July 13, 2020
By Ned Kehde
Doug Stange of Brainerd, Minnesota, is the editor in chief of In-Fisherman magazine and host of “In-Fisherman TV.” What’s more, he is the de facto curator of its digital, manuscript, motion-picture, photograph, print, and video archives.
Recently, he has spent some time examining and working with these archival records that stretch back to 1975. And it has spawned a lot of thoughts about the history of angling.
For example, in the May 2020 issue of the magazine, his “Inside Angles” column reprinted one of Ron Lindner’s insights about the history of fishing in the nation’s heartland during the 1960s and into the early 1990s. Even though Doug noted that these history lessons will not make us better anglers, it is his opinion that Lindner’s observations and similar historical discourses about the angling world can give us a better understanding of how and where some of our contemporary tactics evolved, and in Doug’s eyes, that this a valuable lesson to learn.
During the late summer of 2019 into the spring of 2020, Doug and I exchanged several emails about the history of angling.
One of our exchanges focused on the late Charlie Brewer Sr. of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, who was the proprietor of Charlie Brewer’s Slider Company. Doug was curious about Brewer’s Inky Dink rig.
Another series of our email exchanges focused on the history of Midwest finesse fishing, its various rigs, and the modern-day examples of those rigs.
On July 4, Doug displayed another manifestation of his interest in the history of angling. He said that he had a hankering to occasionally post on In-Fisherman’s website information that he gleaned from the archives. But to his chagrin, he was unable to find a spot to post his historical and archival endeavors. So, he asked if it would be possible to publish those historical gems on the Midwest Finesse site. Because our Midwest Finesse site has always exhibited a predilection for the history of fishing, we said yes without a hint of hesitation.
Doug’s first contribution to this archival endeavor features three anglers, and two of them were influential in the development of Midwest finesse fishing. Therefore, it fits our motif spectacularly well.
Doug entitled his archival findings: “Moments in Time—Westmoreland & McKinnis.”
Here is what Doug found and had to say about the late Billy Westmoreland of Celina, Tennessee, the late Jerry McKinnis of Little Rock, Arkansas, and Charlie Brewer Sr.
In the early days of In-Fisherman, the magazines were called Study Reports.
The Segment 1/Study Report 5, was published in March of 1976, and it was all about the smallmouth bass. The photograph above is the outside cover of that issue.
This photograph of Westmoreland and McKinnis appeared in the magazine, and it was used to make the point that smallmouth bass thrive in many reservoirs. This catch was from Dale Hollow Reservoir, Tennessee.
At this time, Westmoreland was on the threshold of becoming one of the most noted smallmouth anglers of that (or any) age. His book entitled “Billy Westmorland on Smallmouths: Them Ol' Brown Fish,” which was coauthored by Larry Mayer, was published in 1976, and since then, it has been often heralded as one of the masterpieces of piscatorial prose about pursuing smallmouth bass with finesse tactics. For seven years in the 1970s, Westmoreland competed on the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society’s tournament circuit, and he won three of those events and finished in the top 10 in 35 of them. After he retired from the tournament world, he created a television show entitled “Billy Westmoreland’s Fishing Diary.”
McKinnis was a producer and host of several television productions about fishing, most notably his show “The Fishin’ Hole,” which aired from 1980 to 2007. In 2010, he and two partners acquired Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, which they sold in 2017.
On the back of this photograph is a note written by Charlie Brewer, who was another angler destined to become famous. Brewer ended the note with his initials: CB.
The note says: “Dale Hollow Lake—fishing from Horse Creek Dock. A breath-taking string of smallies, topped by a 7 pounder. These were taken during TV filming, and were taken on Hoss Flys and Inky Dinks. The 7 pounder was taken on the Inky Dink. CB”
An additional note says: “Who says little baits won’t take big fish. In Arkansas, recently, the little Whirly Bee took a 13-pound 9-ounce largemouth. The state record before this was 12 pounds 6 ounces. The boys officially weighed this bass, but the game and fish commission didn’t witness it. It was void for the record.”
The Hoss Fly is a hair jig with an aspirin head, which was often dressed with a portion of pork eel. It was one of Westmoreland’s favorite smallmouth-bass lures. Besides the Hoss Fly, Westmoreland helped Buddy Banks create the Silver Buddy, which was often heralded as being one of the greatest smallmouth-bass lures.
Charlie Brewer named the Inky Dink in honor of Inky Gilmore, who was Charlie’s friend and fishing partner. It is a four-inch Slider Worm rigged Texas-style on a Slider Head Jig with a spinner trailing from the shank of the hook. The Whirly Bee, also from Brewer, was another tail-spin rig. Both the Hoss Fly and the Whirly Bee are in production today, but the Inky Dink is gone.
It was Brewer who ran the TV camera for the TV shoot that produced those smallmouth bass in the photograph. He almost certainly also shot the photograph. There’s no indication of when the catch took place, but it likely was during spring.
The lead photograph of this Midwest Finesse column features Billy Westmoreland. It is labeled on the front as a “10 lb. smallmouth.” It was in the same magazine file as the photograph of Westmoreland and McKinnis. But it was not used in the magazine. Perhaps Westmoreland submitted it as an entry in the In-Fisherman Master Angler Contest. This photo, too, has a “CB” notation on the back.
Westmoreland was credited with weighing in several 10-pound smallmouth bass. He was said to be haunted by one he lost, estimated at between 12 and 14 pounds. He got a good look at that fish when it jumped.
It is also interesting to note that Brewer and Westmoreland designed spinning rods for finesse fishing, which a few of the forefathers of Midwest finesse fishing relished back in the 1980s and 1990s. Brewer’s rods are still in production. Westmoreland’s rods are no longer available.
- Here is a link to our June 1, 2020, Midwest Finesse column that focuses on the need to preserve the historical records about angling in North America: https://www.in-fisherman.com/editorial/archives-of-angling/156405.
- Here are two links to Midwest Finesse columns about Charlie Brewer and his Slider rigs: https://www.in-fisherman.com/editorial/charlie-brewers-slider-tactics-vs-midwest-finesse-tactics/155940; https://www.in-fisherman.com/editorial/charlie-brewers-slider-tactics-vs-midwest-finesse-an-update/155864.
- Here is a link to our history of Midwest finesse fishing: https://www.in-fisherman.com/editorial/history-of-midwest-finesse-fishing-and-the-socalled-ned-rig/375073.
- Here are two links to Midwest Finesse columns that have a historical bent: https://www.in-fisherman.com/editorial/legends-of-the-heartland/156351; https://www.in-fisherman.com/editorial/short-history-of-marabou-jig/362980.
- Here is a link to our "Midwest Angler's Archives" at the Kansas State Historical Archives: https://www.kshs.org/archives/304390.