December 30, 2017
By Ned Kehde
January is typically the most vexing and coldest month of the year for Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas. To some extent, it is that way at most locales across the nation — especially for the Midwest finesse anglers who ply the reservoirs in north-central Texas.
The problem confronting Midwest finesse anglers in north-central Texas revolves around the fact that the fisheries biologists at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department unwisely elected to stock the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoirs with Florida-strain largemouth bass, and those bass and their offspring become what Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, calls comatose in January.
Despite the difficult black bass fishing that we endure in January, we have been able to publish 62,076 words since 2012 about how Midwest finesse anglers deal with the weather and their quarries in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.
During Januaries of the pasts in northeastern Kansas, I was afloat three times in 2005, 13 times in 2006, eight times in 2007, once in 2008, once in 2009, zero times in 2010, three times in 2011, four times in 2012, three times in 2013, once in 2014, five times in 2015, four times in 2016, and four times in 2017.
One of our most fruitful outings at the cold-water reservoirs in northeastern Kansas occurred on Jan. 18, 2006. The surface temperature at this community reservoir ranged from 37 to 39 degrees, and we occasionally fished around thin sheets of ice. Dick Bessey of Lawrence, Kansas, and I fished from 11 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and we caught 43 largemouth bass, eight black crappie, and one rainbow trout.
Our most fruitful largemouth bass outing occurred on Jan. 9, 2007, when we caught 45 largemouth bass and one big channel catfish at a community reservoir where the surface temperature was 40 degrees.
When northeastern Kansas' cold-water reservoirs become frozen, we occasionally ply our power-plant reservoirs. Our most bountiful power-plant endeavor for largemouth bass occurred on Jan.7, 2013, when Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, and I fished from 11:20 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. and we caught 45 largemouth bass. The surface temperature ranged from 45 to 54 degrees. We caught all of those largemouth bass in the plume of warm water that jettisons out of the power plant.
Our most fruitful outing for smallmouth bass in northeastern Kansas occurred on Jan. 25, 2006, at a power-plant reservoir. Dick Bessey and I caught 25 smallmouth bass. We caught them in the cold-water portions of the reservoir rather than in the warm-water plume. We caught them on a silver-gray 1/16-ounce marabou jig in 10 to 12 feet of water, and the surface temperature was 44 degrees.
Since 2005, we have been kayoed twice in January. One of those outings occurred on Jan. 24, 2005, at a northeastern Kansas power-plant reservoir. Bessey and I blamed our failure to catch either a largemouth bass or a smallmouth bass upon the fact that the power plant had stopped generating electricity, and the surface temperature had dropped precipitously in the warm-water plume from about 70 degrees to 40 degrees. And when the surface temperature drops below 43 degrees in the cold-water portions of this reservoir, it is always a struggle to locate and catch shallow-water smallmouth bass. (Because of the adverse effects of barotrauma, Midwest finesse anglers never fish for deep-water smallmouth bass.)
The second time we were kayoed occurred on Jan. 24, 2017. On this outing, Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, and I fished at a community reservoir. The surface temperature was 38 degrees, and we failed to elicit a strike. As this outing came to a close, Rick said that he thinks that it is more difficult to fish four hours in northeastern Kansas and not garner a strike than it is to catch 101 largemouth bass.
In January of 2016, Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, reported that they caught more black bass than they have ever caught in January. But in January of 2017, Reideler reported that he and his colleagues were confounded by several significant wintertime rain storms that muddied the reservoirs in north-central Texas.
To read about how, when, and where Midwest finesse anglers deal with the woes of fishing in January, please see their words at the following links:
Photographs from Januaries of the past: