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Midwest Finesse

Midwest finesse retrieves: an update

by Ned Kehde   |  December 4th, 2011 9

On December 1, this largemouth bass was caught by dragging and shaking a green-pumpkin Rain MinnowZ and 1/32-ounce chartreuse Gopher Mushroom Jig Head through a patch of coontail in four feet of water. The water temperature was 45 degrees. This was one of 69 largemouth bass that were caught on this 3 1/2-hour outing, and 56 of those bass were caught on the drag-and-shake retrieve.

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.

On Noverber 28, this largemouth bass was caught at a power-plant reservoir by dragging and shaking a green-pumpkin Z-Man Rain MinnowZ on a 1/32-ounce chartreuse Gopher around riprap in about four feet of water. The surface temperature was 51 degrees in this area

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.


On November 28, Pok-Chi Lau of Lawrence, Kansas, caught this three-pound, 10-ounce largemouth bass by wielding a four-inch chartreuse grub with the tradtional straight-swim retrieve rather than the drag-and-shake one that is featured in this blog. This bass was caught along a shallow riprap shoreline, and the surface temperature was 51 degrees. Lau was retrieving the grub parallel to the shoreline and about four feet from from the water's edge. Lau's catch reveals that finesse anglers need to test a variety of retrieves throughout an outing. The straight swim and three other finesse retrieves can be examined at




  • Burton Bosley

    Love this post – I remember catching bass through the ice with Chuck Woods in the late '60's. He told us they were shallow and they were. On a farm pond east of La Cygne. Kansas we caught them in three foot of water on 1/16 th oz. beetles and marabou jigs. We would watch them drift into view and suck in the jig. We laughed at how ridiculous it must look to be out there on the ice, staring through the hole – barely moving the rod tip, waiting for a fish that according to lore should be buried in the deepest water. If I remember correctly our biggest was almost five pounds.

    • Ned Kehde

      Do you have a photograph of Chuck Woods?
      Shortly before Ray Fincke died, we asked him if he had one, and to our surprise, he didn't have a photograph of Woods.
      Drew Reese and and Dwight Keefer don't have one.
      We have looked in vain for one around Kansas City. We were hoping that Bill Ward or Dusty Ensley had one. There might be some 16mm film of Woods from Virgil Ward and Harold Ensley's television shows, but that is an archival nightmare to search through.
      If you have a photograph, could you please send us a copy to post on In-Fisherman's blog site?
      Woods was one of the greatest anglers and angling innovators our world has known; yet few anglers outside of Kansas City are aware of his contributions. Nowadays very few anglers in the Kansas City area are aware of Woods' many contributions — especially the development of finesse fishing for largemouth bass. So it would be nice to exhibit a photograph of him.

  • nkehde

    Thanks for your insights, as well as your memories of fishing with the great Chuck Woods, who was the forefather of finesse fishing for largemouth bass.
    We are eager to read more and more of your enlightening observations about the history of finesse
    fishing in northeastern Kansas.

  • Ned Kehde

    Do you have a photograph of Chuck Woods?
    Before Ray Fincke died, we asked him if he had one, and he didn't have one.
    Drew Reese and Dwight Keefer don't have a photograph of him.
    If you have one, please send us a copy, and we will post it on this blog site.
    Even though he has been dead for decades, Woods was and remains one of the most important innovators in the history of angling. Thus, it would be nice to show the angling world what this great angler looked like in his prime.

    • Burton

      I have a picture, not real good but will make a copy and send it to wherever you request.

      • Ned Kehde

        Sorry that I failed to respond to the reply that you posted five weeks ago.
        Please send a copy of the Chuck Woods' photograph to Steve Quinn, In-Fisherman, 2819 Highland Scenic Road, Baxter, Mn. 56425-8346. Then we will post it on the blog so the world can finally to see the father of finesse fishing for bass.
        Thanks again and best wishes,

  • Ned Kehde

    Update on the drag and shake:

    Old Man Winter made a visit to northeastern Kansas this week, which has adversely affected our angling abilities and motivations to get afloat.

    Fished about three hours on Dec. 5. The temperature was 29 degrees. Ice formed on the guides from the second cast to the last one. Surface temperature fluctuated from 41 degrees to 43 degrees. The water clarity was affected by an algal bloom. Eked out only 13 largemouth bass; one weighed four pounds, seven ounces. All were caught on either a white or green-pumpkin Z-Man Rain MinnowZ affixed to either a red or chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher Mushroom Jig Head; this combo was presented with the drag and shake retrieve. These bass were caught in three to seven feet of water; 11 of them were on a shallow flat graced with some curly-leaf pondweed and with a small ledge nearby; the boat was in seven to 12 feet of water

    Fished on Dec. 8 from 11:45 to 3:30. No ice on the guides. Initially it was sunny but it gradually became cloudy; snow was in the forecast, but it never materialize. Area thermometers hit a low if 17 degrees before dawn and reached 40 degrees at 3:30. The wind was negligible, angling out of the northeast at 3 to 5 mph.
    The upper 10% of the lake was ice covered. Surface temps ranged from 39 degrees around the ice to 41 degrees at the dam.
    Water was relatively clear; lake was a few inches above normal.
    Caught only 15 largemouth, but four of them were nice ones, including two that were three-pounders.
    Caught one bass on a purple-haze 2 1/2" ZinkerZ on a red 3/32-ounce Gopher. One of the three-pounders hit a jerkbait (first time it was used this winter, but made fewer than 50 casts with it). The rest of the bass were caught on a green-pumpkin Rain MinnowZ on either 1/32- or 1/16-ounce chartreuse Gopher. The bass were caught in two to eight feet of water.
    Two were caught on the dam; two were caught on two different shallow-coontail-laden secondary points; the rest were caught along a shoreline slightly down lake from where the ice began.
    Made many casts (too many of them) between bites, and throughout the entire outing, we couldn't tell if the bass were in a negative mood and weren't biting, or if we were using the wrong baits and presentations. We do know, however, that we didn't find a concentration of actively feeding bass. In winters past, we usually found one or two significant congregations of cold-water bass, and when we crossed paths with them, we often caught 25 to 35 of them.
    Initially, it looked as if it would be an easy outing to catch 30 or more bass. In fact, a bass was caught on the first cast in 39-degree water, and the second bass was caught on the fifth cast; then it was a major struggle for every cast after that fifth cast to entice a strike.
    A drag and shake, punctuate with an occasional deadstick, accounted for the strikes with the ZinkerZ and Rain MinnowZ. The jerkbait strike came during an eight second pause in a double-twitch andlong pause retrieve.
    In sum, this has been a trying week for catching bass.

  • Ned Kehde

    Update on the drag and shake:

  • New Guy

    Hi Ned,

    I live here in Overland Park KS and I'm new to this style of fishing and have been pouring over your blog (which is very informative and check every other day :-), but I don't seem to be able to get these retrieves down. If you could maybe post just a quick video clip on how you execute the swim and glide and the hop and bouce techniques it would be a huge help at least to me. I seem to be a visual learner and seeing someone do it first would make it much easier to practice the technique correctly.


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