Charlie Brewer's Slider Tactics vs. Midwest Finesse: an Update
March 05, 2016
Two days before we published the Midwest Finesse column entitled "Charlie Brewer's Slider Tactics vs. Midwest Finesse Tactics" on Feb. 18 we received an email from Travis Myers of Paw Paw, West Virginia. Myers said that he had just finished rereading for the umpteenth time Charlie Brewer's book entitled "Charlie Brewer on Slider Fishin'," which was published by the Bass Master Sportsman Society in 1978. He said it is "a great read that has taught me much and served me very well."
Myers is a regular contributor to the Finesse News Network and his contributions appear in our monthly guides to Midwest finesse.
From March into November and perhaps December if Old Man Winter is kept at bay, he uses finesse tactics to ply the streams and rivers that course through the Appalachian Mountains near his home in eastern West Virginia.
Myers said that reading Brewer's words get him ready mentally for the nine or 10 months that lie ahead. Then when he encounters spells of problematic fishing, he will routinely ponder some of Brewer's words and insights. He says it helps with astonishing regularity. And one of the major keys is not to overact nature, and simply slow down more and more and more, which lies at the heart of Brewer's heralded "do-nothing presentation."
According to Myers, do-nothing is almost anathema to most of today's anglers who have been bitten by the mad-dog of modernity, and that saddens him.
We responded to Myers email, and we asked him to tell us more.
Here is what he said:
When I lived in Norwich, New York, in the 1990s, I began fishing with what I call the Brewer way at the urging of my mentor and dear friend Dick Bengraf of Castleton-on-Hudson, New York. (And, of course, the Brewer way revolves around the methods that Charlie Brewer of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, developed and championed in his book entitled "Charlie Brewer on Slider Fishin.")
Across the years, Dick Bengraf and I talked and exchanged letters about fishing. In the 1990s, In-Fisherman's field editor, Gord Pyzer of Kenora, Ontario, wrote an article that touted Dick's talents, saying that he had quite possibly caught more five-pound smallmouth bass than any man alive. And I dare say he is the most well-traveled angler I have ever known and read about. Dick was a proponent of the Brewer way, which he often employed all over, but most notably in his beloved Quebec waters. Dick is a curmudgeon and we share a Marine Corps brotherhood. I am indebted to him for taking the time to teach me and change the way I fished. The Brewer way was the foundation of his teachings. And to this day, I have saved all of Dick's letters.
Nowadays, Dick and I still converse, but we chat about cooking more than anything else, and we exchange photographs of our latest culinary endeavors. Dick is well known in many circles for his cooking prowess of wild game, which stems back to his many Canadian adventures. He is now approaching 80 years of age, and he primarily pursues large panfish close to his home. But he still owns a cabin in remote Quebec and on a 200-acre plot in upstate New York.
During those initiation years with Dick, I left my ego at the door regarding what I thought I knew about fishing, and I became his disciple. Dick was a proponent for "throwing what they'll always eat." And he often reminded me that "an ounce of biology is worth a ton of tackle." Those two observations are very simple, but they reflect his genius that he had garnered through years on end of piscatorial pursuits all over the world for a variety of species.
Dick encouraged me to begin sliding finesse worms, as well as using homemade Hoss Flies or fly-n-rind-style baits similar to the ones that Billy Westmorland of Celina, Tennessee, made famous. Unlike Westmorland's aspirin-head jigs, my Hoss Flies were tied on generic ball-headed jigs with light-wire hooks. Most of the time, my finesse worm was affixed to either a 1/32- or a 1/16-ounce Charlie Brewer's Slider Company's Weedless Crappie Slider jigs, which sported a very thin No. 1 hook.
But in the mid-1990s, Dick and I encountered a problem with Brewer's jigs, which revolved around the packaging and labeling of their jigs. For instance, when we purchased a package of 1/16-ouncers, they looked bigger and felt heavier than a 1/16-ounce jig, and Dick and I weighed them on a grain scale, and the so-called 1/16-ounce jig would weigh nearly an eighth of an ounce, and the 1/32-ounce jig would weigh nearly a sixteenth of an ounce.
What's more, I have never liked weed guards of any kind -- especially Texas-rigged baits. In fact, I called them fish guards. And when I used the Weedless Crappie Slider on my light tackle, I missed hooking too many fish for my liking.
Another problem with rigging a finesse worm Texas-style on a Weedless Crappie Slider is that the worm is static from its head to where the point of the hook is impaled near the middle portions of its torso. By that I mean, it does not move or even quiver.
As I battled my weed-guard woes, lifeless or static worms, and mislabeled jigs, I thought about stories I read in "In-Fisherman" magazine back in the late 1980s about Minnesota anglers fishing deep weed lines in the summer using Gopher Tackle's Mushrooms Head jigs. But unfortunately, the light bulb did not shine on those words as brightly as I wished it had, and I did not change jigs until I read a story many years later in "In-Fisherman" magazine about Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head jigs that a group of Midwest finesse anglers use in northeastern Kansas. Then that proverbial light bulb finally shined brightly, and since then, all has gone well as I have become a devotee of Gopher's 1/32- and 1/16-ounce Mushroom Head jigs.
The Gopher's 1/32-ounce jig is poured around a No. 6 hook, and the 1/16-ounce jig sports a No. 4 hook. When I affix a soft-plastic bait to them, the hook is exposed, and this combination of a small exposed hook allows the soft-plastic bait to move and undulate more alluringly than can be achieved on a bigger hook and a Texas-rigged soft-plastic bait. When I supplemented Mr. Brewer's light-tackle ways with the exposed and small light-wire hook of the Gopher jig, my abilities to provoke bass to engulf my presentations and to hook them increased dramatically.
About the same time that we encountered the mislabeled and heavy jig problem, the motif of Dick's beloved bass grub changed. The tails were different and thicker than the originals, and they did not perform as effectively on the lightweight jigs that we used. We called Charlie Brewer's Slider Company, and they told us that they had changed molds. So, we searched for an alternative. As I searched, I reread some of the "In-Fisherman" magazine articles that Rich Zaleski of Stevenson, Connecticut, wrote, and Zaleski convinced me to use Mister Twister Sassy Grubs affixed to unpainted jigs poured around a light-wire hook.
In essence, Zaleski's articles, Charlie Brewer's book, and the tutoring of Dick Bengraf laid a solid foundation for me as an angler.
But one of the problems that pestered me for years on end revolved around the fragility of the soft-plastic finesse worms that I affixed to my jigs. Throughout a year, I would use thousands of finesse worms. That problem ended when I read a story in "In-Fisherman" magazine about Strike King Lure Company's four-inch Super Finesse Worm and their Zero that Midwest finesse anglers affixed to Gopher's Mushroom Head jigs. The durability of the Super Finesse Worm and the Zero, which is a stickbait, is off the charts, and in fact, its durability is so incredible that an angler has to experience it to believe it. What's more,when the impregnated salt is leached out of the Super Finesse Worm and Zero, they become more buoyant, and that enhances the no-feel presentation that lies at the heart of most Midwest finesse presentations. In fact, the older and more tattered these baits become the more alluring they seem to be in the eyes of most black bass. In my mind, there is no doubt that they catch more black bass than other soft-plastic worms and stickbaits catch. The Super Finesse Worm and the Zero is made for Strike King by Z-Man Fishing Products, and during the past several years, Z-Man has begun making other kinds of finesse baits that I also affix to a Gopher jig, and they are incredibly durable and effective.
Across the years, I have used what many in the angling world have deemed to being the top-of-the-line finesse rods and reels. However, in my hands, the action of many of these state-of-the-art rods is way too fast, and they are too long. What's more, they are way too expensive.
Even though I am blessed to be able to fish with anything I choose, common sense guides me nowadays. I am of firm belief that the selection of rods and reels that one elects to wield should revolve around where he or she fishes, rather than trying to keep up with the Jones mentality and tournament-angler hype that the tackle industry utters.
For instance, I just purchased two vintage Charlie Brewer's Slider Company's Slider Rods and two vintage Garcia Cardinal Four reels that Zebco used to import and sell, and I acquired all four of them for much less money than one top-of-the-line rod cost.
I am a small river smallmouth fisherman. And I have found that I can make more exacting and accurate casts with a short Brewer's Slider Rod than I can make with a super-duper long rod. Furthermore, strike detection is even more pronounced with the Brewer's rod than it is with the long, expensive one.
Since the 1980s, I have been a fan of the basic Tennessee handle on my spinning rods, and I do not think that will ever change. When I tape the spinning reel just behind the spot where the blank of the rod exits the cork Tennessee handle, I am able to wrap my thumb and index finger around the blank of the rod during the retrieve, and although I am an ardent line watcher, this allows me to detect light strikes that I could not see with my eyes virtually affixed onto the line.
Mr. Brewer's systematic thinking about how to catch largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass by using light line, light rods, and the Slider fishing technique have served me very well through the years, and it still does. As of two nights ago, I finished my annual re-reading of his "Charlie Brewer on Slider Fishin." Reading it is something that I do each and every year before my smallmouth bass season begins in March. At this point in my life, I am able to recite most of the pages verbatim. For me, this reading has become a rite of winter's passage and the arrival of spring.
Mr. Brewer always stated that what lead him to creating his Crazy Head Lure Company, which eventually became the Charlie Brewer's Slider Company, revolved around too many fishless hours with conventional tackle.
Mr. Brewer stated in one of his old instructional tapes that Slider fishing was not about a particular product, such as the tackle he manufactures. Instead, it was about a presentation style or system of fishing. I always give him high marks for that statement, and I agree with it. But his baits and tackle did create a solid foundation for me to build upon, and they will continue to help newcomers to the art and science of finesse fishing for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and spotted bass.
(1) Here is the link to the first Midwest Finesse column about the history of Charlie Brewer and Midwest finesse fishing: http://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/charlie-brewers-slider-tactics-vs-midwest-finesse-tactics/.