January 01, 2012
By Ned Kehde
The sidebar entitled "About Catch Rates" in Ralph Manns'article in the In-Fisherman's Winter 2011/2012 issue sparked a considerable amount of discussion among some members of the Finesse News Network. Manns wrote that "creel survey and tournament data demonstrate that average bass catch rates are around 0.25 bass per hour." In the minds of many members of the Finesse News Network, as well as practitioners of Midwest Finesse that the late Chuck Woods created in the 1950s and 1960s, a catch rate of 0.25 bass per hour is appalling.
The Midwest Finesse anglers and members of the Finesse News Network get their frames of reference of what constitutes appalling, average and excellent bassfishing from the logs and diaries kept by anglers such as Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, who is part of the Finesse News Network.
In a December 31 e-mail to the Finesse News Network, he wrote: "The 2011 bass season is in the books, and it ended on a nearly perfect trip on New Year's Eve (Dec. 31), my partner and I caught 108 bass in five hours of fishing. About 75% of those were caught on the finesse hair jig."
His e-mail also included a statistical summation of his entire year, which noted that he fished for bass 82 times and for a total of 260 hours. The average length of each trip was three hours, 10 minutes. He caught 2,305 bass, which is an average 8.86 bass per hour or one bass every six minutes and 46 seconds. Fifty-three percent were caught by employing finesse tactics — primarily small hair jigs. On 17 of his outings, he caught 50 or more bass, and he said: "Since I primarily fish alone, my target for every trip is to catch at least 50 bass."
His e-mail also explained the method he employed to catch 47% of the 2,305 bass. "They were caught by power fishing, but using a strategy I call sucker-shot fishing. Sucker-shot fishing is basically trying to call your shot in advance of a trip, using tactics, history and timing to capitalize on short-term bites with more traditional power techniques. If I hit the right lake at the right time with the right technique, I can end up with some good numbers. For example, during the post-spawn, I use Pop-R's, Spooks, floating worms. In the early summer, I focus on bass congregating on ledges, and I use deep crankbaits and football jigs. During the fall, I work with spinnerbaits and buzzbaits to catch bass that are foraging on gizzard shad on or near the surface. Then in the early winter, I use a jerkbait. If I guess wrong and the power bite isn't on, then I quickly switch to finesse."
He primarily fishes six lakes within a 30-mile radius of his home. They are either flatland or hill-land impoundments; they range in size from 100 acres to 2,060 acres; five are public and one is private. Gizzard-shad, bluegill and various invertebrates are the primary forage for the bass.
After examining the summary of Waldman's past year, readers of this blog can readily see why member of the Finesse News Network and devotees of Midwest Finesse tactics were astonished and even aghast when they read Manns' sidebar. In sum, if anglers want to catch a lot more than 0.25 bass per hour, they ought read about Waldman's tactics in the November 18, 2011, blog: http://www.in-fisherman.com/2011/11/18/the-manifold-virtues-of-the-small-hair-jig-according-to-brian-waldman-an-update and in the November 17, 2011, blog: http://www.in-fisherman.com/2011/11/17/the-manifold-virtues-of-the-small-hair-jig-according-to-brian-waldman.