David Reeves posted two photographs on the Finesse News Network on April 2 that featured a big smallmouth bass and a whale of a largemouth bass that Bryce Archey of Broken Bow, Oklahoma, and an angler that Archey guided caught while employing a Midwest finesse rig.
Reeves suggested that we should contact Archey and write a Midwest Finesse column about his methods.
Reeves is the proprietor of Prescription Plastics of Lansing, Kansas, which manufactures a 1/16-ounce and 1/8-ounce mushroom-style jig, that are called Ozark Finesse Heads. Reeves got wind of Archey and his clients' feats because Archey and his clients use Reeves' jigs.
On April 3 Reeves posted another note on the Finesse News Network entitled "Another Broken Bow Finesse Giant." On the afternoon of April 3, I talked with Bryce Archey about how and where he and his clients are accomplishing this feat of catching humongous largemouth bass and smallmouth bass on a Midwest finesse rig.
Archey commenced our conversation by noting that he is 42 years old. His guiding career began when he was 22 years old, and he described himself as a second-generation guide. His father, Jimmy, began guiding when Bryce was four years old. Their primary quarries are largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass, and there are spells when they pursue walleye. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation routinely stocks Florida-strain largemouth bass into Broken Bow.
During the winter of 2014-15, a friend of Bryce Archey introduced him to one of the old-time Midwest finesse rigs, which is a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man Fishing Products' ZinkerZ or a 2 1/2-inch Strike King Lure Company's Zero affixed to Reeve's 1/8-ounce Ozark Finesse Heads. (The Zero and ZinkerZ are siblings; Z-Man manufactures both of them.)
He and his clients used it religiously during the winter of 2014-15 and until June 15, 2015. Then from June 15, 2015, until February of 2016, he was engaged in a vigorous battle with cancer, and he rarely fished and did not guide. Therefore, he has not used it during the summer and autumn.
Straightaway, he has found it to be a stellar multispecies rig — especially in the spring. For example, the first five fish that his clients caught on April 3 were a largemouth bass, a smallmouth bass, and three crappie. During this outing the surface temperature at Broken Bow Lake ranged from 58 to 60 degrees at 7:00 a.m. His clients fished five hours and caught more than 60 fish, which consisted of crappie, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, and walleye.
Broken Bow is a highland reservoir, and its impoundment began in 1968. According to Archey, it exhibits some of the characteristics of Table Rock Lake, Missouri, which contains the kind of water and terrain that Reeves created his mushroom-style jig for. But Borken Bow is not as large as Table Rock nor is its water as clear. Table Rock was impounded in 1958, and it contains 43,000 surface acres, has 745 miles of shoreline, has a maximum depth of 200 feet, and it is 79 miles long. Broken Bow contains 14,200 acres of shoreline, has 180 miles of shoreline, has a maxim depth of 180 feet, and it is 22 miles long.
Archey and his clients ply the lower portions of the reservoir, where the shorelines are not cluttered with flooded trees and other kinds of terrestrial vegetation — except when the water level is well above its normal level. Therefore, he and his client do not use the 1/8-ounce Ozark Finesse Head jigs with a hook guard. According to Archey, the hook guard adversely affects the way the rig moves during the retrieve. When Archey affixes a 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ to a green-pumpkin 1/8-ounce Ozark Finesse Head jig, the hook is exposed. Even when the water level is well above normal, which it was during April of 2015, he and his clients used it along sandy shorelines that were not littered with flooded terrestrial vegetation, and they caught scores and scores of smallmouth bass that weighted from 1 3/4 pounds to 4 1/2 pounds.
Archey and his clients work with the ZinkerZ and Zero in the following colors: California Craw, Dirt, Sprayed Grass, and Watermelon Candy. They opt for the Sprayed Grass hue or the Dirt one on cloudy days, and they employ the ones with flakes on sunny days. When Broken Bow's black bass are foraging on small bluegill, green sunfish, and similar species in the spring, Archey and his clients attempt to match the hues of the 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ with the hues of the bluegill and various sunfish species.
Archey wields his ZinkerZ rigs on either a six-foot, nine-inch Falcon Cara 7 spinning rod with a fast taper and a medium power or a seven-foot Cara 7 spinning rod with a fast taper and a medium power. These rods sport a 2000 Ardent Wire Spinning Reel. The reels are spooled with either six- or eight-pound-test Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line. His clients use a six-foot, six-inch Falcom HD spinning rod with a medium power and medium flex. Their Ardent spinning reels are spooled with eight-pound-test Berkley Trilene XL Smooth Casting monofilament line.
Archey and his clients will catch pre-spawn largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass in small cuts along the main-lake shorelines and on the points at the mouth of those cuts. A couple of the humongous largemouth bass that they caught were extracted from points in 8 1/2 to 10 feet of water.
During the spawning season, Archey and his clients spend most their time plying what he calls flat main-lake bays, which is where the largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass spawn. He describes it as open-water fishing. The underwater terrain consists of gravel and sand. And all three species spawn on the sand. Some walleye forage in theses bays, too, and he and his clients inadvertently catch some walleye. In these spawning bays, his boat floats in 12 to 15 feet of water. He and his clients fan cast the area, and they retrieve their ZinkerZ rigs by slowly hopping, bouncing, and dragging them on the bottom, and at times they will execute a pause or a deadtick motif in their retrieve. During the retrieve, Archey says that he and his clients always want to be in contact with the bottom. All three species of black bass smallmouth bass and largemouth bass can be in close proximity to one another; for instance, Bryce caught a seven-pound largemouth bass on the morning of April 6, and he caught three smallmouth bass within a 10-foot radius of where he caught that largemouth bass. He also inadvertently caught five walleye during his April 6 outing.
During the post-spawn, Archey likes to focus on main-lake humps and ledges in six to eight feet of water. These main-lake lairs lie outside of the gravel- and sand-laden bays that he and his clients dissect during the spawn. He calls these lairs the black bass' first stop after the spawn, and these post-spawn black bass usually forage rather vigorously. The one major obstacle to this pattern, Archey says, is the wind, which can make it nearly impossible to employ his Midwest finesse tactics.
Archey says his wintertime and cold-water methods with the ZinkerZ rig are still in a rudimentary phase. During the winter of 2014-15, he developed two tactics that paid some dividends. One takes place along bluffs and bluff ends. Along the bluffs, his boat floats in 30 to 80 feet of water, and on average it floats in 30 to 50 feet of water. He executes a cast that allows the ZinkerZ rig to hit the water a few feet from the water's edge, and then he allows the ZinkerZ rig to fall freely into 10 to 25 feet of water. As it slowly plummets down the steep slope of the bluff, he periodically lifts the rod gently to determine its whereabouts or if a black bass has engulfed it without Archey feeling it or seeing his line move. The second one necessitates using an Ozark Finesse Head with a hook guard, and it is aimed to focus on black bass that are suspended in the tops of the deep-water flooded timber. He dissects the tops of these trees, which are covered with 15 to 20 feet of water, by making a cast and as soon as it hits the water, he begins counting each foot it drops. And once it reaches the appropriate depth, he slowly begins to slowly swim it across and through the tops of the flooded timber.
As the summer and autumn of 2016 unfold, we will keep in touch with Bryce Archey and see if his Midwest finesse tactics are as fruitful as they were in February, March, and April. We will also see what transpires during the winter of 2016-17.
(1) Here is a link to Bryce Archey's Broken Bow Lake Guiding Service: http://www.brokenbowlakeguide.com/.
(2) Here is a link to Bryce Archey's Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Broken-Bow-Lake-Guide-Service-by-Bryce-Archey-290408853001/.
(3) Bryce Archey's cell phone number is 870- 582-4561.
(4) Here is a link to a Midwest Finesse column about David Reeves' Ozark Finesse Head jigs:https://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/prescription-plastics-ozark-finesse-heads/.