The Drag and Shake
On November 27, we posted a blog that described four of the basics retrieves that Midwest finesse anglers employ year-around. When we were writing that blog, we thought about adding a fifth one, which we call the drag and shake. But it has played such a minor role in our repertoire of finesse retrieves across the years that we opted to not describe it.
But during our last five outings, which stretched from November 28 through December 1 and encompassed 20 hours of fishing, the drag and shake enticed 83 percent of the 189 bass that we inveigled. Even before its stellar performance during those five days, it had begun to play a more sizable role in our finesse tactics as many of the flatland reservoirs that stipple the countryside of northeastern Kansas became afflicted with terrible algal blooms during this past summer. And at some of our waters, the algal blooms have extended into the cold-water period.
Not only do algal blooms reduce the clarity in our lakes, but they also can affect the dissolved oxygen levels. When the dissolved oxygen level drops, we have deduced and have been told by biologists that the bass become lethargic. What’s more, from our experiences during this past summer and throughout the entire fall, the combination of poor water clarity and lifeless bass made for some exceedingly trying fishing. For example, since the eruption of the algal blooms, our quest to tangle with 101 bass per outing hasn’t been achieved since May 25.
In order to allure some of these sluggish creatures in these murky-green waters, we initially employed the drag-and-deadstick retrieve. But it is such a tedious and time consuming retrieve that we began to experiment more and more with the drag-and-shake motif, and on many outings it allured more bass than the deadly-slow drag and deadstick did. Then as late summer folded into the fall, and eventually as the cold-water season began to evolve a few weeks ago, causing the algae to dissipate in some our reservoirs, we began working with our favorite and usually most fruitful retrieve that we call the swim and glide, and to our chagrin, it didn’t bewitch very many bass; neither did the hop-and-bounce retrieve. But the drag-and-shake method continued to seduce the bulk of the largemouth bass. For instance, on December 1 it allured 56 of the 69 largemouth bass that we caught in a reservoir that was slightly stained with an algal bloom and the surface temperature hovered at 45 degrees.
During the winter, as the water temperatures plummet into the low 40s and high 30s , many bass anglers, who employ power tactics, maintain that deep-water lairs are the best ones to ply. It is not unusual to hear some of them say: “Fish and think vertically in the winter.”
But practitioners of Midwest finesse tactics have learned that many of the largemouth bass that inhabit the flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas abide in shallow water during winter’s coldest spells. Thus, it is not unusual for us to catch largemouth bass in two to eight feet of water when the surface temperature is 38 and 39 degrees and small sheet of ice are floating around the boat.
Because of the success that we have recently had with the drag-and-shake retrieve during the first days of our cold-water bass fishing, we will scrupulously test the drag-and-shake retrieve on our largemouth bass during the rest of this cold-water season.
So far we have determined that day in and day out the best way to employ this tactic is to work with a 1/32-ounce Gopher Mushroom Jig Head and a Z-Man Fishing Products’ Rain MinnowZ. The most fruitful colors have been a pearl Rain MinnowZ and a red jig and a green-pumpkin Rain MinnowZ on a chartreuse jig.
But when the wind blows or we ply lairs that lie in water that is deeper than six feet, we opt of a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
In addition, there will be spells when we will have to wield a 3/32-ounce jig. In fact, that occurred on November 29 when we fished a small flatland reservoir that was stained with a heavy algal bloom and the surface temperature of the lake ranged from 45 degree to 49 degrees. On this outing, we caught the bulk of the bass in two and four feet of water, and for some undeterminable reason these bass preferred the drag and shake to be used with a red 3/32-ounce Gopher and 2 1/2-inch Z-man ZinkerZ in a Junebug hue rather than the 1/32- and 1/16-ouncers that shallow-water bass typically prefer. After that experience, we have decided that we will have a 3/32-ouncer rigged with either Rain MinnnowZ or a 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ at the ready all winter long, which will allow us to more efficiently drag and shake these combos into depths of 12 feet of water or more. We will even test it periodically around shallower hideaways when the bass seem to prefer the jig to scratch the bottom more vigorously than the 1/32- and 1/16-ounce jigs can do.
The drag and shake can be implemented by holding the rod anywhere from the one o’clock position to the five o’clock position. Anglers can select the position that is most comfortable to them or according to the nature of the wind; when the wind is blowing, it best to hold the rod down at the four to five o’clock position. The angler commences to subtly shake the rod as soon as the lure hits the water. Once the lure reaches the bottom, the angler slowly turns the reel handle, allowing the lure to stay in contact with the bottom, and as the lure moves across the bottom, the angler continues to shake the rod delicately so as not to cause the lure to jump off the bottom.
In a future blogs we address how anglers about should dissect lairs with this and other finesse retrieves, focusing on the angle and distance of the casts, as well as boat positions. We will also explore tactics for dealing with the wind, which many finesse angler find to be their primary nemesis.
Insights about the wintertime behavior of largemouth bass in Canada during the winter:
Gord Pyzer, an In-Fisherman field editor from the Lake of the Woods,Ontario, notes that most anglers in his neck of the woods think that largemouth bass move to deep water and hibernate when ice covers a lake. But Barry Corbett, the fisheries biologist at theLake of the Woods, tracked several three- and four- pound largemouth for several seasons, following them even under the ice in the winter, and he found that they rarely migrated to deep water. In fact, he has found them inhabiting water as shallow as two and three feet under the ice. Furthermore, Corbett discovered that these bass moved around a lot, noting that they are much more active than most folks thought they would be, and Corbett postulated that these bass made these radical moves in ordered to feed.