July 21, 2017
By Ned Kehde
Across the years, we have written many words about the way Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas cast and retrieve their Midwest finesse rigs. And after we recently spent some time on the water with three of our youngest grandchildren this summer, we thought that it was time to write a few more words about casts and retrieves.
Our oldest grandchild is 30 years old, and our youngest is seven. And for scores of Junes, Julys, and Augusts, these 10 grandkids have hopped in the back our boat, wielded a spinning rod with a Midwest finesse rig, and caught an impressive number of largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, as well as some incidental catfish, freshwater drum, and panfish.
This June and July we fished a number of times for largemouth bass with three of our youngest grandchildren at one on northeastern Kansas' state reservoirs. And during every outing, the fishing was difficult. In fact, it was so difficult that when we crossed paths with a veteran northeastern Kansas bass angler around 11:15 a.m. on July 6, he told us that he had been fishing since 7:00 a.m., and he had tangled with just one largemouth bass. In his eyes, it looked to be a four- or five-pounder, but it had liberated itself before he could lift across the gunnels of his boat. Before we talked to that angler, our grandkids had been fishing for 35 minutes, and they had caught six largemouth bass and one green sunfish. And even though the largemouth bass fishing was trying during this July 6 outing and throughout their entire visit to northeastern Kansas, they caught an average of seven largemouth bass an hour.
They caught the bulk of these fish by making a 25- to a 45-degree cast behind the boat. Their casts were short ones, ranging from 25 to 35 feet. And they primarily employed either a drag-and-shake presentation or a drag-and-deadstick presentation. A significant number of these two retrieves were executed while they were strolling their rigs. Strolling is accomplished by allowing the electric trolling motor to propel the boat and drag the Midwest finesse rigs along the bottom. They strolled them across rock-laden terrains. They cast and strolled their rigs around patches of American pondweed, bushy pondweed, coontail, Eurasian milfoil, lily pads, and man-made brush piles. And they would stroll them until their rigs were nearly behind the boat; then they would make another cast and stroll again.
The short casts that are angled at a 25- to 45-degree behind the boat and the subsequent strolling maneuver with either a drag-and-shake or a drag-and-deadstick retrieve are not methods that we reserve for our grandkids in June, July, and August. In fact, whenever the largemouth bass and smallmouth bass fishing are problematic, I or my wife, Patty, or our piscatorial colleagues will use these tactics. And throughout the calendar year, even when the largemouth bass and smallmouth bass are easy to catch, we find these tactics will often be more fruitful than casting either perpendicular to or in front of the boat and employing other presentation styles. Actually, there is rarely an outing when we do not employ these tactics.
Even though we cannot fathom what is transpiring in the murky and watery world beneath and behind our boat, there seems to be something extraordinary going on when we execute a cast at a 25- to 45-degree angle behind the boat and employ a dragging presentation with one of our Midwest finesse rigs, such as a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man Fishing Products' green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head jig or a shortened four-inch Z-Man's Junebug Finesse WormZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
A number of years ago, I used to spend some time talking to topnotch professional bass tournament anglers and watching them practice for tournaments. And when I watched them practice, I never saw one of them cast a finesse lure behind the boat and stroll.
In September of 2006, however, I talked to Rick Clunn of Ava, Missouri, at a media event staged by the Tracker Marine Group at Big Cedar Lodge on Table Rock Lake, Missouri. For a short spell, we talked about finesse fishing and strolling, which have never been part of his piscatorial repertoire. But back in 2006, he occasionally wielded a spinning rod and a shaky-head-jig-worm rig, and we talked about why, how, when, and where he used that tactic. And during our conversation, he told me that he thought that finesse strolling could be an effective tournament tactic for co-anglers to employ or any angler who is in the back of the boat. He based that insight from his experience when he was paired at a big-time tournament with a Japanese co-angler who used spinning tackle and finesse lures to stroll behind Clunn's boat. Clunn spent most of that tournament day keeping his boat near and parallel to the water's edge, and he made long casts and retrieves with a crackbait in front of the boat. Therefore, the only casts and retrieves his co-angler could make were behind the boat, and by doing it, his co-angler caught an impressive array of black bass by casting, strolling, and dragging his finesse rig behind Clunn's boat.
This past winter we worked with Jeff Gustafson of Kenora, Ontario, Canada, Seth Feider of Bloomington, Minnesota, and Josh Douglas of Mound, Minnesota, about the virtues of a marabou jig. Ultimately, we wrote 8,105 words about how, when ,and where they use a marabou jig.
Feider and Douglas use a 3/32-ounce marabou jig with a tactic that they call towing, which is another term for strolling. They make long casts, and they swim it rather than drag it. Feider says that he casts the marabou jig at a 45-degree angle behind the boat as far as he can cast, and once the jig hits the surface of the water, he allows more line to roll off the spool of his spinning reel. As he is towing, the jig is about 90 feet away from the boat, and he uses the electric trolling motor on the bow of his boat to propel his boat and tow or stroll the marabou jig. (To read more about their tactics, see endnote No.1.)
Gustafson's approach is somewhat similar to the tactics that Midwest finesse anglers use in northeastern Kansas. And in a July 11 email, he wrote:
"Here in my part of the world, we make a lot of short casts because of the nature of the shallow fishing that we do for smallmouth bass.
"With finesse baits, we do a lot of pitching to specific boulders, weed clumps, logs, etc. So those are generally short casts.
"We also do a lot of pitching behind the boat because for some reason smallmouth bass are inquisitive and many of them actually like to check out or follow the boat. So, if there are two anglers in the boat, the person in the back will drag baits a lot. This is particularly effective when the angler in the front is using a bait that these fish might be more likely to follow, like a jerkbait or crank bait. And the smallmouth bass that follow the jerkbait or crankbait will often end up engulfing a finesse bait that is being dragged behind the boat."
During our many family vacations in Minnesota, my wife, Patty, has caught untold numbers of largemouth bass and smallmouth bass by making short casts at a 25- to a 45-degree cast behind the boat and strolling a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig with a drag-and-deadstick presentation. And several of our grandkids have replicated her tactics to catch largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, rock bass, walleye, yellow perch, and bluegill.
Of course, there are outings when a significant number of the largemouth bass and smallmouth bass will be caught the initial drop of our Midwest finesse rig after we made a relatively long cast to specific lair. There are also spells when it is advantageous to make perpendicular casts or to make casts in front of the boat and to employ a swim-glide-and-shake retrieve, or a hop-and-bounce retrieve, or a straight swimming retrieve.
In other words, during every outing, we try to employ all six of the standard Midwest finesse retrieves or variations of those retrieves in order to discover the most fruitful one. This task can be accomplished very easily when there are two or three anglers in the boat with each of them employing different presentations throughout the outing.
In conclusion, the point of this column is to remind Midwest finesse anglers and other types of anglers about the virtues of employing short casts that are angled at a 25- to 45-degree behind the boat and strolling with either a drag-and-shake or a drag-and-deadstick retrieve.
(1) Here are the links to the Midwest finesse columns about how, when and where Josh Douglas, Seth Fieder, and Jeff Gustafson use a marabou jig:
(2) Here is a link to our column that describes the six Midwest finesse retrieves: http://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/six-midwest-finesse-retrieves/.