This blog describes the seven outings that I and various partners fished from Mar. 1 through Mar. 16. It delineates how and where we caught 196 bass.
It also includes observations, questions and reports about bass fishing during the first 19 days of March from other anglers who are members of the Finesse News Network. These are featured in three postscripts.
This blog and the three blogs posted on Feb. 2, Mar. 20 and April 20 encompass details about all of our piscatorial endeavors during the winter of 2011-12. Across those 90 days of winter, my angling compatriots and I fished 22 times and caught 698 largemouth bass and one smallmouth bass. Here's hoping the 20,859 words that constitute these four blogs will provide readers with some precise insights about finesse fishing for wintertime largemouth bass.
Not only did the wind blow during the last days of February, but some spots around eastern Kansas got pummeled with violent thunderstorms and tornadoes on Feb. 28. Some locales received only a quarter of an inch of rain, while others vicinities collected several inches.
To Rodney Hatridge of Shawnee, Kansas, and my chagrin, the watershed of our most fruitful reservoir in January and February was one of those areas that got hit with a gully washer. As we drove around one of the eastern arms of this 195-acre community reservoir on the road to the boat ramp, we could tell by looking at the riparian border that it had been hit by a torrent. We calculated that the lake had raised a foot. What's more, it was murky. It even looked a little bit like chocolate milk in two backwater areas.
When arrived at the boat ramp, we debated for a few minutes about going to another reservoir. Ultimately, we elected to launch the boat, make a quick perusal of the lake conditions, and perhaps fish a spell, which we did from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
We observed that surface temperature had raised since Feb. 28 from 43 degrees to 48 degrees at many areas of the lake, and that was somewhat encouraging. Another heartening sign was that we saw a turtle sunning itself on a laydown that was surrounded by a wad of dead American water willows. A variety of aquatic and terrestrial insects were milling about, too.
The wind was a touch pesky, angling out of the southeast to south at 15 to 22 mph. It was sunny and warm, hitting an afternoon high of 70 degrees, which was a significant climb from the morning low of 29 degrees.
We ventured back to the shallow mud flat where I caught 36 largemouth bass and five crappie on Feb. 28, and we found the water to be muddy. We fished for 15 minutes without eliciting a bite.
From there we fished many stretches of rocky and gravel shorelines; some were graced with dead American water willows and cattails.
During the 3 ½ hours that we were afloat, we were able to eke out only nine largemouth bass. When we first examined the water conditions at the boat ramp, we wagered that we wouldn't be able to garner a bite. Thus, we somehow exceeded our presumptions.
Three largemouth bass were caught at the end of a cattail patch that merged into a gravel and rocky stretch of shoreline. All but one bass was caught on a northern shoreline that was laced with boulders, football-size rocks, gravel, massive accumulations of filamentous algae, some emerging curly-leaf pondweed and a few patches of milfoil. One of the bass weighed five pounds, six ounces.
All the bass were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Junebug ZinkerZ affixed to a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. A blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught seven of the nine; a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher caught two.
(It is interesting to note that it took several weeks for our reservoirs to clear up after a heavy late-February rain muddied them up in 2011. But as it will be noted in the details of our Mar. 8 outing, this reservoir's water cleared up within a week.)
On Mar.2, Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas, and designer of Z-Man Fishing Products' prototype that we have been testing since Jan. 24, e-mailed me this report:
"Took the float tube out for the first time Thursday (March 1). I went to a public lake that is not a numbers lake, but does have quality fish. I fished 3½ hours. It was fairly windy and water temp was 48-51 degrees with about one foot of visibility. During this time of year, this lake has always been a jig & eel lake. Also it is tough fishing until the water temperature is above 50 degrees. So it was a borderline day.
Throughout the 3 ½ hours, I fished 10 casts with my favorite jig and trailer and then 10 with the green-pumpkin prototype on a 1/16-ounce jig.
It was so windy that the 1/16-ounce rig was a challenge, and I missed several strikes.
I was surprised by the results. I caught three bass on the jig and craw and eight bass on the prototype. What was most impressive was I caught a five-pound, four-ounce bass and a four-pound, two-ounce bass on the prototype. I did lose one nice fish on the jig and trailer. All of the prototype fish had the lure deep.
I love to catch big fish in light line. So, I am encouraged that the quality fish liked the bait."
We were walloped by heavy winds during the winter of 2011-12. Even anglers who possess a set of the best wind socks in the world would have found Mar. 4 a trying one to be wielding finesse baits on any of the reservoirs that grace the landscape of northeastern Kansas. Here's the National Weather Service's forecast for Mar. 4:
"Mostly sunny, with a high near 61. Windy, with a west wind 5 to 10 mph increasing to between 25 and 30 mph. Winds could gust as high as 45 mph." And it was on the mark.
Steve Desch of Topeka, and I enjoyed our first bass-fishing-for-trout endeavor of 2012 at a 416-acre community reservoir.
The lake was the clearest I had seen it since last winter. But Steve said it was clearer on Feb 25, which was when he watched the late-winter trout stocking take place. For months on end in 2011, it was afflicted by horrendous algal blooms; at times, it looked as if thousands of gallons of chartreuse paint had been dumped into the water.
This suburban reservoir is buffeted by a golf course and many residences that are embellished with lush lawns and gardens. Thus, some of the fertilizers and pesticides that wash off these landscapes flow into this reservoir, affecting its water quality and clarity.
We fished from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. It was sunny the entire time, and the sun's rays felt good on our backs and hands. Area thermometers hit a morning low of 21 degrees and a high of 61 degrees.
The wind was occasionally pesky, angling out of the south and southeast 14 to 24 mph. Therefore, we used our drift sock about 85% of the time. We also focused on east shorelines and three wind-sheltered northern shorelines.
The lake's surface temperature fluctuated from 44 degrees to 46 degrees.
We primarily used a 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. We experimented with the green-pumpkin prototype on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher and a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher, but those two baits failed to garner a strike.
We ended the day by catching and releasing 18 rainbow trout and eight largemouth bass. All of the trout were good ones, and all of the bass were small.
The best ZinkerZ was the PB&J hue on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
It is important to note that the old, limp and extremely tattered ZinkerZs caught more trout than the sparkling and firm new ones. Some anglers are too meticulous to employ an old and tattered one, but it pays some handsome dividends at times. As the ZinkerZ ages, the salt that was impregnated into it dissipates, and this improves its flexibility and buoyancy. In our eyes, the buoyancy factor is what makes the ZinkerZ better than other Senko-style baits.
An old, limp and tattered one also more readily absorbs scents, such as Glup! Alive! or Pro-Cure, than a new one. On this outing, we used a lot of scent: Gulp! Alive! nightcrawler and Pro-Cure crayfish. The Pro-Cure allured more strikes than Gulp! Alive!.
We employed two retrieves: the drag and shake and the swim, glide and shake. The best bite occurred from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
We were hoping to elicit more bass than we did. We caught four of the eight from one spot, which was a beaver hut. The bass fishing at this reservoir has been problematic for nearly two years. We fear that the largemouth bass virus has affected it. Some anglers also suspect that the severe algal blooms that have afflicted this reservoir during the past several years have also adversely affected the largemouth and smallmouth bass populations. Thus, the trout fill in the long gaps between bass bites, and we are thankful that we can bass fish for trout at this reservoir in March.
On Mar.1, several spots around this 195-acre community reservoir were the color of chocolate milk.
After two days of horrendous south winds (with gusts to 45 mph) on Mar. 6 and Mar. 7, I thought that the water clarity would be as murky as it was a week ago. But to my surprise, the clarity has improved dramatically. I could see the entire lower unit on the outboard, and few spots I could even see the trolling motor. The curly-leaf pondweed had also growing appreciably. The reservoir's surface temperature ranged from 46 to 48 degrees.
The morning's low air temperature was 34 degrees. The midday high hit 48 degrees. It was cloudy until 12:45 p.m.. Then it became partly cloudy and eventually sunny. The wind angled out of the north at 12 to 23 mph.
I fished from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
I caught only three bass at one of the traditional late-winter flats that had yielded more than a hundred bass this winter and thousands across the past decade. In my mind, this indicated that the wintertime concentrations had evaporated, and many of the bass would be or would eventually be milling about along rocky shorelines.
After the traditional wintertime haunts failed, I decided to examine a rocky shoreline or two. Ultimately I caught 29 largemouth bass on the north shoreline of a large cove, which was graced with boulders, rocks, gravel, filamentous algae, curly-leaf pondweed and milfoil. These largemouth bass were abiding in two to eight feet of water.
Eleven of the largemouth bass were caught on the green-pumpkin prototype affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Twenty-two of them were inveigled on a 2 1/2-inch Junebug ZinkerZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher.
These bass were caught on a variety of retrieves: the swim, glide and shake in water that was two- to four-feet deep; the drag and shake in water that was four- to eight-feet deep; and a deadstick and drag motif in water deeper than four feet.
None of the bass were big ones.
I crossed paths with Holden White of Lawrence, Kansas, at 1p.m. He had five spinning rods sporting grubs affixed to a 1/16-ounce jig. But he said that he had been fishing about two hours, and he hadn't garnered a bite. The grub bite, he said, had been fruitful at two small reservoirs south of here. White is 82 years old and a longtime grub fanatic. He had been walking the banks at those reservoirs when the wind howled on Mar. 6 and 7. Here's hoping all of us are possessed with his piscatorial passion and wherewithal when we are 82 years old.
Even though some piles of snow lingered around some spots at this 416-acre community reservoir, it was a lot warmer today than it was on Mar. 5 when Steve Desch and I went bass fishing for trout. But the fishing was more trying and frustrating today than it was then.
Clyde Holscher of Topeka and I started fishing at 10:30 and finished at 2:15 p.m.
It was sunny, and the wind was nil. It remained sunny and virtually windless for our entire outing.
The extremely heavy winds of Mar. 6 and 7 hadn't stained the clarity. The surface temperature hit 50 degrees on the northern sections of the reservoir at 2:00 p.m.
We struggled to catch nine trout and eight largemouth bass.
Our best bait was a PB&J 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on either a red or blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, which was the same combo that Desch and I employed. Other baits and colors failed to bewitch any fish.
We had to do a lot of deadsticking to entice strikes. We also did a lot of slow drags and shakes.
Initially the bite was good; we caught 13 of the 17 fish during the first hour of fishing. After that first hour, it was a bewildering ordeal. The lake crowded with boats and anglers, too; perhaps the most fishing pressure that I have ever seen on a weekday for several years.
Holscher and I couldn't recall having a bite peter out as dramatically as it did on this outing. We crossed paths with Al Bettsworth of Topeka, who is a veteran and talented angler, and he told us that he experienced a similar fate.
What's more, the largemouth bass fishing should have been a lot more fruitful than it was today. Every time we have fished this reservoir for the past 25 months, we suspect that the bass have been waylaid by the largemouth bass virus. It is a disheartening situation. Several of the other reservoirs in northeastern Kansas are suffering the same fate, too, which has adversely affected the number of big bass we have been able to allure during the last two years. Although the fisheries biologists have confirmed that the other reservoirs have been hit by the virus, they haven't declared that it has whacked the largemouth bass at this one. But since our smallmouth bass catches have paralleled the decline in our largemouth bass catches, it might be something more than the largemouth bass virus that is affecting this reservoir. We noted in our Mar. 5 log that some anglers suspect that the horrendous algal blooms that have erupted in recent years might be one of the culprits that has affected the bass populations.
The bass at 100-acre community gave me its fifth comeuppance since early December of 2011, when it yielded 63 largemouth bass 69 largemouth bass on Dec. 1 and 63 largemouth bass on Dec. 3.
Today's fishing, however, wasn't as sorry as it was on Feb. 21, when it yielded only two largemouth bass. Nevertheless, I struggled mightily for three hours to catch only five largemouth bass.
The lake level was rising after three-quarters of an inch of rain fell during the early morning hours. The upper third of the main arm was murky. The surface temperature in the murky water was 48 degrees. It reached 50 degrees at the dam at 1:50 p.m.
The wind angled out of the southwest at 13 to 23 mph. It was sunny. The morning low was 49 degrees The afternoon high hit 75 degrees.
I caught two largemouth bass on a northern shoreline that is adjacent to an offshore hump and a creek channel bend. Two were caught along a bluff on the west side of the south arm. One was caught along the dam; it was the first dam largemouth bass for many months.
Four of the largemouth bass were caught on a black-and-blue 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ attached to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher. One was caught on the green-pumpkin prototype on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher.
I was the only bass angler afloat, which is not unusual for a Monday in mid-March. But I talked with three veteran crappie anglers who hadn't garnered a bite. They were as perplexed about the goings on at this reservoir as I have been since early December. We concluded that this reservoir must be in one of those down spells that affects our waterways every now and then.
Every time I have fished this lake this winter, I have said that I would wait to the water warms up more. I said that again after this outing. Then I read that Phil Lilley of Branson, Missouri, found the fishing at Taneycomo Lake, Missouri, was very trying, too. He wrote in a Mar. 12 report on his Web site: "Nice day to go fishing . . . but fishing here on Taneycomo was tough for most. Lots of guides out today, especially this morning, and everyone was talking to each other trying to find out where the fish were biting and on what. No one was getting a good answer." Lilley's comments provoked me to conclude that my terrible outing might have been caused by something different than this lake being in a long-term funk. Thus, after reading about Lilley's woes and despite the 2 ½ months of sorry fishing that several of us Midwest finesse anglers have endured at this 100-acre community reservoir, I was ready to test it again. But I didn't return until Mar. 29, when Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, and I caught 50 largemouth bass.
Steve Desch of Topeka, Clyde Holscher of Topeka and I bass fished for trout from 10:30 a.m. to 2:55 p.m. at a 416-acre community reservoir.
It was a delightful outing. The sun was bright and warm, sending area thermometers from a low of 39 degrees to a high of 82 degrees. The wind angled out of the southeast at 6 to 18 mph, provoking us to use a drift sock about 70% of the time.
The lake was rising and slightly above normal level. The water was what we call Kansas clear, which is a long way from being Minnesota, Canada or Ozark clear.
We focused primarily on three long stretches of a rocky shoreline along the eastern side of the main body of this 416-acre community reservoir. We did, however, venture into one of the flat feeder-creek coves on the east side of the reservoir, where we caught one wiper along a mud flat that was bedizened with some milfoil. We also caught two wipers on a main-lake flat that was embellished with milfoil.
In total, we caught 23 rainbow trout, 18 largemouth bass, three white bass, three wipers, one drum and one smallmouth bass. (It was our first smallmouth in 2012.) One of the wipers looked to be a four-pounder; one of the trout might have weighed four pounds.
We used two baits: a 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ and a three-inch Rain MinnowZ. We caught them on three colors: purple haze, PB&J and greenpumpkin. The baits were affixed to either a chartreuse or red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
We executed a variety of retrieves, including a lot of deadsticks. Then there were spells when the fish wanted only the swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. The great advantage of having three anglers was that we could experiment with all of our retrieves, as well as work each lair with a variety of bait colors, bait styles and retrieve styles and angles.
In a Mar. 13 e-mail from Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas, he wrote that he had fished a 25-acre community reservoir on Mar. 12 and a 32-acre community reservoir on Mar. 13. During these two outings, he worked primarily with the prototype that he designed for Z-Man, but he occasionally tested a tube, as well as a jig-and-trailer combo.
On Mar 12, he caught nine rainbow trout, including some three-pounders, on the prototype. What's more, he caught 25 largemouth bass. Two weighed more than three pounds, two weighed more than four pounds and one weighed five pounds, three ounces. All but one was caught on the prototype, and he noted that he was exceedingly pleased with the new lure. The one bass that wasn't allured by the prototype was caught on a tube.
On Mar. 13, he found the 32-acre communit reservoir to be very dingy and overflowing. He caught only 13 largemouth bass. He wrote: "Over the last few years this lake has become a shadow of what it used to be for quality bass. They have filled the lake below it and have stocked it but it is closed to fishing. It seems all public lakes have that boom cycle then slow way down. It may be pressure. Two years ago there were several bass boats hammering the lake, which I had never seen before. They are all gone now but so is the great fishing. I do not think a 32-acre lake can handle that kind of pressure"
It should be noted that Reese prefers to fish these small community reservoirs in a float tube rather than in his Ranger bass boat.
Brent Frazee and I fished a 120-acre community reservoir in a north Kansas City, Missouri, suburb.
After a week of unseasonably warm weather, the surface temperature at the northern reaches of this 120-acre reservoir hit 55 degrees. Along the southern portions, it was 53 degrees.
The water was clear, and the lake level looked to be normal. There was a significant scum of pollen coating the surface in several locales; it was so thick that it looked like an algae bloom.
The morning low air temperature was 63 degrees, and the afternoon high hit 77 degrees. The cloud cover fluctuated from mostly cloudy to partly cloudy. The wind angled out of the south to southwest five to 14 mph.
We fished from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., wielding a 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZs, Rain MinnowZs and Z-Man's three-inch prototype. The most fruitful colors were PB&J, purple haze, smoky shad, and green-pumpkin. All of these soft-plastic baits were affixed to a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The jig colors were black, red, chartreuse and blue.
At some of our reservoirs in northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri this time of the year, the Rain MinnowZ and 2 1/2-inch Zinker are our primay bass-fishing-for-trout lures baits. During the rest of the year, they are an essential part of our Midwest finesse repertoire for largemouth and smallmouth bass.
On this outing Frazee and I struggled to garner a bite for the first hour. In fact, we eked out only one small bass during that trying spell.
Eventually we found a significant concentration of bass milling about around the mouth of a small cove. These bass were on the bottom in five to 10 feet of water and associated with patches of coontail. Some black crappie were also mingling about in this area. We spent more than 45 minutes mining this area, which was the size of two basketball courts.
After that, we caught a scattering of bass along a few shallow rocky and riprap shorelines. We also caught a few bass in the back of two large coves, as well as along the flat and rocky shorelines on the south sides of both of those coves.
By the time we made our last casts, our total catch was 72 largemouth bass, seven crappie, four rainbow trout, and one walleye.
This deep and spring-fed reservoir that Frazee and I were fishing is graced with rainbow trout that are stocked every fall, and surprisingly, a significant number of them survive the Heartland's brutally hot summers. Frazee occasionally catches some rainbow trout in the heat of the summer while night fishing for crappie, but this is the only reservoir in northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas that anglers have caught summertime rainbow trout. It is presumed the trout that are stocked in the other reservoirs during the fall and winter die in the summer.
Frazee and I suspected that our late wintertime trout fishing with the Rain MinnowZ and 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ was on the verge of waning as the surface temperature climbed near the mid-50s. The temperature of this reservoir on this Mar. 15 outing revealed how unseasonably warm the winter of 2012 had been. For example, the surface temperature in 2010 at nearby reservoir ranged from 41 degrees to 42 degrees on Mar 15. The surface temperature didn't broach the 50-degree range until April 12 in 2009, and on that date, the surface temperature fluctuated from 49 degrees to 52 degrees, and we caught four rainbow trout the. The warmest surface temperature that we have caught trout while bass fishing for them was 58 degrees, and that occurred on April 11, 2011, when caught seven rainbow trout.
Most of the fish Frazee and I caught today were small, but we did land a largemouth that weighed five pounds, four-ounces.
On Mar. 15, Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, sent an e-mail, inquiring about my thoughts about the best time of day to catch largemouth bass.
I answered him by explaining that we fish only midday hours and aim to fish only four hours on each outing, noting that sometimes they become five-hour endeavors rather than four, and at other times, we fish only two or three midday hours.
I told him that across the years we have found that we catch about nine bass an hour using finesse tactics during the midday hours.
The twilight outings might be best for power fishing, but we stopped using power tactics and twilight fishing a number of years ago. Therefore, we don't have a good level of measure of what time frame is the best.
What's more, we like midday -- especially in the heat of the summer -- because there are fewer anglers afloat then. Most anglers are heading home as we are launching our boat. Our lakes are usually afflicted with algal blooms in the summer and fall, which affects the oxygen level. Thus, it is not until midday until oxygen levels increase, which seems to make the bass more active.
After making the long drive over to northwestern Missouri to fish with Frazee on Mar. 15, I fished at a nearby 195-acre community from 9:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
It was cloudy until 12:20 p.m., and then the sun was bright and almost Arizona hot. The wind was from the south at 12 to 24 mph. Area thermometers reached a morning low of only 61 degrees. It was 77 degrees when I left the lake.
For all but 25 minutes, I fished about two miles of a northern shoreline. Even though there was a hefty south wind, 60% of this shoreline was relatively calm. Fifty percent of it was in a major cove. The rest of this northern shoreline was along the dam, and much of it was buffeted by the wind.
The surface temp was the warmest that I have ever found it to be this time of year. It ranged from 57 at the east and shallow end of the cove to 59 degrees at the west end of the dam and along the spillway.
I primarily used Z-Man's green-pumpkin prototype on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. It was rigged with the tentacles at the tail rather than at the jig's head, which is how Drew Reese designed it to be fished. (But I like it reversed, too, placing the tentacles on the collar of the Gopher jig. By the way, I fished it Drew's way when Brent Frazee and I fished together on Mar. 15. ) I also used a PB&J Rain MinnowZ on a 1/16-ounce red Gopher jig. And made several casts with a black-and-blue 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jug and a 2 ½-inch Junebug ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
I landed 76 largemouth bass, two wipers and two black crappie. I also failed to land about 30 largemouth bass, which often happens when the barb is removed from the hook and the bass jump. All of the bass were small except one that weighed five pounds, 14 ounces, which was the biggest bass of the winter. Since it was a solo outing, I didn't get a photograph of it.
The green-pumpkin prototype inveigled the big largemouth bass, as well as the majority of the 76 largemouth bass.
I lost a big fish, which I didn't see, and it felt as hefty as the five-pounder felt. It didn't feel like a channel cat or a wiper. So I am guessing it was a largemouth bass. It inhabited a secondary point on the south side of the big cove. I fished only 40 yards of this south shoreline, and the one fish that I lost was the only bite that I encountered on that south shoreline. The rest of the casts were executed on the north side of this large cove and the dam.
The swim-glide-and-shake retrieve dominated the outing, but when I missed a strike, I often deadsticked it, and it occasionally allured another strike.
Postscript: Four reports from members of the Finesse News Network:
(1) On Mar. 15, Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, e-mailed a report.
He noted that the largemouth bass were spawning and never before had any of the veteran North Carolina anglers witnessed the largemouth bass spawning in mid-March.
In an air of dismay, he also explained that he failed to catch a bass on a 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ during a Mar. 11 outing with a friend and his friend's son who were not experience anglers.
Poe primarily used the ZinkerZ, but he also employed several other options, including a topwater bait. His two companions used wacky-worm rigs.
Poe wrote: "We caught 18 and had a five-pounder and lost one bigger on a [Heddon] Spook, but I was distressed with the failure of my Gopher-jig-and-ZinkerZ combo. I did catch one crappie on it, but the bass never came. My friend and[his] son were very happy as the wacky allowed them to catch several. Most were two-pounders.
The bass were on shallow banks with emerging water willow being best. Many were seen rolling in the shallows, which is definitely a spawning activity; the lake's clarity, however, is too dark to see them.
The fishing is good everywhere here, and I never would have thought I could blank on the Gopher and ZinkerZ when they were this shallow and catchable on other lures.
I was using the shake-and-glide retrieve and my old stand by the 'initial fall do nothing.' In other words: You throw and they bite. It's usually a killer for me when they get this shallow. Before now the shake and glide was doing well.
I just was astounded that a whole wacky worm would work, but a half of a wacky worm did not produce.
Water color was perfect for finesse -- maybe a foot of clarity, which is clear for this lake.
What I could not do is retrieve the bait parallel to the shallowgrassy areas. That has been doing well with a constant shaking retrieve. With three folks casting that just did not happen.
I do need to expand my finesse bait selection. The ZinkerZ just casts so well that I am virtually addicted to it. Thus it is hard for me to change.
If I had been fishing for money, I would have pitched some type of plastics even shallower than we fished, because every overhanging willow had a bass around it in inches of water. My friends were not up to that task and I would have just been fishing for myself had I went that way.
It was a mystery to me. But with this early spawn the post-spawn will be early too. During the post-spawn last year, the 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ produced our best catches.
I bet you can go today and catch them just fine. It was just one of those days."
(2) On Mar. 17, Bob Gum of Kansas City wrote on the Finesse News Network that he and his dog fished a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir.
This reservoir is known for yielding lunker-sized bass with amazing regularity, and across the years, Gum has exhibited a propensity to allure a substantial number of them. But throughout the winter of 2011-12, the big bass had eluded Gum and many other savvy anglers. On this outing, however, he reported that the big bass "mysteriously reappeared." But to his dismay, he was able to land only 50% of the big ones that he hooked.
He landed 43 largemouth bass, as well as five crappie, three freshwater drum, two white bass, one bluegill and one green sunfish. Five of the largemouth bass were 18-inches and longer. One largemouth bass measured 24 inches and weighed eight pounds. Another one weighed 5 ¼ pounds.
If he had been able to land five of the lunkers that liberated themselves before he got them into the boat, he said it would have been one of the best big-bass days of his life.
He concluded his inability to land these big largemouth bass stemmed from the fact that he was making long casts His most productive bait was Strike King Lure Company's 2 ½-inch green-pumpkin-red-glitter Zero (which is the same bait as a Z-Man's ZinkerZ) that was affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
The wind howled out of the south all day. Therefore, he spent most of this outing on the south end of the reservoir and probing its long riprap dam. After fishing the entire dam, he spent most of the time concentrating on several specific lairs along the dam's western section.
The surface temperature at the dam hovered around 64 degrees. The lake level was normal. The water was relatively clear.
(3) On Mar. 18 Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, reported on the Finesse News Network that Bob Gum's report on Mar. 17 motivated him and a friend to fish the 2,600-acre power-plant lake, where Gum tangled with an impressive array of lunker-sized bass on Mar. 17.
Claudell described the weather as mostly cloudy. Area thermometers climbed into the mid-70s. The wind was strong during the morning, but during the early afternoon hours, it calmed down.
Like Gum, Claudell and his friend fished the dam, using a 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ on a 1/16-ounce jig. Their best two colors were PB&J and Junebug, but a watermelon/red allured several largemouth bass, too.
They caught 38 largemouth bass. Twenty-five of them were in the 16-inch to 18-inch range. One measured 21.5 inches long, and another was 20.5 inches long. He exclaimed that to tangle with 27 largemouth bass that are 16 to 21.5 inches long is unheard of at the other waterways that he traditionally fishes in eastern Kansas and western Missouri.
(4) On Mar. 19 Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, sent an e-mail. He wrote a brief note: "I gave the mushroom head jig and half ZinkerZ bait a try for the first time tonight after work. Got to fish for only one hour at dusk, and that time was relegated to the shoreline at the local marina, but I caught 13 largemouth bass on it. See lots of potential and can't wait to get out and experiment with it more this coming week. Think the "no feel" retrieve won't be a problem as it reminds me a lot of swimming tubes for open water crappie. Spent more time 'feeling' what bites felt like and developing the hook set, as well as watching what my bait was doing as I tried the different retrieves. 'Swim and glide' and 'hop and bounce' both produced, though I mostly tried to master the former. A couple casts using straight swim retrieves didn't produce.
Surface water temps here have zoomed into the low 60s on many waters, plus we're already seeing algae blooms, so the small hair jig bite is fading fast. Testing small silicone jigs (1/8-oz Bitsy) in its place, and of course, now the soft plastic/mushroom head jig combos.
I'll report more when I get more time with it."
In a few days, we will post a fourth chapter of the addendums to the month-by-month guide to Midwest finesse fishing. That chapter will detail our eight outings that occurred from the vernal equinox to March 31.