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Midwest Finesse Fishing: March 2014

by Ned Kehde   |  April 1st, 2014 0

 

 

Winter confounded many Midwest finesse anglers throughout much of March. 

For instance, Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, filed a disheartening report to the Finesse News Network on March 4 about the state of the ice at a 126-acre community reservoir in the northern suburbs of Kansas City, and to describe his consternation about the longevity of this winter, he borrowed a descriptive phrase from William Shakespeare’s Richard III, Frazee described the winter of 2013-14 as “the winter of our discontent.” 

The dregs of winter stopped haunting Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, and Rick Allen of Dallas on March 9, when they caught 25 largemouth bass in 6 ½ hours of fishing, which is a wintertime bonanza in north-central Texas. Then on March 11, Reideler surpassed that bonanza by tangling with 40 largemouth bass in 4 ½ hours of fishing. Then on March 21 Reideler and a friend enjoyed a colossal early springtime catch of 114 largemouth bass. 

Throughout the late fall and most of the winter, Reideler and Allen endure some of the most trying largemouth bass fishing that we have recorded on the Finesse News Network. Many FNN members were puzzled by what was transpiring with Reideler and Allen’s Midwest finesse tactics. Therefore, we asked Reideler to contact Ralph Manns of Rowlett, Texas, in hopes that he could give another perspective to measure the effectiveness of Midwest finesse methods in north-central Texas.

Manns is a fish biologist, longtime In-Fisherman field editor, and ardent largemouth bass angler, who knows a lot about the state of largemouth bass fishing in north-central Texas. Reideler found it interesting that Manns looked at and spoke of the state of a fishery through the eyes of a fisheries biologist and not just from an angler’s perspective.

Manns told Reideler that many, if not most, Texas anglers want to catch “quality-size largemouth bass.” Therefore, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s fisheries biologists focus their attentions on cultivating reservoirs that are inhabited by 2 ½- pound and bigger largemouth bass, rather than the vast numbers of largemouth and smallmouth bass that Midwest finesse anglers catch in northeastern Kansas, northwestern Missouri, central Minnesota, central Indiana, and southwestern Ontario. 

According to Manns, a fisheries biologist would consider a reservoir or pond to be properly managed if for every 100 largemouth bass that a serious bass angler catches, 33 of them would weigh more than three pounds. But several Finesse News Network contributors, who aim to catch at least nine largemouth bass or smallmouth bass an hour and hope to tangle with 25 of them an hour, have responded to this management philosophy by noting that it takes a Texas angler an incredible number of hours to catch 100 largemouth bass. Manns responded to the Finesse News Network contributors’ contention by saying that it does take anglers in north-central Texas a lot of hours to catch 100 largemouth bass, and that is because these reservoirs are not out of biological balance, and catches of 100 largemouth bass in four hours usually reveals that a reservoir is either out of balance or it is a new reservoir that is endowed with “a super amount of nutrients,” such as was Toledo Bend Reservoir in 1970. (For more insights to Manns’ perspectives about largemouth bass management, see the endnotes at the end of this month’s guide to Midwest finesse fishing.) 

As a largemouth bass angler, Manns’ spends most of his outings fishing a 21,671-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s flatland reservoir, which was impounded in 1968. He possesses the same hankerings that most Texas anglers possess, which is to tangle with quality-size largemouth bass rather than vast numbers of small ones, which he describes as barely adult-size, and his catch rate reflects this. For example, on his outings from the first days of spring to the last days of fall, he estimates that he tangles with two to four 15-inch or longer largemouth bass, as well as a few 12- to 14-inchers during three to five hours of intense angling. He likes to catch them by wielding crankbaits, topwater baits, five-inch soft-plastic worms rigged Texas-style with a slip sinker, and 1/8-ounce jigs dressed with a short rubber skirt and a NetBait’s Tiny Paca Chunk. But he admits that he is a versatile angler, and, therefore, he will employ any tactic that will allure a quality-size bass. 

Manns also noted that he had not caught a single largemouth bass from mid-December of 2013 through the first of March. He described it as “his worst winter ever.” According to Manns, the largemouth bass in the waterways of north-central Texas rarely eat during the cold-water months, and therefore, they are virtually impossible to catch. But around March15, his catch rate began to improve, and since then he has caught one five-pound largemouth bass, three four-pounders and seven 12- to 17-inch largemouth bass in 15 hours of fishing, and the bulk of these largemouth bass were allured by either a thin-skirted Z-Man’s ChatterBait or a small Gary Yamamoto Bait Company’s Senko. 

Thus, when we measure the yields that Reideler and Allen’s Midwest finesse tactics garnered compared to those of Manns’, we realize that their efforts — though paltry in some Midwest finesse anglers’ eyes– were and are amazingly fruitful and rewarding. 

Around the time that Allen and Reideler began to catch impressive numbers of largemouth bass by north-central Texas standards, the ice began to melt on the flatland reservoirs across northeastern Kansas, and by March 11, 95 percent of the ice had melted off of a 416-acre community reservoir, and Steve Desch of Topeka, Kansas, and I were afloat on a non-power-plant reservoir for the first time in 2014. Then by March 21, some sun-drenched patches of daffodils and a few Magnolias were blooming, and there were a few outings when we caught significant numbers of largemouth bass, as well as rainbow trout that we caught while bass fishing with Midwest finesse tactics. But by the morning of March 23, a quarter to a half of an inch of snow covered the daffodils and Magnolias around Lawrence, Kansas, and the National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 15 degrees. Northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri were hit by more snow and unseasonably cold temperatures on March 24. 

Traditionally, March can be a windy time, and this time around, Midwest finesse anglers from Texas to northeastern Kansas regularly carped about Mother Nature’s windy ways. In fact, it blew so furiously on March 21 that it virtually blew John Reese of Lawrence, Kansas, and me out of the boat while we were attempting to fish a relatively wind-sheltered shoreline. Then on March 26 and 27, some wind gauges in Kansas and Missouri registered gusts at 50 mph. Steve Reideler noted in his many March contributions to the Finesse News Network that wind whaled incessantly in north-central Texas. What’s more, Stacey King of Reeds Spring, Missouri, reported that he and his fellow anglers at the FLW Walmart Tour tournament at Sam Rayburn on March 27 and 28 were hammered by wind and waves. The last two days of March were the windiest of them all in northeastern Kansas; we were smacked with never-ending gusts of 30 to 40 mph. 

Despite all of the dreadful weather that Mother Nature tossed our way, I managed to get afloat 10 times, and five of them were solo outings. Those endeavors encompassed 35 ½-hours of fishing. My partners and I caught 337 largemouth bass, and we also tangled with 81 rainbow trout and one smallmouth bass. Our hourly catch rate was 9.4 largemouth bass per hour.

In addition to the logs that describe those 10 outings, this month’s guide to Midwest finesse fishing includes logs and insights from Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas; Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas; Bob Gum of Kansas City; Burton Bosley of Sutton, West Virginia; Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri; Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana; Rick Allen of Dallas, Texas; and Clyde Holscher of Topeka, Kansas. Reideler also contributed a major helping hand with the editing of the 29, 839 words that appear in this month’s guide. The two best outings occurred on Mar. 21, when Steve Reideler and Mark Woolnough of Birmingham, Alabama, caught 114 largemouth bass, and on Mar. 28 , when Brent Frazee and I caught 101.

March 1 log 

Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed the following report about his March 1 bank-walking endeavors at three small community reservoirs where the largemouth bass fishing is extremely difficult. Of all of the regular contributors to the Finesse News Network, Reideler is saddled with having to fish some of the sorriest reservoirs in the nation. His trials and travails can teach us a lot. 

He wrote: “For the past several days, Mother Nature has graced north-central Texas with a spell of beautiful spring-like conditions. Daytime high temperatures reached into the low 80s. Normally this time of year, the average daytime high temperature is 63 degrees and the average low temperature is 40 degrees. Unfortunately, local weather forecasts predict a major cold front will plow across the north-central Texas plains overnight, ushering in freezing rain and forcing daytime temperatures to plummet 60 degrees. 

“I decided to take advantage of the advancing cold front and conducted a bank-walking excursion to three troublesome ponds in Carrollton, Texas, and another difficult one on the southern fringe of Lewisville. 

“The day began sunny and clear, but by mid-afternoon, tenebrous clouds covered the skies. The National Weather Service recorded the high temperature at 83 degrees and the low was 47 degrees. An irksome wind quartered out of the south-by-southeast at 15 to 20 mph. The barometric pressure measured 29.91. 

“In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar predicted the best fishing time occurred between 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. I fished from 12:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. 

“On this outing, I thought I would try something different. I chose to keep things simple and I used only four baits: Rebel Lures’ 1 1/2-inch Teeny Wee Crawfish in the fire tiger hue; four-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ rigged wacky style on a 1/8-ounce drop-shot rig; customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug FattyZ tube threaded on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; and customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin FattyZ tube rigged on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. I wielded the drop-shot rig and Rebel crankbait 95% of the day. 

“The first three ponds I fished are located in the northwestern Dallas suburb of Carrollton. 

“The first of these three ponds is about 20-acres in size, and has a large mud flat that spans the northern end of the pond. Two large mud points extend from its eastern shoreline. A smooth concrete dam forms the pond’s southern border, and a steep mud and gravel bank enhances the western shore. Small patches of brown hydrilla are dispersed throughout the pond. 

“The water was stained with one and a half feet of visibility, and the water level appeared normal. I was unable to measure water temperatures. 

“I combed the two mud points on the east side, the concrete dam that forms the southern bank, and the steep mud and gravel banks on the west side of the pond with the Rebel Teeny Wee Crawfish crankbait and the drop-shot rigged Finesse WormZ. I employed two different techniques with the Rebel crankbait: a slow-pull-and-deadstick motif, and a slow steady retrieve, which allowed it to occasionally ricochet off the bottom and various underwater obstructions. I had hoped the slow, steady ricocheting presentation would create a few reaction-type strikes, but it quickly became apparent that the bass wanted nothing to do with the crankbait. I also used the drop-shot rigged Finesse WormZ in the same locations as the crankbait, applying a slow drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve. This pond has not surrendered a bass to me since October 5, 2013, and it continued to taunt me again today. 

“The second Carrollton pond I visited is adjacent to the first pond and is much smaller in size. This pond is about 40 yards long and 25 yards wide. Its shorelines are cluttered with scattered stands of cattails and several willow trees. Its east side consists of a concrete dam with submerged riprap reinforcements. A steep-mud shoreline borders its north, west, and south sides. The bottom of the pond is cluttered with small broken tree limbs and a few scattered fist-sized rocks. A small hydrilla bed occupies the center of the pond. 

“The water was slightly stained, displaying about three to four feet of visibility, and the water level was normal. 

“I executed scores of fan casts with the Rebel crawfish crankbait and the drop-shot rigged Finesse WormZ along the sides and top of the hydrilla bed, the steep mud shorelines, and the riprap of the concrete dam. The ricocheting crankbait technique and the slow drag-shake-and-deadstick presentation proved ineffective. 

“The last Carrollton pond I fished has a crescent shape. 

“It is about two acres in size and hydrilla beds stretch across its entire bottom. Large mud flats adorn its east and west shorelines, a prominent mud point juts out from its northern shoreline, and a curved and steep mud shoreline comprises its south side. 

“The water was stained, and displayed about two feet of clarity. The water level was about two feet low. I continued to deploy the Rebel crawfish crankbait and the drop-shot rigged four-inch green pumpkin Finesse WormZ. I dissected the hydrilla beds, the steep mud shorelines, and the mud point with both baits, and I failed to get any reaction from the bass. 

“The last pond I fished is located on the southern fringe of Lewisville. 

“This pond is about the size of a football field. A large island is positioned near its western shore, and two creek channels run parallel to the island’s north and south banks. The eastern side of the pond is composed of a steep mud shoreline. A decorative stone wall adorns a shallow mud point on the southern shoreline. 

“The water was stained with one and half feet of visibility. The water level appeared to be about three feet below normal. 

I started plying the shallow mud point next to the decorative stone wall with the Rebel crankbait, deflecting it off the bottom of the point. I executed several fan casts along the sides and top of the point, but it did not produce a strike. I then made several casts with the drop-shot rigged Finesse WormZ, slowly dragging and occasionally shaking it across the top and sides of the point. On my third cast, a keeper-sized largemouth bass sucked in the Finesse WormZ as I was dragging it next to the stone wall. Two casts later, I felt another tentative strike on the drop-shot rig, but I missed the fish on the hook set. I also used the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug FattyZ tube combined with a slow twitch and deadstick retrieve, and I allured a second bass off the top of the shallow point. Both of these bass were extracted from two to three feet of water. Follow-up presentations with the FattyZ tube proved fruitless. I then worked my way around the pond, alternating between the Rebel crankbait and the drop-shot rig. I continued to apply the same retrieve styles, but I failed to catch a largemouth bass along the steep eastern shoreline. 

“As I continued westward along the northern shoreline, I probed a small but steep mud point. The Rebel crankbait and 2 1/2-inch Junebug FattyZ tube failed to entice a strike, but the drop-shot rigged Finesse WormZ bewitched a keeper-sized largemouth bass as I paused it just off the end of the point. I then explored the creek channel that runs parallel to the island’s northern shoreline with the drop-shot rig and crankbait, and I failed to elicit a strike. After another 25 minutes passed without any action, I reached the far west end of the pond. I targeted the windswept northwest corner of the pond, where the bank transitions from an east-to-west course to a north-to-south direction. A shallow mud flat occupies this corner of the shoreline, and the north edge of this shallow flat drops into five to eight feet of water. I continued using the drop-shot rig and I tangled with my fourth bass, a two-pound, five-ounce specimen that was milling about near the northwest corner in approximately three feet of water. 

“As I worked my way around to the south side of the pond, I fished an area enhanced by a submerged concrete pipe or culvert that extends out into the pond several feet. I tangled with a two-pound, three ounce largemouth bass that sucked in the drop-shot rigged Finesse WormZ as I paused and shook it in front of the opening to the concrete pipe. This bass was in about three feet of water. I made several more follow-up casts with the FattyZ tube, but I could not conjure another bite. I continued eastward along the southern shoreline, and I plied the creek channel that runs parallel to the island’s southern shoreline. The creek channel failed to yield a largemouth bass. 

“I finished the outing where I started, at the shallow mud point bordered by the decorative stone wall. I employed the drop-shot rig and applied the same drag-shake- and-deadstick method as before, but it failed to garner a bite. The customized green-pumpkin FattyZ tube snookered my sixth bass from the top of the mud point. This bass was abiding in three feet of water next to the stone wall. The FattyZ tube was worked in a slow twitch-and-deadstick manner. 

“In total, I fished for five hours and landed six bass. I missed one fish on the hook set. All six bass were caught from the Lewisville pond. The three Carrollton ponds remained fruitless. The drop-shot rigged green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ bewitched four bass. The customized 2 1/2-inch green-pumpkin FattyZ tube bait allured one. The customized 2 1/2-inch Junebug FattyZ tube bait inveigled one. The Rebel Teeny Wee Crawfish crankbait failed to garner a strike. The drop-shot rigged Finesse WormZ was employed with a slow drag-shake-and-deadstick motif, and the FattyZ tube baits were implemented with a slow twitch-and-deadstick technique.”  

Footnotes for March 1 log

A number of years ago when several Japanese and West Coast anglers began touting the effectiveness of the drop-shot rig, some Midwest finesse anglers who ply the flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas experimented with it. But their drop-shot rigs could never equal the catches that their finesse jig combos garnered. Consequently, the drop-shot rig has never played a significant role in the repertoire of most Midwest finesse anglers. 

But in 2013 Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, became part of the Midwest finesse clan, and they occasionally wield drop-shot rigs. Therefore, we asked Reideler to provide us with a primer to his drop-shot ways. 

He wrote: “The drop-shot rig is not a commonly used technique in north-central Texas. But I am now finding out that it can be a useful alternative when our Florida-strain largemouth bass are tentative and unresponsive to the standard Midwest finesse methods. 

“The drop-shot rig is a slow presentation method, which can keep a lure at one spot for a long period of time and suspended well above the bottom. I have found it useful when the wind makes other Midwest finesse presentations difficult to implement. By adjusting the size of the weight to the velocity and force of the wind, I can maintain much better control of my lure and presentation. In my eyes, the rig is also easily adaptable to several of the Midwest finesse presentations, such as the stroll; drag and deadstick; swim, glide, and shake; drag and shake; and hop and bounce. I think it can also help Midwest finesse anglers probe deeper lairs if they so desire. The one downside I see to this method is that it is slow. But when north-central Texas’ Florida-strain largemouth bass seem to be nearly comatose, and I’ve given up hope of catching significant numbers of them, the drop-shot rig gives me another technique to eke out a few bites. 

“It needs to be noted, however, that I have experienced mixed and inconsistent results with the drop-shot rig. I have caught fish with this rig in clear and stained water, but not in cold and muddy water. Because of these inconsistent results with the drop-shot rig, I have relegated it to a back-up role in my Midwest finesse repertoire. 

“In October 2013, Rick Allen of Dallas and I followed several Finesse News Network members’ advice and switched from monofilament line to braided line with a five- to six- foot fluorocarbon leader. I found this same set-up works well with the drop-shot rig. 

“As far as terminal tackle goes, I like to keep things simple and frugal. I like Gamakatsu’s No. 1 octopus-style hooks and Tru-Turn’s No. 1 drop-shot hooks. I have found no significant difference in my catch rates when I use red or bronze hooks. A simple and inexpensive Water Gremlin Dipsey Swivel casting weight works well in most situations, but I will employ Bass Pro Shops’ cylindrical drop-shot weights in heavy vegetation and rocky terrains. I use 1/8- to 3/16-ounce weights in water depths down to about 20 feet, and 1/4-ounce weights down to 30 feet, but we rarely find bass deeper than 25 to 30 feet deep in our reservoirs. 

When I am wielding a drop-shot rig in the wind and probing a lair in six to 10 feet of water, I will use a 3/16-ounce weight rather than the 1/8-ouncer, and a 1/4-ouncer in 10 to 20 feet of water. 

“When I am bank-fishing, I find a leader length of eight to 18 inches works best for me, and those lengths depend on bottom cover and debris and disposition of the largemouth bass. 

“When fishing from a boat, I use a graph to locate the fish. Then I adjust the leader length and depth of the presentation according to what the sonar reveals. I have the best results when bass are abiding within five feet of the bottom. I have not had the opportunity to experiment with this rig for suspended largemouth bass in deeper waters, but I plan on doing so if and when the opportunity arises. 

March 4 log 

Burton Bosely of Sutton, West Virginia, is one of the Midwest finesse pioneers, and he filed a short report about his wintertime endeavors with a jika rig on the Finesse News Network. 

He wrote: “Our lake (which is an outstanding winter fishery when open ) has been frozen for months. I have been reduced to fishing for “chili dog trout” – (that’s stockers) in the tailwaters. I have caught these fish on a light j-rig affixed to a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s ZinkerZ, and dead drifting it across the bottom whilst searching for walleyes. 

“Gopher’s Mushroom Head Jig isn’t applicable in the snag-infested and swift water I am fishing. The j-rig is easily the most snag resistant presentation I have ever fished with in this tailwater. I use 1/8- to 1/2-ounce cylinder-style sinkers in a variety of weights. 

“I just purchased some Z-Man’s pearl Finesse ShadZs to try on this rig for walleye. As soon as I can out my driveway and to the tailwaters I will send a report.” 

March 6 log

Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed this report on the Finesse News Network.

He wrote: “Rick Allen of Dallas, Texas, relishes the opportunity to discover new waterways to fish. So it was no surprise to me when he called and asked me to join him for an afternoon of bank-walking at four new community ponds. Three of these ponds were located on the northern boundary of Roanoke, Texas, and the fourth pond lies in the city of Southlake.

“The morning was cloudy, but by 1:00 p.m., the clouds burned away and the sun shined brightly. The National Weather Service recorded the morning’s temperature low at 40 degrees, and the afternoon’s high temperature reached 59 degrees. The wind quartered out of the north-northwest at 10 to 20 mph, and the barometric pressure was steady at 30.06.

“Rick and I were afoot from 12:30 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar listed the best fishing period between 2:48 p.m. and 4:48 p.m. We did not have the means to measure water temperatures.

“Rick and I began the afternoon at the three community ponds in Roanoke. The first of these ponds was about five acres in size and surrounded by hackberry bushes and prickly pear cactus. A shallow five-foot mud ledge rings the pond’s shallow shoreline then drops abruptly into deeper water. The south end is comprised of three small coves and two primary points that extend from the eastern shoreline and one primary point that protrudes from the western shore. Brown cattail debris littered the shallows and brown hydrilla beds occupied the center of the pond. The water was slightly stained with about three feet of visibility. The water level was normal.

“We alternated between the following baits: Z-Man’s four-inch green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ rigged wacky-style on a 1/8-ounce drop-shot rig; Z-Man’s four-inch black-blue-flake Finesse WormZ rigged wacky-style on a 1/8-ounce drop-shot rig; Z-Man’s four-inch black-neon Finesse WormZ rigged on a 1/8-ounce drop-shot rig; a customized Z-Man’s 2 1/4-inch watermelon-red FattyZ tail on a 1/8-ounce drop-shot rig; a customized Z-Man’s 2 1/2-inch FattyZ tube attached to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; Charlie Brewer Slider Company’s four-inch watermelon-chartreuse Slider Worm Texas-rigged on a black Charlie Brewer’s 1/16-ounce Original Weedless Slider Head jig; Charlie Brewer Slider Company’s three-inch green-pumpkin-black Bass/Walleye/Striper Grub on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig; and Charlie Brewer Slider Company’s two-inch pumpkin seed Twin Tail Grub affixed to a Gopher 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

“We began fishing a cove in the southeast end of the reservoir. On the second cast, I landed a largemouth bass on the three-inch Slider Bass/Walleye/Striper Grub. The bass struck in three feet of water as I slowly swam the grub in a do-nothing manner parallel to the deep water edge of the mud ledge.

“Rick then tangled with a largemouth bass that was fooled by the FattyZ tube, which he presented with a slow swim-glide-shake retrieve. This bass was caught off a primary point at the mouth of the cove in five feet of water.

“I worked my way northward along the eastern shoreline, and Rick fished his way northward along the western shore. Rick snared two more largemouth bass on the Texas-rigged watermelon-chartreuse Slider Worm just north of the primary point where he caught his first bass. These two bass were about 15 feet off the shoreline, and they were finagled with a slow twitch-deadstick action across the bottom. I continued to use the three-inch Slider bass grub, green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ drop-shot rig, and black-blue-flake Finesse WormZ drop-shot rig. I failed to hook tentative strikes on the drop shot rigs.

“When I reached the north end of the pond, I switched to the Charlie Brewer Slider Company’s two-inch pumpkin seed Twin Tail Grub affixed to a Gopher 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. I slowly swam the grub along the deep water side of the mud ledge, and caught a largemouth bass that engulfed the grub as it swam past a patch of hydrilla in about five feet of water. Follow-up fan casts with the drop- shot rig and Finesse WormZ was unproductive.

“Rick and I then plied the western shoreline with the Charlie Brewer Slider Company’s four-inch watermelon-chartreuse Slider Worm Texas-rigged on a black Charlie Brewer’s 1/16-ounce Slider Head jig, and Charlie Brewer Slider Company’s two-inch pumpkin seed Twin Tail Grub affixed to a Gopher 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. When we reached the center cove in the south end of the reservoir, I enticed four largemouth bass from the mouth of the cove on the two-inch Slider Twin Tail grub. These bass were hovering in five feet of water and about 25 feet off the shoreline. One bass was able to pull free of the hook before I could land it. I made several more casts with the drop-shot rig and black-neon Finesse WormZ, applying a slow drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve, but it failed to elicit a strike. We failed to coax a bass from the southwestern cove area.

“Rick and I then proceeded to the second pond, which is situated a short distance south of the first pond. This pond was about 60 yards long and 30 yards wide. Several large patches of hydrilla were scattered across the bottom of the pond in about three to five feet of water. A submerged metal culvert pipe extended several feet into the pond from the east shoreline. The water was stained with about two feet of visibility, and the water level appeared normal. The terrain surrounding this small watershed was composed of steep mud banks, hackberry bushes, and pear cactus. The deepest water we found was in the center of the pond, and it was only about six feet deep.

“We plied this pond with the four-inch watermelon-chartreuse Slider Worm, two-inch pumpkin seed Twin Tail Slider grub, and a Charlie Brewer Slider Company’s 2 1/8-inch Avacado-Glitter-Chartreuse Minnow Grub on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. I extracted two largemouth bass and four large bluegills from several hydrilla patches on the eastern and southern banks with the two-inch Twin Tail Slider grub. These fish were abiding in three feet of water and relating to the patches of hydrilla. Rick coaxed one largemouth bass and one large bluegill from a patch of hydrilla along the eastern shoreline, adjacent to the underwater culvert pipe in about three feet of water. This bass and bluegill were allured by the 2 1/8-inch Slider Minnow Grub.

“The third pond we visited was situated just northwest of the second pond. This was a small pond, about 40 yards long and 15 yards wide. It was devoid of any submerged vegetation. Cattails enhanced the east and west shorelines. The water was stained, with about two feet of visibility, and the water level appeared normal. We plied this pond with the two-inch Twin Tail Slider grub and the 2 1/8-inch Avacado-Glitter-Chartreuse Minnow Grub, but this pond failed to surrender a bass.

The last community pond we visited was located in Southlake, Texas. It is about six acres in size with a shallow mud shoreline. Two mud points grace the north and south shorelines, and a concrete wall forms its west perimeter. The water was muddy and the water level appeared to be normal. Visibility was about two inches. Rick and I refer to ponds of this type as mud holes, and some of them can be quite fruitful.

“We fished this watershed with just three lures: four-inch Zoom Bait Company’s black-blue Dead Ring Worm rigged on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; four-inch black-blue Dead Ring Worm rigged on a blue 1/16-inch Gopher jig; and a customized Z-Man’s 2 1/2-inch black-blue flake FattyZ tube rigged on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. We began fishing the main point on the north shoreline. On my third cast, a fish bit my four-inch Dead Ring Worm on the initial fall, but I failed to hook it. This fish was suspended in about four feet of water and about ten feet off the bank. Subsequent casts went untouched. I worked my way eastward around the pond, and I had what appeared to be a catfish swirl at the Dead Ring Worm in two feet of water, as I worked the worm in a twitch-and-deadstick fashion. I was unable to muster another bite for the remainder of the afternoon. Rick fished the northwest end of the pond. One bass swam off with his FattyZ tube bait as it settled to the bottom on the initial cast, but he broke his line on the hook set. He was unable to dredge up any other strikes.

“In total, we allured 11 largemouth bass and five large bluegills. One largemouth bass was able to free itself before I could land it. The two-inch pumpkin seed Twin Tail Slider Grub implemented with a slow do-nothing retrieve inveigled seven largemouth bass and four large bluegill. The four-inch watermelon-chartreuse Slider Worm manipulated with a slow twitch-and-deadstick retrieve bewitched two largemouth bass. The 2 1/8-inch avocado-glitter-chartreuse Slider Minnow Grub worked in a slow do-nothing manner allured one bass and one large bluegill, and Z-Man’s customized FattyZ tube presented in a slow twitch-and-deadstick retrieve attracted one largemouth bass. The three-inch green pumpkin Slider bass grub caught one largemouth bass. The drop-shot rigs produce three tentative strikes. The four-inch black-blue Dead Ring Worm gleaned three strikes. 

March 7 log 

The last time that Mother Nature allowed Bob Gum and me to fish was Feb. 22. Then there were a few premature signs of spring flirting about: many of the waterways were iceless or becoming iceless, snow geese and scores of other migratory flocks were gracing some of our waterways and countryside, skunks were milling about and the carcasses of several dead ones stippled our roadways. Similar to the blooming of crocuses, the dead-skunk syndrome is a harbinger of spring in northeastern Kansas. Thus, Gum and I were hopeful. 

But after that short hiatus, winter returned with more than a hint of vengeance, and in fact, some thermometers in northeastern Kansas set record low-temperature marks on March 3. For instance, the National Weather Service in Lawrence, Kansas, recorded -6 degrees. As a result, ice covered the waterways again, and as Gum of Kansas City and I traveled along U.S. Highway 69 on March 7, all of the waterways that were ice-free on Feb. 22 were ice covered on Mar. 7. In our eyes, all of that ice was a disparaging site. 

But we did see four skunk carcasses, and when we arrived at the boat ramp at 9:20 a.m., there were 25 trucks and boat trailers in the parking lot, which is an astronomical number for a weekday, but another sign that spring is in the offing or it could be a manifestation of extreme cabin fever. 

The water level at this 2,500-acre power-plant reservoir looked to be normal. The surface temperature along the dam at the south end of the reservoir was 43 degrees. The geographical range of the warm-water plume had expanded since our Feb. 22 outing. Along the west shoreline and within the heart of the warm-water plume, the surface temperature was 60 degrees. We didn’t examine the lairs around the warm-water outlet along the east shoreline and in the middle section of the reservoir, but we suspected that the surface temperature around the outlet was in the low 60s. The water was stained in the middle portions of the reservoir, exhibiting about 10 to 15 inches of clarity. Along the dam, the clarity was about 18 inches. 

The National Weather Service in Olathe, Kansas, recorded the morning low temperature at 33 degrees, and the afternoon high temperature reached 60 degrees. The wind angled from the south at 7 to 23 mph. The barometric pressure at 8:53 a.m. was 29.89 and falling. It was sunny until midday, and then the sky gradually became filled with altostratus and altocumulus clouds. 

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing would occur from 3:17 a.m. to 5:17 a.m. and 3:42 p.m. to 5:42 p.m. A minor period occurred from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. We fished from 9:33 a.m. to 3:27 p.m. 

During the first 15 minutes we tangled with four largemouth bass at a west side main-lake point. The point separates two shallow coves, which are lined with dead American water willows, some boat docks and laydowns. Ranks of mild-mannered waves rolled onto and along the main-lake portions of this point. The point was located along the southwest edge of the warm-water plume, and the surface temperature was 50 degrees. Gum’s boat floated in three to seven feet of water. The first two largemouth bass were inveigled by a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. The next two largemouth bass were allured by a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s purple-haze ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. All four largemouth bass were abiding in two feet of water. Two of them were allured by a drag-and-shake retrieve, and the other two were allured by the strolling presentation, which was occasionally punctuated with some shakes. Three of the largemouth bass were caught on the main-lake portions of the point, and one was caught a few yards along the inside section of the point. The point is embellished with one massive laydown, silt, gravel, boulders, and several scattered patches of dead American water willows. 

The second spot we fished was a west-side main-lake flat that has a submerged roadbed running across it, a submerged creek channel ledge, some stumps and man-made brushpiles. The surface temperature was 48 degrees. The boat floated in three to 11 feet of water. We failed to garner a strike at this location. 

Our third spot consisted of two riprap and windblown points at the mouth of a main-lake cove. The boat floated in four to eight feet of water. The surface temperature was 50 degrees. The 2 ½-inch purple-haze ZinkerZ hooked one largemouth bass that surfaced and liberated itself from the Gopher jig. It was allured by the drag-and-shake retrieve. 

The fourth spot that we fished was a west-side main-lake bluff. It is about 125 yards long, and it is endowed with rock slides, boulders, ledges, a submerged creek channel, a few laydowns and stumps. The boat floated in 10 to 16 feet of water. The surface temperature ranged from 56 to 57 degrees. We failed to elicit a strike along this bluff. 

Our fifth spot was a flat and shallow cove that separates two of the reservoir’s main-lake bluffs. The geology of this cove consists of gravel, clay, silt and some rocks. It is also littered with several large laydowns, a few stumps, and some boulders . The boat floated in three to seven feet of water. We fished this cove twice during this outing, and it yielded five largemouth bass. One was caught on a Z-Man’s Junebug Rain MinnowZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, two were bewitched by the 2 ½-inch purple-haze ZinkerZ, and two were inveigled by the green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ. Four of the largemouth bass were attracted by a drag-and-shake retrieve, and one was allured by the strolling-and-shaking presentation. 

The sixth spot was another west-side main-lake bluff, which isn’t as steep as the first bluff we fished. The boat floated in seven to 12 feet of water. It is about 100-yards long and embellished with several massive gravel and rock slides, a few boulders, a significant quantity of laydowns and stumps. We were unable to eke out a largemouth bass along this bluff. 

For the next hour or so, we dissected two massive main-lake flats on the west side of the reservoir, as well as a flat and shallow cove. This entire area is enhanced with some ledges, a submerged creek channel, scores of stumps and laydowns, some man-made brushpiles, silt, dead American water willows, a boat ramp, a submerged roadbed, gravel, clay, rocks and some boulders. Though we made endless numbers of casts and varieties of retrieves, we couldn’t engender a strike.

After enduring that fruitless hour or more on the main-lake flats, we moved to another west-side bluff that lies in the heart of the warm-water plume. It is about 200 yards long. It is graced with a significant amount of current that is generated by the warm-water discharge, which is situated several hundred yard to the southeast of this bluff. It is also endowed with laydowns, man-made brushpiles, rock slides, boulders, ledges, and a submerged creek channel. The boat floated in 10 to 16 feet of water. The surface temperature was 60 degrees. We followed a pair of power anglers along this bluff and saw them catch a five-pound largemouth bass on a Texas-rigged lizard that was affixed to an offset worm hook and slip sinker. Gum and I eked out three largemouth bass. Two of those were allured by the Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig that was retrieved with a drag-and-shake retrieve, and the other was allured by a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig that was retrieved with a drag-and-shake retrieve. These largemouth bass were abiding in about three feet of water.

The eighth spot that we fished was a west-side flat and cove that lies between two bluffs. It ranges in depth from two to nine feet of water. It is littered with laydowns, brushpiles, logs, ledges, stumps, a ditch, silt, clay, gravel, rocks, and a nearby submerged creek channel. The surface temperature was 60 degrees. We caught five largemouth bass by employing the drag-and-shake retrieve. Three of them were allured by green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and two were bewitched by a 2 ½-inch Z-Man watermelon-red ZinkerZ on red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

While we were fishing this flat, Gum’s trolling motor battery completely croaked. And we spent some time jerry-rigging the trolling motor to the outboard motor’s battery, and in order not to drain this battery, we spent the rest of our outing plying three wind-sheltered areas.

One of those areas was a 125-yard stretch of the reservoir’s longest bluff. It is adorn by rock slides, laydowns, brushpiles, boulders, scores of over-hanging trees, and ledges. It is bordered by two submerged creek channels; one of the channels is the reservoir’s main tributary, and the other one is a secondary creek channel. The surface temperature ranged from 59 to 60 degrees. The boat floated in seven to 10 feet of water. We caught two largemouth bass by dragging and shaking the green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig.

As noted above, the gusty south wind and our trolling-motor woes prevented us from probing any wind-blown lairs on the east side of the reservoir. It is interesting to note, however, that on Feb. 13 and 22, two spots on the east side of this reservoir yielded 93 largemouth bass, but the wind was too pesky for us to properly dissect those lairs this time around. Instead of fishing those windblown locales, we ventured two to more relatively calm areas. One was in the back of a secondary feeder-creek arm on the west side of the reservoir, where we fished a windless point and about 100 yards of a steep clay shoreline and a rocky bluff. The surface temperature was 57 degrees. It was a fruitless endeavor. The second spot was a 100 yard stretch of riprap that we fished along the west end of the dam, where the surface temperature was 43 degrees, but we were unable to entice a largemouth bass.

In sum, it was a disappointing outing. We caught only 19 largemouth bass, and that paltry catch was supplemented by two carp, two freshwater drum, two white bass and one channel catfish.

Since Dec. 16, I have fished only five times, and all of those outing were at this 2,500-acre power-plant reservoir, which is one measure of how severe the winter has been in northeastern Kansas. Across those five outings, I and my partners fished 22 ½ hours and caught 165 largemouth bass, which equals 33 per outing and 7.3 per hour. So far, we are well below our normal hourly average. For instance, my partners and I averaged 11.6 largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass per hour throughout 2013.

As we were traveling back to Kansas City, I told Gum that I was hoping that our Mar. 7 outing was the last time that I would have to make the 76-mile journey to this power-plant reservoir during the winter of 2013-14. I exclaimed that I was eager to be afloat on one of our nearby flatland reservoirs on either Mar. 10 or 11, catching endless numbers of ice-off largemouth bass that normally abide on shallow mud flats in three to six feet of water, and often they can be readily bewitched with either a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig or 2 ½-inch California Craw ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, as well as several other Midwest finesse baits.

March 9 log

Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, filed a brief on the Finesse News Network about the state of the waterways in Indiana.

He wrote: “Winter has been terrible here. We haven’t been able to make a cast to open water since Dec. 28, 2013. However, I just got word that a couple of our southern most impoundments were becoming mostly ice free this weekend, so we’re getting close. I am guessing it will still be a week or two for our central Indiana waters to thaw, and even longer still for our northern waters; some of them had nearly 20 inches of ice on them this year.”

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Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed the following report on the Finesse News Network about his March 9 outing.

He wrote: “North-central Texas is enduring its fourth consecutive year of drought. So far this year, north-central Texas has received about an inch of rain. Normally by this time of year, we would have received well over five inches of precipitation. Most of our large reservoirs and smaller ponds are less than 65 percent full, and two large area reservoirs are so low that the boat ramps are completely out of the water, making these two reservoirs inaccessible by boat.

“On Mar. 9, I joined Rick Allen of Dallas, Texas, for a 60-mile drive to two small reservoirs situated in a National Grasslands Reserve, and when we arrived, we were amazed at the extreme low water levels of these two watersheds.

“The National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 40 degrees and the afternoon high struggled to reach 63 degrees. A mild-mannered wind quartered out of the north-by- northwest at five to 10 mph. The barometric pressure was measured at 30.32 and rising.

“Rick and I fished from 11:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated the best fishing period occurred between 6:07 a.m. and 8:07 a.m., with a minor period occurring from 11:55 a.m. and 1:55 p.m.

“The first reservoir we visited is located north of Alvord, Texas. When water levels are normal, this pond is about 18 acres in size. The water was stained with about 1 1/2 feet of visibility. We were unable to measure the water’s temperature. Rick and I estimated the water level was about 20 to 25 feet low. The only water remaining in the reservoir had settled into the southern basin, and this basin was now only about three acres in size. The northern half of the reservoir consists of one feeder creek and two coves. The feeder creek and both coves were now high and dry. The reservoir’s main creek channel winds from the north end and southeastwardly to the south basin and joins a large-feeder creek arm in the southeastern corner of the reservoir. This feeder-creek arm is normally endowed with stands of flooded timber, stump infested flats, and several large brush piles. Water depths usually average eight to ten feet deep, but now this entire area is dry terrain. The southwestern end of this lake is normally the deepest, with depths of 30 feet, but now the deepest water we could find was eight feet deep. A large hydrilla bed is situated in the center of the basin. We were unable to launch Rick’s boat at this reservoir, so we walked the banks.

“It did not take us long to fish this basin. Rick inveigled three largemouth bass from the north end of the main creek channel. These three largemouth bass were allured by the customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s black-blue-flake FattyZ tube on an Owner’s 1/16-ounce Ultra Wacky Weedless jIg head, which he retrieved with a twitch-and-deadstick presentation. All three bass were residing in the creek channel which was about five feet deep. I was unable to muster a strike on a four-inch Zoom Bait Company’s Junebug Fat Albert Grub rigged on an Owner’s 1/16-ounce Ultra Wacky Weedless jig and a four-inch Zoom’s black-blue Dead Ringer Worm rigged on a 1/16-ounce Owner’s Ultra Wacky Weedless jig Zoom Fat Albert Grub or the Zoom Dead Ringer Worm.

“The second reservoir we visited is located north of Decatur,Texas. Under normal water levels, this reservoir is about 25 acres in size, but now it appeared to be about half its normal size. The water was slightly stained, with three and a half feet of visibility. The water temperature was 52 degrees.

“The north end of this reservoir is heavily timbered, which has two feeder creeks that flow southward and join the main creek channel. The main creek channel serpentines through several stump infested mud flats. Unfortunately, the two northern feeder creek channels and the stump-infested mud flats are dry. Only two to six feet of water remains in the main creek channel. Normally, this section of the lake is covered with 10 to 15 feet of water.

“The southern end of the reservoir has a large hydrilla bed that covers the mud flat. There is also a fishing pier, a oncrete boat ramp, two large brush piles and a small feeder creek. The boat ramp and brush piles are on dry land, and the feeder creek is dry.

“A 60-yard mud dam forms part of the western shoreline. A large mud flat extends northward from the dam and connects with the heavily timbered flats on the northwestern end of the reservoir. A large hydrilla bed stretches outward from the dam’s embankment into 13 feet of water.

“The eastern shore consists of an expansive mud flat that drops off sharply into deeper water. A wall of hydrilla adorns the deep water side of the drop off.

“The flats on the eastern and western sides of the lake are also dry. The water at the dam is usually about 30 feet deep, but now it is 13 feet deep.

“Rick and I launched the boat on the southern end of the reservoir. We began fishing eastward along the south shoreline. Rick caught a largemouth bass on a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s watermelon-red FattyZ tube presented with a slow twitch-and- deadstick retrieve. As we continued northward along the east shoreline, I utilized a 2/12-inch Strike King Lure Company’s pearl Zero rigged on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and implemented with a slow swim-glide-shake retrieve. I caught three largemouth bass along the east shoreline . These four largemouth bass where caught from the deep-water edge of the hydrilla in five to nine feet of water.

“The next area we fished was the heavily timbered main creek channel in the northern end of the reservoir. Rick used a Charlie Brewer Slider Company’s four-inch Tennessee Shad Slider Worm Texas-rigged on a 1/16-ounce Slider Original Spider head jig. I used a four-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ wacky-rigged on an Owner’s Ultra weedless Wacky jig. I landed one four-pound, two-ounce channel catfish on the wacky-rigged green pumpkin WormZ, but we failed to allure a largemouth bass.

“We then targeted the western end of the dam. We probed this area with a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s watermelon-red FattyZ tube on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and customized 2 1/4-inch Z-Man’s watemelon-red FattyZ tail on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. We worked the FattyZ tube and FattyZ tail along the deep-water side of the hydrilla bed. We presented them with a slow twitch-and-deadstick retrieve. The FattyZ tube allured 10 largemouth bass, and the FattyZ tail bewitched three largemouth bass. All of them were extracted from eight to 13 feet of water.

“We then returned to the south shoreline, which was where we began. We continued to employ the customized 2 1/2-inchZ-Man’s watermelon-red FattyZ tube with the twitch-and-deadstick retrieve, and we enticed three largemouth bass that inhabited nine to 12 feet of water.

“We finished the afternoon fishing the east shoreline, wielding the customized 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s watermelon-red FattyZ tube along a wall of hydrilla wall and employing a twitch-and-deadstick presentation. Along the deep-water side of the hydrilla and around nine to 13 feet of water, we extracted two largemouth bass and three white crappie.

“In sum, we garnered 25 largemouth bass, three crappie, and one channel catfish during six and a half hours of fishing. A customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s watermelon-red FattyZ tube caught 16 largemouth bass and three crappie. Strike King’s 2 1/2-inch pearl Zero enticed three largemouth bass. A customized 2 1/4-inch Z-Man’s watermelon-red FattyZ tail caught three largemouth bass, as did a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s black-blue-flake FattyZ tube. The four-inch wacky-rigged four Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ caught one channel catfish. The Charlie Brewer four-inch Tennessee Shad Slider Worm, Zoom’s four-inch black-blue Dead Ringer Worm, and Zoom’s Junebug Fat Albert Grub failed to elicit any strikes. The slow twitch-and-deadstick presentation was the most fruitful retrieve.

March 10 log

Clyde Holscher is a multispecies guide and veteran Midwest finesse angler from Topeka, Kansas, and he filed a short report on the Finesse News Network about his outing with a neighbor to a 5,090-acre power-plant reservoir on March 10. 

This was Holscher’s first outing in 2014. Fishing wasn’t his primary objective. He described it as more of a reconnaissance endeavor and test of his boat, electronic equipment, outboard engine, batteries, and trolling motor. 

The National Weather Service at Emporia, Kansas, reported that the low temperature for the day was 47 degrees and the high temperature was 76 degrees.

The wind was mild-mannered and angling out of the southwest and west at 7 to 10 mph. It was sunny, and the barometric pressure at 10:53 a.m. was 29.86 and dropping. 

Besides Holscher’s boat, there were five other boats afloat. 

The power-plant had stopped generating power on Mar. 8. Therefore, the water temperature in the warm-water plume was dropping, and Holscher didn’t examine nor fish the plume. 

He noted that the surface temperature at the boat ramp was 45 degrees when they launched his boat at 11:30 a.m. The boat ramp lies along the southwest fringe of the warm-water plume. 

They spent most of their time examining the lower half or southern half of the reservoir, which is the cold-water section and contains the reservoir’s best smallmouth bass lairs. 

At the dam, the surface temperature was 39 degrees, and two feet of ice covered the riprap along the dam. They spent some time probing the deeper sections of the dam without eliciting a strike. 

They surveyed and fished both sides of a mile-long riprap jetty or dike, focusing on its steeper and deeper sections, and they failed to catch a fish. 

Late in the afternoon, they found some warmer surface temperatures. Ultimately, they eked out two largemouth bass, two smallmouth bass, and two wipers on a windblown flat that is adjacent to the mile-long riprap jetty, where the surface temperature had risen to 44 degrees. 

Their scouting endeavors ended at 4:30 p.m. Except for finding a patch of warmer water,  Holscher said there was no dominate lure or retrieve or pattern.

March 11 log

From March 2 through March 5, Mother Nature harassed Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas with sleet, snow, freezing rain and record low temperatures.

But on March 11, Steve Desch of Topeka, Kansas, and I were afloat on a non-power-plant reservoir for the first time since Dec. 3, 2013, and it was an incredibly balmy outing. In fact, the high temperature on Mar. 11 was 87 degrees warmer than the low temperature on Mar.3. It was warm enough that Desch donned a T-shirt for an hour or so during the 5 ½ hours that we were afloat at a 416-acre community reservoir.

We fished from 9:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. and In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times occurred from 7:26 a.m. to 9:26 a.m. and 7:49 p.m. to 9:49 p.m.

The National Weather Service in Topeka, Kansas, recorded the morning low temperature at 41 degrees, and the afternoon high temperature reached 81 degrees. For the first two hours that we were afloat, the sun shone brightly; then around noon it became partly cloudy, and by 2:30 p.m., the sky was mostly cloudy. For the first four hours of this outing, the wind angled out of the south and southwest at 9 to 24 mph; then it became extremely mild-mannered as it gradually prepared to shift to the west at 10 mph and then around 3 p.m. it began howling out of the northwest and ushering in a cold front with gusts that hit 29 mph at 3:53 p.m., and by 8:53 p.m. area thermometers plummeted to 41 degrees. The barometric pressure at 8:52 a.m. was 29.36.

The water level looked to be about three feet below normal. Except around several of the wind-blown areas, the water was clear enough that we could easily see the propeller on our trolling motor, and we call that Kansas clear, which is nowhere as clear as Minnesota and Canada clear or Bull Shoals Lake and Table Rock Lake clear. About five percent of the reservoir was covered with ice. The coldest surface temperature we recorded was 38.8 degrees, which was at 9:50 a.m. in a large feeder-creek arm on the east side and in the lower-quarter segment of this reservoir, and about 30 percent of this feeder-creek arm was covered with ice. The warmest surface temperature was 47 degrees, which we found around 2:15 p.m. in a large and shallow feeder-creek arm on the east side in the upper quarter of the reservoir. The surface temperature was 39 degrees along the shoreline of a west-side, main-lake bluff in the upper-quarter segment of the reservoir. The surface temperature ranged from 40 to 43 degrees along a 400-yard stretch of a main-lake shoreline along the east side of the reservoir’s upper-third and middle-third segments. (It is interesting to note that in our many decades of ice-out fishing in northeastern Kansas, we have never seen such radical surface temperature ranges.)

The ice, surface and shorelines were littered with untold numbers of dead gizzard shad. We also witnessed several aquatic midge hatches.

Many of the shorelines of this reservoir are graced with massive patches of American water willows, but because the water level is about three feet low most of these patches are out of the water.

Throughout this outing, Desch and I were bass fishing for trout, and we caught more rainbow trout than we did largemouth bass.

On the second cast of this outing, a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s bubble-gum ZinkerZ affixed to red 1/16-ounce mushroom-style jig inveigled a rainbow trout around a laydown and secondary point in about four feet of water. From this secondary point, we fished about a 100-yard stretch of the north shoreline in a large feeder creek arm on the reservoir’s east side. The surface temperature was 38.9 degrees. Near the mouth of this feeder-creek arm and in front of the boat dock, the bubble-gum ZinkerZ allured another rainbow trout in about five feet of water. This feeder-creek arm lies in the lower-quarter segment of this reservoir. This relatively flat shoreline was wind-blown. It is embellished with laydowns, stumps, gravel, sand, clay, rocks, some boulders, man-made brush piles and two boat docks. A drag-and-shake retrieve allured both of these rainbow trout, and that retrieve and the stroll-and-shake presentation were the two retrieves that we employed throughout this outing.

We caught the first largemouth bass of the outing on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, which was presented with a drag-and-shake retrieve. This largemouth bass was abiding on a rocky ledge along the south shoreline of a feeder-creek arm on the west side of the reservoir, which lies within the reservoir’s upper-quarter segment. Three-quarters of this arm was covered with ice. We caught this largemouth bass caught about 15 feet from the edge of the ice. The surface temperature was 39 degrees.

We caught our second largemouth bass along a rocky shoreline about a third of the way inside a cove in the middle section of the reservoir. More than half of this cove was covered with ice, and the boat was surrounded by ice when we caught this bass, which was allured by the Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig in about four feet of water with a drag-and-shake retrieve. We only fished about 150 feet of this cove’s south shoreline.

Even though there was ice on the water, Steve Desch of Topeka, Kansas, was dressed in a T-shirt. Some of the ice can be seen under Desch's left elbow.

 

We fished about 150 yards of a steep main-lake bluff that lies on the west side of the backend of this reservoir. It is endowed with a submerged creek channel, laydowns, stumps, brush piles, ledges, rock slides, boulders, gravel, and several tertiary points. We failed to elicit a strike.

We fished more than 400 yards of the main-lake shoreline on the east side of the reservoir. This endeavor entailed dissecting three flat points and two steep ones. About 50 yards of this main-lake shoreline is steep and butted by a deep submerged creek channel edge. About 200 yards of it is flat, and about 150-yards of it has a 45-degree slope. It is graced with some shallow patches of American water willows, laydowns, stumps, brush piles, ledges, rock slides, boulders, gravel, and several tertiary points. We made hundreds of casts and retrieves, and eventually eked out four rainbow trout and one largemouth bass. These fish were caught on three baits: 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s bubble-gum ZinkerZ affixed to red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce mushroom-style jig; Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. We employed two presentations: drag-and-shake retrieve; stroll-and-shake retrieve. One rainbow trout was caught on a steep point in about eight feet or more of water, and another one was caught on a shallow point in about four feet of water. One rainbow trout was caught along a flat shoreline in about three feet of water. One largemouth bass and one rainbow trout were caught along the 45-degree-sloping shoreline in about four feet of water. The surface temperature ranged from 40 to 43 degrees.

Our most fruitful spot was about halfway inside a large and shallow feeder-creek arm on the east side in the upper-quarter portion of the reservoir. Our boat floated in three to six feet of water. While we were fishing, the surface temperature in this feeder-creek arm climbed from 42 to 47 degrees. The wind and waves had much of the shoreline stained with a mud line, and we primarily focused our attentions on an offshore area about the size of a football field, which was not stained from the wind and waves. The underwater terrain was primarily silt. From our above-the-water perspectives, it seemed as if the rainbow trout and a few largemouth bass were actively swimming around this massive area, but, of course, this observation is more speculation than grounded on tangible facts. Despite our inabilities to interpret the true behavior of the rainbow trout and largemouth bass, we were able to catch 42 rainbow trout and four largemouth bass from this location. We caught them using either a drag-and-shake retrieve, which was occasionally punctuated with a deadstick pause after a missed strike, or a stroll-and-shake retrieve. We caught them on these baits: 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s bubble-gum ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce mushroom-style jig; Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; Z-Man’s PB&J Rain MinnowZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; 2 ¾-inch Z-Man’s prototype California Craw ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

In total, we caught 48 rainbow trout and seven largemouth bass. We failed to firmly hook and land several largemouth bass and a goodly number of rainbow trout. It is important to note that most of the best ice-off lairs that we have fished in years past for largemouth bass were still covered with ice during this outing, and that might be one reason why our largemouth bass catch was so paltry.

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Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed this report on the Finesse News Network about his March 11 outing.

He wrote: “Mid-March is considered a turning point in north-central Texas’ bass fishing. It marks the transition period from the winter doldrums to the various manifestations of the spawning season. I use our small waterways as a measuring stick to gauge the status of our larger reservoirs. I have found that the larger reservoirs will turn on about two weeks after the small ones turn on.

“North-central Texas has also enjoyed several days when area thermometers climbed into the 70s and low 80s. On March 11, the National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 53 degrees, and the afternoon high temperature soared to 86 degrees. A blustery wind blew incessantly from the south at 2o to 30 mph. The barometric pressure was measured at 29.69 and steady. It was a beautiful sunny day without a cloud in sight.

“In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated the optimum fishing periods occurred from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 7:53 p.m. to 9:53 p.m. I began fishing a community reservoir located just north of Dallas in the city of Plano, Texas, at about 12:30 p.m., and I finished at about 5:00 p.m.

“This waterway is about 12-acres in size. The water level was about two feet low and stained, exhibiting about 1 1/2-feet of visibility. I did not have the means to measure the water’s temperature.

“The north shoreline is relatively straight, with a three foot mud and gravel ledge that extends outward from the bank and drops off into five feet of water.

“The west shoreline is comprised of sand, gravel, and a few scattered fist-sized rocks. This shoreline is also graced with a shallow ledge that extends about three feet from the bank before slowly descending into five feet of water.

“Its south shoreline is surrounded by a large mud and gravel flat, where I could see scores of vacant spawning beds close to the bank.

“The east side of the reservoir encompasses two coves that are divided by a prominent sand and gravel point. The southeastern cove consists of steep mud and rock banks, as well as a ditch that runs from the southern shoreline to the northeastern corner of the cove. This cove has a mud and gravel point that courses out to deeper water from its southern shoreline. The northeastern cove is comprised of a large mud flat with a ditch that meanders across the middle of the cove from the east bank toward the west bank.

“These coves are graced with two small patches of hydrilla. One patch lies in five feet of water and adjacent to the southwest end of the prominent point. The second patch is positioned in three to five feet of water in the southern portion of the northeast cove.

“I started the outing using two lures: a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s black-blue-flake FattyZ tube rigged on a 1/16-ounce blue Gopher jig, and a three-inch Z-Man’s Junebug Hula StickZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. I presented the FattyZ tube by employing a slow twitch-and deadstick retrieve, and I retrieved the Hula StickZ with a slow drag-and-shake presentation.

“I began fishing the west shoreline, and within 15 minutes, I had landed three largemouth bass. These three bass were caught on the FattyZ tube and were in five feet of water and near the shallow ledge.

“As I worked my way eastward along the southern shoreline,. I caught four largemouth bass that were milling about near the deep-water edge of the spawning flat, and they were extracted out of five to eight feet of water. Three were allured by the Hula StickZ, and one was allured by the FattyZ tube.

“I continued my way eastward into the southeastern cove area. I plied the southern point at the entrance to the cove, but I failed to garner a strike on either bait. I then probed the ditch near the south bank of the cove, and I enticed one largemouth bass on the FattyZ tube. This bass was about 25 feet off the shoreline and abiding in five feet of water in the bottom of the ditch.

“After catching that largemouth, I fished my way northward along the east shoreline of the cove. I did not elicit another strike until I reached the northeast corner of the cove, where the ditch enters the water. I dissected this area slowly and tangled with six largemouth bass. Four bass were caught with the Hula StickZ and two bass were bewitched by the FattyZ tube. All six bass were utilizing the top of the east and west side edges of the ditch in three to five feet of water. I did not receive any strikes while probing the bottom of the ditch.

“I then slowly fished my way westward along the southern shoreline of the point that divided the two coves. By the time I reached the west end of the point, I had caught six largemouth bass. Four were caught on the Hula StickZ and two were hooked on the FattyZ tube. All six were extracted from five feet of water.

“I continued around the point and fished slowly eastward along the north shoreline of the point and into the northeastern cove area. I slowly dissected the patch of hydrilla adjacent to the south bank of the cove and landed two largemouth bass from the shallow edge of the hydrilla bed in three feet of water. One largemouth bass was allured by the Hula StickZ, and the other bass was caught on the FattyZ tube. I checked the shallower sections of the mud flat for spawning bass, but it seemed to be bereft of bass.

“From the spawning flat, I fished my way westward along the northern shoreline, where I tangled with four largemouth bass that were scattered along a ledge in about three feet of water. Two of these largemouth bass were beguiled by the Hula StickZ and two were bewitched by the FattyZ tube.

“Up to this point, I had allured 26 largemouth bass. I was beginning to think I could possibly have a day worthy of rivaling the outings of many Midwest finesse anglers who ply the flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas, northwestern Missouri, and Indiana.

“Even though the bass bite had begun to fade, I decided to ply this small reservoir for the entire afternoon. But before I retraced my steps around the shorelines, I changed baits, and I wielded a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and a five-inch YUM black-blue Zellamander rigged on a blue 1/16-ounce blue Gopher jig. I employed a slow twitch-and-deadstick presentation with the lizard and a slow drag-and-shake retrieve with the ZinkerZ. I concentrated on the same areas where I had the most success: the deep water edges of the mud flat along the south shoreline and the ledges of the ditch in the southeastern cove.

“I refished the south shoreline by fan casting and retrieving the five-inch Zellamader along the deep edge of the mud flat. The lizard inveigled two largemouth bass, but I could not coax any other largemouth bass to strike the Zellamander. Ultimately I switched to the ZinkerZ and caught five more largemouth bass from the deep water side of the mud flat. All seven of these bass were caught in five feet of water.

‘Then I fished the south side of the ditch in the southeastern cove. I caught one largemouth bass on the ZinkerZ from the west side ledge of the ditch in about five feet of water and about 15 feet off the bank. The Zellamader failed to produce any strikes.

“Next, I plied the ditch at the northeast corner of the cove. Here, I tangled with four largemouth bass that were situated along the west-side ledge of the ditch in about five feet of water. The four bass were allured by the ZinkerZ. The lizard failed to elicit any bites at this spot as well.

“I finished the outing on the north shoreline. I fished the northwest corner, where the northern shoreline curves southward and forms the west shoreline. I used the lizard first, working it slowly along the deep-water side of the ledge, but it failed to produce any bites. I then switched back to the ZinkerZ and landed two more largemouth bass. Both of these bass were hooked in five feet of water and on the deep-water side of the ledge.

“In sum, I had my first stellar day in quite some time. My goal has been to land 30 bass per trip, and I have constantly failed to meet that goal. This outing felt like a breakout day, as I exceeded my 30-bass goal for the first time since I began wielding Midwest finesse tactics in September of 2013. I landed 40 largemouth bass during this four-and-half-hour endeavor, which equates to nine bass per hour. Fourteen largemouth bass were allured by the three-inch Z-Man’s Junebug Hula StickZ. The customized 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s black-blue-flake FattyZ tube caught 12 largemouth bass. The 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ caught 12 of them. The five-inch Yum black-blue Zellamander bewitched two bass. The slow drag-and-shake presentation was the most fruitful. All the bites were tentative and occurred during the deadstick portion of the presentations. The only indication of a bite was the weight of the lure suddenly feeling heavier.” 

March 13 log

Until this outing, I had not fished this nearby 195-acre community reservoir since Dec. 3, 2013, when the surface temperature ranged from 42 to 43 degrees. During that outing, I fished from 10:20 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. and caught 36 largemouth bass. Twenty-four of those 36 largemouth bass were caught on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

Since the winter of 2011-12, the green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on either a chartreuse 1/32- or 1/16-ounce Gopher jig has been our mainstay, and it was my mainstay on this March 13 outing.

The ice began to cover this reservoir on Dec. 7, and it finally disappeared on March 11. For 68 days, I have truly missed making the 16-mile jaunt from our front door to this reservoir’s boat ramp and fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass for a few hours a couple times a week. Thus, my heart was full of glee as I launched the boat, and it has remained that way even as I prepare this log.

During this afternoon outing, the surface temperature ranged from 43 to 47 degrees. To my delight, I crossed paths with three schools of gizzard shad dimpling the surface, several midge hatches, and a dozen turtles sunning themselves. And best of all, I found one significant patch of curly-leaf pondweed that was three to five inches tall, and a substantial aggregation of largemouth bass were associated with that patch.

The water level looked to be about a foot below normal. The water was clear throughout the reservoir’s main body and about halfway inside three of its feeder-creek arms. But on a mud flat in the back end of the southwest feeder-creek arm, the water was stained to the point that I had to strain to see the propeller on the trolling motor. The water in the backs of the south and east feeder-creek arms wasn’t heavily stained, which allowed me to see the trolling motor’s propeller. The surface temperature on the main-body was 42 to 43 degrees. At one spot in the back end of the south feeder-creek arm, the surface temperature was 47 degrees, and elsewhere in that arm, the surface temperature ranged from 44 to 45 degrees. In the back halves of the east feeder-creek and southwest feeder creek arms, the surface temperature ranged from 43 to 44 degrees.

The National Weather Service in Lawrence, Kansas, said the morning low temperature was 28 degrees, and the afternoon high temperature was 71 degrees. The wind angled out of the southwest at 12 to 24 mph. The sky exhibited a radiant-blue hue. The barometric pressure at 12:52 p.m. was 30.04 and falling.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing would occur from 8:44 a.m. to 10:44 a.m. and 9:06 p.m. to 11:06 p.m. I was afloat from 12:30 p.m. to 3: 35 p.m.

Traditionally, as soon as the ice disappears on this reservoir, Midwest finesse anglers can catch almost an endless number of largemouth bass in the backs of its three major feeder-creek arms. The most fruitful locations in the backends of these arms are covered with three to six feet of water and graced with patches of submerged aquatic vegetation, such as curly-leaf pondweed. The underwater terrain in these arms is primarily layered with silt, but some shorelines are graced with gravel, rocks, boulders, laydowns, American water willows, patches of curly-leaf pondweed, brush piles, and docks.

On this outing, I spent two hours trying to dissect a massive mud flat in the back of the southwest feeder-creek arm. This flat is bigger than five football fields, and it can take two anglers several hours to methodically dissect it. Thus on this short outing, I was able to thoroughly examine and probe only about 30 percent of it.

As I searched for a cluster of ice-off largemouth bass, I caught one largemouth bass in three feet of water on a hump that was endowed with some sparse patches of curly-leaf pond weed, and I caught two largemouth bass in about 2 1/2 feet of water adjacent to two docks. These three largemouth bass were caught on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, which I retrieved with a drag-and-shake presentation.

During the search routine, I spent some time strolling a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a 2 ¾-inch Z-Man’s California Craw prototype ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. When I wasn’t strolling, I was casting the Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and retrieving it with the drag-and-shake motif.

It took me 55 minutes of searching to cross patchs with a mother lode of ice-off largemouth bass.

This group of largemouth bass was abiding in three to four feet of water along a 120-foot stretch of this massive mud flat. This stretch is embellished with laydowns, rocks, boulders, clay, silt and some lush patches of curly-leaf pondweed. I extracted 48 largemouth bass from this 120-foot lair in 65 minutes. Three of them were caught on a 2 ¾-inch Z-Man’s California Craw prototype ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Eleven were caught on Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Thirty-four of them were caught on Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. All 48 of them were allured by the drag-and-shake retrieve.

I suspect that I could have fished this lair for another hour and might have been able to catch another 50. But I wanted to spend the last hour quickly surveying the back ends of the south and east feeder-creek arms.

I failed to garner a strike in the back of the east arm, and I caught only two largemouth bass in the back of the south arm, and those two were beguiled by the Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and drag-and-shake retrieve.

In sum, I caught 53 largemouth bass in three hours and five minutes.

As I was traveling from the back of the southwest arm to the back of the south arm, I crossed paths with a power angler who had fished for about four hours and failed to elicit a strike. As can be expected, he exhibited a skeptical look when I told him that I had tangled with 51 largemouth bass at that point in the outing. He wanted to see what I was using, and I pitched the Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig into his lap, and he look at it, and responded as most anglers do — especially power anglers — by asking: “How do you feel it?” And I told him that we do not want to feel it, and if we do feel it, we are fishing incorrectly. As he tossed it back to me, he exhibited a subtle air of disapproval.

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Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed a report about his suburban bank-walking endeavors and an encounter with a six-pound, four-ounce largemouth bass on March 13.

He wrote: “I made a solo bank-walking foray to four community ponds to search for pre-spawn activity. These four ponds have befuddled me throughout the winter.

“The weather was delightful. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 33 degrees, and the afternoon high climbed to 69 degrees. The sun was radiant and the skies were partly cloudy. The wind quartered out of the south and southeast at 12 to 16 mph. The barometric pressure was steady at 30.07.

“I was afoot from noon until 5:00 p.m. In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicted the best fishing time occurred from 8:51 a.m. to 10:51 a.m. I was unable to measure the water temperatures of these ponds. 

“The first two ponds I fished are located in the northwestern Dallas suburb of Carrollton. The first pond is about 20-acres in size. It has a large mud flat that spans across the northern end of the pond. A large mud point extends from the east-side shore, a smooth concrete dam forms the pond’s southern border, and a steep mud and gravel shoreline enhances the western shore. Small patches of brown hydrilla are dispersed throughout the pond. The water was stained with two feet of visibility, and the water level appeared normal. 

“I selected the following baits for this pond: Yum Bait’s five-inch black-blue F2 Zellamander rigged on a 1/16-ounce blue Gopher jig, 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s black-blue-flake FattyZ tube rigged on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; and 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green pumpkin ZinkerZ rigged on a 1/32-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig. 

“I utilized a slow twitch-and-deadstick retrieve with the FattyZ tube and Zellamander, and a slow drag-shake-and deadstick retrieve with the ZinkerZs. 

“I fished the deep-water edges of the northern mud flat, the steep mud and gravel shoreline along the west shoreline, and the concrete reinforcements of the dam with the Zellamander, FattyZ tube, and ZinkerZs. The water depths at these locations ranged from three to eight feet of water. I was unable to garner a strike from the edges of the mud flat, the concrete dam, or the steep western bank. 

“I then plied the south side of the prominent mud point along the east shoreline with the FattyZ tube, which allured three keeper-size largemouth bass. I switched to the green-pumpkin ZinkerZ and tangled with a 6-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass and another keeper-sized bass. The north side of the point borders the large mud flat, but I was unable to elicit any strikes from this area. 

“These five bass are the first I have caught from this stingy reservoir since October 5, 2013, and I felt euphoric. 

“The second pond I fished in Carrollton is about two acres in circumference. Hydrilla beds stretch across the entire length of the pond. Large mud flats adorn the east and west shorelines, steep mud banks with scattered cattail patches line the north shoreline, and a steep mud point radiates off the south shoreline. The water was stained, displaying about two feet of clarity. The water level was about two feet below normal. 

“I employed a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin ZinkerZ rigged on a 1/32-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig, and customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s black-blue-flake FattyZ tube affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig on this pond. I presented the ZinkerZ with a drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve and FattyZ tube with a slow twitch-and-deadstick motif. 

“I fished the edges of the large mud flats, the steep north shoreline, and the mud point along the south shoreline. The depth of the water ranged from three to six feet. I failed to garner a strike. 

“The third pond I fished is located on the southern border of Lewisville. It is about five acres in size. 

“The water was stained, exhibiting about 1 ½ feet of visibility. This pond has few outstanding features. A large mud flat occupies the south end of the pond. The north end has steep-mud-lined shorelines that are adorned with a large hydrilla bed and a small rock pile. I fished this pond with a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s green- pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a 1/32-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig, customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s black-blue-flake FattyZ tube affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and three-inch Z-Man’s Junebug Hula StickZ rigged on a 1/32-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig. The FattyZ tube was worked in a slow twitch-and -deadstick manner, and the ZinkerZ and Hula StickZ were retrieved with a slow drag-shake-and-deadstick presentation. I caught one keeper-sized largemouth bass in five feet of water along the deep-water edge of the mud flat with the ZinkerZ. I also inveigled a two-pound, two ounce largemouth bass off the deep- water side of the small rock pile with the Hula StickZ. This bass was residing in about three feet of water. I was unable to coax any other strikes from this pond. 

“The last pond I fished is located just north of the third pond. It is about the size of a football field. The water was stained with one and a half feet of visibility. A large island is situated in its western portion, and two creek channels run parallel to the island’s north and south shorelines. The east shoreline consists of a steep mud embankment, and the southern shoreline is enhanced with a decorative stone wall adjacent to a shallow mud point. 

“I began plying the decorative wall and mud point area of the southern shoreline with the green-pumpkin ZinkerZ and black-blue-flake customized FattyZ tube. I executed several fan casts across and along both sides of the mud point and stone wall. I retrieved the ZinkerZ with a slow- drag-shake-and-deadstick presentation. The FattyZ tube was presented with a slow twitch-and-deadstick action. Both baits and presentations failed to draw a strike. 

“I worked my way eastward along the southern shoreline and then north along the east mud embankment. I coaxed two largemouth bass from the mud embankment. One bass was in six feet of water, and it was bewitched by the FattyZ tube presented with the twitch-and-deadstick motif. The second bass was beguiled by the Hula StickZ implemented with a slow drag-shake-and-deadstick presentation. 

“After working the mud embankment, I moved over to a small mud point that extends from the north bank and drops quickly into six feet of water. I dissected this point with the Hula StickZ and slow drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve, which allured a largemouth bass that was abiding in three feet of water off the tip of the point. A few minutes later, the Hula StickZ inveigled another largemouth bass, which was extracted from seven feet of water, north of the island, and along the top of the creek channel ledge. 

“I continued fishing my way westward along the north shoreline without a strike, and then southward along the west shoreline. I probed the deep-water side of a small mud flat that extends from the west bank, and I tangled a largemouth bass that was in five feet of water just off the north edge of the mud flat. This bass engulfed the Hula StickZ as it settled to the bottom on its initial fall. 

In total, I caught 12 largemouth bass, including a six-pound, 4-ounce lunker, from three of these four very trying ponds. I was glad to see these ponds starting to show signs of bass activity, especially the first pond, which had not surrendered a bass to me since October 5, 2013. The Junebug Hula StickZ allured five bass; the black-blue-flake FattyZ tube caught four bass; the green pumpkin ZinkerZ caught three bass, including the lunker. The PB&J ZinkerZ and Zellarmander failed to produce a strike. The slow drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve was the most successful technique. 

March 14 log

This was suppose to be somewhat of an encore edition to the March 13 log, which featured my solo outing to a 195-acre community reservoir in search of ice-off largemouth bass.

On that outing, I was unable to thoroughly dissect one of this reservoir’s traditional and best ice-off locations. Therefore, I returned with mixed emotions to the same reservoir and area on March 14. The reason I was plagued by these mixed emotions is that we have established across the years a rule of piscatorial conduct and ethics that prevents us from fishing the same place more than once a week. But I rationalized that until March 13 I had not fished this reservoir since Dec. 3, 2013, and on March 13, I fished it for only three hours and five minutes. In addition, I fished the traditional and best ice-off location for only two hours. This spot is a massive mud flat, which is about the size of five football fields, and some winters – depending on the water level – it can be the size of six or seven football fields, and it takes one angler a long time to completely dissect it. Therefore on March 14, I wanted to spend another two hours or so examining it in hopes of locating a gargantuan aggregation of largemouth bass.

In years past, if the ice-off phenomenon occurs in late January or in early February, we have been able to locate a huge congregation or two of largemouth bass on this mud flat from which a pair of knowledgeable Midwest finesse anglers can catch and release 101 of them in less than three hours, and this task can be accomplished for several weeks. But once the surface temperature stabilizes above 45 degrees, we have noticed that these congregations begin to scatter, and those easy catches of 101 ice-off largemouth bass are over until the next winter.

Because the ice didn’t completely melt until the night of March 12, some of us theorized that the angle and intensity of the March sun would warm the water up quickly, and the big congregations of largemouth bass would start to dissipate in a few days. This theory also provided me with another rationale to fish the same reservoir and area two days in a row.

We can’t scientifically validate this observation, but we have observed on this massive mud flat that a congregation of ice-off largemouth bass can be very pelagic at times. Thus, it seems that they meander from one patch of curly-leaf pondweed to another patch. And some of those patches can be four or five football fields away, or they can wander around within the narrow perimeters of just one football field. The range and frequency of their wanderings can very from hour to hour and day to day and week to week.

The geographical size of an aggregation of ice-off largemouth bass can be as large as 150 feet long and 15 to 20 feet wide. At times – especially when there is more than one group of largemouth bass inhabiting this particular mud flat, the dimensions of each aggregation is smaller, and the smaller the group, the more they seem to wander. Some winters the largemouth bass seem to haunt an area that is circular-shaped rather than a rectangle and its circumference can be 50 or 60 feet. We suspect the geometric features of the habitat that the ice-off largemouth bass reside in might be dictated by the locations of the patches of curly-leaf pondweed.

So, the gist of my return to this mud flat that lies in the back of the reservoir’s southwest feeder-creek arm on March 14 was to finish exploring every n00k and cranny in hopes of locating one or two more aggregations of ice-off largemouth bass.

The weather conditions on Mar. 14 were not same as the ones on March 13. The National Weather Service at Lawrence, Kansas, recorded the low temperature on Mar. 14 at 50 degrees, and the high temperature was 67 degrees. Initially the sky was partly cloudy, and then it became sunny. A north and northwest wind blew at 13 to 28 mph. The barometric pressure at 9:52 a.m. was 29.90 and rising. In contrast, the morning low temperature was 28 degrees on Mar. 13, and the afternoon high temperature was 71 degrees. The wind angled out of the southwest at 12 to 24 mph. The sky exhibited a radiant-blue hue. The barometric pressure at 12:52 p.m. was 30.04 and falling.

The water level was about one foot below normal. The water was clear throughout the reservoir’s main body and about halfway inside two of its feeder-creek arms. In the back halves of those two arms, I had to squint and strain to see the propeller on the trolling motor. The stain might have been a byproduct of the wind. The surface temperature was 42 to 44 degrees, which was a tad cooler than it was on Mar. 13, when I found one spot where the surface temperature was 47 degrees.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing would occur from 9:24 a.m. to 11:24 a.m. I was afloat from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

My intentions to spend the entire outing dissecting nearly every square-yard of that massive mud flat in search of another aggregation or two of ice-out largemouth bass were confounded when I arrived there in the back of the southwest feeder-creek arm. Another pair of veteran and talented Midwest finesse anglers had already spent more than two hours dissecting it. As I found on March 13, they had found only one aggregation, as well as four other largemouth bass that were scattered rather randomly across this massive mud flat. When I arrived, they had already caught 44 largemouth bass from that one aggregation. And they were about to fish it again. So, I followed their boat through the area that accommodated this bevy of ice-off largemouth bass.

When this pair of Midwest anglers went through it the first time, they caught most of the largemouth bass in two to three feet of water and in relatively close proximity to the northwest shoreline. During our second pass through this area, they probed the shoreline again, but the shoreline activity had waned a touch. Instead of relating to the shoreline, the bulk of the largemouth bass were about 20 to 30 feet away from the shoreline, and there seemed to be four pods of them milling about within a 10-foot by 150-foot rectangle. The bulk of them seemed to be associated with young or newly sprouted patches of curly-leaf pondweed that were in four to five feet of water.

The patches of curly-leaf pondweed are just beginning to grow, and most of the stems are only a few inches long. We could not spot them on our sonar devices. But occasionally our baits would come in contact with a stem, and when that occurred, we regularly caught some largemouth bass.

From this 10-by-150-foot rectangle, I caught and released 42 largemouth bass by employing a slow drag-and-shake retrieve. Thirty-eight were allured by a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and four were caught on a Z-Man’s pearl Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. I failed to adequately hook and land another dozen. I think the two Midwest finesse anglers in the boat in front of me who were probing the shoreline caught a dozen largemouth bass. Thus, I calculated that we caught and released 98 largemouth bass from this congregation on Mar. 14.

After we tangled with those largemouth bass, we attempted to dissect other areas on this mud flat that might be entertaining another treasure trove of ice-off largemouth bass. But we failed to find that trove. In fact, during this endeavor, I caught only one largemouth bass, which was caught on Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig with a drag-and-shake retrieve, and the other pair of anglers caught one.

From there, the other boat of Midwest finesse anglers plied the entire southeast shoreline of the southwest feeder-creek arm. And I moved to the back of the reservoir’s south feeder-creek arm in hopes of finding an aggregation of ice-off largemouth bass milling about on its massive and shallow mud flat. But the pesky north and northwest wind had too many ranks of waves pounding it, which limited the spots where I could meticulously examine and fish. Thus, I caught and released only three largemouth bass and failed to land another fish; I couldn’t identify what specie it was, but it gave me a good donnybrook for a spell. Those three largemouth bass and the unidentified fish were caught on a somewhat wind-sheltered secondary point, and they were about eight feet off the shoreline, and they were allured by Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig that I was strolling.

When the other pair of Midwest finesse anglers had fished more than half of the southeast shoreline of the southwest feeder-creek arm, they reported that they had not elicited a strike. And shortly after that all of us called it a day.

In the four hours that I was afloat, I caught and released 46 largemouth bass. The Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig caught 42 of them, and the Z-Man’s pearl Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig caught the other four. The drag-and-shake retrieve allured 43 of the largemouth bass, and the stroll inveigle three. 

March 15 log 

Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about a March 15 outing he and his father had at a 500-acre power-plant reservoir. This is the same reservoir that they fished on Feb. 15, and his log for that outing can be read at this link: http://www.in-fisherman.com/2014/03/02/midwest-finesse-fishing-february-2014/. 

The National Weather Service in Fayetteville recorded the morning low temperature at 36 degrees and the afternoon high temperature was 67 degrees. The sky fluctuated from partly cloudy to mostly cloudy. The barometric pressure was 29.94 and falling at 12:53 p.m. While they were afloat, the wind angled out of the south at 8 to 14 mph. 

The water level was three feet below normal. The surface temperature was 71 degrees, and within the hot-water discharge, it was 87 degrees. The water exhibited a greenish tint, but it was clear.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing would occur from 10:00 a.m. to noon. The Crooms fished from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Charlie Croom employed his finesse tactics with two spinning outfits. One was a six-foot, 10-inch, medium-power Falcon LowRider XG Spin Shaky Head Special spinning rod spooled with 15-pound-test Suffix 832 Advanced Superline with an eight-pound-test Yo-Zuri Hybrid leader. The second outfit was a six-foot, nine-inch, medium-power, fast-tip Falcon Cara T-7 spinning rod that was spooled with 30-pound-test Suffix 832 Advanced Superline with an eight-pound-test YoZuri hybrid leader. 

Croom’s father is an uncompromising power angler. Thus, he refused to employ any of his son’s newfound Midwest finesse tools. Instead he worked with a seven-foot medium-heavy-action casting outfit spooled with 15-pound-test P-Line monofilament line, 3/8-ounce tungsten slip-sinker, 1/0 Gamakatsu round-bend, off-set worm hook, and a Roboworm’s 4 ½-inch FX Series worm in the Softshell Craw hue. He also wielded a rootbeer-hue Kopper’s Live Target Hunt For Center Crawfish Crank on a 6 ½-foot, medium-action Shimano Clarus casting rod spooled with 10-pound-test Yo-Zuri Hybrid line.

The spawning cove was the first area that they fished. Initially, Charlie beached the boat, and then he walked the shoreline of this cove, searching for spawning largemouth bass. He spotted scores of small largemouth bass milling about in three feet of water. He also spotted a pair that looked as if they were in the midst of their reproductive ritual, which was taking place adjacent to a hollow log. After he concluded his shoreline reconnaissance, Charlie got back into the boat, and they commenced to fish this spawning cove. Charlie employed a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin/orange ZinkerZ on an unpainted 1/16-ounce Gopher jig with his Falcon LowRider XG Spin Shaky Head Special spinning rod. He presented the ZinkerZ and Gopher jig by casting it on to the gravel above the water’s edge, and then he slowly dragged it into the water, and this tactic bewitched eight largemouth bass. This wasn’t his father’s venue, and he pleaded with Charlie to head to the hot-water discharge, and they did.

At the hot-water outlet, the swiftness of the current was so vigorous that boat control was a problem. The flow was significantly stronger than the Crooms had ever encountered, and it affected the way they presented their baits. Ultimately, they placed their boat inside an eddy near the shoreline in about three feet of water. This allowed them to present their baits from an inside-out angle, which is the way bank-walkers fish.

There is a long stair-step ledge that paralleled the shoreline . One ledge was in five feet of water and out of the heavy current. The other ledge was in 10 feet of water, and it was heavily washed by the current.

To probe this five-foot ledge, Charlie used the Falcon Cara T-7 spinning rod with a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin-red ZinkerZ on a 3/16-ounce Gopher jig. His casts were executed upstream at a 45-degree angle, and he probed the five-foot ledge with a deadstick presentation at the edge of the break in the current. He caught and released seven largemouth bass from this ledge, and two of them were hefty-looking three-pounders. His father unsuccessfully wielded a crankbait and Roboworm.

From the hot-water current, they moved to a main-lake point at the mouth of a cove, which traditionally entertains a significant number of spawning largemouth bass. One of the most attractive elements of this point is a rock pile that lies in 12 feet of water. Their boat floated in 15 to 20 feet of water, and they probed depths of seven to 15 feet of water.

At this point, his father caught 11 largemouth bass on his Roboworm rig and one on his crankbait. His father presented the Roboworm with a slow-crawling-and-deadstick retrieve in 10 to 15 feet of water, and his crankbait was retrieved at a medium pace into 10 and 15 feet of water. 

Charlie used the Falcon Cara T-7 spinning rod with a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin-red ZinkerZ on a 1/8-ounce Gopher jig, and he caught three largemouth bass. He retrieved the ZinkerZ by crawling or dragging it across the rocky terrain, and he periodically deadsticked it. He describes this presentation as “scrubbing the rocks.”

In total, they caught 29 largemouth bass. 

March 17 log

The last time that I fished this 1oo-acre community reservoir that lies along the southwest border of suburban Kansas City occurred on Dec. 2, 2013. During that outing, the surface temperature was 42 degrees and my cousin Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, and I caught 43 largemouth bass.

On this March 17 solo outing, the surface temperature ranged from 44 to 46 degrees. The water level was slightly above normal. The water was clear enough that I could see the propeller on the transom-mounted trolling motor, which is about 22 inches under the surface of the reservoir.

Northeastern Kansas was whacked with a wintry blast of weather on Mar. 16, which dusted some locales with a touch of snow and freezing rain. The National Weather Service at Olathe, Kansas, recorded the morning low temperature at 18 degrees on Mar. 17, and the afternoon high temperature was 48 degrees. The barometric pressure at 11:53 a.m. was 29.86 and dropping. During my outing, the sky switched from being sunny to partly cloudy.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing would occur from 11:08 a.m. to 1:08 p.m. I fished from 11:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Traditionally at this 100-acre reservoir, the largemouth bass are much easier for us to locate and catch in November and early December than they are on late winter outings. We suspect some of the problem revolves around the fact that this reservoir does not have any patches of curly-leaf pondweed, which would be beginning to grow on the shallow mud flats and shorelines once the ice melts. Instead, this reservoir’s shallow mud and gravel flats are embellished with patches of coontail, which deteriorates in the winter – especially when ice and snow covers the surface for weeks and even months on end as it did during the winter of 2013-14.

To my delight, however, I caught a largemouth bass on my third cast with a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, which was retrieved with a drag-and-shake presentation. The largemouth bass was caught along a concrete retaining wall in about three feet of water along the east shoreline of a massive mud flat in the upper end of this reservoir.

After I tangled with that first largemouth bass, it seemed as if I executed about 300 casts and retrieves before I caught another one.

The bulk of those casts and retrieves were spent trying to find an aggregation of largemouth bass inhabiting the remnants of the coontail patches that normally grace this mud flat, which is about the size of 3 ½ football fields. During this mud-flat endeavor, I not only failed to catch a largemouth bass, but I failed to find any odds and ends of the coontail patches. Moreover, I failed to catch a largemouth bass and find a patch of coontial on a smaller mud flat in the back of a mid-reservoir cove. But I occasionally spotted a tiny parcel of coontail floating on the surface. I also crossed paths with a lot of filamentous algae, which was probably attached to coontail stubble, and, of course, it adhered to the Gopher jig’s hook.

Upon getting kayoed on the mud flats, I decided to spend my last two hours fishing steep points and shorelines, which were adorned with rocks, gravel, patches of winter-dead American water willow, laydowns, boat docks, concrete retaining walls, and riprap. Some spots along these points and shoreline were bedecked with gobs of filamentous algae, which occasionally fouled some of my presentations.

During the last two hours, I eked out only 10 largemouth bass.

Four of them were caught along an east-side shoreline in the upper-third portion of the reservoir, and one was inveigled by a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig with a drag-and-shake retrieve, and three were bewitched by a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig with a drag-and-shake retrieve. One of these largemouth bass was caught in eight feet of water. The other three were abiding in four to six feet of water.

The Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig with a drag-and-shake retrieve extracted two largemouth bass from a main-lake point along the reservoir’s north shoreline in about four feet of water.

I caught two largemouth bass along the riprap of the dam. Both of these were caught on the initial drop of a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s purple-haze ZinkerZ on a purple 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. These largemouth bass were extracted from about four feet of water and adjacent to winter-dead patches of American water willows.

I failed to elicit a strike along several hundred feet of a south shoreline and a west shoreline.

In short, this reservoir was once again a trying ice-out venue, yielding only 11 largemouth bass in three hours, and it is likely to be a problematic reservoir until the water temperature is in the mid-50s and above and the patches of coontail and American water willows are beginning to flourish. As it has been the case since the ice melted at all of our northeastern Kansas flatland reservoirs on Mar. 12, dragging and shaking a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ was the most alluring tactic.

March 18 log

Pok-Chi Lau of Lawrence, Kansas, returned home from China and Myanmar on March 17. He had been traveling hither and yon and engaged with several photography endeavors since early December. Even though he was dealing with some travel fatigue and jetlag, he was on the telephone straightaway orchestrating a bass-fishing-for-trout outing at a 416-acre community reservoir on March 18. And he and I were afloat and fishing at 11:00 a.m.

The National Weather Service at Topeka, Kansas, said the morning low temperature was 46 degrees, and the afternoon high temperature was 64 degrees. For most of the outing the wind was bothersome, angling out of the southeast and south at 9 to 28 mph, and we primarily plied wind-sheltered lairs when the wind was at it fiercest. Around 2:30 p.m., the wind relented more than a touch, which allowed us to probe some main-lake lairs. The barometric pressure was 29.44 and steady at 10:53 a.m.

The water level looked to be nearly three feet below normal. The water was clear enough that we could see the propeller on the transom-mounted trolling motor, which was about 22 inches below the surface. The surface temperature ranged from 43 to 45 degrees.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing would occur from 12:23 p.m. to 2:23 p.m. We fished from 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Throughout the outing, many of the 270 minutes that we were afloat were focused on fishing spots that were not heavily battered by wind and waves. Thus, hiding from the wind determined how, when, and where we fished. But we did occasionally test a couple of wind-blown locales with a few casts, which failed to reap any largemouth bass or rainbow trout.

On the wind-sheltered areas that we fished, we engaged the trolling motor and began casting and retrieving the following baits: 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s purple-haze ZinkerZ on a purple 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; Z-Man’s PB&J Rain MinnowZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; and Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

Most of the time, we retrieved these baits with a drag-and-shake presentation, and at times we would punctuate a retrieve with a three- or four-second deadstick maneuver. For instance, the deadstick tactic occasionally yielded some dividends after a largemouth bass or rainbow trout made a pass at one of our baits but we failed to hook it. In some windy scenarios, we did some strolling, and around a couple of brushy lairs, we employed a slow swimming retrieve.

We attempted to meticulously fish as many inches of the windless shorelines and points as we possible could. In total, we fished 11 locations. Six of them were main-lake shorelines and points. Five of them were secondary points and shorelines inside one main-lake cove and three feeder-creek arms.

We caught 13 rainbow trout, two largemouth bass, and one smallmouth bass along a north shoreline and several points inside one of the reservoir’s east-side feeder-creek arms. These fish were extracted from three to seven feet of water, and some of them were as far as 20 feet from the water’s edge. All of them were associated with rocks and boulders. All 16 of these fish were bewitched by either a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig or Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The stroll presentation caught two trout and the smallmouth bass. The drag-and-shake — with some occasional deadsticking – caught the other fish.

The Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ and chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught two largemouth bass along a short stretch of the south shoreline inside this east-side feeder-creek arm. The largemouth bass were abiding around rocks in three feet of water.

We caught 12 rainbow trout and two largemouth bass along the north shoreline of another east-side feeder-creek arm, and the bulk of these fish were abiding around a massive pile of brush in about two to five feet of water. These fish were caught on all six of the lures listed above. A few of these fish were allured by the swimming retrieve, but the bulk of them were attracted by the drag-and-shake presentation.

 

We caught five rainbow trout and four largemouth bass along a 200-foot stretch of a main-lake bluff in the upper-west side of the reservoir. These fish were caught in three to seven feet of water in a boulder-littered and rocky terrain. The majority of these fish were allured by the 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s purple-haze ZinkerZ on a purple 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

We caught three largemouth bass along the north and south shorelines inside a main-lake cove on the reservoir’s west side. Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught two of them, and Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught the other one. These largemouth bass were in three to five feet of water along a gravel and rocky terrain.

We caught four largemouth bass along a bluffy shoreline inside a small feeder-creek arm on the west side of the reservoir. This bluff lies on the south side of this feeder creek, and it is embellished with a significant ledge, rocks, boulders, and laydowns. These largemouth bass were extracted from four to six feet of water, and the 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught two of them, and the Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig caught two.

In sum, we caught 30 rainbow trout, 17 largemouth bass, and one smallmouth bass.

We found three congregations of rainbow trout, and from two of those congregations we caught 25 rainbow trout, and from the third one, we caught five.

The largemouth bass were scattered, and we caught only two largemouth bass from the same lair.

This is the first smallmouth bass of 2014, which was caught on a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ and chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.

The smallmouth bass, which might have weighed a pound and a half, was the first one we have tangled with in 2014, and Mar. 18 is the earliest that we have caught a smallmouth bass at a non-power-plant reservoir in northeastern Kansas. The surface temperature on the secondary point where we caught this smallmouth bass was 43 degrees. It is interesting to note that our first smallmouth bass of 2013 was caught at this 419-acre community reservoir on April 19, when the surface temperature ranged from 48 to 49 degrees, and that smallmouth bass weighed six pounds, 10 ounces.

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Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, reported on the Finesse News Network about his March 18 bank-walking endeavors at a 12-acre community reservoir.

He wrote: “March is said to begin like a lion and end like a lamb, and so far that has been true in north-central Texas. High winds have plagued me almost daily, and when winds have declined, thunderstorms have erupted. Ultimately, I’ve been relegated to mostly shore-bound outings this month.

“Mar. 18 was extremely windy, blowing incessantly out of the south and southwest at 25 to 35 mph. The sky was clear and sunny. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low at 50 degrees and the high temperature quickly warmed to 84 degrees. The barometric pressure was 29.59 and steady.

“I returned to a community reservoir located just north of Dallas in the city of Plano, Texas, where I enjoyed a solo bank-walking excursion on Mar. 11 and caught 40 largemouth bass.

“In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated the best fishing period would occur between 12:27 p.m. and 2:27 p.m. I began fishing at about noon and I made my final cast at 4:55 p.m.

“This reservoir’s southern shoreline consists of a large mud and gravel flat, and scores of vacant spawning beds are clustered close to the bank. The eastern side of this reservoir is composed of two coves that are divided by a prominent sand and gravel point. The southeastern cove is formed by steep mud and rock shoreline, and a ditch that cuts across this cove from the southern shoreline to the northeastern corner of the cove. A mud and gravel point courses outward toward deeper water from the southern shoreline and forms the southern mouth to the cove. The northeastern cove encompasses a large mud flat with a small ditch that meanders across the middle of the cove from the east shoreline toward the west shoreline. The north shoreline is relatively straight, with a three foot mud and gravel ledge that extends outward from the water’s edge and drops off into five feet of water. The western shoreline is similar to the northern shoreline, and it is comprised of sand, gravel, and a few scattered fist-sized rocks. This shoreline is also graced with a shallow ledge that extends about three feet from the water’s edge before it slowly descends into five feet of water. This reservoir has two small patches of hydrilla. One patch lies in five feet of water and adjacent to the southwest end of the prominent east shoreline point. The second patch occupies the southern portion of the northeast cove in three to five feet of water. The water was stained with about 1 1/2-feet of visibility. I was unable to measure the water’s temperature.

“I kept things simple and utilized just four lures: 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ-spin rigged on a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; Z-Man’s Junebug Hula StickZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; 2 1/4-inch Z-Man’s black-blue-flake FattyZ tail rigged on a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; and a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s FattyZ tube on a 1/16-ounce blue Gopher jig.

“I started the afternoon fishing southward along the west shoreline with the Hula StickZ and the ZinkerZ-spin. After about 10 minutes of fruitless casting, I enticed a largemouth bass on the Junebug Hula StickZ presented with a slow drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve in five feet of water. This bass was abiding on the deep- water side of a ledge. The ZinkerZ-spin was presented in a slow swim-glide-and-shake Mannser. I continued working my way southward along the west shoreline with the Hula StickZ and the ZinkerZ- spin, but I could not entice another strike from this area.

“I then fished the deep-water edges of the spawning flat along the southern shoreline with the Hula StickZ and the ZinkerZ-spin, but I failed to allure a strike. I decided to switch lures, and began employing the 2 1/2-inch customized black-blue-flake FattyZ tube and the 2 1/4-inch black-blue-flake FattyZ tail. I enticed one largemouth bass from the deep-water edge of the spawning flat with the FattyZ tail applied with a slow drag-shake-deadstick action. The remainder of the spawning flat and the mud point leading into the southeastern cove seemed to be bereft of bass. The FattyZ tube failed to attract any bass.

“I next turned my attention to the south end of the ditch that traverses the southeastern cove. I probed the bottom of the ditch and the east and west-side ledges of the ditch. I caught one largemouth bass from the west-side ledge of the ditch in five feet of water. This bass was allured by the FattyZ tail and the slow drag-shake-and-deadstick presentation. I was unable to entice any other bass from this location.

“Next, I examined the east shoreline area of the southeast cove. I caught two largemouth bass on the FattyZ tail from the steep mud and rock bank. These two bass were caught about 20 feet off the bank in about five feet of water. I continued northward to the northeast corner of the cove, where I found a large concentration of largemouth bass in and around the area of the ditch. I inveigled five largemouth bass from the east-side ditch ledge, three largemouth bass from the bottom of the ditch, and 13 largemouth bass from the west-side ledge of the ditch. Nine of these 21 largemouth bass were allured by the FattyZ tube presented in a slow twitch-and-deadstick Mannser, and 12 bass were bewitched by the FattyZ tail animated with a slow drag-shake-and- deadstick technique.

“After I finished dissecting the ditch in the northeast corner of the cove, I continued working westward down the south bank of the prominent east shoreline point. I tangled with five more largemouth bass that were scattered along the point. These five bass were caught about 15 feet off the shoreline, in about three feet of water. Three of these largemouth bass were inveigled with the FattyZ tail presented with the drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve, and two of them were allured by the FattyZ tube and the twitch-and- deadstick presentation. I also checked the small patch of hydrilla adjacent to the point, and the west end tip of the point with both lures, but it proved fruitless.

“I proceeded eastward along the north shore of the point and into the northeast cove. I continued employing the FattyZ tube and FattyZ tail. I beguiled three largemouth bass from the shallow water edge of the hydrilla bed adjacent to the shoreline in about three feet of water. These three bass were enticed by the FattyZ tail and the slow drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve. I was unable to draw any strikes from the remainder of this cove.

“I finished the afternoon fishing the north end of the reservoir. I landed four largemouth bass that were scattered along the north shoreline in three to five feet of water. Three of the largemouth bass were caught on the FattyZ tail and slow drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve, and I caught the fourth one on the FattyZ tube used with the slow twitch-deadstick technique.

“In total, I garnered 38 largemouth bass during this five hour foray. Twenty-five bass were allured by the FattyZ tail, 12 bass were beguiled by the FattyZ tube, and one bass was bewitched by the Hula StickZ. The ZinkerZ- spin failed to draw a strike. A slow drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve was the most fruitful retrieve technique, which was followed by the slow twitch-and-deadstick presentation.” 

March 19 log

When Pok-Chi Lau of Lawrence, Kansas, and I were bass fishing for trout at a 416-acre community reservoir on March 18, several largemouth bass were allured by a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ and red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, which was a piscatorial revelation in our eyes.

For most of this winter, the 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ and jig were in a state of limbo in the world of the largemouth bass that abide in the flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas. For casts and retrieves on end during this winter, the preponderance of largemouth bass that we tangled with exhibited a preference for a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ and a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and we could rarely garner a strike with various colors of the 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ and various sizes and colors of Gopher jigs.

It is not unusual for a Midwest finesse bait — such as Z-Man’s four-inch Finesse WormZ, Hula StickZ, Finesse ShadZ or ZinkerZ — to turn fallow for weeks on end, and then seemingly out of the blue, it becomes our primary tool for catching largemouth bass and smallmouth bass for weeks on end.

In years past, when this type of bait transition occurs, we have noticed that it can happen virtually overnight. The hint that a ZinkerZ renaissance was in the offing provoked me to make a two-hour visit to a nearby 195-acre community reservoir on this last day of winter.

On my two solo outings on Mar. 13 and 14, I fished six hours and five minutes and caught 99 largemouth bass on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. On both of those outings at this 195-acre reservoir, I failed to elicit a strike with various 2 ½-inch ZinkerZs and Gopher jigs. Thus, from my recent experiences, this was an ideal waterway on which to see if the ZinkerZ was on the cusp of a rebirth.

According to the National Weather Service in Lawrence, Kansas, the low temperature was 36 degrees, and the high temperature was 55 degrees. The wind angled out of the northwest at 18 to 24 mph. The barometric pressure at 12:53 p.m. was 30.14 and falling. The sky was sun-drenched.

The water level looked to be about one foot below normal. At the two locations that I fished, which was at the dam and in the back third of a southwest feeder-creek arm, I could see the propeller on the transom-mounted trolling motor, and that is clear water in northeastern Kansas. The surface temperature at the dam was 44 degrees, and it reached 48 degrees in the back of the feeder-creek arm.

In the back of the feeder-creek arm, numerous aquatic turtles were either sunning themselves on logs and boulders or cruising near the surface and occasionally sticking their heads into the air. Several midge hatches were occurring. Hundreds of gizzard shad were frolicking near the surface. The patches of curly-leaf pondweed had grown several inches taller than they were on Mar. 13 and 14.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing would occur from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. I fished from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The brisk northwest wind provoked me to focus on two areas that were wind-sheltered.

The first place I fished was a 30-foot riprap jetty along the dam. The boat floated in nine to 17 feet of water. The surface temperature was 44 degrees. Within 35 minutes, I caught 16 largemouth bass on a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ and red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. These largemouth bass were extracted from two to about eight feet of water. Three largemouth bass engulfed the ZinkerZ on the initial drop, and 13 of them engulfed it while I was executing a drag-and-subtle-shake retrieve. And I elicited two strikes while employing a drag-and-deadstick retrieve with a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ and a chartreuse 1/32-ounce, and I caught one largemouth bass.

I spent the next 85 minutes fishing the wind-protected areas in the back of the southwest feeder-creek arm. I primarily probed patches of curly-leaf pondweed, and five days ago several of those patches entertained a substantial number of what we call ice-off largemouth bass. Until the water warms into the mid- and upper-40s, these ice-off largemouth bass usually abide in big congregations and mill around the curly-leaf pondweed patches on the mud flats in three to six feet of water. While I was fishing this mud flat, the surface temperature hit 48 degrees, and from my perspective, it seemed as if the ice-off congregations of largemouth bass had begun to disperse. But I was able to eke out 22 largemouth bass, and 17 of them were caught on the 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ and red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. This ZinkerZ rig was retrieved with a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve in the patches of curly-leaf pondweed, and in areas that were devoid of vegetation, it was retrieved with a drag-and-shake presentation. Four largemouth bass were caught on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ and a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, which was retrieved the same way as the ZinkerZ was presented.

In sum, 33 of the 38 largemouth bass that I caught were allured by the ZinkerZ rig. Where as, less than a week ago, I couldn’t elicit a strike with the ZinkerZ at this reservoir. Therefore, it looks as if the 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ is out of limbo.

A footnote to March 19 log:

Traditionally, the next bait to undergo a resurgence will be the four-inch Z-Man Finesse WormZ, and that normally occurs in April. Then the Zoom Bait Company’s Mini Lizard will likely shine for a while, as will Gene Larew Lures’ Baby HooDaddy. All the while, the Finesse ShadZ, Hula StickZ and ZinkerZ will usually allure their fair share of largemouth and smallmouth bass that abide in the flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas, and at times one of those well be more dominate than the others.

We don’t presume to know why these baits rise and fall in their effectiveness throughout a calendar year. Our Kansas waterways are too stained for use to observe what is transpiring in the largemouth and smallmouth bass’ world, and we do not want to rely on our imaginations to concoct a theory or two about what is going on. All we do is document these changes in our monthly guide to Midwest finesse, which we have been publishing at http://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/ since January of 2011.

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Steve Reideler filed the following report on the Finesse News Network about Rick Allen’s 2 ½-hour solo outing on a major river in the Texas Hill Country on March 19.

The weather was sunny with hazy skies. The morning low temperature was 40 degrees and the afternoon high reached 71 degrees. The wind quartered out of the northeast at 5 to 15 mph. The barometric pressure was steady at 30.13. 

The portion of the river that Allen targeted consisted of steep mud and rock banks, several shallow stump fields, and lily pad covered flats. The main river channel traverses through the middle of the river with depths reaching 20 feet. Scattered hydrilla beds flourish in the bottom of the river channel, as well as along the edges and ledges of the channel. The water was slightly stained, exhibiting three to four feet of visibility. The surface temperature was 62 degrees, and the water level was normal.

Allen of Dallas, Texas, lasted this river on January 31, and during that trying outing, he allured two Guadeloupe bass and one spotted bass. 

On this March 19 endeavor, Allen fished from noon until about 2:30 p.m. In Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicted the optimum fishing period would occur between 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. 

Allen employed two baits: Charlie Brewer Slider Company’s four inch Plum-Glitter Slider Worm Texas-rigged on a 1/16-ounce black Slider Original Slider Head, and a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s watermelon-red ZinkerZ rigged on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Allen customized the ZinkerZ by cutting the tail section into four small tentacle-like strips. 

The first location Allen fished was a long steep rocky bank on the north side of the river. He wielded the four-inch Slider Worm and attracted two bass that were abiding in five feet of water. He presented the Slider Worm with a slow twitch-and-deadstick manner. Allen continued to work his way down the steep rocky bank with the Slider Worm, but he failed to entice another bass. 

The second spot Allen fished was a large lily-pad-covered flat that spans the southern bank. Most of the lily pads on this flat were brown stems, but new growth was beginning to sprout. Allen began plying the lily-pad field with the customized watermelon-red ZinkerZ and the swim-glide-and-shake retrieve, and he hooked five largemouth bass. Of these five bass, two were small; one was a two-pounder; and the fourth was a lunker that weighed five pounds, eight ounces. Allen battled another lunker largemouth bass for several minutes, and this one appeared to be larger than the five-pounder. Unfortunately, this bass was able to dislodge the ZinkerZ and free itself while jumping next to the boat. These five bass were relating to the lily-pads in five feet of water.

In total, Allen caught seven largemouth bass during his 2 ½- hour outing. A customized 2 1/2-inch watermelon-red ZinkerZ bewitched five largemouth bass, and one of those was a five-pounder. What’s more, he was unable to land another lunker, which liberated itself next to the boat. The four-inch Texas-rigged Slider Worm allured two bass. The swim-glide-and-shake presentation was the most productive retrieve.

March 20 log

A whale of a wind ushered in the first day of spring in northeastern Kansas.

John Reese of Lawrence, Kansas, and I tried to hide from it by traveling 50 miles to a 55-acre community reservoir. On past windy days, we have been able to contend with some of the harshest winds that Mother Nature can dish out in March and October in these parts by fishing this small reservoir. But on this outing she virtually kayoed us.

While we were fishing or attempting to be fishing, the National Weather Service in Emporia, Kansas, reported that the wind blew 24 to 39 mph out of the southwest, and one gust of wind nearly blew Reese and me out of the boat. The low temperature was 33 degrees, and the high temperature was 71 degrees. The barometric pressure at 11:53 a.m. was 30.00 and falling. The sky exhibited a robin-egg blue hue, and the sun was shining everywhere.

The water level was about a foot below normal. The surface temperature was 46 degrees. The water clarity was about 24 inches.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing would happen from 2:11 p.m. to 4:11 p.m. Reese and I were afloat from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., struggling to cast and retrieve our Midwest baits. Mother Nature’s wind put so many bows in our lines that it was nearly impossible for us to execute any of the standard Midwest finesse retrieve.

In sum, we eked out five largemouth bass.

Two were caught on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ and a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig on a gravel and rock flat in the very back of the reservoir’s east feeder-creek arm; one of the largemouth bass was in two feet of water along the shoreline, and it was allured by the initial drop of the Finesse ShadZ. The second one was attracted by a slow strolling presentation of the Finesse ShadZ in six feet of water. A third largemouth bass was caught in three feet of water along the north shoreline in the back of the reservoir’s east feeder-creek arm, and it engulfed the 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ and red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig on the initial drop.

The other two largemouth bass were caught along the east shoreline in the back of the reservoir’s south feeder-creek arm. It is a rocky terrain that is enhanced by six major laydowns. Both were caught about 12 feet from the water’s edge. A trimmed four-inch Z-Man’s Coppertreuse Finesse WormZ caught one, and a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ-spin on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught the other one. 

March 21 log

Steve Reideler posted the following report on the Finesse News Network.

He wrote: “For the past several years, a small group of north-central Texas anglers have had an unique opportunity to travel 55 miles and visit a 275-acre ranch just east of Van Alstyne, Texas, where we enjoy the day fishing eight scenic ponds. Upon our arrival, it is always customary to be greeted by the landowner, who has a passion for raising Alpacas and rescuing donkeys, and one of those rescued donkeys finds great delight in rummaging through unsuspecting visitors’ open vehicles, tackle bags, and lunch containers while their backs are turned and their attention is focused on fishing.

“On March 21, I was joined by Mark Woolnough of Birmingham, Alabama. Woolnough is a beginning bass fisherman who does not get many opportunities to fish, but relishes those that do come his way. I thought it would be an interesting experiment to introduce Woolnough to some basic Midwest finesse tactics and see what transpired. Woolnough sounded skeptical, but agreed.

“The National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at a mild 55 degrees, and the afternoon high was a pleasant 82 degrees. A robust wind blew continuously from the south and southeast at 17 to 26 mph, and the barometric pressure was steady at 29.87. The morning was sunny and partly cloudy, but became cloudy by mid-afternoon.

“In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar listed the most opportune fishing period from 3:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. We fished for eight hours. We started at about 9:15 a.m. and finished at about 6:15 p.m., but we took an hour off to eat lunch, visit with the landowner, and watch several Alpacas meandering nearby. We also wanted to get a position-fix on the mischievous donkey that enjoys raiding our tackle bags with great enthusiasm.

“When we arrived, we where disappointed to discover that our four-year drought had taken its toll on these ponds. The water levels in six of these ponds were at least six feet low, and two ponds had dried up completely during the summer drought of 2013. We plied five of the six ponds that were still intact. We fished the four smallest ponds from the bank, and we used an eight-foot, two-man boat to fish the largest pond. We were unable to measure the water temperatures in the four smaller ponds, but the temperature in the largest pond ranged from 60 degrees to 64 degrees. We concentrated on locating pre-spawn bass by targeting shallow ditches, the top and sides of hydrilla beds, ledges, edges of shallow spawning flats, and points adjacent to shallow spawning flats. It turned out to be a spectacular day, surpassing all our expectations, and I would not have believed it if I hadn’t been there to experience it first-hand.

“The first pond we fished is about three acres in size at normal water levels, but was now about 1 1/2-acres in size. The water was stained with about two feet of visibility. The deepest water was about four feet deep. Most of this pond’s distinguishing features were now out of the water. We did find a shallow hump surrounded by a thin wall of hydrilla at the center of the pond and a shallow ditch that cuts across the north end of the pond next to a shallow flat.

“We began fishing this pond with three baits: Charlie Brewer’s three-inch plum-glitter Bass/Walleye/Striper Grub rigged on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; Z-Man’s green pumpkin-blue-flake Finesse ShadZ rigged on a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; and a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s watermelon-red ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. We landed 16 largemouth bass from this pond. All 16 bass were relating to the thin wall of hydrilla surrounding the shallow hump in four feet of water. Brewer’s Slider Grub and a slow straight-swim retrieve attracted four bass, the Finesse ShadZ and slow swim-glide-and-shake motif allured four bass, and the ZinkerZ manipulated in a slow swim-glide-and-shake manner inveigled eight bass. 

“The second pond we fished is about 1 1/2-acres in size. Its main features are a shallow hump near its northern shoreline, a prominent point extending eastward off the west shoreline, a shallow ditch running parallel to the south side of the point, two large laydowns along the south shoreline, and a set of 10 wooden posts surrounded by four feet of water near the north end of the west shoreline. Small patches of hydrilla are dispersed along the edges of the shallow ditch and hump. The water was stained, with about 1 1/2-feet of visibility, and the deepest water we found in this pond was about four feet deep. We extracted two largemouth bass and one large bluegill from the south side ledge of the ditch on the Slider Grub and straight-swim retrieve. The ZinkerZ and slow swim-glide-shake presentation induced one largemouth bass and one large bluegill from the steepest side of the shallow hump.

“The next pond we plied is about three-acres in size. It consists of a large spawning flat that stretches across the east shoreline, a set of 14 wooden posts that extend northward toward the middle of the pond from the south shoreline, and a shallow creek channel that enters from the east end of the pond and winds its way westward along the southeast end of the pond. Small hydrilla beds are scattered across the bottom of this pond. We tangled with six largemouth bass and two large bluegills. Two of the six largemouth bass were in the two-pound range, and one of those two-pounders was just an ounce under three pounds. Two largemouth bass and one large bluegill were attracted to the Slider grub and straight-swim retrieve, two largemouth bass and one bluegill were allured by the ZinkerZ and swim-glide-and-shake technique, and two largemouth bass engulfed the Finesse ShadZ worked in a slow swim-glide-shake manner.

“The fourth pond we examined is about two acres in size. Its main features are a shallow spawning cove on the southeast end of the pond, a steep limestone and dark-clay embankment along the southern shoreline, and patches of hydrilla sprinkled around the center of the pond. The water was stained with about two feet of visibility. The deepest water we could find was about three feet deep. We fished this pond with the Slider grub, ZinkerZ, and Finesse ShadZ, but failed to draw a strike. We believe this once fruitful pond may have experienced a fish die-off from the extremely low water levels that has beleaguered this pond since the summer of 2012.

“The fifth pond we visited is normally about 2 1/2-acres in size, with two feeder creeks entering from the southwest and southeast end of the pond. These two creeks are now dry. The shallow spawning flats that once spanned the western shoreline are now dry. The support posts for the pond’s decorative gazebo now stand in less than a foot of water. The deepest water we found was near the center of the pond, and that water was barely four feet deep. We changed lures and plied this pond with a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, four-inch Z-Man’s black-neon Finesse WormZ affixed to a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and the same green-pumpkin-blue flake Finesse ShadZ that we had been using earlier. We caught six largemouth bass and one large bluegill. Four bass were inveigled by the ZinkerZ employed with a slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve, and two largemouth bass were allured by the Finesse WormZ. One bass broke off Woolnough’s PB&J ZinkerZ, but I caught the same bass on the Finesse WormZ a few seconds later as the Finesse WormZ settled to the bottom on its initial fall, and we found Woolnough’s ZinkerZ still lodged in the top of the bass’ mouth. The second bass taken on the Finesse WormZ was attracted to its slow swim-glide-and-shake presentation. These six bass were relating to a small ledge near the center of the pond in four feet of water.

“We finished the day on the largest and most fruitful pond, which is about 12 acres in size at its current water level. This pond is fed by three feeder creeks. One enters from the center of the south shoreline, the second one enters from the east shoreline, and the last one winds its way inward from the center of the north shoreline. All three of these feeder creeks cut through shallow flats that spread across the southern, eastern, and northern shorelines. The west shoreline is comprised of a steep clay embankment with brush and tree limbs littering the bottom near the water’s edge. The center of the pond is graced with a large flourishing hydrilla bed.

“This pond surrendered 89 largemouth bass, and most weighed between 1 1/4 and two pounds. We began fishing this pond with a four-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-green- flake Finesse WormZ rigged on a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; Z-Man’s pumpkin- green-flake Finesse ShadZ rigged on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; and 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher Jig. Except for a few strikes that occurred while the bait was settling toward the bottom on its initial fall, the vast majority of these 89 bass were allured by the slow swim-glide-and-shake presentation.

“Our first spot on this pond was at the mouth of the south feeder creek, where we located a concentration of bass relating to the hydrilla bed near the center of the pond. We utilized all three baits and landed 14 largemouth bass from the top of the hydrilla bed in about five feet of water.

“Our second spot was a shallow spawning flat in the southwest corner of the pond. We plied this area with the pumpkin-green flake Finesse WormZ, pumpkin-green flake Finesse ShadZ, 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s pumpkin-orange ZinkerZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, a four-inch Z-Man’s PB&J Finesse WormZ on a 1/32-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig, and four-inch Z-Man’s coppertreuse Finesse WormZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. We found a large aggregation of largemouth bass in this area, and we landed 53 of them that were milling about along the deep-water edge of the spawning flat in about five feet of water. All five of these baits caught an equal share of these largemouth bass. 

“After we dissected the deep water edge of the spawning flat, we slowly worked our way northward along the west-side embankment, fan casting the area with the pumpkin-green-flake Finesse ShadZ, pumpkin-green flake Finesse WormZ, and PB&J Finesse WormZ. We caught 12 largemouth bass next to the embankment in about four feet of water.

“The last spot we fished was the northern shoreline. We fished our way eastward but did not connect with any bass until we reached the mouth of the north feeder creek. That area yielded 10 largemouth bass, which were bewitched by the PB&J Finesse WormZ and pumpkin- green-flake Finesse ShadZ. After we finished probing this area, we called it a day.

 

“Overall, we had an exhilarating and exceptional record-breaking day for north-central Texas bass anglers, and one that I will be hard-pressed to duplicate. We caught and released 114 largemouth bass and had another 25 to 30 largemouth bass that liberated themselves before we could land them. This catch rate calculated to a phenomenal 14.25 bass per hour, and one I have never experienced in nearly five decades of bass fishing. The pumpkin-green-flake Finesse ShadZ allured 27 largemouth bass; the four-inch PB&J Finesse WormZ inveigled 23; the four-inch pumpkin-green-flake Finesse WormZ garnered 15; the pumpkin-orange ZinkerZ caught 10; the PB&J ZinkerZ caught 10; the watermelon-red ZinkerZ allured 10 bass; the Charlie Brewer’s three-inch plum-glitter Bass/Walleye/Striper Grub Brewer’s waylaid eight; the green pumpkin- blue-flake Finesse ShadZ bewitched six, the coppertreuse Finesse WormZ caught three; and the black-neon Finesse WormZ attracted two. The vast majority of largemouth bass preferred the swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. Eight largemouth bass were beguiled by the straight- swim retrieve. Several bass engulfed a lure as it settled to the bottom on the initial initial.

“Woolnough summed it up best while we were examining our sore and raw thumbs at the end of the day: “This is insane!” and I had to agree with him.”

March 22 log

Bob Gum of Kansas City filed a brief report on the Finesse News Network about his March 22 outing at a 160-acre state reservoir.

The National Weather Service in Lawrence, Kansas, recorded the morning low temperature at 30 degrees and the afternoon high temperature at 47 degrees. The sky was blue and the sun was shining everywhere. The barometric pressure at 8:52 a.m. was 30.35 and falling. The wind angled out of the north and northeast at 8 to 22 mph.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing would take place at 3:42 a.m. to 5:42 a.m. and 4:10 p.m. to 6:10 p.m., and there was a minor period from 9:56 a.m. to 11:56 a.m. Gum fished from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The water level looked to be about six feet below normal. The water clarity exhibited about 4 ½ feet of visibility. The surface temperature was 46 degrees.

Initially, he probed several offshore rock piles in the lower or southern end of the reservoir and tangled with three largemouth bass. One was caught on a small jerkbait, and two were caught on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ and a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig with a drag-and-deadstick presentation. These largemouth bass were abiding is five to eight feet of water. 

He spent most of the outing dissecting patches of curly-leaf pondweed in the back or north ends of the northwest and northeast feeder-creek arms. 

Around these patches of curly-leaf pondweed, his boat floated in nine feet of water. The outside edges of the curly-leaf pondweed patches were in eight to nine feet of water. The patches were more robust in the northeast feeder-creek arm than they were in the northwest one, which hasn’t been the case in recent years. 

To probe these patches, he used a small jerkbait, Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s bubble gum ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. 

He retrieved the Finesse ShadZ and ZinkerZ combos with a drag-and-deadstick presentation that was occasionally punctuated with small twitches. To prevent the pesky north and northeast wind from putting a significant bow in his line, his rod was held in the five o’clock position. From these patches of curly-leaf pondweed, the ZinkerZ rig allured two largemouth bass, and the Finesse ShadZ caught 10. 

In sum, he caught 15 largemouth bass, three crappie, and one walleye. 

March 23 log

Burton Bosley of Sutton, West Virgina, posted the following note on the Finesse News Network.

“Ice is off. I had one fruitless day trying my new float-n-fly rod. The water temperature was 36 degrees. Back in my Kansas City days with Chuck Woods we used to call this jig-and-bobber fishing. 

“I have an arm injury that has kept me off the water since. I have spent my time tying hair jigs, modifying lures and trying to relearn left-handed casting. 

“I read about your trying times with the Kansas wind and wondered if you have tried floats with your rigs. It is a great way to get a presentation on windy days, or anyway it use to be effective with Beetles and hair jigs when that prairie wind was ripping.” 

March 24 log

Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about a Texas Hill Country river outing that Rick Allen of Dallas took on March 24. 

A cold front passed through during the night of March 23, and March 24 was cloudy, 63 degrees, and the wind quartered out of the east-northeast at five-to-10 mph. The water temperature in this section of the river was 63 degrees, heavily stained, and exhibited one foot of visibility. The barometric pressure measured 30.13. 

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing times would happen from 5:49 a.m. to 7:49 a.m. and 6:17 p.m. to 8:17 p.m. There was a minor period from 11:34 a.m. to 1:34 p.m. Allen fished the middle portion of the river from 1:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. 

Allen began fishing patches of hydrilla near the south shoreline. He worked with a 2 ¼-inch Z-Man’s watermelon-red FattyZ tail rigged on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig that he used with success on March 20. After an hour without a bite, Allen began using a Charlie Brewer Slider Company’s four-inch Tennessee Shad Slider Worm with a dyed blue tail, and it was Texas-rigged on a 1/16-ounce black Original Slider Head. Allen’s second spinning rod sported a Charlie Brewer Slider Company’s blue-ice/chartreuse three-inch Bass/Walleye/Striper Grub rigged on a blue 3/32-ounce Gopher jig. During the next two and a half hours, Allen landed five largemouth bass on the Tennessee Shad Slider worm and slow twitch-deadstick retrieve, and one largemouth bass on the Slider grub used with a slow do-nothing presentation. All six bass were caught in less than two feet of water. 

Allen’s next spot was a stump covered flat next to the main river channel. The water was clearer than it was at the eastern weed bed; it exhibited about two feet of visibility. Allen employed the blue-ice/chartreuse Slider grub and do-nothing retrieve and inveigled three largemouth bass that were relating to the stumps in about five feet of water. Allen then dissected the stump field with the four-inch Tennessee Shad Slider worm and slow twitch-and-deadstick presentation, and he eked out four more largemouth bass from the stumps. 

Allen ended the day with 13 largemouth bass during five and a half hours of fishing. Nine bass were inveigled by the Slider worm and twitch-and-deadstick presentation. Four largemouth bass were tricked by the Slider grub and do-nothing retrieve. 

March 25 log

Despite the advent of spring, Mother Nature’s wintry ways continued to waylay northeastern Kansas. For instance, on March 23 and 25, it snowed. Some area thermometers plummeted to 15 degrees on March 23, and it remained unseasonably cold through March 25, when the water temperatures at many of the flatland reservoirs across northeastern Kansas were warmer than the air temperatures.

In fact, area thermometers didn’t climb above 32 degrees until 11:45 a.m. on Mar. 25 , and once those thermometers broached the freezing mark, I decided to venture to a nearby 195-acre community reservoir for a three-hour solo outing. I hadn’t fished since March 20, when Mother Nature walloped John Reese and me with 24- to 39-mph winds.

As regards to our weather and largemouth bass fishing, the spring of 2014 has been a frustrating time for Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas, and in many ways it is reminiscent of the frustrations that confounded us during the winter of 2013-14. Consequently, we have not come close to tangling with 101 largemouth bass in four hours of intense fishing.

The National Weather Service at Lawrence, Kansas, recorded the morning low temperature at 21 degrees on March 25. The afternoon high temperature was 44 degrees. (Throughout this outing, I was dressed in my winter wardrobe, and my 74-year-old fingers were stinging cold from the first cast to the last cast.) The normal low temperature is 35 degrees, and the normal high temperature is 58 degrees. While I was afloat, the wind angled out of the northwest at 21 to 26 mph. The barometric pressure at 11:52 a.m. was 30.42 and falling. The sky alternated from partly cloudy to sunny.

The surface temperature ranged from 45 to 48 degrees. The water level looked to be about 12 inches below normal. The water was clear enough that I could easily see the propeller on the transom-mounted trolling motor, which is about 24 inches below the surface.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing would take place from 6:33 a.m. to 8:33 a.m. and 7:02 p.m. to 9:02 p.m. I was afloat from 12:20 p.m. to 3:20 p.m.

This was another one of those March outings when the wind determined where I fished. Thus I spent two hours and 45 minutes plying a variety of lairs that grace a massive shoreline and mud flat on the north side of the reservoir’s southwest feeder-creek arm. I also spent about 15 minutes fishing a small riprap jetty on the face of the dam, which was sheltered from the wind.

At the riprap jetty, I caught three largemouth bass on a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig that was retrieved with a drag-and-deadstick presentation. One largemouth was abiding in about three feet of water, and the other two were in about 10 feet of water.

I caught 37 largemouth bass along a rocky shoreline and around patches of curly-leaf pondweed on a mud flat towards the back of the southwest feeder cove. I estimated this to be a 250-yard stretch of water. Those 37 largemouth bass were located in four small sections of this massive terrain, and I couldn’t determine why they were at those four locales and not at similar ones along this area.

Six of these largemouth bass were caught on a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig that was retrieved with a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve around the patches of curly-leaf pondweed. Thirty-one of the largemouth bass were caught on the 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The majority of those largemouth bass were bewitched by the swim-glide-and-shake retrieve, but several were allured by a drag-and-deadstick retrieve. These largemouth bass were abiding in three to five feet of water; some were along the rocky shoreline, and others were around the patches of curly-leaf pondweed.

I caught one largemouth bass on a minor mud flat that is adjacent to a boat dock near the mouth of the southwest feeder-creek arm. This largemouth bass was caught while I was strolling the 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig in four to five feet of water.

In sum, I caught 41 largemouth bass. I encountered nine strikes that I failed to hook. Moreover, I failed to land two largemouth bass that I saw and five fish that I did not see. Initially, the bite was lackluster, but it improved dramatically from 1:40 p.m. to 2:20 p.m.

March 26 log

Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, posted the following note on the Finesse News Network about the conditions of the waterways in Indiana:

“Our southern waters, which are two hours to the south, opened up about two weeks ago, but I like to take the first trip of the season at waters as close as possible to make certain everything is working and checked out with the boat/engine. The waters around my parts opened up on March 20, but I haven’t had a chance to make it out yet. Our northern waters are still frozen. The last trip I took was Dec. 28, 2013. So, it will likely be a full three months of no fishing or boating for me this winter, which is the main reason I hesitate to drive far for this year’s initial outing.” 

March 27 log

Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his bank-walking and wind-blown outing on March 27.

He wrote: “The wind continues to be problematic in north-central Texas, keeping anglers shore bound and preventing them from plying their favorite big reservoirs in a boat. Thus, I grabbed a couple of rods and tackle bag and embarked on an afternoon foray of traipsing around the shorelines of a 12-acre community reservoir.

“The sky was mostly cloudy, but occasionally graced with short periods of sunshine. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 55 degrees, and the afternoon high temperature quickly warmed to 84 degrees. An irksome wind blew incessantly from the south at 2o to 30 mph. The barometric pressure was measured at 29.66 and steady.

“In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicated the optimum fishing periods occurred from 8:20 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. and 8:48 p.m. to 10:48 p.m. I was afoot from noon until 5:00 p.m.

“The north shoreline of this reservoir is mostly straight, and it has a three foot mud and gravel ledge that extends outward from the bank and drops off into five feet of water. The western shoreline is similar to the northern one, and it is comprised of sand, gravel, and a few scattered fist-sized rocks. This shoreline is adorned with a shallow ledge that extends about three feet from the water’s edge and slowly descends into five feet of water. The south shoreline is formed by a large mud and gravel flat, and it was littered with scores of vacant spawning beds that were situated close to the water’s edge. The east side of the reservoir encompasses two coves that are divided by a prominent sand and gravel point. The southeastern cove consists of a steep mud and rock shoreline, a ditch that runs from the south shoreline to the northeastern corner of the cove, and a mud and gravel point that courses outward toward deeper water from the south shoreline, and this point forms the southern mouth to the cove. The northeastern cove is comprised of a large mud flat with a ditch that cuts westward through the middle of the cove from the east shoreline. This pond has two small patches of hydrilla. The first patch lies in five feet of water and adjacent to the southwest end of the prominent point on the east shoreline. The second patch occupies the southern portion of the northeast cove in three to five feet of water.

“I used the following array of baits: a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s Junebug FattyZ tube rigged on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; Z-Man’s Mud Minnow hue Hula StickZ rigged on a purple 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; four-inch Z-Man’s green pumpkin WormZ sported on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; Z-Man’s four-inch coppertreuse Finesse WormZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig; four-inch Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ affixed on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ rigged on a purple 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; and 2 1/4-inch Z-Man’s black-blue-flake FattyZ tail on a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig.

“I was amazed and delighted when this pond relinquished 78 largemouth bass during two outings on March 11 and March 18. However on this March 27 endeavor, I struggled to entice 18 largemouth bass during 5 hours of fishing.

“I began the day fishing the west shoreline, and straightaway, I realized the largemouth bass were in a funk, and I would have to grind out every bite. I slowly probed the west shoreline with the PB&J ZinkerZ and 2 1/2-inch Junebug FattyZ tube, and I could only muster one largemouth bass on the ZinkerZ worked in a slow swim-glide-and-shake manner parallel to the ledge. This bass was about three feet off of the bottom, and it was inhabiting the shallow sand and gravel ledge that was covered withthree to five feet of water. I worked the FattyZ tube with a slow twitch-and-deadstick presentation, and it failed to elicit a strike.

“I then moved to the southern shore, where I slowly dissected the deep-water edges of the spawning flat. I tangled with six largemouth bass that where scattered along the edge of the flat in three to five feet of water. Two of these bass where attracted to the FattyZ tube and twitch-and-deadstick presentation. Two of them were allured by the four-inch coppertreuse Finesse WormZ and slow drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve. Two were induced by the 2 1/4-inch FattyZ tail and slow drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve. The Mud Minnow Hula StickZ presented with a slow drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve failed to garner a strike.

“Next, I examined the south end of the ditch in the southeast cove. I inveigled one largemouth bass from the west-side ditch ledge with the coppertreuse WormZ implemented with a slow drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve. The bottom and east-side ledge of the ditch failed to yield any other largemouth bass.

“After checking the south end of the ditch, I proceeded to the east side. I did not make contact with any largemouth bass until I reached the northeast corner of the cove, where the ditch enters the pond. I extracted three largemouth bass from five feet of water on the east-side ledge of the ditch. One bass was enticed by the FattyZ tail and slow drag-and-deadstick presentation, one bass was caught on the FattyZ tube presented with a slow twitch-and-deadstick action, and one bass engulfed the coppertreuse Finesse WormZ presented in a slow drag-shake-and- deadstick retrieve.

“I then worked my way westward along the southern shoreline of the point that divides the southeastern and northeastern coves. This area surrendered three largemouth bass that were scattered along the point in three feet of water. One of them was beguiled by the Junebug FattyZ tube with twitch-and-deadstick presentation. The other two were allured by the four-inch green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ maneuvered with a slow drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve. The remainder of this point, and the hydrilla bed adjacent to this point, failed to yield a bass.

“The next area I checked was the northeast cove, where I landed three largemouth bass. One bass was relating to the east edge of the hydrilla bed in three feet of water, and was bewitched by the Junebug FattyZ tube manipulated in a slow twitch-deadstick scheme. The other two bass were coaxed from the south-side ledge of the ditch by the 2 1/4-inch FattyZ tail and slow drag-shake-deadstick retrieve.

“I finished the day working westward along the north shoreline. The FattyZ tail presented with the slow drag-shake-and-deadstick motif inveigled one largemouth bass. This bass was in five feet of water and adjacent to the mud and gravel ledge.

In total, the 2 1/4-inch black-blue-flake FattyZ tail garnered six of the 18 largemouth bass; the 2 1/2-inch customized Junebug FattyZ tube allured five, the four-inch coppertreuse Finesse WormZ beguiled four; the four-inch green- pumpkin Finesse WormZ caught two; the 2 1/2-inch PB&J ZinkerZ enticed one; and the Mud Minnow Hula StickZ failed to draw a strike. The slow drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve was the most productive presentation. 

March 28 log

Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, has been yearning for the charm and warm embrace of spring for weeks on end. What’s more, he has been longing to get afloat and wield some Midwest finesse tactics in hopes of catching 101 largemouth bass in four hours.

Besides being a Midwest finesse devotee and one of the original contributors to the Finesse News Network, Frazee is the Kansas City Star’s outdoor editor. And his many duties at the newspaper, as well as the dastardly weather that has walloped northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri this past winter and early spring, have kept him at bay. But on March 28, he was able for the first time in 2014 to launch his boat at a 120-acre community reservoir in the northern suburbs of Kansas City, and I joined him.

The National Weather Service at Kansas City recorded the low temperature at 38 degrees around 6:54 a.m. and 51 degrees around 3:45 p.m. (It didn’t quite measure up to the warm embrace of spring that Frazee had been craving for, but it wasn’t as bone-chillingly cold as it was on March 24, when area thermometers registered a low temperature of 26 degrees and a high temperature of 39 degrees.) The barometric pressure at 9:45 a.m. was 30.06 and rising. The sky was clouded during most of the daylight hours, but we did see the sun for about 15 minutes. The wind, which howled up to 50 mph in some parts of Kansas and Missouri on March 26 and 27, was remarkably mild-mannered on Mar. 28, and, in fact, it rarely whimpered while we were afloat, and when it did, it angled out of the west at 8 mph and out of the north at 5 mph. Not only did the wind roar on March 27, but some locales in northwest Missouri were ravaged by tornadoes.

The water level looked to be about three feet below normal. The water clarity exhibited about five to seven feet of visibility. The surface temperature ranged from 43 to 45 degrees, and in one small area, we found the surface temperature to be 47 degrees, and that occurred when the sun shined for about 15 minutes.

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar predicted that the best fishing would happen from 8:59 a.m. to 10:59 a.m., and 9:26 p.m. to 11:26 p.m., and a minor period from 2:46 a.m. to 4:46 a.m. Frazee and I fished from 10:45 a.m. to 3:15 a.m.

We spent the entire four hours and 30 minutes that we fished by plying the back end of this reservoir’s primary feeder-creek arm. We focused on rocky and riprap shorelines, mud and clay flats that are graced with patched of coontail stubble, laydowns, ledges, some stumps, a few boulders, some fence posts, and several man-made brush piles. This area is about the size of four football fields. As we fished, our boat floated in two to 14 feet of water.

We weren’t bass fishing for trout, but we caught a rainbow trout on our first cast. For the next hour, however, we caught only two largemouth bass and one more rainbow trout.

Ultimately we crossed paths with two significant aggregations of largemouth bass. The size of these two congregations was similar to the ones that we often find on the shallow mud flats in the backs of the feeder-creek arms as soon as the ice melts at some of our flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas. These two aggregations were along and adjacent to two riprap shorelines, and they were abiding in two to six feet of water.

The north shoreline in the back end of this primary feeder-creek arm consists of three separate sections of riprap. One section is about 30 yards long, and we failed to elicit a strike along this stretch. The middle or second section of riprap is about 60 yards long, and along a 20-yard portion of this riprap, we caught and released 59 largemouth bass, one rainbow trout and five black crappie. The third section of riprap is about 90 yards long, and along a 40-yard segment, we caught and released 36 largemouth bass. At a rocky point that separates the first section of riprap from the second section of riprap, we caught one largemouth bass. We extracted four largemouth bass out of some patches of coontail stubble on the mud flat adjacent to the third section of riprap.

It is interesting to note that we shared this area with a power angler, and we saw him catch only one largemouth bass.  But we caught seven largemouth bass within a short cast or two from his boat.

In sum, we caught and released 101 largemouth bass. Six of the largemouth bass were caught on a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s California Craw FattyZ tail affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Ninety-five largemouth bass were caught on two baits: Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce jig. About half of the largemouth bass were allured by the bounce-and-hop retrieve, and the other half were bewitched by the drag-and-shake retrieve. At times, both of these retrieves were punctuated with a deadstick routine for several seconds. A few of the largemouth bass that were abiding in two feet of water engulfed our baits on the initial drop.

March 29 log

Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, posted a brief note on the Finesse News Network about his and a friend’s attempt to enjoy an encore performance of the outing that he and I had on Mar. 28 at a 120-acre community reservoir that lies in the northern suburbs of Kansas City. On that March 28 outing, Frazee and I caught and released 101 largemouth bass. Details about that outing are described in the log above.

But to Frazee and his friend’s chagrin, they were able to catch only 28 largemouth bass, eight rainbow trout and nine crappie, which they caught by employing a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce jig, a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin-and-blue-flake Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and a smoke-glitter Swimming Minnow on a black 1/16-ounce jig. They utilized a variety of Midwest finesse retrieves, and they failed to discover a dominate one.

They caught only 16 largemouth bass along the two riprap shorelines that Frazee and I caught 95 largemouth bass on Mar. 28. After they fished the riprap shorelines, they focused on several steep rocky shorelines that grace this reservoir, where they eked out 12 largemouth bass.

March 30 log

Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas, filed an extremely brief report on the Finesse News Network about his Mar. 30 outing on a southwest Missouri river, where he and his father fished for six hours and caught two spotted bass and one smallmouth bass. Croom thought that the wild weather and water fluctuations that bashed this river throughout March had this river’s denizens discombobulated.

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Bob Gum of Kansas City filed a report on the Finesse News Network about a wind-blown outing that he and a friend had at a 2.600-acre power-plant reservoir on March 30. 

The largemouth bass fishing at this reservoir has been lackluster since Nov. 25, 2013, and to Gum’s chagrin, it was lackluster again. 

Initially the wind angled out of the south at 13 mph; then by 9:53 a.m., it began to howl with gusts that hit 37 mph. The National Weather Service in Olathe, Kansas, recorded the morning low temperature at 40 degrees; the afternoon high temperature was 70 degrees. It was sunny from their first casts to the last ones. The barometric pressure at 8:52 a.m. was 30.09 and falling. 

The water level looked to be about a foot below normal. The water clarity along the riprap shorelines on the east side of the reservoir was about two feet, and along the dam the clarity improved to 3 ½ feet. They didn’t venture into the core of the warm-water plume. Instead they focused on the southern half of the reservoir, where the surface temperature ranged from 53 to 55 degrees. Some of the lairs they probed were on the southwest and southeast borders of the warm-water plume. 

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar noted that the best fishing would occur from 10:55 a.m. to 12:55 p.m. They fished from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 

They began the outing by plying a significant section of riprap and short span of American water willows along one of the reservoir’s east shorelines. They caught two largemouth bass from the outside edge of American water willows. One was caught on a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s Junebug ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The second one was caught on a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s watermelon-red ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. They failed to catch a largemouth bass on the riprap, but they did inveigle 20 white bass and one freshwater drum. 

Their second stop was also on the east side of the reservoir. It is a massive riprap shoreline that borders the power plant. They caught several largemouth bass by employing a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s Natural ShrimpZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. They trimmed a half of an inch off of the ShrimpZ’s tail. This is the first report from a Midwest finesse angler about the ShrimpZ, and Gum is impressed with its effectiveness and its buoyancy. 

To tame the dastardly effects of the wind, they had to employ a drift sock as they plied these east-side shorelines. 

After battling the wind, they sought refuge from it along the dam, where they caught several more largemouth bass on the ShrimpZ and a small jerkbait along the dam’s riprap. 

From the dam, they ventured to another east-side riprap shoreline, where they failed to garner a strike. 

Their final stop of the outing was along a wind-sheltered portion of a bluff on the west side of the reservoir, where they caught two largemouth bass and several white bass. 

In sum, they caught 12 largemouth bass, 25 white bass, three freshwater drum and two channel catfish. Along the riprap most of the largemouth bass were shallow and caught on the initial drop of the bait, and the two that were caught around the American water willows were allured by the swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. The white bass were extracted from five to eight feet of water.

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Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, posted a report of the Finesse News Network about his March 30 bank-walking and bobber expedition.

He wrote: “The wind continues to howl across north-central Texas. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 41 degrees and the afternoon high temperature was a comfortable 78 degrees. The wind blew relentlessly out of the southeast at 23 to 34 mph. The skies were mostly cloudy and the barometric pressure was 29.96 and rising.

“In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar indicted the best fishing period occurred between 10:46 a.m. and 12:46 p.m. I was afoot from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“I elected to use the windy conditions to experiment with what I call a bobber-rig that Midwest finesse pioneer and Finesse News Network member Burton Bosley of Sutton, West Virginia, had recently mentioned as a productive and useful technique when blustery winds disrupt and confound other Midwest finesse retrieve styles.

“To conduct this experiment, I plied two small community reservoirs that lie in the northwest suburbs of Dallas.

“The first reservoir is about 20-acres in size. It is endowed with a large mud flat that stretches across its northern end. A large mud point protrudes from its east-side shoreline. A smooth concrete dam forms its southern perimeter. The west shoreline consists of a steep mud and gravel bank. Small patches of brown hydrilla are dispersed throughout this small reservoir. The water was stained with two feet of visibility, and the water level appeared normal. I did not have the means to measure water temperatures.

“I fished the entire afternoon with Z-Man’s black-blue-flake Scented LeechZ threaded on a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. The jig and LeechZ combo was suspended 18 inches beneath a one-inch Thill Rattling Bobber, which was presented with a slow twitch-twitch-pause retrieve. (It was a fixed bobber, not a slip one.) I concentrated on the edges of the north mud flat, the south side of the east bank point, the submerged concrete reinforcements of the dam, and the steep west-side shorelines. I fished behind and around several power-anglers and live-bait fisherman, but I failed to garner a bite. I did not see any of the other anglers catch a fish either.

The second reservoir is 12 acres in size. It has mud and gravel ledges extending out from the north and west shorelines. A large mud and gravel flat had many vacant spawning beds clustered close to the southern shoreline. Two coves separated by a sand and gravel point forms its eastern border. A ditch runs from the southern shoreline to the northeastern corner of the southeastern cove. Another ditch cuts westward through the middle of the northeastern cove from the east shoreline. It is adorned with two small patches of hydrilla. One patch lies in five feet of water and close to the southwest end of the point on the east shoreline. The second patch is situated in the south section of the northeast cove. Both patches of hydrilla are covered with three to five feet of water. The water was stained and exhibited about 1 1/2-feet of visibility. The water level appeared normal.

“This pond has been very fruitful this month, surrendering 96 largemouth bass during three outings, and it yielded some dividends on this outing via the bobber and Scented LeechZ. It caught five largemouth bass from the ledge on the west shoreline, three largemouth bass from the edges of the southern spawning flat, one largemouth bass from the east-side ledge of the ditch in the southeastern cove, five largemouth bass from the south-side of the point along the east shoreline, and four largemouth bass from the ledge adjacent to the north shoreline. All 18 of these bass were scattered and inhabiting three to five feet of water. Another seven largemouth bass were able to pull loose and free themselves before I could land them. I found no large concentrations of bass.

“The bobber-rig was a useful strike indicator as the blustery winds imparted big bows in my line. It also made casting into the wind easier, and I did not lose a single rig to underwater obstructions. It was a lot of fun and reminded me of my youth when I first began fishing by catching bluegills with a bobber and live worms.” 

March 31 log 

Across many parts of northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri, the daffodils and forsythias began to bloom in earnest on March 31. And in the eyes of many Midwest finesse anglers, such as Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, that is often an omen that bountiful catches of largemouth bass are about to occur. 

But to the vexation of Frazee, Mother Nature allowed the wind to roar at a furious pace. In fact, when he and Bruce Janssen of Kansas City were afloat at a 120-acre community reservoir that is situated along the northern outskirts of Kansas City, the National Weather Service at Kansas City recorded wind speeds that angled out of the south at 16 to 40 mph, and other sources indicated that the wind howled close to 50 mph. 

The NWS said the low temperature was 60 degrees and the high temperature was 80 degrees. The sky alternated from sunny to cloudy, and it drizzled in some spots around Kansas City. The barometric pressure was 29.65 and falling at 10:54 a.m. 

The water level looked to be three feet below normal. Despite the effects of the wind and waves, the water was clear, but along the wind-blown shorelines, the water was murky. The surface temperature was 48 degrees. 

In-Fisherman’s solunar calendar notes that the best fishing would occur from 11:05 a.m. to 1:05 p.m. Frazee and Janssen were afloat from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. 

Frazee wielded a 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s PB&J ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Janssen used a Johnson Original Beetle Spin. 

They tried in vain to catch some largemouth bass at a few of the reservoir’s wind-sheltered areas. But the largemouth bass were inhabiting wind-blown areas. Ultimately, they eked out 21 largemouth bass, four rainbow trout and two black crappie.

 

Endnotes to the introduction that features Ralph Manns

In the introduction to this month’s guide to Midwest finesse fishing, Ralph Manns of Rowlett, Texas, explained about how Texas’s fisheries biologist want to manage the largemouth bass population in reservoirs.

Here are some more of Mann’s insights about management of largemouth bass waterways:

He wrote: “Every largemouth bass year-class starts out huge (10,000-20,000 eggs per nest). Only two of these eggs need survive to spawning size if the adult spawning population is to remain at a constant size. Usually no more than 1000 largemouth bass per nest make it to fry size, and maybe 10-15 of these survive and become fingerlings. The natural mortality rate of largemouth bass is high, starting at about 99.99% for eggs and fry, and dropping rapidly to 20-40 percent per year for eight-inch and larger bass. Mortality tends to increase slightly again as adult bass age beyond three to five years. If there was only one year class in a waterway, the size profile would look from the side much like an office-desk memo spike, which has a very wide base because of the large numbers of juveniles with a narrow spike tapering to a point at the maximum size and age that waterway would support, which biologists call carrying capacity. Each year class can only decrease in number of individuals as it ages.

“The non-triangular or pointed population profiles develop because largemouth bass don’t all grow at the same rate. Some grow slowly and others grow rapidly. By the time that most largemouth bass in a year-class are six-inches long, some are still three-inchers, and a few might be nine-inchers. When this fact is combined with multiple-year classes (spawns year after year), there is a different population-size profile. Instead of a long tapering triangle, we get bulges, which reflect the adult largemouth bass of the same size from multiple year-classes. At a waterway where the largemouth bass population is not subjected to angler predation and the natural-mortality rate is normal, most of the largemouth bass from four and five year-classes will be 14 to 17 inches long. In highly fertile waterways, most of the largemouth bass will be in a 16- to 19-inch grouping. Above the 19-inch threshold, the number in each size always seems to fall due to continuing mortality. The result is a population size graph that is shaped like a lava lamp – except the shape tapers to a point rather than a flat top. The size of the population bulge is determined by growth rate, and that is determined by water fertility. When the bulge occurs near 12 inches, which is the point apparently preferred by some finesse-and large-number oriented bass anglers, something has gone awry in the rate of growth or the mortality rate. In past years, before catch-and-release fishing for largemouth bass was wide-spread and 12-inches was the minimal size used by most catch and keep anglers, a 12- inch population bulge was an indication of overharvest of larger fish or some other massive adult-bass mortality factor. Bass simply were not being allowed to grow to full size and full maturity. The population structure apparently desired by some large-catch finesse anglers is that of a stunted population with poor growth.

“In Florida waters with good growth potential, an unfished largemouth bass population can easily produce 100 fish per eight-hour outing, and most of those largemouth bass will weigh two to six pounds, and it might include a 10-pounder or two. Unfortunately, Texas doesn’t have any unfished or lightly fished public waters. Therefore we must accept some compromises in catch rates. A properly managed private lake in Texas can produce 100 largemouth bass per eight-hour outing, and many of them will be 14- to 20-inch largemouth bass.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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