February 18, 2016
By Ned Kehde
On Jan. 22 and 23, four members of the Finesse News Network presented seminars at the Kansas City Boat and Sportshow. One of the seminars spent some time focusing on the history of Midwest finesse fishing, and it was noted that today's Midwest finesse anglers are dealing with tactics and tools that light-line anglers have been dealing with for more than a half of a century around Kansas City.
Most of the anglers who attended this seminar were not aware that the roots of Midwest finesse stretch back to the 1950s, which was many years before West Coast and Japanese anglers created their versions of finesse fishing for black bass.
The seminar attendees were also surprised to learn that some of the origins of Midwest finesse were incubated at Ray Fincke's tackle shop, which was about 3.7 miles from where they were sitting and listening to the history of this piscatorial phenomenon.
Some of the attendees mistakenly thought that Midwest finesse was a byproduct or spin-off of the tactics and tackle that Charlie Brewer of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, began to create in the late 1960s. In 1970, he started manufacturing four-inch plastic worms and an unique 1/16-ounce jig in the kitchen of his home. Initially his company was called the Crazy Head Lure Company, and it eventually became the Charlie Brewer's Slider Company. In those early years, Brewer's Slider techniques were lauded by many notable black bass anglers, such as Billy Westmorland, Jerry McKinnis, Harold Sharp, and Ray Scott. At the behest of Harold Sharp and Ray Scott, Brewer's 112-page book entitled "Charlie Brewer on Slider Fishin'" was published by the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society in 1978. And to this day, the company under the direction of Charlie Brewer Jr. is manufacturing tackle and teaching anglers via YouTubes how and where his father used to catch largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass by using light line, light rods, and the Slider fishing technique. (See endnotes No. 1, 2, 3, and 4 for links to more information about Brewer, Sharp, and Westmorland.)
Nowadays, around the Kansas City metropolitan area, Ray Fincke's shop is gone, as is one of the notable patrons of that shop, Chuck Woods, who created the Beetle, Beetle Spin, Puddle Jumper, the world's first Texas-style-jig-worm rig, and other baits. Fincke, by the way, was instrumental in creating spinning rods for anglers to use with Woods' baits and other types of finesse baits. And Fincke's most illustrious contribution was the creation of the five-foot, four-inch G. Loomis Spin Jig rod with a medium power and a fast action; he also designed some slightly longer ones with magnum-light power and extra-fast action. Even though Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas, used Woods' Beetle Spin and jigworm and Fincke's rods at the first Bassmaster Classic, which was staged at Lake Mead, Nevada, in 1971, it was never heralded by the folks at Bassmaster or anglers like Billy Westmorland and Jerry McKinnis. (For more information about the history of Midwest finesse, please see the links at endnote No. 5.)
There are some parallels between tactics and equipment that were created in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, in the late 1960s and 1970 and those that were created around Kansas City in the 1950s and 1960s. To examine the parallels, as well as the differences, we solicited the insights of Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, who is a regular contributor to the Finesse News Network and in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse. Before Reideler became a Midwest finesse aficionado, he was a Slider fishing devotee.
Here is an edited and condensed version of our many email exchanges:
(Q) What kind of tactics did you employ to catch black bass before you became a Slider tactician?
(A) I was a typical Texas power fisherman. I used all kinds of topwater baits, worked with all kinds and sizes of Texas-rigged and Carolina-rigged plastic baits, flipped and pitched heavy jig-and-plastic-trailer combos, threw a lot of spinnerbaits, and wielded different sizes and styles of crankbaits.
(Q) When did you start using Charlie Brewer's Slider tactics?
(A) I experimented with them off and on for three years, but I became a serious practitioner in 2008.
(Q) What kind of rods, reels, lines, and Brewer rigs did you use?
(A) My rods were five-foot Slider Rods with a Tennessee handle. To each rod, I taped a Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Signature JM 20 Spinning Reel. The reels were spooled with four-, six-, and eight-pound-test Trilene Low-Vis Green XT monofilament.
When I used the four-inch Slider Worm, I rigged it on a 1/32-ounce Crappie Slider Jig. I also rigged it on the 1/16- and 1/8-ounce Spider Slider Head jigs, and there were spells when I even affixed it to a 1/4-ounce Spider Slider Head jig. I occasionally used a 1/8- and 1/4-ounce Football Slider Head.
When I opted to use the five-inch Slider Worm, I affixed it to the 1/16-, 1/8-, and 1/4-ounce Slider Classic Spider Head jigs.
When I worked with the three- and four-inch Bass/Walleye/Striper Grubs, I used either the 1/8- or the 1/4-ounce Original Slider Head jig, which is the classic flat-head jig.
At times during the warm-water months, I occasionally wielded the three-inch Twin-tail Frog on the 1/8-ounce Original Slider Jig Head, which has a 2/0 hook. I tried to rig it weedless or Texas-style on a Spider Classic Pro Head which is manufactured with a 3/0 and j-bend hook, but it did not work.
I also utilized Brewer's Whirly Bee and Pro-Whirly Bee. The Whirly Bee was attached to a 1/16-ounce Original Slider Head jig, and the Pro-Whirly Bee was affixed to the 1/8-ounce Original Slider Head jig.
(Q) Charlie Brewer often described his presentation style as being slow, methodical, taking-it-easy, resembling nature, nothing fancy, patient, taking it light, and always with a good rhythm. He shunned implementing shakes, but he did at times slowly lift and drop his rod a few inches as he worked a Slider Worm rig through and across a lair, such as a brush pile. This method became known as the do-nothing retrieve. And when he was retrieving a Slider Worm rig by holding his rod nearly dead still and slowly turning the reel handle, he would at times call it "polishing the rocks." How did you retrieve his Slider rigs?
(A) I used the steady, do-nothing retrieve mostly with the grubs, Whirly Bees, and Twin-tail frogs. We caught more bass with the Slider Worms when we hopped them across the bottom with the lift-and-drop technique. The polishing-the -rocks technique was more productive during the cold-water months.
(Q) Why and when did you convert to Midwest finesse tactics?
(A) I switched to Midwest finesse in mid-August of 2013, and I have to confess that when I first changed over to Midwest finesse, I was one of the ones who believed that Midwest Finesse was a spin-off from Brewer's Slider tactics, but now I know better.
I switched because I was always looking for a system that would allow me to catch more fish, and though Slider fishing was more productive than power fishing, I quickly discovered that Slider fishing was not as productive as Midwest finesse.
I found that the Original Slider Head jig was great for swimming his Whirly Bees, worms and grubs, but they were not so good for his lift-and-drop retrieve and his polishing-the-rocks presentation. I don't like using big hooks, such as the 2/0 ones on the 1/8-ounce jigs and 4/0 ones on the 1/4-ounce jigs. What's more, the weights of the 1/8- and 1/4-ounce jigs were not consistent.
Brewer's Spider Slider Head, which we called the banana-head-weedless- worm jig, worked well in timber and brush, but only with slim-profile worms and grubs. I became frustrated when I wanted to use them with a thicker bait, such as Zoom Bait Company's Brush Hog. At one time, I called them once, and I asked them if they could make the banana-style-weedless or Spider Slider Head jigs with a thin wire EWG 1/0 hook for finesse anglers, but they were not interested in doing it. They made a couple of jigs with heavier hooks for tourney guys, but not for finesse fisherman.
Since I have switched to Midwest finesse, I use Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head jigs, and I like the small hooks, the weights are consistent, and they allow me to do everything I want to do in the six presentations that lie at the heart of Midwest finesse fishing.
(Q) We would like to know in your eyes the minor and major differences between Brewer's baits and tactics and Midwest baits and tactics.
(A) I think Midwest finesse and Slider techniques are similar in a few ways, such as the do-nothing retrieve, the hop-and-bounce retrieve (which is similar to Brewer's lift- and- drop technique), and the drag-and-shake retrieve (which is similar to Brewer's polishing-the-rocks tactic). The main difference is I shake the bait a lot more with Midwest finesse, and Brewer preferred not to add any other action to the lure.
The lines and rods that Midwest finesse anglers use are better. I much prefer to use my 6 1/2-foot rod over the five-foot Slider rod. I developed pain in my elbow and wrist when I used the Slider rod, and I think the longer rods help me control a fighting fish better. I think the braid and fluorocarbon leader lines are more sensitive, provide better hook sets, cast further, and last longer than the monofilament lines I used while I was employing Slider tactics.
In my eyes, the selection of Slider baits was and still is very limited. I do not see much innovation going on there. I basically had just four- and five-inch worms and three- and four-inch grubs to choose from, and they could only withstand two or three donnybrooks before they were torn up and had to be replaced with a new bait. If the fish were not interested in the worms or grubs, you were done with Slider fishing for the day. The jigs were mostly satisfactory, but not great. The flat Slider Original jigs were fine for grubs, Twin-tail frogs, and Whirly Bees, but they weren't very good for bottom-hopping or dragging techniques. The weedless Spider Slider Heads were better for the bottom-type retrieves, but they were made with a narrow-gap and J-bend hook that was not much good for anything but slim worms and grubs, and I could not use them if I wanted to Texas-rig a thicker or different profile bait on that jig. I still use them occasionally when I am forced to fish brush piles and docks with Ralph Manns of Rockwall, Texas.
I find that the Z-Man Fishing Products' baits are much more durable, more versatile, and they have a larger selection of baits to choose from. They are also constantly trying to come up with new ideas. In my opinion, there is no comparison between the two companies.
(1) Here is a link to a YouTube video featuring Charlie Brewer and his Slider tactics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THgGx1_SoYo.
(2) Terry Battisti of Bass Fishing Archives penned an informative history of Charlie Brewer and his Slider tactics, and here is a link to it: http://bassfishingarchives.com/features/the-crazy-head-lure-company.
(3) Here is a link to a short profile of Harold Sharp: http://bassfishingarchives.com/features/your-legacy-will-live-on-harold.
(4) Here is a link to an obituary about Billy Westmorland: http://www.worldfishingnetwork.com/community/post/remembering-billy-westmorland.
(5) Since the 1970s, Midwest finesse anglers have incorporated some of Brewer's methods into their tactics, and since the 1980s, they have also integrated some West Coast finesse methods. Since the turn of the millennium, Japanese finesse tactics have played a minor role in Midwest finesse fishing -- especially a few of the tactics that Shinichi Fukae of Osaka, Japan, showed us at Beaver Lake, Arkansas, on April 1, 2006. Here are links to more insights to the history of Midwest finesse and the ways we fish:
(b) http://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/midwest-finesse-fishing-december-2015/. (Every month we publish what we call a monthly guide to Midwest finesse. It features logs from anglers in Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, West Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, Colorado, and elsewhere. These are lengthy columns, and a few of them contain nearly 30,000 words about Midwest finesse fishing.)
(c) http://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/januaries-of-the-past/. (Since April of 2015 we have published this series.)
(d) http://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/a-month-by-month-guide-to-midwest-finesse-for-bass/. (This is a synopsis of our tactics throughout the year.)
(e) http://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/legends-of-the-heartland/. (This is more history, and besides its focus on Chuck Woods, it features the contributions of Harold Ensley, Ted Green of Mar Lynn Lure Company, Virgil Ward, and Bill Ward.)
(f) http://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/a-short-and-informal-history-and-tour-of-gopher-tackle/. (This is a history of one of the jigs that Midwest anglers employ.)
(g) http://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/prescription-plastics-ozark-finesse-heads/. (This is another jig that Midwest finesse anglers use.)
(h) http://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/z-mans-shroomz/. (This is another jig.)
(i) http://www.in-fisherman.com/2013/01/17/a-short-history-of-midwest-finesse-fishing-for-black-bass-1955-2013/. (More history)
(j) http://www.in-fisherman.com/2014/06/05/drew-reeses-history-midwest-finesse-fishing/. (More history)
(k) http://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/drew-reeses-history-midwest-finesse-fishing-part-two/. (More history)
(l) http://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/the-super-finesse-worm-another-update/. (A Midwest finesse gear guide)
(m) http://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/midwest-finesse-tackle-bass-rods-reels-and-lines/. (A Midwest finesse gear guide)
(n) http://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/midwest-finesse-lures/. (Our repertoire has changed since January 2012, but this short column covers our basic baits.)