My finesse efforts in July were overtaken by several delightful family events. And on a few days, Mother Nature’s hot and windy breath kept me and my finesse colleagues at bay.
Therefore, my serious finesse endeavors spanned only six outings for a total of 18 hours. During these outings, I and several of my partners were able to inveigle 215 largemouth and smallmouth bass. In sum, we tangled with an average of 35.8 largemouth and smallmouth bass an outing and 11.9 an hour.
The largemouth bass that our three grandsons caught during the first week of July are not included in this tabulation, but some descriptions of their outings are incorporated into this month’s addendum. And a summary of our annual fishing vacation with some of our children and granddaughters in the Northwoods of Minnesota during the last week of July and first week of August will appear in the August addendum to the month-by-month guide to Midwest finesse fishing.
In my eyes, these joyful outings with our children and grandchildren provided more than enough consolation for the lack of serious finesse fishing that I was able to do. But for the scores of anglers who aren’t helped by the solace that I relished from my family’s outings, we are fortunate that Bob Gum of Kansas City, Kansas, Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, Brian Turner of Nebraska, Casey Kidder of Topeka, Kansas, Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, and Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, filled in a lot of the blanks that my grandchildren and children, as well as Mother Nature, created.
Here’s hoping that the 9,000 words posted below will provide recreational anglers with some useful insights about employing Midwest finesse tactics during the heat of summer
I did not fish during the last three days of June. Then during the first week of July, I spent my hours afloat at a nearby 180-acre state reservoir with three grandsons, who range in age from three to seven years old, and their parents, who live in San Antonio,Texas.
Their spinning and spin-casting outfits sported either a 2 ½-inch Z-Man ZinkerZ or four-inch Z-Man Finesse WormZ. These two Z-Man soft-plastic baits were affixed to Gopher Tackle’s 1/32- and 1/16-ounce Mushroom Head Jigs. Their Finesse WormZs and ZinkerZ were either Junebug or PB&J hues. The Finesse WormZ was the most productive.
During these outings, we provided the youngsters with various amounts of assistance at wielding Midwest finesse tactics. It was the first time the three-year-old had seriously fished, and the second time for the four-year-old.
For example, we primarily fished the riprap along the dam, and we would cast the Finesse WormZ and Gopher jig to the water’s edge for the three-year old, and he would slowly retrieve it by resting the rod on the boat’s gunnels and slowly turning the reel handle. In essence, his retrieve was a drag and deadstick motif, and during the retrieve, he was aided with some verbal instructions and an occasional helping hand. At times the five-year-old had some help with his casts, but he made the majority of them. The seven-year-old executed all of his casts, and the bulk of them were accurate. The five- and seven-year-old retrieved the Finesse WormZ and Gopher jig by dragging it, and the seven-year-old enhanced his drag retrieve by constantly shaking his rod.
None of these outings consumed more than 90 minutes, and the one with the three-year-old consumed about 45 minutes. The outings began around 10:30 a.m. It was extremely hot; on the coolest day, the high temperature was 97 degrees, and on the hottest day, area thermometers hit 107 degrees. The water was clear. The surface temperature was 83 degrees.
On one outing, the seven-year-old caught 10 largemouth bass and seven green sunfish. The five-year-old caught two largemouth bass and five green sunfish. The three-year-old caught two green sunfish. During the week, this trio caught 27 largemouth bass and a couple dozen green sunfish and bluegill and one crappie.
Bob Gum of Kansas City, Kansas, posted a Finesse News Network report about his July 1 outing with his wife and a friend at a 7,000-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir.
They fished from 3: p.m. to 7 p.m. It was hot, but the overcast sky and a brisk south breeze took some of the edges off the heat. The reservoir’s surface temperature ranged from 81 to 86 degrees.
They plied main-lake points on the south side of the reservoir and the riprap of the dam.
Their most fruitful bait was a PB&J 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a 1/16-ounce red Gopher jig.
By the time that they executed their final casts and retrieves, their ZinkerZ had inveigled a potpourri of species: one largemouth bass, two freshwater drum, five walleye, a dozen white bass and 23 smallmouth bass.
According to Gum, the white bass looked emaciated, but the smallmouth bass were feisty and healthy looking, and one of the smallmouth bass regurgitated two large gizzard shad as it made one of its acrobatic leaps.
On July 1, Casey Kidder of Topeka, Kansas, and Vershun Tolliver of Lawrence, Kansas, fished another U.S. Corps of Engineers’ reservoir. It contains 11,600 acres.
Kidder noted on the Finesse News Network that they tangled with five largemouth bass that weighed about 21 pounds and failed to land two more big ones. They were wielding power tactics, employing big soft-plastic worms and skirted-jigs-and-trailers.
In retrospect, Kidder wished they had tried some Midwest finesse tactics in order to garner a few more strikes.
Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, reported on the Finesse News Network that he ventured to a 407-acre community reservoir in the northwestern suburbs of Kansas City.
He fished from 6 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. According to the solunar calendar, the best fishing times occurred from 11:05 a.m. to 1:05 p.m.
The wind was calm when his outing commenced, and by the time he made his last cast, it was angling out of the southwest at 15 mph. Area thermometers registered the morning low at 70 degrees, and the afternoon high temperature hit 102 degrees.
The reservoir’s surface temperature was 83 degrees. An algae bloom had the water clarity stained a tad.
His spinning outfits were rigged with a three-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ on a 1/16-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig, and this worm had more than an inch removed from its head, a Junebug Z-Man’s Rain MinnowZ on a 3/32-ounce red Gopher jig, a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and Strike King Bait Company’s 3 ½-inch Junebug tube on a 3/32-ounce Gopher jig.
On these finesse combos, he caught 25 largemouth and smallmouth bass. Twelve of the 25 were smallmouth bass. The Finesse WormZ and Rain MinnowZ enticed the bulk of them.
Most of the smallmouth bass that he caught were abiding on or near main-lake points that had 15 to 19 feet of water nearby. These points were embellished with boulders. One of the points was essentially a big flat, which was graced with a pile of boulders and deep water adjacent to it.
Some of the largemouth bass were in six feet of water, and some of them were in three feet of water. The largemouth bass were associated with American water willows, a bit of bushy pondweed, laydowns and some rocks.
Brian Turner of Nebraska sent a note to the Finesse News Network, describing his July 4th outing. He noted that he walked the shorelines at four Nebraska Department of Natural Resources reservoirs.
His Midwest finesse spinning outfit was spooled with six-pound-test fluorocarbon line that was tied to a weedless wacky rig that sported a Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits’ Senko. And even though area thermometers inched past 100 degrees, he caught an impressive array of largemouth bass during this sweaty bank-walking foray.
Mike Poe o f Siler City, North Carolina, sent the Finesse News Network a short description of two outings. One occurred on July 4, and the other occurred on July 5.
On an evening outing after a significant thunderstorm ran its course, he plied a riprap shoreline, using a 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a 1/16-ounce jig for the three hours. From his perspective, the thunderstorm seemed to put the largemouth bass in a tentative and even a negative mood.
On a midday outing, he beefed up his presentations by using baits such as Zoom Bait Company’s green pumpkin Magnum Trick Worms affixed Texas-style to either a quarter- or half-ounce homemade standup jig. He plied snag-infested creek channel edges with this combo. Poe said it is similar to the method that Ivan Martin of Grand Lake, Oklahoma, employs, which was featured in this blog: http://www.in-fisherman.com/2012/06/20/ivan-martin-the-wizard-of-grand-lake-and-salt-flickr/
Poe and Martin call this tactic power finesse. One of the critical differences between power finesse and Midwest finesse is that power anglers use big jigs, and they can feel what their baits are doing as they drag and hop them along the bottom. In contrast, Midwest finesse use 1/32- and 1/16-ounce Gopher jigs, and they employ a no-feel presentation, which means that they can rarely feel their baits. In the words of Guido Hibdon of Sunrise Beach, Missouri, and an early Midwest finesse devotee, “Fishermen tend to use too much weight. And, with too much weight the baits don’t work right.”
Poe mentioned that area thermometers hit highs of 99 degrees. During those two outings, he caught 28 largemouth bass, and none of them were lunkers, but he did tangle with one on the riprap with the ZinkerZ, and it eventually broke his line. He noted that the best bite occurred during his midday outing, when area thermometer were reaching their zeniths.
Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, sent the following note to the Finesse News Network:
“Ned, Here’s another success story in the world of finesse fishing.
“My son and his friends have developed an interest in bass fishing, but they were going out and throwing big baits and hardly catching a thing. I set up a tackle box for them filled with Z-Man baits — mostly ZinkerZs in four different colors.
“My son told me it’s unbelievable how their catch rates have gone up. Today, three of them caught 45 bass in 3 1/2 hours of fishing. Only one was a keeper, but they had fun with the small ones.
“Interestingly, they found the same thing I have. They got out at 5:30 a.m. and found very slow fishing for the first hour to hour and a half. But about 8:30 a.m., the bass really started biting. In fact, Scott told me there were several times when three or four small bass followed the one he had hooked.
“The fish were very shallow and were in the full sun. I guess those are the little bankrunners we always talk about; still, you would think they would be deeper and out of the sun.
“Purple Haze was their best color today, but Scott said that PB&J and Junebug also have been producing. The other day, my friend was catching them on a pearl color.”
Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina sent a short account of his July 7 and July 8 outings. He wrote:
“Good Morning Ned,
“The pictured bass was a whopping 11 inches long but freakishly fat. Hope he lives long enough to reach his potential. It bit a 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. It was caught on a beaver dam after a Texas-rigged bait had caught four largemouth bass on the cover. We caught 36 largemouth bass during the morning on Saturday. It got warm here in the afternoon. Most of the bass were nice ones; two of them were four-pounders, and one was a five-pounder. Shallow breaks with cover on the edge of a river channel accounted for most of the bites.
“On Sunday I went solo for four hours and landed 12 at our closest lake. Fishing was tough, and the filamentous algae fouled many presentations. I caught two on a crankbait, three on a buzzbait, and seven on a 2 ½-inch green-pumpkin ZinkerZ and 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. All of them were longer than 12 inches, but none weighed more than three pounds.
“Hope your heat subsides this week, Mike Poe”
During the first week of July, when area thermometers reached as high as 106 degrees, we spent our mid-morning hours afloat with our three youngest grandsons at a 180-acre state reservoir. These three grandsons are 2 ½, 5 and seven years old. One of their parents also accompanied them.
The two young ones worked with a spinning-casting outfit and retrieve a jig-and-bobber rig baited with a piece of a nightcrawler attached. For short spells, the two youngest also worked with a 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and Finesse WormZ. We would cast it for them, and they would implement an erratic drag-deadstick-and-shake retrieve, and occasionally, they would reel in a bass or panfish
The oldest worked with two spinning rods. One sported a trimmed-down four-inch PB&J Finesse WormZ affixed to either a 1/32-ounce or 1/16-ounce red Gopher jig. The second outfit was rigged with a Junebug 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ and 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
Across five outings and about six hours of fairly serious fishing, they caught 27 bass, 17 green sunfish, four bluegill and one crappie.
Thus, July 9 marked my first attempt to fish since June 27. I spent this outing at a 195-acre community reservoir, which was sprayed with Aquathol K on June 25 and 26 to kill the patches of milfoil.
The long, long, long heat wave broke on July 8, and it broke even more on July 9. Across those two days, we had several rain showers. During this July 9 outing, the wind angled out of the northeast at 12 mph. The barometric pressure was 30.07 and rising. The morning low was 72 degrees, and the afternoon high was 85 degrees. It was raining as I backed the boat into the garage at 3 p.m.
The reservoir’s water level looked to be about 1 ¾ feet below normal. The surface temperature was 85 degrees. It was relatively clear in the lower half of the reservoir, and the patches of milfoil, bushy pondweed, coontail and a few pieces of American water willows were dying.
I fished from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times occurred from 4:02 p.m. to 6:02 p.m.
The fishing was difficult for the first two hours. I spent 45 minutes of that first two hours searching for offshore and suspended largemouth bass, and I caught only one. I spent the next 40 minutes fishing deeper segments of the dam, which failed too. Then for the next 35 minutes, I probed shallower areas of the dam, where I caught five largemouth bass.
For the next two hours I focused on relatively shallow rocky areas and shorelines with deep-water nearby, and I eked out another 28 largemouth bass.
The largemouth bass became noticeably more active around 12:30 p.m., and they were in three to six feet of water. A few of them engulfed the bait on the initial drop. A drag-and-shake retrieve garnered the most bites. I was having a difficult time concentrating on my retrieves today; it seemed as if I couldn’t establish the proper cadence on any of them. I blamed it on not fishing since June 27. And the drag and shake is an easy one to employ when one can’t properly implement the other four Midwest finesse retrieves that we use.
I ended the four hours with a total catch of 34 largemouth bass and three channel catfish. Two largemouth bass looked to be in the three-pound range, and one channel catfish looked to be a five-pounder.
Two of the largemouth bass were caught on a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Five of the largemouth bass were caught of a PB&J Hula StickZ that was shortened to 3 ¼-inches inches and affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Three of the largemouth bass were caught on a Junebug Hula StickZ, which was rigged with the tentacles at the collar of a 1/16-ounce red Gopher jig. Twenty-five largemouth bass were caught on a 3 ¼-inch Junebug Hula StickZ and a blue 3/32-ounce blue Gopher jig. I failed to garner a strike on a PB&J four-inch Finesse WormZ affixed to a 1/16-ounce blue Gopher.
This was the first time that I worked with the Junebug and PB&J Hula StickZ. In January, I had worked with a customized green one. Then in the spring, I began wielding a green-pumpkin one. In the months to come, we hope to provide more insights about how, when and where to employ the Hula StickZ
The first week of July was spent entertaining our three youngest grandsons. Part of the second week of July was devoted to being with our 15-year-old grandson. He was also attending a heavy-duty tennis academy at the University of Kansas. After his arduous tennis academy session ended on July 10, we headed to a nearby 180-acre state reservoir so that he could cool off and tangle with a few largemouth bass.
We arrived at 2:15 p.m., and compared to the outings with our three youngest grandsons during the first week of July, this outing was relatively cool. The morning low temperature was 69 degrees. The afternoon high peaked at 92 degrees. The wind angled out of the north at 5 mph. The barometric pressure was 30.05 and slowly dropping. The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times were 4:47 p.m. to 6:47 p.m.
The water was clear, and the aquatic vegetation was lush. The surface temperature was 86 degree. The water level looked to be 1 ½ feet below normal.
About 15 minutes into our outing, our grandson confessed that he was exhausted. Therefore, we decided that we would probe the entire dam and then head for home. It took us about 55 minutes to accomplish that feat, and we didn’t fish it as methodically as we would have fished if he had been feeling a bit more energetic.
His spinning rod sported a 3 ¼-inch Junebug Hula StickZ on a 1/16-ounce blue Gopher jig. I elected to wield the same bait affixed to a blue 3/32-ounce blue Gopher jig. By the time we executed our last cast and retrieve, our bass counter revealed that we had caught and released 30 largemouth bass.
Some largemouth bass were caught as the bait made its initial fall to the bottom. Others were allured as we would drag, shake and deadstick the bait in depths of three to eight feet of water.
We crossed paths with Holden Whitey of Lawrence, Kansas, who had fished the dam before we arrived, and he had tangled with 21 largemouth bass, using a four-inch finesse worm and 1/16-ounce jig.
For the past three years, this 180-acre reservoir has been overpopulated with dinky bass. But on this outing, our grandson, White and I noted that most of the bass that we caught looked as if they were finally gaining some weight. In fact, half dozen of them were quite nice-sized ones.
Tom Kurata of Lawrence, Kansas, and I ventured to the 100-acre community reservoir that had befuddled me and several Midwest finesse anglers since early December of 2011.
On this outing, I was hoping that we would find that the state and disposition of its largemouth bass to be as cooperative and easy to locate and allure as they were in 2010 and 2011. Back then, it was one of our most fruitful small reservoirs for pursuing largemouth bass in northeasternKansas.
The last time I fished it was June 29 with my cousin Rick Heberstreit of Shawnee, Kansas. On that outing, we fished from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and we primarily used a 3 ¼-inch green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on a chartreuse 3/32-ounce Gopher jig to eke out only 39 dinky largemouth bass. Then I said, as I have said after nearly every outing at this reservoir in 2012 that I wasn’t going to return anytime soon.
But after a three-week hiatus, I thought that we should check to see if it had returned to its former fruitfulness. To our chagrin, however, its bass eluded and baffled Kurata and me more than they eluded and baffled my cousin and me on June 22. We even failed to garner a bite at its most fruitful mid-summer lair, which is an offshore hump that is laden with piles of massive boulder, and we fished it twice; once around 11 a.m. and again at 1:30 p.m. I can’t remember failing to catch a mid-summer largemouth bass from that lair.
We fished from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The best fishing times, according to the solunar calendar, occurred from 5:10 a.m. to 7: 10 a.m.
The wind was out of the north and northeast at 5 mph. Area thermometers registered the morning low temperature at 63 degrees, and the afternoon high hit 95 degrees. The barometric pressure was 30.06 and dropping when our outing commenced.
Initially we thought that the 3 ¼-inch Junebug Hula StickZ, which had bewitched most of the 64 largemouth bass that were caught across five hours of fishing on July 9 and 10, would inveigle at least 40 or more largemouth bass. This combo, however, failed to elicit one strike.
The water level looked to be more than a foot below normal. The surface temperature reached a high of 86 degrees. The water clarity was affected by a slight algae bloom in the lower portions of the reservoir, and a more significant bloom existed in the upper half of the reservoir. Many area anglers would describe the clarity, which is a long way from being crystalline.
Besides wielding the Junebug Hula StickZ on a blue 3/32-ounce Gopher jig, we worked with a variety of other baits: a purple-haze four-inch Finesse WormZ on a 1/16-ounce blue Gopher jig, PB&J 3 ¼-inch Hula StickZ on a 1/16-ounce blue Gopher jig, green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on 1/32-ounce and 1/16-ounce chartreuse Gopher jigs, pearl and PB&J Rain MinnowZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and 3 ¼-inch green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on 1/16- and 3/32-ounce Gopher jigs.
The most effective combo was the green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on a chartreuse 3/32-ounce Gopher jig. It allured 22 of the 28 largemouth bass that we caught and released. The PBJ Rain MinnowZ caught one and the green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ caught five.
The dam produced 10 largemouth bass. A main-lake point on the east side of the reservoir that was graced with a massive patch of American water willows yielded five largemouth bass. Another eastside main-lake point and an adjacent shoreline yielded nine largemouth bass. We caught four more along an eastern shoreline adjacent to a bridge. We caught five largemouth bass on another main-lake point on the east side of the reservoir.
The drag-and-shake presentation was the most effective one. (But when Midwest finesse anglers can catch only seven bass an hour, none of our presentations are very effective.)
As we were leaving the boat ramp, I told Kurata — with an air of exaggerated frustration in my voice — that I wasn’t going to fish this reservoir again until September or perhaps early October. But because of high gasoline prices, which has affected the distance we were willing to travel, and sorry state of several of the reservoirs in northeasternKansas, I would have to fish it again in August.
Terry Claudell o f Overland Park, Kansas, and I fished a 407-acre community reservoir that lies in the northwestern suburbs of Kansas City.
We were afloat from 9:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. The best fishing times, according to the solunar calendar, occurred from 5:52 a.m. to 7:52 a.m.
Weatherwise it was a delightful day. The early morning low temperature was 63 degrees. The afternoon high hit 95. The wind was variable. In fact, it was calm for several long spells, and then it angled out of the south around 7 mph. At times the sky was sunny and bright, and at other times, it became partly cloudy, and around 2:15 p.m., we heard rumblings of thunder emanating from a bevy of towering cumulus clouds that hovered across the countryside east of the reservoir.
The water level looked to be about 15 inches below normal. The water was surprisingly clear – especially around the dam and the lower third of the reservoir. We found some patches of bushy pondweed. We also spotted some coontail and curly-leaf pondweed floating on the surface, but failed to find any patches of it growing on the reservoir’s bottom. There is a minor algae bloom occurring – especially in the upper portion of the reservoir. The surface temperature hit a high of 86 degrees.
We plied a variety of spots around the reservoir’s entire 407 acres. But we focused primarily on steep, rocky shorelines and points. Two points were graced with piles of boulders that look like the rocky reefs that smallmouth bass fishermen relish in Canada. We only plied one offshore lair, which failed to yield a bite.
The dam, which is graced with a massive patch of American water willows and boulders, was the most fruitful area.
At times, when we caught one largemouth or smallmouth bass, we usually caught two more. There were three occasions when one or two smallmouth bass followed a hooked smallmouth bass to the boat, but we were not rigged with a heavy enough tube to elicit a strike from those followers. (We have been told that a tube with a 3/8-ounce or heavier jig is the best tool to elicit a strike from these followers, but we are dyed-in-the-wool finesse anglers, and we never have one of our many spinning rods rigged with a heavy jig and tube.)
The best bait was a four-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher, which Claudell used most of the time. He also used a purple-haze four-inch Finesse WormZ and a Junebug Rain MinnowZ, and both of them allured some bass.
I primarily used a Junebug 3 ¼-inch Hula StickZ on a blue 3/32-ounce Gopher jig and a green-pumpkin 3 ¼-inch green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on a chartreuse 3/32-ounce Gopher jig. The Junebug Hula StickZ allured a nice-sized smallmouth bass on the second cast and retrieve of the outing, but that bass liberated itself on its second jump. After that I attempted to force the largemouth and smallmouth bass to strike those two baits throughout most of the outing, but very few bass were bewitched by these combos. Occasionally I use a PB&J 3 ¼-inch Hula StickZ on a 1/16-ounce blue Gopher jig, and it failed to garner a strike. During the last hour and 15 minutes, I spent more time wielding a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a Junebug Rain MinnowZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher and a shortened Junebug Finesse WormZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and they caught some largemouth and smallmouth bass.
We landed and released 35 largemouth bass and 8 smallmouth bass. About two dozen of them engulfed the bait on the initial drop or during the first three shakes and drags.
This was the first time that I had fished this reservoir, and I found it to be a charming big-city waterway. Claudell fished for his first time on July 4. What’s more, anglers have caught some hefty smallmouth bass from its waters. In our eyes, however, it doesn’t look as if it will be a reservoir that will yield 101 largemouth and smallmouth bass in four hours. Nevertheless, Claudell and I decided after this outing that we wanted to spend many more days there in the months and years to come in hopes of tangling with some of its big smallmouth bass.
I made a solo outing to a 195-acre community reservoir and fished from 9:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.
Except from July 8 through July 12, it had been incessantly hot and dry in northeastern Kansas. Normally we will have had 22.42 inches of rain by July 16, but this year only 13.55 inches of rain had fallen. The folks at the National Weather Service were predicting temperatures from 100 to 103 for the next seven days. This morning’s low temperature, however, was 68 degrees, and the afternoon high climbed only to the 95-degree mark. The barometric pressure was 29.99 and falling around 10:00 a.m. The wind angled out of the south at 9 to 20 mph, and I occasionally used a drift sock to move with the wind rather than into it.
The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times occurred from 8:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.
The water level looked to be about 20 inches below normal. The surface temperature was 85 degrees. The water clarity was slightly stained with an algae bloom, and that bloom left a significant ring of algae scum on the hull of the boat.
When Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, and I fished together on July 13, I attempted to force feed the bass a 3 ½-inch Junebug Hula StickZ on a 3/32-ounce blue Gopher jig and green-pumpkin one on a chartreuse 3/32-ounce. And very few bass were allured by these two combos. What’s more, several that were allured jumped off before they could be hauled across the gunnels of the boat and then released. Claudell found the best combos were a Junebug four-inch Finesse WormZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a Junebug Rain MinnowZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher Jig. (Claudell and I fished four hours and 45 minutes and caught 35 largemouth bass and 8 smallmouth bass, and perhaps if I wouldn’t have tried to force the bass to bite the Hula StickZ, we might have caught a dozen more bass.)
On the July 16 outing, I wanted to see if I could figure out what was awry with my Hula StickZ presentations. So, I had one rod rigged with a 3 ¼-inch Junebug Hula StickZ and blue 3/32-ounce Gopher jig. A second rod sported a 3 ¼-inch Junebug Hula StickZ and blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. I wanted to test those two Hula StickZ combos with two combos similar to the ones that Claudell used on July 12. So, a third rod donned a Junebug seven-inch Finesse WormZ that was trimmed to four-inches and affixed to a 1/16-ounce blue Gopher jig. The fourth outfit was dressed with a PB&J Rain MinnowZ and 1/16-blue Gopher Jig. (I opted for the PB&J hue Rain MinnowZ because the bass in this reservoir have traditionally exhibited a preference for a PB&J Rain MinnowZ rather than a Junebug one. I worked with the trimmed-down seven-inch Finesse WormZ because it is bulkier than the four-inch Finesse WormZ. I thought that I needed a slightly bulkier worm because of the stain from the algae bloom and dying patches of milfoil.)
I made more casts and retrieves with the two Hula StickZ outfits than I did with the other two. I used the Hula StickZs for about a total of two hours and 25 minutes. I used the Finesse WormZ for about an hour, and I used the Rain MinnowZ for 35 minutes.
I fished six rocky shorelines, one rock-and-boulder-laden flat, one shoreline that contained some healthy bushy pondweed patches and three shorelines that contained stems of dead milfoil. The milfoil was sprayed with Aquathol K on June 25 and June 26.
I caught and released 61 largemouth bass, one smallmouth bass and one channel catfish. Two of the largemouth bass looked to be three-pounders; three others might have been two-pounders.
Except for one patch on dead milfoil stems, rocky lairs were more fruitful than the patches of bushy pondweed and dead milfoil. All of the bass were caught in two to seven feet of water, but one was suspended around a no-wake buoy, and it was probably suspended in five or six feet of water, and it engulfed the Finesse WormZ as it fell next to the cable that was attached to the buoy.
The Hula StickZ started alluring largemouth bass on the third cast, and it caught a majority of the bass (35 of them) that were abiding along rocky terrains. The Finesse WormZ caught the bulk of the bass that were associated with the dead milfoil, and it caught a total of 19. The Rain MinnowZ caught eight, and I used it for 35 minutes during the last hour of the outing.
The largemouth bass that abided around the dead milfoil stems engulfed the Finesse WormZ during the initial drop or during a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. Around the rocky lairs, the largemouth bass and one smallmouth bass preferred a hop-and-bounce retrieve that was enhanced with some shakes.
So much of our fishing knowledge is based on speculation rather than tangible facts. So, after this July 16 outing, I don’t have a tangible clue why the largemouth and smallmouth bass at the 407-acre community reservoir in the northwestern suburbs of Kansas City that Claudell and I fished on July 12 weren’t allured by the Hula StickZ but 35 largemouth and smallmouth bass at the 195-acre community reservoir were allured by it on July 16. It’s also somewhat interesting to note that the Junebug Hula StickZ was the most effective bait on July 9 at this 195-acre community reservoir and July 10 at the 180-acre state reservoir. But it wasn’t effective on July 11 at the 100-acre community reservoir in the southwestern suburbs of Kansas City. After the outing with Claudell on July 12, I thought that the northeastern Kansas largemouth and smallmouth bass were changing their diets. But after the July 16 outing, I concluded that largemouth and smallmouth bass had not changed their diets. In sum, when you can’t see your quarry, it is difficult to determine what is going on in the murky world of the largemouth and smallmouth bass that inhabit the flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas. Thus, I don’t really know what was transpiring with the largemouth and smallmouth bass that inhabit the reservoirs in northeastern Kansas. All I know is that I could catch them on July 16 with the Hula StickZ, but I couldn’t catch them on July 12.
Footnote: I read an interest e-mail from Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas, about Z-Man Fishing Products’ baits before I went fishing on July 16. Reese said that he is fishing the same way that he has been fishing since the 1960s, but he is catching considerably more fish since he started using Z-Man’s finesse baits. Likewise, since we started using the Zero, which is identical to Z-Man’s ZinkerZ, in the fall of 2006, we started catching more bass than we ever caught before. In our eyes, the ZinkerZ or Zero, Finesse ShadZ, Finesse WormZ and Rain MinnowZ are as close to being magic baits as any baits we have ever used. And we think the Hula StickZ will soon be part of the realm.
Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, sent the following report to the Finesse News Network:
“Ned, I felt old in the boat yesterday. My son-in-law caught 17 largemouth bass to my two largemouth bass in a brief afternoon trip.
“Our fish have moved to the usual summer peak spots: rocky flats and big wood. So, we drug the big plastics. No idea why I caught so few. I even pulled out the finesse gear and caught a warmouth as he was landing a three-pound largemouth bass. It was my first trip of the year with him so I was glad he caught them as well as he did, but it did have me scratching my head.
“Our lake is yielding great results. We are averaging 40 largemouth bass during our daylight to noon trips. This is the seventh week we have been catching them.
“The rigs that we have used so successfully consist of a Zoom Bait Company’s Magnum Trick Worm, which we drag on a homemade standup jig head with a spring baitholder. Pumpkin and black both do well. We use quarter- to half-ounce jigs heads. We were way ahead of the now well publicized trend of dragging the big worms on a jig head. It is very similar to the way Ivan Martin ofGrand Lake,Oklahoma, uses the Gene Larew Lures’ six-inch Salt Flick’r.
“Hope your midday heat is bearable; I’ll bet the bite is as hot as the temperature. Good luck, Mike”
At the behest of Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, I ventured to our nearby 195-acre reservoir, and fished from 10:50 a.m. to 1:50 p.m. to test the solunar table.
To my surprise, Holden White of Lawrence, Kansas, was there and still there after I left. He is an inspiration to me and many other area anglers. White is 81 years old, and for the past four weeks he has been battling kidney stones and all of the excruciating and incessant pain associated with that battle. And he was still battling the stones and some of the pain while he was fishing on this outing. Compared to the pain that he had been tussling with, the extremely hot weather that was battering the Heartland was merely a minor annoyance.
Mike Poe follows the solunar calendar, and he noted in e-mail that July 18 was the day of the new moon, and the best fishing time was 10:18 a.m. to 12:18 p.m., which would fit within my normal 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. fishing scheme. But today I had to help a friend, and I did not make my first cast until 10:50 a.m.
I caught a largemouth bass on the second cast, and I caught 19 largemouth bass during the first hour and 10 minutes, including one that looked to weigh 3 ½ pounds, two 2 ½-pounders, and I failed to see one that I battled for a minute or so before it liberated itself from the Gopher jig’s hook. I thought that it might have been a hefty channel catfish, but the leader wasn’t coated with slim and it fought the same way the 3 ½-pounder fought. After the first hour and 10 minutes ran its course, I worked hard to catch 14 largemouth bass during the next hour and 50 minutes, and many of these bass were small ones.
The best area was graced with boulders and many stems of dead and dying milfoil. The depth of the water was three to five feet. It was also a quarter of the way inside a major cove.
The second best area was a rock-laden shoreline of the dam. It plunged into the lake at a 45-degree angle.
Both areas were on the north side of the reservoir, and the water was the clearest of all the areas around this reservoir.
Around the dead and dying milfoil stems, the largemouth bass preferred either a 4-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ (this was a seven-incher with the head trimmed to make it a four-incher) on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig or a Junebug Rain MinnowZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher. The largemouth bass exhibited a preference for a swim-glide-and-slight-shake retrieve. A few attacked the baits on the initial drop.
On the rock-laden shoreline of the dam, the largemouth bass consumed a Junebug Hula StickZ on a 3/32-ounce blue Gopher, as well as the Junebug Finesse WormZ and Rain MinnowZ. Here the largemouth bass preferred a drag-and-deadstick retrieve that was highlighted with a few shakes.
It was difficult to measure the water level, but it looks to be 20 or more inches below normal. The surface temperature was 86.5 degrees at 1 p.m. An algae bloom encompasses the entire lake, and it left a significant algae scum on the hull of the boat. It also has affected the water clarity. The upper portions of the lake were more stained than the lower portions.
A brisk southwest wind that ranged from 10 to 22 mph made it difficult to fish several areas. But as area thermometers climbed to 107 degrees, the brisk wind tamed the heat a touch. The morning low temperature was 73 degrees. In the wind-sheltered areas, the sun was blow-torch hot. Barometric pressure was 29.92 at 11 a.m. and falling.
The drought has been so extensive that a few area farmers were cutting their corn fields today and making silage.
When I talked to White at 10:45 a.m., he had caught 14 largemouth bass and one channel catfish on a four-inch worm and 1/16-ounce jig. Most of his largemouth bass were associated with a mud flat stippled with stumps and stems of dead milfoil.
On July 16, the solunar calendar indicated that the best time to fish was from 8:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m., and I fished from 9:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m., and I caught 61 largemouth bass and one smallmouth bass, and the first hour of fishing was significantly better than the last three. The first hour on the July 18 outing was also much better than the last two, but I caught 29 fewer bass today. Perhaps if I started fishing at 10 a.m. rather than 10:50 a.m., I would have caught 18 to 20 bass more than I did. But if I had fished until 2:50 p.m. rather than 1:50 p.m., I doubt that I would have caught 10 more bass. The bass bite during the last 30 minutes was exceedingly slow. According to Poe’s theory, I missed 20 minutes of the best fishing time.
Since I was a very young fishing guide (actually I was more of a boat rower than a guide) at Potthoff’s Minnewawa Lodge in Nisswa, Minnesota, in the 1950s, I have not paid any attention to the solunar calendar. Back in the 1950s, Fred Potthoff and Harry Van Dorn were the master guides around Nisswa, and they talked a lot about the best fishing times, and they paid almost religiousl attention to the solunar calendar. At Poe’s behest, we started noting the solunar times on the Finesse News Network fishing reports on July 18, and perhaps it will provide us some piscatorial insights that we have failed to appreciate for nearly a half of a century.
Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, and I returned to the 407-acre community reservoir that we fished on July 12.
On the July 12 outing, we caught and released 35 largemouth bass and 8 smallmouth. On our July 20 outing, however, many of this reservoir’s largemouth and smallmouth bass eluded us.
What’s more, this reservoir’s largemouth and smallmouth bass still exhibited a reluctance to be allured by a Hula StickZ, which had been a very effective bait at two other area reservoirs. On our July 12 outing, the Hula StickZ accounted for only seven of the 43 largemouth and smallmouth bass that we caught. On our July 20 outing, it bewitched only one largemouth bass, and that was the first catch of the outing. After wielding it for many casts on July 12 and 20, I’m still unable to decipher why it doesn’t work at this reservoir. (Drew Reese of Rantoul,Kansas, who helped Z-Man create the Hula StickZ, would say that I need to use a heavier jig, such as an 1/8-ounce Gopher jig, and I might have to do that on the next outing.)
We fished from 9:00 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. According to the solunar calendar, the best time to be afloat was from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. We were afloat during most of it, but we landed only 27 largemouth and smallmouth bass. All but one of them was caught on the east side of the reservoir, and the bulk of them were abiding in the shade that was provided by the bluffy hillsides on that side of the reservoir. We failed to garner a strike on the dam, which was the most productive area on July 12.
A trimmed-down four-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig was the most alluring of our finesse baits. Three bass were caught on a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce jig. Four were caught on a Junebug Rain MinnowZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher. Five were caught on a green-pumpkin Rain MinnowZ on a 1/16-ounce chartreuse Gopher.
We worked these baits with a variety of retrieves, and we never found one that was better than the other. All of the bass that we caught were in shallow water. Some strikes occurred on the initial fall of the bait to the bottom. Other strikes occurred during the retrieve, and those strikes occurred from about three to 10 feet from the start of the retrieve. Claudell likes to ply laydowns, which is a holdover from his power-fishing days, and a few bass were snatched from some laydowns. A few largemouth bass were associated with the American water willows, but not enough to call it a bass-catching pattern. Rocky terrains graced with American water willows and laydowns seemed to be the most productive areas if they were associated with shade.
The water level looked to be about 1 ½-feet below normal. The water was clear – especially around the dam and the lower third of the lake. There was a slight algae bloom. The surface temperature was 85 degrees.
It was a beautiful summer day in northeastern Kansas. The morning low was 69 degrees, and the afternoon high was 94 degrees. The wind angled out of the northeast and east at 6 to 12 mph.
Bob Gum of Kansas City, Kansas, reported to the Finesse News Network that he and his wife fished a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir on July 22.
In the lower sections of the reservoir, where they fished, the surface temperature ranged from 88 to 90 degrees. Area thermometers recorded the morning low to be 73 degrees and the afternoon high to be 102 degrees.
They executed their first casts around 6:00 a.m. and made their last ones around 11:30 a.m. Their best bite occurred during the first 20 minutes, and it picked up a little from 9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing occurred from 1:41 p.m. to 3:41 p.m.
They began their outing plying a riprap shoreline along the southeast corner of the reservoir. Straightaway he inveigled a 6.75-pound largemouth on a Heddon Zara Spook. Then they tangled with six more largemouth bass and two drum; one of the largemouth bass was an 18-incher. Most of those fish were caught on a 2 ½-inch green-pumpkin-red ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
From the southeast corner, they moved to another stretch of riprap on the east side of the reservoir, where they caught three more largemouth bass, including another 18-incher.
After plying more than 100 yards of that riprap, they plied two-thirds of the riprap along the dam. Until they arrived at the dam most of the fish that they caught were extracted from three feet of water. At the dam, several of the largemouth bass were caught in eight to 10 feet of water, and most of them were caught on a Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits’ Single Tail Grub affixed to an 1/8-ounce jig.
They ended their outing by probing a submerged bridge with spoons, where they caught eight white bass and a 10-pound buffalo.
As they were making their last presentation with their jigging spoons, their fish counter noted that they had tangled with 38 fish, including five big largemouth bass. Gum concluded that it was his best big bass outing since March at this hot-water reservoir.
The surface temperature ranged from 88 degrees to 90 degrees. An algae bloom reduced the clarity to about one foot.
Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri sent a report to the Finesse News Network about an unusual nighttime endeavor that he had at a 120-acre community reservoir that lies in the northern suburbs ofKansas City.
“Ned, Finally got off the couch and out of the air-conditioned den for some night fishing. I thought I would catch a few crappies at least.
“I got a lot more than I expected. Using minnows at a depth of about 25 feet, I caught 11 rainbow trout and six big crappies.
“The trout were a total surprise. This is the latest I have caught them out here and they were in good shape. They fought hard and they had some fat on them, unlike the skinny trout I caught last summer.
“It was obvious that the trout were traveling in schools. I would wait a while, then both rods would get hits. I finally had to go with just one rod.
“Depth also was important. I caught most of my fish at the 20-25 foot level, but I would experiment with slowly reeling the bait up, then stopping and jigging it a couple times and that produced some fish, too.
“The trout were decent size; all of them looked to be in 1 1/2-pound range, with a couple bigger than that. I saw couple of big missiles cruise by; they had to be carp. Take care, Brent”
It needs to be noted that area thermometers climbed to 104 degrees on July 23 and 24.
The morning low on July 25 was 83 degrees, and the high temperature for the day 106 degrees. The summer’s heat kept a lot of anglers at bay, including me as we prepared to leave for our annual fishing vacation with some of our children and grandchildren in the Northwoods of Minnesota during the last week of July and first week of August. A summary of our family’s Midwest finesse endeavors will be the lead log in the August addendum to the month-by-month guide to Midwest finesse fishing.
Enclosed is a report that Casey Kidder of Topeka, Kansas, sent to Finesse News Network about a tournament that he and Travis Perret of Overland Park, Kansas, participated in at the Lake of Ozarks and Truman Lake on July 21 and 22. Both are Midwest finesse devotees, but since they have started tournament fishing rather than recreational fishing, they don’t employ their finesse tools as much as they used to utilize them. Therefore, we thought Kidder’s report exhibited the pronounced differences in the way tournament anglers fish and the way recreational anglers fish.
In sum, tournament anglers’ aim is to catch five largemouth or smallmouth bass that weigh a total of 15 pounds or more, and the aim of recreational anglers who employ Midwest finesse tactics is to catch 25 largemouth or smallmouth bass an hour. Although Midwest finesse anglers would relish catching scores of big bass, the size of the bass isn’t as important as the number of bass that they catch.
Here’s what Kidder wrote:
“Ned: I’m not sure if Travis has e-mailed a report from our tournament this weekend, and I have been short on time to type it up. On Friday, we practiced on the extreme upper Lake of the Ozarks near Warsaw. It was fun to explore a new venue for me, although Travis had a bit of familiarity with it. There was little to no current and water temperatures were 90 degrees. We fished main river channel woody banks and bluff banks, and explored some feeder creek coves lined with docks. The bite was sporadic, with just a few fish here and there. We did discover a significant group of bass around a rocky protected cove. I caught one nice 3.5-pound bass off the cove entrance on a clear/silver flake ZinkerZ on a 1/16 ounce Gopher jig. The ZinkerZ allured several other bass from the cove, along with the jig Travis was tossing. Around the docks, we determined that either a Junebug Brushhog or Junebug Z-Man 10-inch Sawtail WormZ or a jig would elicit strikes.
“We decided to start out tournament day the next morning on theLake of the Ozarks at the small rocky cove. We were the first boat to reach it, but several boats came in behind us. Our first dozen casts to the deeper side that was most productive the day before resulted in no strikes. We then saw a number of shad dimpling the surface on the opposite side of the cove. I used a black buzzbait with a black/red Z-Man CrawdadZ trailer to catch two 17-inch keepers, and I lost one that jumped off about the same size. We also caught a 15-incher, but I don’t remember what we caught it on. The first-light bite was short-lived, but Travis did catch a 17-incher with a jig at the mouth of the cove. The buoyancy of the Z-Man craw as a trailer was the key, I believe. A super-slow retrieve was critical, and I believe the shape and buoyancy of the ElaZtech trailer helped with that.
“After that, we fished some main river banks upstream without any success, and we waited for the sun to start positioning fish under the docks. We fished a number of different coves, targeting the deepest docks, which were only six to seven feet deep. But those docks were deeper than the majority, which were in four to five feet of water. A 10-inch Z-Man Sawtail WormZ in Junebug caught our fifth keeper, another 15-incher. After we had exhausted most of the docks that we had scouted in practice, we looked at the map and zeroed in on a cove we didn’t fish in practice. There, Travis caught another 17-incher on a jig and hula grub to cull out one of our 15-inchers. We felt okay about our day, and were happy to have a limit, especially when we dedicated most of our time practicing for Truman, At the weigh-in, however, we were shocked to take the lead with 13 pounds, 10 ounces. Then two teams gave us a scare. One of them weighed in 13 pounds, 9ounces, which they traveled 60 miles down Lake of the Ozarks to catch. Another team brought a couple 3 ½-pounders to the scale, but they had only four fish, weighing 12-pounds, 10-ounces. Our victory was a bit of a surprise, but we weren’t complaining. Sometimes things just go your way.
“The next day on Truman was one we were very much anticipating. We had done a lot of map study, talking strategy with some talented Truman experts, and Travis made several trips down there to pre-fish. I went with him once. We felt ready, and Travis fishes Truman quite a bit with his bass club. We started on a flat rock and mud bank within a large cove that had isolated laydowns and brushpiles. We caught a small keeper there on a Texas-rigged ZinkerZ after it swiped at a buzzbait. We caught two short fish out of one promising looking brushpile. At the back of the cove, the banks turned to mud and looked extremely shallow, but there were a number of logs in the water. We elected not to fish them at that time of the year, but it turned out to be a huge mistake. As we left that cove, we saw some friends fishing their way in. To make a long story short, they caught two keepers off the same brushpile we caught two shorts out of, and they caught their limit and big fish out of the shallow logs we skipped. We were happy for them, but frustrated at ourselves. Maybe our timing was off, and the fish hadn’t moved into the cover yet or we just didn’t throw the baits they wanted. Either way, we cost ourselves the opportunity to win by leaving the winning area. Hindsight is always 20/20 as they say!
“For the rest of our day, we fished some areas we had practiced or scouted on the map to match our main pattern of fishing standing timber. The fish seemed to be holding on ditches adjacent to flats suspended in the timber. We caught another keeper off a tall tree in about 10 feet of water on one stop, but that ended up being our last keeper. We fished a flat that leads into a feeder creek cove off the main channel, and caught numbers of fish on Junebug 10” Z-Man Sawtail WormZ. We had to have a slow fall through the timber, and the buoyancy of the Z-Man worm allowed us to do that without going to a miniscule weight. A light weight tended to drift away from the tree, whereas the heavier weight and the ElaZtech worm stayed close to the cover but still fell slowly enough to entice the bass. This flat was loaded with schools of shad, and we caught a number of bass off the timber in there. But we were unable to catch any keepers. Perhaps our timing was off again for this area, and we needed to be there at first light. We suspect that some bigger fish were there in the area because we caught keepers in practice, but we were unable to locate where they had moved to.
“In the end, it turned out to be a tough day for most people. There was only one limit weighed in by the guys who won off our starting spot, and about half the field blanked or opted not to weigh in one or two fish. Many others weighed in one or two fish. Thirteen pounds, nine ounces won the tournament, a nine-pound bag was second, eight pounds was in third, and two six-pound bags took fourth and fifth place.
“I may be forgetting some details, and maybe Travis can fill them in. Casey”