On April 18, we received an email from Brian Latimer of Belton, South Carolina, and he exclaimed: "I had a blast at Beaver." That blast occurred during the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour's event at Beaver Lake, Arkansas, where he was introduced to some of the manifold virtues of Midwest finesse fishing.
The day we received Latimer's email was the same day we received a telephone call from Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas, who reported that Jeff Gustafson of Keewatin, Ontario, became a Midwest finesse devotee by using a Z-Man Fishing Products' green-pumpkin Hula StickZ affixed to a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShroomZ jig at the Beaver Lake tournament.
We emailed Latimer and Gustafson, asking them if we could write and publish a Midwest Finesse column about their days at Beaver. Both of them said yes.
In an April 20 email, Gustafson exclaimed that the "Hula Stick was the hot ticket for me last week at Beaver...it was amazing really." After we exchanged several emails with Gustafson, we wrote and published a Midwest Finesse column on April 24 about how and where he used the Hula StickZ rig to catch 13 of the 15 black bass that he took to the tournament's scales on April 14, 15, and 16. Those black bass weighed enough that his name graced the eleventh spot on the leaderboard, and he garnered a check for $12,000. He was three ounces short of making the top ten and competing on the last day of the tournament. It is interesting to note that Andrew Upshaw of Tulsa, Oklahoma, finished in tenth place, and he caught some of his black bass on a Midwest finesse rig, too. So, it looks as if Midwest finesse is beginning to play a role with a few of the anglers who compete on the big-time tournament circuits.
When we finished writing about Gustafson's feats at Beaver Lake, we talked on April 23 with Brian Latimer on the telephone about how and where he fished at Beaver. (And after we write and publish a column about Latimer's ways, we hope to write and publish a similar one about Upshaw's tactics.)
Several weeks before the practice sessions began at Beaver, Daniel Nussbaum of Ladson, South Carolina, who is president of Z-Man Fishing Products, suggested that Latimer should talk to Drew Reese about how to fish the Finesse T.R.D. in Ozark impoundments. Latimer called Reese, and Reese gave him some sage advice about replicating a crayfish with either a Finesse T.R.D. or Hula StickZ rig. (Reese also worked with Gustafson, and he even spent an afternoon with him at Table Rock Lake.)
This was the first time that Latimer had fished Beaver, and it was the first time that he had seriously used a Midwest finesse rig. Straightaway, he was wowed by the vast numbers of largemouth bass, mean-mouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass that he caught by employing a Z-Man's Coppertreuse Finesse T.R.D. affixed to either a black or chartreuse 1/10-ounce Z-Man's Finesse ShroomZ jig. For example, along some 20-yard stretches of water, this rig would inveigle eight to 10 black bass, while a friend, who was fishing with him, wielded a shaky-head-worm rig and struggled to elicit a strike.
He was also impressed by how well the Finesse T.R.D. rig worked in the wind, which was howling on the first two days of practice, blowing up to 43 mph on April 10 and up to 32 mph on April 11; it dropped, however, to 14 mph on April 12.
And at most locales, he tried to have the wind blowing at his back rather than into his face. He worked with a seven-foot, six-inch, medium-light powered Diawa Cronos Series Spinning Rod and a Shiminao Stradic 2500 spinning reel that was spooled with eight-pound-test Hi-Seas 100% Fluorocarbon Line. He has discovered that fluorocarbon line cuts through the wind, and thus it does not bow as much as braided line bows in the wind. He also pointed the tip of his rod down at the five-o'clock or lower position while he was retrieving the Finesse T.R.D., and this tactic helped to eliminate some of the line-bow woes that often plague finesse presentations.
Even though the hook on the Finesse T.R.D. rig was exposed, and the Finesse ShroomZ jig did not have a weed guard, he was not plagued with snags, which impressed him.
He spent most of his practice time probing main-lake bluffs and small bluffs inside some of the feeder-creek arms and coves in the upper reaches of the reservoir where the water exhibited three to four feet of visibility. A lot of his casts and retrieves were made from mile-marker 47 to mile-marker 52.
When he fished these bluffs, his boat floated in 18 to 20 feet of water. His casts were aimed at a 45-degree angle in front of the boat to the water's edge along the bluffs. He allowed the rig to slowly plummet along the steep slope of the bluffs into eight to 13 feet of water. As the Finesse T.R.D. rig dropped, he did not shake it. Instead, he allowed it to glide delicately and alluringly towards the bottom. If it stopped falling before it was in 13 feet of water, he would gingerly lift his rod to determine if it was lying on a ledge or shelf or if it had been engulfed by a black bass. If it was lying on a ledge or shelf, he would gently lift it off of the ledge or shelf and allow it to continue its delicate fall into eight to 13 feet of water. If it was a black bass, he would quickly boat and release it and continue probing another segment of the bluff.
During the three days of practice, he plied about 30 main-lake bluffs and about 25 bluffs inside coves and feeder-creek arms.
He suspected that some of the smallmouth bass and spotted bass were spawning or about to spawn on some of the shallow-water ledges and shelves that grace the bluffs that he was probing, and when he caught one of these shallow-water black bass, they engulfed the T.R.D. rig during the first foot or two of the drop.
During the three days of practice, he did not catch a black bass in the backs of any of the feeder-creeks and coves that he fished. In fact, all of the black bass that he caught were along main-lake bluffs, bluff ends, and the first 50 yards of the bluffy-shorelines inside the feeder-creeks and coves. But once the tournament started, he caught them in the back halves of the coves and small feeder-creek arms.
During the three days of practice, Latimer used the Finesse T.R.D. rig as a search bait. And for him, it quickly revealed the whereabouts of scores of black bass, which buoyed his confidence. And from a psychological standpoint, he finds that confidence is an extremely important element for a tournament angler to acquire. He called his practice sessions a joyful experience, which put an incessant smile on his face.
He said, "I caught a ton of fish on [the Finesse T.R.D. rig]â€¦in practice and â€¦gainedâ€¦a feel and understanding of how and where to use it." Even though he was wowed by the effectiveness of the Finesse T.R.D. rig, he opted to use a Z-Man's Turbo Craw rigged Texas-style on a slip-sinker rig, when the tournament began on April 14. He made that change in hopes of catching five big black bass every day of the tournament, and he did not think he could achieve that goal by employing the Finesse T.R.D. rig. What's more, the bulk of the black bass he caught during the tournament were in the back portions of the coves and small feeder-creek arms, which was a radically different pattern than the one he fished during the practice sessions on April 10, 11, and 12. He dissected these locales by pitching and flipping the Turbo Craw rig around laydowns and log jams, and similar underwater obstacles.
Across the two days that he competed at the Beaver tournament, his 10 biggest black bass weighed 24.14 pounds. He finished in thirty-third place and garnered $10,000 in prize money.
(1) Here is a link to Brian Latimer's website: http://brianlatimerfishing.com/.
(2) Here is the link to his Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/brian.latimer.18.
(3) Here is the link to the Midwest Finesse column about Jeff Gustafson: https://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/jeff-gustafsons-introduction-to-midwest-finesse/.
(4) Here is a link to a Midwest Finesse column about Z-Man's Finesse T.R.D.: https://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/z-mans-t-r-d/.