and exhibited three feet of visibility, but it was clear enough that they could see scores of vacant spawning nests. This reservoir contains Florida-strain largemouth bass, and he suspected that the recent spell of harsh winter weather had provoked those Florida-strain largemouth bass to move to deeper confines.
Croom noted that as the pace of the east wind increased around 4:00 p.m., some boat- control issues occurred, and the wind also affected the way they presented their baits. But after the wind erupted, the Crooms' catch rate improved significantly.
The Crooms launched their boat around noon and put it on the trailer a tad before 6:00 p.m. During the six hours that the Crooms were afloat, a multitude of other anglers launched their boats. Charlie Croom said the reservoir was extremely crowded with anglers. For example, there was a long line of anglers plying the warm-water outlet. He suspected there were 50 boats afloat, which included a Junior Bassmaster tournament.. The Crooms avoided the lines, and they also explored locations and depths that the other anglers weren't fishing.
Croom's father is a power angler, and he worked with a seven-foot medium-heavy-action casting outfit spooled with 15-pound-test P-Line monofilament, 3/8-ounce tungsten slip-sinker, 1/0 Gamakatsu round-bend, off-shank worm hook, and a Roboworm's 4 ½-inch FX Series in the Softshell Craw hue.
Charlie Croom employed finesse tactics with a six-foot, 10-inch, medium-power Falcon LowRider XG Spin Shaky Head Special spinning rod that was spooled with eight-pound-test Gamma copolymer line. At times, he wielded a drop-shot rig with a 12-inch leader, 1/4-ounce sinker, and a Roboworm's 4 ½-inch Straight Tail Worm in the Aaron Magic Red & Black hue. He also worked with a 2 ½-inch Z-Man's watermelon-red ZinkerZ affixed to a 1/16-ounce PJ's Finesse Bait's Weedless Grub &Worm Head jig. And around 4:00 when the pace of the wind increased, he switched to a 1/4-ounce Jewel Bait Company's Squirrel Head Jig dressed with a Roboworm's 4 ½-inch Straight Tail Worm in the Aaron Magic Red & Black hue.
After they saw that the spawning beds were devoid of largemouth bass and panfish, the Crooms decided to focus on 45-degree-slopping shorelines along the main-lake and in several of the coves. They also dissected some main-lake and secondary points. The terrain along the 45-degree-slopping shorelines and main-lake points consisted of chuck rock, gravel, and clay. All of the secondary points were covered with gravel.
Along the 45-degree-slopping shorelines and main-lake points, their boat floated in 15 to 20 feet of water, and they probed depths of seven to 12 feet of water. On the secondary points, their boat floated in 12 to 15 feet of water, and they probed depths of five to seven feet. The bulk of the other anglers had their boats floating on top of the areas that the Crooms were fishing, and these anglers were fishing from the water's edge into about five feet of water.
During the first four hours of this outing, the Crooms caught only four largemouth bass, and those four were allured by the ZinkerZ combo. They were extracted from five to seven feet of water on secondary pea-gravel points, and from the Crooms' perspective, these four largemouth bass seemed flush to the bottom. He retrieved the ZinkerZ by dragging it across the bottom and deadsticking it. The drop-shot rig failed to catch a bass.
When the pace of the wind increased around 4:00 p.m., Charlie Croom began working with a 1/4-ounce Jewel Bait Company's Squirrel Head Jig dressed with a Roboworm's 4 ½-inch Straight Tail Worm in the Aaron Magic Red & Black hue, and this combo allured five largemouth bass. He bewitched those five largemouth bass by employing a 10- to 20-second deadstick presentation, which he implemented once the 1/4-ounce jig and Roboworm reached the bottom, and once the 10 to 20 seconds lapsed, he reeled the bait in and executed another cast and another deadstick presentation.
His father also caught four largemouth bass, including a four-pounder.
Charlie Croom had an extended battle with a lunker that looked as if it would weigh about seven pounds, but to his dismay, his line broke. Four things confounded his battle with that lunker. One was his line was old, and it should have been replaced. His drag malfunctioned. He didn't back reel. Moreover, they did not have a landing net in the boat, and if they had one, Charlie Croom said in all likelihood they would have landed that lunker.
Nevertheless, their biggest five largemouth bass weighed 14 pounds, which is a stellar catch at this extremely heavily fished reservoir. Nine of the 13 largemouth bass they caught were extracted from seven to 12 feet of water along some of the reservoir's main-lake points and 45-degree shorelines that are adorn with gravel and chunk rock, as well as a submerged creek channel coursing nearby, and those nine were caught between 4:00 p.m. and 5:50 p.m. From the Crooms' vantage point, every one of the largemouth bass that they caught seemed to be situated flush to the bottom.
Feb. 17 log
Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, posted the following report about his Feb. 17 outing on the Finesse News Network.
He wrote: "February is a transitional month in north-central Texas. Around the third week of February, weather patterns begin to change from cold-wintry conditions to more spring-like weather patterns. Likewise, the largemouth bass fishing in north-central Texas also begins to make a transition from winter routines to early spring pre-spawn patterns. This winter-to-early spring pre-spawn pattern first emerges in our smaller ponds and reservoirs, and then by mid-March, it has become full-blown in our larger reservoirs.
"A warming trend has been underway during the past several days, which has been accompanied with blustery south winds and bright sunny skies. The one drawback to this winter-to-spring transition is the wind. It has plagued north- central Texas anglers for several weeks now, and it continues to hinder me from venturing out onto our larger reservoirs.
"On February 15, Rick Allen of Dallas and I enjoyed a fruitful afternoon trek to a 40-acre reservoir that yielded 22 largemouth bass while we battled 20- to 30-mph winds, and that outing had me wondering if the transition period is beginning a little earlier this year.
"The weather on Feb. 17 was beautiful. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 57 degrees and the afternoon high temperature climbed to a pleasant 74 degrees. A brisk wind quartered out of the north-by-northwest at 20 to 30 mph, but it dissipated to five to 10 mph by late afternoon. The barometric pressure measured 30.11.
"I elected to take another afternoon bank-walking excursion and test my winter-to-early-spring transition theory at five nearby community ponds. I concentrated mostly on points adjacent to spawning flats, creek channels bordering spawning flats, and the deep water edges of spawning flats.
"In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated the best fishing period occurred between 11:40 a.m. and 1:40 p.m. I was afoot from noon to 5:00 p.m. I did not have the means to measure water temperatures.
"The first three ponds I fished are located in the northwestern Dallas suburb of Carrollton. The first pond is about 20-acres in size, and has a large mud flat that spreads across the northern end of this pond. A large mud point extends from the east side shoreline, a smooth concrete dam forms the pond's southern border, and a steep mud and gravel bank enhances the western shore. Small patches of brown hydrilla are dispersed throughout the pond. The water was heavily stained with one foot of visibility, and the water level appeared normal.
"I used the following baits for this pond: a three-inch Charlie Brewer Slider Company's watermelon-multi-flake Bass/Walleye/Striper Grub rigged on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig: four-inch Zoom Bait Company's black-blue Ringworm affixed to a black 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; and three-inch Zoom Bait Company's three-inch black-blue Lil' Critter Craw Worm with a Bass Pro Shops 3mm glass rattle inserted in its head, and it was rigged on a black 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
"I utilized a slow swim-and-glide retrieve with the Slider grub, and a slow hop-and- deadstick technique with the Ringworm and Lil' Critter Craw Worm. I was unable to garner a single strike from the edges of the mud flat, the concrete dam, or the steep western bank.
The second pond I visited is about one-acre in size and has an hourglass configuration. The main features of this pond consist of two large points; one point extends from the north shoreline and the second point protrudes from the south shoreline. A small ditch runs adjacent to the east side of the southern point, and a small brush pile lies on the east edge of the ditch, and it is within easy casting range. The east and west sections are adorned with mud flats.
"The water was heavily stained and exhibited about one foot of visibility. This pond is bereft of aquatic vegetation, and water levels appeared normal.
"I employed only two baits on this pond: a three-inch Charlie Brewer watermelon-multi-flake grub on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and Zoom's three-inch black-blue Lil' Critter Craw Worm on a black 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. I applied a slow do-nothing swim retrieve with the Slider grub, and a slow hop-and-deadstick presentation with the Craw Worm. I concentrated on the two points, the brush pile, and the edges of the ditch and mud flats. I failed to draw a strike from this pond as well.
"The third pond I fished is about two acres in size. Hydrilla beds stretch along the entire length of the pond. Large mud flats adorn the east and west shorelines. The north side of the pond is embellished with scattered patches of cattails along a steep-muddy shoreline. A steep mud point courses off of the southern shoreline.
"The water was stained, and it displayed about two feet of clarity. The water level was normal.
"I employed the following baits on this pond: a three-inch Zoom Bait Company's black-blue Lil' Critter Craw Worm with a glass rattle inserted in its head and affixed to a black 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; three-inch Kalin's bluegill Lunker Grub rigged on a black 1/16-ounce black Gopher jig; and 2 ½-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig.
"I used a slow drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve with the ZinkerZ, slow do-nothing-swim motif with the Kalin grub, and slow hop-and-deadstick presentation with the Craw Worm. I plied the edges of the large mud flats, the steep northern shoreline, and the mud point on the southern shoreline, but it was for naught.
"The last two ponds I fished are located on the southern edge of Lewisville.
The first of these two ponds is about the size of a football field. The water was stained with one and a half feet of visibility. The water level was about three feet below normal. A large island is situated near its western shore, and two creek channels run parallel to the island's north and south shorelines. A decorative stone wall embellishes a mud point on the southern shoreline, and the eastern side of the pond consist of a steep mud shoreline.
"I fished this pond with four lures: a 2 ½-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's black-blue- flake FattyZ tube affixed to a black1/16-ounce Gopher jig; three-inch Kalin's bluegill Lunker Grub on a black 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; and three-inch Kalin's watermelon-black-flake Lunker Grub sported on a black 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
"I began plying the stone wall and mud point on the southern shore with the ZinkerZ. I presented the ZinkerZ in a slow drag-shake-and- deadstick manner, and I received a strike on my third cast, but I missed the fish on the hook set. I made another cast to the same spot where I had just missed the strike, and I drew a second strike, which resulted in my first largemouth bass of the day. Follow-up casts with the ZinkerZ failed to allure any other strikes. I also tried the Kalin grubs, which I worked with a slow hop-and-bounce retrieve and a slow swimming or do-nothing retrieve, but those two baits and retrieves failed to draw any strikes. I then worked with the customized FattyZ tube, using a slow hop-and-deadstick motif, and it also failed. I worked my way around the pond, targeting points, the edges of the flats, and both creek channels by the island, but I was unable to coax any other strikes.
"The final pond I fished is about one-acre in size. It is graced with a hydrilla bed near its eastern shore. A creek channel traverses through the center of the pond. A small mud point juts out from the southern shoreline, and a mud flat occupies the western portion of this pond. The water in this pond was the clearest of the five ponds, with three feet of visibility. The water level appeared to be four feet low.
"I employed the following baits on this pond: a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin FattyZ tube on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; three-inch Kalin's bluegill Lunker Grub on a black 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; three-inch Kalin's watermelon-black-flake Lunker Grub dressed on a black 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; and Zoom's three-inch green-pumpkin Lil' Critter Craw Worm threaded onto a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig.
"I began working the hydrilla bed and the north edge of the creek channel with the ZinkerZ, applying a slow drag-shake-and-deadstick presentation. I received two strikes from the edge of the creek channel, but landed only one largemouth bass. I then switched to the Zoom Craw Worm, employing a slow hop-and-deadstick motif, but it failed to produce a bite. I retrieved the two Kalin grubs by slowly swimming them slightly above the bottom of the creek channel edges, along the sides and top of the mud point, and across the top and edges of the hydrilla bed, and both of these grubs failed to entice a strike. I finished the day using the customized 2 ½-inch green-pumpkin FattyZ tube, working it slowly across the bottom with a slow hop-and-deadstick retrieve. It inveigled two largemouth bass that were relating to the north edge of the creek channel, and one largemouth bass that was residing in the hydrilla bed near the east bank.
"In total, I allured five largemouth bass during five hours of fishing. All five were caught in two to five feet of water. I did not get a strike until three hours and twenty-one minutes into the outing. The customized 2 ½-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin FattyZ tube manipulated with a slow hop-and-deadstick retrieve enticed three largemouth bass. The 2 ½-inch Z-Man's green- pumpkin ZinkerZ employed with a slow drag-shake-and-deadstick motif resulted in two largemouth bass.
The results of this outing proved to me that these Florida-strain bass were still exhibiting their wintertime dispositions and inclinations. Thus, my hopeful expectations of finding some pre-spawn bass were premature.
Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, reported on Feb. 17 to the Finesse News Network that he had not fished since Feb. 9. He said: "We had our first significant snow in years last week, and the runoff has my small lakes very dark. With 70-degree temperatures forecasted for Feb. 22 and 23, I hope to be testing Midwest finesse tactics on cold and muddy water."
Feb. 20 log
Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, filed a brief report about his bank-walking endeavors on Feb. 20.
The National Weather Service recorded the low temperature at 48 degrees and the high temperature at 76 degrees. Throughout the day the wind was calm, angled out of the east, out of the southeast, and from the south at 7 to 9 mph. The barometric pressure was 30.03 and falling a 5:55p.m. During the early morning hours, it was misty and fog, and for the rest of the day, the sky was cloudless.
He wrote: "At dusk, I made a lap around a shallow farm pond. The water was warming after two days of moderated breezes from the south and 70-degree temperatures.
"I fished about 40 minutes with a 2 ½-inch Strike King green-pumpkin-red-flake Zero on a Blood-Red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and I landed 15 largemouth bass and five very nice bluegill.
"The bites were coming quickly from just about any style of retrieve as long as the bait was in the very upper part of the water column. I had the most fun by holding the rod tip high and steadily reeling the Zero so that it cruised near the surface and created a slight wake. I love to see near-the-surface action in February.
"This pond has no big bass. I had loads of bites, and many of them were bluegills that I did not hook.
"I don't know what the water temperature was, but the water clarity was about two feet.
"This short outing revealed two things: (1) Farm ponds are dandy waters to fish in late winter — especially soon after the ice melts, and in fact, this pond was covered with ice last week. (2) The 2 ½-inch Zero and 1/16-ounce combo is an particularly effective bait to use in farm ponds — especially those that aren't littered with brush and other snaggy objects. In fact, it has no equals in the pond-fishing world."
Feb. 21 log
Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed another report on the Finesse News Network that detailed the wretched largemouth bass fishing that he and other anglers have to endure when they ply the many acres of waterways that bespangles north-central Texas. His work has opened the eyes of scores of anglers and revealed how difficult it is for ardent largemouth bass anglers to locate and catch their quarry.
He wrote: "I made a solo outing to a local 21,175-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoir, which I have not fished since January 19.
"The sky was clear and sunny, but an occasional wispy cloud passed overhead. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low at 37 degrees, and the afternoon high reached 67 degrees. A problematic wind quartered out of the south-by- southeast at 14- to 20-mph, making boat control difficult. The barometric pressure was steady at 29.99.
"In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated the optimum fishing time occurred between 3:33 p.m. and 5:33.p.m. I was afloat from 12:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.
"The water temperature varied from 46 degrees on the main lake to 50 degrees in the back of two coves. The water clarity was heavily stained with visibility less than one foot. The Texas Water Management Board recorded the water level at 7.66 feet below normal, and the reservoir's current pool level at 66-percent of full capacity.
"I prepared my rods with the following lures: 2 ½-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; 2 ½-inch Z-Man's customized black-blue-flake FattyZ tube on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; five-inch Z-Man's pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rigged wacky style on an Owner Tackle Company's 1/32-ounce weedless Ultra Wacky Jig; and three-inch Kalin's bluegill Lunker Grub on a chartreuse 1/8-ounce Gopher jig.
"The fishing was wretched.
"I began the day fishing in the southwestern tributary arm. I plied several covered boat docks, which were situated next to a steep mud and chunk rock shoreline, with the Finesse ShadZ and 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ. Then I dissected five steep, mud, and chunk-rock secondary points with the Finesse ShadZ, 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ, and 2 ½-inch FattyZ tube. The third area was a 300-yard section of the riprap- laden dam, where I wielded the Finesse ShadZ, 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ, 2 ½-inch customized FattyZ tube and wacky-rigged five-inch ZinkerZ. At my fourth stop I worked with the Finesse ShadZ and 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ along two steep and chunk-rock channel banks that are enhanced with two large laydowns.
"I also located a large group of fish suspended in 38-feet of water and next to a concrete tower that was surrounded by 56-feet of water. I was unable to determine if these fish were largemouth bass, white bass, or wipers, because I was unable to catch them with the Kalin's grub, which I presented vertically and slowly swimming and pulling or strolling it through the school by using my trolling motor.
"I employed all six of the Midwest finesse retrieves and also vertically-jigged the grub in deep water, but I was unable to garner a single strike. This is the second time this winter that I have failed to elicit a single strike on this troublesome reservoir. I spoke with two power anglers who had used jig-n-pig combos, suspending jerk baits, and red lipless crank baits. They also failed to draw a single bite."
Feb. 22 log
Back in our youth, George Washington's birthday was a holiday, which allowed us not to have to go to school or work. Therefore, we often went fishing. And this celebration often corresponded with the first hints of spring in central Missouri and northeastern Kansas.
As Bob Gum of Kansas City and I traveled on U.S. Highway 69 to and from a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir on Feb. 22, we noticed a few hints of spring or at least they were hints of the beginning of winter's demise. The first clue was that south of Stillwell, Kansas, most of the waterways were ice free, and these waters have been covered with ice since early December, when area thermometers plummeted to three degrees on December 7. The second sign that we saw were the carcasses of five dead skunks lying on the highway, and for years on end, we have noticed that dead skunks littering our highways are a signal that winter is waning. The third signal was there were a lot of trucks towing a variety of fishing boats. What's more, the two parking lots at the reservoir where we fished were crowded with 51 trucks and trailers, and several game wardens were at work at one of the boat ramps.
This was a Saturday outing, which is a rare day for me to be afloat. But Mother Nature has made a habit of sequestering me with ice-covered waters and bitterly cold temperatures for days on end, and when her wintry ways occasionally relented, she usually allowed the wind to howl. But this Saturday was the first blissful day that she had graced us with for a spell, and I opted to hop into Gum's boat. It was only my third outing in 2014.
The surface temperature within the diameter of the warm-water plume of this reservoir had increased significantly since Ronny Denayer of Butler, Missouri, and I fished it on Feb. 13. And all of the ice, which covered 20 percent of the reservoir, including the entire area in the vicinity of the dam on Feb. 13, had melted. In fact, Gum and I found the surface temperature along a 50-yard section of the dam to be 45 degrees, which amazed us and gave us a glimmering of hope that the largemouth bass that abide in the cold-water region of this reservoir would be relatively easy to allure with Midwest finesse tactics.
During this outing, Gum and I recorded the surface temperatures within the warm-water plume. Here is what we found the temperatures to be: The surface temperature in the area where water flows out of the power plant was 61 or 62 degrees. The surface temperature was 55 degrees along a 100-yard segment of the riprap shoreline that lies in the southeast section of the warm-water plume. Along two bluffs that grace the southwest corner of the warm-water plume, the surface temperature was 58 to 59 degrees. The surface temperature was 60 degrees along two of the west side bluffs that lie within the core of the plume. A bluff inside a northwest feeder-creek arm had a surface temperature of 55 degrees, and the surface temperature on a shallow mud flat in the back of this feeder creek was 53 degrees and it was also embellished with an immense aggregation of tiny gizzard shad. The surface temperature around an island that is situated along the northern fringe of the plume was 58 degrees. Around a submerged creek channel edge that crisscrossed a massive mud flat, the surface temperature was 58 degrees, and this area is located on the northeastern edge of the warm-water plume.
The water level was normal. Despite the wind gusts that approached 50 mph on Feb. 20, which would normally cause this reservoir to become stained, the water clarity was the best that we had seen it all winter. We estimated the visibility to be about two feet at most locales.
The National Weather Service in Olathe, Kansas, recorded the low temperature at 29 degrees and high temperature at 54 degrees. The sky alternated from partly cloudy to mostly cloudy. The barometric pressure around 9:45 a.m. was 29.93 and falling. Initially, the wind was calm, then it angled mild-mannerly out of the south, east, and finally out of the northeast.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing occurred from 3:53 a.m. to 5:53 a.m. and from 4:21 p.m. to 6:21 p.m. There was also a minor period from 10:07 a.m. to 12:07 p.m.
We fished from 9:45 a.m. to 2:12 p.m., and despite the balmy conditions, our catches wouldn't have won a bass tournament or have been suitable for a television show. In short, we caught only 38 largemouth bass, and we inadvertently caught one channel catfish, two freshwater drum, one white bass, and one wiper. In addition, we failed to land five largemouth bass.
The fishing was so baffling and fruitless that it is difficult to adequately describe what transpired. The best portrayal of this outing is to say that we made endless casts and retrieves at scores of lairs without garnering a strike, and, of course, that goes against the grain of the Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas who hope to tangle with 25 largemouth bass an hour.
Here's a synposis of where and how we caught them and failed to catch them:
We caught 20 largemouth bass and tangled with three that we failed to land at a shallow and massive flat point on the east side of the reservoir. This point separates two coves. It is comprised of two humps, two submerged creek channels, several ledges, some stumps, gravel, clay, rocks, and laydowns. It was also enhanced with some warm current that was jettisoned out of the power plant. The surface temperature was 61 degrees. These largemouth bass were extracted from two to four feet of water. We also tangled with one channel catfish and one white bass.
We tangled with 10 largemouth bass at a large shallow flat on the east side of the reservoir. We failed to land two largemouth bass. This area lies about 100 yards north of the outlet, and thus, it was buffeted by a significant amount of warm water. The surface temperature was 61 degrees.
We caught four largemouth bass at a west-side mud flat that lies between two bluffs. It ranges in depth from two to nine feet of water. It is littered with a plethora of laydowns, brushpiles, logs, ledges, stumps, a ditch, and a nearby submerged creek channel. It lies in the heart of the warm-water plume. The surface temperature was 60 degrees. One largemouth was caught many yards off the shoreline, and it was in about five feet of water, and the terrain consisted of silt. One largemouth bass was extracted from a fork in a large laydown. Two largemouth bass were in shallow water near the edge of the shoreline.
We caught two largemouth bass along one of the four main-lake bluffs on the west side of the reservoir. This bluff is situated in the heart of the warm-water plume. It is about 200 yards long, and it is endowed with laydowns, man-made brushpiles, rock slides, boulders, ledges, and a submerged creek channel. The surface temperature was 60 degrees. The boat floated in 12 to 15 feet of water, and the two largemouth bass were caught in about three feet of water from a spot that was adjacent to a small laydown.
We caught one largemouth bass along the south shoreline of an island that sits near the northern perimeter of the warm-water plume. The surface temperature was 58 degrees, and this bass was milling around in three to four feet of water on a mud bottom and about 10 feet away from a massive patch of brown American water willows.
One largemouth bass was caught on a secondary bluff inside a feeder-creek arm in the northwestern section of the reservoir. This bluff lies on the fringe of the warm-water plume. The surface temperature was 55 degrees. We caught the largemouth bass around a rock slide on the bluff in about two feet of water.
In the back of this feeder-creek arm, we fished a secondary point, clay shoreline and mud flat, where the surface temperature was 53 degrees, and we caught one wiper.
We plied a ledge created by a submerged creek channel that crisscrosses a massive mud flat on the northeastern periphery of the warm-water plum, and we failed to elicit a strike. The surface temperature was 58 degrees.
We fished 100 yards of a riprap shoreline on the southeastern border of the warm-water plume, where the surface temperature was 55 degrees, and we failed to garner a strike.
Along a 50-yard stretch of riprap on the dam, which was outside of the plume of warm water, the surface temperature was 45 degrees, and again we failed to muster a strike. This locale normally yields a hefty largemouth bass or two, as well as several smaller specimens, when the surface temperature ranges from 45 to 50 degrees.
We ended the outing by fishing parts of two bluffs and a mud flat that separates each bluff. This area lies along the southwest border of the warm-water plume, and it failed to yield a largemouth bass, but we did catch two freshwater drum on one of the bluff points.
A 2 ½-inch Z-Man's Junebug ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig inveigled the bulk of the 38 largemouth bass. A Z-Man's green-pumpkin Rain MinnowZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a Z-Man's pearl Finesse ShadZ on a charteuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught several of those 38 largemouth bass.
We worked with all six of the standard Midwest finesse retrieves, and we failed to discover the most effective one. Because the fishing was so perplexing, we also executed several odd improvisations with those retrieves, and they failed. The fishing was so trying that we even probed some lairs that we normally ignore, such as laydowns, and we extracted three largemouth bass from the scores of laydowns that we pitched, flipped and swam our finesse baits around.
We could find only two areas that entertained a significant concentration of largemouth bass, but both of these areas were constantly buffeted by a steady stream of other anglers, such as catfish anglers who were wielding throw nets to catch gizzard shad for bait, and at times all of that activity confounded our abilities to properly dissect some of the lairs that embellished these locations.
Throughout this outing, we followed several boats of anglers around some of the areas that we fished, and we saw only two anglers catch a largemouth bass.
Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas, filed a report on the Finesse News Network, saying that northwestern Arkansas was whacked by 30 mph winds on Feb. 22. Those winds forced him to wield power-fishing tactics. He fished from noon to 4:00 p.m., and he caught 51 largemouth bass. The five biggest weighed 21 pounds, and 42 of them were caught on a ½-ounce Cotton Cordell Super Spot in chrome-and-black hue.
Feb. 23 log
Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his bank-walking endeavors of Feb. 23.
He wrote: "North-central Texas continues to enjoy spring-like temperatures, but wintertime temperatures are forecasted to return in a couple of days. Today was warm and sunny. The morning low temperature was 55 degrees, and the high temperature reached 69 degrees. An irksome wind blew incessantly out of the north-northwest at 15-to 20 mph. The barometric pressure was steady at 30.05.
"I elected to take an afternoon bank-walking jaunt to a 20-acre community reservoir in Grapevine, Texas. The water was clear with four to five feet of visibility. The water level was normal. I did not have the means to measure the water temperature.
"This reservoir has a north to south orientation. Three prominent points extend from its west shoreline and two points obtrude from its east shorelines. The east and west shorelines are composed of sand and fist-sized rocks, and they drop sharply into deeper water. The northern shoreline encompasses a shallow mud flat, and a shallow ditch cuts across the eastern portion of this flat. The southern end of the reservoir consists of two small coves that are separated by a shallow, sandy, and gravel flat.
"I fished from 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. In-Fisherman's solunar calendar predicted the best fishing periods occurred from 4:57 a.m. to 6:57 a.m. and 5:26 p.m. to 7:26 p.m.
"I wielded the following Z-Man baits: 2 1/2-inch green pumpkin ZinkerZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; green pumpkin-blue-flake Finesse ShadZ affixed to a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; 2 1/4-inch California Craw FattyZ tail on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; 2 1/4-inch watermelon-red FattyZ tail on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; 2 1/2-inch customized FattyZ tube rigged on a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; four-inch pumpkin Finesse WormZ dressed on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; four-inch pumpkin Finesse WormZ wacky-rigged on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; and four-inch green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ fastened to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
"I targeted the sunny eastern and northern banks.
"I began the day fishing a steep sand and rock point on the east side of the reservoir. I first employed the green-pumpkin ZinkerZ utilized with a slow swim-glide-and-shake presentation along the top and sides of the point. I extracted a keeper sized largemouth bass from the deep-water side of the point in about five feet of water. I also dissected the point and adjacent steep banks with the Finesse ShadZ, 2 ½-inch customized FattyZ tube and 2 ¼-inch watermelon-red FattyZ tail, using the hop-and-bounce and swim-glide-shake retrieves, but they failed to draw any strikes. I continued working my way northward along the eastern shoreline, and approximately 45 minutes later, I tangled with a two-pound, two-ounce largemouth bass that was abiding along a steep sandy bank in about three feet of water. This bass engulfed the green-pumpkin ZinkerZ presented in a slow swim-glide-shake scheme.
"I then plied the northern bank with the ZinkerZ, pumpkin Finesse WormZ, and 2 1/4-inch California Craw FattyZ tail, employing three retrieves: swim glide and shake, straight swim or do-nothing, drag and shake, and hop and bounce. I focused on the mud flat and the deeper portion of the shallow ditch. I failed to catch a largemouth bass
"I finished the outing retracing my steps southward along the eastern shore. I continued to wield the green-pumpkin ZinkerZ, but I also experimented with the wacky-rigged pumpkin Finesse WormZ, as well as the green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ and a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. When I reached the sand and rock point where I started the day, I made one final cast to the deep-water side of the point in about eight feet of water with the green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ combo, and as the bait settled to the bottom on the initial fall, a keeper-size largemouth bass engulfed it.
"In sum, I fished for three and a half hours and caught three largemouth bass. Two of them were enticed by the green-pumpkin ZinkerZ, which was maneuvered with a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve, and one largemouth bass was caught on the green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ during the initial fall. The Finesse ShadZ, wacky-rigged Finesse WormZ, pumpkin Finesse WormZ, 2 1/2-inch customized green-pumpkin FattyZ tube, 2 1/4-inch watermelon-red FattyZ tail, and 2 ¼-inch California Craw FattyZ tail baits failed to conjure any strikes.
Feb. 28 log
Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filled a report on the Finesse News Network about his outing on Feb. 28.
He wrote: "Rick Allen of Dallas joined me for an afternoon undertaking at a 20-acre community pond in Grapevine, Texas.
"The National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 45 degrees and the afternoon high temperature soared to 85 degrees. A zealous south-by-southwest wind blew 20 to 30 mph, hindering our casts and thwarting many of our retrieves. The sky was partly cloudy. The barometric pressure was measured at 29.67.
"In-Fisherman's solunar calendar listed the best fishing period between 9:22 a.m. and 11:22 a.m. Rick and I were afloat from noon until 4:30 p.m.
"Throughout this outing, we worked with the following lure: Bomber Lures' Blue Flash Suspending Pro Long A Jerkbait; Zoom Bait Company's four-inch pumpkin-green flake Fat Albert Grub rigged on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; Z-Man's green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; Z-Man's 2 1/2-inch green-pumpkin ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; Z-Man's four-inch green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; Charlie Brewer Slider Company's four-inch plum-glitter Slider Worm on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; Charlie Brewer Slider Company's four-inch green-pumpkin Slider Worm Texas-rigged on a black 1/16-ounce Slider Spider jig head; Charlie Brewer Slider Company's 2 1/8-inch Avocado-Glitter-Chartreuse Minnow Grub a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; and Z-Man's customized 2 1/2-inch FattyZ tube on a red 1/16-inch Gopher jig.
"This reservoir is positioned in a north to south direction. Three pronounced points extend from its western shorelines, and two points stretch out from its eastern shorelines. The east and west shorelines are composed of sand, fist-sized rocks, and several laydowns. Both of these banks drop sharply into 15 to 22 feet of water. The northern shoreline consists of a shallow mud flat and a shallow ditch, which traverses the eastern portion of the flat. The southern end of the reservoir consists of two shallow coves that are separated by a shallow gravel flat. A small creek channel winds through the southeastern section of the coves.
"The water was clear and exhibited a light green tint with about five feet of visibility. The surface temperature ranged from 53 degrees to 55 degrees. The water level was normal.
"I fished this reservoir on February 23, and I struggled to entice three largemouth bass. Our Feb. 28 outing was equally tedious and onerous, and it was punctuated with long spells devoid of strikes.
"We began the day fishing a submerged point next to where we launched the boat. This point protrudes from the east bank and drops into 13 feet of water. I wielded the Bomber suspending jerkbait and Rick selected the four-inch plum-glitter Slider Worm. The Slider Worm was worked in a slow twitch-and-deadstick manner, and the suspending jerkbait was utilized with a slow twitch-twitch-and- long-pause retrieve. We probed the top and both sides of the point out to 13 feet of water, and we failed to induce a strike.
"The second spot we focused on was east of the submerged point, and it encompassed a small cove, a mud flat, and a mud point just north of the cove. Our boat floated in 22 feet of water while we probed water depths from three to thirteen feet with the suspending jerkbait and Slider worm, employing the same retrieve techniques, and we failed to garner any strikes.
"We then turned our attention to the mud flat and creek channel on the northern end of the reservoir. We dissected this area with the plum-glitter Slider Worm, suspending jerkbait, 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ, four-inch green pumpkin Finesse WormZ, and four-inch green-pumpkin Slider Worm. Rick inveigled one largemouth bass from the west end of the mud flat on the green-pumpkin Slider Worm, which he retrieved with a slow hop-and- deadstick scheme. That largemouth bass was milling about in five feet of water and about ten feet from the shoreline. The plum-glitter Slider Worm, 2 ½-inch green-pumpkin ZinkerZ, suspending jerkbait, and green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ failed to muster a bite.
"The fourth area we fished was the west shoreline. Rick wielded the green- pumpkin FattyZ tube, and I employed the four-inch pumpkin-green flake Fat Albert grub. I coaxed one largemouth bass from a mud point in about eight feet of water with the Fat Albert grub. The grub was presented in a slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. As we slowly made our way southward along the west shoreline, and about 40 yards south of where I caught our second largemouth bass, I beguiled another largemouth bass. This one engulfed the four-inch green pumpkin Hula StickZ, which was retrieved with a slow drag-and-deadstick action. That largemouth bass was inhabiting a prominent point in about five feet of water. The remainder of the west shoreline failed to produce any other bass.
"The fifth area we scouted encompassed the two shallow coves and small creek channel on the southern end of the reservoir. The boat floated in eight feet of water as we probed this area with Slider Worms, the 2 1/8-inch Slider Minnow grub, 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ, and Fat Albert Grub, but we found this area bereft of bass.
"The last spot we checked was the southern end of the east shoreline. We targeted the steep shoreline and two laydowns with the Fat Albert Grub, Brewer's Minnow Grub, Hula StickZ, and 2/12-inch ZinkerZ. We employed a variety of retrieves: swim, glide, and shake; drag and deadstick; hop and bounce, and slow-do-nothing or straight swim. We failed to conjure a bite.
"In sum, Rick and I fished for four and a half hours and we struggled to catch three largemouth bass. We were unable to establish any dominant retrieve technique or lure. The four-inch green pumpkin Hula StickZ maneuvered in a slow drag-and-deadstick retrieve allured one bass; the Fat Albert Grub manipulated with a slow swim-glide-and-shake motif snared one largemouth bass; and the four-inch green-pumpkin Slider Worm retrieved with a slow twitch-and-deadstick scheme caught one bass. The Bomber blue flash suspending jerkbait, 2 ½-inch green pumpkin ZinkerZ, plum-glitter Slider Worm, 2 1/8-inch Avocado-glitter-chartreuse Slider Minnow Grub, and customized 2 1/2-inch green- pumpkin FattyZ tube failed to tempt any bass.
"Overall, this winter's bass fishing in north central Texas has been a trying and exasperating endeavor. February, however, was a bit more productive for us than January. During January 2014, Rick Allen and I struggled to catch 27 bass in 34.5 hours of fishing. This month, we still struggled, but we saw an improvement as we eked out 35 bass in 30.5 hours of fishing."