November 23, 2012
My finesse efforts in August were at times overtaken by some captivating family events, such as our annual trek with some of our children and grandchildren to the Northwoods of Minnesota during the last week of July and first week of August.
What's more, several of my blogging endeavors encroached on my hours afloat, and that trend might continue as 2012 unfolds into 2013. On top of that, one windy August outing was primarily a white bass affair rather than a Midwest finesse one aimed at catching either largemouth or smallmouth bass. Another outing was to a 7,000-acres U.S. Army Corps of Enigneers' reservoir and four trips were to an 11,600-acre Corps' reservoir, and these five undertakings adversely affected the catch rate because both of these reservoirs are difficult largemouth and smallmouth bass venues.
In sum, my serious finesse endeavors encompassed 14 outings for a total of only 47 hours. During these outings, I and several of my partners were able to inveigle 469 largemouth and smallmouth bass, and that equals an average of 33 largemouth and smallmouth bass an outing and 9.9 an hour. These figures do not included the hours we fished and the largemouth and smallmouth bass that we caught in Minnesota, but a description of those Minnesota days is the first log in this series.
These logs are also intertwined with Finesse News Network reports and insights from Bill Reichert of Lincolnshire, Illinois, Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, and Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas
Here's hoping that the 10,673 words posted below will provide recreational anglers with some useful insights about employing Midwest finesse tactics during the heat of summer for years to come.
Our last week of July and first week of August were spent with some of our children and grandchildren at a 400-acre lake in the Arrowhead region of Minnesota, where the fishing is always more trying than it is on the small flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas, where we catch an average of nine bass an hour throughout the calendar year.
What's more, fishing has become a secondary and even tertiary endeavor on these vacations during the past 10 years. In essence, it is a family vacation rather than a fishing trip. Our primary goal is centered on providing a relaxing vacation for our kids and a joyful time for our grandkids. Therefore, we don't fish very hard or long.
During this family adventure, we caught 63 largemouth bass, 22 smallmouth bass, 17 northern pike, three giant bluegill and one monster crappie, as well as untold numbers of small bluegill and yellow perch that were inveigled on a piece of a nightcrawler affixed to a 1/64-ounce jig-and-bobber rig. Most of the other anglers who were fishing this lake said it was a struggle for them to catch five black bass and one northern pike a day. So, our finesse tactics worked fairly well.
Our best bait was the tail section of Z-Man Fishing Products' new FattyZ that was trimmed to be 2 1/2-inches long. Green pumpkin, watermelon red and California Craw were the best colors. They also caught some bass on Z-Man's Hula Sticks, Z-Man's four-inch Finesse WormZs, Z-Man's 2 1/2-inch Sinkers and four-inch generic grub. The best jig was a red 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle Mushroom Head Jig.
The biggest smallmouth weighed three pounds, 12 ounces, and it was caught on a shortened four-inch watermelon-red Finesse WormZ on a 1/32-ounce red Gopher jig. The best largemouth bass weighed three pounds, 11 ounces, and it was caught on a green-pumpkin-red Finesse WormZ rigged on a Gamakatsu Shin Fukae Wacky Jig. (This wacky rig, by the way, was our second most productive bait.)
The surface temperature ranged from 78 to 80 degrees. We have been fishing lakes around the Arrowhead and Heartland region of Minnesota since 1948, and we have never seen the water this warm. For the second August in a row, the submergent vegetation was extremely thick, and in fact, it was the thickest that we could remember. What's more, one the lake's massive wild rice patches has been slowly disintegrating for the past five years, and this year it was gone, being replaced by several species of pondweeds.
Even though we don't catch a large quantity of largemouth and smallmouth bass, the Minnesota black bass that we do catch are more beautiful and fight harder than northeastern Kansas black bass.
Minnesota is where we take our kids, as our parents used to take us, and our grandparents used to take our parents, to escape from the heat of a typical Kansas and Missouri summer. We were told that it hit 108 degrees in northeastern Kansas while we were Minnesota. Like in summer's past, this summer Minnesota was a delightful escape for us. Like in summer's past, this summer's vacation to Minnesota was a delightful escape for us.
There are a lot better Minnesota lakes to fish than the small one that we visit nowadays. We selected this one because it doesn't get windblown. Thus, it is easy for the kids to canoe, sail, kayak, paddle board and swim. It doesn't have a public boat ramp; so it isn't overrun with folks. It is also secluded and devoid of cabins and summer homes that have begun to clutter many of the better fishing lakes that we used to visit in decades past. Our kids like to hear the young eagles squeal, watch the antics of the otter, bear, deer, wolves, loons, chipmunks, mink and other denizens.
While we were in Minnesota, the Finesse News Network received reports from Brent Frazee of Parkville,Missouri, Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas and Bill Reichert of Lincolnshire, Illinois.
Frazee and Claudell reported that their bass fishing in northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas had been trying.
Frazee wrote about his outings on a 120-community reservoir in northwestern Missouri: "I've only caught one bass over 4 pounds for the last month -- and that was on an antique topwater. I went fishing under the lights tonight. Caught one keeper bass (which usually don't hit under the lights), a big channel catfish (I was hoping it was a walleye, the way it was staying down), 13 big crappies and one rainbow trout. The trout fishing is slowing down quite a bit. But last year, just when I thought they had finally succumbed, they started biting again."
Claudell reported that he had fished a 407-acre community reservoir, 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir and a 55-acre community reservoir; all three reservoirs lie in northeastern Kansas. He noted that "all of my fishing has been trying. And even more disturbing, I think the fish in these smaller bodies of water are stressed to the hilt. Many fish are dying at a more rapid rate than in past years, as I see too many floating on top -- even a nice 2- to 3- pound bass." He noted that the only positive note that a friend, who is aMidwest finesse devotee, ventured to the 2,600-acre power-plant lake a week after his sorry outing, and tangled with 35 largemouth bass, including two that were longer than 18 inches. Claudell, however, did enjoy a fairly fruitful largemouth bass outing at a 55-acre state reservoir in northwestern Missouri.
Reichert reported about an outing with his son at a Wisconsin waterway, where they were using 2 ½-inch ZinkerZs affixed to Gopher jigs. He wrote: "Did you have a chance to fish Friday, August 3rd? It was an amazing day of fishing for Will and me. It happened to be a full moon. I am curious if the moon phase was the reason or just a coincidence. Will and I caught 41 bass in 2.25 hours. This is more than normal in terms of quantity, andthe size was far superior to what we normally see. At one point we caught 17-, 18-, 19-inch bass on consecutive casts. Will's largest went 20.25 inches. We fished from 11 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., and the action was steady during that time.
I responded, saying: Friday, Aug. 3, was the best smallmouth and largemouth bass day that we had on our Minnesota vacation. It also rained and drizzled from midnight until 1 p.m. We offhandedly thought the better bite might have stimulated by the rain rather than moon, but as you noted it could have been the moon phase. I have never, however, possessed the ability to ascertain why we catch bass or interpret what the bass are doing when we catch them. Perhaps, the only exception to this rule is when we cross paths with a concentration of surface feeding black and temperate bass, but surface foraging bass are a rare phenomenon at the waterways that we fish nowadays. Consequently, I merely record where, when and how we caught them and leave the anthropomorphic interpretation to wiser anglers.
From July 29 to Aug 3, I occasionally carped about the trying largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing that our family was enduring during our Minnesota vacation. Under my breath, I uttered several times that we can catch more largemouth and smallmouth bass in three hours at most northeastern Kansas flatland reservoirs than we can catching three days at the beautiful eutrophic lakes in Minnesota. But during this Aug. 6 outing at a 195-acre community reservoir in northeastern Kansas, the largemouth bass and other denizens that abide in this reservoir administered a bit of happenstantial retribution, teaching once again that complaining is not a virtuous way to behave. Therefore, across three hours of fishing that commenced at 11 a.m. to ended at 2 p.m., I could coax only 17 largemouth bass and one five-pound channel catfish to engulf my baits.
The surface temperature was 86.6 degree. The water level looked to be nearly two feet below normal. An algae bloom existed, and it significantly stained the water in the back of the reservoir's south arm, but the water was relatively clear around the dam.
While we were in Minnesota, area thermometers across northeastern Kansas climbed past 100 degrees often. And before we left for Minnesota, area thermometers had often been in the 100s since late June. The drought was severe. Leaves were yellowing and falling from the trees and low-slung bushes. Some trees looked as if they had died. Many acres of corn were being cut into silage. This morning low, however, was a pleasant 55 degrees, but the afternoon high peaked at 98 degrees. The wind angled from the southeast at 5 mph. The sun was extremely bright in a cloudless sky.
According to the solunar calendar, the best fishing time occurred from 2:09 p.m. to 4:09 p.m. Perhaps I should have fished another hour.
I worked with five spinning outfits. One was rigged with a 2 ½-inch FattyZ in a California Craw hue on an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher jig. Another outfit sported the same FattyZ, but it was affixed to a 1/16-ounce orange Gopher jig. The third spinning rod donned a four-inch Junebug four-inch Finesse WormZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; about three-quarters of an inch was trimmed off the head of the Finesse WormZ. The fourth outfit was bedecked with a 3 ¾-inch green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher jig. The fifth spinning rig was festooned with a green-pumpkin Z-Man Finesse ShadZ on a charteuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig.
The Hula StickZ combo allure the bulk of the 17 largemouth bass. A few were bewitched in water as shallow as two to three feet, and others caught in about eight feet of water.
I worked with all five Midwest finesse retrieves, and I added a few variations to those five. I failed to determine which retrieve was the most alluring to the largemouth bass.
I crossed paths with Holden White of Lawrence, Kansas. He had been fishing several hours before I arrived, and he had tangled with 23 largemouth bass, which he allured on a variety of four-inch grubs that he affixed to 1/16-ounce jigs. In a telephone conversation after his outing, White reported that he was there afloat fished to 4 p.m. and caught 43 largemouth bass. Most White's largemouth bass were caught on grubs in shallow water around a few patches of dying and dead milfoil that was sprayed with Aquathol K on June 25 and June 26. A second application of Aquathol K was scheduled for August 7.
While we were on our annual family vacation in Minnesota, enjoying wonderful weather but struggling to catch 15 largemouth and smallmouth bass a day, several ardent Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas battled extremely hot weather (some thermometers hit 108 degrees) and couple of these anglers caught as many as 63 largemouth bass an outing. Of course, other Midwest finesse anglers, such as Brent Frazee and Terry Claudell, struggled.
The catch rate seemed to depend on when and where an angler fished. In sum, some reservoirs were better than others.
During the morning of Aug 8, when many area thermometers hit an afternoon high of 103 degrees, Clyde Holscher and Jim Kenney, both of Topeka, Kansas, ventured to a 216-acre community reservoir west of Topeka. They used Z-Man's PB&J Rain MinnowZs and Hula StickZs and inveigled 42 largemouth and smallmouth bass.
On the evening of Aug. 8, Allen Kehde of Sedalia, Missouri, and I ventured to a 11,600-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoir to test Z-Man's new FattyZ, which we trimmed down to 2 ½-inches and affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The color of our FattyZs was the Junebug hue. We were using only the tail section of the FattyZ.
To our chagrin, when we arrived at the boat ramp at 5:10 p.m., a significant thunderstorm, which was accompanied some potent hail and gusts of wind, was walloping the area of the reservoir where we launched our boat. And more storms looked to be in the offing.
Thus, we spent most of this very short outing, which ended at 7 p.m., hiding from the storms, and for the hour and 10 minutes that we fished, we were able to plied only one stretch of riprap.
The reservoir was 2.66 feet below normal. The surface temperature was 85 degrees. It was relatively clear. Twenty-five cubic feet per second of water was being released from the dam.
At 5 p.m. area thermometers registered from 100 to 103 degrees, and by 7 p.m., the same thermometers registered 70 to 74 degrees. The barometric pressure was 29.86 and falling at 5 p.m. The wind angled out of the northeast, east and southeast, and it ranged from a few mile per hour to 20 mph.
According to the solunar calendar, the best fishing times occurred from 4:09 p.m. to 6:09 p.m.
Even though we spent a lot of time dodging the storm, we made enough casts and presentations during our hour and 10 minute of fishing with our 2 ½-inch Junebug FattyZs to catch 12 largemouth bass, one smallmouth bass, five freshwater drum, one channel catfish, one flathead catfish, one crappie and one white bass, as well as nearly a score of green sunfish.
Four of the largemouth looked to weigh from two to 2 ½-pounds, and a fifth two-pounder liberated itself on a jump near the boat.
Most of the bass bites occurred within one to four feet from the water's edge. A swim and glide retrieve with a minor shake or two was the best presentation, but we didn't have enough time nor did we fish enough minutes or places to develop a significant pattern.
Nevertheless, we think this short outing with the Fatty Z reveals that it will play an important role in our finesse tactics in northeastern Kansas in the months to come.
For a few more insights about our first days using the 2 ½-inch FattyZ, please go to this link: http://www.in-fisherman.com/2012/08/09/finesse-news-network-gear-guide-z-mans-fattyz-an-update/
After Minnesota's largemouth and smallmouth bass snookered us on our family vacation during the last week of July and first week of August, and after the largemouth bass at the 195-acre community reservoir befuddled me on Aug. 6, and afterMother Nature tossed hail, rain, wind and lightning in Allen Kehde and my way on the evening of Aug.8, I decided to see if largemouth bass that abide in a 100-acre community reservoir in the southwestern suburbs of Kansas City would render me another comeuppance, which they have done with astonishing regularity in 2012. In fact, since December of 2011, this reservoir's largemouth bass have been difficult for us to locate and allure. For instance, July 11 was the last time I was afloat on this 100-acre community reservoir, and then I caught only 28 largemouth bass while fishing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
On this Aug. 9 outing, I fished from 10:05 a.m. to 2:05 p.m., and except for a brisk wind angling out of the north at 13 to 25 mph, it was a delightful outing weatherwise. The morning low temperature was 65 degrees, and the afternoon high was only 83, which was quite a difference from the 103-degree high on Aug. 8. Only occasionally did a thin altocumulus cloudy cover the sun.
According to the solunar calendar, the best fishing time occurred from 4:57 p.m. to 6:57 p.m.
The water level looked to be about 2 ½ feet low. Many of the American water willow patches were out of the water. There was an algae bloom, but the water in the lower third of the lake was relatively clear. The water clarity in the upper third was stained. The surface temperature ranged fro 81 to 83 degrees.
My six spinning outfits sported the following baits: a green-pumpkin 3 ¾-inch Hula StickZ on an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher jig, Junebug 3 ¾-inch Hula StickZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, Junebug four-inch Finesse WormZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, green-pumpkin four-inch vintage 3X Strike King Lure Company grub on an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher jig, green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and Junebug 2 ½-inch FattyZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
These baits caught 45 largemouth bass, one saugeye and one channel catfish.
The Finesse ShadZ inveigled a bass on the first cast, but failed to garner another strike.
The green-pumpkin 3 ¾-inch Hula StickZ was the best of the lot, and it caught 28 largemouth bass. A few of these largemouth bass engulfed the Hula StickZ on the initial drop, but most had to be allured with a drag-and-shake retrieve. Several times when I failed to hook a strike, I stopped dragging and shaking the bait, and I deadsticked it, which resulted a couple of catches.
It was the first time I have used a grub in Kansas for a spell. August and September are traditionally fruitful grub months, and these are the two months when the largemouth bass begin to inhabit patches of coontail or bushy pondweed. And on this outing, I found a few largemouth bass associated with a patch of coontail on a secondary point in the upper third of the reservoir, and the Strike King grub inveigled five largemouth bass. I hoped that this might outing might have signaled that the largemouth bass were about to start preferring a swimming retrieve rather the slow and time-consuming retrieves, such as the drag and shake, deadstick, and hop and bounce. Normally, we catch a lot more bass an hour when they are beguiled by the swim-glide-and-shake or the straight-swim retrieves
Twenty-six of the largemouth bass were caught along one 200-foot rocky shoreline. The reservoir's off-shore humps yielded only one largemouth bass and one saugeye.
I caught 21 largemouth bass during the first hour. Some locales yielded just one largemouth, and a few others yield from two to five largemouth bass.
It wasn't a stellar day of fishing, but 11.25 bass an hour is slightly above our average catch of nine bass an hour. What's more, it gave me a touch hope that this 100-acre reservoir, which was our most fruitful reservoir in 2011, will become fruitful again between now and year's end.
We were graced with a significant cool spell on Aug.10. The morning low reached 59 degrees; the afternoon was 81 degree. A bright and intense sun dappled the waves and leaves that fluttered in a stiff breeze that angled from the north at 13 to 25 mph.
I ventured to 160-acre state reservoir, fishing from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. And despite employing the best of the finesse tactics that I know how to employ, I could inveigle only nine largemouth bass. Perhaps the largemouth bass were reacting negatively to the post-cold front conditions that felt good to me and all the other Kansans who have been battling a massive drought and unseasonably hot weather. Normally post-cold-front conditions that erupt in the middle of the summer rarely bother the largemouth bass that abide in the small flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas. Perhaps something else must be going on, but, as I noted in my comments to Bill Reichert above, I have never been able to decipher what makes a black or temperate bass tick or not tick.
There was a minor algae slightly staining the water clarity in the north ends of the reservoir's east and west arms.
The water level looked to be about eight feet below normal, and most of the traditional bushy pondweed and coontail beds have disappeared, which is where we typically find the midday largemouth bass abiding in August and September. I caught only one largemouth bass along a very shallow patch of bushy pondweed. It is interesting to note that low-water levels traditionally make our largemouth bass fishing easier, but not on this outing.
The surface temperature registered 81 degrees, which the coolest that I had seen it since June 22, when it ranged from a low of 80 degrees to a high of 84 degrees at a nearby 100-acre community reservoir.
Because of the way this reservoir lies, our fishing becomes a tad trying if there is a stiff breeze angling out of the south or north, and it was breezy enough on this outing that I used a drift sock about 85% of the time. The waves also created a mudline on some shorelines, which usually attracts some largemouth bass, but I caught only one along a mudline on this outing. And I occasionally complained under my breath about how the wind was adversely affecting my ability to properly retrieve certain finesse baits.
According to the solunar calendar, the best fishing time was supposed to occur between 5:20 a.m. and 7:20 a.m. Between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., I eked out only six largemouth bass, and then from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., I caught only three largemouth bass.
Because this reservoir has been plagued with low-water conditions since December of 2011, I had fished it before this Aug, 10 outing only twice in 2012. On my May 14 outing, I caught 45 largemouth bass in two hours and 45 minutes, and I tangled with 42 largemouth bass on June 23. What's more, I have heard rumors that a pair of local finesse anglers enjoyed a few bountiful outings in July.
For some reason or possibly several reasons, I haven't been fishing very well since the end of June. And this outing was a reflection my recently battles with my piscatorial ineptitudes.
Clyde Holscher and Bob Petro, both of Topeka, Kansas, reported that they struggled at 11,600-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoir. They fished from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and spent a lot of that time searching for white bass. Ultimately, they did eke out a 15 largemouth bass, including two that looked to be four-pounders and another that weighed around three pounds. The largemouth bass were caught along a massive riprap causeway, and they were enticed by a Hula StickZ in a Mud Minnow hue that was affixed to a chartreuse Gopher Tackle's Big John Mushroom Head Jig.
Along that causeway, Holscher and Petro crossed paths with another pair of Midwest finesse anglers, who reported that they had caught 42 largemouth and smallmouth bass, including two four-pounders, and the bulk of the 42 bass were caught along that causeway. (It is interesting to note that this pair of Midwest finesse anglers fished another big causeway on this reservoir on Aug. 11 and caught only 17 largemouth bass.)
Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, reported that he and his uncle fished 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir from 7 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
Claudell said the weather was delightfully cool and sky was cloudless, but the brisk northwest wind confounded their attempts to ply the riprap along the dam, which is often one of the most fruitful areas this time of the year, as well as several offshore lairs. Therefore, they were relegated to plying stretches of riprap along the reservoir's eastern and northern shorelines.
They eked out only 12 largemouth bass. The biggest two measured 17 and 18 inches. After 10:15, the failed to garner a largemouth bass.
Pok-Chi Lau of Lwarence, Kansas, arrived home on Aug. 11.
He has been a world traveler and angler since December of 2011.He purchased his 2012 Kansas fishing license on Aug. 12 and fished with me on Aug. 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at a 195-acre community reservoir. He caught his first Kansas largemouth bass of 2012 on his second cast. After that we caught another 82 largemouth bass, as well as two channel catfish.
The bulk of the fish were allured by either a four-inch green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher jig or a four-inch Junebug Hula StickZ on a red 3/32-ounce Gopher jig. We caught some on a shortened Junebug four-inch Finesse WormZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and 2 ½-inch Junebug FattyZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. We caught one on a pumpkin-chartreuse 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on an orange 1/16-ounce Gopher and caught two on the head section of a green-pumpkin FattyZ that had a nine tentacles cut in its tail section; it was affixed to an orange 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
The bulk of the fish were allured by a swimming-and-glide retrieve that was devoid of shakes. But if a bass made a pass at the bait and failed to become hooked, we stopped the retrieve and allowed the bait to plummet to the bottom, where we deadsticked it, and occasionally that deadstick motif provoked a largemouth bass to inhale our offerings.
Only seven of the bass were caught on the main lake, and they were inveigled on a rock-laden north shoreline. Sixty-nine largemouth bass of them were caught along the north shorelines of three coves. The majority of the largemouth bass were associated with rocks, as well as some coontail, bushy pondweed and dying milfoil. Because this reservoir was almost three feet low, most of the American water willow patches were out of the water or nearly out of the water, and therefore only a few largemouth bass were associated with the American water willows. Seven of the largemouth bass were caught on the south shoreline of one of the coves, and this shoreline was windblown, and the inside portion of the main-lake point of this cove produced two of the seven largemouth bass.
A week ago, the surface temperature was 86.6 degrees. On this outing, it was 79 to 80 degrees. The upper third of the reservoir was stained with an algae bloom. The lower two-third was relatively clear, and it was clearer around the dam than it was elsewhere.
As we were launching the boat, Pok-Chi and I looked at one another and said that we were not dressed warm enough. Pok-Chi wore half of my rain suit for the entire four hours. The morning low temperature was 65 degrees, and the afternoon high reached only 72 degrees. The heavy-cloud cover and brisk wind that angled out of the north at 20 to 26 mph made it feel even cooler. In fact, we talked with a lady on a dock who was dressed in a hooded sweat shirt, and she was complaining about being cold.
According to the solunar table, the best fishing times occurred at 7:35 a.m. to 9:35 a.m.
On the way to the boat ramp, we saw 25 turkeys feeding a pasture, and while we were fishing, we saw two deer feeding along one of the north shorelines. Those were rare midday sightings for mid-August in northeastern Kansas.
It looks as if our traditional late-summer bass bonanza has commenced, and it traditionally gets better as August turns into September. But as September becomes October that bonanza peters out.
I took Davis McElwain of Lawrence, Kansas, fishing in the rain from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Davis is 35 years old, and before 10 a.m. on Aug. 14, he was an absolute novice at finesse fishing for largemouth bass. But by the time he made his last cast on this outing with a green-pumpkin 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, he could execute many of the rudimentary tactics of Midwest finesse fishing fairly well. What's more, he caught a largemouth bass on that last cast.
Except for the last half hour of the outing, it rained. For the first 2 ½ hours, the wind was slight and angling out of the southeast at no more than 6 mph. As the rain petered out, the wind shifted to the south and southwest at a slightly quicker pace. The early morning low was 55 degrees, climbing to 68 degrees at 1 p.m. The barometric pressure at 10 a.m. was 30.08 and dropping.
The best fishing times according to the solunar calendar occurred from 8:19 a.m. to 10:19 p.m.
The water was what many of us call Kansas clear, which means that we can see propeller on our electric trolling motors. The surface temperature was 77 degrees. The water level looked to be 2 ½ feet below normal.
We primarily fished the riprap of the dam and adjacent shorelines, using a green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher jig, green-pumpkin 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, four-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and four-inch green-pumpkin grub on an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher jig. All of those baits caught fish, but the Hula StickZ was the best of the lot.
The most fruitful retrieve was a swim-and-glide one, which we occasionally deadsticked our baits for a few seconds when we failed to hook a strike.
We caught some largemouth bass around the pondweed and coontail at the back one of the feeder creeks. We caught eight crappie there, too. Most these fish were caught on a grub affixed to either 1/16-ounce or 3/32-ounce Gopher jig.
We caught 72 largemouth bass, and failed to land 11 others. Thus, there were enough bites to teach Davis McElwain the fundamentals of about how and where to use a 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a Gopher jig.
Area thermometers plunged to 52 degrees at 4:52 a.m. and by 3:52 p.m. these same thermometers hit 94 degrees. By the time I launched the boat at a nearby 195-acre community reservoir, the wind was angling out of the south at 8 to 20 mph. The sky exhibited a beautiful china-blue hue, and the sun's rays were intense and bright.
This reservoir was nearly three feet low. The surface temperature was 79 to 80 degrees. There was a slightly algae bloom. The water clarity was relatively clear around the dam. The water was stained in the back of its southern most arm. Most of the submergent aquatic was dead or dying since the reservoir's managers had applied two applications of herbicides to kill the milfoil.
At 11 a.m. just after I launched the boat, I crossed path two Midwest finesse angler who reported that they had caught 103 largemouth bass this morning, and most of those were caught along the eastern shoreline in one the reservoir's southern arm. They had already fished most of the lake by the time I made my first cast.
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. I fished four areas that they hadn't fished and caught only 27 largemouth bass. These largemouth bass were caught on a PB&J Rain MinnowZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher Jig, Junebug 3 ¾-inch Hula StickZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher Jig and 2 ½-inch green-pumpkin FattyZ on an orange 1/16-ounce Gopher.
In sum, the midday bite didn't measure up to the morning bite the other two Midwest finesse anglers enjoyed. The solunar calendar inducated that the fishing times occurred from 9:04 a.m. to 11:04 p.m.
I had an unusual outing with Clyde Holscher of Topeka and Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, at a 11,600-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoir. What made it unusual for me was that we made our first casts around 6:30 a.m. rather than some time between 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., which is when I normally make by first cast. What's more, we made our last cast around 1 p.m., which means we fished for 6 ½ hours rather than the three or four midday hours that I normally fish.
Frazee has been the outdoors editor for the Kansas City Star for 32 years. Across those years, he has plied this reservoir a number of times. And he was flabbergasted when he read that the staff at Bassmaster Magazine on Mar. 10 ranked this reservoir as being one of the top 100 black bass lakes in the United States; its actual ranking was sixtieth.
This was only my second outing on this reservoir in 2012. Years ago, I used to fish it many times each year. Holscher is a multspecies guide and Midwest angler who spends a lot more time fishing this reservoir than Frazee and I do nowadays
Frazee is also Midwest finesse devotee and an occasional contributor to the Finesse News Network. Thus, in his mind, a topnotch black bass lake is one that will occasionally allow a pair or trio of Midwest finesse anglers to tangle with 101 black bass in four hours, and those four hours usually occur from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. So, he wanted to see how many largemouth and smallmouth bass the three of us could catch with our Midwest finesse tactics.
Our time afloat also corresponded to the solunar calendar's best fishing times, which commenced at 9:49 a.m. and ended at 11:49 a.m.
This reservoir was 2.96 feet below its normal level of 891.50. One hundred cubic feet of water per second were being released out of the dam. Most anglers would classify the water clarity as stained to murky, but in our eyes it was clearer than we anticipated it to be. Holscher didn't turn on his temperature gauge, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported the water temperature to be 83 degrees.
The wind was howling and angling out of the north at 14 to 24 mph. The morning low was 72 degrees. Around 1 p.m., some thermometers hit 83 degrees, but by 3 p.m., area thermometers had dropped to 67 degrees. At times, the sky was cloudy, and at other times, it ranged from partly cloudy to sunny.
We tried to hide from the wind, and often it was best to employ a drift sock. We spent the most of the outing in the one of the reservoir's main-feeder creek arms. But we did fish three main-lake points and 100-yards of shoreline adjacent to these points.
Our spinning outfits were fitted with a Hula StickZ in a Mud Minnow hue on a chartreuse 3/32-ounce Gopher Tackle's Big John Mushroom Head Jig, green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher jig, pumpkin-chartreuse 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a 1/16-ounce on a blue Gopher jig, four-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, 2 ½-inch head of a Junebug FattyZ customized into a tube on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, 2 ½-inch tail of a Junebug FattyZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, 2 ½-inch black-and-blue ZinkerZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and a green-pumpkin CrawdadZ on a 1/16-ounce jig. Holscher made several casts with a casting outfit and crankbait, which inveigled a big white bass.
It was a potpourri catch, consisting of 24 largemouth bass, four smallmouth bass, 12 freshwater drum, 10 white bass, two crappie and one sauger. We caught black bass on all of the baits. We failed to land two largemouth bass, and one of those looked to weigh more than 2 ½-pounds. Two of the smallmouth bass looked to be 2 ½-pounders. Four of the largemouth bass looked to weigh from two to 2 ¼-pounds. Two of the largemouth bass and two of the smallmouth bass were caught on the main-lake points and shorelines. Twenty-two of the largemouth and two of the smallmouth bass were caught in the feeder-creek arm.
None of the fish were deeper than six feet, but a few were hooked as far as 12 feet off of the water's edge. Most were caught within six feet of the shoreline. We tried a variety of other Midwest finesse retrieves, and a swim-and-glide retrieve most the most effective.
We fished riprap, nine points, three bridge pillars and several hundred yards of rock-laden shorelines. Two of the rock-laden shorelines were inside two different coves, and they failed to yield a fish. We caught one largemouth bass on a rock-laden roadbed inside one of those cove.
As our outing came to an end, we agreed that this reservoir would not be in our top 100 bass lakes in the United States. It is not even in the top five of our favorite bass lakes in northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri. But occasionally it can be an entertaining reservoir at which Midwest finesse anglers can tangle with a goodly number of black bass and other species. For instance, a pair of Midwest finesse anglers caught 42 largemouth and smallmouth bass at this reservoir on Aug. 10, and there were some lunkers in that group of bass. But on Aug. 11, this pair tangled with only 17 largemouth bass.
This outing was dedicated to testing the head of the FattyZ, which we crafted into a solid-body tube.
I fished from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and I interrupted the test three times to talk to five anglers that I hadn't cross paths with for a while.
One pair had caught only 17 largemouth bass, and the other pair had caught 64. The later pair were old-time Midwest finesse anglers, and they fished from 8 to noon.
The surface temperature was 79 to 80 degrees. The water was Kansas clear, which means that we can see the propeller on our trolling motors, and 2 1/2 to 3 feet low.
According to the solunar table, the best fishing times occurred from 10:36 a.m. to 12:36 p.m.
The wind was variable, angling out of the north, northeast, and west 3 to 8 mph. The morning low plummeted 52 degrees, and 84 degrees was the afternoon high. It was sunny and slightly hazy at times.
The customized tube was made from a Junebug five-inch Z-Man FattyZ. It is 2 1/2-inches long. It had five tentacles when I started using it. It had four tentacle when I made my last cast. It was rigged on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
I tested it against a four-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
The customized tube caught 14 largemouth bass, the Finesse WormZ caught 11 largemouth bass and the ZinkerZ caught six largemouth bass. The tube also allured a big black crappie. All of the fish were caught on a swim-glide-and-delicate-shake retrieve. Some of the largemouth bass were in three feet of water and some were as deep as six feet. About 30% of the largemouth bass inhaled the baits on the initial drop. The Finesse WormZ and ZinkerZ allured the bass associated with boat docks, and the tube failed to elicit a strike around a boat dock. The best bite occurred during the last half hour.
The weather and landscape has been exhibiting the air of September rather than mid-August. The drought combined with the extreme heat of late June into the first days of August has turned many of the leaves yellow and brown. Some branches and trees are leafless.
My wife, Patty, and I enjoyed rare a Sunday evening piscatorial affair at a nearby 180-acre state reservoir. It was her first time afloat since our Minnesota vacation. We did not record any data about the weather or lake conditions. Instead we just fished, talked and enjoyed the evening. We were also joined by 32 largemouth that we caught along the riprap of the dam with a Junebug 2 ½-nch ZinkerZ , black and blue-laminated 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ, pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ and Junebug 2 ½-inch FattyZ customized tube. All of these baits were affixed to a 1/16-ounce blue Gopher jig. And we did a lot of dragging and deadsticking, which is a good way to talk and fish for about two hours.
My cousin Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, and I returned to the 100-acre community reservoir in the southwestern suburbs of Kansas City that has often been our nemesis since December of 2011.
And for the first hour and 20 minutes, it looked as if its largemouth bass were delivering us another comeuppance. During that toilsome spell, we were able to eke only seven dinky largemouth bass.
The dam, which is embellished with rocks, many clumps of American water willows and a few patches of coontail, usually yields between 10 and 20 largemouth bass an outing during the summer months. On this outing, it was the first place that we fished, but it yielded only one largemouth bass.
The next spot was a rock-laden point at the mouth of a cove on the east side of the reservoir. It lies about a half mile up the lake from the dam. This main-lake point is graced with rocks, a massive patch of American water willows, and a nearby submerged creek channel. This point yielded only one largemouth bass.
From the main-lake point, we went inside the cove to a shallow secondary point. This secondary point is rocky and endowed with some lilies, American water willows and nearby there are extensive beds of coontail. The coontail encompasses an area the size of baseball infield. Here, we eked out five dinky largemouth. Two were caught on the point and three were extracted from a series of coontail patches in the middle of the cove, where the water was five feet deep.
The fourth spot was the other main-lake point at the mouth of this cove. It is a massive point. It is enhanced with several humps, a significant dropoff, two boat docks, some patches of coontail and several clumps of American water willows. Here we caught four largemouth bass: one around one of the docks, one on one of the humps, and two on the edge of one of the coontail patches.
The fifth area was a shallow main-lake shoreline on the east side of the lake. It is rock-laden and stippled with patches of coontail, a few clumps of American water willows and a half dozen boat docks. Here we could catch only five dinky largemouth bass.
The sixth spot was a main-lake point that has a hump adjacent to it, as well as a submerged creek channel nearby. It also has several sparse clusters of American water willows. We caught two largemouth bass between two patches of American water willows.
The seventh spot was a 200-yard stretch along a northern shoreline. This shoreline is cluttered with a dozen boat docks. On its eastern end, there are about a 100 feet of concrete and stone breakwalls. It also has a few patches of coontail and about four clumps of American water willows. The western half of this shoreline is shallow. The eastern half is deeper and has a submerged creek channel abutting it. We caught only four largemouth bass along this 200-yard stretch of shoreline. Two were associated with one of the docks. One was around a patch of coontail, and another was along a breakwall.
The eighth spot was a rocky shoreline on the east side of the reservoir. It has one breakwall, a stone bridge, two boat docks, several small laydowns, some coontail and many yards of American water willow patches. Traditionally, this has been on the most fruitful largemouth bass area at this reservoir, but throughout 2012, it has been very unfruitful. And it was sorry again, yielding only one largemouth bass.
At 12:50 p.m. we arrived at the ninth spot. It was a flat point that is freckled with several large patches of coontail. Here the boat was floating six to 7 ½ feet of water, and by 1:25 p.m. we had extracted 25 largemouth bass from the coontail patches on this point. We inveigled the first dozen by using either a green-pumpkin four-inch grub on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig or a watermelon-orange-flake four-inch grub on an orange 3/32-ounce Gopher jig. Fifteen were caught on either a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a 1/16-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig or a shortened four-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. About 50 yards to the south of this point we caught one more lagrmouth bass on the Finesse ShadZ.
From 1:30 p.m. and 2:45, we quickly fished six more spots of the west side of the reservoir and made one more pass along the dam. And we eked out 17 more largemouth bass. The best spot of the six areas was a patch of coontail that was situated on the inside or shoreline side of a big main-lake hump.
In sum, we fished four hours and 15 minutes and caught 66 largemouth bass. None of them were big, but it was the best catch at we have enjoyed at this reservoir since April 26, when Terry Claudell of Overland Park and I caught 73 largemouth bass.
Before 12:50 p.m., Rick and I caught 23 largemouth bass, and they were caught on a 2 ½-inch Junebug ZinkerZ on either a blue or a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a 2 ½-inch Junebug FattyZ customized tube on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a 2 ½-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a green-pumpkin four-inch Finesse WormZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
After 12:50 p.m. the four-inch grub combos, green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a 1/16-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig and Junebug four-inch Finesse WormZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig allured 43 largemouth bass. This was the first time in many outings that the grubs and Finesse ShadZ were the dominate baits. It was time for the grub and Finesse ShadZ to have a renaissance.
The water level looked to be about three feet below normal. The surface temperature ranged from 76 degrees at 10:30 a.m. to 80 degrees at 2 p.m. The water clarity was stained by an algae bloom. The upper third of the reservoir was significantly stained.
Area thermometers recorded a morning low temperature of 46 degrees, which was an unseasonably low temperature. The afternoon high hit 87 degrees. The wind was variable at times, but often it angled from the north and northwest at snail's pace. Until 12:30 p.m., the sky was clear; then it became partly cloudy. According to solunar calendar, the best fishing times occurred at 1:12 p.m. to 3:12 p.m., and our fishing was significantly more fruitful around 1:12 p.m. than it was from 10:30 a.m. to 12:50 p.m.
Steve Desch of Topeka, Kansas, and I haven't fished together since May 8, which when we tangled with 52 largemouth and smallmouth bass, three channel catfish and three crappie at a 416-acre community reservoir.
In fact, this was Desch's first outing since May 8. He had spent his summer engrossed in fatherly duties rather than wielding his finesse tackle.
To regain his finesse touch on this extremely wind-blown outing, we opted to use the drift sock and wield grubs affixed to 1/16-ounce Gopher jigs.
The drift sock helped subdue some of the dastardly effects rendered by the howling wind, which angled out of the south at 10 to 26 mph.
We used three grubs, and the best was Bass Pro Shops' XPS four-inch single tail grub in the milky-salt-and-pepper hue. Often it was best to cast the grub at a 45-degree angle behind the boat and retrieve it at a moderate to slow pace.
We wielded the grub along several miles of riprap and rock-laden shorelines of a major feeder-creek arm of a 11,600-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoir.
In the vicinity of the dam, the water was relative unstained. But it became increasingly murky as we blew up the east and southeast side of the feeder-creek arm that we fished.
When we came upon several areas that were less wind-blown, one of us worked with a 2 ½-inch pumpkin-chartreuse-laminated ZinkerZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig or a Junebug 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. We also worked with a four-inch Junebug Finesse WormZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and 3 ½-inch Junebug Hula StickZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. And those four baits inveigled a few fish.
When a 26-mph wind pummels one of our big flatland reservoirs, it usually makes for some trying fishing, and it was trying today. We saw only one other boat of anglers, and only three recreational boaters. Yet, we were able to tangle with 51 white bass, 14 freshwater drum and 10 largemouth bass. The drum were the only big specimens that we tangled with. We were pleased indeed to cross paths with 51 white bass on the shorelines; it had been about a decade since we have accomplished that feat in August.
What's more, tangling with 75 fish got Desch ready for our September outings, which can be one of our most fruitful largemouth bass times of the year, and when our U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoirs used to be brimming with white bass, September was a dandy time to tangle with scores and scores of them on a 1/16-ounce jig. After we tangled with 51 shoreline white bass on this outing, Desch and I began hoping this outing was the start of a white bass renaissance. We are due for one; our white bass fishing has been sorry for four years.
We fished from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The reservoir was 3.3 feet below normal. The surface temperature was 77.8 degrees. Area thermometers registered a morning low of 60 degrees and an afternoon high of 96 degrees. The sky was sun-splashed 90% of the time, but around 10 a.m. a few clouds shaded the sun for a spell. The weather forecasts say that it will rain on Aug.25 and 26. Because of the many days of that area thermometers broached 100 degrees and the lack of rain, some of the trees along the shoreline exhibited the hues of late September and early October.
The solunar calendar indicated that best fishing times nearest to the hours that we were afloat occurred at 4:41 a.m. to 6:41 a.m.
Pok-Chi Lau of Lawrence, Kansas, and I made the short drive to a nearby 7,000-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoir. It lies only nine miles from my front door and five miles from Pok-Chi's
Even though it is our nearest venue, we rarely fish this reservoir. In fact, this was only the second time that I fished it in 2012. The first outing was an hour long, and it was fitted in between one of our granddaughter's tennis matches at a nearby tennis club.
The reason why we rarely fish it stems from the fact that has been a difficult reservoir for a pair of finesse anglers to catch an average of nine largemouth bass an hour, and it has been that way since the late 1980s. But since Richard Sanders, who is the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism biologist in charge of this reservoir, began stocking it with reservoir-strain smallmouth bass, it has recently begun to interest us a tad more than it did during the past 20 years. Another reason why we have refrained from venturing to this reservoir is the wind is usually very bothersome. Since is virtually within the city limits of Lawrence, it possesses some of the undesirable features that plague big suburban reservoirs. In contrast, most of the small suburban and exurban flatland reservoirs along the I-70 corridor between Kansas City and Topeka, Kansas, that we spend most of our hours upon aren't afflicted with jet skiers, incessant noise, plethora of recreational boaters, paltry black bass populations, and congested boat ramps.
On this outing, Pok-Chi and I didn't have a lot of time fish; so we opted for our nearest venue, and we fished from 12:15 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.
The National Weather Service's forecast predicted a 50% chance for rain, which kept other anglers and recreational boaters at bay. But it only drizzled lightly on us at 2:20 p.m.
The sky was cloud covered for our entire outing. Area thermometers registered a morning low temperature of 69 degrees, and the afternoon high temperature reached 85 degrees. The wind angled out of the south at 7 to 12 mph. Around noon the barometric pressure was 29.95 and slowly dropping.
The solunar calendar's best fishing time occurred at 5:11 p.m. to 7:11 p.m.
The reservoir was two feet below its normal level. The surface temperature was 76 degrees. The water in the lower third portion of the reservoir, which is where we fished, water was relatively clear,
We started fishing at the boat ramp, and after that, we spent for the next 2 ¼ -hours plying many yards of the reservoir's main-lake shorelines and several of its points.
Our spinning rods sported a variety of finesse baits, but the best one by a significant margin was a 2 ½-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on either 1/16-ounce blue or red Gopher jig.
Three main-lake points and a few significant shoreline rock piles were the most fruitful lairs. From these lairs, we caught 20 smallmouth bass and two largemouth bass. We caught all of them in shallow water, ranging from the water's edge to about 10 feet away from the water's edge. None of the fish were caught in depths greater than five feet. Six of the smallmouth bass looked to be in the two- to 3 ½-pound-class range, and two of them were extremely small. The best retrieve was a slow swim and glide; we didn't punctuate the retrieves with shakes. The glide at times became a pause but not a pure deadstick.
After Steve Desch and I used grubs to tangle with 51 white bass and 14 big freshwater drum on Aug. 23 at another U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoir, Pok Chi, who's a diehard temperate bass angler, was hoping that we could tangle with some of this 7,000- acre reservoir's wipers and white bass, as well as an occasional mega drum, and perhaps a smallmouth bass or two. But we caught only one white bass and five drum. Nevertheless he was impressed with the number of smallmouth bass we inveigled, as well as the vigorous battles that several of the bigger smallmouth bass rendered. In regard to the smallmouth bass, he said they seemed to be more vigorous than the wipers he was hoping to catch. I agreed. Even though both of us were surprised and delighted to catch an average of nine black bass an hour at a reservoir that has been a virtual black hole for finesse anglers in years past, we weren't deluded into thinking that it will consistently yield nine smallmouth and largemouth an hour. But if the wind is right and the recreational traffic is tame, we said that we would make several more two- and three-hour outings at this 7,000-acre reservoir in chase of its burgeoning smallmouth bass population. We are thankful, indeed, that Richard Sanders stocked 150,000 smallmouth fry across a three year span; it seems to be paying some dividends now. What's more, we are hoping that the smallmouth bass population at the 11,600-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoir that Desch and I fished on Aug. 23 will burgeon, too. And since three of the small flatland reservoirs, which range in size from 100 to 416 acres, that we normally fish have been whacked by the largemouth bass virus (and we fear that the virus will spread to three or four more of the small reservoirs), we will probably spend a few more hours each year at the nearby 7,000- and 11,600-acre U.S. Corps of Engineers' reservoirs in pursuit of smallmouth bass.
Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, sent the following report to the Finesse News Network:
"The night fishing for crappies under lights has been on fire lately. I took Dennis Leonard, the former Kansas City Royals pitcher, out on Sunday night, and we had consistent action for about an hour and a half. I couldn't even keep up on a count, but I know that Dennis had plenty of fish in his cooler by the time he left. He was happy because he uses the crappie fillets for a charity wild-game dinner that he puts on to benefit Habitat for Humanity.
"Same story as in recent nights -- minnows about 20 feet down in 40 feet of water.
"I tried fishing during the day for the first time in three weeks, and I found I wasn't missing much. Bruce Janssen and I caught 27 bass but they were all the runts of the litter. There wasn't a one that was even close to being a keeper.
"No real pattern either. Some were right along the bank, others were in 15 feet of water and on points. The Junebug ZinkerZ was by far the most productive The bass didn't want much shaking. Pretty much the glide and stop.
"The strange thing was that I wasn't even marking many fish. I would go out to dropoffs, where I thought the fish should be concentrated, and I hardly marked a thing.
"The drought has really had an impact. The tubes are almost out of water, many rocks that I catch fish off of are fully exposed, and the back of the coves are mudflats.
"Like everywhere, we need rain."
At Stacey King and Larry Seger's constant behest, Steve Desch of Topeka, Kansas, and I have finally assembled some Midwest finesse versions of the jika rig.
According to Shin and Miyu Fukae of Osaka, Japan, and Palestine, Texas, the jika rig was created by Japanese anglers about three years ago. And in 2011 Owner came out with a jika rig, which they call the Jig Rig.
The jika rig consist of a offset extra-wide-gap hook, two split rings and a sinker that is endowed with a wire loop, like an old-fashion bell sinker. (One of the Owner renditions has a tungsten sinker that is longer and thinner than a bell sinker. ) The five finesse jika rigs that I assembled consist of an 1/8-ounce bell sinker, either a 1 or 1/0 Gamakatsu EWG Worm hook and two split rings.
Today, I made a solo test with the jika at a 195-acre community reservoir from 10:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.
The surface temperature was 76 to 77 degrees. The reservoir looked to be three feet low, and the water was relatively clear. The wind angled out of the east by northeast at 8 mph. For a spell, a massive series of cumulus clouds moved in from the north, but most of the time, the sky exhibited a china-blue hue. Around 10 a.m., the barometric pressure was 30.16 and rising slightly. Area thermometers registered a morning low of 64 degrees and an afternoon high of 93 degrees. According to the solunar calendar, the best fishing time occurred at 7:26 a.m. to 9:26 a.m.
Initially one finesse jika rigs was dressed with a four-inch green-pumpkin lizard; another was dressed with a three-inch green-pumpkinYUM Wooly Beavertail. But I failed to garner a bite with a jika rig until I rigged one with a seven-inch Z-Man Junebug Finesse WormZ, which had 1 ¾-inches trimmed off of its head.
With the help of a PB&J Rain MinnowZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and pumpkin-chartreuse 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, the jika rig and Junebug Finesse WormZ tangled with 39 largemouth bass, which is a paltry catch for this time of the year.
During my last 20 minutes afloat, I talked to another veteran Midwest finesse angler, who was in his truck and driving along the road that parallels part of the west side of this reservoir, and he reported that the largemouth bass fishing had been trying for him at this reservoir on Aug. 26.
I thought that the largemouth bass fishing was trying on this jika-rig outing, too. But I was impressed how snag free the jika rig was. In fact, it was never snagged between the crevices of the many boulders that I fished nor in several of the man-made brushpiles that I probed. And I caught two largemouth bass out of two of the brushpiles. Because our Midwest finesse tactics feature a soft-plastic bait on a Gopher jig with an exposed hook, we don't fish brushpiles. On this outing, I probed the brushpiles with a medium-heavy spinning rod. My spinning reel was spooled with 10-pound-test braided line and a short leader made from 12-pound-test fluorocarbon line instead of an eight-pound-test fluorocarbon leader.
Steve Desch of Topeka and I intended to spend much of this outing working with the jika rig at the 11,600-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoir that he and I fished in a brutal wind on Aug. 23.
But the only time that we used the jika today was when we crossed paths with a man-made brushpile. And we hooked three fish, which we failed to get into the boat.
In regard to the weather and fishing, this outing was 180 degrees different than the one on Aug 23. Instead of battling wind gusts that hit 26 mph, the wind was calm when we started fishing at 9 a.m., and by the time we made our last casts, it was angling out of the south at 3 to 9 mph. It was sunny. The morning low temperature was 58 degrees, and the morning high was 93 degrees. The barometric pressure was 30.16 at 9 a.m.
The best fishing times, according to the solunar calendar, occurred from 8:16 a.m. to 10:16 a.m. We fished from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
A minor algae bloom had some areas of the reservoir stained, and other areas were slightly stained, but overall the water was relatively clear for a big flatland reservoir in northeastern Kansas. The surface temperature ranged from 76 to 79 degrees. The water level was 3.15 feet below normal.
This was only my fourth outing at this reservoir in 2012, and it was only Desch's second time.
On Aug. 23, we immediately put the troll motor down and tossed out the drift sock and allowed the wind to blow us along the south and southeast shorelines of one of the major feeder-creek arms. On that outing we caught 51 white bass, 14 drum and 10 black bass.
On our Aug. 28 outing, the drift sock remained in its compartment for the entire outing. We put the trolling motor down almost immediately and fished the north and northwest shorelines and points of a major feeder-creek arm for nearly three hours, looking primarily for new smallmouth bass lairs. We fished one rock-laden area near the boat ramp on the south side for about 20 minutes. Except for the spot near the ramp, we did not fish any traditionally hot spots. Instead, we fished as many consecutive yards of shorelines and points that we could squeeze into 3 ½ hours of casting and retrieving.
Ultimately we found four spots that yielded some smallmouth bass. Two were points and two were shallow flats. On the flats, the boat floated in four to six feet of water. The flats were graced with boulders, gravel and mussel beds. One point was littered with massive flat boulders.
This reservoir is a difficult black bass venue. Consequently, there were many 50- to 100-yard stretches where we failed to garner a strike. Its black bass population is not big enough to experiment with a new bait such as the jika rig. That is why we primarily use our Midwest finesse standard-bearer, which is a 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ affixed to a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The ZinkerZ also allows us to catch a potpourri of fish. On this outing, the best 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ combo was a pumpkin-chartreuse one affixed to either a blue or a red 1/16-ounce Gopher. This combo looks a lot like the green sunfish that litter the boulder-laden points and shorelines of this reservoir. (It should be noted that we caught approximately 18 green sunfish today.) One of the better smallmouth bass was caught on a four-inch green-pumpkin-orange-flake grub on a red 1/16-ounce jig.
By the time we made our last cast at 1 p.m., our fish counter revealed that we had caught 20 black bass, 15 freshwater drum, eight white bass, five sauger, and one buffalo. A dozen of the black bass were smallmouth; three of them were good ones, and one looked as if it might weigh three pounds. Ten of the drum were mega drum. One white bass was the biggest that we have seen at this reservoir for many years. The buffalo was a whopper, too.
Desch said that he does not like the looks of the jika rig. What's more, he had a difficult time keeping the soft-plastic baits perfectly straight on it. And he doesn't have confidence using a rig that sports a soft-plastic bait that it slightly askew on the hook. He said that he will talk with Stacey King about how he keeps the bait perfectly aligned on his jika rigs. My 1/8-ounce jika rig sported a five-inch Junebug Z-Man Finesse WormZ. It was a touch askew at times, and the three strikes that it garnered in brush piles, I failed to get the hook full into the fishes' jaws. I am used to fishing an exposed hook and not setting the hook, which may account for the three misses today. But I didn't suffer that fate with my maiden voyage with the jika rig on my Aug. 27 outing at a 195-acre community reservoir.
This was my last trip for August, but Desch and I will work with the jika in September and October and perhaps all winter. And we will post reports about it as time unfolds.
Mike Poe of Silver City, North Carolina, reported on the Finesse News Network on Aug. 28 the following observations about using the jika rig in his waterways: "We used this rig in our newly flooded and extremely brushy lake, and we were not impressed. But our presentations were more horizontal versus the vertical one that I suspect make it more effective.
"It did come through brush okay. Looking forward to reading in your upcoming blog how Mr. King uses it."
For more information about the jika rig, see these two blogs: