Years ago, stretching back more than three decades, I was interested editing the logbooks and notes that professional anglers compiled about the various tournaments that they fished. As I pondered this task, I wrote a few letters to some of the folks in the angling and publishing world, such as Ray Scott who was the headman at the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society of America, asking them if they were interested in publishing the logs of some of the top-of-the line professional anglers in a book format.
At that time, I had never written a word about fishing. I was merely an archivist, and one of my archival chores was to preserve the letters, diaries, journals and logs of the people who gave these kinds of items to the archives where I worked. None of these archival items dealt with angling, but in my eyes a few of them provided some thought-provoking and profound insights about the past. Those archival items spawned the idea that some professional anglers might occasionally record some interesting and thoughtful logs that would help readers of those logs become better anglers. But since I had never written a word about angling and wasn’t involved in the burgeoning tournament world, I wasn’t surprised that I never got a response from any of the letters that I wrote about my proposal to edit and publish the logs of noted tournament anglers such as Rick Clunn, Bobby Murray and Tommy Martin.
Back in those days, I kept a rather haphazard angler’s log, which I recorded on four-inch-by-five-inch index cards and stored in an index-card file box until I discarded them around 1980. It wasn’t until I retired from my work as an archivist in the spring of 2003 that I began again to ponder about the usefulness of angler’s logs. But it wasn’t until Jan. 8, 2004 that I sloppily jotted down 17 words about a wintertime crappie outing at a 7,000-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir in northeastern Kansas. Then as 2004 unfolded, the word count slowly increased, and some of the logs contained as many as 29 words, and by July 1, 2005, several logs contained 70 words or more.
It wasn’t, however, until I crossed paths with Shinihi Fukae of Osaka, Japan and Palestine, Texas, at Beaver Lake, Arkansas, on April 1, 2006, that I got my first introduction to what a comprehensive angler’s log contained. This occurred when Fukae and I worked together on a feature for In-Fisherman magazine about the way he practiced for and won the FLW Tour’s Beaver Lake Wal-Mart Open on April 8, 2006. While I worked with Fukae and his wife, Miyuki, they showed me the logs that they kept during every one of his or their joint outings. The volume of details that the Fukaes recorded was astounding and exhaustive. Nowadays, the Fukaes tell me that these logs occupy many cubic feet of note books and shelve space.
Then it wasn’t until 2012 that I was able to occasionally approach some of the Fukaes’ masteries at creating a daily log about my angling endeavors. Despite the quantum leap that I have recently made at improving my logs, I am still — day in and day out — light years away from equaling Shinihi and Miyuki Fukae’s incredible abilities at this particular art and science of creating angling logs.
In sum, an outstanding log, such as those created by the Fukaes, incorporates scores of essential details, which are recorded while the angler is on the water and are wrapped or polished up soon after he is off the water. The immediacy or the freshness of the details is what separates a great log from one that is composed several days after the outing. It delineates all the weather and water conditions. It notes where, when and how the fish were caught. It also describes where the fish weren’t caught. It is devoid of anthropomorphic descriptions or similar human summations of what was transpiring with the anglers quarry, such as “the largemouth bass were seeking to ‘pork up’ for the long winter.”
Most logs, journals and diaries can be difficult to read. Therefore, it is easy understand why no book or magazine editor and publisher would be interested in publishing printed editions of anglers’ logs. The blog world, however, seems to be a perfect venue for such an endeavor, and that’s what we have been doing since we posted the first “An Addendum to the Month-by-Month Guide to Midwest Finesse” on Mar. 20, 2012.
The series of logs posted below chronicles 16 outings that I made in October 2012 at several northeastern Kansas flatland reservoirs. These 16 outings encompassed a total of 48 hours of largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing. On three of those outings, I was accompanied by another angler. Across those 16 outings, 498 largemouth and smallmouth bass were caught and released, which was an average of 11.37 largemouth and smallmouth bass an hour. In addition, there are comments, logs and observations submitted Terry Bivins of Lebo, Kansas, Darryl Brown of Ontario, Canada, Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, Bob Gum of Kansas City, Rodney Hatridge of Shawnee, Kansas, Clyde Holscher of Topeka, Kansas, John Kehde of Sedalia, Missouri, Casey Kidder of Topeka, Kansas, Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, Pok-Chi Lau of Lawrence, Kansas, David Reeves of Lansing, Kansas, Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, and Dave Weroha of Kansas City.
What follows are 16,787 words that attempt to explain how recreational anglers can employ Midwest finesse tactics to catch an average of 11.37 largemouth and smallmouth bass an hour during some of the most trying days of the year for pursuing largemouth in northeastern Kansas. This series of logs and comments contain the most words we have posted since we began the addendums to the month-by-month guide to Midwest finesse.
In many ways, these logs are similar to recipes in a cookbook. Therefore, as recipes assist cooks in concocting delightful meals, angling logs can help scores of recreational anglers catch their quarries. And as the great Jacques Pepin and the late and great Julia Child frequently noted in their cookbooks and on their television shows, their recipes were not written in stone; so, improvisation was acceptable and often necessary when one cooks. Of course, the same instructions about improvisation that Child and Pepin gave to cooks, we give to recreational anglers. And when an improvisation works, we hope that anglers will report it to the Finesse News Network, and perhaps those new creations will appear in a blog as 2013 unfolds.
I made a solo outing to a 195-acre community reservoir and fished from 10:10 a.m. to 1:10 p.m.
Initially, the wind was calm for a short spell. Then it angled out of the west at 7 mph. By noon, it was angling out of the north at 15 to 20 mph at times, which forced me to employ a drift sock at one locale in the reservoir’s south feeder-creek arm. Area thermometers posted a morning low of 54 degrees and afternoon high of 81 degrees. Around 10 a.m. the barometric pressure was 29.88 and rising. At times it was cloudy and hazy, and at other times it was sunny.
The water level looked to be slightly more than three feet below normal. A significant algae bloom had erupted, but at most locales, I could see the propeller on the trolling motor. (In northeastern Kansas, the trolling motor’s propeller is our Seechi disk, and when can clearly see it, we call it clear water or “Kansas clear.”) The surface temperature ranged from 66 degrees at 10:10 a.m. to 70 degrees at 1:10 p.m.
According the solunar calendar, the best fishing times occurred from 11:09 a.m. to 1:09 p.m. Thus I fish it, and I caught a total of 41 largemouth bass. Except for two three-pounders, they were small specimens.
Five largemouth bass, including the two biggest of the outing, were caught along the rock dam. Four of those largemouth bass were caught on a 3 ¼-inch Z-Man Fishing Products’ Junebug Hula StickZ on a red 3/32-ounce Gopher Tackle Mushroom Head Jig. One largemouth bass was caught on a Z-Man’s four-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. I also failed to land and see a big fish that struck the Junebug Hula StickZ
Nineteen largemouth bass were caught along a north shoreline of the east-feeder creek arm, and four largemouth bass were caught along a short segment of the south shoreline of that same arm. One of these 23 largemouth bass was caught on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. One was caught on a pearl four-inch Hula StickZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Twenty-one of the largemouth bass were caught on a Z-Man’s pearl Rain MinnowZ affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The bulk of these 23 largemouth bass were inveigled around submergent aquatic vegetation, and the Rain MinnowZ was retrieved with a slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. These largemouth bass were caught in two to six feet of water.
The first 28 largemouth bass were caught in one hour and 10 minutes.
The next seven largemouth were caught on a shallow mud flat that was graced with stumps and some patches of submergent aquatic vegetation. The depth of water these bass inhabited ranged from two to five feet. These largemouth bass were caught on either the pearl Rain MinnowZ or pearl Hula StickZ. This area lies on the east side and in the back third of the reservoir’s south feeder-creek arm.
Three largemouth were caught on the west side of the reservoir’s south feeder-creek arm on a flat that was stippled with submergent aquatic vegetation and remnants of a submerged bridge. The pearl Rain MinnowZ bewitched these three largemouth bass.
During the last 10 minutes, three largemouth bass were caught along the edge of patches of submergent vegetation along the north shoreline of the reservoir’s southwest feeder-creek arm. Two were caught on the pearl Rain MinnowZ, and one was beguiled by the pearl Hula StickZ
To my dismay, I broke my line and lost the pearl Rain MinnowZ and blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig during the last five minutes of the outing. If I hadn’t lost it, that Rain MinnowZ had the wherewithal to catch at least another 159 largemouth and smallmouth bass. Since Z-Man has stopped manufacturing the Rain MinnowZ it is important that we do our utmost to not lose them. They are a great finesse bait in the flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas, but Midwest finesse anglers didn’t buy enough of them. Therefore Z-Man couldn’t afford to continue to manufacture them.
For decades, many Midwest finesse anglers in the Kansas and Missouri spent their October days afloat in chase of white bass. And Brain Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, sent the following note to the Finesse News Network about autumn white bass fishing in Indiana. He wrote that plying wind-blown shorelines for white bass is “a strong pattern on many of our lakes once the water drops in temperature, typically right after turnover (mid-late October and then into November). I thought I had made more posts about it, but the only one I could find was this one: “White Bass Galore” where I quote you. That fall I caught a ton of white bass on the bank due to the unusually windy weather that year (2010). If the wind isn’t howling though, the white bass move out and then you have to find the schools on the depth finder to get them. They seem to bust the surface less and less as the water continues to cools, opting instead for the shallow windblown forays.”
Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, who is the outdoors editor for the Kansas City Star, sent the following post to the Finesse News Network about his October 1 outing on a 120-acre community reservoir in northeastern Kansas.
“ Ned, Got out … this morning for four hours of fishing. We got out at 7 a.m. and came back in about 11.The fishing was trying, but somewhat improved. Two of us caught 34 bass, but again, all of them were miniatures. Only one fish came close to being a keeper — 13 inches. I started out with power baits, thinking the water temp was low enough (70) to get the spinnerbait bait going. Wrong. Not a thing. Same for the jig and pig.
“I quickly put down the baitcasters and started using the finesse stuff. But they didn’t hit the first two colors of ZinkerZs I tried — the PB&J and the pearl glitter. When I went to the Junebug, there was an immediately change. I switched my friend to the same color and we had several doubles. Fishing was best along the dam and along the deep weed lines, swimming the ZinkerZ slowly. The effects of the drought are unbelievable. We have to be at least six feet low. The tubes are almost out of the water, backs of coves are dry, and brush piles I usually fish are high and dry.
“We need a Noah type rain. Brent”
This was a horrible smallmouth bass outing at a nearby 7,000-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s where I fished from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The water level was 2.67 feet below normal. The surface temperature ranged from 66 to 68 degrees. A terrible algae bloom stained the water to the point that I couldn’t see the trolling motor, and in fact, the visibility was less than a foot.
The wind angled out of the north to the northwest at 8 to 17 mph. Area thermometers hit a morning low of 40 degrees and an afternoon high of 76 degrees. The sun was intensely bright. The leaves on many of the trees look as if it was mid-October rather than early October.
The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing time stretched from 12:22 p.m. to 2:22 p.m., and I fished one hour and 38 minutes of that spell, but to no avail.
This reservoir is always a difficult venue. In fact, it is more difficult than Lake Shelbyville, Illinois, and Lake Decatur, Illinois, which befuddled many of the Bassmaster All-Stars on Sept. 20 through Sept 23.
On Sept. 27, Mike Gilmore of Longview, Texas, and I eked out 13 smallmouth bass in three hours. On Sept 14, I caught 10 smallmouth bass in two hours, and on Aug. 24, Pok-Chi Lau of Lawrence and I tangled with 20 smallmouth bass and two largemouth bass. But today it took me three hours to catch five smallmouth bass, three big white bass and three mega freshwater drum
I wielded a variety of Midwest finesse baits, but the pearl Rain MinnowZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse 2 ½-inchZinkerZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and Z-Man’s June bug 2 ½-inch FattyZ customized tube on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig were the only three baits that elicit the 12 strikes that I had. I had a big fish inhale the pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ, and it broke my line, which I had not retied for several outings. I suspect that it was big freshwater drum.
The flatland reservoirs across northeastern Kansas normally are afflicted by significant algae blooms as the water temperatures drop in September and October. And in our minds, the severe algae blooms adversely affect the number of largemouth and smallmouth bass that we can catch. Limnologists tell us that the algae blooms lower the dissolved oxygen levels at night and during low-light conditions in these reservoirs, and ichthyologists tell us that low dissolved oxygen levels affect the stamina and activity levels of the fish.
On Oct. 1, I fished a 195-acre community reservoir that lies about six miles, as a crow flies, to the south of this 7,000-acres U.S. Corps of Engineers’ reservoir, and it was afflicted by a significant algae bloom, but the water wasn’t as stained as the water was at the Corps’ reservoir of Oct. 2, and I was able to 41 largemouth bass in three hours at the 195-acre community reservoir. So perhaps, it was the algae bloom that fouled the smallmouth bass bite at the Corps’ reservoir. But of course, it could be my ineptitude more than the algae bloom. I have begun to notice that old age (which means my 72-year-old mind, body and soul) has had a greater effect on my fishing than all the havoc that Mother Nature can dish out.
Clyde Holscher, who is a multispecies guide from Topeka, Kansas, reported on the Finesse News Network that he and his two clients endured a devilish outing at 11,600-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir. The few white bass and smallmouth bass that this threesome inveigled were allured by a pearl 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a 1/16-ounce jig. Holscher reported that this reservoir was besmeared with a sickly looking algae bloom.
At 3 p.m., my wife, Patty, and I attended our new nephew’s soccer match in Kansas City. So I had to fish from 9:50 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. at the nearby 195-acre community reservoir, which I fished on Oct. 1.
The entire reservoir was affected a potent algae bloom, which created a significant scum line along the entire hull of the boat. But it was not as intense of a bloom that afflicted the 7,000-acre reservoir that I fished on Oct. 2 and struggled to catch five smallmouth bass.
The surface temperature ranged from 66 to 67 degrees. The water level looked to be three feet below its normal level.
The wind angled from the south at 7 to 20 mph. The barometric pressure at 9:50 a.m. was 29.97 and falling. Area thermometers registered a morning low temperature of 35 degrees and an afternoon high of 81 degrees. The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing time occurred from 1:13 p.m. to 3:13 p.m., which I missed.
During the hour and 55 minutes that I fished, I had time to only explore the two eastern feeder-creek arms. In these two coves I primarily focused on plying the outside edges of patches of submergent aquatic vegetation. I started wielding a pearl Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, but failed to garner a strike. Then I spent most of the first hour working with a pearl Rain MinnowZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. (At times — especially during the fall — the Rain MinnowZ and 1/16-ounce is the most effective combo in our Midwest finesse repertoire at this reservoir. In my eyes, the pearl one on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig exhibits an extremely alluring movement when it is twitched and shaken around patches of aquatic vegetation. But to my perpetual chagrin, the Rain MinnowZ is no longer being manufactured by Z-Man Fishing Products.) I also used for about a dozen casts and retrieves with a green-pumpkin-orange-flake four-inch grub on a 3/32-ounce Gopher jig. The pearl Rain MinnowZ caught eight small largemouth bass, and the grub combo caught one. The north side of this arm was more fruitful that the south side, and it had been for me in this arm since Sept. 17, but there will be times in the weeks and months to come that the bulk of the largemouth bass will move to the south side.
In the second east feeder-creek arm, I used a Junebug Hula StickZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and the pearl Rain MinnowZ combo. This arm wasn’t graced with as much aquatic vegetation as the first one, and it about 75% smaller. Three bass were caught on the Rain MinnowZ along a rocky shoreline and one was caught adjacent to a patch of vegetation. The Junebug Hula StickZ allured three largemouth bass around the outside edges of the submergent vegetation.
By the time I executed my last retrieve on this one-hour, 55-minute outing, my counter revealed that I had tangled with only 17 largemouth bass.
Dave Weroha of Kansas City reported to the Finesse News Network about his and a friend’s evening and early night of largemouth bass fishing on Oct. 3 at a 160-acre state reservoir, which was more than eight feet below its normal water level. When they began fishing at 6:30 p.m., the surface temperature was 68 degrees. The water exhibited three feet of visibility. The wind angled out of the northeast at 5 to 10 mph. The spent the entire outing in the northeast feeder-creek arm. Weroha primarily worked with a blue-chartreuse Luck-E-Strikes Series 3 squarebill crankbait, a green-pumpkin 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a green-pumpkin 2 ½-inch Berkley Power Grub on a 1/16-ounce red Gopher jig, casting these baits towards the shoreline and executing what he called “semi-parallel” retrieves along the shoreline. His partner worked with a green-pumpkin, five-inch Gulp! Shaky Worm. After dark, the largemouth bass became extremely active in one locale, feeding on and near the surface upon gizzard shad. Weroha and his partner caught them on shallow-diving, shad-hue crankbaits. They fished until 9:15 p.m. and caught 21 largemouth bass, and the biggest one weighed 3.5 pounds. (This was Weroha’s first report to the Finesse News Network. Bob Gum of Kansas City, who is a veteran Midwest finesse angler and FNN reporter introduced Weroha to Midwest finesse and FFN)
Elsewhere around northeastern Kansas, Terry Bivins of Lebo, Kansas, and Clyde Holscher of Topeka reported to the Finesse News Network that the crappie, smallmouth bass and white bass fishing was at better a 6,930-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir that lies about 60 miles south of Lawrence, Kansas, than it has been at other area Corps’ reservoirs. Bivins worked with a silver-gray Leroy Spellman’s jig. Holscher’s clients used a pearl 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a 1/16-ounce jig. For some reason, reason this reservoir did not get waylaid with the algae blooms that whacked the other Corps’ reservoir as the water temperatures cooled in September and October.
Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, reported to the Finesse News Network that he and his uncle traveled to Missouri to fish a 150-acre community reservoir and 245-acre community reservoir. They fished nearly six hours and caught only 20 largemouth bass and all but two were tiny ones, and the two best ones measured were only 14 inchers. (For nearly two months, Claudell and I have been suffering the same sorry piscatorial fates of catching only tiny black bass.
I talked to John and Roger Kehde of Sedalia, Missouri, on Oct 3, and they said the temperate bass fishing at a 55,000-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir in the northern Ozarks was sorry. Roger and Steve Bloess of Sedalia, Missouri, fished windy points on Oct. 1 with quarter-ounce Rooster Tails and eked out about 30 white bass and wipers. Then Steve Bloess failed to catch any fish on Oct. 2.
Back in the 1960s when I used to help Gete Hibdon and his brothers guide at Two Water Resort on the Gravois arm of the Lake of the Ozarks, we used to say that the Lake of the Ozarks’ largemouth and spotted bass had the World Series funk during the first week of October. That was when the baseball World Series was played, and every year during that week we used to guide a group of folks who work the Businessmen’s Insurance Company of Kansas City, and it was a stellar nine-hour day if a pair of these anglers who we were guiding could tangle with a dozen bass. By the way, when I was at Table Rock Lake on Sept. 24, 25 and 26, the weather was October weather, some of the anglers complained that their largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass had turned problematic, and they noted that the October-effect is yearly phenomenon at Table Rock, too.
This was another difficult early October largemouth bass outing.
I started about where I left off on Oct.3 when I fished nearby 195-acre community reservoir from 9:50 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., and I made my first cast at a shallow hump in the back of the southwest feeder-creek arm at 11:50 a.m. Then I made last one along a drop off in the northeast feeder-creek arm at 2:50 p.m.
It was a cold and blustery affair. Area thermometers recorded the morning high temperature at 64 degrees, and by the time, I returned home, many of those thermometers registered 52 degrees. In sum, Mother Nature whacked us with a significant cold front. The wind angled from the northwest, reaching speeds of 26 mph. The barometric pressure was 30.25 and rising. The sky was partly cloudy to mostly cloudy.
The algae bloom was as poignant on this outing as it was on Oct. 3, and it affected the water clarity. In the northeast feeder-creek arm I could barely see the trolling motor’s propeller at times. I could not see it in the southwest feeder-creek arm of the reservoir. The surface temperature ranged from 66 to 67 degrees. The water level was three feet below normal
The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing occurred from 2:06 p.m. to 4:06 p.m. I fished 44 minutes of this spell, and the last hour was more fruitful than the first two hours.
I failed to catch a bass on the shallow hump where I made my first casts. I methodically plied this entire hump, which is about half the size of a football field. Before the milfoil and other submergent vegetation were poisoned in June and July, this hump was graced with vegetation, and in Octobers past, it attracted a significant number of largemouth bass. When the water levels are normal, this hump has four to five feet covering, and its edge drops into seven feet of water. Thus, it had only one to two feet of water covering. I fished it was a green-pumpkin-orange-flake four-inch grub on a 3/32-ounce orange Gopher jig and a pearl Rain MinnowZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. I caught a little bass on the grub adjacent to the hump at a nearby boat dock. This dock was graced with a small patch of submergent vegetation. Then I fished a dozen docks and two dozen patches of submergent vegetation on the south and north sides of this area with the grub and Rain MinnowZ without eliciting a bite in this back of this arm.
As I approached the last dock in this section, I crossed paths with a friend who was flipping laydowns and docks, as well as wielding a shallow diving crankbait. He reported that he had fished the entire north side of this southwest feeder-creek arm, and he had caught only one small largemouth bass on the crankbait and five largemouth while flipping a black-and-chartreuse creature bait to the laydowns.
After chatting with this angler, I decided not to fish the rest of this arm, and I moved to the northeast feeder-creek arm. For the last hour and 40 minutes of this outing, I fished about 50 percent of this arm. The north side of this arm is graced with significant patches of aquatic vegetation. Since mid-September, I had been able to extract some largemouth bass from the edges of these patches of vegetation on a peal Rain MinnowZ and blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, but this time it garnered only one small largemouth bass. After 30 minutes of sorry fishing with the pearl Rain MinnowZ, I began casting the grub combo, allowing it to land a few feet from the outside edge of the vegetation and slowly retrieving it into nine feet of water, which is a deep and unusual presentation for me in the flatland reservoirs of Kansas, and this combo and presentation caught nine largemouth bass and one channel catfish from several lairs that are embellished with a nearby submerged creek channel. After catching those nine largemouth, I crossed to the south side of this arm, which is shallower and flatter. This side was adorned with several patches of submergent vegetation, and I allured only one largemouth bass from the edge a patch on the grub combo, and that was the only strike I elicited.
I decided to end the outing by employing a green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on a chartreuse 3/32-ounce Gopher jig at the same locale that I caught the nine largemouth bass and one channel catfish on the grub combo. (I rarely fish the same locale, but I wanted see if another lure and presentation would work better than the grub combo, and this was the only locale where I had found some largemouth bass.) I positioned the boat in 10 feet of water and made cast that landed in about three feet of water. I retrieved it by dragging, occasionally shaking it and deadsticking it. This tactic allured eight largemouth bass, one black crappie and one mega bluegill.
In sum, it was another difficult outing, yielding 19 largemouth bass, and none of them were lunkers. During the past four days, I have been able to catch only 77 largemouth bass and five smallmouth bass, and only two of those were three pounders.
I talked to Stacey King on Oct. 4. He said that he had been fishing for a day and a half at the Lake of the Ozarks, where the fishing was extremely difficult. But he thought that the cold spell and rain that Table Rock was getting might improve the fishing significantly.
Posted below are several comments and laments by other Midwest finesse anglers who find October a problematic time for catching largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass in the waterways that they ply.
“Ned, September and October have been my least favorite, and least productive months to fish since moving to the area from Iowa in 1996. Up there, October had always been a good month, but weather wise it more closely matches up to our mid November. Table Rock in particular is usually stubborn in October, unless you are able to stay with roaming offshore Kentuckies, or find some main lake smallmouth. Anymore, I reserve the ninth and tenth month for football, and get interested in the fish again after Thanksgiving. Just 2 cents. Dave Reeves.” (Reeves lives in Lansing, Kansas.)
“Hello Ned, I don’t think it is unique to the Midwest. Our big reservoirs suck here in North Carolina until Halloween. Used to be good for making money in year end fish offs because we would get in creek arms so shallow the fish had no options but the catches were just lousy. We would have made more money if I had had the ZinkerZ and Gopher jig to skip to shallow docks and stumps. We used Gitzits but could not skip that tube anywhere near like you can the Gopher and ZinkerZ. It is fun to see them roll up on the bait in that skinny water. I have it on my list to weigh the ZinkerZ vs the Finesse Worm to look at their actual weights on the different heads. Curious about their fall and exactly how much more the ZinkerZ weighs. Hope your catch improves, Mike Poe.” (Poe lives in Siler City, North Carolina.)
“Ned, So I guess it’s not just me. September and early October are always poor times to fish around here. By Halloween, things pick up and the big fish start getting active. By deer season (the second weekend of November), we have some of our best fishing of the year for big bass. The big ones will move to the riprap or the tubes area and they’re predictable. They’ll hit either jig and pig or stickbaits. The good bite will last until Thanksgiving when the temperatures stay halfway mild. Best Brent Frazee.” (Frazee live in Parkville, Missouri.)
Here is the seven-day weather forecast for Oct. 5 through Oct. 11:
- Today Mostly cloudy, with a high near 54. North wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.
- Tonight Partly cloudy, with a low around 34. Northwest wind 5 to 10 mph.
- Saturday Partly sunny, with a high near 52. North wind 5 to 15 mph.
- Saturday Night Widespread frost after 2am. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly clear, with a low around 29. North wind 5 to 10 mph.
- Sunday Widespread frost before 9am. Otherwise, sunny, with a high near 59. West wind 5 to 10 mph.
- Sunday Night Mostly clear, with a low around 35.
- Columbus Day Sunny, with a high near 65.
- Monday Night Mostly clear, with a low around 47.
- Tuesday A 20 percent chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 69.
- Tuesday Night Partly cloudy, with a low around 46.
- Wednesday Mostly sunny, with a high near 64.
- Wednesday Night A 20 percent chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 47.
- Thursday A 20 percent chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 67.
Traditionally, I have had a rule that I would fish a reservoir no more than once a week, but for a variety reasons that rule has gone by the wayside in 2012.
One reason why that rule has been violated revolves around the price of gasoline. A second reason is that we have had more grandparental and assorted family duties to perform, which has cut into the time I have to drive to fish a reservoir that lies more than 30 miles from our front door. The third reason is that I am making many more solo outings than I used to make, and I am not harming the bass population as much as when one or two other anglers used to join me. The fourth reason is that I am spending a lot more time writing about fishing than I did in the before August of 2011, which is when In-Fisherman’s blog site began, and thus I don’t have as much time to travel as I did before August of 2011. A fifth reason is what some of us old-timers are afflicted we a disease that we call A.G.E. or in other words my 72-year-old mind, body and soul doesn’t want to drive 61 miles to chase the smallmouth bass at a 6,930-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir nor 52 miles to fish for the largemouth bass at a stellar 50-acre community reservoir that I used to venture to regularly in years past. A sixth reason revolves around a nearby 160-acre state reservoir (by the way this is the reservoir that Dave Weroha fished and reported about in the Oct. 3 postscript); its water level was dropped to 10 feet below normal in 2011, and during the drought of 2011-12, the water level was too low for one angler to easily launch a boat when the wind is blowing, and the wind blows a lot in these parts; so I have fished this reservoir only three times in 2012. The seventh reason is that a nearby 416-acre community reservoir was hit by the largemouth bass virus, and its largemouth bass population was been more severely affected than the other largemouth bass that abide in two other community reservoirs that I fish, and consequently it wasn’t fruitful enough to merit making many outing to this virus-ridden reservoir. For these seven reasons, I launched my boat again at the 195-acre community reservoir and spent 3 ½ hours trying to refine what I did on Oct. 4.
Day in, day out, January through December, I am a shallow-water angler – even when the water temperature is 39 degrees or 90 degrees. I prefer to use 1/32-ounce and 1/16-ounce Gopher jigs dressed with a soft-plastic bait, plying depths of three to six feet of water, and when I do ply deeper lairs, it usually occurs along steep-sloping shorelines. I prefer this light-jig and shallow-water method because it allows me to cover a lot of water, and traditionally it allows me catch at least nine largemouth and smallmouth bass an hour. But the doldrums of early October are so trying that I am occasionally forced to fish a touch deeper and differently than I like to fish.
(It needs to be noted that even die-hard power anglers rarely catch largemouth bass in the flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas deeper than 12 feet. Occasionally in cold-water periods, a few Midwest finesse anglers have dragged and vertically presented their baits in 15 feet of water or slightly deeper, and they have eked out some largemouth bass. Some crappie anglers have caught smallmouth bass in deep-water brush piles in the winter at a 6,930-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir, and these brush piles lie in15 to 25 feet of water.)
For two reasons, I don’t like using heavy jigs and plying deeper water. One reason is that the heavy jig removes the no-feel part of the retrieve, and as Guido Hibdon of Sunrise Beach, Missouri, once said: “With too much weight, the baits don’t work right.” The second reason is that it takes a lot of time to drag, deadstick and slowly swim a bait across and through deeper lairs, and since I rarely fish more than four hours per outing, I have found that it more fruitful to employ a touch faster and shallower presentation.
But on Oct. 5, I even thought about using an 1/8-ounce jig. I eventually talked myself out of tying an 1/8-ounce jig to one of my spinning rods. Instead I used what I used on Oct.4, when I worked with a green-pumpkin-orange-flake four-inch grub on an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher jig and a green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on a chartreuse 3/32-ounce Gopher jig. With these two Midwest finesse combos, I found on Oct. 4 that I could fairly quickly retrieve them through a 30-yard stretch of this reservoir that ranged in depth from three to nine feet of water. This locale was also embellished with a nearby submerged creek channel, and its shoreline was graced with patches of submergent vegetation. I positioned the boat in 10 feet of water and made casts that landed in about three feet of water, and I worked the bait into nine and even 10 feet of water. I retrieved the jig-and-grub combo by slowly swimming it, as well as administering an occasional shake and pause. I primarily drug the Hula StickZ, and every once in a while I would shake and deadstick it. The largemouth bass that I caught were on or near the bottom, and they were not associated with any noticeable object or element of structure. In sum, they seemed to be merely milling about in six to nine feet of water.
On this Oct 5 outing, one spinning rod donned a chartreuse 3/32-ounce Gopher jig and green-pumpkin Hula StickZ. Another spinning rod sported a 3/32-ounce orange Gopher jig with a green-pumpkin-orange-flake grub. A third spinning rod had a red 3/32-ounce Gopher jig with a Junebug Hula StickZ. In order to periodically test some shallower lairs, a fourth spinning rod was embellished with a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a pearl Rain MinnowZ , and the fifth one was dressed with a red 1/16-ounce Gopher and a green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ.
Until Oct. 4, the pearl Rain MinnowZ and blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig had been the most effective combo at this reservoir. I tested it periodically for the first hour that I was afloat on Oct. 5, and it failed to garner a strike. During the second hour, I removed the pearl Rain MinnowZ from blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and replaced it with a PB&J Rain MinnowZ, which is traditionally an effective autumn color at this reservoir.
On Oct. 5, I began fishing along the north shore of a small feeder-creek arm on the east side of the reservoir. I quickly tangled with a two-pound largemouth bass and three-pound channel catfish. Both were inveigled by the green-pumpkin Hula StickZ in about seven feet of water.
Then I moved to the reservoir’s southwest feeder-creek arm and worked a drop-off adjacent to a flat and shoreline that is endowed with patches of coontail, stumps and a few boulders. During the past two months, this section of the reservoir had entertained scores and scores of largemouth bass, and most of them were caught in three to four feet of water, and a few were caught in water shallower than three feet. I tested those shallow confines and failed to elicit a strike. Then I used both Hula StickZ combos and the grub combo to probe into eight feet of water, and I caught only one small largemouth bass and missed hooking three strikes.
After plying that drop-off, I venture to a nearby offshore area that is graced with a submerged creek channel and remnants of a concrete bridge. Unfortunately this locale was being pummeled with waves and a cold wind, which confounded boat control, casts and retrieves, but I caught eight largemouth bass on the green-pumpkin Hula StickZ, Junebug Hula StickZ and green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ. I failed to hook two other strikes. These largemouth bass were in four to five feet of water. Three were caught near the edge of some patches of submergent vegetation, and the others were around the residue of the old bridge.
The wind was constantly blowing me off course and adversely affecting may casts and retrieves. And it blew me way off course, when I took a minute or two to weigh a two-pound, 10-ounce largemouth bass, which looked to my eyes as it would weigh more than three pounds. If the wind hadn’t made the boat control and retrieves so trying, I suspected that this locale would have yielded several more largemouth bass. (During October of 2011, this spot occasionally produced as many as 25 largemouth bass on every windless outing.)
After I became weary of battling the wind and waves, I moved to calmer locale about half way inside the southwest feeder-creek arm. This area is essentially a long flat, and its shoreline is lined with boat docks and patches of coontail. A submerged creek channel runs nearby one section of it. I positioned the boat in seven to 12 feet of water and several feet from the outside edges of the boat docks. Some cast were made to the coontail patches, which were in 3 ½ to four feet of water. Other casts were aimed at the edges of the docks, which were in five to 10 feet of water. At this locale, I caught 15 largemouth bass. Most of them were caught on either the green-pumpkin Hula StickZ or the Junebug Hula StickZ in about six feet of water. Four of the 15 were caught on the PB&J Rain MinnowZ on the blue 1/16-ounce Gopher.
During the last 30 minutes of this outing, I worked two sections in the eastern feeder-creek arm of the reservoir. One of those section was where I caught 16 largemouth bass on Oct. 4 with the grub and Hula StickZ combos. But on this Oct. 15 outing, it yielded on three largemouth bass; two of them were enticed by the grub and one was enticed by green-pumpkin Hula StickZ. Two of them were in about seven feet of water, and one was in five feet of water.
The second spot in the eastern feeder-creek arm was a flat on its south side. It was enhanced by patches of submergent vegetation. In some ways its underwater terrain is similar to the spot in the southwest feeder-creek arm that yielded 17 largemouth bass. Here I caught one largemouth bass on the grub combo and one on the green-pumpkin Hula StickZ combo. Both of these largemouth bass were in about four feet of water along the outside edge of the submergent vegetation.
I fished from 11:10 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. I missed the solunar calendar’s best fishing times, which began at 2:59 p.m. and ran until 4:59 p.m. It was coldest outing that I had fished since last winter. Nowadays. My old bones have had a difficult time during the past several falls getting acclimated to the cool temperatures. In fact, I wore some long underwear on this outing. Area thermometers registered that low temperature of 46 degrees and a high temperature of 52 degrees, but the north wind, which angle out of both the northwest and northeast, at 13 to 24 mph created a significant wind chill, making me wish that I was dressed with a few more layers. The barometric pressure at 11 a.m. was 30.27 and rising. Initially the sky was filled to the brim with clouds, but during the last hour, it became partly cloudy.
The reservoir’s surface temperature was 65 degrees. The water level looked to be three feet below normal. There was an algae bloom, but it wasn’t as intense as it was on Oct. 4. In fact, I could see the propeller of the electric trolling motor at most areas that I fished. Perhaps the wind moved the planktonic algae to areas that I didn’t visit on this outing. I have noticed that clouds sometime reduce the amount of planktonic algae that clutters the surface of the water, which improves the water clarity. But the combination of an algae bloom and a cloudy sky might have adversely affected the activity level of the largemouth bass. Biologists tell us that algae blooms consume a lot of oxygen, and the oxygen is restored by sunlight. When algae blooms are intense, as they have been, the waning of oxygen level can make the largemouth bass lethargic and difficult to catch. Since the flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas are often plagued by algae blooms as the water temperature decline in October that might be one of the reasons why the largemouth bass fishing is so problematic in October. And the clouds and algae bloom might be why I could catch only 8.5 largemouth bass an hour on his outing, and I fished 3 ½ hours. For the week, I fished five times for a total of 14 ½ hours, and I caught only 121 largemouth bass and five smallmouth bass, for an average of 8.6 bass an hour. None of them weighed more than three pounds.
Dave Weroha of Kansas City reported to the Finesse News Network that he, Walt Geiger and Bob Gum, fished a 6,930-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 6.
It was mostly cloudy all day. The wind angled out of the north and occasionally out of the northeast at 10 to 15 mph. At 9 a.m. area thermometers were in the upper 40s, and at 5 p.m., they were in the upper 50s.
The surface temperature was 65 degrees, and the water clarity exhibited four feet of visibility.
Their spinning rods sported the following baits: a blue-and-pearl three-inch Kalin’s Lunker Grub on an 1/8-ounce jig; a green-pumpkin, five-inch Gulp! Shaky Worm on an 1/8-ounce jig; a four-inch, green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ on a No. 1 wide-gap worm hook and 1/32-ounce slip sinker; a 3 1/2-inch green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ (which was originally a seven-inch Finesse WormZ) on a 1/16-ounce jig; a green-pumpkin 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on an 1/8-ounce jig; a green pumpkin three-inch Mister Twister grub on a 1/16-ounce jig; and a pearl 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
This threesome from Kansas City caught 74 largemouth, smallmouth, spotted and white bass. They plied main-lake points, main-lake shorelines, shorelines in coves and secondary points inside coves on the north and south sides of the reservoir. All of these areas were rock laden. They also fished two riprap breakwaters and the riprap of the dam.
Casey Kidder of Topeka, Kansas, reported that he and Travis Perret of Overland Park, Kansas, competed as a pair in the Kansas Buddy Bass Championship at a 7,820-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir in the northern Ozarks on Oct. 6 and 7. They also practiced on Oct. 4 and 5.
For several years, Kidder and Travis were devoted Midwest finesse anglers, but since they started fishing area bass tournaments, they began spending more time using power tactics than using Midwest finesse tactics.
Here is Kidder’s report:
“We ended up in seventh place with a two-day total of 19 pounds, 4 ounces. The winning weight was just over 23 pounds, and that team had 14 pounds on day one and a two-pound lead.
We weighed 11 pounds, six ounces on day one, and were in fourth place. We had four nice ones and one dink. But on day two, we could only catch one nice one and four dinks. The lake has a 13-inch length limit, and the 13-inchers were plentiful.
“The weather conditions changed drastically over the four days of prefishing and competition. On Thursday, Travis prefished under sunny skies and 80 degree temps. I prefished Friday in the rain all day with cooler temps. On Saturday, the morning was chilly, and it stayed overcast all day. Sunday was cold in the morning and foggy, but the bright sun quickly burned that off. So we were fishing before and after a major cold front.
“During our prefish days, Travis and I both found the bass willing to hit topwater baits, in very different conditions. We were so confident in the topwater pattern that half of my rods had a combination of buzzbaits, walking baits and poppers. But throughout the next two days, we never caught another topwater fish! We did, however, make an adjustment to fish deeper after the first fishless hour on the first day, and we caught three nice keepers on a football jig in the 12-15 feet range. One dink bit a shaky head jigworm, and our final keeper fell to Travis’ crankbait.
“On day two, we expected the sunny skies to put a hurt on the shallow crankbait/spinnerbait bite that we knew most of the competitors were doing. We hoped that our deeper jig pattern would be less affected or even improve under the sunny, post-frontal skies. We were correct about the shallow bite, as weights were down across the board. The leaders weighed in five-pounds less than the day before. But our deep bite was affected also, or we ran out of fish in our area, as our weight fell off as well. After our first two points produced only a small keeper, we explored some cuts with a spinnerbait and caught three small keepers. On a new point, Travis finally connected with a near-three-pounder to fill out our limit.
“Note that we did attempt to establish a finesse pattern using a pearl ZinkerZ, and a salt/pepper grub, but all we could allure were the plentiful 11-13 inch dinks.
“We had a great time, though. The weather, though chilly, was refreshing compared to some of the scorching summer tournaments we fished. We stayed at a little fishing lodge that neither of our wives would dare set foot in. It was nothing to look at, for sure, and looked like it hadn’t been updated for 30 years, but it was clean and comfortable. I enjoyed the heck out of it. That was our last tournament of the year, and I’m already looking forward to next year.”
The fishing is awry at a lot of reservoirs across northeastern Kansas and the northern Ozarks of Missouri.
For example, Johnny and Roger Kehde of Sedalia, Missouri, were afloat at a 55,600-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir in the northern Ozarks of Missouri on Oct. 7 from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The wind was howling out of the southwest at 18 to 24 mph, which they said was an ideal situation for catching astronomical numbers of spotted bass, white bass and wipers on wind-blown main-lake points within a several-mile radius of the dam. But they could eke out only 77 white bass — most of those were dinks — and five fairly good-sized spotted bass. Roger Kehde lamented that on windy October outings in years past, they would have tangled with nearly 200 fish in 3 ½-hours of fishing. We reported on several blogs in the fall of 2011 that the white bass fishing several reservoirs in Missouri, northeastern Kansas, and northeastern Oklahoma was extremely sorry. It has been a tad more fruitful this year at a few of the reservoirs, but the catch rates have still been significantly less than they used to be.
Another example revolves around Pok-Chi Lau’s outing at a 6,930-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir in northeastern Kansas on Oct. 8. Lau of Lawrence, Kansas, and a friend fished from 10 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., and they caught only 71 white bass, 11 smallmouth bass, five freshwater drum and one largemouth bass. Most of the white bass were small.
A third example deals with the eight-hour outing that Bob Gum, Dave Weroha, and Walt Geiger at the same Corps’ reservoir on Oct. 6. Across those many hours, this three-some caught 74 largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass and white bass. The autumn shoreline white bass fishing at this reservoir traditionally doesn’t fully materialize until around Halloween. So, we can’t yet measure the state of its white bass population. Nevertheless, these five Midwest finesse anglers fished the 6,930-acre reservoir for 16 hours and caught only 157 largemouth, smallmouth and white bass.
A fourth example revolves around the observations of Clyde Holscher, who is a multispecies guide and Midwest finesse devotee from Topeka, Kansas. He guided a pair of anglers on Oct. 8, and they fished two U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoirs: the same 6,930-acre one that Lau, Gum, Weroha and Geiger fished and a nearby 4,000-acre one. They were afloat more than eight hours. And at the these two flatland reservoirs, Holscher reported that they labored to catch 50 white bass, 20 smallmouth bass and three wipers. And he closed his report with the following lament: “Much like you, I am hoping for a better bite soon.”
The fifth example occurred on Oct. 9 with me at a 195-acre community reservoir, where the largemouth bass fishing was extremely sorry. I fished from 11:25 a.m. to 2:25 p.m., and I eked only 21 dinky largemouth bass, which was much worse than what Holscher, Lau, Gum, Weroha and Geiger experienced at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer reservoirs on Oct. 6 and 8.
At this 195-acre community reservoir, the water level was still about three feet below normal. Its surface temperature ranged from 61 to 63 degrees. On Oct. 5, it was 65 degrees. An algae bloom was still affecting the water clarity. It was stained to the point that I could not see trolling motor’s propeller, but there was not an algae scum line on the boat’s hull. Last week, the scum line of algae was quite significant.
Area thermometers set a record low temperature of 26 degrees on the night of Oct. 7 and morning of Oct. 8. After a brutally hot summer, cool temperatures arrived earlier than normal this fall, and the trees began exhibiting their autumn hues in September rather October. The wind angled out of the west to southwest at 8 to 10 mph. The morning low temperature on Oct. 9 was 39 degrees, and the afternoon high temperature was 67 degrees. The barometric pressure was 29.92 and falling at 11 a.m. The solunar calendar listed the best fishing times at 5:53 am. to 7:53 a.m.
I failed to establish a significant pattern regarding location and presentations. At several of the deeper areas, there were score of suspended fish, which is often an unfruitful sign. I caught a few largemouth bass in three to four feet of water on a trimmed-down four-inch green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce red Gopher. I caught four largemouth on a green-pumpkin-and-orange-flake four-inch grub affixed to an orange 1/16-ounce Gopher jig in two feet of water adjacent to submergent vegetation. I caught three largemouth bass on a Junebug Hula StickZ affixed to a blue 3/32-ounce Gopher jig in six to nine feet of water. I caught two largemouth bass on a green-pumpkin Hula StickZ affixed to a chartreuse 3/32-ounce Gopher jig in seven to eight feet of water. I caught three largemouth bass at an offshore lair, which normally yields 20 or more largemouth during the second week in October.
Darryl Brown of Ontario, Canada, sent the following report to the Finesse News Network:
“I fished on Oct. 9, which was Canada’s Thanksgiving. Temperature started off at 32 degrees, reaching to a high of 45 degrees at midday. When I picked up my boat in the morning, there was ice in the bottom of the boat. Winter is coming much too quickly for my liking. I started fishing at 7 a.m. and fished till 12:30 p.m.. Within the first 45 minutes, I had landed 10 smallmouth bass. For the rest of the day, it was hard to find any concentration of fish, they seemed to be scattered. I tried a four-inch white grub and a three-inch green pumpkin tube with no luck. All the fish where caught on a 2 ½-inch green-pumpkin Strike King Lure Company Zero affixed to a 1/16-ounce red Gopher jig. The best retrieve was the hop and bounce. I found most of the fish in six to eight feet of water along the weed edges. After 5 1/2 hours of fishing I caught a total of 27 smallmouth bass. Most were around 10 inches, three were 15 inches and the largest was 18 inches. The Zero continues to be my most consistent bait, and I use it 90% of the time. I’m hoping the weather allows me to continue fishing into November, I am very curious to see if the Zero can continue to do well for me.”
In response to my sorry outing on Oct. 9, Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, sent me received an e-mail about the state of the largemouth bass fishing at a 120-acre community reservoir that lies in the northern suburbs of Kansas City.
He wrote: “You definitely have a lot of company in your misery. A friend of mine who is a good fisherman went out … yesterday and caught only six bass in three hours. He said it was the worst he has ever seen… . He is a power fisherman but he even dropped down to some finesse baits and still couldn’t catch them. There’s definitely a pattern here. Seems like a lot of lakes are in a funk right now.”
After laboring to catch only 21 dinky largemouth bass at a 195-acre community reservoir on Oct. 9, I thought about not fishing for the next five days or more. But around mid-morning, I noticed that the wind was nil, and that provoked me to head to a nearby 160-acre state reservoir. I was hoping that my cousin Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, could help me launch the boat and decipher the whereabouts of the largemouth bass with his expertise at wielding a four-inch grub affixed to a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. But he was in Atlanta with his son’s family.
Rick spent last week on the Niangua arm of the Lake of the Ozarks, and his spinning rods sported four-inch grubs on 1/16-ounce Gopher jigs and 2 ½-inch ZinkerZs on 1/16-ounce Gopher jigs. As other anglers found in northeastern Kansas, northwestern Missouri and northern Ozarks, Rick found the black bass fishing at the Lake of the Ozarks to be difficult. But with those two Midwest finesse baits, he averaged 25 spotted bass (mixed with a few largemouth bass) each day, and some of the spotted bass were hefty. He also spent some of his time catching blue catfish crappie and white bass.
Since Rick was unable to accompany me, I had another solo outing.
As I launched the boat, I quickly noticed that the water level at this 160-acre state reservoir was the lowest that I had seen it since it was renovated a couple decades ago. I couldn’t accurately calculate how many feet below normal it was, but I guessed that it was nine to 10 feet low.
To my surprise, I was able to launch the boat rather easily. But if the wind had been blowing, it would have been impossible to launch it single-handedly.
A significant algae bloom stained the clarity and left a massive scum line around the hull of the boat. Nevertheless, I could see propeller of the trolling motor at many locales around this reservoir. So, it wasn’t as stained as most of the algae-afflicted reservoirs in northeastern Kansas were. At 11 a.m., when I launched boat, the surface temperature was 58 degrees. That was the coolest surface temperature that I had seen since Mar. 24. When I made by last cast, it had climbed to 62 degrees.
From sunrise to sunset, the sun burned brightly in the China-blue sky. Area thermometers registered a morning low temperature of 26 degrees. The afternoon high could climb no higher than 64 degrees. The wind angled out of the south, southwest and west at about 5 mph.
Fall exhibited its many picturesque hues, which were highlighted by some entertaining antics by the coots, teal, crows, owls and osprey.
The solunar calendar listed the best fishing times at 6:38 a.m. to 9:38 a.m.
I caught a largemouth bass on my second and fourth casts. These two specimens engulfed a green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. This Finesse WormZ’s head had an inch trimmed off of it, making it about 3 ¾-inches long. These two largemouth bass were the only ones that this combo allured. They were also caught on a rocky point, and they were the only ones that I caught on rocks for the next three hours.
Unlike the outing on Oct. 9, when I could not establish a location pattern and a presentation pattern, I rather quickly found that the best location was a massive flat in the back of the reservoir’s northwestern feeder-creek arm. And the largemouth bass inhabited patches of coontail, bushy pondweed and curly-leaf pondweed. Most of the largemouth bass were in two to four feet of water. Three largemouth bass were caught on a PB&J Rain MinnowZ affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher. And 32 of them were bewitched by either a green-pumpkin-orange-flake, four-inch grub on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig or a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig.
The grub and Finesse ShadZ were retrieved with the swim-glide-and-shake motif. I shook and twitched the Finesse ShadZ much more than I twitched and shook the grub combo.
None of the 37 largemouth were lunkers. The best five might have weighed 10 pounds. But I did catch two mega black crappie on the Finesse ShadZ.
In short, the fishing was 16 largemouth bass better than it was for me on Oct. 9, and there was a significant pattern. What’s more, Terry Bivins of Lebo, Kansas, reported that he caught 21 smallmouth bass, 12 crappie and one channel catfish at a 6,930-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir on Oct. 10. Bivins was wielding two finesse baits: an 1/8-ounce gray Leroy Spellman’s jig and a two-inch motor-oil-and-red-flake French fry affixed to a 1/16-ounce jig. His boat was floating in 15 feet of water. He was casting the baits into seven feet of water, and before he began the retrieve, he counted to four and then he started to slowly and methodically turn the reel handle. Most of the fish were in 10 to 12 feet of water. One of the smallmouth bass was a monster; it looked as if it might have weighed six pounds, and he wished that he had a scale in the boat. Another smallmouth bass measured 18 ½-inches long. He fished from noon to 5 p.m. For more information about Terry Bivins’ finesse tactics see: “Terry Bivins and Leroy Spellman”
Perhaps, since the surface temperature has dropped into the low 60s and high 50s, we might be on the verge of experiencing some better fishing.
After I noticed that the surface temperature was below 60 degrees for a spell at the 160-acre state reservoir on Oct. 10, and I caught 37 largemouth bass there in three hours, and Terry Bivins caught 21 smallmouth bass, including a six-pounder, on Oct. 10, I thought that our largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing might have been getting out of its super-October funk. But I was wrong.
The October funk is a traditionally occurrence in northeastern Kansas. But compared to Octobers past, it is more severe this time around than it has been in recent memory.
Let’s compare 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012:
On Oct. 9, 2009, I fished a 160-acre state reservoir and caught 68 largemouth bass. Then I fished it on Oct. 10, 2012 and caught only 37 largemouth bass.
On Oct. 12, 2010, I fished a 100-acre community reservoir that lies in the southwestern suburbs of Kansas City and caught 49 largemouth bass, one saugeye and one walleye. Then I fished it on Oct. 11, 2012 and struggled to catch 20 dinky largemouth bass.
On Oct. 13, 2011, I fished a nearby 195-acre community and caught 64 largemouth bass. I fished it on Oct. 9, 2012 and caught 21 largemouth bass.
I am not the only angler who struggled. For instance, Rodney Hatfield of Shawnee, Kansas, reported that he fished a 407-acre community reservoir that lies in the northwestern suburbs of Kansas City on October 10 and caught only three largemouth bass and three smallmouth bass. Hatfield said that it was the first outing since he started using Z-Man’s 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a Gopher jig several years ago that combo failed to allure a largemouth As we noted on our Oct. 10 log, Brent Frazee reported that his friend fished at a 120-acre community reservoir on Oct. 8 for three hours and caught only six largemouth bass.
When I found a concentration of largemouth bass on a massive flat and inhabiting patches of coontail, bushy pondweed and curly-leaf pondweed on Oct. 10 at the 160-acre state lake, I thought that the same scenario would be occurring at a 100-acre community reservoir in the southwestern suburbs of Kansas City. Even though I plied many square yards coontail patches that stipple several massive flats with the same tactics that I utilized on Oct. 10, I only caught a few largemouth bass abiding on the flats and around the coontail on Oct. 11. In sum, it was a re-creation of my Oct. 9 outing, when I failed to establish any noteworthy patterns regarding locations and presentations. Six of the 20 largemouth bass were caught on six different jig-and-soft-plastic combos, but this time 14 largemouth bass were inveigled by a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a 1/32-ounce red Gopher jig.
As we have reported a number of times, the largemouth bass that abide in this 100-acre community reservoir have bamboozled me and other Midwest finesse anglers a lot in 2012. After I made my last cast of this outing, I swore that I would not return to this reservoir until November; perhaps then I would be able to find at least two concentrations of largemouth bass around this reservoir’s many coontail patches.
Weatherwise, it was delightful three hours to be afloat. The wind angled out of the southwest at 7 to 9 mph. It was partly cloudy. The morning low temperature was 43 degrees, and the afternoon high temperature was 75 degrees. The barometric pressure around 11 a.m. was 30:10 and falling.
According to the solunar calendar, the best fishing time occurred from 7:20 a.m. to 9:20 a.m.
The water level was normal. (It is interesting to note that most of our reservoirs are more than 2 ½ feet below normal. Around Lawrence, Kansas, we normally have 33.59 inches of rain by this date, but as of Oct. 11 we have had only 18.02 inches this year.) The water clarity was affected by an algae bloom. I could barely see the propeller of the trolling at the dam, and I couldn’t see it in the upper reaches of the reservoir. The surface temperature fluctuated from 60 to 63 degrees.
Terry Bivins of Lebo, Kansas, sent a report to the Finesse News Network about his Oct. 11 finesse outing at the same 6,930-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir that he fished on Oct.10. He wrote: “I had a good day. The fish bit better today, which was the second day after the front. I caught 48 smallmouth bass; the biggest three measured: 18 3/4 inches, 16 1/2 inches and 16 inches. I caught three Kentuckies [spotted bass] for a total of 51 bass. I also caught about eight crappie. I used the two-inch motor-oil-and-red-flake French fry affixed to a 1/16-ounce jig and a spinnerbait on the windy dam, and they failed me. Then I switched to a 1/16-ounce gray Leroy’s on the heavy rocky areas of the dam and elsewhere, casting it into about seven feet of water and slow reeling just above the rocks. I also bottom bounced the 1/8-ounce gray Leroy’s jig in the scattered rocky areas. All the big fish yesterday and today came out of 10 to 12 feet of water. I position the boat in 15 to 17 feet all day. I had tangled with 15 smallmouth bass that jumped and came off before I could land them, and I had three more big fish on that I didn’t see. The big ones are good fighters, and it takes a while to land them on eight-pound-test line and a six-foot spinning rod. I fished from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Bob Gum of Kansas City sent a report to the Finesse News Network about his Oct. 11 outing at the same 6,930-acre reservoir that Terry Bivins fished. Gum and Greg Monahan of Kansas City fished from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Gum wrote: “We decided to work some of the main-lake points and secondary points back in two of the larger creek channels on the north side of the lake. The wind was out of the southwest. I don’t often fish these areas and was hoping to stumble into something fruitful. The morning bite was marginal, and we caught only a few smallish whites and a handful of smallmouth bass.
“Eventually we worked our way to the dam, where the bite was more consistent. About that time, a breeze began to angle out of the southeast, and the sky became cloudy. As we worked our way along a 150-yard stretch of the dam, our casts were aimed at the water’s edge, and we were fishing one to five feet of water and using 2 ½-inch ZinkerZs on 1/16-ounce Gopher jigs. Then we reworked the same stretch and probed deeper lairs, by positioning the boat in 15 feet of water, and we switched from 1/16-ounce jigs to 1/8-ounce jigs. We caught an equal number of smallmouth bass on the shallow and deep presentations. After we fished the dam, we also fished the massive main-lake point that lies on the south side of the reservoir immediately west of the dam, and we caught smallmouth bass there.
“The bite was much better around the lower quarter of the lake. Surface temperature around mid-section of the lake was 61 degrees; along the dam, it was 63 degrees.
“We started around 10:00 and quit around 4:30. We had 77 fish, mostly smallmouths. No real size for either the whites or smallmouths. The fish has been so tough I may take a break from it this weekend.”
Rodney Hatridge of Shawnee, Kansas, sent a report to the Finesse News Network that he and Joe Gwadera of Kansas City area fished a 195-acre community reservoir from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Hatridge reported that the wind was angling out of the east at 10 to 14 mph and the surface temperature was 57 degrees. Gwadera primarily used a Megabass MR-X Griffon, which is a ¼-ounce, 1 ¾-inch crankbait, and it dives into three to five feet of water. Hatridge’s spinning rods sported a PB&J 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a pumpkin-chartreuse 2 ½-inch Zinkers on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. They plied shorelines on the east side of the reservoir. The crankbait caught 24 largemouth bass and the ZinkerZs allured 29. Hatridge found that the most effective retrieve for his ZinkerZ combos was an excruciatingly slow drag motif that was devoid of any shakes, and since he is almost addicted to shaking the 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ and Gopher jig, it was a difficult retrieve from him to execute. Hatridge reported that they crossed paths with another pair of veteran Midwest finesse anglers who found a significant concentration of largemouth bass in the back half of the south feeder-creek arm, and this pair had extracted 70 largemouth bass from this horde by using a homemade black soft-plastic bait on a 1/16-ounce jig with a slow drag retrieve. (It is interesting to note that since the summer months the Midwest finesse anglers who are afloat at this 195-acre community reservoir before 10 a.m. have generally caught more than those who fish from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
Dave Weroha of Kansas City sent a report to the Finesse News Network about his bank-walking endeavors at a 6,930-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir, which was the same one that Bivins, Gum and Monahan fished on Oct.12.
Weroha is a newcomer to Midwest finesse tactics, and he made his first report to the Finesse News Network on Oct 3.
During this bank-walking endeavor, he came to the conclusion the Gopher Tackle’s 1/16-ounce Mushroom Head Jigs are the ones to use when he employs a Z-Man’s 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ and Z-Man’s Finesse ShadZ. This is the same conclusion that many Midwest anglers have arrived at across the years.
Weroha noted that the wind angled out of the north at 25 to 30 mph, which was too much for his small boat to handle. At 11:30 a.m., when he made his first cast, area thermometers registered that it was 64 degrees, and when he made his last cast at 6 p.m., many of these thermometers indicated that it was 69 degrees. The surface temperature was 63 degrees on the south side of the reservoir, and even though the south shorelines were pounded with white caps, Weroha reported that the water was “amazingly clear,” exhibiting five feet of visibility.
He spent the entire time walking one wind-blown, main-lake area along a southern shoreline, where he inveigled 42 white bass and several smallmouth bass. His three most effective baits were a pearl Finesse ShadZ, a cotton-candy three-inch Kalin’s Lunker Grub, and a green pumpkin three-inch Berkley Power Grub.
Steve Desch of Topeka, Kansas, and I fished a 416-acre community reservoir from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Until 12:30 p.m., it was mighty struggle for us to catch a largemouth or a smallmouth bass. By 12:15 a.m., we had caught only 12 largemouth and smallmouth bass, five white bass and a crappie.
Around 12:30 p.m., however, the largemouth and smallmouth became easier for us to catch. And by the time made our lasts casts and retrieves at 2 p.m., we had caught another 33 largemouth and smallmouth bass, as well as seven more white bass and two crappie, giving us a four-hour total of 45 largemouth and smallmouth bass (the bulk of the 45 were largemouth bass), 12 white bass and three crappie. What’s more, we had scores of strikes that we failed to hook.
Even during that long spell when we were unable garner a strike, Desch and I commented that it was beautiful day to be afloat. The fall foliage was delightful and highlighted by a China-blue sky. The yellow hues of the black walnut trees were luminescent. Moreover, the last cold front had dropped a plethora of waterfowl upon this reservoir, and the antics of some of the critters entertained us during the strikeless spells.
Initially the wind was calm, and around 11 a.m., it began to angle out of the south, but it blew no more than 7 mph during the entire outing. Area thermometers registered a morning low of 40 degrees and an afternoon high of 78 degrees.
The water level looked to be more than four feet low; Desch and I had never seen it this low. Only a few of the reservoir’s massive American water willows were in the water, and the few that were in the water had only an inch or two of water covering their roots. The water was afflicted with a significant algae bloom that left a heavy scum line around the hull of the boat and flakes of greenish-blue algae covered the surface at many locales, but we were surprised to see that the water was clear enough that we could easily see the propeller on the trolling motor. The surface temperature ranged from 59 to 64 degrees.
In September, the local newspaper reported that this reservoir’s milfoil was killed with a herbicide, but Desch and I couldn’t find any dying patches of milfoil. In fact, the milfoil was abundant at many locales, and 19 of the largemouth and smallmouth bass that we caught were associated with patches of milfoil.
The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times occurred from 10:26 a.m. to 12:26 p.m., and as noted above, those were our most trying hours.
We spent the first two hours and five minutes plying lairs in the lower third portions of the reservoir. The most fruitful one was a long offshore, submerged rock fence, which yielded a half dozen largemouth and smallmouth bass.
We spent the last hour and 45 minutes in the upper third portions of the reservoir, which was where 33 largemouth and smallmouth bass were caught.
In the upper portions of this reservoir, we caught two largemouth and two smallmouth bass from a secondary gravel point and an adjacent shoreline and flat that was embellished with patches of milfoil.
We caught three largemouth and two smallmouth bass on a main-lake rocky shoreline that was graced with occasionally patches on milfoil.
Then we spent the last hour plying a bluff point, a ledge-rock shoreline that merged with the bluff point, and a 200-yard stretch of a main-lake bluff. From this area we caught 24 largemouth and smallmouth bass.
None of the largemouth and smallmouth bass were lunkers. The biggest smallmouth bass looked as if it might weigh two pounds.
The best two baits were a green-pumpkin ZinkerZ 2 ½-inch on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a black-and-blue 2 ½-inch FattyZ customized tube on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Some were caught dragging and deadsticking. In fact, the biggest smallmouth was caught along a ledge in about eight feet of water by dragging and deadsticking the green-pumpkin ZinkerZ. Some were caught on the initial drop. A few were caught as we hopped and bounced out baits along the bottom, and most of the strikes occurred as the bait glided to bottom after the hop.
Our catch was better the 20 largemouth and smallmouth that Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, and I struggled to catch bass in 3 ½ hours on Sept. 21. Since this reservoir was whacked by the largemouth bass virus, its largemouth bass fishing has often been inconsistent and problematic.
It was an extremely windy day in northeastern Kansas. It angled out of the southwest at 12 to 35 mph. What’s more, it was unseasonably warm; the morning low was 59 degrees, and the afternoon high was 83 degrees; the normal high is 68 degrees; the normal low temperature is 46 degrees. Except for a 40-minute spell, the sky was cloudless and sun was blindingly bright. The leaves that bedecked the trees on the low-slung hillsides exhibited the brightest yellow that I have ever witnessed in the past 72 autumns that I have been around the Heartland.
There are several areas at a nearby 195-acre community that a Midwest finesse anglers can hide from 35 mph gusts that emanate from the southwest, and I fished those locales from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing time occurred from 10:51 a.m. to 12:51 p.m.
The surface temperature was 64 degrees. An algae bloom and the wind had the water clarity stained, but in a relative calm area in the lower end of the lake I could easily see the propeller of the trolling motor, but I could not see it in the upper portions of the reservoir’s south feeder-creek arm. The lake level was about three feet low, but as fall progresses and the American water willows wilt, it is difficult to estimate the water level.
During the 2 ½ hours that I was afloat, I fished four shorelines that were fairly wind sheltered. And I eked only 23 largemouth bass. None of the bass were over 15 inches in length.
These largemouth bass were allured by a black-and-blue 2 ½-inch FattyZ customized tube on a 1/16-ounce blue Gopher jig and a green-pumpkin 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. About the only retrieve that I could efficiently employ in the wind was a constantly drag.
Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, sent the following report to the finesse News Network:
“Ned – We had similar but slightly more tame weather here inIndianatoday, though not as bad as what we’ve had the previous three days. Today was sunny with a high of 67 after a morning low of 41. Winds picked up briskly out of the south by lunch time, with a sustained breeze of 10-15 mph and gusts of 17-21 mph. I managed to get out on the water at 2:00 and fished until 6:00. Winds were too strong and of a direction that made fishing for crappie a bit too challenging for the way I like to fish on this lake, though I tried a few calmer areas and managed half a dozen.
“I switched fairly early in the day to throwing my favorite 1/16-oz. hair jig and trailer just to see what was happening. There are always some good deep water rock banks available to fish for bass regardless of wind direction. Water was just lightly stained here with the visibility being a couple feet or better. The surface temperature was pretty consistent: 60 to 61 degrees everywhere I plied. I managed to catch 39 bass on the little jig, fishing it on 4-pound-test braided line. It was my most productive bass trip in quite some time — actually one of the few bass trips I’ve made in quite some time. There will be more now that I know they’re biting, as the best is yet to come as water cools further.
“No giants, but I did manage about 8-10 fish in the 14- to 15 ½-inch range, with the two largest going over 16-inches. I’ve attached a picture of one of those. Hopping the weather forecast for the weekend allows another trip. May actually get to squeeze one in Thursday afternoon if I’m lucky.
“By the way, I garnered only one strike on jerkbaits and shallow crankbaits. Brian”
Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, reported on the Finesse News Network that he and a friend endured a horrible Midwest finesse outing at a 101-acre state reservoir in eastern Kansas on Oct. 16. He lamented that they tangled with only 10 largemouth bass and all of them were small.
Clyde Holscher of Topeka, Kansas, posted a report on the Finesse News Network about his outing with two friends to a 6,930-acre U.S. Army Corps Engineers’ reservoir on Oct. 16.
This threesome fished from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Holscher described it as their “annual white bass hunt.”
He wrote: “We began fishing the riprap of the dam, where we boated 12 smallmouth bass in the first hour on 2 ½-inch ZinkerZs affixed to a 1/16-ounce jig.. Then the southwest wind began to howl, which made it difficult to properly retrieve the ZinkerZ and keep the bow out of the line. From about 9:45 a.m. to 11 a.m., we tried to hide from the wind by fishing main-lake lairs along the reservoir’s south shoreline, and we boated another dozen smallmouth bass, extracting them ought of five to about nine feet of water. For the rest of these breezy day, but comfortable day, we looked for white bass by concentrating on wind-blown points and wielding Yakima Bait Company’s 1/4-ounce Vibric Rooster Tail in the Clyde color and 2 ½-inch ZinkerZs on a 3/32-ounce jig. By the time, we called it a day, we had tangled with 75 white bass, 43 smallmouth bass, three freshwater drum, one sauger and one channel catfish. A drift-sock was an invaluable tool again.”
(For more information about the Vibric Rooster Tail see “Vakima Bait Company’s Vibric Rooster Tail“)
For three days and nights, northeastern Kansas was buffeted horrendously stiff winds that angled out the west and northwest at 20 to 41 mph. These winds kept Midwest finesse anglers at bay.
Bob Gum of Kansas City reported on the Finesse News Network that he and his wife, Yan, fished 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir on Oct. 20.
He noted that the power-plant was not generating electricity. Consequently, the reservoir’s surface temperature was 61 degrees at all the lairs that he fished. And at most locales, Gum observed about 2 ½ feet of water clarity, and the visibility was slightly better along the riprap shoreline of the dam.
Gum complained that the fishing was trying. He said that the largemouth bass that they caught were in shallow water, engulfing on their baits of the initial fall and before he and his wife could drop their rods to the three o’clock position to begin their retrieves. They caught only 19 largemouth bass. Their most productive bait was a pumpkin-chartreuse 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. He talked to another pair of angler who failed to catch a fish. Gum also noted the white bass bite was nonexistent at his two favorite autumn white bass lairs, and those were the only two white bass spots that they fished.
Walt Tegtmeier of Kansas City posted a report about his Ozark float trip on the Niangua River, Missouri, on Oct. 19 and 20 He wrote: “We caught scores of smallmouth bass and goggle-eyes with a 1/16 red Gopher and 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ, mainly in watermelon/red flake but also PB&J and green pumpkin. Aside from a few folks downstream from Bennett Springs, we didn’t encounter another soul on our eight-mile floats. The Ozarks were in peak fall colors and I can’t recall having a better float, for scenery or fishing. I think if I lived near any of those Ozark rivers, I may never fish flat water again.”
Rodney Hatridge of Shawnee, Kansas, and I fished the 100-acre community reservoir that lies in the southwestern suburbs of Kansas City from 10 p.m. to 2 p.m.
The first 15 minutes of this four-hour outing were spent removing a massive wad of extremely heavy monofilament line that became wrapped around the bolt of the trolling motor’s propeller. We suspect that the line was the residue from a shoreline catfish angler. Having to take to remove various kinds of fishing lines from our trolling and outboard motors is fairly common occurrence at several of our heavily fished waterways, but for some reason this endeavor took more time than they normally take.
On Oct. 17, 18 and 19, the wind howled incessantly at speeds that hit 41 mph. Those winds kept most us off area reservoirs. Throughout this outing the wind blew at 13 to 28 mph out of the south and southwest, and after last week’s wicked winds, a 28 mph wind seemed tolerable indeed – especially when it was tamed with a drift sock. The normal high temperature for this time of the year is 66 degrees, and the normal low is 44 degrees, but area thermometers registered a low of 71 degrees and a high of 83 degrees for this outing. It was mostly cloudy, but there was a partly-cloudy spell when the sunny burned brightly off and on, and then it became mostly cloudy again. (It needs to be noted that during the first week in October, northeastern Kansas was afflicted by unseasonably cool temperatures, and then during the last two weeks of the month, the temperatures were often above normal. Some anglers suspect that these wild temperature fluctuations are one of the elements that make October’s bass fishing in northeastern Kansas so befuddling.)
According to the solunar calendar, the best fishing times occurred at 5:17 a.m. to 7:17 a.m.
The surface temperature was 61 degrees. The water level was normal. A minor algae bloom existed, but it left no algae stains on the boat’s hull, and we could clearly see the trolling motor’s propeller at most locales.
We spent the first 30 minutes fishing the dam, which possessed the reservoir’s clearest water. The south wind made it a tad wind blown. Across the riprap of dam and around its thick patches of American water willows, we eked out only five largemouth bass, which were caught on a green-pumpkin 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a black-and-blue 2 ½-inch customized FattyZ tube on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
From the dam, we ventured to the upper-third potions of the reservoir. Here we fished a 200-yard stretch of a northern shoreline that was slightly wind blown and graced by a nearby submerged creek channel. We caught four largemouth bass on the same baits that allured the largemouth bass at the dam.
We spent the rest of the outing fishing the upper 20 percent of the reservoir and focused upon its eastern and western shorelines, which included three massive flats and one main-lake point that were embellished with many patches of coontail. Parts of the shorelines were graced with shelves of rock, boulders, small rocks and gravel, as well as a small submerged creek channel that meandered nearby. A few spots along the eastern shoreline were endowed with patches on American water willows
Around the coontail patches on the flats, we allured largemouth bass by using 3/32-ounce chartreuse, red and orange Gopher jigs that were dressed with a four-inch green-pumpkin grub, four-inch green-pumpkin-orange-flake grub, four-inch smoke-silver-flake grub and Z-Man’s California Craw MinnowZ. On the rocky shorelines and around the American water willow, a green-pumpkin 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce allured the bulk of the bass, and this ZinkerZ was also effective around the outside edges of a few of the coontail patches. The ZinkerZ also bewitched a few largemouth bass when it was twitched and allowed to slowly swim and glide across the tops of some coontail patches.
In this upper segment of the reservoir, we caught 46 largemouth bass, which gave us a total of 55 largemouth bass. This was one of the better catches we have had at this reservoir in 2012. And it is interesting to note that we fished this reservoir on Oct. 22, 2010, and caught only 42 largemouth bass. The largemouth bass in this reservoir were beset by the largemouth bass virus in 2009, and several Midwest finesse angler have noticed that since the advent of the virus it has become more and more difficult to find several significant concentrations of largemouth bass, and when we can’t find those concentrations, we struggle to catch more than nine largemouth bass an hour, and to our chagrin, there was been several 2012 outings when we tangled with fewer than nine largemouth bass an hour. Therefore, it was nice to catch 13.75 largemouth bass an hour this time around.
It was enjoyable being afloat from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For many years, that time frame was our standard Midwest finesse hours to be afloat, but for the last 14 months, my fishing schedule has gone awry. And perhaps all of these shorter and irregular outings have had an adverse effect on my abilities to catch largemouth and smallmouth bass. Some Midwest finesse colleagues, however, suggest that their earlier-in-the-day outings during the summer and fall of 2012 have been better than our traditional midday outings.
Another windy October outing.
During many Octobers in the 1980s and early 1990s, we spend scores of our days afloat hiding from Mother Nature’s windy ways in the riverine sections of the big U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoirs, fishing for largemouth bass and white bass. But as the years have gone by, the largemouth bass and white bass populations have flagged so strikingly in those riverine sections that we don’t venture to them anymore in order to hide from Mother Nature’s wrath. Instead we spend our windy October days afloat on many of the small community and state reservoirs that grace the countryside of northeastern Kansas. When we fish these small reservoirs on these wind-blown days, we select the one that is most suitable for a particular wind direction. Of course, we also rely on a drift sock, which we didn’t have back in the good-old days, to tame some of the wind’s dastardly effects.
Oct. 23 was a drift-sock outing, when I ventured to a 195-acre community reservoir and fished from 10:45 p.m. to 1:45 a.m. I was hoping to see if its largemouth bass were as eager to waylay a grub as were largemouth bass on Oct. 22 at a 100-acre community reservoir. But to my disappointment, they were not.
The wind angled from the south at 14 to 23 mph. It was unseasonably warm. Area thermometers registered a morning low of 69 degrees and an afternoon high temperature of 82 degrees. While I was afloat, it mostly cloudy until 12:45 p.m., and then it became partly cloudy. The barometric pressure was 29.74 and falling when I started fishing.
The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times occurred from 6:06 a.m. to 8:06 a.m.
The surface temperature ranged from 60 to 62 degrees. The water level looked to be three feet below normal. The water clarity was affected by an algae bloom, but the bloom didn’t put a scum line around the hull of the boat as it had several times on past outings in October and September. I spent most of the three hours in the upper portions of two feeder-creek arms, and in the back of these feeder-creek arms, the water was stained to the point that I could barely see the propeller of the trolling motor. In a small eastern feeder-creek arm, which lies in the middle portion of the reservoir, the water was a tad clearer.
I fished one offshore area in the south feeder-creek arm that was graced by patches of submergent vegetation and the residue of a concrete bridge. At this lair, I caught six largemouth bass on a green-pumpkin 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a black-and-blue customized FattyZ tube on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
Elsewhere in this south feeder-creek arm, I caught 15 largemouth bass along its western shoreline. Two of these largemouth bass were allured by a Mud-Minnow-hue MinnowZ affixed to a 3/32-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig. The rest of the largemouth bass were inveigled by the black-and-blue FattyZ tube and green-pumpkin ZinkerZ.
The best section of the east shoreline in the south feeder-creek arm had a pair of crankbait anglers camped on it. These anglers were there before I arrived, and they fished it for the entire time that I fished the western shoreline. I saw this pair of crankbait anglers catch three largemouth bass. Once that pair of anglers left the eastern shoreline, I tested it, but only three largemouth bass could be enticed by the FattyZ tube and the MinnowZ. A green-pumpkin ZinkerZ and a green-pumpkin four-inch grub on a chartreuse 3/32-ounce Gopher jig failed to garner a strike along the eastern shoreline.
Some of the largemouth bass in this south feeder-creek arm were associated with patches of submergent vegetation, and others were around rocks and gravel and a couple were caught near some laydowns.
From the south feeder-creek arm, I moved the north shoreline of the southwest feeder-creek arm, where I caught nine largemouth bass on the green-pumpkin ZinkerZ and black-and-blue FattyZ tube, and two largemouth bass were enticed by the MinnowZ. I fished about 70 percent of this shoreline, as well as the main-lake point at the mouth of this arm. The MinnowZ allured its two largemouth bass from around patches of submergent vegetation. The FattyZ tube and ZinkerZ allured them from gravel and rocks, as well as from around patches of submergent vegetation. I also fished about a 50-yard stretch of this arm’s south shoreline, where I failed to elicit a strike.
I spent the last 15 minutes fishing a small eastern feeder-creek arm in the middle portion of the reservoir, where I eked out only three largemouth bass on of the FattyZ tube.
A swim-glide and slight shake retrieve was the most effective retrieve – especially around the submergent vegetation. A drag-and-shake retrieve was also effective at times around the rocky and gravel lairs.
I ended the three hours with a total of 38 largemouth bass.
On Oct. 24 and 25, the wind blew most of the leaves off the trees. And by Oct. 26, the low-slung hills that border all of the reservoirs across northeastern Kansas were colorless, and many of the trees looked like Halloween skeletons.
A significant cold spell rolled across northeastern Kansas on Oct. 25. Area thermometers hit a high of 85 degrees around 5 p.m. on Oct. 24, and then by 8 a.m. of Oct. 26, these same thermometers hovered around 30 degrees.
Again I fished a nearby 195-acre community reservoir. I was afloat from 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Throughout this Oct. 26 endeavor, the wind angled out of the north at 10 to 18 mph, which caused the wind chill to range from a low of 34 to a high of 36 degrees while I was afloat. Although I wore gloves and had my ears well covered, my fingers and ears occasional stung from the cold. It was the coldest outing since last winter. It felt good at times to stick my hands in the water, where the surface temperature ranged from 56 to 59 degrees. Of course, the warm skin of the bass was delightful touch, too.
The solunar calendar reported that the best fishing times occurred from 8:09 a.m. to 10:09 p.m., which I missed.
I spent most of this two-hour outing hiding from the wind by plying the northwest shoreline and adjacent flats in one of the big feeder-creek coves. I employed a green-pumpkin 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a black-and-blue 2 ½-inch customized FattyZ tube on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a green-pumpkin-orange-flake four-inch grub on an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher jig and a Mud-Minnow-hue MinnowZ on a 3/32-ounce Gopher jig.
With these baits, I focused on rocky shorelines, laydowns and big patches of submergent vegetation. The grub and MinnowZ were retrieved with a slowly swimming motif and occasionally enhanced with some pauses and twitches. The FattyZ tube and ZinkerZ were retrieved with a swim-glide-and-shake motif, and the shakes were subtle.
For the last 15 minutes, I used the drift sock and allowed the wind to propel me about 200 yards down the west shoreline of another big feeder-creek cove.
In the first feeder-creek cove, I tangled with 22 largemouth bass. I caught five largemouth bass in the second feeder-creek arm. There was not a lunker in the bunch, but I crossed paths with a pair of veteran Midwest finesse anglers who reported that they had caught and released a 19-inch largemouth bass.
Dave Weroha of Kansas City reported on the Finesse News Network that he and Bob Gum of Kansas City spent most the daylight hours plying a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir.
Weroha and Gum found that the power plant was generating electricity, and the reservoir’s surface temperature was 60 degrees at most of the lairs that they fished. The water was stained with an algae bloom, exhibiting 2 ½ to three feet of visibility. The wind angled out of the north by northeast at 10 to 15 mph. Area thermometers climbed into the 40s by late afternoon.
This twosome 49 caught largemouth bass and white bass, and the bulk of them were largemouth bass. Gum used traditional Midwest finesse baits: a pumpkin-chartreuse 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The five baits Weroha employed are in the second photograph below.
Rodney Hat ridge of Shawnee, Kansas, and I ventured to a 140 acre-acre state reservoir and fished from 11 a.m. to 2:26 p.m.
The wind was chilly and pesky, angling out of the south by southeast at 14 to 20 mph. Therefore we used a drift sock during most of this outing.
Area thermometers recorded a morning low temperature of 41 degrees and an afternoon high temperature of 59 degrees. It was mostly sunny. Around 11 a.m. the barometric pressure was 30.29 and falling.
The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing time occurred from 10:12 a.m. to 12:12 p.m. So we fished during one hour of this spell, and we caught three bass on our first four casts. By 12:30, we had caught 35 largemouth bass. This 88-minute period was our most fruitful part of the outing.
The water level was the lowest that I have ever seen it at this 140-acre reservoir. We guessed to be slightly more than three feet below normal. The surface temperature was 56 degrees. The water clarity was stained by an algae bloom and perhaps the wind.
We made our first casts along the southeast corner of the dam and 25 yards of its adjacent shoreline. And we caught 12 largemouth bass on a green-pumpkin 2 ½-inch on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
From the dam we fished an extremely long stretch on the reservoir’s western shoreline and six of its rock jetties and one of its shallow coves. This stretch was graced with rocks, a few stumps, patches of wilting bushy pond weed and several laydowns and brush piles. Along this stretch, the green-pumpkin ZinkerZ and 1/16-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig and a black-and-blue customized 2 ½-inch FattyZ tube inveigled most of the 31 largemouth bass that we caught. A pumpkin-chartreuse 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a PB&J 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ affixed to a 1/16-ounce red Gopher jig caught a few. Most of the largemouth bass either engulfed these baits during the initial drop immediately after cast hit the water or during a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. All of these largemouth bass were in one to five feet of water.
The third area that we fished was a main-lake point and 50 yards of the shoreline on each side of that point. Along this area, the green-pumpkin ZinkerZ, which was retrieved with the swim-glide-and-shake retrieve, beguiled six largemouth bass, and they were in two to four feet of water.
After we fish that main-lake point and adjacent shorelines, our fish counter indicated that we had tangled with 49 largemouth bass. Then from that point on, we struggled to find and allure the next 13 largemouth bass that we caught during the last hour and 15 minutes that we were afloat. During this spell of trying fishing, a drag and deadstick retrieve with the 2 ½-inch green-pumpkin ZinkerZ on a 1/16-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig was the most effective presentation.
Throughout the entire outing, we found that rocky lairs were more productive than gravel, clay and the wilting bushy pondweed locales.
By the time we made our last casts and retrieves at 12:26 p.m., our fish counter indicated that we had caught 62 largemouth bass, three white bass, two black crappie and one wiper. There was not a good-sized one in the bunch. But we catch did average 17 largemouth bass an hour.
A mild-mannered east wind provoked me to I make a solo outing to a 160-acre state reservoir from 11:25 a.m. to 2:25 p.m. The water level looks to be somewhere from eight to 10 feet below normal. It was so low that if the wind was brisk, and if it was from the north, northwest, west and southwest, it would be virtually impossible for one angler to launch a boat without doing some damage to the hull of the boat. There was one other angler afloat, and it looked as if he was crappie fishing. He was in a big Triton, and because there was a quagmire of boulders on both sides of the ramp, I wondered how he launched his boat without damaging his boat’s fiberglass hull.
When I left home, the wind was more mild-mannered than it was when I arrived at the boat ramp. And at 11:55 p.m., the National Weather Service recorded the speed as ranging from 16 to 22 mph from the east. Then it tamed down again, blowing at about 9 mph from the east. Throughout the year, an east wind is my favorite wind for launching a boat and fishing at this reservoir.
Area thermometers recorded a morning low temperature of 34 degrees and an afternoon high temperature of 59 degrees. The sky fluctuated from mostly cloudy to partly cloudy.
The solunar calendar indicated that there was a full moon and the best fishing times occurred from 10:59 a.m. to 12:59 p.m.
Even though the water level was the lowest that I ever seen it at this reservoir, the submergent aquatic vegetation, such as coontail and bushy pondweed, was in surprisingly good shape, but the outside edges of the patches of vegetation were sitting in only three to four feet of water. All of the emergent vegetation, such as American water willows, were many yards away from the water’s edge. The water clarity was the best that I have seen in northeastern Kansas for many months. The surface temperature was 55 degrees.
I spent about 65 percent of the time fishing the coontail and bushy pondweed flats in the north end of the reservoir’s northwest feeder-creek arm. I spent 32 percent of the time plying the east shoreline of the west arm, which was graced by occasional patches of submergent vegetation, boulders, gravel, clay, man-made brush piles and laydowns. For about three percent of the time, I probed a flat point in the northern section of the reservoir’s east arm, and this point was covered with bushy pondweed and coontail.
The coontail and pondweed patches were beginning to wilt, and some of the pondweed was brown and black almost devoid of any green hues. I didn’t notice any curly-leaf pondweed, but it should be beginning to sprout.
The two most effective baits around the vegetation were a smoke-salt-and-pepper four-inch grub on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher. During the last 20 minutes of the outing, the grub was the only bait that I could bewitch a bass with. The grub was retrieved with the standard slow-swimming retrieve that was periodically highlighted with a pause or some twitches. The Finesse ShadZ was retrieved with a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve.
Along the east shoreline of the northwest feeder-creek arm, the bass were equally allured by a black-and-blue 2 ½-inch customized FattyZ tube on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a green-pumpkin 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. These baits were presented to the largemouth bass with a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve around the vegetation, brush piles and laydowns, and around the boulders, a drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve was often more effective than the swim-glide-and-shake one.
By the time I execute my last cast at 2:25 p.m., the fish counter indicated that I had tangled with 44 largemouth bass, and not a one of them was a hefty specimen. The shallowest one was caught in about two feet of water, and the deepest one was extracted from about six feet of water.
Traditionally late October is a good time to use a pearl 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ affixed to 1/16-ounce Gopher jig in the reservoirs in northeastern Kansas. Although it allured a few largemouth bass at a 195-acre community reservoir on this outing, it wasn’t a stellar combo.
In fact, I couldn’t find any Midwest finesse option that the largemouth bass found alluring. I crossed paths with a pair of Midwest finesse anglers who were afloat a couple hours before I launched my boat at 11:25 a.m., and when I talked with them around 12:10 p.m., they had caught only 20 largemouth bass, and they were focusing on this reservoir’s best largemouth bass lairs.
Instead of plying the best lairs, I was searching, hoping to find a congregation or two of largemouth bass that they and another pair of anglers hadn’t already pounded. But by the time a made my last cast at 2 p.m., I hadn’t found those two congregations of largemouth bass. In fact, I caught only 14 largemouth bass. Five of them were caught on the pearl 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ and red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, six were caught on a black-and-blue customized FattyZ tube affixed to blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and three were caught on a green-pumpkin 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Only one bite happened during the initial drop of the bait; the other 13 bites occurred as I was implementing a drag-and-deadstick retrieve. When I caught a largemouth bass, I usually caught another one. At one spot, I caught four largemouth bass and failed to hook two other bites. Consequentially, there were hundreds of casts and retrieves when I failed to garner even a bluegill, green sunfish or crappie bite. The most aggressive bite was rendered by a two-pound channel catfish that nailed the pearl ZinkerZ as it dropped between two patches of submergent vegetation.
The weather was pleasant. The wind was calm most of the time, and when it erupted it angled from the northwest at only 5 mph. Area thermometers registered a morning low of 28 degrees and an afternoon high temperature of 62 degrees. The barometric pressure at 11 a.m. was 30.09 and falling.
The solunar calendar noted that the best fishing time occurred from 11:25 a.m. to 1:25 p.m., and I fished every minute of it. I made my last cast of this two-hour-and-thirty-five-minute outing at 2 p.m.
The water clarity was affected by a significant algae bloom. I could not see the propeller on the trolling motor. The surface temperature ranged from 57 to 58 degrees. The water level was slightly more than three feet below normal.