November 14, 2011
By Ned Kehde
The winter of 2011-12 is fast approaching, and on November 11, we made our first foray to a power-plant reservoir to pursue black and temperate bass. As the last 37 days of the autumn of 2011 winds down, we will be making more trips to fish the waters surrounding the power plants.
Eventually when our lakes become ice-covered for days on end, they will be the only nearby waterways where we can launch a boat. One of these lakes has a substantial population of medium-sized smallmouth bass. The other contains a hefty population of lunker-sized largemouth bass. Both are graced with wipers and white bass.
From about 1980 to 2002, we were convinced that versatility was the best piscatorial tactic for recreational bass anglers to employ. Therefore, we always tested a variety of power tactics, intertwined with occasional finesse presentations, on every winter outing. We were also part of the school that liked to wield big soft-plastic baits affixed to big jigs. In short, we were using the methods popularized by professional tournament anglers and the fishing media rather than the ones that were suitable for the conditions and waterways that we fished as recreational anglers. It is similar to playing backyard baseball and football and acting as if we are Albert Pujols and Peyton Manning.
It's often assumed that professional anglers catch prodigious numbers of bass. But if you were the proverbial mouse in the back of a talented tournament angler's boat, watching him as he practices for and competes in a tournament, you would soon realize how few bass he normally catch during several long, hard days afloat. The same observation can be made about the number of bass that are caught during the filming of a television show. In fact, one of the nation's best professional bass tournament anglers who also works for a popular TV show recently said that creating a 10-minute segment for a TV show is often more trying than fishing a tournament; the reason is that the theme of the show is usually focused on how he uses one of his most successful tournament or power-fishing tactics, and there are spells when the bass aren't readily allured by such a tactic, but across many hours of hard fishing, a 10-minute feature usually can be created.
Our perspectives about the best way for recreational anglers to catch black bass began to change shortly after the turn of the millennium. By 2003 we began to return to the finesse methods that the late Chuck Woods of Kansas City pioneered in the 1950s and 1960s. Woods developed a system that allures not only scores of bass, but some lunkers to boot, in the flatland waterways of northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri. By the way, Woods' biggest bass weighed 10 pounds, 3 ounces.
Nowadays Woods system is called Midwest Finesse, and since several of Woods' disciples started the Finesse News Network a few years ago, it has been determined that Midwest Finesse tactics work surprisingly well at various and asunder waterways across the nation.
Many anglers, however, are uncomfortable utilizing finesse tackle and presentations, but wintertime outings at power-plant reservoirs are an excellent time and place for novice finesse anglers to get acquainted or comfortable with the manifold virtues of finesse fishing for bass. Once these novices get hang of it, they will soon see that a pair of knowledgeable finesse anglers can follow a virtual phalanx of power anglers along a shoreline or around a series of points and offshore humps, and they will inveigle an amazing number of largemouth bass that the power anglers fail to allure.
During some winter outings at our power-plant reservoirs, there are many boatloads of anglers plying the same shorelines, points and offshore lairs. At times it is a virtual traffic jam along some locales. Despite that chaos and angling pressure, our finesse tactics normally allure a surprising number of bass.
Besides catching wintertime bass that power anglers can't catch, another virtue of Woods' finesse tactics is that it is relatively inexpensive, and in these trying economic times, that's a sterling attribute. For instance, inexpensive medium-action spinning outfits spooled with either eight or 10-pound-test monofilament line work as well as state-of-the-art spinning outfits spooled with top-of-the-line and high-dollar eight- or 10-pound-test braided line and fluorocarbon leader.
In regard to braided line, several Midwest finesse anglers have been using Zebco's rather inexpensive 10-pound-test Omniflex braid for the past year, and these anglers have been pleasantly surprised with its effectiveness.
What's more, day in and day out, we use nine styles of soft-plastic lures that are affixed to a jig, and they are relatively inexpensive and astonishingly durable.
Last winter at the power-plants, the three most fruitful lures were made by Z-Man Fishing Products; they were the four-inch Finesse ShadZ, three-inch Rain MinnowZ, and a customized 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ. The ZinkerZ is normally five-inches long; it's customized by merely cutting it in half. These three soft-plastic baits were affixed to either a 1/32-ounce or 1/16-ounce Original Mushroom Jig Head made by Gopher Tackle Manufacturing Company.
And on our initial cold-water outing this autumn, a purple-haze 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ paid the best dividends. So we anticipate the Finesse ShadZ , Rain MinnowZ and ZinkerZ will be fruitful throughout the winter of 2011-12.
In winters past, we have noticed that most anglers ply the lairs that are situated within the plum of warm water that is jettisoned out of a power plant. We have found, however, that many of the cold-water lairs that lie outside of the water-water plum produce a surprising number of largemouth bass as along as the surface temperature is above 40 degrees or a tad warmer.
As our cold-water season unfolds, we will delve into the archives and post a piece about how to use finesse tactics to catch smallmouth bass that abide in a power-plant reservoir. We will also post a story about how Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, uses a tiny hair jig and plastic chunk to entice cold-water bass. In addition, we will dissect the various retrieves that we employ with of our soft-plastic-and-jig combos.