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Midwest Finesse

An Addendum to the Month-by-Month Guide to Midwest Finesse:September

by Ned Kehde   |  December 17th, 2012 0

Introduction

Since the 1980s, some of the most knowledgeable and ardent crappie anglers who have plied the flatland  reservoirs that adorn the countryside of northeastern Kansas have noticed that their crappie pursuits were normally bountiful when the weather was what they called “consistent, undeviating and uniform.” Then when the weather became unstable or became what they called “inconsistent, changeable and volatile,” these crappie anglers noticed that their fishing became trying. According to these  crappie anglers, the most unstable weather patterns and  most difficult crappie fishing occurred in March, late September and through much of  October.

During the last decade of the twentieth century and first decade of the twenty-first century, several avid Midwest finesse anglers who plied many of the small flatland reservoirs that stipple northeastern Kansas began to notice that their catch rates of largemouth and smallmouth bass declined when radically changing weather patterns erupted in September. Then since the largemouth bass virus has afflicted several of these reservoirs, some of these Midwest finesse anglers have noticed that  when their September outings coincide with significant weather changes that they catch fewer largemouth bass than they caught before the advent of the virus, and the size of the largemouth bass they catch have been smaller.  On top of the virus, another group of Midwest finesse anglers contends that several angling regulation changes have adversely affected the black bass populations at a few of these reservoirs, and  these regulations seem to have affected the number of black bass that these anglers can catch on those problematic weather days in September.

Even though these  black bass and crappie anglers are quite knowledgeable, they do not posses any hard and sound data to substantiate their conclusions or suspicions  about how or even if the weather affects the number of fish they catch. Nor is there adequate information to measure how or if the  largemouth bass virus and different fishing regulations affect the number of fish that they catch in September.  In short, their insights, at best, are intuitive  rather than scientific, and, at worst, their conclusions are mere predilections.

One reason why we started compiling this month-by-month guide on In-Fisherman’s blog site was to create detailed accounts of every outing that I and several  Midwest finesse colleagues have enjoyed (or at times endured) in our pursuits of the largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass.   After doing this for more than a year, we think that we have the wherewithal to keep recording and posting these logs for several more years. And we still possess some faint hopes that by cross-examining some of the information in these logs  we and other anglers might have a few more elements to ponder and address when they attempt to assess what is transpiring in the murky and mysterious world below our boats and feet.

But as Matt Straw of Brainerd,  Minnesota, and fellow In-Fisherman blogger wisely noted in one of many stellar blogs: “Sometimes the best theory a fisherman can have is the simple admission that there are many, many things about fish and animals we do not know.” I agree wholeheartedly, and in the August  addendum to the month-by-month guide to Midwest finesse, I wrote:  “I have never … possessed the ability to ascertain why we catch bass or interpret what the bass are doing when we catch them or do not catch them. Perhaps, the only exception to this rule is when we cross paths with a concentration of surface feeding black and temperate bass, but surface foraging bass are a rare phenomenon at the waterways that  we fish nowadays. Consequently,  I merely record where, when and how we caught them and leave the anthropomorphic interpretation to wiser anglers.” Despite Straw’s wise words and my inclinations, I hold a tad of pale faith that these voluminous monthly blogs that record where, when and how we catch black bass will give anglers another perspective about the gloomy and nearly unfathomable world below our boats and feet.

Yet as I continually evaluate and ponder the possibilities and  usefulness of these logs, I realize that their are some facts and elements that are not noted, which can affect the number of bass that we catch. One factor is how the price of gasoline proscribes the distance that we will travel, and when it approaches $4 a gallon, our frugal nature causes us to  fish nearby waterways rather than more distant ones that might be more fruitful during all kinds of weather conditions. There is also the age factor: some of us old codgers don’t want to drive 60 to 70 miles before we launch our boats, and that prevents from fishing  some our most productive reservoirs. Age also might adversely affect our abilities to locate and catch our quarries.  And what happens when an oldster falls breaks a bone or two that impairs his ability to fish?

In addition, how do we assess the effects of long-term weather phenomenons, such as the drought that has lingered over Kansas for more than a year and has made it difficult (or even impossible) for us to launch our boats in some reservoirs. How about the months when  we have been continually plagued by incessant  floods and high-water conditions, which flushed some of the fish out of the reservoirs and made boat launching a difficult endeavor, and how do we measure those consequences? What about spells when the weather was constantly and unseasonably cold, and there was too much ice  for us to launch a boat for weeks on end, or there is too much ice on the reservoir for us to explore every nook and cranny? In short, there seems to be too many variables in the world of angling for us to accurately detail all of them in our logs, which might provoke some anglers to conclude that these logs are another lesson in piscatorial futility. But as Winston Churchill once observed: “Success is the ability of going from one failure to another with no  loss of  enthusiasm.”  In honor of Mr. Churchill, we will keep posting our logs, and we would appreciate any and all suggestions from scores of anglers about what we can do to make the logs more thorough and useful in our quest to know a little bit more about our quarries.

As for September of 2012, the leaves began exhibiting their autumn hue on Sept. 22, which was the autumn equinox. This annual ritual traditionally occurs around Oct. 10 in northeastern Kansas. These early hints of autumn mark another abnormal  phenomenon that made a significant imprint on this neck of the woods in 2012. Many anglers thought that the intense drought and heat of the summer would have created an ugly and dismal fall.  But to most anglers’ surprise and delight, it was a spectacular and beautiful fall with the trees displaying a unique golden hue for days on end.

Despite the beautiful fall sights, I and an occasional colleague  fished only 14 times, which encompassed a total of 44 3/4 hours of casting and retrieving a variety of Midwest finesse presentations.  We caught 414 largemouth and smallmouth bass or 9.2 black bass an hour.

The September logs are supplemented by the insights  and Finesse News Network reports by  Bob Gum of Kansas City, Kansas,  Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, Casey Kidder of Topeka, Kansas,   Chris Rohr of Overland Park, Kansas, Clyde Holscher of Topeka, Kansas, Darryl Brown of Toronto, Ontario, John Kehde of Sedalia, Missouri,  Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, and Terry Bivins of Lebo, Kansas.  Some of these reports also focus on temperate bass and a few modern-day and antique power tactics.

Logs

September 4

Until 10:15 a.m. on this outing, I hadn’t made a cast since Aug. 28, which was when Steve Desch of Topeka, Kansas, and I fished  a 11,600-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir, where we caught 15 freshwater drum, 12 smallmouth bass, eight largemouth  bass, eight white bass, five sauger, and one buffalo.

Instead of fishing, we traveled to Palo Alto, California, to visit members of our family who reside there.

On this outing, I ventured to a 100-acre community reservoir that lies in the southwest  suburbs of Kansas City, and I fished until 2:15 p.m.

My cousin Ricky Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, and I fished this reservoir on Aug. 20, and we caught 66 largemouth bass. And shortly after that outing, I heard that a pair of  veteran Midwest finesse anglers caught 103 largemouth bass at this reservoir on August 24, which was a stellar catch. As we have noted many times in past logs since December of 2011, this reservoir’s largemouth bass have been very difficult for many Midwest finesse anglers to locate and catch.

Besides trying to catch at least 10 largemouth bass an hour, my mission was to assess the aftereffects of Hurricane Isaac, which dropped about six inches of rain in this reservoir’s watershed.  The water level looked to be up three feet since Aug. 20 and water was coursing over the dam’s outlet at a slow pace. Surprisingly, the water clarity was only a touch stained. The upper third of the reservoir was more stained than the lower two-thirds, but the upper third wasn’t as stained as much as  it was on Aug. 20, when it was afflicted with a potent algae bloom. The surface temperature ranged from 78 to 82 degrees, which was warmer than the surface temperature was on Aug. 28 when I fished with Desch.

The coontail was flourishing in many locales. And this reservoir’s many patches of American water willows had several feet of water surrounding them.

The wind angled out of the south and southeast at 5 to 9 mph. It was mostly sunny, but a few thin layers of clouds stretched across the china-blue sky around 1 p.m. Area thermometers registered a morning low of  73 degrees and hit an afternoon high of 96 degrees.

The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing hours were from 1:50 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and I fished the first 25 minutes of that spell, and I failed to inveigle a largemouth bass.

In fact, I inveigled only 23 largemouth bass on the entire outing   But to my surprise,  I garnered  a strike from a Kingfisher that plunged out of a overhanging tree and tried to take off with a three-inch pearl Z-Man Fishing Products’ MinnowZ affixed to a chartreuse 3/32-ounce Gopher Tackle Mushroom Head Jig that was being retrieved about a foot below the surface around some American water willows and shallow patches on coontail. I was fortunate that the Kingfisher grabbed the tail rather than the hook, which allowed me to pull the MinnowZ out the Kingfisher’s mouth as it was attempting to return to the tree. On the next cast, I caught the biggest largemouth bass of the outing, which looked to weigh only 2 ½-pounds.

I caught three largemouth bass on a customized Junebug Z-Man FattyZ tube affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig during the first four minutes of this outing, then for the next three hours, 56 minutes, I struggled to catch 19 more. Throughout this outing, the FattyZ tube allured 14 of the 23 largemouth bass. A green-pumpkin Z-Man Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and pearl MinnowZ inveigled the other nine.

My logs reveal that on Sept. 4, 2009, two of us struggled to catch 23 largemouth bass at this reservoir, and on that outing, the bulk of them were caught on a grub. Then the surface temperature was 72 degrees, it was raining, and area thermometers were hovering around 70 degrees. In short, the largemouth bass at this reservoir can be the most befuddling of all the small flatland reservoirs we fish, and in 2012, they have befuddled us more than they ever had.

Postscript

Casey Kidder of Topeka, Kansas, reported on the Finesse News Network on Sept. 4 that he had a short outing at a 416-acre community reservoir on Labor Day evening (Sept. 3) to test the jika rig.  And it wasn’t productive. He also tested Z-Man’s Punch Craw, employing it  on a 3/32-and 1/8-ounce Gopher jig. And he found the Punch Craw combo to be pretty promising for larger fish. For example, it inveigled a 3 ½-pound smallmouth bass. But he noted that it doesn’t elicit as many bites as standard finesse fare. It is interesting to note that Kidder used to be an ardent Midwest finesse angler, but since he began competing in bass tournaments in Kansas and Missouri, he spends the bulk of his hours afloat employing power tactics rather finesse tactics, and as he noted, power tactics don’t elicit as many bites as finesse tactics.

 

September 5

Pok-Chi Lau of Lawrence and I ventured to a 140-acre state reservoir, and the weather was unseasonably hot.

The normal high temperature for this date is 84 degrees, and the normal low is 62 degrees. Area thermometers recorded the morning low as 70 degrees, and the afternoon high peaked at 95 degrees.

The wind was variable, angling out of the west at 3 to 7 mph for a spell, then out of the southwest, switching to the northwest, and then back to the south by southwest for another spell. At times, it was virtually calm. When we executed our first cast at 10:45 a.m., the barometric pressure was 29.86 and slowly dropping. The sun’s intensity was muted only occasionally by a thin sheet of cirrus clouds that wandered overhead every once in a while.

According to the solunar calendar, the best fishing times occurred from 2:42 p.m. to 4:42 p.m.

The water level looked to be about three feet below normal. The upper portions of the reservoir were afflicted by a slight algae bloom, but the lower two-thirds of the lake were clear enough that I could easily see the propeller on the trolling motor. (The trolling motor is our Secchi Disk, and when we can see its black propeller, we consider our flatland reservoirs to be clear.)  The patches of bushy pondweed were paltry.  We did not find any coontail patches. Most of the reservoir’s of American water willows were out of the water.

We fished from 10:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., and we caught 72  largemouth bass. None of them, however, weighed more than a pound and a quarter.  Only one was caught around rocks. The bulk of the largemouth bass were caught around the scraggly patches of bushy pondweed.  Seven largemouth bass were associated with manmade brush piles, and one of those was caught on an 1/8-ounce jika rig affixed to a five-inch Junebug Z-Man Finesse WormZ. Most of the largemouth bass were caught on a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and about a dozen were caught on a PB&J Rain MinnowZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher.

We saw one school of fish foraging on small gizzard shad in the middle of the reservoir’s west arm. Throughout our four hours of fishing, we saw several more offshore fish chase a baitfish across the surface. But we couldn’t allure any of these surface-feeding fish to ascertain if they were largemouth bass .

We suspected the sorry state of the pondweed patches and American water willows, as well as the lack of coontail, had the reservoir’s bigger largemouth bass abiding at lairs that we didn’t find. The small largemouth bass and medium-size ones were not abiding around rocky lairs, and they were not associated with steep shorelines. Perhaps the better bass were in a pelagic or suspended state and occasionally foraging on gizzard shad that were wandering around offshore or many yards away from the skimpy pondweed patches. All of the bass that we caught were caught on shallow flats, and the  most fruitful flats were graced with a few patches of pondweed.

A drag and deadstick retrieve that was punctuated with some shakes was the most effective retrieve. The straight-swim retrieve allured about a dozen largemouth bass.

It is interesting to note that we fished this reservoir on Sept. 5, 2011.  Then the water was clear, and its surface temperature ranged from 76 to 77 degrees. The weather was sunny, but the morning low temperature was 44 degrees, and the afternoon high was 78 degrees. We eked out 60 largemouth bass by using a 3 ½-inch purple-haze Finesse WormZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and the bulk of those largemouth were caught around the offshore patches on bushy pondweed. Some of those largemouth bass were considerably bigger than ones that Pok-Chi and I caught on Sept. 5, 2012.

After Pok-Chi executed his last cast of the day, he said that he hates fishing for dinky largemouth bass. He was so discouraged by this outing that he said that he would not fish again until after Oct 15. He planned to spend his days assembling a Web site to display his photographs, essays and books, and at the same time, he would print a series of photographs for his retirement show at the University of Kansas.

It is interesting to note that Richard Sanders of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and the fisheries biologist who manages this 140-acre state reservoir reported that his spring electro-shocking survey revealed that this  reservoir had the best numbers of largemouth bass, as well as the best size of largemouth bass, of the many  reservoirs that he manages.  But throughout 2012, several knowledgeable Midwest finesse anglers have found the fishing for its big largemouth bass to be trying, and at times, even the small largemouth bass have been difficult to find and allure.

Postscript

Casey Kidder of Topeka, Kansas, noted on the Finesse News Network: “I have never been able to consistently catch any big ones at [this 160-acre reservoir].  Instead, they seem random and caught by chance.”

And Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas noted in an e-mail that “72 bass is not bad outing….”  He said that “size is always an issue in finesse fishing; even though it catches all sizes of largemouth and smallmouth bass, it mainly allures the smaller fish.”

September 6

One of our granddaughters had a tennis tournament at 3 p.m. on Sept. 6. Therefore, in order to see that match I made a quick outing at a nearby 195-acre community reservoir and fished from 10:15 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.

After the boat was launched, I immediately put the trolling motor into the water commenced fishing the eastern shoreline from the boat ramp into the reservoir’s south feeder-creek arm. Besides plying a long stretch of the main-lake’s eastern shoreline, I fished two coves, three offshore rock piles and several points. For the last 30 minutes of this outing, I fished part of the western shoreline, a submerged bridge and three points inside the southern feeder-creek arm. Some of the shorelines were graced with coontail patches, stumps and laydowns, as well as boulders and a few patches of American water willows.

The water level looked to be about three feet below normal.  Therefore, most the American water willows were on dry land, and some of the stumps and massive boulders were out of the water or nearly out of the water. The water clarity was affected by an algae bloom to the point that I could not see the propeller on the trolling motor. The surface temperature was 82.6 degrees.

The wind was variable, angling out of the northeast, east and southeast at about 9 mph. The barometric pressure at 10 a.m. was 29.99 and dropping.  Area thermometers recorded a morning low of 65 degrees and an afternoon high of 91 degrees. The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m.

As I was launching the boat, I talk to Al Cathcart of Topeka, Kansas, who was ending his day. He reported that he caught a big smallmouth bass and big largemouth. He was afloat at 6 a.m. Both were caught on a 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ and 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The smallmouth bass was caught at the boat ramp.  His big largemouth bass was caught at the east end of the dam. The rest of his bass were small, but he didn’t have an accurate count of how many largemouth and smallmouth bass he had caught.

I eked out only 31 largemouth bass. All but two were caught on a 2 ½-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a 2 ½-inch Junebug FattyZ cumstomized tube on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher. One largemouth bass was caught on a green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher, and another largemouth bass was caught on a pearl Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.  The size of the largemouth  bass was small. None weighed more than a pound and a quarter, but I did tangle with three channel catfish, and two of them looked to be five pounders, and the third one weighed about three pounds. Two of the channel catfish engulfed the Junebug FattyZ tube and one bit the pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ.

For the past two outings, the whereabouts and hankerings of the bigger largemouth bass during the midday hours has been impossible for me to decipher.

The weather service was forecasting that it would rain on Sept.7. A cool spell was in the offing.

Postscript

Clyde Holscher of Topeka, Kansas, report to the Finesse News Network that he an Jim Kenney of Topeka, Kansas, fished a 535-acre community reservoir from sunrise to 11 a.m. on Sept. 6, and they eked out only seven largemouth bass.

September 7  

This was another short outing, which was fitted around one of our granddaughter’s tennis tournaments.  It took place at nearby 7,000-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir, and I fished from 10:50 a.m. to 12:50 p.m.

The wind was howling out of the north, northeast and northwest at 16 to 30 mph. For the first hour of this outing, it was sunny, and during the last hour, it became cloudy, and after I arrived home, it began to rain, and the wind became stronger.  When the rain arrived, area thermometers dropped from an early afternoon high of 84 degrees to 77 degrees.  The morning low was 68 degrees.

The water level was 2.11 feet below normal. The surface temperature ranged from 77 degrees to 79 degrees. The water was clear enough that I could see the black propeller on the electric trolling motor.

According the solunar calendar, the best fishing times occurred from 9:18 a.m. to 11:18 a.m.  I fished the last 28 minutes of that spell, and caught only two smallmouth bass during those best of minutes.  I didn’t locate and start catching fish until 12:10 p.m., and I continued to find and catch more of  them until I had to head home at 12:50 p.m. During that short spell, I caught 12 smallmouth bass and one largemouth bass. My total catch was 19 smallmouth bass,  one largemouth and five freshwater drum. I had more than a dozen bites that I failed to hook, and I momentarily hooked eight fish that liberated themselves before I could see or guess what species they were. After I missed some bites, I garnered another bite by deadsticking the bait for three seconds, and a couple of those bites I hooked and landed. Three of those were smallmouth bass and one was a drum.

I used a variety of Midwest finesse retrieves, but a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve elicited the bulk of the strikes, and as noted above, when I failed to hook a strike, I deadsticked the bait for three seconds or more.

The most fruitful bait was a 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The second most effective bait was a 2 ½-inch Junebug FattyZ tube (which is a customized bait) on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The third most productive bait was a green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher jig.

I fished only rock piles and rocky points along the  reservoir’s north shoreline. They were sheltered from the wind.  One 50-yard stretch of secondary and tertiary points and rock piles yielded the one largemouth bass and 12 of the smallmouth bass

Even though this reservoir is only 10 miles from our front door, I have rarely fish it during the past 20 years for largemouth and smallmouth bass. One reason for that revolves around the wind;  it has been a devilish reservoir for me to bass fish when the wind angles out of the south, east, southwest and west. The second reason is that until this year the black bass population has been sorry. But that was rectified when Richard Sanders of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism began stocking smallmouth bass fry into this reservoir several Mays ago.  Pok-Chi Lau of Lawrence and I fished it on August 24, when the wind was from the north, and across a course of two hours, we caught 20 smallmouth bass and two largemouth bass, and five of them were hefty ones.

On this outing, I didn’t catch any hefty ones. Four of them looked as if they might weigh two pounds. In my eyes, the smallmouth bass fishing has become good enough that I will fish this reservoir more often when the wind is out of the north and when I have only two or three hours to fish.

September 10

It was another tennis day for our granddaughter. Therefore, it necessitated a quick two-hour outing at a nearby 195-acre community reservoir.

On this outing, this reservoir was afflicted with an algae bloom, which had the water stained even in the lower portions of the reservoir to the point that I could barely see the propeller of the trolling motor. The stain was more substantial in the upper portions of the reservoir.  The surface temperature was 76 degrees.  The water level looked to be three feet below normal.

The weather was sterling. It felt like fall. The sun was bright, and a southerly wind at 12 to 16 mph was a cool one.  The morning low was 46 degrees, reaching 80 degrees as I was loading the boat on the trailer around 1 p.m. The barometric pressure at 10:50 a.m. was 30.17 and falling.

The solunar table indicated that the best fishing time occurred from 6:23 a.m. to 8:23 a.m.

I fished from 10:50 a.m. to 12:50 p.m., and I tangled with 34 largemouth bass. If I had the time to fish another two hours, I might have been able to tangle with 30 more largemouth bass.

Twenty-eight of the largemouth bass were caught along a wind-blown rocky shoreline along the north side of the reservoir. Three were caught on a wind-blown main-lake point that was graced with some shallow patches of coontail. Three largemouth bass were caught along a western shoreline that was rock laden and not wind-blown.

The most fruitful bait was a Junebug Hula StickZ on a red 1/16-ounce  Gopher jig. The second best option was the 2 ½-inch tube that was crafted from the head of Z-Man Junebug FattyZ, and it was affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. A trimmed-down four-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught four largemouth bass, and a 2 ½-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught three largemouth bass.

It needs to be noted that many of the largemouth bass that abide algae-stained water at our northeastern flatland reservoirs exhibit a fondness for Junebug-hued ElaZtech finesse baits in the late summer and early fall. What’s more, black-and-blue and neon-black Finesse WormZs  seem to attract the attention of the largemouth bass in our algae-stained impoundments in the fall.

September 11

Our granddaughter’s tennis match relegated this outing to two hours of fishing. For much of September and into October tennis and soccer will trump our a number of our angling endeavors.

On this short outing, I ventured to our nearby 195-community reservoir, where I tangled with 34 largemouth bass on Sept. 10.  On that outing, I inveigled the bulk of those bass on a steep, rocky and main-lake shoreline that were buffeted by a brisk south wind.

Normally, when I fish one of our small flatland reservoirs more than once a week, I rarely fish the same lairs. But on the Sept. 11 outing, I wanted to see if the largemouth bass were still catchable on that wind-blown, northern, main-lake shoreline. And I discovered that they were not. In fact, I caught only four of them, whereas I caught 28 of them there on Sept. 10.

The wind was a bit stronger on this outing that it was on Sept. 10. It was angling out of the south from 12 to 28 mph. It was also sunnier and warmer.  The morning low temperature was 55 degrees, and it hit a high of 92 degrees late in the afternoon.  The barometric pressure was 30.05 and falling when I made my first cast at 10:45 a.m. The solunar calendar revealed that the best fishing time occurred between 7:07 a.m. and 9:07 a.m.

The water level was three feet low. An algae bloom had the reservoirs stained to the point that I couldn’t see the propeller of the electric trolling motor.

The stain was more intense in the back of the reservoir’s south feeder-creek arm, which is where I fished after testing the wind-blown, steep, rocky, northern shoreline.

I worked with five spinning outfits. They were dressed with a Junebug Hula StickZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig,  2 ½-inch tube that was crafted from the head of a Junebug  FattyZ and affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig,  trimmed-down four-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, 2 ½-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and four-inch green-pumpkin grub on an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher jig.

On Sept 10,  I received a report from Terry Bivins of Lebo, Kansas, and who is one of the world’s finest anglers at wielding an 1/8-ounce jig. For the past several years, however, Bivins, who is 68 years old, has been racing cars rather than fishing, and, in fact, he no longer owns a boat.   But as his 2012 racing season was ending, fishing fever began to course through his veins once again, which motivated to go   fishing at a 135-acre state reservoir on Sept. 10. Because he didn’t have a boat, he walked the bank from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and wielded a spinning rod that was dressed with an 1/8-ounce jig adorned with a three-inch smoke Kalin’s Lunker Grub.  And he caught 22 largemouth bass.  For more information on Bivins’ manifold racing and angling skills see: “Terry Bivins and Leroy Spellman

Bivins’ grub report provoked me to wield a grub, too.  But the water in the back of the southern feeder-creek arm that I was fishing was too stained in my eyes to use a smoke grub, but in years past I have seen Bivins catch crappie, largemouth bass, sauger, walleye, white bass and wipers in waters as stained as the water that I was fishing. Even though Bivins would have been able to catch bass with a smoke grub, I opted for a green-pumpkin four-inch grub. And I used it on a shallow flat that was graced with scores of stumps and some very shallow patches of coontail and bushy pondweed. It quickly yielded seven largemouth bass.

When I got to a steeper sloping shoreline adjacent to the flat, I switched to the Junebug Finesse WormZ, and it hooked six largemouth bass, and then a big fish – I think it was a channel catfish – wrapped my line around a limb on a laydown, and ultimately it broke my line.  Because I had only 30 minutes more to fish, I didn’t spend the time retying. Instead I started using the Hula StickZ, FattyZ tube and ZinkerZ. And by the time, I made my last cast at 12:45 p.m., the Hula StickZ and FattyZ tube inveigled five largemouth bass.

The best retrieve was a straight swim with the grub, and with the Finesse WormZ, FattyZ tube and Hula StickZ, a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve was best. A few strikes occurred on the initial drop, but most strikes occurred after the bait moved five to seven feet from where the retrieve began.

In total, I caught 24 largemouth bass. It is interesting to recall that I caught 34 from 10:50 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. on Sept. 10 in totally different environments than the ones that I caught on Sept 11 from 10:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. On Sept 10, the 34 largemouth bass were caught on main-lake areas. On Sept 11, only four of the 24 largemouth bass that I caught were caught of main-lake areas.

September 13

Terry Bivins of Lebo, Kansas, sent the following report to the Finesse News Network about his bank-walking endeavors:

“I fished from 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. in a really stiff wind.  But I caught 32 bass and two really nice crappie.  With the cloud cover and the wind, I tried a chartreuse spinnerbait, silver and gold willow leaf blades.  Spinnerbait got 20 of them and the pumpkin-seed grub was much better than the smoke one today.   I caught only two on the smoke colored one.  Bright sunshine makes the smoke better I think.  Nothing big just a lot of fun fish.”

Spinnerbait footenote: The late Chuck Woods, who was the founding father of Midwest finesse fishing and creator of the Beetle and Beetle Spin, used to wield a Bass Buster Lure Company’s  Scorpion on his spinning rod with astonishing regularity in the 1960s and ’70s. And that compact single spin inveigled untold numbers of largemouth bass for Woods and his angling partners.

September 14

This outing was a tad longer than the last two at the nearby 195-acre community reservoir. It began at 10:15 a.m. and ended at 12:55 p.m., and it took place at the nearby 7,000-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir.

I attempted to return to the 195-acre community reservoir that I fished on Sept. 10 and 11, but when I arrived at the boat ramp, there were already five boats afloat.  Therefore, I opted to see what I could do with the smallmouth bass at the Corps’ reservoir.

In my eyes, the wind was ideal, angling out of the north at 7 to 9 mph. The only time that I fish this reservoir is when the wind is calm or it is coming out of the north.

A cool front arrived on Sept 13, and a soft rain fell for 12 hours.  The morning low on Sept. 14 was 53 degrees, and the high temperature of the day reached peaked at 66 degrees. During my two hours and 40 minute on the water, the sky was partly cloudy, and during the last 45 minutes, the sun began to shine.

The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing time occurred from 10:36 a.m. to 12:36 p.m.

The reservoir was 2.33 feet below normal.  The surface temperature was 72 degrees. The water clarity was stained, but I was unable to see the propeller on the trolling motor. The reservoir was affected by an algae bloom, which often occurs as the water temperature drops in our flatland reservoirs in northeasterKansas. We suspect that the wind that howled on Sept. 11 and 12, combined with the algae bloom, are what stained the reservoir’s clarity

Even though I was fishing during the solunar calendar’s best fishing times, my catch was a sorry one. I tangled with only 10 smallmouth bass, five freshwater drum and one white bass.

The white bass was a big and handsome one, exhibiting its traditional autumn blue-fin motif.  White bass are a joy to catch, and we used to spend many fall outings pursuing chunky blue-fin white bass on rocky points and shorelines.  But in recent years our white bass populations have declined so significantly that we rarely pursue them.

Three of the smallmouth bass were good ones. One weighed two pounds, 12 ounces and another looked as if it would weigh three pounds, and the third looked to be about a two pounder.

One big fish, which I didn’t see, wrapped my line around some line that was snagged between a stump and some boulders, and that brute broke my line.

All of the fish were caught around boulders, and they were caught in three to four feet of water, where I employed a swim-glide-and-slight-shake retrieve.

All but one of the fish were caught on either a 2 ½-inch Junebug FattyZ customized tube on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig or a 2 ½-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. One smallmouth bass was caught on a 3 ¼-inch green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.  I failed to garner a strike on a pearl Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a 3/32-ounce orange Gopher jig dressed with a green-pumpkin four-inch grub.

I registered more than 15 strikes that I failed to hook. A few of them were the typically hard thumps that the freshwater drum render, but I could not determine if the other strikes were green sunfish, smallmouth bass or freshwater drum.

Anytime we fail to catch fewer than nine largemouth and smallmouth bass an hour, it is a disappointing outing.  But most of the time our U.S. Corps of Engineer’s reservoirs can be a trying venue for us; for example, I fished this Corps reservoir on Sept. 14, 2011 for four hours, and caught 19 smallmouth bass, 10 largemouth bass, six channel catfish and four white bass, and that was an average of only 7.25 black bass an hour.  Then I fished it for two hours on Sept. 7, 2012, and eked out 19 smallmouth bass and one largemouth bass, which is of course, 10 black bass an hour. Perhaps, the cool or cold front that hit northeastern Kansas on Sept. 13 adversely affected the fishing. But I hate to blame the weather for my piscatorial ineptitudes.

 

September 15

Chris Rohr of Overland Park, Kansas, sent the following report to the Finesse News Network about his Sept. 15 outing to a 5,090-acre northeastern Kansas power-plant reservoir:

“My neighbor and I arrive at the check-in station at 7:15 a.m. There  were already eight boats in the parking lot when we arrived. We were on the water and fishing by about 7:40 a.m.

“There was a heavy mist to light sprinkles when we arrived, which continued to fall until we left at noon. Winds started off from the northeast at about 10 mph and gradually shifting to the east by southeast and increasing to about 15 mph.

“The surface temperature by the hot-water outlet was 73.4 degrees, and around the dam it was 71.3 degrees.

“We started fishing at the end of the riprap along the outside of hot-water outlet and fished down to the power plant. We also fished the entire length of the dam, and then hit the riprap back along the outside of the hot-water outlet again on our way back in.

“We landed 41 smallmouth bass, including two 17-inchers, two four-pound channel catfish, one 20-inch walleye and one 11-inch crappie.  All the fish but one were caught on a black 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle Mushroom Head Jig on a watermelon 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ. The ZinkerZ was customized into a tube-style bait, which featured tentacles on its tail.  I tried chartreuse-pumpkin and PB&J ZinkerZs, and the chartreuse-pumpkin caught one fish, and the PB&J delivered nothing.

“Five of the smallmouth bass were longer than 15 inches. A dozen ranged from 13 inches to 15 inches in length. The rest were eight to 12 inches long.

“ A shaky retrieve was the preferred presentation with a slow glide/raising/dropping rod tip a distant second.  Nearly all fish were caught within four feet of the shoreline. We found that once our baits got beyond eight feet from shore, at any range in the water column, that hits were
non-existent.  Besides the riprap, we fished some of the patches of pondweed and did not get any hits.  My boatmate did intermingle tubes, crankbaits, Senkos and hair jigs with only one hit on the crankbait, and that fish he failed to land, but we thought that it was a wiper.

“It was interesting to note that in the check-in station only 110 smallmouth bass and three walleye had been caught from Sept. 6 to Sept. 13  Thus we felt pretty good about our short trip in less than enjoyable weather.

“I have become a solid convert from the power techniques I have used for the past 20 years to finesse and am enjoying the challenges of expanding my skill set.”

Postscript

Darryl Brown of Toronto,Ontario, posted the following report to the Finesse News Network about his Sept. 15 Midwest finesse outing for smallmouth bass:
“After a day of rain, the temperature dropped from a high of 75 to 60 degrees today. The water was still clear, but the lake was covered by a thick fog for most of the morning.  I fished from 6:45 a.m. until 12 30 p.m. I caught 33 smallmouth bass, but failed to land at least another dozen within five feet of the boat. They where caught on a flat rocky area in four to six feet of water. Most weighed around a pound. Two were close to three pounds, and those two were caught in one foot of water next to the shore. I used a 2 ½-nch green-pumpkin Strike King Lure Company Zero with a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. This was the first time that the swim-glide-and-shake retrieve was effective for me. It accounted for 90 percent of the fish. Some of the trees have already starting to turn colour. Hopefully it’s not an early winter.  Our fishing season is too short here as it is.”

It is interesting to note that Brown works from a basic 14-foot Princecraft aluminum boat with a 25-horsepowered Mercury outboard motor. He described it “as nothing fancy, but it is a great boat for me since most of the time I fish by myself. It’s easy to get it in and out of the water, easy to tow and doesn’t use much gas.”  Brown seems to be from the  Chuck Woods’ school of Midwest finesse angler, which focused more on frugality than employing state-of-the-art equipment.

September 17

I fished a nearby 195-acres community reservoir from 9:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

The weather was beautiful, and I was the only angler afloat.  Until noon,  the wind was calm, and then it angled out of the northwest at 5 mph. The sky was virtually cloudless until noon, and then it became partly cloudy. The morning low temperature was 61 degrees, and it reached 80 degrees during the afternoon.

The water level looked to be about three feet below normal.  The surface temperature ranged from 71 degrees to 75 degrees.  An algae bloom had the backs of the feeder-creek arms and big coves stained to the point that I couldn’t see the trolling motor’s propeller, but around the dam, the propeller was visible.

The solunar calendar noted that the best fishing times occurred from 11:21 a.m. to 1:21 p.m. It is interested to note that I caught only one largemouth bass during the last 35 minutes that I was afloat, which was during the heart of the best fishing times. I caught 13 largemouth bass during the first 75 minutes of the outing, and during the next 70 minutes, I caught 15 largemouth bass and one channel catfish.

Only two largemouth bass were caught at main-lake lairs. The other 27 largemouth bass were caught in two of the feeder-creek arms or coves.  Most of the largemouth bass were associated with some submergent aquatic vegetation that was mixed with stumps and boulders. None of the fish were caught in water deeper that seven feet, and most were caught in three to five feet of water.

The two most effective baits were a four-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a 2 ½-inch Junebug FattyZ tube on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

A 3 ½-inch Junebug Hula StickZ on a  blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught one largemouth bass,  a 2 ½-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught one largemouth bass, and a green-pumpkin four-inch grub on an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher jig caught three largemouth bass. The most effective retrieve was the swim-glide-and-shake motif

None of the largemouth bass were lunkers, but I did inveigle two handsome and hefty Georgia giants. (I have not caught a Georgia giant since Feb. 9.) The biggest largemouth bass, which weight two pounds, 11 ounces, was the first fish I caught.

In sum, I caught only 9.6 largemouth bass an hour.  I am in a piscatorial funk and slump, and I have been battling this slump since June.

September 18

I fished a 100-acre community reservoir that lies in the southwest suburbs of Kansas City from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Perhaps the aftereffects of the cold front that rolled across northeastern Kansas during the late-afternoon hours of Sept. 17 put this reservoir’s largemouth bass in a tentative-to-negative mood. Or perhaps my piscatorial prowess has slipped profoundly.  But whatever transpired during the three hours that I was a float, it was a sorry sight to behold.

During the first hour, I caught 11 largemouth bass, and three of them were descent-sized ones.  Then during the next two hours, I eked out only six more largemouth bass.

Area thermometers recorded the morning low at 44 degrees, and by late afternoon those thermometers reached only 71 degrees.  The wind angled out of the north at 6 mph. The sun was bright, and the sky exhibited a China-blue tint.

The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times occurred from 12:47 p.m. to 2:47 p.m.

The water level was normal. Hurricane Isaac dropped six inches of rain in this reservoir’s watershed in late August and filled it to the brim, but it didn’t become muddy.  Its clarity, however, was affected by an algae bloom, but I could see the propeller of the trolling motor in the lower portions of the reservoir –- especially around the dam. I could not see the propeller in the upper end of the reservoir. The surface temperature ranged from 71 to 72 degrees.

The reservoir was graced with many patches of coontail and American water willows, and the bulk of the bass that I caught were relating to American water willow patches. A few were caught around the coontail patches.

A Junebug FattyZ customized tube on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher allured the first 11 largemouth bass. The next six were caught on a four-inch green-pumpkin grub on an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher, a four-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

As I have mentioned scores of times in 2012, this 100-acre reservoir has been a puzzle to me and several other Midwest finesse anglers since early December of 2011. And it has been especially puzzling if the weather conditions weren’t hunky-dory. In late summer and throughout October, we have noticed that inconsistent or radically changing weather patterns often make for some problematic  largemouth bass fishing. Sometimes in Septembers and Octobers past, inconsistent weather patterns made some wonderful white bass fishing, and we used to spend a lot of outings in September and October chasing white bass at several U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoirs, but the white bass and wiper populations in these reservoirs have become so paltry that we rarely chase them nowadays. Nowadays, we have opted to chase largemouth and smallmouth bass instead of white bass and wipers; therefore we will suffer through some outings such as we endured on Sept. 18.

Subscript

Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri,  sent a report to the Finesse News Network about his outing on a 120-acre community reservoir in northwestern Missouri.

He wrote: “I finally got back on [the water] after a three-week absence, and I found that I haven’t missed much.

“Three of us — Warren Platt, Bill Sonnett and I — fished with antique equipment and topwater lures, and we knew right away that it was going to be tough.

“Even at daybreak, there was hardly any surface action — nothing chasing minnows, no swirls. We did catch 14 bass early, but they were all small. I had a nice keeper on, but it took a dive into the weeds and got off.

“As the sun got brighter, the fishing got tougher, even in the shade. We went to diving plugs, and managed to catch a few more. But in the end, our total was only 23.

“It marked the first time ever that Platt and I have fished without catching a keeper.

“Just the same, it was great to be back on the home lake.”

September 19

On Sept. 18, I was pouting about the sorry largemouth bass fishing that I endured at a 100-acre community reservoir, and I noted that from a historical perspective that it would have been a good day to chase temperate bass.

Well, my brother, John, called and reported that he and Steve Bloess of Sedalia, Missouri, waylaid the wipers and some big white bass at Truman Lake, Missouri, on the afternoon of Sept. 18.   They didn’t maintain an accurate count, but they tangled with more than 100, and a number of them were lunkers. They caught them along a wind-blown shoreline of a massive flat in the Osage River Arm, using jigs, Rooster Tails, small crankbaits and topwater baits. In addition, on the afternoon of Sept. 17, Roger Kehde of Sedalia, Missouri, and Bloess found them on the same flat, but they were well off the shoreline, and they caught an impressive wipers and some white bass  on spoons.

Travis Perret of Overland Park, Kansas, sent an e-mail, reporting that he joined Casey Scanlon of Lenexa, Kansas, at Stockton Lake, Missouri, on Sept. 18. Scanlon tours on Bassmaster circuits, and he will compete at the Grand Lake Bassmaster Classic in 2013. Scanlon and Perret fished from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and they caught 15 largemouth bass of which seven were over 15 inches long, and one was a five-pounder. These bass were caught around brushpiles with skirted jig and trailers and big plastic worms.  Perret noted that they spent a lot of time searching for brushpiles rather than fishing. And, of course, they were employing power tactics rather than Midwest finesse methods.

Thus, Brent Frazee and I were the only anglers who struggled on Sept. 18, and Frazee had a better reason for failure than I did, because he, Warren Platt and Bill Sonnett were wielding antique equipment, and I was using Midwest finesse, which should have allowed me to catch at least nine largemouth bass an hour rather than the 17 largemouth bass that I caught in three hours on Sept. 18.

On Sept. 19, I fished a nearby 195-acre community reservoir from noon to 2 p.m.  And it was windy, angling from the southwest at 18 to 26 mph. By midday any of the remnants of the cold front that hit on the afternoon of Sept. 17 had disappeared. Area thermometers recorded a morning low of 48 degrees, but by the afternoon, these thermometers hit a high of 86 degrees. The normal high for this date is 79 degrees. The sun was bright and hot, and the sky was cloudless

The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times occurred from 1:51 p.m. to 3:51 p.m.

The water level looked to be three feet bellow normal.  The surface temperature fluctuated from 70 to 72 degrees. An algae bloom stained the water clarity, and it was extremely stained in the back of the southwest feeder-creek arm.  There were a few areas, however, where I could see the propeller on the trolling motor in the lower portions of this reservoir.

At noon, I made my first cast with a three-inch Z-Man Fishing Products’ MinnowZ in a California Craw hue, which was affixed to a red 3/32-ounce Gopher jig. It inveigled a dozen largemouth in 20 minutes on a shallow and massive mud flat that was graced with stumps and patches of bushy pondweed. This flat lies in the upper portions of this reservoir’s southern feeder-creek arm.  After fishing that flat,  I plied the  eastern shoreline immediately north of the mud flat. This shoreline was embellished with some stumps, beaver clippings and twigs, rocks and patches of submergent vegetation. Along this shoreline, I caught four more largemouth bass, and they were caught on a four-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. After fishing sections of the eastern shoreline, I crossed to the west side of this southern feeder-creek arm, where I caught one largemouth bass on the MinnowZ on a shallow point. Then 30 feet north of that point I caught two largemouth bass on a submerged bridge; one largemouth bass  was caught on a Junebug Finesse WormZ and another largemouth bass was caught on a PB&J Rain MinnowZ on a blue 1/16-ounce jig.  Within 45 minutes, I had caught 19 largemouth bass.

For the next hour and 15 minutes, I caught only eight more largemouth bass. At 1 p.m. I crossed paths with a pair veteran Midwest finesse anglers who had been on this reservoir since 8 a.m., and they reported that they had caught 127 largemouth bass.  They caught them on the Hula StickZ, 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ and 2 ½-inch FattyZ customized  tube, and they even caught some on a Zara Spook. I discovered that they had caught 55 largemouth bass in the area that I spent most of my last one hour and 15 minutes fishing, which might account for why I could eke only eight largemouth bass.

The highlight of this outing was that Holden White of Lawrence was there. White was battling colon cancer, which was diagnosed on Aug. 21.  He was operated on in early September,  and on the morning of Sept. 18  at 11:20 a.m., he had his daily round with radiation and chemo therapy.  Around 1 p.m. I watched him walk from his car, carrying a spinning rod that sported a four-inch grub on a 1/16-ounce jig, a tackle bag and a folding chair. Once he got to the water’s edge, he sat on the chair at the water’s edge. On his first cast and retrieve, his grub and jig became snagged on a boulder, and when he popped it free and commenced his retrieve, a 12-inch largemouth bass engulfed the grub and jig. It was a delightful way to start his first outing since his operation.  Here’s hoping all of us can still fish with the vigor, determination and grace that White fishes with at the age of 81 and while  battling the debilitating disease that was plaguing his days.

Postscript

Clyde Holscher and Steve Desch of Topeka, Kansas, sent a report to the Finesse News Network about their outing at a 11,600-acre U.S. Corps of Engineers’ reservoir. The fished from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. They primarily fished for white bass on rocky points and shorelines and riprap areas.  They caught 67 of white bass, and the bulk of them were allured by the Vakima Bait Company’s 1/14-ounce Virbric Rooster Tail  in the Clyde-the-Guide hue.  For more information about the Vibric see: http://www.in-fisherman.com/2012/10/11/white-bass-anglers-gear-guide-yakima-bait-companys-14-ounce-vibric-rooster-tail/

Steve Desch of Topeka, Kansas, with a handsome northeastern Kansas white bass. In many Septembers past, many of our finesse outings were spent in pursuit of white bass, but since 2009 we rarely fish for them.

September 20

My cousin Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, and I ventured to a 140-acre state reservoir and fished from 10:30 a.m. to 3:05 p.m.

When we made our first casts, the surface temperature was 69 degrees, and that was the coolest water temperature that we have seen since May 3. By the time we executed our lasts casts, the surface temperature hit 72 degrees.  The water level looked to be about three feet below normal.  The water was stained by an algae bloom, and it was stained to the point at most areas that we could not see the propeller on the trolling motor.

Initially, there is no wind, and by 11 a.m., it began to angle out of the northwest at 7 mph. For the first hour, it was sunny, and during the last hour that we were afloat, the sun was covered by clouds.  Area thermometers registered a morning low temperature of 48 degrees and an afternoon high temperature of 79.

According to the solunar calendar, the best fishing time occurred from 2:56 p.m. to 4:56 p.m.

For the several weeks, I had been carping on a few Finesse News Network reports about my ineptitudes at catching the largemouth and smallmouth bass that abide in several of northeastern Kansas’ flatland reservoirs that I have been fishing. And after Steve Quinn of Brainerd, Minnesota, read my laments about my paltry 17-largemouth bass outing on Sept. 18, he sent an e-mail, and he wrote: “Sorry to hear about that unusually slow bite…. Were you alone fishing? I find that often two anglers in a boat, rather than compete, help each other out in discerning patterns or better lures. That is unless they are targeting shallow cover, such as docks, flipping weeds, etc.” I agreed wholeheartedly with Quinn.  In fact, on most of my outings until 2011, I was accompanied by another Midwest finesse angler or two. And to help me out of my piscatorial slump, I beseeched by cousin Rick to join me on this outing.

To our dismay, however, this reservoir’s traditionally September largemouth bass lairs, which were  bountiful and  luxurious offshore patches of coontail and bushy pondweed, were skimpy, lying in unusually shallow water.  In fact, we failed to find any coontail patches. Moreover, many of this reservoir’s shorelines were normally graced with patches of American water willows, but because the water level was about three feet low, only a few patches were in the water, and those patches had less than a foot of water around their stems.

But wherever we could locate some offshore patches of bushy pondweed, we usually caught a largemouth bass, and occasionally we tangled with as many as five from around several of the bigger patches of bushy pondweed.

We caught only seven bass associated with rocky habitats, and this reservoir contains scores of rocky largemouth bass lairs.

The back portions of the middle and eastern feeder-creek arms yielded 15 largemouth bass, and these areas were graced with a little bit of bushy pondweed. Traditionally we never venture to the backs of these feeder-creek arms in September, but we did on this outing because the main-lake bite for the first hour was difficult.

We fished four hours and 35 minutes. We  tangled with 72 largemouth bass, five handsome black crappie and one channel catfish.

All of the largemouth bass were small.  Even though we caught an average of 16 largemouth bass an hour, Rick and I commented several times that it seemed as if the bite was slow, and that often happens when the largemouth bass are small.

Our best baits were a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, Junebug 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, Junebug four-inch Finesse WormZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, California craw three-inch MinnowZ on a red 3/32-ounce Gopher jig and four-inch green-pumpkin grub on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

A swim-glide-and-shake retrieve was the most effective one for ZinkerZ, Finesse ShadZ and Finesse WormZ. About 15% of the largemouth bass were caught on the initial drop of the bait. The straight-swim retrieve was the best for the grub and MinnowZ; we occasionally executed a pause and twitch during the straight-swim retrieve.

Richard Sanders, who is the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism fisheries biologist in charge of this reservoir, reported that his 2012 spring electro-shocking survey at this reservoir was the most fruitful one of all the reservoirs that he manages. Besides revealing vast numbers of largemouth bass, his electro-shocking survey found significant numbers of lunker-sized largemouth bass.  But since his survey, it has been an impossible chore for us to catch a big bass at this waterway.  We now fear that the largemouth bass virus might have whacked this reservoir since Sanders’ conducted his spring survey. The largemouth bass that abide in a 416-acre community reservoir that lies about 20 miles to north and a 195-acre community reservoir that lies about 25 miles to the northeast of this 140-acre state reservoir have been affected with the virus.

Postscript

We reported on Sept. 19 that John Kehde,  Roger Kehde and Steve Bloess of Sedalia, Missouri, enjoyed some stellar wiper, mixed with some big white bass, fishing  at Truman Lake, Missouri. Then on Sept 20, Clyde Holscher and Steve Desch reported that they tangled with 63 white bass on Sept. 19. The bulk of Holscher and Desch’s  white bass were caught on Worden’s Vibric Rooster Tail in Clyde-the-Guide hue, which has a chartreuse spinner blade, white body and tail.  At this point,  hope reigns in the hearts of a goodly number of Midwest anglers that the white bass and wiper fishing will get progressively better as the fall unfolds.  For decades, we enjoyed fabulous autumn white bass fishing on wind-blown shorelines and points, but about three years ago, the white bass populations in several reservoirs in the Heartland declined to the point that fishing for them was more vexing than fruitful and enjoyable.  Therefore, I have virtually stopped fishing for them, and I rarely think and write about them.

Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, reported to the Finesse News Network that he fished with his uncle for smallmouth bass at a 5,090-acre power-plant reservoir on Sept. 20. This was the same reservoir Chris Rohr of Overland, Kansas, fished on Sept. 15 and caught 41 smallmouth bass. To Claudell dismay and puzzlement, he and his uncle caught only five smallmouth bass and one largemouth bass.  Claudell commented that some of our lakes are going through some perplexing spells. He also noted that if an angler is not fishing at the right time, the fishing is even more perplexing. As I pondered Claudell’s observations about the right time, I concluded that the midday bite from 10 p.m. to 2 p.m., which is when I am traditionally afloat, hasn’t been as fruitful for me since June.

And it is interesting to note several Midwest finesse anglers have found that the morning bite was often better than the midday bite the onerously hot and arid  summer of 2012. For instance,  Rodney Hatridge of Shawnee, Kansas, reported that he Joe Gwadera of Liberty, Missouri, fished a 195-acre community reservoir on Sept. 20. They fished from 7 am. to 11 a.m., and caught 75 largemouth bass, including a lunker that weighed 7 ½ pounds. The bulk of the largemouth bass were allured by a 2 ½-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Hatridge said there was another pair of Midwest finesse anglers afloat who were catching largemouth bass around one lair at almost a hand-over-fist pace.

September 21

On this last day of summer, Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, and I fished in the wind at a 416-acre community reservoir. It howled from the northwest at 17 to 32 mph, which made some of our finesse presentations problematic.  Claudell was hoping to recover from an extremely sorry outing at the 5,090-acre power-plant reservoir on September 20, when he and his uncle caught only five smallmouth bass and one largemouth bass.

Our Sept. 21 outing wasn’t as tough as his Sept. 20 endeavors, but it was trying.  We eked out only 21 largemouth and smallmouth bass, and we fished from 10:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing time occurred from 4:01 p.m. to 6:01 p.m.

Except for the troublesome wind, the other weather features were nice.  Area thermometers recorded a morning low 48 degrees and an afternoon high of 84 degrees.  The barometric pressure was 29.88 and falling as we commenced our outing. The sun burned brightly.

The surface temperature was 70 degrees. As the water temperature drops during the fall, our flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas usually become afflicted with significant algae blooms. That phenomenon had occurred at this 416-acre reservoir. The algae bloom created a significant green scum line on the hull of the  boat, but the water was clear enough that I could see the black propeller of the trolling motor. The water level looked to be 3 ½ feet below normal. Many of this reservoir’s massive American water willow patches were out of the water, and the few that were still in the water had only inches of water covering their roots.  Milfoil patches were prevalent, but not as problematic as a local newspaper account portrayed them to be. What’s more, some of the milfoil patches were harboring smallmouth and largemouth bass. But the wind  fouled our abilities to properly fish the milfoil. The most fruitful areas that we found were pummeled by the wind and waves, and at the calmer lairs, we struggled to garner strikes.

The best smallmouth was allured by a green-pumpkin Hula StickZ affixed to an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher jig. But no single bait caught the bulk of the fish.  We caught some on a Junebug 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a Junebug 2 ½-inch FattyZ customized tube on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a four-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and a California-craw three-inch MinnowZ on a red 3/32-ounce Gopher jig.

It was a difficult outing that capped off a difficult week of fishing for me and Claudell. But we received several reports from other anglers about catches of 63 to 110 white bass caught at a 11,600-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir. We got two excellent wiper reports (that included some white bass) from Truman Lake. In addition, we had two reports from a 195-acre northeastern Kansas community reservoir, where a pair of  Midwest Finesse anglers caught 127 largemouth bass on Sept 19, and another pair caught 70 largemouth bass, including one that weighed 7.6 pounds, on Sept. 20.

On the way home, Claudell and I pondered if we had been at the wrong place at the wrong time again, or if our finesse prowess had dimmed to the point that we can’t find and catch the numbers of black bass that we used to catch.

September 22

Casey Kidder of Topeka and Travis Perret of Overland, Kansas, competed in a Kansas Buddy Bass tournament at a 4,580-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir, and they failed to inveigle at keeper-size largemouth bass, as did 13 other teams. Nineteen teams did manage to catch a keeper, but the winning team caught only four largemouth bass that weighed only  10 pounds, five ounces. And the 19 teams that did manage to inveigle some keeper-sized largemouth bass caught only one or two.  Perret described it as a sorry ordeal. Kidder and Perret suspected that the post-cold-front conditions had adversely affected their fishing.

September 23

Bob Gum of Kansas City reported on the Finesse News Network that he and his wife, Yan, fished the same 5,090-acre power-plant reservoir that Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, fished on Sept. 20 and Chris Rohr of Overland, Kansas, fished on Sept. 15.

The wind is a regular bugaboo on this reservoir, and on this outing Gum found it to be blowing at a brisk pace out of the east, and a howling east wind can also complicate boat launching. Apparently the wind kept other anglers at bay, because there were only three other boat afloat on this windy Sunday. The surface temperature ranged from 70 to 71 degrees.

Gum and his wife tried to hide from the wind by plying the west side of a massive riprap baffle dike, where they caught only 17 smallmouth bass. Those 17 were allure by either a pearl Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig or chartreuse 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Gum said the bulk of the 17 smallmouth bass were caught within five feet of the water’s edge. They couldn’t garner a deep bite.  They also tried to fish a wind-blown main-lake hump, but failed to elicit a strike. What’s more, they caught only one smallmouth bass after noon, and as was noted in the Sept. 20 log, the midday largemouth and smallmouth bass bite has been paltry since June.

September 26

I returned from a media event at Table Rock Lake, Missouri,  at 11:30 a.m.  At 2:45 p.m. Mike Gilmore of Longview,Texas, and I were afloat at a 195-acre community reservoir.   It was a quick outing to introduce him to Midwest finesse methods. We had early dinner obligations with his wife, Mary, and several of our kids and grandkids. Therefore, we were off the water at 4:45 p.m.

The water clarity was affected by an algae bloom, and the bloom was significant enough that it left a greenish scum line around the hull of the boat. At several locales, I could not see the propeller on the trolling motor. The surface temperature was 71 degrees. The water level appeared to be three feet below normal.

The wind angled from the west at 8 mph for a spell and eventually turned to the northwest at 5 mph. It was mostly cloudy.  The morning low temperature was 61 degrees and the afternoon high hit 76 degrees.  It rained during the evening of Sept. 25 into the morning of Sept. 26. At 3 p.m. the barometric pressure was 29.93 and slowly dropping.

The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing time occurred at 8:20 p.m. to 10:20 p.m.

According to Bob Gum of Kansas City and Casey Kidder of Topeka, the largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing had been difficult across eastern and northeastern Kansas since Sept.  23. Kidder thought that it was the aftereffects of a cold front that pushed a few area thermometers to 32 degrees on the morning Sept. 23.  And three days after that massive cold front whacked northeastern Kansas, Gilmore and I found the largemouth bass fishing to be difficult. Across our two-hour outing on Sept. 26, we eked out only 21 largemouth bass. Fifteen of them were caught along a 50-yard stretch of a rocky shoreline that was graced with some patches of submergent vegetation along the north shoreline of one of the reservoir’s eastern feeder-creek arms, and those largemouth bass were caught within the first 45 minutes of the outing. Then for the next hour and 15 minutes, four largemouth bass were inveigled from a submerged bridge and some adjacent patches of submergent vegetation in the back of a southern feeder-creek arm.  Then two largemouth were caught along a short stretch of shoreline on the east side of that southern feeder-creek arm, and this areas was embellished with stumps, rocks and submergent vegetation. We spent about 12 minutes plying the riprap of the dam, and it failed to yield a largemouth bass.

The best bait was a shorten four-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and the best retrieve consisted of a slow swim, glide and shake. We occasionally would garner a bite by dragging and deadsticking this combo. Most of the bass were in four to five feet of water.

Subscript

Clyde Holscher of Topeka, Kansas, sent the Finesse News Network a brief description of his and Dennis Horner’s two days (Sept. 25 and 26) at a 16,020-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir, where they had hoped to tangle with scores of surface-feeding wipers and white bass. To their chagrin, however, the topwater temperate bass action was nil. Therefore, Holscher and Horner spent the bulk of their time fishing main-lake bluffs with 2 ½-inch dark-colored ZinkerZs on 1/16-ounce orange jigs. Along these bluffs, Holscher estimated that they tangled with about 100 smallmouth bass each day, as well as a few freshwater drum, white bass and wipers. Most of the smallmouth bass were in the 12-inch range. About dozen smallmouth basswere 16-inchers, and another five smallmouth basswere in the 18- to 20-inch range.  Holscher noted that many of the fish that they caught regurgitated small crayfish.

Clyde Holscher of Topeka, Kansas, shows off one of the 200 smallmouth bass that he and Dennis Horner of Lenexa, Kansas, caught on a 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ of Sept. 25 and 26.

September 27

On the morning of Sept. 27, Mike Gilmore of Longview, Texas, and I ventured to a nearby 7,000-acre U.S. Army Corps of Enigneers’ reservoir to see if we could quickly catch 20 smallmouth bass. He and his wife had to drive back to Longview,Texas, today, and they wanted to start that long journey by noon. So, we fished from 8:45 a.m. to 11: 40 a.m.

The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing time occurred from 8:38 a.m. to 10:38 a.m., but we were unable to find a way to capitalize on this piscatorial feature.

We inveigled only 13 smallmouth bass, four freshwater drum and one white bass.  We failed to land two smallmouth bass.  We caught only two smallmouth bass during the first 45 minutes of this outing. The best bite occurred around 10 a.m., and we caught nine smallmouth bass at one locale.

The surface temperature was 68 degrees. An algae bloom stained the water clarity to the point that we  couldn’t see the propeller on the trolling motor. The water level was 2.58 feet below normal.

Before daylight it sprinkled a touch, and except for 20 minutes around 10:30 a.m., it was mostly cloudy for the entire outing. Area thermometer recorded the morning low temperature at 54 degrees, and it was 66 degrees when we stopped fishing.

We fished seven rock-laden lairs along the north shoreline. Three of the areas consisted of riprap, and they failed to yield a smallmouth bass. The best spots were embellished several massive boulders and often a stump. All of the strikes occurred in depths of one to four feet.

There was no dominating bait. A four-inch watermelon finesse worm on a 1/16-ounce jig caught a few smallmouth bass, a Junebug 2 ½-inch FattyZ  custom-made tube on blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught a several smallmouth bass, a green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher jig caught a couple smallmouth bass and a PB&J Hula StickZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher caught two smallmouth bass.

A swim-and-shake retrieve was the best.   Some strikes occurred during the initial drop of the bait from the surface to the rock-laden bottom.

September 28

Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, sent the following report to the Finesse News Network about his Sept. 28 outing:

“Ned – I know you appreciate a good white bass bite. I managed to get on one today. These fish were roaming deep main-lake flats in 15 to 17 feet of water when I found them around 4 p.m., and they moved into 10 to 12 feet of water as the sun was dipping below the treeline around sunset. I didn’t have my counter with me, but the bite lasted for well over two hours, and until I gave up with sore arms. The surface temperature was 68 degrees.  Water clarity was ranged from two to three feet.

“I did manage to catch 16 largemouth bass before I found the white bass. Most of the largemouth bass were small, weighing less than two pounds.  A white 1/8-ounce jig caught allured the largemouth bass with a swimming retrieve. The largemouth bass were all very shallow along rock banks, inside weedlines, and inside corners of docks. Many were caught along banks that had shadelines that extended out over the water, which wasn’t surprising given the blue skies that came in later in the day as the frontal system moved through.

“The largemouth bite has been very slow during the past several weeks. So, crappie have been getting the nod, and that bite has been above average now for more than three weeks.  Brian”

For more information about Waldman’s piscatorial exploits see: http://www.bigindianabass.com/big_indiana_bass/2012/09/something-is-always-biting-somewhere.html

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