February 24, 2014
By Ned Kehde
Back in June of 2012, we published a column entitled the "Legends of the Heartland," and one of the legends that it featured was Bob Carnes of Arkie Lures, Inc. in Springdale, Arkansas. This column primarily featured Carnes' celebrated Arkie Jig, which he developed in the late 1960s and began manufacturing in the early 1970s. The legends' column, however, failed to examine Arkie's contributions to Midwest finesse angling — especially for those anglers who spend a lot of days plying Ozark rivers and streams. Therefore, this column will examine some of the finesse baits that Carnes and his crew have created recently and across the years.
On Feb. 6, we talked with Mitch Glenn of Arkie Lures, Inc., and he said the one finesse-style bait that has attracted the most attention in the black-bass fishing world is the Crappie Crankbaits.
According to Glenn, this two-inch hard-body bait, which is adorned with a clear-plastic bill, was initially designed to be a trolling bait for crappie anglers, but straightway some Arkansas walleye anglers who ply Greers Ferry Lake and Bull Shoals Lake have become infatuated with it. What's more, some largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass anglers have become smitten by it. In fact, even some bass tournament anglers are wielding it — especially at those tournaments at reservoirs that have major slot limits, such as the one at Lake Fork, Texas, where anglers can't keep a largemouth bass that measures 16 to 24 inches in length, and they can keep only one largemouth bass that is longer than 24 inches. Therefore to allure these 15-inch or shorter bass, some of these tournament anglers at Lake Fork have discovered that Arkie's Crappie Crankbaits do a dandy job of inveigling those smaller bass during the late winter and early spring when scores of them are abiding in two to five feet of water. These bass anglers employ the Crappie Cranks on spinning tackle that is spooled with six-pound-test line, which allows them to crank it into depths of about four feet of water.
It is available in 10 colors: Black-Gold, Black-Shiner, Blue-Shiner, Bluegill, Chart-Craw, Crawdad, Firetiger, Red Craw, Sexee Shad, and Splattershad. Anglers can purchase it for $2.57.
In addition to creating the Crappie Crankbaits in 2013, Arkie Lures also developed the Crappie Minnows, Crappie Craw Cranks, Crappie Poppers, and Crappie Lipless Cranks. Glenn says these five diminutive baits have found a significant place in the presentation styles of anglers who probe the many rivers and streams that stipple the Ozark region, as well as finesse anglers who ply ponds, strip pits, and other small waterways across the nation.
The Crappie Minnow is a 1 ¾-inch hard-plastic jerkbait, which is available in two hues: Black-Shiner and Sexee Shad. The Crappie Craw Cranks -- including its clear-plastic bill -- is two inches long, and they are available in three colors: Firetiger, Puddle Craw and Red-Brown. The Crappie Poppers is 1 ¾ inches long and they are available in the Black-Shiner and Blue-Shiner hues. The Crappie Lipless Cranks is only 1 ½ inches long, and they are made in two colors: Chrome-Black and Chrome-Blue Back.
During the past decade, many Midwest finesse anglers have stopped using hard-body baits. Instead they dress 1/32-, 1/16-, and 3/32-ounce mushroom-style jigs with small soft-plastic baits, such as Arkie's Salty BC Craw, Salty Crawlin' Fry and Salty Crawlin' Grub, which Arkie began producing about 20 years ago, and these three baits have become a staple in many finesse anglers repertoire.
The Salty BC Craw is a two-inch soft-plastic crayfish, which Midwest finesse anglers can affix to either a 1/32- or 1/16-ounce mushroom-style jig. The 1/32-ounce jig sports a No. 6 hook, and the 1/16-ouncer has a No. 4 hook. The Salty B.C. Craw is impregnated with salt and manufactured in six colors: Black-Blue Flake, Brown-Orange Laminate, Butterscotch, Green Pumpkin, Smoke-Red Flake, and Watermelon. A package of 10 sells for $1.85.
The Salty Crawlin' Fry is 4 ¼-inches long. From the tip of its head to the tip of its tail, the sides of its slim torso are endowed with 15 appendages, and this unique feature enhances the movement of this bait when it is attached to a 1/16-ounce mushroom-style jig. Midwest finesse anglers have a penchant for customizing soft-plastic baits, and it is likely that some of them will sever a half inch or more off of its head before they worm it onto their jigs. It can also be rigged on a jig wacky style. It is salt impregnated and made in 11 colors: Brown/Chartreuse Laminate, Chartreuse Pepper, Cinnamon, Cucumber, Green Pumpkin, Smoke-Blue, Sour Grape, Tequila Sunrise, Watermelon-Black Flake, Watermelon-Blue, and Watermelon-Red Flake. A package of 10 retails for $4.25.
The head of the four-inch Salty Crawlin' Grub is graced with a hula-style skirt. Each side of its chunky torso is adorned with seven lively appendages. Its tail consists of two grub tails. Traditionally, it is considered to be a power angler's tool, but Midwest finesse anglers use it, and when they wield it, they usually affix it to a 1/16- or 3/32-ounce mushroom-style jig. Midwest finesse anglers also customize it by trimming off the tail, and rigging it on a mushroom-style jig as a stick- or Senko-style bait with a skirted head and a torso with 14 appendages. They also rig it on the mushroom-style jig so that the skirt becomes a tail similar to a tube, and when they do this reverse rigging, they shorten the torso section a bit, and they also remove some of the skirt's tentacles. What's more, when the two grub tails are removed, Midwest Finesse anglers can affix a screw-in eyelet, a No.2-size crane swivel, a No.2 split ring, and a No. 1 Colorado spinner blade to the tail of the Salty Crawlin's Grub, and this adds a different dimension to this classic soft-plastic bait. It is available in 13 colors: Black-Blue Laminate, Black-Brown Laminate, Brown-Chartreuse Laminated, Chartreuse Pepper, Green Pumpkin, Pumpkinseed, Red Shad Laminate, Rootbeer-Green Flake, Smoke-Blue Flake, Sm0ke-Purple Flake, Watermelon-Black & Red Flake, Watermelon-Black Flake, and Watermelon-Purple Flake. A package of 10 can be purchased for $4.99.
Arkie Lures' Panfish Creature might catch the fancy of some Midwest finesse anglers who are in search of a beaver-style bait in the extreme finesse category to rig on either a 1/32- or 1/16-ounce mushroom-style jig. It is about 1 ½ inches long. Its flat head and torso is surrounded by 15 ribs or rings. At both sides of the junction of its torso and double-flapping tails, there is a long appendage, which extends out and beyond the Panfish Creature's two tails. It is available in six colors: Black-Chartreuse, Blue-Pearl, Gray-Pearl, Green-Pumpkin, Pumpkin Seed, and Red-Chartreuse. A package of eight sells for $1.67. According to Glenn, a two-inch rendition of the Panfish Creature is in the offing.
(1) For more information about Bob Carnes and the history of Arkie Lures, please see the legends' story at this link: http://www.in-fisherman.com/2012/06/10/legends-of-the-heartland/.
(2) One of the long-time virtues of the baits that Arkie Lures manufactures is that they are well-made but they are relatively inexpensive, and this appeals to the frugal-minded nature of many anglers who are confounded nowadays by exorbitant prices -- such as paying from seven to nearly 30 dollars for hard-plastic baits and more than three dollars a gallon for gasoline, which can make a day of fishing an expensive ordeal.
(3) Most Midwest finesse anglers prefer to rig small soft-plastic baits, such as Arkie Lures' Salty BC Craw, Salty Crawlin' Fry, Salty Crawlin' Grub and Pan Panfish Creature, on small mushroom-style jigs that are devoid of a hook or weed guard. What's more, they never rig their soft-plastic baits Texas-style on their jigs; therefore the jig hooks are always exposed, and the hooks on their mushroom-style jigs range in size from as small as a No. 6 to as large as a No. 2. One reason why Midwest finesse anglers work with small exposed hooks is that they don't become snagged as readily as big hooks do. What's more, small hooks cause less damage to the scores of bass that Midwest finesse anglers catch; thus when a pair of Midwest finesse anglers tangle with an average of 11 largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass an hour, there is a possibility that these anglers could injure -- perhaps mortally injure -- a goodly number of bass throughout a year. Glenn suggests that Midwest finesse anglers should give Arkie's Red Hook Ball Head jigs a whirl. A package of 10 unpainted 1/32-ounce jigs with a No. 6 hook and a pack of 10 unpainted 1/16-ounce jigs with a No. 6 hook can be purchased for $2.02.
(4) Until Feb. 6 Glenn had not cross paths with the tactics that Midwest finesse anglers employ. He and the anglers that he deals with are conventional finesse anglers, which is a method that Midwest finesses anglers call power finesse. In the power-finesse vein, Glenn said that Arkie's soft-plastic baits were designed to be used on several styles of jigs that they make, such as the Arkie Grub Head, EZ-Rig Head, Arkie Tube and Grub Head, Arkie Stand Up Head, Arkie U-Bolt Head, and Arkie Jerky Head. These jigs are built around big hooks: the Grub Head has a 1/0 hook, EZ-Rig Head has a 4/0 hook, Tube and Grub Head has a 3/0 hook, Weedless Stand Up Head has either a 3/0 or 4/0, U-Bolt Head has a 4/0 hook, and Jerky Head has 4/0 hook.
From Glenn's perspective as a power finesse angler, the Salty BC Craw works best on a 1/8-ounce Arkie Grub Head.
As for the Salty Crawlin' Fry, Glenn says the traditional ways to rig it is on a split-shot rig, Carolina rig, wacky rig, and on the Arkie Grub Head, Arkie EZ-Rig Head, and Arkie Tube and Grub Head. Glenn notes that some anglers who fish the streams and rivers in the Ozarks cut the Salty Crawlin' Fry in half and employ it as a creature bait. Glenn says it also works well when anglers rig it wacky style, and the wacky rig is especially effective during the spawning period.
Glenn says the majority of the anglers that he deals with who wield the Salty Crawlin' Grub affix it to a Carolina rig, Texas-style-slip-sinker rig, Arkie Weedless Stand Up Head, or Arkie Football U-Bolt Jig Head. It is also used as a trailer on a skirted football jig, such as the Arkie Football Jig.
(5) For more information about the lures that Arkie Lures, Inc. manufactures and sells, please examine its website at http://www.arkiejigs.com/.
From Clear Lake in the north to Perris Lake hundreds of miles to the south, California is blessed with the finest trophy largemouth fishing in the world. A 22-pound behemoth was reported from Spring Lake in 2008 — one of many in the 20-pound range taken since California began importing Florida bass a few decades ago. 'California is the number one trophy state for bass exceeding 15 pounds, ' says David Swendseid — bass pro and tackle rep from the Golden State. 'A lot of the best lakes right now are being kept quiet. People aren't talking, but Southern California lakes in general and the San Diego lakes specifically are producing massive fish. Even private waters are turning out behemoth bass and great numbers. The California Delta is phenomenal for numbers. We're catching fifty bass from 3- to 12-pounds per day there. And we're getting back to big swimbaits — specifically the new, 5- to 12-inch 'S-stroke' and glide baits which are new out of Japan. ' Other venues of note include Diamond Valley Lake, Castaic Lake, Bullard's Bar Reservoir, Casitas Lake, and Shasta Lake. 'The Delta and Clear Lake have established recent B.A.S.S. records for biggest bass (14.6 pounds) and biggest bag (in the neighborhood of 122 pounds), ' Swendseid said.
Sorry, Woody. The best part of New York is outside the city. (Way outside.) 'People don't realize how great the bass fishing is in the Finger Lakes and smaller lakes that have excellent populations of largemouths and smallmouths both, ' says multi-species guide, Frank Campbell. 'The diversity of lakes, from the mountains to the flats, is awesome. New York's stream smallmouth fishing is spectacular in the Mohawk River, the Niagara, and dozens of smaller streams that are completely under the radar from a tourism standpoint. That diversity extends to tactics. Anything you like to do to catch bass, we do it here at some point. ' Lake Erie's eastern basin offers some of the finest smallmouth fishing on earth. The opportunites on Lake Ontario are only slightly less spectacular. Lake Oneida and Lake Champlain belong on anybody's top-100 list of North American bass lakes, and over 200 other lakes grace the Empire State, and most have fair to spectacular bass fishing. The porcine smallmouths of the St. Lawrence Seaway seal the deal. New York belongs on this list.
Chris Beeksma guides for smallmouths and other species around Chequamegon Bay on Lake Superior. Quality regs (only one smallmouth over 22 inches can be kept) transformed that fishery into one of America's finest. Beeksma sends us photos of 6 pounders way too often. 'We may not have the number of largemouth lakes that Minnesota has, but Wisconsin does have a lot, ' Beeksma said. 'Finding a 7-pound largemouth isn't that difficult, and numbers are great. ' Wisconsin also has Green Bay on Lake Michigan, where an 8.4-pound smallmouth was weighed in at the 2013 Sturgeon Bay Open this year. Smallmouth fishing is nothing shy of stupendous all around Door County on Lake Michigan. Rivers like the Flambeau, the Fox, the Menominee, and the Wisconsin are everywhere in the Dairy State, and most harbor scads of pig smallmouths. The St. Croix River, which forms part of the border with Minnesota, is not only a blue-ribbon smallie hotspot, it's one of the most beautiful streams in America. Below its confluence with the Mississippi, Pools 3 and 4 comprise yet another bassy paradise that the Cheeseheads share with Vikings fans.
'To me, Florida is the big-bass hatchery of the world, whether they go to Texas or California, ' says legendary pro Larry Nixon. 'Lakes here have some deep water, lots of grass, great spawning habitat, and the best fishing is in the heart of summer when nobody knows about it and nobody's there. ' Okeechobee is back. Not news, but along with Lake Seminole, the Harris Chain, Lake Tarpon, the Everglades, the Kissimmee Chain, and several others — Florida can't be bypassed when naming the top 10 states for bass. 'On Okeechobee, that early-morning Zara Spook bite is nothing shy of awesome, ' Nixon said. 'Anglers overlook the St. John's River, too. If you know how to fish tidewater, the St John's is awesome. The Harris Chain has always been solid, and the Toho-Kissimmee Chain is way up there on my list of favorites for numbers of big fish. '
'Texas would be my target if the goal was to catch a 10-pound bass, ' says Nixon. 'Odds are much better in Texas than Florida for a 10 right now because of Falcon, Sam Rayburn Reservoir, and Toledo Bend. And, even though you may have a better shot at a 15 in California, the odds of catching a 10 are probably lower than in Texas. ' The waters Nixon mentions and Lake Fork are legendary, having been consistent producers of giant bass for decades. Nobody of right mind would dispute the awesome capacity of these lakes to generate massive populations of largemouth bass, and it's been going on since the impoundments were created. Lake Amistad, O.H. Ivie Reservoir, Choke Canyon Lake, and several others are 'must include ' candidates for any list of America's blue-ribbon largemouth lakes.
Two words: Lake Guntersville. Catches are phenomenal right now and it's on the bucket list (pun intended) of every angler who really understands bass fishing in America. 'Alabama's a great bassin' state and certainly belongs on any top 10 list, ' says bass pro and TV host Shaw Grigsby. 'Alabama probably has the best spotted bass fishing in the country on the Coosa and Alabama Rivers. In Guntersville you've got massive largemouths, and trophy smallmouths on Pickwick, Wilson, and Wheeler. ' Pro angler and bass guide Brent Crow claims you can catch a 10-largemouth, a 6-pound smallmouth, and a 5-pound spot all within an hour drive. 'You could do it in the same day, if you get lucky, ' Crow laughed. 'It might be the only place in the country where you could do that. Smith Lake in central-western is another great spotted-bass resource. Logan Martin and Lay Lake on the Coosa River are about 50-50 for largemouths and spots with awesome trophy potential. For my money, bass-fishing heaven is right here in Alabama. '
Georgia, home of George Perry's famous world-record largemouth (22 pounds, 4 ounces), is the spiritual Mecca of the bassin' world. It has to share some world-class waters, like Lake Eufala with Alabama, and Clark's Hill with South Carolina. But it has Lake Lanier all to itself. Lanier, like Jackson Lake, was a spectacular largemouth fishery for many years but is now dominated by spotted bass. 'Spots are really taking off in Georgia, ' says former resident and In-Fisherman Editor Steve Quinn. 'And they're getting bigger. Lanier is producing unbelievable numbers of 5-pound spots. ' Huge spots are more common than ever on Lanier and Jackson right now, while historic West Point Lake continues to produce great fishing for largemouths. Bartlett's Ferry (aka Lake Harding) is a small but prolific lake that produces great topwater bites almost year 'round. Bassin' rivers are everywhere in Georgia and are completely overlooked. Pressure is minimal and you can find five different species of black bass in rivers like the Chathootchee, Tennessee, Yellow, South, and Coosa. Lake Oconee, Lake Sinclair, and Lake Hartwell round out a list of prime bass attractions that cement Georgia squarely on this top-10 map.
Surrounded by Great Lakes, Michigan is an obvious angling paradise, but few folks from other states realize how magnificent the bass fishing really is. The Wolverine state borders Lake Erie, arguably the finest smallmouth water on earth. Michigan shares Lake St. Clair with Ontario — a world-class stage for equal numbers of 4- to 6-pound smallmouths and largemouths. Grand Traverse Bay, Saginaw Bay, Big Bay de Noc, Little Bay de Noc, the Portage Chain, the Sylvania Tract, Elk Lake, Torch Lake, the Beaver Island archipelago, Lake Charlevoix and 11,000 other inland lakes with bass populations might be enough to lift Michigan to the top of this list. But wait: Michigan has spectacular river fishing for smallmouths in the Grand, Muskegon, AuSable, Menominee, Tequamenon, St. Clair, and many other streams. The bayous on the lower Grand bristle with porcine bucketmouths. (No wonder VanDam's so good. He couldn't fling a dead cat back home without hitting a bass.)
Minnesota has world-class smallmouth fishing in the Mississippi River, Mille Lacs, the St. Croix River, and several other waters. A 4 pounder lifts no eyebrows here, and catching multiple 5-pound bronzebacks in a day is common for good anglers. Smallies over 7 pounds are caught every year — sometimes an 8. And Minnesota lays claim to over 13,000 natural lakes — more than any other state. Most harbor impressive populations of native largemouths, smallmouths, or both. Since Minnesota is primarily a walleye state, bass remain relatively under pressured — even though popularity of bass fishing continues to rise. Minnesota isn't the place to find trophy largies over 10 pounds, but it's a place where catching over 100 per day, with several over 5 pounds, just might be easier than anywhere else. Lake Minnetonka, nestled into the urban outskirts of Minneapolis, is a national treasure. But it's the smallmouth fishing that sets Minnesota apart. For size and numbers right now, only Great Lakes fisheries surpass the Gopher state.
In Them Ol' Brown Fish, Billy Westmoreland details how he caught more 10-pound smallmouths in Dale Hollow than, well, the remainder of the human race across the rest of the planet. If Georgia is the spiritual Mecca of largemouth fishing, certainly the Volunteer State maintains that distinction for smallmouth anglers. Center Hill, Pickwick, Wilson, and Old Hickory certainly stir up the echoes of a halcyon past, yet all probably retain the potential to produce a world-record fish. Like Georgia and New York, streams and creeks get overlooked for smallmouths in Tennessee. 'I weighed a 10-pound, 3-ounce largemouth on Chickamauga this year, ' says FLW pro Wesley Strader. 'The Tennessee River has been on fire from one end of the state to the other. Chickamauga has been just nuts. The great thing about Tennessee is the diversity. We have lowland reservoirs full of grass, highland reservoirs like Center Hill dominated by rock — you can pick the kind of water you want to fish here. Largemouth fishing has never been as good as it is right now on Chickamauga, Kentucky Lake, or Douglas Lake. In fact, bass fishing is better now than at any point I can remember. '