Midwest Finesse Rods: an Update
August 16, 2016
Since Jan. 24, 2012, we have published four columns, which encompass 7,094 words, about the spinning rods that Midwest finesse anglers use.
The most recent one was published on June 27. In that 2,427-word column, Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, and I said that we do not need to use a high-dollar, state-of-the-art spinning rod to catch vast numbers of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass in the waterways that we fish in Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. We maintained that frugality lies near the heart of our Midwest finesse tactics.
Our observations about spinning rods spawned a comment from an anonymous reader.
This reader said that he is a fan of expensive and avant-garde rods. He hinted that the mad dog of modernity has bitten him, which provokes him to stay on the cutting edge of what is transpiring in the rod, reel, and fishing tackle world. At times, he also builds rods. But currently he uses two factory-made St. Croix Legend Elites. One of them is a seven-foot, one-inch spinning rod with light power and fast action. The second one is a seven-footer with a medium-light power and fast action. When he fishes with a Z-Man's Fishing Products' Hula StickZ or Finesse T.R.D. rigged on a 1/20-ounce Z-Man's Finesse ShroomZ jig, he prefers wielding the seven-foot, one-inch St.Croix spinning rod with light power and fast action. He prefers it because it loads deeper and casts further than he can cast when he uses a light-power spinning rod that cost less than $100. This rod, he says, also outperforms expensive and inexpensive medium-power spinning rods. During the spring of 2016, he was relegated to walking shorelines, and he contends that the added distances of his casts with that expensive and state-of-the-art rod made a difference in the number of fish he caught. He said that the only downside to most light-power spinning rods occurs when the submergent aquatic vegetation is thick, and these rods lack the power to horse a bass out of the vegetation. But he says his St. Croix seven-foot, one-inch spinning rod possesses a rather fast tip, and therefore, it gets into the power zone more quickly and does a commendable job of horsing a bass out of a thicket of aquatic vegetation.
Travis Myers of Paw Paw, West Virginia, also responded to the June 27 column and with one of the anonymous reader's comments. Myers did this by email on June 28, 29, 30, July 13, Aug. 9 and 10.
Myers is a veteran and knowledgeable smallmouth bass angler who has wielded scores of top-of-the-line spinning rods. He is also a member and contributor to the Finesse News Network, and his logs and insights appear regularly in our Midwest Finesse columns. For the past 10 years, he has spent most of the days that he is afloat in a kayak on the rivers and streams that meander through the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia.
His spinning rods sport a 1/32-ounce Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head jig. Affixed to the 1/32-ounce jig are a variety of soft-plastic baits made by Z-Man Fishing Products, such as a Finesse ShadZ, Scented LeechZ, 3 1/2 inch Finesse WormZ, a shortened Finesse T.R.D., a heavily customized EZ TubeZ, the tail section of a FattyZ, and a 2 1/4-inch ZinkerZ. Occasionally, one rod will sport a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig affixed to a three-inch Z-Man's Hula StickZ.
In his June 30 email, Myers had a list of some of the spinning rods that he has used. They are: G. Loomis 6400 IMX, G. Loomis 791 TSR GLX, G. Loomis 822 DSR NRX, G. Loomis 901 NRX, St. Croix Rods' seven-foot ML Avid, St. Croix Rods' seven-foot L Legend Extreme, St. Croix Rods' seven-foot ML Legend Extreme, and a host of other rods that are no longer manufactured. He also noted that he had used various light-power St. Croix rods and several medium-light-power St. Croix rods. He described their light-power rods as excellent ones for employing various 1/32-ounce Gopher-jig rigs, and according to Myers, their medium-light power rods are suburb ones for wielding 1/16-ounce Gopher-jig rigs.
But nowadays, he uses eight Charlie Brewer's Slider Company's spinning rods, and he says 99 percent of his fishing is done with these rods.
Two of them are Brewer's Lite Action rods. Each of them cost Myers $45. They are five feet, four inches long. He uses them with a 1/32-ounce Gopher jig affixed to a Z-Man's Finesse ShadZ and a 3 1/2-inch Finesse WormZ. The Finesse ShadZ rigs and 3 1/2-inch Finesse WormZ rigs are lightweight, and many anglers say that they are difficult to cast, but Myers says he has no trouble casting and catching smallmouth bass on them.
Six of the Brewer's rods are 12 years old. They are five feet, two inches long. He purchased them for $25 each. He uses these rods for wielding the 2 1/4-inch ZinkerZ rig, shortened Finesse T.R.D. rig, FattyZ tail, and customized EZ TubeZ rigs. These soft-plastic baits are affixed to a 1/32-ounce Gopher jig.
He says the six 12-year-old rods are stiffer and have fewer guides than the two Lite Action rods. He noted that the Lite Action rods possess a noticeably lighter tip and less backbone than the 12-year-old rods, but he said that one of them had the wherewithal to win a whale of a donnybrook with a 15-pound channel catfish that he inadvertently caught on June 15. (For more details about that donnybrook, see Myers' June 15 log at http://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/midwest-finesse-fishing-june-2016/.) But that rod did break on July 13 while he was making a cast.
He recently acquired two rods made by Gary Dobyns. One of them is the Dobyns Rods' 681SF Champion Series Light Fast, and the second one is the Dobyns Rods' Champion Extreme Series DX 701SF Finesse. Dobyns' spinning rods are expensive. The 681SF model retails for $299.99. The DX 701SF costs $399.99.
He says he will use the Dobyns' rods for special situations, such as when he is on foot or using his kayak as a taxi to fish remote spots on the rivers and streams. He suspects he will use the Champion 681 XP more than the Champion Extreme Series DX 701SF Finesse. And during the heat of the summer, when he has to employ an extremely long cast with a 1/32-ounce Gopher-rig, he will opt for the seven-foot Dobyns' Champion Extreme HP 701.
Myers noted that the Dobyns' rods have a split grip and a down-locking reel seat, which he does not like. Therefore, before he uses them this summer, he will replace them with a Tennessee-style or cork handle, and he will also remove the loop-style hook keeper. He will affix his spinning reel to the cork handle with tape, which is how he affixes his spinning reels to the eight Charlie Brewer rods.
In one of his emails, he wrote a substantial discourse about rod handles, hook keepers, and guides.
Here is an edited version of his discourse:
I am a big proponent of the Tennessee handle, and I always will be. There are no threads that I have to rest my hand on. I find those threads to be highly uncomfortable. The Tennessee-style handle allows me to tape a reel anywhere on the handle. When it is done correctly, the rod and reel are balanced perfectly, and it floats in my hand. This cuts down on the tip heaviness that often will occur with modern reel seats that are in a fixed position. Since there are hundreds of reel options, how does a manufacturer know where my reel will be best balanced on their rod? They do not know.
I detest down-locking reel seats, which screw down from the top of the handle. Some manufacturers offer an up-locking reel seat. Not many offer it but those that do are on the right track. This allows an angler's hand to rest unencumbered by threads and metal hood.
I absolutely abhor hook hangers that are situated just above the reel seat and rod handle, which is where a good many hook hangers are placed on modern-day rods. That is exactly where I place my thumb, index, and middle finger around the blank when I am retrieving a Midwest finesse rig. So, I remove those hangers, which enables me to place my fingers where I have had them for thirty-five years.
My older Charlie Brewer rods do not have hook keepers. The new Lite Action rods have hook hangers, and they are situated immediately above the Tennessee handle. It is a perfect place for them. That placement lets me rest a finger behind the hanger and the other ones I wrap around the rod's blank in front of the hanger. But I do put a split ring on those hook-keepers, which prevents a Gopher jig from touching and harming the blank when I am transporting the rods. I have, however, pondered cutting the hangers off.
I think that the myriad of guide choices are simply to catch fishermen. Sure some guides are lighter and more abrasion resistant. But I never heard much about guides meaning much until braided line became popular, and then anglers who used heavy braided lines began popping guides apart and using rod manufacturers' warranty programs to replace the rods.
I beg to differ with the comments of the anonymous reader who contends that an expensive rod will allow anglers to cast further than they can cast with an inexpensive one. I have two $40 Charlie Brewer's Slider Company's rods that cast as far as $400 rods. But there are times when I do need a seven-foot rod rather than my short rods to reach a lair, but the cost of the rod has nothing to do with how far I can cast.
I could write much more about length choices and blank materials, but I will stop here, and say: long live my old short Slider rods. Though I am afraid an appreciation of those rods has been lost on my generation of anglers who strive to keep up with the Joneses. I do not want to be one of those anglers.
The equipment that was good enough for some of the great anglers of the past is surely good enough for me. Those anglers possessed the ability to catch untold numbers of fish. What's more, they had a lifetime of knowledge about their quarries' behavior, which trumped and still trumps all other factors about how to fish.
As the late Charlie Brewer once said, "Slider tackle is sporting equipment not horsing equipment". That always spoke to me.
I have told those who have inquired many many times of my tackle usage that what I use is the equivalent to longbow deer hunting with no tree stand. Everything is a gift.
My use of my old-fashioned Charlie Brewer's rods and vintage Abu Garcia Cardinal Four reels with manual bails is my homage to those great anglers of the past. I have found these rods and reels to be perfect for my uses, and I grin every time I unhook a fish using them. In short, old and outdated is fine with me. And from my perspective, I catch my share of smallmouth bass.
Here are the links to four Midwest Finesse columns that focus on spinning rods:
(1) http://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/midwest-finesse-rods/. It was published on June 27, 2016.
(2) http://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/an-update-to-midwest-finesse-tackle-rods-reels-and-lines-according-to-dwight-keefer/. It was published on July 23, 2012.
(3) http://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/midwest-finesse-tackle-rods-reels-and-lines-according-to-dwight-keefer/. It was published on June 26, 2012.
(4) http://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/midwest-finesse-tackle-bass-rods-reels-and-lines/. It was published on January 24, 2012.
(5) On Aug. 9, Myers sent a photograph to the Finesse News Network of a vintage Billy Westmorland spinning rod that he recently purchased. For many years, Westmorland's spinning rods were used by Midwest finesse anglers in Missouri and Kansas. Myers plans to use his Westmorland rods on many river outings in the future.
Here is Myers' photograph of his Billy Westmorland rod:
(6) In an Aug. 10 email, Myers wrote: "In my estimation Billy Westmorland knew some things that trump modern rod designers. With a flick of the wrist on my Aug. 10 outing, Billy's old glass blank threw a 1/32-ounce Gopher jig affixed to a well-worn 2 1/4-inch Z-Man's ZinkerZ better than any high-dollar rod I have owned. It is the single best finesse rod I have ever used. Billy must have known something about blanks and handles. He must have had hands that would make a bear jealous because the diameter of the cork Tennessee-style handle is humongous. I do not think these rods would sell in the modern age. In fact, I know they would not sell."