February 26, 2012
The late Chuck Woods was the father of finesse fishing for bass. He also created the Beetle, Beetle Spin, Puddle Jumper and several other baits.
What's more, knowledgeable observers suspect that he caught more bass than any angler has and will ever catch in Kansas waterways, and many of his bass were hefty specimens, weighing as much as 10 pounds, three ounces.
Across the years, we have saluted Woods' many contributions in some of our articles about finesse fishing for bass. As we worked on those stories, we searched in vain for a photograph of Woods.
But recently an Internet miracle gradually unfolded via In-Fisherman's blog site.
This occurred when Burton Bosley of Sutton, West Virginia, posted a reply to one of our blogs about finesse fishing for bass.
Bosley wrote that he used to live in Kansas City, where he worked at Ray Fincke's tackle shop and fished with Woods.
After that initial encounter, Bosley was added to the Finesse News Network. We also began exchanging e-mails, focusing often on Woods' genius.
Eventually, we asked him if he had a photograph of Woods. He replied that he had one, and his daughter would attempt to get it digitized and reprinted. On Feb 24, her handiwork arrived attached to an e-mail, and the only existing photograph of one of the world's finest anglers is posted below.
The photograph features Woods climbing up the side of a strip pit near Pleasanton, Kansas, carrying a spinning outfit that Woods called a Thunderstick. It was a short rod constructed out of a Fenwick C684 heavy-action fiberglass casting-rod blank. A 2062 Shakespeare spinning reel was taped to the rod's Tennessee-style handle. The reel was spooled with 12-pound-test monofilament line. A black jig and four-inch eel was attached to the line.
Bosley noted that he and Woods used the Thunderstick for wielding Bass Buster Lure Company's Scorpions or one of Woods' bigger jigs that were uniquely dressed with a four-inch split-tailed eel.
Woods' jig-and-eel combinations ranged in size from 1/16- to 3/8-ounce. They were especially effective in the late winter and early spring in northeastern Kansas, and this photograph looks as if it was taken at that time of the year.
Bosley wrote in an e-mail: "Some jigs were merely wrapped with chenille around the hook shank. Some we dressed with black marabou or whatever color Woods' deemed effective. I'm sending you two photographs of one of Wood's rigs that I have used for years ..., and it has won me a few dollars on tough days. One of the photographs reveals how the jig's fiber guard is divided, and it also shows how the wire that hooks the eel to the jig eye runs between the divided fiber guard." (The two photographs of Woods' jig and eel appear at the end of this blog.)
According to Bosley, the reason that Woods devised this way of attaching the eel to jig was because the normal way of hanging an eel on a jig didn't create the evocative glide that good finesse baits should exhibit. In essence, this rigging made even Woods' 3/8-ounce jig and eel a finesse bait. Bosley exclaimed at the end of one of his discourses on Woods' jig: "Try it with a 1/16-ounce jig and small split tail eel, and you will love it."
In the contemporary sense of Midwest finesse fishing, Woods didn't employ finesse tactics, Bosley said. But even when Woods used the Scorpion or a 1/4- and 3/8-ounce jig and eel, he always used it on spinning tackle, and his rods were always short and sensitive ones because they allowed him to have better control of his lures.
Bosley said that finesse in Woods' way of thinking " wasn't always about light lines and small lures. Woods would say finesse is how you relate to your rod, reel, line, lure and position of the fish. It's a state of mind as much as a state of tackle. In sum, it revolves around all of your sense."
Ultimately, Woods' insight on finesse helped Bosley in all of his angling pursuits across many years and locales, and Bosley's piscatorial endeavors ranged widely from bass and bluegills to bonefish and marlin.
In one of his e-mails, Bosley confessed that he was "passionate about that old guy [Woods] getting his due." Along with Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas, and Dwight Keefer of Phoenix, who fished with Woods in the 1960s, Bosley would like the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame to recognize Woods' contributions to the angling world.
Reese noted, however, if Woods were still alive, he would quickly use a bucket of cold water to douse any notion or proposal for recommending him to the Hall of Fame. According to Reese, fame never crossed Woods' mind. The only thing that Woods wanted as an angler was to catch the dickens out of the bass -- especially big ones -- on spinning tackle.*
*It should also be noted that Reese and Keefer possess a keen perspective about what constitutes a hall-of-fame angler.
After Reese graduated from the University of Kansas, he worked for Virgil and Bill Ward at Bass Buster Lure Company for a few years, and from 1970 through 1972, he fished several Bassmaster tournaments, including the 1970 Classic at Lake Mead, where he finished in seventh place by employing Woods' finesse tactics and using the Beetle, Beetle Spin and jigworm on spinning rods.
When Keefer was a sophomore at the University of Kansas in October of 1967, he used a spinning rod and Woods' jigworm at Long Lake, Wisconsin, to win the World Series of Sport Fishing. Keefer also participated in the 1972 Bassmaster Classic, and he worked in the tackle industry for a number of years.
In the photograph above, Bosley rigged this big and colorful jig and eel so that readers could easily see how Woods' rigged the eel with a wire to the eye of the jig.
The photograph below shows how Woods affixed the marabou to the jig.