January 03, 2014
Normally we fish from 117 to 127 times a year in northeastern Kansas, but Mother Nature and some family gatherings kept me at bay a goodly number of days this year. Perhaps my 73-year-old body, mind, and soul are slowing down a touch, too, which might have prevented me from trying to tangle with some of Mother Nature's frenzies.
This lack of fishing time, however, allowed us more time to accumulate and compose these monthly guides about Midwest finesse fishing. In fact, the 12 monthly reports for 2013 contained a total of 168, 994 words. We are indebted to the members of the Finesse News Network who helped us with the logs that are incorporated into these monthly guides. We are particularly thankful for the contributions and insights rendered by Terry Bivins of Lebo, Kansas, Burton Bosley of Sutton, West Virginia, Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas, Steve Desch of Topeka, Kansas, Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, Bob Gum of Kansas City, Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, Clyde Holscher of Topeka, Kansas, Casey Kidder of Topeka, Kansas, Stacey King of Reeds Spring, Missouri, Travis Perret of Overland Park, Kansas, Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, and Dave Weroha of Kansas City.
Throughout 2013, we also published scores of words that described finesse tactics and new baits, as well as descriptions of where, how, and when anglers — such as Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas, Larry Seger of Kimberly City, Missouri, and Andrew Upshaw of Tulsa, Oklahoma — use Midwest finesse tactics. For instance, we published 28,727 words in November on this blog site. In sum, we estimated that we published 238,344 words in 2013 about Midwest finesse fishing and some ancillary topics.
During 2013 I fished the flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas 105 times, which encompassed 354 hours and 15 minutes of casting and retrieving a variety of Midwest finesse baits. Those baits inveigled 3,627 largemouth bass, 513 smallmouth bass and four spotted bass, which is a total of 4,144 black bass. I was accompanied by another angler or two on about 60 percent of those trips. The average outing was three hours and 35 minutes. I and my various companions caught an average of 39.1black bass an outing, and 11.8 per hour.
Old Man Winter waylaid us this December, causing some area thermometers to plummet to zero on Dec. 7 and covering our small flatland reservoirs with ice. Therefore, we were able to fish only four times, which constituted about 17 hours of finesse fishing. My cousin Rick Hebsenstreit joined me for about four hours and 15 minutes of those 17 hours, and Bob Gum accompanied for five of those hours. The other hours were solo endeavors. Two of the outings occurred at a power-plant reservoir. Throughout the month, we were able to inveigle only 130 largemouth bass, which was 7.6 largemouth bass an hour.
This monthly guide also includes logs that detail Bob Gum's Dec. 1 and Dec. 17 power-plant outings, Brent Frazee's endeavors on Dec. 3, Burton Bosley's Dec. 4 outing, and Mike Poe's Dec. 22 and 28 treks, as well as several of Steve Reideler's exasperating and dismal undertakings in north central Texas. Bosley and Poe didn't employ Midwest finesse tactics on their Dec. 4 and Dec. 22 outings, but they referred to them; thus, as a way to exhibit a bit of diversity, we incorporated their reports into the December guide.
Reideler's observations about the state of the largemouth bass fishing in Texas appear in this month's endnotes. We are eager to read comments from other finesse and power anglers about the state of Texas' bass fishing. So, please post them in the comment section below.
There are, also, two endnotes about the weather in 2013.
Dec. 1 log
Bob Gum of Kansas City filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 1 outing to a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir with Greg Monahan of Lee's Summit, Missouri.
The National Weather Service at the Johnson County (Kansas) Executive Airport reported that the morning low temperature was 33 degrees and the afternoon high temperature was 55 degrees. It was a cloudless sky. The wind was light and angling from the south and southeast at 5 to 6 mph. The barometric pressure at 8:53 a.m. was 30.10 and falling.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing occurred at 8:12 a.m. to 10:12 a.m. They fished from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Throughout the outing, they worked with Z-Man Fishing Products' watermelon-red Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head Jig and a 2 ½-inch Strike King Lure Company's coppertreuse Zero (which is the same bait as a 2 ½-inch Z-Man's ZinkerZ) on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. They also wielded a topwater bait and a jerkbait.
They began their outing by fishing a 100-yard stretch of riprap along the east side of the reservoir. This area lies along the southeastern rim of the warm-water plume that is jettisoned out of the power-plant. The surface temperature was 49 degrees. They caught three largemouth bass and one white bass along this riprap.
Then they fished two bluffs on the west side of the reservoir. These bluffs are situated on the southern rim of the warm-water plume, and the surface temperature was 52 degrees. From these two bluffs, their finesse baits allured three largemouth bass.
The third spot was a shallow flat in the heart of the warm-water plume, lying on the west side of the reservoir. The surface temperature was 54 degrees. Here they caught one wiper on the jerkbait.
From the flat, they moved a short distance and began fishing two bluffs, a small flat between the two bluffs, and the submerged creek channel area that courses by an island. One of the bluffs, the small flat, and part of the other bluff lie in the heart of the warm-water plume. But part of the second bluff and the entire island lie on the northern fringe of the warm-water plume. They caught 20 largemouth bass at these four locales. (They also crossed paths with two power anglers, who were using spinnerbaits and big skirted jigs, and these two anglers confessed that they hadn't landed a fish.)
The final area that they fished was another section of riprap on the east side of the reservoir, which was well outside the warm-water plume. The surface temperature was 47 degrees. Along this riprap, they caught three largemouth bass and two big freshwater drum.
Traditionally, the Finesse ShadZ and 1/32-ounce Gopher jig is one the most effective Midwest finesse baits during the winter in northeastern Kansas, and Gum noted that the mild-mannered wind allowed them to use the Z-Man's watermelon-red Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig at every location, and it inveigled the vast majority of the 29 largemouth bass that they caught.
Dec. 2 log
My cousin Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, and I fished a 100-acre community reservoir that lies along the edge of the southwestern suburbs of Kansas City on Dec. 2
The National Weather Service at the Johnson County (Kansas) Executive Airport reported that the morning low temperature was 33 degrees and the afternoon high temperature was 48 degrees. The wind angled out of the south and southwest at 8 to 12 mph. It was a tad foggy and misty until 8:30 a.m., and then it was hazy, and the sky was graced with cirrostratus clouds, which allowed the sun to shine and warm our backs as we fished. The barometric pressure at 9:53 a.m. was 29.73 and falling.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing occurred from 9:08 a.m. to 11:08 a.m. We fished from 9:45 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and our best fishing occurred from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
The surface temperature was 42 degrees. The water was clear enough that we could easily see the propeller on the transom-mounted trolling motor, which is about 24 inches below the surface, and around the flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas that is considered to be clear water. The water level looked to be nearly normal.
Since mid-October, the largemouth bass fishing at this reservoir has been trying; we caught only16 largemouth bass in three hours and 45 minutes on Oct. 15; we caught 23 largemouth bass in three hours and 40 minutes on Oct. 28; and we caught only 12 largemouth bass in two hours on Nov. 11. But during our Dec. 2 outing, my cousin and I found three aggregations of largemouth bass, and compared to our past three outings, our catch was rather bountiful.
On a massive mud flat in the back quarter of this reservoir's major feeder-creek arm, we caught 19 largemouth bass and one big black crappie. The entire flat would encompass about 10 football fields. We caught the 18 largemouth bass in an area about the size of one football field. The boat floated in 2 ½ to five feet of water. We couldn't determine if the largemouth bass were roaming around this flat, and we periodically crossed paths with them or they crossed paths with us. And when we did catch them, we caught them around patches of coontail that were in four to five feet of water. A dozen of the 18 largemouth bass were caught in an area about the size of a baseball infield.
We caught 11 largemouth bass on a large, flat main-lake point in the upper-third portion of this reservoir. The boat floated in six to 10 feet of water. This point sheltered us from the south and southwest wind, which allowed us to dissect nearly every square yard of this point and its coontail patches. The point was stippled with five boat docks, many patches of cootail and a nearby ledge that bordered a submerged creek channel. Two largemouth bass were allured from an outside corner of a boat dock. The other 11 were associated with the patches of coontail that were located from 15 to 20 feet from the edge of the shoreline.
Six largemouth bass were extracted from several patches of coontail on a flat, secondary point in the upper-third section of this reservoir, lying along the east side of the main feeder-creek arm. It was a touch wind-blown. The boat floated in six to nine feet of water, and the largemouth bass were abiding in four to six feet of water and about 20 feet from the water's edge.
We fished 250 yards of the east shoreline that runs north and south of the flat, secondary point, where we caught six largemouth bass. The shoreline that is north of the point is relatively steep. The boat floated in seven to 12 feet of water. This shoreline is graced with dead patches of American water willows, one boat dock, rocks, a few laydowns, and a stone bridge. This shoreline has always been a fruitless cold-water haunt, and it was that way on this outing; it yielded only one largemouth bass.
The shoreline that stretches to the south of the flat, secondary point is relatively flat and shallow and embellished with many of patches coontail, five boat docks, and some concrete retaining walls. The boat floated in five to seven feet of water. We caught six largemouth bass along this stretch; four were caught by dragging our baits in five feet of water in areas devoid of coontail and about 20 feet from the shoreline. One was caught near a concrete retaining wall and another one was caught around a coontail patch within about eight feet from the water's edge.
We quickly explored another big mud flat in the upper-third section of the reservoir, where we searched for some coontail patches that harbored largemouth bass. The boat floated in three to seven feet of water, and we found some significant patches of coontail, but nary a largemouth bass. We caught one largemouth bass by dragging a bait in four to five feet of water that was devoid of coontail.
In sum, we caught 43 largemouth bass, and 38 of them were caught at locations that we describe as traditional wintertime lairs, which are massive, shallow mud flats and relatively shallow main-lake and secondary points. And the best of these locales are embellished with submersed aquatic vegetation.
We worked with a variety of baits. Our best four were a Z-Man's Fishing Products' green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle Mushroom Head Jig; Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; a 2 ½-inch Z-Man's pearl ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; and a 2 ½-inch Z-Man's Junebug FattyZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. We caught a few largemouth bass on a Z-Man's pearl Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a 2 ¾-inch prototype Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, a 2 ½-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin/orange FattyZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and a 2 ½-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. A Z-Man's Junebug FattyZ tube on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig failed to catch a largemouth bass.
Our three best retrieves were the drag and deadstick; hop and bounce; and swim, glide and shake. The swim-glide-and-shake retrieve worked best around the thickest patches of coontail. We employed the drag-and-deastick motif in areas that were devoid of coontail. The hop-and-bounce presentation was utilized around skimpy patches of cootail and at locations that were without coontail.
In short, winter is here, and there will be several outings in the days and months to come, when we are dissecting massive, shallow flats that are the size of several football fields, and to find an aggregation of largemouth bass is similar to finding the proverbial needle in a hay stack. We suspect that these shallow, wintertime bass are very pelagic, and at times, they seem to move rather quickly from what we call one football field to another and to another. Of course, we have never done any radio telemetry studies of the largemouth bass. Therefore, our ideas about the extreme pelagic nature of the wintertime largemouth bass that abide in the flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas are pure speculation.
Dec. 3 log
After my cousin Rick Hebenstriet of Shawnee, Kansas, and I discovered three clusters of wintertime largemouth bass on Dec. 2, I thought that I could locate a mega cluster at a nearby 195-acre community reservoir on Dec. 3 and possibly tangle with 75 or more in four hours. To my dismay, my hopeful thoughts were way off the mark.
The National Weather Service in Lawrence, Kansas, recorded the morning low temperature at 36 degrees and the afternoon high temperature at 61 degrees. The sky was partially sheeted with ranks of cirrus cloudy, which allowed the sun's rays to shine through.
The wind was mild-mannered from the south and southwest at 6 to 8 mph. The barometric pressure at 9:53 a.m. was 29.59, and it moved up for an hour and then began to fall.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing time occurred from 10:08 a.m. to 12:08 p.m. I fished from 10:20 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. The best fishing that I witnessed occurred from 12: 30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., but it wasn't a spectacular one because I caught only 14 largemouth bass during that spell.
The surface temperature ranged from 43 degrees in the upper sections of the reservoir to 45 degrees in the reservoir's lower section. The water was clear enough that I could barely see the propeller on the transom-mounted trolling motor. The water level looked to be six to 10 inches below normal.
I began plying the same flat that our grandson Brady Cayton of Emporia, Kansas, and I fished on Nov. 29, where we rather quickly extracted 17 largemouth bass. This flat is situated about a third of the way inside this reservoir's southwest feeder-creek arm. The surface temperature was 42 degrees. It is endowed with a ledge that drops from three-to-four feet of water into five-to-seven feet of water. There are also three boat docks, some patches of submersed vegetation, some boulders, silt, gravel, rocks and a few man-made brush piles. The boat floated in seven to nine feet of water. I spent more than 20 minutes dragging and strolling and deadsticking a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a Z-Man's pearl Rain MinnowZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. This flat traditionally yields a goodly number of cold-water largemouth bass, but this time around, I caught only two; one largemouth bass on the Finesse ShadZ and one on the Rain MinnowZ.
From that flat, I moved to the back of this southwest-feeder creek arm, where I probed a massive mud flat that is the size of five football fields. It is difficult for one angler to efficiently dissect a flat of this magnitude; therefore, I did a lot of strolling, which allowed the Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig to hop, bounce and drag across the bottom of this flat. The shoreline of this flat is bedecked with 15 boat docks. The water ranges from depths of two feet to six feet. It is graced with several humps, patches of submersed vegetation, some laydowns, brush piles, and a few stumps. The surface temperature was 43 degrees, which was warm enough to attract several turtles to come to the surface and stick their snouts into the air. I occasionally saw a gizzard shad on the surface, and I also inadvertently caught two small bluegills, which I interpreted as encouraging signs. But I spent an hour and 15 minutes, trying to locate a pack of largemouth bass on this massive flat, and I was able to catch only nine largemouth bass. Eight were extracted from three feet or less of water, one was abiding in five feet of water, and most were associated with patches of submersed vegetation.
After failing to find an aggregation of largemouth bass on the shallow flats in this southwest feeder creek arms, I decided to fish two of its steeper shorelines. One was along the southeast side of the arm, about a third of the way inside it. The other was on its northwest side and at its mouth. I failed to elicit a strike along these shorelines.
From those steep shorelines, I ventured to the shallow mud flat in the back of the reservoir's south feeder-creek, where the water was three to five feet deep. The surface temperature was 43 degrees. This flat was adorned with patches of submerged Eurasian watermilfoil, stumps, and laydowns, and some of its shorelines were covered with rocks, boulders and gravel. I caught nine largemouth bass by dragging Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and five largemouth bass by swimming, gliding, and shaking a 2 ½-inch Z-Man's Junebug FattyZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig along this flat's western shoreline.
From the south feeder-creek arm, I traveled down-lake to one of the reservoir's east feeder-creek arms. The surface temperature was 45 degrees. I fished about 300 yards of its northern shoreline and 100 yards of its southern shoreline. I also fished part of the flat in the back end of this arm. These shorelines were graced with stumps, gravel, football-size rocks, patches of submersed vegetation, laydowns, and boulder piles. The flat was laden with silt and no submersed vegetation. The boat floated in four to 12 feet of water, and I probed depths as shallow as three feet and as deep as 10 feet, using the FattyZ, Finesse ShadZ, and Rain MinnowZ rigs, and I caught only four largemouth bass, which were allured by the Finesse ShadZ along the north shoreline. I failed to elicit a strike in the back half of this arm and along its southern shoreline.
The next area I fished was the back third of another eastern feeder-creek arm. I focused on 200 feet of its southern shoreline, 100 feet of its northern shoreline, and the small mud flat in the back end of this arm. On the mud flat I caught two largemouth bass with the Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. These two largemouth bass were abiding in three to four feet of water and around some submersed vegetation.
During the last 30 minutes that I was afloat, I returned to the flat when the outing commenced, and I failed to garner a strike. Then I returned to the shallow mud flat in the back of the reservoir's south feeder-creek arm. This time around I used a 2 ½-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin/orange FattyZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a 2 3/4-inch prototype Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Both baits were retrieved with the swim-glide-and-shake motif. The FattyZ allured one largemouth bass and the prototype caught four largemouth bass.
In sum, I fished four hours and 25 minutes and caught only 36 largemouth bass, which was an average of only eight an hour, which was two largemouth bass below our average catch rate in northeastern Kansas.
The National Weather Service is predicting that Dec. 3 will be our last day afloat for a number of days: the high temperatures for Dec. 5 through Dec. 10 are forecasted to be in the low to mid-20s, and the low temperatures might range from 6 to 15 degrees. After that spell of cold weather, we will probably be relegated to fishing one of our two power-plant reservoirs.
Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, reported on the Finesse News Network about his and a friend's outing at a 120-acre community reservoir that lies along the northern suburbs of Kansas City.
The National Weather Service at the Kansas City International Airport reported that the low temperature was 40 degrees and the high temperature was 60 degrees. The wind blew from the south and southwest at 7 to 12 mph. Unitl 9:53 a.m. it was foggy and misty, and then it was mostly cloudy to partly cloudy. At 8:53 a.m. the barometric pressure was 29.57 and rising, and then at 11:53 a.m., it began to drop.
Frazee wrote: "A friend and I went out in the beautiful weather Dec. 3 and again experienced fair fishing.
"We caught 18 largemouth bass (three of them 15 inches or bigger), three rainbow trout and two crappies. The pattern remained the same as it has been for the past two weeks. Find weeds and you find fish.
"We caught most of the bass on a 2 ½-inch Z-Man's Junebug ZinkerZ and a Northland Fishing Tackle's shad-colored Slurpie retrieved slowly over the weed tops. We were in 15 to 20 feet of water, and using a slow retrieve.
"I tried two small crankbaits — a Rapala suspending slash bait and the other a tiny Rat-L-Trap — in hopes of getting a trout bite started. But no hits on either one.
"The trout have been very frustrating this fall. I talked to one fisherman who is using a medium-diving crankbait and catching them over the weeds on the north end of the lake. May have to try that.
"I'm not hanging it up yet. As long as the bass are still hitting somewhat, I'll be out there casting."
Dec. 4 log
In the 1960s and 1970s, Burton Bosley of Sutton, West Virginia, spent many days under the tutelage of the late Chuck Woods of Kansas City, who is the forefather of Midwest finesse tactics. He filed the following report on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 4 outing.
He wrote: "I learned something about bass yesterday. We started at dawn, fishing extremely shallow, the water temperature was 48 degrees. Andy, the pro who I fished with, said they would be shallow until the sun got up high. Then they would move out and suspend and return to shallow water around 2:00 p.m. or 3:00 p.m. This is almost opposite of the way I've fished in the winter before.
"By throwing Wiggle Warts and Bandits in one to four feet of water, we caught 20 smallmouth, spots and largemouth bass, which were equally distributed. Only one was a 10-incher; the rest were 16- to18-inchers. I might add this is considered an exceptionally good day on this deep highland lake.
"I never got much of a chance to throw the little rig, but I had an enjoyable, if exhausting day, learning something new. My next solo trip with light stuff will be interesting. I'll report the results, but it's going to be a few days as winter's mayhem is moving in on us as I write."
Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed a report about his bank-walking outing on Dec. 4.
He wrote: "On Nov. 21, I damaged my boat on a submerged stump during an outing on a nearby reservoir. Since that day, my boat has been in the shop for repairs. During this spell, north central Texas endured seven days of rain, sleet, and frigid temperatures. But the past three days have returned to more stable and temperate conditions. Therefore, I opted for an afternoon bank-walking foray at two ponds on the southern edge of Lewisville, where I previously fished on Nov. 21.
"The In-Fisherman's solunar calendar predicted the best fishing period from 10:49 a.m. to 12:49 p.m. I fished from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
"The day was delightful. Area thermometers soared to a near record high of 79 degrees. The morning low temperature was 42 degrees. The sun was bright and vibrant, and the sky was cloudless. As the afternoon progressed, a thick blanket of dark gray clouds rolled in from the north and covered the sun for the remainder of the day. A mild breeze quartered out of the southeast at about 7 mph. The barometric pressure was 29.85.
"The first of these two ponds is about five acres. It was stained with about 1 1/2 feet of visibility, which was the same visibility that it had on Nov. 21. It is oval shaped. A large mud flat lies along its southern shore. Its northern shoreline is graced with submerged patches of hydrilla.
"The second pond is about 30-acres in size. It has a large island, where waterfowl nest, near its western shore. The water in this pond exhibited an odd dark-gray tint on November 21, and its clarity was less than one foot. On Dec. 4, it no longer exhibited the odd dark-gray water color, but the aquatic vegetation that once ringed the shoreline has been eradicated, and the visibility was still less than a foot. I suspect that the odd dark-gray hue of the water on November 21 was the result of chemical spraying to kill off shallow aquatic vegetation.
"I did not have the means to measure water temperatures in these ponds.
"The fishing was tedious and trying at best. I am still unable to locate any concentrations of bass. Consequentially, there are long spells between bites, and that has become the norm for too many outings in a row. On Nov. 21, I caught ten largemouth bass from these two ponds, but on Dec. 4, the largemouth in the small pond were suffering from a severe case of lockjaw, and I failed to garner any strikes. The fishing at the second and larger pond was horrid as well, but I managed to tangle with three largemouth bass, one two-pound, three-ounce bullhead catfish, and one small bluegill. A four-inch Z-Man's black-blue-flake Finesse WormZ on a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig enticed one bass, while the other fish preferred a four-inch Z-Man's black-neon Finesse WormZ rigged on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. A slow drag-subtle shake-and-deadstick retrieve was the only productive one.
"The National Weather Service predicts another blast of winter storms will erupt on Dec. 5, with a 100 percent chance of sleet and rain. Night time temperatures will nose-dive below freezing and daytime highs are expected to hover in the mid-3os for the next week. According to my fishing logs, this is an abnormal weather phenomenon for the first and second week of December. In essence, north central Texas will be experiencing an earlier start to the winter season. Unfortunately, the cold rain will cause the water temperatures in these murky and cold-water reservoirs to plunge earlier as well, which will extinguish the last bass bite of 2013."
Dec. 15 log
Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, reported on the Finesse News Network about his difficult outing on Dec. 15 to a 20,820-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoir.
He wrote: This was my first outing since Dec. 5, when several severe Arctic storms walloped north central Texas and lingering icy conditions persisted through December 13. Today, the sun was radiant, and skies were cloudless with an indigo- blue tint. Area thermometers recorded the morning low of 27 degrees and an afternoon high of 61 degrees. A light breeze blew out of the south at 4 mph. The barometric pressure was measured at 30.23.
"In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated the best fishing period between 8:26 a.m. and10:26 a.m. I was afloat from 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
"The water was cold and stained. I could find no water warmer than 45 degrees. The water displayed 2 1/2-feet of visibility. The reservoir's water level was 8.13 feet below normal. There is no aquatic vegetation and most of the timber has rotted away.
"I have always found these large reservoirs baffling and arduous from mid-December through mid-March. The largemouth and spotted bass disappear to unknown sanctuaries that I'm unable to locate. In fact, the bass fishing becomes so comatose, that most local anglers spend the winter months pursuing hybrid stripers, white bass, catfish, and crappies until mid-March. Today was no exception. My goal was to catch one bass and I was very disappointed when I failed to meet such a meager goal. I spent the afternoon slowly and meticulously plying steep rocky channel banks, rip-rap covered bridge embankments, deep-water bridge pilings, covered boat slips, and steep, rocky primary and secondary points close to deep water; it was all to no avail. I began the day employing 1/8-ounce hair jigs with small plastic trailers. When they failed to induce a strike, I began alternating between a variety of Z-Man's plastic baits including four-inch WormZs, Finesse ShadZs, and Hula Stick Zs rigged on an assortment of Gopher jigs. I fished these lures to depths of 20 feet. Each cast took me two to three minutes to retrieve. Either I didn't locate any bass or they were exhibiting symptoms of severe lockjaw."
Dec. 16 log
After my Dec. 3 outing to a 195-acre community reservoir, where the surface temperature ranged from 42 to 45 degrees and I caught 36 largemouth bass, Old Man Winter had me sequestered at home for days on end. During this spell, he waylaid us with some unseasonably cold temperatures, causing some thermometers in northeastern Kansas to hover from zero to three degrees at times. We also had spells of freezing rain, sleet and snow. And the wind was often harsh, creating wind chills that seemed to penetrate the bone. By Dec. 9, scores of the small flatland reservoirs that stipple the countryside of northeastern Kansas were ice covered.
On Dec.16, we enjoyed a respite from those wintry days, and I made the 76-mile trek to a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir.
The National Weather Service at Olathe, Kansas, indicated that the morning low temperature was 29 degrees and the afternoon high temperature was 59 degrees. The wind angled out of the south and southwest at 6 mph until 11:53 a.m. and then it switched out of the west at 9 mph. The sun was blindingly bright, and a few cirrus clouds floated overhead. The barometric pressure was 30.04 and dropping.
The power plant has not been generating a lot of warm water for weeks on end. As I approached the boat ramp, I noticed that the lower quarter of the reservoir was covered with ice. The surface temperature at the boat ramp was 39 degrees. The warmest surface temperature that I found was 51 degrees, and that was in the vicinity of the power-plant's outlet. Because the power-plant was not creating a lot of electricity, the warm-water plume was smaller than it normally is in December. The water level looked to be normal. The water was stained to the point that I could not quite see the propeller on the transom-mounted trolling motor, and that propeller is about 24 inches below the surface.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing occurred from 9:13 a.m. to 11:13 a.m. I fished from 10:55 a.m. to 2:10 p.m.
I spent the entire three hours and 15 minutes, fishing five areas within the warm-water plume. Three were on the west side of the reservoir and two were on its east side.
The first area that I fished was on the west side at the confluence of a mud flat, submerged creek channel and bluff. The surface temperature was 49 to 50 degrees. In an area about the size of a football field, there were several significant aggregations of tiny gizzard shad that occasionally fluttered along the surface, and every once in a while a foraging fish would break the surface and create havoc with one of those clusters of shad. The boat floated in three to 10 feet of water, and I caught nine largemouth bass, which were abiding in two to five feet of water adjacent to a submerged ledge and creek-channel edge.
The second area that I focused upon was a west-side bluff. This bluff is about 200 yards long, and it is endowed with scores of laydowns, some man-made brushpiles, rock slides, piles of boulders, and many ledges. The boat floated in 10 to 16 feet of water. The surface temperature ranged from 48 to 49 degrees. I caught six largemouth bass on this bluff, which were in two to four feet of water.
The third area was a west-side mud flat between two bluffs. It was the size of four tennis courts. It is shallow flat, ranging from two to eight feet of water. It was littered with a plethora laydowns, brush, logs, stumps, and a ditch. I failed to elicit a strike at this locale.
The fourth area was on the east side of the reservoir. It is a shallow, flat point that separated two coves. It was graced with two humps, some stumps, ledges, laydowns and two submerged creek-channels. The surface temperature was 51 degrees. The boat floated in two to seven feet of water. I caught 14 largemouth bass, and 12 of them were extracted from a hump that was covered with of two to three feet of water. The other two were caught along a ledge in three feet of water.
The fifth spot was a riprap point that was buffeted by current. The surface temperature was 51 degrees. This point yielded one largemouth bass.
In total I caught 30 largemouth bass. One was caught on a Z-Man's PB&J Rain MinnowZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, two were caught on a 2 ¾-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin prototype ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, two were caught on a 2 ½-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin-orange FattyZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and 25 were caught on a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig.
About a dozen of these largemouth bass were caught on the initial drop of the bait. The rest were caught by slowly dragging the bait along the bottom. Because I spent a lot of time dissecting two large mud flats and a massive shallow point, I found that one of the most efficient methods was to use the trolling motor to stroll in a zigzag pattern around and across the flats and point. As I strolled, I would make a long cast into the shallow water, and then as I strolled with the boat, I dragged the bait along the bottom until the bait was directly behind the boat; then I executed another cast and began the strolling motif once again. Sixteen of the largemouth bass were caught while I was strolling.
Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, reported on the Finesse News Network about his extremely trying outing on Dec. 16.
He wrote: "I returned to the same local but perplexing 20,820-acre U.S. Amry Corps of Engineers' reservoir that I visited on Dec. 15. The weather was almost indistinguishable from the previous day, with a vibrant sun and beautiful cerulean skies. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 34 degrees and the afternoon high climbed to a pleasant 65 degrees. The wind quartered out of the south-southwest at 6 to 10 mph. The barometric pressure was measured at 30.16.
"In-Fisherman's solunar calendar predicted the best fishing period between 9:13 a.m. and 11:13 a.m. I was afloat from noon to 4:00 p.m.
"The surface temperature was 45 degrees. The water was stained with 2 1/2-feet of visibility. The reservoir's water level was 8.11 feet below normal but slowly rising.
"On Dec. 15, I opted to fish the southwestern tributary arm of this reservoir, and I was unable to garner a single strike. On Dec. 16, I ventured to the southern portion of the lake. For the second outing in a row, I set my goal of catching one bass. I first graphed two submerged humps, and both were devoid of any fish activity. I then turned my attention to a long rip-rap covered dam embankment. I spent the remainder of the afternoon slowly and methodically dissecting this steep rip-rap laden dam embankment. I began casting a Charlie Brewer Slider Company's 2 1/8-inch smoke-silver-blue-flake Slider Minnow/Grub affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, which allured two freshwater drum, but no bass. I then tried a Smithwick Lures Suspending Rattlin' Rogue in the Foxy Momma hue, which failed to elicit any strikes. Next, I used an assortment of Z-Man's ZinkerZs donned on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, which failed to produce any strikes. I finished the afternoon employing a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's Junebug FattyZ modified tube lure on a 1/32-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig. I employed a slow drag and deadstick retrieve into depths of 17 feet. The FattyZ modified tube lure finagled three freshwater drum and a five-pound, 11-ounce carp. All five of the freshwater drum were decent fish, weighing between three-pounds, seven-ounces and four-pounds, eight-ounces. But to my dismay, I was unable to find any bass utilizing this rip-rap dam embankment. When I returned to the boat ramp, I spoke with several other anglers. These anglers were pursuing crappie and catfish. None of the crappie anglers had caught any fish. One catfisherman said he caught a 17-pound blue catfish earlier in the day, but nothing after that one.
"The carp and five freshwater drum kept me from getting blanked for a second day in a row, but the bass continue to befuddle and elude me, and I have not caught a bass from this reservoir since November 20."
Dec. 17 log
Bob Gum of Kansas City reported on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 17 outing at a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir.
The National Weather Service at Olathe, Kansas, reported that the morning low temperature was 26 degrees and the afternoon high temperature was 46 degrees. At 8:53 a.m., the wind was angling out of the west at 3 mph, and around 10:53 a.m. it switched and blew out of the northwest at 9 to 14 mph, with some pesky gusts at times. The barometric pressure at 8:53 a.m. was 30.24 and rising.
The water was stained, exhibiting about two feet of clarity. The water level was normal. The water temperatures within and along the perimeter of the warm-water plume ranged from 42 degrees to 48 degrees.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing time occurred from 9:51 a.m. to 11:51 a.m. Gum fished from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
He wrote: "I started along one of the west-side bluffs, which lie along the southwest border of the warm-water plume. The surface temperature was 46 degrees, and I caught only a big freshwater drum.
"Then I fished the flat southwest of the warm-water outlet and the riprap jetty, where the surface temperature was 42. This area was along the outside edge of the southeastern portion of the warm-water plume. I used a Z-Man's pearl Rain MinnowZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a Lucky Craft Pointer 78SP jerkbait without getting a strike.
"The third spot I fished was a submerged roadbed along the northern fringe of the warm-water plume. I used the Pointer, focusing on four to five feet of water. I again failed to get a strike.
"The fourth area consisted of two west side bluffs. One lies within the heart of the warm-water plume and the other is on the northwestern fringe of the plume. The surface temperature along the bluffs was 48 degrees. I caught five largemouth bass along the bluff, including a 20-incher that weighed five pounds, and all of them were caught on either the pearl Rain MinnowZ or a 2 ½-inch Z-Man's PB& J ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
"The fifth locale was a west-side mud flat in the heart of the warm plume. It has a submerged creek channel that winds across it. The heart of the channel lies in seven to nine feet of water. The edge of the creek channel is in three to four feet of water, and it is lined with some stumps, brush plies, laydowns and some rocks. I used the Rain MinnowZ and Pointer and didn't get a strike.
"The last area I fished encompassed two more west-side bluffs. I fished one of them at the beginning of this outing. Both lie along the southwest fringe of the warm-water. I used the Rain MinnowZ and ZinkerZ and failed to get a strike along this massive stretch of water.
"When the fishing is tough as it was on Dec. 17, I tend to fish slower and slower as the outing progressses. Along the bluffs, I would let the bait fall for a few seconds, and then I gave it a series of subtle twitches, and then I allowed the bait to continue to fall, as I occasionally gave it an additional twitch or two. Once it reaced a depth of eight feet of water, I reeled it in and make another cast. The biggest difference between the way that I fished the bluffs and the flats was that I kept my rod tip down when I fished the flats. I think keeping the rod tip up allows for a slower fall rate along the bluffs.
"The only positive note of the outing is that it looks as if the power-plant is starting to generate some electricity. If that is true, the water temperature should warm up within the plume, and its fringes should expand to the north and south."
Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about another difficult cold-water outing that he endured. This one occurred on Dec. 17.
He wrote: "I made a 38-mile excursion to a 24,154-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoir in north central Texas.
"The weather was delightful. The sun was dazzling in the cloudless blue sky. The high temperature for the day was recorded at 71 degrees and the low temperature was recorded at 34 degrees. A light breeze angled out of the south-southeast at 4 mph. The barometric pressure was measured at 30.25.
"The In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated the best fishing time was between 10:01a.m. and 12:01 p.m. I fished from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Since the fishing during the past few weeks in north central Texas has been exasperating, I set a paltry goal of catching one bass today.
"The water had an emerald green hue with 3 1/2-feet of visibility. The surface temperature was 47 degrees, and the water level was 7.73 feet below normal.
"I used four baits throughout the outing: a four-inch Z-Man's black-neon Finesse WormZ on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; a customized Z-Man's watermelon-red-flake FattyZ tube rigged on a 1/32-ounce red Gopher jig; a 2 1/4-inch Z-Man's watermelon-red flake FattyZ affixed to a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; and a three-inch Charlie Brewer Slider Company's plum-glitter Bass/Walleye/Striper Grub attached to a 1/16-ounce blue Gopher jig.
"I started the day dissecting a 50-yard rock jetty adjacent to the boat ramp where I launched my boat. I wielded the 2 1/4-inch FattyZ and three-inch Slider Grub, but found the jetty bereft of bass.
"I then made a short run to the mouth of a nearby feeder creek situated in the lower end of the reservoir's east tributary arm, and fished a steep rocky channel bank on the south side of the feeder creek. The bank is enhanced with four stumps and several narrow ledges dropping off into 20-feet of water. I allured one 15-inch largemouth bass on the three-inch Slider Grub, while slowly working it down the narrow ledges with a hop and bounce retrieve. I continued working my way westward from the channel bank and fished several rocky secondary points that were enhanced with a few stumps, logs, and small patches of brown hydrilla. I found no bass residing on any of these points.
"My next spot was a 200-yard stretch of a flat mud bank on the north side of the feeder creek. This bank is embellished with a significant amount of brown hydrilla, but I failed to garner a strike with the four-inch black-neon Finesse WormZ or the 2 1/4-inch watermelon-red-flake FattyZ.
"I then turned my attention to a large island located in the mid-section of the east tributary. The south shoreline is ringed with brown hydrilla and basketball-sized rocks. The four-inch black-neon Finesse WormZ, 2 1/2-inch watermelon-red flake FattyZ tube, and three-inch Slider Grub failed to provoke any strikes.
"I finished the day plying a small hump positioned about 100 yards northeast of the island. The north side of the hump is covered with heavy standing timber and a smidgen of hydrilla. I was unable to coax any bites with the 2 1/2-inch FattyZ tube bait or the three-inch Slider Grub.
"In sum, this reservoir is one of the few waterways in north central Texas with any significant aquatic vegetation. Unfortunately, all the hydrilla had turned brown and I could not find any green hydrilla. The fishing was tedious and wretched, and I struggled the entire day. I was unable to find any concentrations of bass, but I did reach my goal of catching one bass during four hours of fishing."
Dec. 22 log
Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 22 outing with Mike McPherson of Siler City at a 350-acre community reservoir.
The water level was 1 ½ feet below normal. The water exhibited two feet of visibility, which Poe described as unusually clear. The surface temperature climbed during the outing from 49 to 58 degrees. It was warm enough that they saw some turtles lying on logs and laydowns.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing occurred from 1:35 a.m. to 3:35 a.m. and 1:56 p.m. to 3:56 p.m., and there was a minor period from 7:46 a.m. to 9:46 a.m. They fished from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The weather was unseasonably warm. In fact, some records were set. The National Weather Service recorded the low temperature of the day at 62 degrees and the high temperature was 76 degrees. Throughout the day, the barometric pressure fluctuated from 30.04 to 30.06. The sky was cloud covered. The wind angled out of the south and southwest at 12 to 30 mph.
Poe noted that he can't use Midwest finesse tactics when the wind howls, and he wishes he could figure out how finesse anglers in windy northeastern Kansas do it. These anglers would tell Poe that they have done it for so many years that it has become a second-nature phenomenon.
So instead of utilizing finesse baits, Poe and McPherson wielded Z-Man's 3/8-ounce Chatterbaits. McPherson used a white one with a silver blade, and Poe worked with a chartreuse-white shirted one with a gold blade. These chatterbaits bewitched 21 largemouth bass. The biggest was a five-pounder.
Poe reported that the largemouth bass were scattered. The two most fruitful areas were a wind-blown, rocky shoreline and some spots inside one of the feeder-creek arms, where the surface temperature was 58 degrees.
On Dec. 23 Poe reported that Siler City was being whacked with torrential rains, which would likely put an end to their 2013 largemouth bass endeavors.
Dec. 23 log
Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, reported on the Finesse News Network about his solo outing to a 20,820 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoir on Dec. 23.
He wrote: "The last time that I fished this reservoir was on Dec. 15 and 16, and both outings were dismal endeavors. During the afternoon outing on Dec. 23, the weather was much cooler than it was on Dec.15 and 16. North central Texas was being buffeted with a cold front. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 29 degrees and the afternoon high struggled to reach 44 degrees. The sun was vibrant in a cloudless indigo-blue sky. A light breeze meandered out of the north at 4 to 6 mph. The barometric pressure was high, measuring 30.51.
"In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated the best fishing occurred between 2:31 p.m. and 4:31 p.m. I was afloat from 12:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. "The surface temperature was 47 degrees. The water was stained with 2 1/2-feet of visibility. The water level was 8.11 feet below normal.
"On Dec. 15, I fished the southwestern tributary arm of this reservoir, and I was unable to garner a single strike.
"On Dec. 16, I elected to fish two humps and part of the riprap along the dam in the southern portion of this reservoir. I landed five freshwater drum and one carp, but found no largemouth or spotted bass
"Since my previous outings had been so sour, my goal on Dec. 23 was to catch only one bass. I spent the entire outing probing the dam. The dam at this reservoir is quite extensive. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recorded the length of this dam at 32,888 feet or 6.22 miles long. I spent the entire outing slowly and meticulously dissecting a 300 yard section of this steep lapidarian embankment. I began plying the riprap with a three-inch Charlie Brewer Slider Company's Junebug-chartreuse Bass/Walleye/Striper Grub affixed to a black 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. I was unable to coax any strikes with this bait. I then tried a Z-Man's green pumpkin Finesse ShadZ attached to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. One hour and 20 minutes later, I caught a 2-pound, 11-ounce freshwater drum while executing a slow drag and deadstick retrieve, but I could find no bass inhabiting this riprap embankment.
"Next, I decided to move off the riprap bank and plied a concrete tower that was erected in 56-feet of water adjacent to the dam. I began casting the green pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on the chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and employed a slow swim-glide-and shake presentation parallel to the walls of the tower. On my third cast, I landed a four-pound, five-ounce largemouth bass. Three casts later, I landed a two-pound channel catfish. I continued working the tower walls from different angles and I landed a five-pound seven-ounce largemouth bass. The two largemouth bass and the channel catfish were suspended in five to eight feet of water, next to the concrete tower's walls.I continued to probe the tower walls for another 30 minutes, but was unable to tempt any other fish into striking.
"I then returned to the riprap along the dam and experimented with a Z-Man's Junebug Hula StickZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and a Z-Man's 2 1/2-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. I utilized all five of the basic Midwest finesse retrieves, which failed to elicit a strike. In due course, I went back to the green pumpkin Finesse ShadZ, employing the same slow swim-glide-and-shake motif I had successfully used earlier, and I beguiled a 14-inch largemouth bass. Shortly after that I called it a day.
"It turned out to be a significant outing for me. In total, I caught only three largemouth bass, one freshwater drum, and one catfish. Although this may sound like meager results to most Midwest Finesse anglers, these three bass are the first bass I have caught from this reservoir since Nov. 20. This is also the first time I have caught more than two bass during a wintertime outing at this very trying waterway. The four-pound and five-pound largemouth bass were also the biggest that I have tangled with since I began using Midwest Finesse methods in September. I was also amazed and impressed with how well the small hooks on the Gopher jigs handled the lunker-size largemouth bass."
Dec. 27 log
On Dec. 21 and 22, Old Man Winter dumped a heavy coating of freezing rain and one to eight inches of snow across northeastern Kansas, and by Dec. 24, some area thermometers plummeted to one degree below zero. But on Dec. 26, winter took a three-day hiatus, which provoked Bob Gum of Kansas City and me to journey to a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir on Dec. 27.
To our disappointment, however, the power plant was not operating, and we learned that it hadn't been generating electricity for three days, which caused the water temperature within the plume of warm water that the power plant jettisons into the reservoir to tumble significantly. Within that plume, we determined that the average surface temperature was 47 degrees. We found a tiny spot where is it was 50 degrees, but we failed to allure a largemouth bass from that area. Along the northern edge of the plume, the surface temperature was 45 degrees. We didn't explore the southern fringes of the plume on this outing. At the areas that we fished, the water temperature ranged from 46 to 50 degrees.
Across many winters of plying power-plant reservoirs, we have discovered that it is difficult for us to catch largemouth bass when there is a radical decline of the water temperature in the plume of warm water. And we had a difficult time on this outing. The water level looked to be normal. The water clarity was besmeared with an algae bloom, which reduced the visibility to about 15 inches.
The National Weather Service in Olathe, Kansas, reported that the morning low temperature was 24 degrees and the afternoon high temperature reached 52 degrees. The barometric pressure was 30.32 at 9:52 a.m. Throughout the outing the wind angled from the south, southeast, southwest, and west at 6 to 10 mph. The sun was extremely bright, and by the middle of the afternoon, it seemed to warm the surface temperature one degree at a few of the locales.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing occurred from 5:26 a.m. to 7:26 a.m. and 5:52 p.m. to 7:52 p.m., and a minor period occurred from 11:13 a.m. to 1:13 p.m. Gum and I failed to bring our watches, but we estimated that we fished from 10: 15 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.
We began our outing by plying a large, flat, and shallow point on the east side of the reservoir. This point is littered with gravel, rocks, laydowns, several ledges, and a few stumps. It is also buffeted by some of the current that flows out of the power plant's outlet. We kept the boat floating in four to seven feet of water. The surface temperature was 47 degrees. We caught two largemouth bass, failed to land one largemouth bass and missed hooking one strike. These largemouth bass were residing in about three feet of water.
The second area that we fished was a flat point on the west side of the reservoir. It is strewn with some ledges, silt, gravel, sand, rock, several laydowns and a submerged creek channel. The surface temperature was 48 degrees. The boat floated in three to seven feet of water. We spent many minutes dissecting this point, and we failed to garner a strike.
From that flat point, we moved to one of the reservoir's five bluffs. All five of the reservoir's bluffs lie on the west side of the reservoir, and Gum and I fished three of the five on this outing. This bluff is about 200 yards long, and it is endowed with laydowns, man-made brushpiles, rock slides, boulders, and ledges. The boat floated in 10 to 16 feet of water. The surface temperature ranged from 46 to 48 degrees. We caught two largemouth bass along the steepest portion of this bluff; one was extracted out of three feet of water and the other one was in about six feet of water, and the surface temperature was 46 degrees along this steep stretch.
The fourth area that we fished was a shallow mud flat that lies between two of the bluffs. Its depth ranges from two to 10 feet of water. It is bedecked with laydowns, brush, logs, stumps, and a ditch. The surface temperature was 46 degrees. The boat floated in six to nine feet of water. We elicited one strike but failed to land and see that fish.
From that mud flat, we moved to the second bluff, where the surface temperature ranged from 45 to 48 degrees. It is not as deep and steep as the first bluff we fished, but its topography is similar. The boat floated in 10 to 12 feet of water. We caught two largemouth bass from the steepest section of this bluff. These two largemouth bass were abiding in about three feet of water, and the surface temperature was 48 degrees along that steep segment of the bluff.
We have found that a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a 1/32-ounce chratreuse Gopher jig is one our most effective bait during the winter. And in the photograph above, this combo is lodged in the joint of jaw one of the largemouth bass that we caught along the second bluff.
We plied the second bluff until the surface temperature hit 45 degrees, and then we crossed over to the east side of the reservoir and fished a riprap point that was buffeted by a significant flow of current at the warm-water outlet. The surface temperature was 47 to 48 degrees. This point yielded one largemouth bass.
From that riprap and current-laden point, we probed a nearby clay, rock, and shallow flat that was graced with a heavy current flow and a ledge. The boat floated in three to six feet of water. The surface temperature was 48 degrees. We failed to catch a largemouth bass.
Our eighth stop was the same large, flat, and shallow point where we began this outing. The surface temperature had risen to 49 degrees. This time around we caught 10 largemouth bass.
The ninth spot was the same flat point on the west side of the reservoir that we fished earlier and failed to elicit a strike. The surface temperature had risen to 49 degrees, and we caught two largemouth bass but failed to hook four strikes.
After we completely dissected that point, we refished the entire first bluff that we methodically probed earlier in the day. The surface temperature was the same as it was when we made our first trek along this bluff, and on this second trek, we caught only one largemouth bass.
Our final stop of the outing was along a steep bluff that lies along the southwest fringe of the warm-water plume. It is about 125 yards long and is adorn by gravel points at each of its ends, as well as laydowns, rock slides, boulders, and ledges. The surface temperature was 48 degrees. The boat floated in eight to 12 feet of water. We caught one largemouth bass under an overhanging red cedar tree in about four feet of water. We caught another largemouth bass in three feet of water at one of the points, and this bass was abiding around the transition area where the gravel meets several large slabs of limestone.
In sum, we caught only 21 largemouth bass, equaling a paltry rate of four largemouth bass per hour. Our two biggest fish were a carp and a freshwater drum. We also caught a wiper and black crappie.
(By the way, this was a bookend outing. We began our 2013 Midwest finesse fishing escapades at this 2,600-acre reservoir on Jan. 7, when the surface temperature in the heart of the warm-water plume was 54 degrees, and we caught 45 largemouth bass from 11:20 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.)
Our two most effective baits were a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and a 2 ½-inch Strike King coppertreuse Zero on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. A 2 ½-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin-orange FattyZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher caught two largemouth bass, a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Scented LeechZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught one largemouth bass, and a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Rain MinnowZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig caught one largemouth bass. We employed a variety of retrieves, and none of them were particularly effective. Of the six variations of retrieves that we utilized, the stroll and drag seemed to be a tad better than the others.
It is important to note that we do not ply the laydowns and brushpiles, or in other words, we fish around them, leaving the heart of those quagmires to the power anglers. One of the many virtues of Midwest finesse fishing is that we don't have to probe laydowns and brushpiles in order to catch significant numbers of largemouth bass.
All of the areas that we fished had been or were being fished intensely by power anglers. When we were fishing along the second bluff, we crossed paths with one power angler, and we exchanged a few words. He confessed that he was having an extremely trying time. We told him that we had caught seven, and he said: "Seven crappie." And Bob Gum replied: "No, seven largemouth bass." When power anglers see us wielding spinning rods and Midwest finesse baits, they often assume that we are crappie fishing.
Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, reported on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 27 outing.
He wrote: "My wife, Nancy, and I drove 45 minutes to a 24,154-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoir in north central Texas. The morning was cold with light fog, but by 11:00 a.m., the bright sunshine burned off the fog and revealed a powder-blue sky that was adorned with an occasional wispy cloud. The morning low was 30 degrees and the afternoon high reached 58 degrees. A light breeze blew out of the north at 4 mph. The barometric pressure rose to 30.41. "In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated the best fishing periods were 5:35 a.m. to 7:35 a.m. and 6:01 p.m. to 8:01 p.m. Nancy and I were afloat from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Nancy did not fish.
"The water was slightly stained with 3 1/2-feet of visibility. The surface temperature was 47 degrees. The water level was 7.21 feet below normal.
"My five spinning rods sported the following lures: Z-Man's watermelon-red-flake Finesse ShadZ rigged on a red1/32-ounce Gopher jig; four-inch Z-Man's watermelon Finesse WormZ attached to a chartreuse1/16-ounce Gopher jig; three-inch Kalin's bluegill-hue Lunker Grub affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; a 2 3/4-inch Berkley smoke-red-flake Power Tube affixed to a 1/16-ounce black Charlie Brewer Slider Company's original Slider head inserted inside the tube; and a 2 3/4-inch Strike King green-pumpkin Bitsy Tube on a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig.
"December fishing in north central Texas remains baffling and agonizingly slow. For the first 60 minutes, I plied a riprap jetty adjacent to the boat ramp. I was unable to elicit any strikes with Berkley's Power Tube, Kalin's Lunker Grub, or the Z-Man's Finesse ShadZ.
"We then made a short run across the east-side tributary arm to a steep rock and clay channel bank at the mouth of a feeder creek. During the next 60 minutes, I slowly dissected this bank with the same baits using a variety of Midwest finesse retrieves, but I failed to draw a strike.
"Our last stop encompassed three main-lake bluff points, which are situated in the southeast section of the reservoir. These points are embellished with several stair-step ledges, large boulders, and several laydowns. At the first bluff point, I elected to use the Kalin's Lunker Grub with a slow hop and bounce presentation down the stair-step ledges. Two hours and 53 minutes into this outing, I caught my first keeper largemouth bass off a ledge in twelve feet of water. On the next cast, I enticed a 15-inch spotted bass from a ledge in five feet of water. From that point on, the bass bite became nonexistent.
" I fished this reservoir on December 17, and then I could only muster one 15-inch bass in four hours of fishing. Today, I could only beguile one largemouth bass and one spotted bass during four hours of fishing. The only productive lure and retrieve was the Kalin's Lunker Grub manipulated with a slow hop and bounce motif. Nancy and I did notice other anglers fishing this same area around the three main-lake bluff points. Two anglers were using jigging spoons in the deeper waters between the points. Another angler was using a jig-n-pig combo, pitching it between boulders and slowly working it down the ledges. During the 97 minutes we were there, we did not see any of these anglers catch any largemouth or spotted bass. I also spoke with two anglers at the boat ramp as I was putting the boat on the trailer. They told me they were fishing for catfish, crappie, and white bass and did not get a bite all day."
Dec. 28 log
Mike Poe ofSiler City,North Carolina, reported on the Finesse News Network about his Dec. 28 outing with Mike McPherson ofSilerCityat a 350-acre community reservoir.
Wunderground.com reported that the low temperature was 31 degrees and the high temperature was 56 degrees. Throughout the day, the wind was mild-mannered, blowing no more than 6 mph from the south by southwest. It was cloudy. At midnight the barometric pressure was 30.4 and by 11 p.m. it had dropped to 30.1.
The surface temperature was 43 degrees, which was a significant drop from the 58 degrees that it reached on Dec. 22. The water had about 18 inches of clarity. The water level was normal, and it had risen 1 1/2-feet since Dec. 22.
Poe wrote: "We fished from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and I had a great finesse outing. It was also the first finesse one in a while. I call it great because our standard power presentations were blanking and the largemouth bass that the finesse tactics caught were hefty ones similar to the ones we normally catch with our power tactics.
"The 1/16-ounce Gopher jig dressed with a 2 ½-inch Strike King Lure Company's green-pumpkin-red Zero caught 11 largemouth bass that weighed from two pounds to 3 ½ pounds.
"A bottom-shaking retrieve was best, but the biggest largemouth bass hit on the initial fall.
"Mike McPherson caught only one largemouth all afternoon on his trusty Z-Man's Chatterbait. Even one of my most reliable cold-water options, a No. 5 Rapala Shad Rap in a reddish-crayfish-hue caught only one.
"The catch rate per hour was tiny, but it would have been nearly zero if I hadn't used the 2 ½-inch Zero."
(1) After Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, endured several exasperating and paltry outings in late November and early December, he described the state of largemouth bass fishing in north Texas during the winter. His observations appeared on the Finesse News Network on Dec. 18 and 21.
Here are some of his insights: "When I look at guide-service information for Lake Fork on the Internet, the guides talk about how slow the fishing is. But the few fish that are caught are usually lunkers, which weigh more than seven pounds. Thus January, February, and March are the prime months for tangling with a 10-pound or bigger largemouth bass.
"Down here in Texas, everyone has this big-fish mentality, and they don't care about catching big numbers; it's all about weight and catching the largest fish they can. If they don't catch a good quality fish, which has to weigh at least three pounds, during their outings, they think they had a bad day — even when they caught a bunch of smaller fish. No bass angler around here that I know of — except me and my friend Rick Allen — is interested in catching vast numbers of fish. So, these anglers who fish Lake Fork, Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Toledo Bend Reservoir, Falcon International Reservoir, Amistad Reservoir, Choke Canyon Reservoir, Ray Roberts Lake, and every other lake in Texas for that matter, throw nothing but huge baits (such as fist-sized crankbaits, one-ounce or heavier jig-n-pigs, 10-inch and larger plastic worms ) in hopes of tangling with that one humongous largemouth bass or five quality-size largemouth bass. In tournaments, the quality of largemouth bass that anglers catch in Texas is quite impressive; for example, it is not uncommon for tournament anglers to catch five largemouth bass that weight 30- and even 40-pounds. Those big bass get all the media attention- not numbers. Fishing for vast numbers of bass is basically ignored down here, and at times, it is even looked down upon. Most of the serious tournament fishermen don't carry a spinning rod on their boats. I've had anglers tell me they would rather get skunked fishing for quality fish than catch 10 dinks. Of course, I disagree with that statement, and nowadays, I go fishing to catch fish and not get skunked. I admit I used to be a big fish want-a-be, but I got bored fishing for just a few bites all the time; thus, fishing wasn't fun anymore. Since I have started using Midwest finesse tactics, I'm having a lot more fun by catching numbers and not worrying about size.
"At this point and time in my finesse endeavors, I'm trying to figure out if the fishing here is sorry or if it's me and I'm just not skillful enough to catch large numbers of bass. You were wondering why Florida-strain largemouth bass are so widely stocked here. My opinion is that it goes back to the big fish mentality. Bass fisherman here are very vocal with state fishery authorities and want opportunities to catch big fish using power fishing tactics; thus, Florida-strain largemouth bass are the preferred stocking species to provide the public with larger bass, and power-fishing anglers are happy.
"You also mentioned that these Florida-strain stocked waterways may perplex me forevermore. They have baffled me over many winters, and I may eventually have to accept the fact that these large reservoirs are just not good winter bass fishing venues. I haven't tried Midwest finesse tactics in my usual wintertime clear water ponds yet, but I believe I will see an increase in catch rate in those ponds as well. Where you may see finesse tactics struggling in these waters, I see an improvement over what I have been experiencing. I'm finding this wintertime endeavor interesting and very challenging. I'm not ready to give up on it yet. In fact, I'm just getting started.
"I hope this gives Finesse News Network members some insights as to why people think fishing is good in Texas. It is if you are after lunkers, but not if you're after numbers as I am."
(2) For the past two years, Mother Nature walloped parts of northeastern Kansas with a major drought. In 2012, the National Weather Service at Lawrence, Kansas, tabulated that its gages collected only 20.59 inches of precipitation, which was 19.27 inches below normal. And throughout 2013, the precipitation level was 10.98 inches below normal. This drought affected the water levels in several of the flatland reservoirs that we fished, and some Midwest finesse anglers suspect that this drought adversely affected the largemouth bass fishing at a couple of the reservoirs that they fished.
(3) Old Man Winter whacked northeastern Kansas and central Missouri with some unseasonably cold weather this December. In fact, an angler at the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, reported on the forum section of ozarkanglers.com that ice was covering 95 percent of the water around the U.S. Highway 54 bridge that crosses the Niangua Arm, and he noted that he couldn't remember that ever occurring before Christmas. Here is a link to his comments: http://forums.ozarkanglers.com/topic/41743-hard-water/.