The basic purpose of these month-by-month guides is to help recreational anglers to catch more largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and spotted bass than it thought to be humanly possible. Therefore, it does not focus on catching big bass and winning bass tournaments. Instead its aim is to help anglers catch 25 bass an hour on those outings when the bass are easy to catch, or to help anglers catch at least nine bass an hour when the bass are difficult to catch.
What’s more, it is a wonderful method for teaching young anglers to catch largemouth bass. In fact, John Reese of Lawrence, Kansas, and I crossed paths on July 2 with two young boys who were fishing with their father and grandfather along the riprap of the dam at a 140-acre state reservoir, and this foursome hadn’t caught a fish. They were using livebait. Reese and I rigged a four-inch Z-Man Finesse WormZ on a jig for each of the boys. Within a few minutes, the three-year-older caught a six-inch largemouth bass, and the four of them cheered and uttered several words of thankfulness our way.
Traditionally, we spend most our Julys with our children and grandchildren. And when we fish , I don’t pick up a rod unless I am helping one of them execute a cast to a difficult lair. Instead I will have my foot on the trolling motor’s switch and watching all that transpires. Occasionally I will express a quiet suggestion about places to cast and ways to execute a retrieve and how to battle and land a fish. Across the years of raising four children and relishing 10 grandchildren, we have found that it is usually best to fish with just one youngster on each outing. And until they are nearly teenagers, our outings are never longer than two hours, and many of them are slightly less than an hour
This July was another family time. Most of it was spent in Kansas, but the last few days of July were in the Northwoods of Minnesota. In Kansas, our outings were with our six-year-old grandson, Nicholas Cox and eight-year-old grandson, James Cox. Both are from San Antonio, Texas.
For Nicholas’ birthday, we gave him his first spinning rod and reel. His transition from a spincasting to spinning was delightfully smooth. In fact, on Nicholas’ first cast with his new spinning rod and reel, which was spooled with six-pound-test monofilament line and adorned with a red 1/32-ounce jig and a 3 ¾-inch pumpkin-colored plastic worm, he extracted a largemouth bass from a patch of bushy pondweed. After that first cast, Nicholas — with very little assistance from me — inveigled green sunfish, bluegill, pumpkinseed, redear sunfish, largemouth bass and channel catfish.
James Cox has become fairly proficient with a spinning rod and reel since 2010. And this time around he caught a largemouth bass on his third cast on a red 1/16-ounce jig and a 3 3/4-inch PB&J plastic worm. From that point on, he tangled with an impressive array largemouth bass and other species.
We didn’t write and post logs about our grandchildren’s endeavors, but below the endnotes of this monthly blog feature several photographs of James and Nicholas Cox and a few of the fish they caught by employing Midwest finesse tactics. What’s more, we didn’t write and post logs about our angling days with some of our children and grandchildren in Minnesota.
Our many family gatherings allowed me to fish seriously only eight times in July, and one of those outings, which occurred on July 17, was so short and fruitless that I didn’t write a log about it. Those eight outing encompassed only 24 3/4 hours of fishing. Two of these were solo outings, and I was accompanied by another angler on five of them. We caught only 210 largemouth bass and four smallmouth bass.
Traditionally July is a difficult month for Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas. Only 215 largemouth bass were caught in July 2012, but in 2011, I was afloat more hours, and my partners and I eked out 400 largemouth bass.
Therefore, this month’s guide features only seven of my logs. The rest are from veteran Finesse News Network contributors: Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, Bob Gum of Kansas City, Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, Brian Waldman of Centerville, Indiana, and Dave Weroha of Kansas. We also have a new contributor: Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas, whose logs feature his finesse outings for smallmouth bass on Ozark creeks and rivers. It should be noted that Claudell, Frazee, Gum, Poe and Weroha did not utilize Midwest finesse tactics 100 percent of the time that they are afloat, and their logs reveal that also work with crankbaits, topwater baits, drop-shot rigs, big skirted jigs and bulky trailers and similar baits.
In my eyes, July’s most important memorable moment occurred when my wife, Patty, and I christened Z-Man Fishing Products’ Scented LeechZ on July 21, and it inveigled 30 largemouth bass in one hour and 10 minutes.
It felt like a spring day rather than the first of July. The National Weather Service at Lawrence, Kansas, recorded the morning temperature at 57 degrees, and the afternoon high peaked at 84 degrees. The normal low temperature is 67 degrees, and the normal high temperature is 87 degrees. It was sunny most of the day, but there were spells when a few clouds floated overhead. Around 1:00 p.m. the barometric pressure was 30.13 and slowly falling. The wind angled out of the northeast at 10 to 23 mph. The great Midwest drought of 2012 was still hanging on, which was reflected by the fact that rain tabulations at the National Weather Service revealed that our rainfall total was 4.85 inches below normal.
I made a one-hour solo outing to the riprap dam at a nearby 195-acre community reservoir, where the water level was a few inches below normal, and water was being released from the dam’s outlet. The surface temperature ranged from 80 to 81 degrees.
I worked with my transom trolling motor, which plunges a foot deeper into the water than my bow-mounted trolling motor, and I couldn’t see the propeller of the transom-mounted trolling motor.
In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best time to fish was from 6:17 p.m. to 8:17 p.m. I was afloat from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
During this quick endeavor, I tangled with 12 largemouth bass along the dam. The largemouth bass were in three to nine feet of water. Two were caught on a Z-Man Fishing Product’s PB&J Hula StickZ on a blue 3/32-ounce Gopher Tackle Mushroom Head Jig. Four were caught on a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s California craw ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Six were caught on a shortened four-inch Z-Man’s purple-haze Finesse WormZ on a purple Gopher Jig. (The four-inch Finesse WormZ is 4 ¾-inches long, and we remove about three-quarters of an inch from its head.)
All of the largemouth bass were beguiled by a hop-and-bounce retrieve that was accented with a few shakes.
The largemouth bass fishing became trying at this reservoir in late May and early June, and I wanted to quickly see if that trying spell had moderated. When the largemouth bass fishing is hunky-dory at this reservoir, a Midwest finesse angler can usually catch 18 to 25 largemouth bass an hour, and traditionally one of the most fruitful spots is the riprap of the dam. For instance on May 9, 2013, the largemouth bass fishing was better than hunky-dory. On that outing, I caught 125 largemouth bass from 10:35 a.m. to 2:10 p.m., and 42 of them were caught along the riprap of the dam.
Therefore, according to the results of my one-hour outing along the dam on July 1, the largemouth bass fishing at this 195-acre community reservoir isn’t up to snuff. Some anglers are suspecting that a significant number of this reservoir’s largemouth bass are inhabiting a large sanctuary that is off limits to anglers until Sept. 16. Another group of anglers suspect that untold numbers of largemouth bass are milling about in the middle of the lake and suspended from five to 15 feet below the surface, and, in fact, our sonars reveal that are incredible numbers of suspended fish roaming around in the middle portions of the lake.
Another springlike day unfolded in northeastern Kansas. The National Weather Service in Lawrence, Kansas, recorded the morning low temperature of 56 degrees and an afternoon high temperature on 84 degrees. The wind angled out of the north and northeast at 5 to 9 mph. Around 10 a.m. the barometric pressure was 30.14 and slowly falling. The sun shone brightly in the ultramarine sky.
Dr. John Reese of Lawrence and I traipsed to the west about 38 miles and fished a 140-acre state reservoir.
According to In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar the best fishing time occurred from 6:37 a.m. to 8:37 a.m. Reese and I were afloat from 10:20 a.m. to 1:20 p.m.
The water level at this reservoir looked to be about six inches below normal. The surface temperature was 79 degrees. An algae bloom erupted, but I could see the propeller of the transom-mounted trolling motor at 70 percent of the locales we fished. The clarity declined as we probed a creek channel bank in the upper 20 percent of the reservoir’s west feeder creek arm. We found a few patches of bushy pondweed, and we caught several largemouth bass along the inside edge of those patches. But most of the largemouth bass were associated with either patches of American water willows or rocks.
Across the three hours that we fished, we tangled with 54 largemouth bass. Our most effective bait was a shortened four-inch Z-Man’s Junebug Finesse WormZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. About 25 percent of the largemouth bass that we caught bit so delicately that we had no hint that we had hooked them. In fact, I caught one largemouth bass that jumped a foot out of the water, and initially I thought it was Reese’s largemouth bass, but to my embarrassment and astonishment, it was firmly hooked on my Junebug Finesse WormZ and red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Of course, I didn’t set the hook on that largemouth bass, and nor did we set the hook on another dozen that we caught without detecting the strike. Instead we merely reeled these bass to the boat, and the point of the No. 4 jig hook had penetrated the flesh in the mouths of these bass. After experiencing this extreme-no-feel bite and no setting of the hook, it made us wonder why so many anglers make such a great ado about hook setting tactics.
Normally, most Midwest anglers do not use their rods to set the hook. Instead, they use their reels by quickly rotating the reel handle, which seems to gently and firmly pull the point of the jig hook into the flesh inside a largemouth bass’ mouth. About the only time that hook setting is a concern with Midwest finesse anglers is when they set the hook too hard with their rod rather than merely turning the reel handle at quick pace. And when that occurs, we gentle remind ourselves that it is not necessary to set the hook with Midwest finesse baits.
The most successful retrieve was what we called a drag-and-brief-deadstick motif, and Reese did a lot of dragging and deadsticking by strolling his Finesse WormZ and jig in the back of the boat. Most of the largemouth bass were caught in two to five feet of water.
I hitched a ride with Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, for the 55-mile jaunt to a 55-acre community reservoir.
I hadn’t fished this reservoir since May 7, when Drew Reese and I tangled with 43 largemouth bass, five crappie and one sauger. On the outing with Reese, the water level was slightly above normal, and its clarity was nearly Ozark clear. But to Claudell and my chagrin, the clarity on July 3 was stained by a significant algae bloom, and the water level looked to be more than a foot below normal. Water was being pumped out of the reservoir to the nearby golf course, and we imagined that the algae bloom had been fed by the fertilizer that washed into the reservoir from the gold course. Claudell did not measure the surface temperature.
In Fisherman’s solunar indicated that the best fishing time occurred from 7:19 a.m. to 9:19 a.m., and we fished from 10:15 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
The National Weather Service in Lawrence, Kansas, recorded the morning low temperature at 58 degrees, and the afternoon high temperature reached 86 degrees. The low temperature for July 3 is 68 degrees, and the normal high temperature is 87 degrees. Around 10 a.m. the barometric pressure was 30.10 and slowly falling. The wind was variable and at times nil. It was sunny for the first 2 ½ hours, and then it became partly cloudy. A few minutes before 2 p.m., a mild-mannered thunderstorm erupted and sent us home.
We didn’t start Claudell’s outboard until the last few minutes of the outing. We began fishing at the boat ramp, and we used his electric trolling motor and circumvented 95 percent of the shoreline of this 55-acre impoundment.
The largemouth bass fishing was difficult – especially during the first two hours that we were afloat. We blamed the algae bloom, saying that it fouled water’s oxygen level, which made the largemouth bass lethargic. But, of course, we possessed no scientific bearings to basis those assumptions on.
Ultimately we eked out 35 largemouth bass, five channel catfish, one crappie and untold numbers of green sunfish.
Until the last 45 minutes of our outing, we used several colors of a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s ZinkerZ, and the three most effective colors were dirt, green pumpkin, and Junebug. We also worked with a shortened four-inch Z-Man’s Finesse WormZ in two colors: black neon and Junebug. All of these baits were affixed to either a chartreuse or a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Around 1:15 a.m., Claudell suggested that one of us should test a 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. I had a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig rigged on one of my spinning rods, and I affixed a shortened four-inch Z-Man’s Junebug Finesse WormZ to that jig. On the first two casts with this combo, it inveigled two largemouth bass. From that point until we made our last cast in the midst of a thunderstorm, both of us worked with a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and Junebug Finesse WormZ, and those baits bewitched 10 largemouth bass.
Throughout the entire three hours and 45 minutes that we fished, we did not establish an effective retrieve pattern. A few largemouth bass engulfed our baits on the initial fall. Some tried to shallow our baits as we were dragging and deadsticking them. About a dozen largemouth bass were attracted by a swim-glide-and-subtle-shake retrieve, which was the most rewarding tactic with the 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and Finesse WormZ. In sum, it was another one of those hodge-podge outings, which means it was devoid of any solid location and presentation patterns. These hodgepodge endeavors have plagued us for several weeks.
(I was off for the next four days, which encompassed the lake crowds during the 4th of July weekend, and during this time I spent a bit of time preparing finesse outfits for our youngest grandsons to use during the second week of July. The youngest is three; so these will be short outings in which we hope that the boys can tangle with a dozen largemouth bass and some green sunfish by using Midwest finesse tactics.)
On the evening of July 3, Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, filed this report on the Finesse News Network:
“I just wrapped up a week of nothing but ZinkerZ fishing and believe I have now found bassin’s summer answer to my beloved hair jigs. As I mentioned in a response a few days back, I some ZinkerZs and blue/silver super glue gel, and both have now found a permanent home in my finesse arsenal.
“An early day at work today had me headed to the local 400 acre lake, where I fished from a little before 5:00 p.m. until a little after 9:00 p.m. Air temperature was 79 when I launched the boat. It cooled to 73 at sunset. Barometric pressure was steady at 30.04. The wind was out of south at 12-15 mph around 5 p.m., fading to 9 mph by 8:00 and 7 mph by 9:00. Water clarity was about two feet with a light green stain, and skies were listed as mostly cloudy, though there seemed to be as many periods of sun as not. The surface temperature had cooled to about 76-77 degress, and the 4th of July crowds were just starting to build, though they were nothing like what I imagine it will be the next several days.
“This entire trip was spent throwing a red 1/16-oz. Gopher jig with a PB&J 1/2 ZinkerZ. It was the same jig and ZinkerZ from my last trip, and it lasted this entire trip, too. The little bait inveigled 64 largemouth bass during trip. Most of the largemouth bass were caught along rocky shorelines, but several were caught from around boat docks and lifts, and a few from scattered shoreline weed patches. The bait also managed to allure a channel cat, a crappie, a 10 ¾-inch redear and a couple green sunfish. I’m guessing I tangled with more than 80 fish on the one bait, and it looks like it might still be able to capture a few more fish before having to be retired.
“For the week, a total of four trips were taken, two from shore and two from the boat. There were a total of 146 largemouth bass caught. The trip counts were 31, 36, 15 and 64. A total of about 9.5 hours of fishing transpired. Only two colors of the ZinkerZ were used: PB&J and Junebug. They were rigged on either a red or chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. All of the largemouth bass were landed with a seven-foot spinning rod (Loomis PR842S) and four-pound-test braided line with a six-pound-fluorocarbon leader. Only one largemouth bass was able to break off the light line, and it was a larger one that ran under a metal culvert and sawed the line back and forth while I tried to wrestle him back out, but even then it took some doing before the line eventually parted. I did lose two other baits to snags, meaning I have used a total of four Gopher jig and four 2 ½-inch ZinkerZs to date. Best retrieve has been a swim and glide, with some interspersed shakes and pauses.
“I now have three proven baits (finesse worm, tiny brush hog, ZinkerZ) to use with the Gopher jig on my waters. I believe I’ll be looking into some type of craw-styled grub next to test, along with the yet tried mini-lizard, which I’m sure I will like.
We responded to Waldman with this short note:
“Thanks for the detailed report from central Indiana and your handiwork with the 2 1/2-inch Zinkerz and 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
“The ZinkerZ is a durable and alluring bait, and the 1/16-ounce Gopher jig has no peers.
“When our largemouth bass exhibit a hankering for plastic worms, many Midwest finesse anglers in Kansas have found that Z-Man’s ElaZtech four-inch Finesse WormZ equals the effectiveness of the ZinkerZ. In fact, this time of year three of my five spinning rods sport a Finesse WormZ. We work the Finesse WormZ with a 1/32- and 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The 1/32-ounce Gopher might work well around the boat docks that you fish. And when the largemouth bass inhabit patches of coontail and bushypond weed, the 1/32-ounce Gopher jig usually is more effective than the 1/16-ouncer.
“By the way, Dave Schmidtlein of Topeka, Kansas, is one of the stellar crappie anglers around here, and the 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ is one of favorite his crappie baits.
“There is something about ElaZtech that seems to help us catch fish. We are eager to see how the new Scented LeechZ works.
“Many of Midwest finesse anglers would love to have a mini-lizard made out of ElaZtech.
“There might be a three-inch ElaZtech grub in the offing.
“Please keep sending your delightful and detailed reports.
“Best wishes, Ned.”
Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about an early morning outing at a 120-acre community reservoir in the northern suburbs of Kansas City, where the National Weather Service reported that the wind blew from the south and southeast at 7 to 10 mph. The sky exhibited a China-blue hue. The barometric pressure was 30.02 and fluctuating. Area thermometers ranged from a low of 61 degrees to a high of 91 degrees. In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing time occurred from 8:44 a.m. to 10:44 a.m.
He wrote, “This crazy private lake I live on never will let you feel too good about your fishing ability for too long.
I was starting to feel pretty confident. I had caught bass four pounds or better for several straight trips. And my first attempt at night fishing under lights resulted in a good catch of big crappies.
Then came Friday morning. I took raffle winners out and had them meet me at 6 a.m., hoping to catch the early-morning bite. To be short: There wasn’t any. The jig and pig bite that has been so strong for the last week completely evaporated. Well, not completely. I had a big bass on and I handed the fishing rod to the woman to land it. It came to the surface, and it was a big fish (at least 5 pounds). But it wallowed on her and it got off.
I tried every color of ZinkerZ I have and none really stood out. Even the little ones were tough to catch, which is unusual here.
We finally ended up catching 21 bass, with no keepers.
After days like this, I’m thinking about getting into something else, like synchronized swimming or curling.”
Bob Gum of Kansas City reported on the Finesse News Network that he fished a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir.
The wind blew from the south and southeast at 7 to 10 mph. The sky exhibited a China-blue hue. The barometric pressure was 30.02 and fluctuating. Area thermometers ranged from a low of 61 degrees to a high of 91 degrees. In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing time occurred from 8:44 a.m. to 10:44 a.m.
When Gum’s wife doesn’t join him, his dog usually does, but the weather was too hot for his wife and dog. Therefore, it was a solo outing.
He wrote: “The wind was reasonable, allowing me to fish wherever I wanted. The reservoir’s surface temperature was about a degree cooler than it was a week ago, measuring 82 at the east rip rap and 81 along the dam.
“I started plying the water willows at the south end of the riprap on the east side of the reservoir. I worked about a 150-yard stretch and caught eight largemouth bass and two freshwater drum. I caught one on a buzzbait, two on a Heddon Zara Spook, and the rest were caught on one of Dave Weroha’s customized Z-Man finesse baits affixed to a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. One of the largemouth bass was an 18-incher.
“Along this stretch of riprap, Weroha’s bait was snagged in about eight feet of water, and I popped my line a couple of times to free it. After I popped it, the snag started swimming off toward the main lake. The fish appeared to be in no hurry. I steadily back reeled for about minute before my jig came out.
“I fished a main-lake point, where I caught one on a 2 1/4-nch Rapala DT 10 crankbait. I then fished the south side of the creek channel that lies between the east rip rap and the power plant. Here I had two largemouth bass on consecutive casts with the crankbait. I then spent another five minutes working that area with a red-flake-green-pumpkin four-inch single-tail grub on an 1/8-ounce jig without garnering another strike.
“After that, I fished submerged farm-pond dam inside a major cove on the west side of the reservoir. I caught 10 largemouth bass on the grub, and one of them measured 20 ½ inches. These largemouth bass were either on top of the dam or along the inside curve of the dam in about four feet of water.
“From the farm pond dam, I crossed to the east side of the reservoir and fished a flat and shallow main-lake point that is graced with a series of massive boulders, where I caught one largemouth bass.
“The last spot I fished was a submerged bridge, which yielded only two freshwater drum.”
On July 9, Dave Weroha of Kansas City posted a report on the Finesse News Network about his piscatorial marathon during the four-day 4th of July weekend.
He made his first cast at 9:30 p.m. on July 3 at a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir, and he was afloat until 11 p.m. on July 4.
When he launched his boat, the wind was angling out of the south at 5 mph, and the surface temperature at the boat ramp was 82 degrees.
He wrote: “About 90 percent of this outing was spent trolling or strolling across structure with two customized Z-Man lures: a Finesse ShadZ and ToobZ, and as I trolled these baits, they were essentially being dragged across the bottom. I trolled these baits at 1 to 1.5 mph focusing on offshore lairs on the west side of the reservoir and a submerged roadbed that runs from the east shoreline and across the lake to the west shoreline. It is interesting to note that I did not catch any fish at night while trolling and dragging these baits on the offshore lairs. The fish that I caught were in eight or less feet of water and adjacent to a shoreline. I occasionally stopped trolling and made a few casts and when I found the largemouth bass in relatively shallow water. While casting and retrieving the customized Finesse ShadZ elicited strikes using a glide and shake motif.
“When daybreak arrived, they were biting very well in shallow water along the riprap of the dam. This lasted for about 30 minutes. When that bite petered out, I began trolling across and around the long points on the east side of the reservoir and north of the power plant. I trolled these points at about 2 to3 mph with a Lucky Craft Rick Clunn 2.5 DD crankbait, and I caught three largemouth bass. It needs to be noted that when I caught a largemouth bass from a particular area, I did not try to extract another fish from that area Rather than thoroughly dissect a lair after catching a fish, I opted instead to keep trolling and examining other points and offshore lairs in hopes of discovering a lair that no angler has located. In sum, this was an exploration outing rather than an attempt to catch vast numbers of largemouth bass, which can be seen by the fact that I caught only 19 largemouth bass, and the biggest one weighed four pounds, four ounces. And I also tangled with a 14 pounds, 10-ounce blue catfish.
“On July 5, my wife, my uncle and I fished a 6,930-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir.
“We caught a 19-inch walleye, one white bass, and 37 smallmouth bass. The largest smallmouth bass was a 16-incher. When launched at 11 a.m., the wind blew briskly from the southwest at 15mph, and it remained windy the entire outing. We fished until 4:30 p.m.
“The surface temperature was 77 degrees along the dam, and fished the dam and close proximity to it for the entire outing. The clarity ranged from four to six feet.
“Along the dam, we positioned the boat as shallow as four feet of water and as deep as 20 feet. The dam is more than a mile long, and we fished it twice by dragging and strolling a customized Z-Man ToobZ in a redbone hue and a customized Z-Man Hula StickZ in a watermelon-white hue. These baits were affixed to a white 3/32-ounce Gopher Jig. The fishing along the dam was lackluster: the ToobZ failed to garner a strike, and the Hula StickZ bewitched only seven smallmouth bass, and those were extracted from four to six feet of water. Two smallmouth bass were caught on a Heddon Zara Spook.
“We fished a flat on the south side of the reservoir. There is a small submerged creek channel crisscrossing this flat, and some smallmouth bass were foraging on gizzard shad on the surface, and my uncle caught five of these smallmouth bass on a white, tandem spinnerbait.
On July 6, my wife and I walked the banks at a 4,000-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoirs and a 5,090-acre power-plant reservoir. We fished an hour at each reservoir, and we caught only one flathead catfish, one freshwater drum, one crappie and one largemouth bass.
On July 7, I was afoot again, walking the riprap of the dam at 416-acre community reservoir. I fished from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and caught one largemouth bass and nine smallmouth bass. There were many pleasure boaters out, and they caused ranks of wakes to pummel the dam. The most production area was along the west end of the dam, and it wasn’t exposed to the pleasure boaters as the rest of the dam was. I used two baits: a customized combo of a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin-red ZinkerZ and green-pumpkin-red Finesse WormZ affixed to a red 3/32-ounce Gopher jig and a customized 2 ½-inch Z-Man pumpkin-and-chartreuse ZinkerZ and Finesse WormZ affixed to a chartreuse 3/32-ounce Gopher jig.
After Weroha’s report was distributed on the Finesse News Network, Gord Pyzer of Kenora. Ontario, wrote and asked the following questions: “You said that you spent 90 percent of the time trolling and dragging structure with two customized Z-Man lures: a Finesse ShadZ and ToobZ. I would like to know what size jig you used while trolling a 1.5 mph, which seems fast to me. Also how did you customize the baits?
Here’s Weroha’s response to Pyzer’s questions: “Good hearing from you. I agree that at 1.5 mph is a brisk pace. But I wanted to study structure more and catch fish. But at the same time I wanted to have lures in the water in case I could entice something to strike even at those speeds. I should’ve been trolling at about 0.5 mph if catching fish was my goal.
When I trolled with the customized Finesse ShadZ, I rigged it on a drop-shot rig with a ¾-ounce bullet slip sinker. The Finesse ShadZ was attached to a No. 2 Cultiva Finesse Twistlock hook.
When casting into water as deep as 10 or more feet, I use a 1/4-ounce Gopher Jig on a No.1 hook. The customized ShadZ and ToobZ are more buoyant than the traditional Finesse ShadZ. Therefore, I a jig with the smallest hook size possible.
I customized the Finesse ShadZ by using a FattyZ torso and a Finesse WormZ tail. At night, in the deeper and off-color water that I was fishing, I wanted to use bigger profile baits rather than the normal Midwest finesse style baits. The ToobZ is trimmed to be three inches long, and I used it on a drop-shot rig with a ¾-ounce bullet-shaped slip sinker and a Cultiva #2 Twistlock hook. I plan to throw the same customized lures but in lighter colors in your Canadian waters next week.
Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his river outing with a friend.
He wrote: “We scouted some new water in Oklahoma, today. We launched the canoe on the Illinois River about 15 miles upstream from Tenkiller Lake and near Chewey, Oklahoma.
“The low temperature was 72 degrees and the high temperature was 90 degrees. It was partly cloudy. The wind angled out of the east at 10 to 20 mph. Barometric pressure was 29.97 and rising.
“We paddled 1.5 miles upstream and floated back to the truck.
“The area we fished has lots of potential, but I fished too close to well-known community holes. The river is wider, shallower, and swifter than we expected. It has a good population of gizzard shad, suckers, and carp. The fishing was mediocre at best.
“We saw a lot of what I call meat fishermen with several bass on their stringers. I understand it is a way of life for some, but I think it is very important that these creek and small river anglers practice catch and release. That is because our creeks and rivers have a limited number smallmouth bass, and the population can be decimated rather easily. What’s more, the smallmouth bass in these waterways have an extremely slow growth rate. Therefore, it is important that all of the big smallmouth bass are carefully and quickly released.
“We had a few problems with the PJ’s jig and 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s Zinker becoming snagged in along the deep bedrock ledges. In fact, I got hung up on 12 consecutive casts. Also our hookup ratio declined from 90 percent to less than 70 percent. Maybe, the hook is too large in this situation and needs to be downsized to at least a 1/0.
“There was no dominant pattern or technique. In short, it was a mixed bag of presentations. But the cast-and-deadstick motif accounted for half the bites. Also we caught several fish around logjams and heavy current while we were quickly swimming the jig to make another cast.
“We also caught some fish by allowing the ZinkerZ rig to wash or flow downstream and to bump along the bottom. As the bait flowed downstream and past us, we kept a tight line, and this allowed it to move horizontally and like a pendulum in the current. It is similar to casting a spoon for river trout. As the ZinkerZ bounced along in the current, it mimicked the way a crayfish as it scoots and stops along the bottom. Our hookup ratio with this tactic was better than it was with our other presentations.
“What’s more, the flop cast was born on this outing. This is a short 180 degree cast. It’s basically a very lazy way to place a lure into the water. It is similar to the way a fly fisherman executes an upstream roll cast. I let out enough line so the ZinkerZ was even with the reel. Then I flop or roll the rod from downstream to upstream. Actually, it’s closer to doodle socking with a cane pole. The same cast can be achieved without a reel. Just flop or roll the rod over the top in a windmill fashion. I’ve seen crappie fisherman sitting on buckets utilizing this cast with a 12-foot cane pole. There’s a reason for this cast. We noticed bass swatting at the ZinkerZ as we reeled it back while were fishing in knee-deep runs. So we just flopped the lure back to a missed fish and bam that fish would engulf the ZinkerZ and hang on to it. It’s totally unorthodox, and I know that it sounds stupid, but it added six fish to my total of 16. My partner, by the way, didn’t utilize the flop cast.
“We fished four hours and scratched out only 30 fish, which equaled one fish per 15 minutes for me, and my colleague one fish every 17.1 minutes.
“Perhaps one reason why our catch rate was down stemmed from the fact that we had never fished this river. Therefore, we spent a lot of time trying to dissect it. Another reason was that it took us a while to determine the best presentation pattern.
“I know the trophy smallmouth bass are in there, but it is going to take several trips to figure out the best stretches of the river. Overall, I was pleased with the fishery but not the fishing pressure. The proximity to my house is about 45 minutes, and that is a plus as well. By football season, it will be a virtual ghost town and the bigger bass should be hungry. Therefore, look for more reports from east Oklahoma and the Illinois River above Tenkiller Lake.
“On these trips where I paddle upstream, it is an effort to distance myself from fishing pressure. Sometimes, they’re executed on the upstream side of a low-water dam that creates a large river pool with slack water. When it gets hot and the water levels drop and the current slows down, these man-made river pools are often the most fruitful areas to fish. Then when the Ozark reservoirs begin to turnover in the fall, the fishing at these waterways becomes trying, and I seek out the river pools in search of active fish that aren’t affected by turnover.
“We call these excursions, where we paddle upstream and drift back, ‘Lewis and Clark’ trips. This Lewis and Clark approach allows us to fish slowly and thoroughly, and it often yields big dividends.
“After Labor Day weekend, the crowds begin to diminish as summer gives way to fall. Most of the meat fishermen start making preparations for their hunting season, leaving the rivers and streams for their hunting clubs and forest lands. And the other summertime frolickers are out watching football games. As our creeks and rivers are vacated, Mother Nature once again reigns, and her trees exhibit the lush hues of autumn, and eventually the leaves fall as the ghostly hush of winter is in the offing. And this is by far is our best window of opportunity for catching giant smallmouth bass.”
Until this outing with my cousin Ricky Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, at a 100-acre reservoir that lies in the southwest suburbs of Kansas City, I had not fished since July 3.
This angling respite corresponded with the 4th of July weekend and another seven days of entertaining several of our children and grandchildren. During this spell, I did take our grandchildren fishing several times to a nearby 180-acre state reservoir, where they wielded a trimmed-down four-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin Finesse WormZ on either red 1/32- or 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. And they caught a potpourri of fish: bluegill, channel cat, crappie, green sunfish and largemouth bass. And except for occasionally helping them make an exact cast, I didn’t pick up a rod. Instead I merely manipulated the boat with the electric trolling motor and talked to them about where to cast and how to retrieve their jigworms. It was a delightful time, which again revealed the effectiveness of Midwest finesse baits and tactics. In short, it is a fabulous way to introduce young anglers to the joys of catching largemouth bass.
When my cousin and I launched the boat, the surface temperature was 81 degrees, and by the time we executed our last casts and retrieves, the surface temperature was 82 degrees. The water level was about six inches below normal. There was a minor algae bloom, and I could barely see the propeller of the transom-mounted trolling motor.
A mild-mannered wind angled out of the east and southeast at 5 to 10 mph, which allowed me to work with the transom-mounted trolling motor, and I prefer using it rather than bow-mounted one, but because the wind often howls across the plains and low-slung hills of Kansas, I am rarely able to use it. The morning low temperature was 66 degrees and the afternoon high temperature was 92 degrees. The normal low temperature for July 15 69 degrees, the normal high temperature is 89 degrees. The barometric pressure around 9 a.m. was 30.19 and falling. Initially the sky was cloudless, but around noon it became partly cloudy. The National Weather Service said there was a chance that scattered thunderstorms might erupt during the evening hours, which never materialized, but a few drops of rain fell around 9 p.m.
In-Fisherman’ s solunar calendar indicated that the best time to fish occurred at 4:19 a.m. to 6:19 a.m.
We fished from 9:30 a.m. to 1:38 p.m., and we made our first and last casts of this outing along the riprap of the dam, which was graced with significant patches of American water willows and coontail. We tangled with 26 of largemouth bass along the dam, and the bulk of these largemouth bass were associated with the coontail patches or the outside edges of the American water willow patches.
From the dam, we plied the patches of American water willows that embellished the spillway, and it yielded only two largemouth bass.
Our third spot was a series of massive offshore rock piles, a long ledge and a main-lake point on the east side of the reservoir. This 75-yard stretch produced only three largemouth bass.
The fourth spot was a main-lake point on the east side of the reservoir that was bordered by a thick wad of American water willows, and it yielded only one largemouth bass.
Our fifth stop was a massive field of coontail and a few skimpy patches of American water willows in the back half of a cove on the eastside of the reservoir. The coontail surrendered only two largemouth bass, and American water willows rendered two.
The sixth locale was a large main-lake hump on the west side of the reservoir. It was adorned with several patches of coontail, scores of boulders and a significant ledge. This lair relinquished one largemouth bass and one walleye; the walleye was our heftiest catch of the day.
Our seventh stop was a 200-yard stretch along the north side and east side of the upper third portion of the reservoir. It encompassed several secondary points, rock-laden shorelines, gravel flats that were enhanced with patches of coontail, rock and concrete retaining walls, a rock bridge, a dozen boat docks, several ledges and a submerged creek channel. To our amazement and chagrin, we fetched only five largemouth bass from the many lairs that stipple this massive area.
The eighth area was 120-foot section of a shoreline on the west side of the reservoir that was bordered a submerged creek channel and concrete and rock retaining walls, and we failed to garner a strike.
The ninth spot was a main-lake point and an adjacent shoreline, which was bedaubed with American water willows, coontail, boulders, a nearby creek channel and four boat docks. It yielded six largemouth bass.
Our tenth locale was a short stretch of shoreline line on the west side of the reservoir where a submerged creek channel coursed nearby. There were also five boat docks, several stone and concrete retaining walls, and some minor ledges. This area gave us three largemouth bass.
Besides the 51 largemouth bass and one walleye that we caught, we tangled with an untold number of crappie, green sunfish, bluegill and warmouth.
Our most effective baits were a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. We caught a few largemouth bass on a four-inch Z-Man’s Junebug Finesse WormZ, PB&J Finesse WormZ and purple-haze Finesse WormZ; all of these Finesse WormZs were affixed to a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
Most of the 51 largemouth bass that we caught were associated with American water willows or coontail. The bulk of the bass that were abiding around the American water willows engulfed our baits on the initial drop. The bass that inhabited the patches of coontail preferred a Finesse WormZ that was retrieved with the swim-glide-and-shake motif. It was easier to swim, glide and shake the 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and Finesse Shad over the coontail than it was the 1/16-ounce combo. The bass that were not associated with the patches of American water willows and coontail were enticed by a drag-and-deadstick retrieve.
When I fished this reservoir of on June 14 and June 27, I was impressed with the size of the largemouth bass. But on this outing, the bulk of the bass were small.
Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, fished the same 100-acre reservoir in the southwest suburbs of Kansas City that Ricky Hebenstreit and I fished.
Claudell fished from 5:20 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing time occurred from 4:43 p.m. to 6:43 p.m.
One of his spinning rods sported a shortened four-inch Z-Man’s Junebug Finesse WormZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. His second rod was dressed with a 2 ½-inch Z-Man California craw ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig.
He fished many of the same locales that we fished, which adversely affected the number of bass that could entice. He caught 17 largemouth bass and more bluegill and green sunfish than he could keep track off. By the way, the bluegill were spawning, and the males were dressed in their most attractive spawning hues.
Bob Gum and Dave Weroha, both of Kansas City, spent six days fishing Irene Lake and Doan Lake in Ontario, Canada, and they reported on the Finesse News Network that they caught scores of smallmouth bass, walleye, lake trout and northern pike by using finesse and power lures. A significant amount of their endeavors were spent probing offshore lairs, and for two shallow-water anglers from northeastern Kansas, they found it to be an exhilarating experience fishing in 12 to 30 feet of water and tangling with hefty specimens on these offshore locales.
Weroha estimated that they caught about 400 smallmouth bass, and he filed what he called a “Cliff’s Notes” edition on the Finesse News Network, describing how they caught those smallmouth bass, as well as the lake trout, northern pike, and walleye
He said: “Bob Gum employed a lot of finesse tactics with grubs, such as a pearl Kalin grub on a white 1/4-ounce Gopher jig and blue-and-white Kalin grub on a white 1/4-ounce Gopher jig, as well as a pumpkin and a Junebug Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits’ Double Tail Hula Grub on a black 1/18-ounce Gopher jig. He also wielded a white 1/4-ounce Gopher jig affixed to a Z-Man’s MinnowZ in an Opening Night hue. His most effective retrieve with these three baits was the hop-and-dead-stick retrieves. When he wasn’t using Midwest finesse tactics, he worked with some topwater baits and jerkbaits.
“I used a lot of finesse lures as well: a customized Z-Man’s orange-pumpkin ZinkerZ on a red 1/4-ounce Gopher jig and a customized Z-Man’s pearl ToobZ on a white 1/4-ounced Gopher jig. I employed the drag and deadstick retrieve with both of these lures, and nearly all larger smallmouth bass were allured by the finesse lures at a higher frequency than the power lures. I suspect the larger smallmouth were more bottom oriented, and the finesse baits were retrieved on the bottom, while power baits were retrieved on or near the surface.
It is interesting to note that the pearl or green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ was ineffective for me.
“It seemed that the length of the lure really mattered at these lakes. They exhibited a preference for 2 1/2- to three-inch baits versus four-inch and larger ones. The rest of my lures were spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, and topwater baits.
“There were some coves that had only small sized smallmouth, and they were biting at a rate that easily could have eclipsed nine smallmouth bass per hour, but we were on the prowl for larger smallmouth so we did not stay at those locations long. Certain deep structure locales housed only northern pike or walleye, and Bob has an affinity for walleye fishing so we stayed at those spots for extended periods of time.
We did not try Z-Man’s Hula StickZ because the 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ did not fare well, and since their profiles are similar, we did not use it. The fish at this lake favored a profile that had tentacles, like a ToobZ or the Gary Yamamoto Hula Grub. I suspect this preference stems from them feeding off of crawfish along the rocks.
“The strike rate around shallow-water lairs was sporadic, and at several shallow-water locales, it was poor, which prompted us to move offshore to catch them. Between the shallow and deep lairs it was literally two completely different stories.
“One final note: Even though the water visibility was extremely clear, exhibiting 20 feet of visibility, I used 15-pound-test Spiderwire Stealth braid line in a moss-green hue without a leader the entire time without any issues of getting strikes, and the northern pike didn’t cut the braid. I was trying to determine if Bob had a noticeably higher strike rate because he used monofilament, but I estimate he lost 15 to 20 lures from the northern pike cutting the line.
Gum added a footnote to Weroha’s report:
He wrote: I might add that during our last few days I basically had three rods rigged up. One was rigged with a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig that was dressed with 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ, and I used the following colors of the ZinkerZ: pearl, coppertruce, Junebug, and PB&J. The second rod sported a 1/8-ounce jig and a four-inch Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits’ Double Tail Hula Grub in either dark blue or pumpkin with red flakes. My third rod was rigged with a ¼-ounce jig and a three-inch Kalin Triple Threat Grub in the blue-silver hue.
“The best area we stumbled upon could be best described as a two tiered flat on Doan Lake. It was 15 to 25 feet deep, and it was bisected by a 50-yard ridge or reef that covered with rocky rubble. In the middle of the lake, this ridge plunged into 35 feet of water. You could literally anchor at the end of the ridge and catch fish all day long. We caught smallmouth bass, northern pike and all of our lake trout there. There are no walleyes in Doan. When the bite was strong here the smallmouths would bunch up like white bass a bust through baitfish on top. When Dave had a strike on a topwater bait, I would simple throw my ZinkerZ behind his bait and would always get a hookup.
“On this Canadian trip, I had a first multispecies conversion: It occurred when I was battling a northern pike fought for a minute and lost him. And as the lure left its jaws, I immediately had another strike, and it was a smallmouth bass, which I landed.
“At Irene Lake, the water clarity on the main body ranged from 12 to 15 feet. At Doan, the water exhibited a tea-stained hue and about seven-feet of visibility. ”
The largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing at a 416-acre community reservoir was so disheartening that I am lost for words to describe. What’s more, I crossed paths with a pair of extremely talented Midwest finesse anglers who experienced a similar fate at a 195-acre community reservoir.
The National Weather Service at Lawrence, Kansas, reported that the morning low temperature was 70 degrees, and the afternoon high temperature hit 97 degrees. The wind was light and variable. Barometric pressure when I was afloat was 30.32 and falling. The water was surprisingly clear; it is usually besmeared with a heavy algae bloom in July. The water level looked to be about 2 1/2 feet below normal. The surface temperature was 86 degrees.
In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar stated that the best fishing time occurred 5:59 a.m. to 7:59 a.m. I fished from 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., and caught only four smallmouth bass, one largemouth bass, one channel catfish and one freshwater drum. There was no location or presentation to describe; in essence, I didn’t catch these fish; they caught me. It was a dispiriting two hours.
Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, filed this report about his July 20 outing.
I caught a nice specimen that was kind enough to take my 2 1/4-inch Rapala DT 10 crankbait off of a stump for me. I was hung and felt something hit the bait while it was hung but this was not quite what I was expecting. Initially he had the entire bait up to the lip of the lure in his mouth, but as I was bringing him in he swatted it out of his mouth some how with his foot and became hooked on his foot. We have to use braid to fish this snaggy lake; so that is the only way I got him up while he was snapping and clawing on the line. Just as I was ready to cut him free, the crankbait came out and he glided back to the depths. I do know that anywhere I see these turtles there is usually some good bass cover around. If I can hit that stump again on purpose, maybe I get a different species.
When a snapping turtle is the highlight of your trip, you know you are in trouble. Our lakes are full and the bass are scattered.
Our only success is fishing shallow channel breaks in the upper fifth of the lake. Deeper channels seem to be devoid of bass. And bank or shoreline fishing has been fruitless. Soft plastics that were Texas rigged and the Rapala DT10 accounted for 29 largemouth bass on this outing.
Besides the Rapala crankbait, we caught some largemouth bass on a Strike King Lure Company’s Rage Tail Craw in the Falcon Lake hue, Missle Baits’ black-neon Tomahawk 8 3/4-inch worm, pumpkin Zoom Bait Company’s pumpkin Speed Worm, and Zoom’s pumpkin-chartreuse Speed Craw.
We had only one strike with a Midwest finesse rig.
We fished from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. Of course our best catch was during the prime moon time midday.
We have a trip scheduled next week with the North Carolina master at deep-water structure fishing, and I am betting old Abe Abernathy will help get us on track.
My wife, Patty, and I made a quick and rare evening outing to a 180-acre state reservoir, where the surface temperature was 85 degrees. The water level was a few inches above normal. The water clarity was virtually crystalline for a flatland reservoir in northeaster Kansas. It most bountiful aquatic vegetation is bushy pondweed, and it surrounds and borders patches of American water willows, potamogeton and coontail.
The weather was splendid. The low temperature was 71 degrees, and the high temperature was 89 degrees. Overhead the sky was blue and sunny, but the northern horizon was cluttered cumulonimbus clouds. The barometric pressure around 6 p.m. was 29.84 and falling. The wind was mild-mannered, angling from the south and southeast at 6 mph, and by 7 p.m., it was virtually calm.
In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing time occurred from 10:07 p.m. to 12:07 a.m. We fished from 6:15 p.m. to 7:35 p.m.
Our mission was to christen Z-Man’s LeechZ in northeastern Kansas, and to see how long it took to catch 30 largemouth bass on it. Therefore, two of our spinning rods sported a green-pumpkin LeechZ affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a dark-melon-red LeechZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher. One of our spinning rods also sported a prototype of a three-inch Z-Man grub in what they call a smoke hologram formula , and a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ and 1/32-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig was affixed another spinning rod. Patty caught the first largemouth bass on the green-pumpkin LeechZ at 6:22 p.m., and she caught largemouth bass No. 30 on the green-pumpkin LeechZ at 7:25 p.m. Besides those 30 largemouth bass, we caught three on the prototype grub and one on the Finesse ShadZ. The LeechZ also inveigled six green-sunfish and two bluegill. Thirty-two of the largemouth bass were caught along the outside edges of the bushy pondweed. Two of the bass were caught on the riprap around the dam’s outlet. One largemouth was caught in two feet of water, and the bulk of them were caught in six to 10 feet of water. Patty primarily employed a drag-and-deadstick retrieve, while I worked with a swim-glide-and-shake motif, and the shakes were slight and infrequent.
Straightaway, Patty and I were impressed with the effectiveness and durability of the LeechZ. It is an easy finesse bait to fish. And when we take our two of our granddaughters and their parents to Minnesota later in the week, we suspect these girls and their parents will spend a lot of time trying to catch largemouth and smallmouth bass with the LeechZ affixed to either a 1/32- or 1/16-ounce Gopher Jig.
Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, reported about his July 21 outing with a friend to a 120-acre community reservoir that lies in the northern suburbs of Kansas City.
He wrote: ” Well, the finesse baits are working again.
Bruce Janssen of Kansas City and I tried some night fishing and we got out at 7:45 p.m. I went over to the main-lake point across from the marina and caught nine straight largemouth bass on the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s California Craw Zinker Z. All were under 12 inches, but they were plump. They obviously were feeding.
I kept asking Bruce if he wanted to use one of the baits, but he wanted to use his stuff (which wasn’t working). Finally, he gave in and caught a largemouth bass on his first cast with the Zinker Z.
We caught 22 more largemoth bass before it turned dark. Then we went to the bigger stuff — a black spinnerbait, a black and blue jig and pig and a black 10-inch plastic worm.
It started off well. I caught two keepers (one of them about 3 pounds) on the spinnerbait down by the tubes. But then it just shut off. We caught a few more little fish but the big ones we were after just wouldn’t bite
Very disappointing. I used to catch some big bass at night here. But not this time.
Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, reported on the Finesse Network about his solo outing at a 28-acre community reservoir in the southwest corner of Kansas City’s exurbia region, and he had not fished it for at least five years.
He said: “It is limited to only trolling motors. The water was clear. About a third the reservoir is stippled with flooded timber. In addition, it was glutted with submergent aquatic vegetation along its shorelines, as several offshore islands of vegetation. The vegetation made it difficult to locate the largemouth bass. I suspected that many of them were virtually buried inside the patches. The lower third of the reservoir in the vicinity of the dam was the most fruitful. The best lure was the 1/32 oz jig, ( to skim the tops of the milfoil) with A 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s California Craw ZinkerZ on a 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, which I retrieved across the top of the vegetation, allured the bulk of the 19 largemouth bass I caught. The best bass was a 16-incher that engulfed at NetBait’s Paca Craw affixed to a No. 2 offset hook and weighted with a 1/16-ounce slip sinker, and I caught it along the dam late in the day. I fished from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.”
On July 15 my cousin Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, fished a 100-acre reservoir in the southwest suburbs of Kansas City, and we worked hard from 9:30 a.m. to 1:38 p.m. to catch 51 largemouth bass and one walleye. During our July 22, we fished a 160-acre state reservoir that lies about 20 miles north of that 100-acre community reservoir, and we worked harder than we did on our July 15 outing, but to our dismay, we caught 33 fewer largemouth bass than we did on July 15.
The largemouth bass fishing at several of the small reservoir flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas has become vexing during the past 50 days. For instance, I crossed paths on July 17 with a pair of extremely talented Midwest finesse anglers at a 195-acre community reservoir. While I was getting ready to launch my boat, they were plying a nearby point. As they fished, we talked. They said the largemouth bass fishing was as awful as it had been for weeks on end. They had caught only 11 largemouth bass during the first three hours that they had been afloat. The three of us talked about how the largemouth bass fishing turned sorry sometime after May 6, which was when I caught 125 largemouth bass in three hours and 40 minutes. After talking to this pair of anglers, I decided to fish a 416-acre reservoir that lies about 20 miles to the west. And to my dismay, the fishing was so sorry that I fished for less than two hours and inveigled only four smallmouth bass, one largemouth bass, one channel catfish and one freshwater drum. While I was afloat at this reservoir, I spent 10 minutes talking to a walleye angler who was puzzled by his inabilities to locate and catch a walleye or even a bluegill or a channel catfish or a freshwater drum. The fishing was so sorry that I didn’t write a log about it because there was nothing to write.
On our July 22 outing, my cousin Rick and I wanted to test Z-Man’s new Scented LeechZ, which bewitched 30 largemouth bass for my wife, Patty, and me in one hour and 10 minutes on July 21.
Because he is a master at wielding three- and four-inch grubs, and we wanted him examine and work with Z-Man’s three-inch grub, which is in a prototype and field-testing stage. The color of the grub is a smoke hologram formula.
The fishing, however, was so sorry that it was impossible for us thoroughly test the Scented LeechZ. In short, we spent most of the time using the prototype grub, and retrieving it across and around a vast stretches of flats that were embellished with lush patches of bushy pondweed and coontail. We were searching these massive patches of aquatic vegetation in hopes of locating one or two significant concentrations of largemouth bass. Once we found them, we wanted to work them over with the Scented LeechZ. A grub is the fastest tools that Midwest finesse anglers have for quickly probing large areas of submerged vegetation.
Traditionally significant numbers of largemouth bass can be caught around these patches on bushy pondweed and coontail during the summer –especially in August and September. In our eyes, the Scented LeechZ looks as if it will be a dandy lure to use around these patches of bushy pondweed and coontail, but Rick and I never found a significant concentration of largemouth bass to present it to. Instead, the 18 largemouth bass that we caught were scattered far and wide from each other. It was one of those outings where there was no location pattern and presentation pattern
We caught six largemouth bass on the prototype grub affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, six on a shortened four-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin Finesse WormZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, two on a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig , two on a dark-melon-red Scented LeechZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, one on Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and one on a four-inch Z-Man’s Junebug Finesse WormZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The color of the prototype grub looks like Z-Man’s bluegill hue, but we are not sure about that.
By the time Rick and I made our last casts and retrieves, we were totally bewildered about what was transpiring with the largemouth bass in this reservoir, where the surface temperature was 85 degrees. The water level looked to be about seven feet below normal. The water clarity was clear enough that we could see the propeller of the transom-mounted trolling motor.
The National Weather Service in Lawrence, Kansas, reported that the morning low temperature was 67 degrees and the afternoon high temperature was 96 degrees. The wind angled out of the south at 9 mph. At times it was sunny and at other times it was partly cloudy. When we began fishing, the barometric pressure was 29.82 and rising.
In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times occurred from 10:34 a.m. to 12:34 p.m., which we fished, and for the four hours that we fished, we caught only four and quarter largemouth bass an hour. Throughout the calendar year, we catch an average of nearly 10 largemouth bass an hour.
As we were preparing to put the boat on the trailer, I told Rick that the outing prepared me for the days that lie immediately ahead at a 415-acre Minnesota lake, where we and several of our children and grandchildren fish and frolic during the last week of July and first week in August. And it is always a chore for us to catch four largemouth and smallmouth bass an hour at that beautiful Northwoods lake.
Pok-Chi Lau of Lawrence, Kansas, and I fished a 11,600-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and it was horrible. It was worse than my July 17 outing, which I didn’t describe in a lengthy blog.
We caught only five largemouth bass. All of them were hefty. In fact, one looked to be in the four- to five-pound range. But I would rather catch 50 dinks than one five-pounder or even five five-pounders. The bluegill and green sunfish were even reluctant to be allured by our finesse offerings.
One largemouth bass was caught on a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ZinkerZ and red 1/16-ounce Gopher, two were caught on a 3 1/2-inch Z-Man’s PB&J Finesse WormZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher, and two were caught on a shortened four-inch Z-Man’s Junebug Finesse WormZ on a unpainted 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
Two of the largemouth bass were caught on the riprap of the dam. One was caught suspended around a concrete bridge pillar, which was the biggest. One was caught on a riprap point. And one was caught along a main-lake rocky shoreline. The big largemouth bass still had significant spawning scars, and they were bloody, but it wasn’t lame, and, in fact, it battled vigorously and for a long spell.
The water clarity was relatively good for a big flatland reservoir in northeastern Kansas. The lake level was dropping at 1,000 cubic feet per second, and it looked to be 13 inches above normal. The surface temperature was 82 degrees. It was cloudy and even drizzled for a spell, and then it was sun. The morning low temperature was 68 degrees, and the afternoon high temperature was 88 degrees. The wind was out of the north at 14 mph and then the east at 7 mph. Barometric pressure was 29.90 and rising. In-Fisherman’s solunar table indicated that the best fishing occurred from 12:31 p.m. to 2:31 p.m., and we fished during that time frame.
Three of my past four outings have been trying indeed, catching only 62 largemouth bass in 13 hours of hard fishing. This was my final Kansas for July.
Largemouth bass anglers across northeastern Kansas endured some trying outings in July, and Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his vexing six hours at a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir. Traditionally we fished this reservior from around Thanksgiving to Memorial Day. But this year Bob Gum, Dave Weroha and Terry Claudell have been testing it in the summer, and it has not yielded very many largemouth bass per hour for them. They have used Midwest finesse tactics as well as some modified or tone-downed power methods. For more infomation about fishing this power-plant reservoir, see Gum’s report on July 3 and Weroha’s July3-7 report, which follows Gum’s report.
The National Weather Service at Olathe, Kansas, recorded the morning low temperature at 67 degrees and the afternoon high temperarture reached 87 degrees. Intially the sky was partly cloudy and then became cloudless. The wind angled out of the northeast at 9 mph, east at 6 mph, and northwest 6 mph. The baromentric pressure was 30.01 and rising.
In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times occurred from1:29 p.m. to 3:29 p.m., which Claudell missed.
The surface temperature was 85 degrees. The water level was about two feet below normal. The water clarity was stained.
He wrote: “We fished from 7:30a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with a 45 min lunch break.
“The bite was sparse to say the least. At some spots, we did not get a bite, and other locales yield one or two. For example, the entire dam only gave up only drum. The point by the hot-water outflow gave us the most fish and that occurred during our last hour of fishing.
As we approached that point around noon, the wind came up out of the north, which pushed the current of the outflow around that point, and the largemouth bass were milling about in that current. If we hadn’t fished that point, it would have been an extremely unfruitful outing.
Most of the bass were longer than 15 inches, several were in the 18- to 19-inch range, and one was a 20-incher. The big one was caught on a topwater lure, four largemouth bass were caught on a crankbait, and the rest were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Califorina craw ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
One note that struck me was the amount of the gizzard shad hatch. All along the two bluffs on the west side of the reservoir and for hundreds of yards along the massive flat south of the marina, there were gads of tiny shad coursing around near the surface and just below it. These shad were about three-quarters of an inch long. It was the biggest display of baitfish I have ever seen. It was a spectacular sight. It is no wonder this reservoir produces the biggest largemouth bass in Kansas: the food chain is unbelievable, and the long growing season to boot.
Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri filed the following report about his outing at a 120-acre community reservoir in the northern suburbs of Kansas City.
He wrote; “Very frustrating evening. My daughter, a friend and I competed in that numbers (12 inches and under) tournament last night, and it was trying to say the least.
We started off on a main-lake point and my daughter and I caught five largemouth bass on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Dirt-hue ZinkerZ. I thought we were on our way to a good night. Wrong. From that point, we struggled. By the time I talked my friend into using a ZinkerZ, the bite inexplicably got tough. We did have one flurry near sunset, but that was about it.
We had a lot of hits, bit they were short hits. For some reason, the bass weren’t aggressive.
We ended up with only 18 bass in three hours. The winning team had 24, which isn’t great either. The guys on that team said they struggled too, but found one spot on the dam that produced half of their fish.
Oh, well, that’s fishin’.
For some unknown reason, the largemouth bass and smallmouth bass fishing at the flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas were extremely trying even for ardent and talented Midwest anglers. For instance, Clyde Holscher, who is a multispecies guide and veteran Midwest finesse angler from Topeka, Kansas, said he ventured to a 11,600-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir on the last day of July “in hopes of entertaining my neighbor’s six-year-old grandson on his birthday. Thank goodness he loved driving the boat.”
Our most fruitful waterway was the 100-acre community reservoir that lies in the southwestern suburbs of Kansas City, and Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas posted a brief about his July 28 outing at this small reservoir.
He fished from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., and In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing hours occurred from 4:12 p.m, to 6:12 p.m.
He noted that the surface temperature was 79 degrees. The water level was slightly below normal. There was an algae bloom, which reduced the visibility to about 18 inches.
The weather was delightful and unseasonably cool. Area thermometers hovered in the mid-70s.
In addition to Claudell, there were seven other boats of anglers afloat, as well as a dozen pontoon boats meandering around this small impoundment.
Despite all of this activity and angling pressure, Claudell inveigled 35 largemouth bass and scores of bluegill, green sunfish and warmouth by wielding a shortened Z-Man’s four-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. Most of these fish were extracted from patches of submerged coontail and areas that were not embellished with coontail were virtually fruitless.
(1) On Aug. 7, Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his July endeavors with the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man ZinkerZ affixed to a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
He wrote: “I believe I had relayed to you the fact that I finally got around to buying all the ‘right stuff’ for fishing your little Z-Man ZinkerZ rig. After doing so, I have basically spent the past month fishing the ZinkerZ and Gopher jig combo almost exclusively so that I could examine its effectiveness on my local waters, as well as to develop a mastery of the various retrieves utilized with the bait as you’ve documented. This endeavor began on June 29 and ran through August 4.
“Here’s a quick rundown of the stats I kept for that period to evaluate effectiveness:
“I made a total of 20 trips during that five-week span, fishing from either 2:00 p.m. to 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., depending if it was a weekday or weekend ouiting. The shortest was 45 minutes, and the longest was five hours. The average trip length was two hours and 28 minutes. During those trips, which encompassed 49 hours and 45 minutes of fishing, I caught 623 largemouth bass, which is an average of 12.6 bass per hour. The largest bass weighed in the upper three-pound range.
“Needless to say, I have been very impressed with the productivity of the little combo on my waters, especially after racking up over 500 of those bass in the month of July alone, which is traditionally one of the tougher fish catching months in this area due to heat, lack of precipitation, high water temperatures and algae blooms.
“About 85 percent of the largemouth bass have come on the ZinkerZ/Gopher combo, five percent on finesse crankbaits, and 10 percent on power baits. To date, I have randomly used six different colors of ZinkerZ: California Craw, green pumpkin orange, purple haze, Junebug, PB&J, and watermelon chartreuse laminate. I have used three different colors of Gopher Tackle’s 1/16-ounce jigs: black, chartreuse, and florescent red. These have been fished on a seven-foot, medium-light-action rod with a six-pound-test fluorocarbon leader attached to four-pound-test braided line. As of yet, I have seen no preference by the bass as to color and catch rate, with the possible exception of the watermelon-chartreuse laminate, which was slightly less productive, but in fairness, I have only tried that color once.
“I plan on keeping this bait and setup in the arsenal at all times as I move into fall and winter, and look forward to comparing its productiveness to my beloved hair jigs later this year. I also plan on keeping the fishing log going again. As we wrote at the end of 2011, I landed just over 2300 bass that year without the assistance of the little rig. Based on this data, I now believe that yearly total could easily be bested with the new addition.
“I keep you posted of further developments.”
(2) For a few details about our family’s Midwest finesse endeavors in Minnesota, read this blog:http://www.in-fisherman.com/2013/08/08/family-finesse-fishing-and-more/
Photographs of two young Midwest finesse anglers
Here five photographs of a few of the fish two of our grandsons from San Antonio, Texas, caught with Midwest finesse tactics at a 180-acre state reservoir in northeastern Kansas during the second week of July.