Mother Nature and Old Man Winter conspired to create some woeful weather during January, which kept many Midwest finesse anglers at bay. And even when we were able to get afloat, we found that the largemouth bass fishing during those 31 days was pitiful.
Across the years, we have never been competent enough to put into words why largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass do what they do, and throughout January of 2014, we continued to be unable to decipher what was transpiring in the murky world under our boats. Therefore, we don't have a clue what the largemouth bass that we were pursuing were doing. All we could do was describe what we did as anglers. In these monthly guides to Midwest finesse fishing, we normally spend a lot of time explaining how, when and where we catch largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass. But this month's guide explains how, when, and where not to catch largemouth bass with Midwest finesse tactics in January in northeastern Kansas and north-central Texas.
Normally these monthly guides include logs from a dozen anglers who pursue black bass as far west as Arizona and as far east as North Carolina. I usually contribute about 10 logs, which describe my outings at some of the flatland reservoirs that grace the countryside of northeastern Kansas. But because of Mother Nature's wintry ways, only three Midwest finesse anglers contributed logs this time around. In fact, I contributed only one, which detailed the 3 ½ hours I fished and eked out only five largemouth bass. Bob Gum of Kansas City filed two reports, which described his two outings, when he fished for 5 ½ hours on one outing and inveigled only six largemouth bass, and then when he fished for 4 1/2 hours on another outing and caught only one largemouth bass. Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed reports about his eight outings, which encompassed 34 ½ hours of wielding a variety of Midwest finesse tactics, and during those many hours, he caught only 24 largemouth bass.
Reideler who is a veteran and adept largemouth bass angler, began using Midwest finesse tactics in August of 2013, and he started filing reports on the Finesse News Network and to this online Midwest Finesse column in September of 2013. During the past five months, his endeavors have opened a lot of eyes to the sorry state of the largemouth bass fishing in north-central Texas — especially during the winter. On Jan. 28, Reideler penned a summary of his January piscatorial undertakings from 2008 through 2014, and this summation underlines the wretched wintertime largemouth bass fishing that he and other north-central Texas anglers have to endure. He wrote, "I recently reviewed my January fishing logs for the past seven years. These logs revealed that in January of 2013, I caught only two bass; in January of 2012, I caught nine bass; in January of 2011, I caught 15 bass; in January of 2010, I caught 12 bass; in January of 2009, I didn't catch a single bass; and in January of 2008, I caught eight bass. What I found interesting is that this January's bass fishing was the most fruitful January I've had. I also caught bass this January from four waterways where I had previously not caught bass during January or February. Though these results seem paltry, Midwest finesse tactics are improving my catch rates -- even some of my most difficult winter venues aren't as difficult as they used to be when I was a power angler and before I became a Midwest finesse devotee."
Reideler provoked me to examine my past Januarys in northeastern Kansas during the past decade. And I discovered straightaway that January of 2014 was unquestionably the worst by all levels of measure. The best January occurred in 2005, when I and an occasional colleague or two were afloat 14 times, fishing at several cold-water reservoirs and two power-plant reservoirs. These 14 outings encompassed about 63 hours of fishing, and we caught 258 largemouth bass and 29 smallmouth bass, as well as scores of white bass and a few other species.
Even though we don't know what the largemouth bass were doing during the few times we were pursuing them, we do know that the weather was extremely unstable; some weather observers called it a "rollercoaster ride." For example, it fluctuated from 59 to 7 degrees on Jan.26. The normal low temperature on Jan.1 is 19 degrees, and the normal high temperature is 38 degrees. The normal low temperature on Jan. 15 is 18 degrees, and the normal high temperature is 40 degrees. The normal low temperature on Jan. 31 is 20 degrees, and the normal high temperature is 42. We had one day when area thermometers reached 67 degrees, another day when the high temperature was 65 degrees, and another day when the high temperature hit 61 degrees. Moreover, there were four days when area thermometers hit 54, 53, 51 and 50 degrees, as well as 11 days when the thermometers hovered in the 40s. In total, there were 18 days when area thermometers climbed above the average high temperature for the day. We also had 12 days when those thermometers recorded temperatures that ranged from 10 to -10 degrees.
The drought that has been waylaying northeastern Kansas since 2012 continued to waylay us during the first 31 days of 2014. The National Weather Service in Lawrence, Kansas, recorded three inches of snow on Jan. 5, and by the month's end, the precipitation rate was 0.87 inches below normal.
Ice covered most of northeastern Kansas' reservoirs for much of the month, and even our two power-plant reservoirs had ice covering parts of them at times. There was, however, a short stretch of unseasonably warm weather in mid-January when the ice melted or partially melted on several of the reservoirs, but the ice quickly reappeared when thermometers plummeted again.
Across northeastern Kansas, the wind howled often — especially on Jan. 20 and 26. According to the National Weather Service it reached speeds of 48 mph on Jan. 26. At other locales, there were some gusts that broached 50 mph. At one of the power-plant reservoirs, which is traditionally one of our best of wintertime reservoirs, the howling wind created ranks of white caps that coursed across this entire length of this reservoir day after day, and these waves stirred up the silt, which adversely affected the water clarity. In addition to the extremely stained water, the power plant, which normally heats the water temperature into the low to mid-50s in some areas within the warm-water plume, was not operating at its peak during much of December and January. Consequently the water was colder than normal, and the temperature fluctuated significantly from week to week, and even day to day.
Some anglers have observed that largemouth bass fishing becomes trying at this power-plant reservoir, when the water clarity is heavily stained, the water temperature in the warm-water plume is in the 40s rather than the 50s, and the water temperature significantly fluctuates. Bob Gum and I can attest that scenario unfolded for us this January.
On Jan. 30, Daniel Nussbuam of Ladson, South Carolina, who uses some Midwest finesse tactics in his saltwater ventures, reported "We've been getting hammered here by the weather -- a little bit of snow and ice and sub-freezing temperatures for the last few days, which is rare around here. It doesn't bode well for our sea trout populations, which take a hit after a few days of water temperatures around 40 degrees."
Elsewhere around the Finesse News Network, Nathan Parker and Joe Davis, both of Tulsa, Oklahoma, reported on Jan. 25 that the largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass fishing in nearby reservoirs had been abysmal. Joe Kropff and Rocky Thomas, both of Grand Lake, Oklahoma, reported that the fishing for all species at Grand Lake and Tenkiller Lake was difficult. Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas, reported on Jan. 30 that it had been so cold and wintry that he hadn't fished, and instead he was spending his time trying to sell his boat and buying another one.
Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, hasn't wetted a line. Instead he has been reading and writing about fishing, and he wrote an interesting piece on his website on Jan. 6 entitled "My Big Indiana Bass Records," and this is the link to that story: http://www.bigindianabass.com/big_indiana_bass/2014/01/my-big-indiana-bass-records.html. Waldman filed a report on Jan.30 that described the conditions in Indiana. He wrote: "Some lakes around here now have 14 inches of ice and people are driving small vehicles on them - a real rarity. Our woes might get worse, as long-range forecasts show we might get socked by another major snowstorm during the middle of next week, followed by a sub-zero-cold spell for a couple days, which will be combined with wind. In short, it might be another two months before I get to wet a line in 2014. It is hard to believe how stingy those Texas bass have been for Steve Reideler. I would have expected much better from southern waters. His persistence is admirable though. He'll be rewarded at some point."
In essence, this monthly guide is a historical document that pivots around the weather rather than a guide to how, when, and where to catch largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass with Midwest finesse methods. Some observers might say that the tumult of winter weather this January taught us how to tolerate failure and frustration with patience and diligence, which might make us better anglers.
Jan. 4 log Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed the following report on the Finesse News Network about a bank-walking outing that he and Rick Allen of Dallas had on Jan. 4. He wrote: "North-central Texas enjoyed a brief reprieve from winter on Jan. 4. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low at 41 degrees and the afternoon high soared to 70 degrees. The sun was bright and the sky was cloudless. An irksome wind howled out of the south at 22 to 30 miles per hour. The barometric pressure was 29.74. "Rick Allen of Dallas joined me for an afternoon of bank-walking at two ponds on the southern edge of Lewisville. Both ponds have been stocked with Florida-strain largemouth bass. From mid-March into early December, these two ponds produce decent numbers of largemouth bass, as well as some lunkers, but they seem to go dormant or disappear from mid-December into early March. In winters past, I have always failed to catch largemouth bass from these two ponds in January and February. "The first of these two ponds is about five acres in size. The water was stained, exhibiting about one and a half feet of visibility. A large mud flat occupies the south end of the pond. The north end has steeper mud banks that are adorned with a large hydrilla bed and a small rock pile. "The second pond is about the size of a football field. The water is stained with one and a half feet of visibility. This pond lies to the north of the five-acre pond. A large island is situated in its western portion, and two creek channels run parallel to the island's north and south shorelines. I was unable to measure the water temperatures of these ponds, but past fishing log records lead me to believe the water temperatures to be approximately 45 to 48 degrees. "I was unable to obtain the best fishing period times from In-Fisherman's solunar calendar. Rick and I were afoot from 2:15 p.m. to 5:15.p.m. "Rick and I began fishing at the five-acre pond. Rick used one rod sporting a 2 ½-inch Z-Man Fishing Products' black-blue-flake FattyZ tail section on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head Jig. I also used one rod, but alternated between a Z-Man's green pumpkin-blue flake Finesse ShadZ on a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and a three-inch Z-Man's Junebug Hula StickZ affixed to a chartreuse1/32-ounce Gopher jig. We commenced casting to the hydrilla bed from the east bank with a slow drag-deadstick motif. Rick received one strike on the FattyZ, and I coaxed one strike on the Hula StickZ, but we missed both of these fish. I also dissected the small rock pile on the north end of the pond with the same lures, but it did not yield any bass. "Rick and I then turned our attention to the second pond. Rick fished the northern shoreline and I worked the southern shoreline. Rick changed from the 2 ¼-inch Z-Man's black-blue-flake FattyZ to a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's black-blue-flake FattyZ modified tube bait on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. I alternated between a four-inch Z-Man's black-blue-flake Finesse WormZ on a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and a 2 ½-inch Z-Man's black-blue-flake FattyZ tube rigged on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Rick caught three largemouth bass and broke off another one from the northeast corner of the pond. He employed a short hop-deadstick retrieve. I allured one bass on the FattyZ tube from a small clay point adjacent to a short concrete wall on the south bank. I utilized a slow drag-shake-deadstick presentation. I then joined Rick on the north side of the pond, and we continued to work our way westward around the pond. We caught two bass from a steep clay bank on the northwest end of the pond, and one bass from a small clay point on the south end of the pond, just west of the concrete wall where I caught my first bass. All of these largemouth bass were extracted from three to four feet of water, and were about 10 to 15 feet off the bank. "We elected to return to the smaller pond and try to eke out one more bass before we called it a day. I probed the same rock pile on the north end of the pond that I fished previously. Then I worked my way southward along the west bank. Rick plied the east bank, where we garnered two strikes earlier in the day, but missed both fish. We worked with the customized FattyZ tubes on the blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jigs. Rick inveigled a two-pound largemouth bass off the large hydrilla bed, but I failed to induce any strikes from the west bank area. "In total, we caught eight largemouth bass, ranging in size from 12-inches to two-pounds. The 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's black-blue-flake FattyZ tube rigged on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig was the only effective bait .A short hop and deadstick retrieve was the most fruitful presentation. We found the north and east banks more fruitful than the south and west banks. This is also the first time we have ever caught any largemouth bass from these two ponds during the winter. We fished behind four power anglers who were wielding jig-n-pig combos and seven-inch Texas-rigged plastic worms. I spoke with them briefly and they admitted that they had not garnered a bite all afternoon. "I'm delighted with the improved results I'm getting with Midwest finesse tactics. I've now caught bass from three problematic waterways that have always baffled and exasperated me during past winters. Though I'm still looking for concentrations of bass to improve my numbers, these encouraging results give me motivation to continue my wintertime bass fishing endeavors." (In the blog entitled "Midwest Finesse Fishing: December 2013," which was published on Jan. 3 at https://www.in-fisherman.com/2014/01/03/decaaa/, Reideler wrote about the wretched largemouth bass fishing that confounds north Texas anglers during the winter. Despite the horrible largemouth bass fishing that has haunted every one of Reideler's winter outings, he has exhibited a dauntless spirit by continuously wielding Midwest finesse tactics in hopes of discovering how to allure the Florida-strain largemouth bass that the fisheries biologists unwisely stocked in those north Texas waterways.)
Jan. 8 log Mother Nature's wintry ways has kept Midwest finesse anglers at bay for many days in a row. She has walloped some of the warmer locales, such as Texas and North Carolina. Some anglers might be in a state of hibernation. We hadn't heard a word from Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, where Mother Nature and Old Man Winter pummeled his waterways with a hodgepodge of ugly deeds. Therefore we examined his website (http://www.bigindianabass.com/), and he says he is spending the winter reading and trying to find a happy medium of catching 10 largemouth bass an hour and catching a palpable number of lunker-sized largemouth bass. Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed a short note on the Finesse News Network about the wintry weather that has kept him and other Midwest finesse anglers at bay this winter. Reideler said," It has been a colder than normal winter so far this season in Texas. In fact, one TV news anchorman announced this morning that it has been colder in Texas than Alaska. Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, reported that some of his waterways were ice covered on Jan. 8. Steve Quinn of Brainerd, Minnesota, reported that it was -21 degrees on the morning of Jan.6, -19 degrees on the morning of Jan. 7, and -25 degrees on the morning of Jan. 8. What's more, area thermometers stayed below zero all three days. This wasn't the coldest spell that Quinn, who moved to Brainerd in May of 1988, remembers. He said, "I clearly recall the four consecutive days that the mercury dipped to — 40°F or below (circa 1995). I was fortunately headed to Mexico to bass fish on the third day. I will never forget racing without a jacket across the Brainerd Airport parking lot from my old Bronco after checking in at the terminal and parking it." And the record low temperature recorded in Brainerd was -54 degrees, which occurred in February of 1996.
Jan. 9 log Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed a report on the Finesse News Network regarding his Jan. 9 outing. He wrote: "I made an afternoon foray to a nearby 20,820 acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir. The day was cloudy, foggy, and mixed with some occasional light drizzle. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low at 40 degrees and the afternoon high reached 47 degrees. The National Weather Service also issued a dense fog warning until 3:00 p.m. A light breeze blew out of the northeast at 5 mph, but as the afternoon progressed, the breeze became calm. The barometric pressure measured 30.18. I was afloat from 11:15 a.m. until 2:45 p.m. "The fishing on this reservoir continues to be wretched. I began the outing in the mid-section of the reservoir, fishing a large concrete spillway and two steep rocky points just north of the spillway. The water in this area was stained with 1 1/2-feet of visibility. The water temperature was 40 degrees, which is the coldest I have ever seen on this reservoir. I employed a Kalin's three-inch white Lunker Grub rigged on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a customized Z-Man's 2 1/2-inch black-blue-flake FattyZ tube affixed to a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. I worked this area over very slowly, but after two hours, I was unable to entice any strikes. "I then made a run to the riprap of the dam at the south end of the lake. The water at the dam was stained with about 2 ½ feet of visibility. The surface temperature was 43 degrees. I began fishing a concrete tower near the center of the dam, which stands in 56 feet of water. This tower has been somewhat productive, surrendering a four-pound and five-pound bass on December 23. Unfortunately, as I plied this structure today with a Z-Man's watermelon-red Finesse ShadZ dressed on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, I was unable to find any bass utilizing this lair. "I then moved over to the riprap of the dam. I alternated between the Finesse ShadZ, Kalin Lunker Grub, FattyZ tube, and a four-inch Z-Man's black-neon WormZ rigged on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. After three hours and eleven minutes, I landed a two-pound, 13-ounce largemouth bass on the Finesse ShadZ, using a slow swim-glide-shake retrieve. The bass was suspended about 15 feet off the bank in seven feet of water. "During this wintertime endeavor, I have plied a plethora of steep rocky points, channel banks, covered boat docks, bridge pilings and bridge embankments on this waterway. A 200-yard section of the dam has been the only fruitful area I have found. In sum, I fished for three and a half hours and eked out only one largemouth bass. "This reservoir baffles me. I checked the state fisheries' stocking reports for this reservoir and discovered that it was stocked with 741, 380 Florida-strain largemouth bass fingerlings in 1998, 507,625 Florida-strain largemouth bass fingerlings in 2006, 501,720 Florida-strain largemouth bass fingerlings in 2007, and 498,000 Florida-strain largemouth bass fingerlings in 2013. But I'm not seeing a crossover between the large stocking numbers and larger increases in my catch rates. "
Jan.12 log Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed this report about his Jan. 12 outing on the Finesse News Network. He wrote: "Mother Nature temporarily released her wintry grip on north-central Texas. Daytime temperatures have moderated during the past couple of days, but unfortunately, high winds have kept me off the area lakes. Thus, I opted for a bank-walking excursion to three ponds in the north Dallas area on Jan. 12. "The temperatures were mild with a morning low of 34 degrees and an afternoon high of 73 degrees. The sun was bright and vibrant, and not a cloud was in sight. A boisterous wind blew incessantly out of the south at 26 to 34 mph, making casts and presentations difficult at best. The barometric pressure measured 29.77. I was afoot and fishing from 12:30 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. I did not have the means to measure water temperatures. "My fishing continues to be onerous and trying. The first pond I fished was located in the northeastern Dallas suburb of Richardson. This pond is small and exhibits an odd hour-glass shape that is about 50 yards long and about 75 feet across at its widest point. Its banks are overgrown with tall cattails, and small hydrilla patches are dispersed throughout the pond. The water was stained and exhibited about two feet of visibility. I probed this pond for an hour with an assortment of Z-Man's four-inch Finesse WormZs, Z-Man's FattyZ customized tubes, and Charlie Brewer's Slider Company's 1 7/8-inch Crappie Slider Grubs rigged on various colors of Gopher Tackle's 1/32-and 1/16-ounce jigs. I was unable to conjure any strikes from this pond. "The second and third ponds I visited were a short drive from the first pond, and lie in the far northern boundaries of Dallas. "The second pond is oval in shape and is about three acres in size. This pond's banks are hemmed in by a decorative concrete and rock wall. Submerged riprap reinforces the base of the concrete wall. An underwater ditch traverses a mud flat on the northern end of the pond, and several small points protrude from the east and west shorelines. Hydrilla beds once graced this pond, but persistent chemical spraying has eradicated all the aquatic vegetation. The water was stained with about 1 1/2 feet of visibility. I fished this pond for about an hour with FattyZ tubes and Slider Crappie grubs, and I again failed to elicit a single strike. "The last pond I visited is located a short distance to the south of the second pond. It appears to be identical to the second pond, but two ditches cut across a mud flat on the north end of this pond. A decorative concrete and rock retaining wall with submerged riprap reinforcements also frames the pond's shoreline. This pond once accommodated a flourishing hydrilla bed as well, but persistent chemical spraying destroyed the hydrilla bed. I plied this pond with an assortment of Z-Man's Hula StickZs, FattyZ tubes,2 ½-inch ZinkerZs, and Charlie Brewer's Crappie Slider Grubs. I tangled with one largemouth bass that inhabited the ditch in the northeast corner of the pond. The bass was beguiled by a Charlie Brewer Slider Company's 1 7/8-inch watermelon-chartreuse Crappie Slider Grub affixed to a black 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and manipulated with a slow hop-and-bounce retrieve. I continued working around the pond, but I was unable to coax any more bites for the remainder of the afternoon. "In total, I fished for three hours and was able to garner only one bass."
Jan.13 log This solo outing on Jan. 13 to a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir was not an auspicious way to start our 2014 Midwest finesse endeavors in northeastern Kansas. At times during this outing, I thought it was rivaling the sorry cold-water largemouth bass fishing that has exasperated Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, for the past seven weeks or more. Three hundred and fifty-nine days ago, my cousin Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, and I fished this same reservoir, and on that Jan, 7, 2013, outing, we tangled with 45 largemouth bass, seven crappie and four white bass. And the surface temperature within the borders of this reservoir's warm-water plume ranged from 44 to 54 degrees. For many days throughout the fall of 2013 and into the winter of 2013-14, the power plant didn't generate a significant amount of electricity. Therefore, the water temperature became colder and colder. And as Old Man Winter pummeled northeastern Kansas with extremely cold temperatures on Jan. 6, 7, and 8, ice covered parts of this reservoir. In fact, its two main-lake boat ramps weren't useable because of the ice. The ice around the boat ramps melted on Jan. 11, and the power plant began generating significant quantities of electricity. But because the power-plant was pumping 38-degree water into the plant to cool its generators, the warm water that the plant jettisoned back into the reservoir was only 50 degrees at 1:15 p.m. on Jan. 13, and earlier in the morning, the surface temperature at the warm-water outlet was only 47 degrees. What's more, the 50-degree water encompassed a very small area within the massive warm-water plume. On Jan. 13, the surface temperature in southern portions of this reservoir was 38 degrees, and ice covered some of those areas. Within the confines of the warm-water plume, the surface temperature ranged from 41 degrees to 50 degrees. The water level looked to be a few inches above normal. The water was surprisingly stained; the visibility around some lairs was 12 inches and less. The clearest water had about 16 inches of visibility. The National Weather Service in Olathe, Kansas, reported that the low temperature was 36 degrees and the high temperature was 47 degrees. The wind was pesky and nippy, angling from the northwest at 10 to 20 mph. The barometric pressure at 10:53 a.m. was 29.88 and falling. The sun beamed brightly in a lustrous blue sky. Remnants of the three-inches of snow that fell on Jan. 5 were visible along some areas of the countryside. I was afloat from 10:45 a.m. to 2:25 p.m. In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing occurred from 7:55 a.m. to 9:55 a.m. I spent the entire three hours and 30 minutes, fishing six areas within the warm-water plume. Four areas 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 a bluff. The surface temperature was 48 degrees. The water clarity was about 15 inches. The boat floated in three to 10 feet of water, and I wielded a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, a 2 ¾-inch prototype Z-Man's California Craw ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a Z-Man's pearl Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Rain MinnowZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. I employed the six standard Midwest finesse retrieves, and I also made a few improvisations on those six standard retrieves. But I failed to elicit a strike. Throughout this outing, this area was thoroughly dissected by three bass anglers in two bass boats, and they were employing jerkbaits and several power tactics. 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 46 to 48 degrees, and the water clarity ranged from 12 to 15 inches. I employed a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, a 2 ¾-inch prototype Z-Man's California Craw ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a 2 1/2 — inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin-orange FattyZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a 2 1/2 — inch Z-Man's Junebug FattyZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a Z-Man's pearl Finesse ShadZ and chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. and a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Rain MinnowZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. I utilized all six of the Midwest finesse retrieves along this bluff, and at one of the rock slides, I caught one largemouth bass, and it was enticed during the deadstick part of a drag-and-deadstick retrieve with the Z-Man's pearl Finesse ShadZ and chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. From that bluff, I moved up the lake 100 yards and probed another bluff on the west side of the reservoir. This bluff is not as steep as the first bluff that I fished, but its layout is similar. The surface temperature was 48 degrees, and the water clarity was 12 inches and less at spots. I worked with the same six baits and retrieves that I used on the first bluff, and I failed to garner a strike. The fourth area that I fished was on the east side of the reservoir. It is a shallow, flat point that separates two coves. It is graced with two humps, some stumps, ledges, rocks, gravel, boulders, laydowns and two submerged creek-channels. The surface temperature fluctuated from 48 to 50 degrees. The water clarity was about 16 inches is some places, diminishing to 12 inches or less in a few spots. The boat floated in two to seven feet of water. Here I primarily employed a strolling retrieve with either a 2 ¾-inch prototype Z-Man's California Craw ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig or a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. I caught two largemouth bass on the ZinkerZ and two on the Finesse ShadZ. The fifth spot was a riprap point that was buffeted by the warm-water current that was flowing out of the power-plant. The surface temperature was 49 degrees. I wielded the 2 ¾-inch prototype Z-Man's California Craw ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and I used two retrieves: a hop-and-bounce retrieve and a drag-and-shake retrieve. I failed to obtain a strike. The final stop of the outing was at a steep bluff that lies along the southwest fringe of the warm-water plume, and on this outing, this fringe consisted of relatively cold water. The bluff is about 125 yards long and is adorned by gravel points at each of its ends, as well as laydowns, rock slides, boulders, and ledges. The surface temperature was 41 degrees. The boat floated in eight to 12 feet of water. I used the Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig along the entire bluff, and I primarily utilized the drag-and-deadstick retrieve, but I occasionally strolled the Finesse ShadZ parallel to the bluff in three to six feet of water. I didn't generate a strike with either one of those presentations. In sum, I caught only five bass or 1.4 bass an hour, and when we compare the results of this outing to our 2013 average of 39.1 bass an outing and 11.6 per an hour, it was an inauspici0us outing indeed. I talked to one bass angler who was working with a suspending jerkbait, and he had failed to catch a bass. I also talked to another bass angler who was wielding a small crankbait and hadn't had a strike, but he said he caught six on Jan. 12 by wielding an Alabama rig in the vicinity of the dam, and in his eyes, catching six largemouth bass is a stellar outing. I crossed paths with two veteran crappie anglers who had failed catch a crappie. And an extremely ardent and talented white bass angler discovered that the white bass bite was horrendous. Perhaps one of the benefits of suffering through a trying outing is that it teaches anglers about the virtues of perseverance, or as Winston Churchill once said; "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another."
Jan. 15 log The winter of 2013-14 has kept most Midwest anglers at bay. It has been the proverbial thorn in the flesh of Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, but it has not prevented him from making periodic outings on several kinds of north Texas waterways. He posted the following log on the Finesse News Network about his trying Jan. 15 outing. He wrote: "North-central Texas enjoyed a string of pleasantly mild days that began on January 11. During that spell, the daytime high temperatures ranged from the mid-60s to low-70s. But during the night of January 14, a cold front passed through the area, causing a downturn in our daytime temperatures. On January 15, the National Weather Service recorded the morning low at 36 degrees and the afternoon high slowly climbed to 57 degrees. The sun was dazzling in the cloudless cerulean sky. The wind quartered out of the northwest at 10 to 15 mph. The barometric pressure was measured at 30.40." "I made an afternoon bank-walking foray to two ponds, which were stocked with Florida-strain largemouth bass. These ponds lie on the southern border of Lewisville. I last fished these two ponds on January 4 with Rick Allen of Dallas. On Jan 4, we caught eight largemouth bass, which were the first bass we had ever caught from these dormant ponds during the wintry months of January and February. "The first of these two ponds is about five acres in size. The water was stained, exhibiting about one and a half feet of visibility. A large mud flat occupies the south end of the pond. The north end has steeper mud banks that are graced with a large hydrilla bed and a small rock pile. A short but steep point extends from the west bank. "The second pond lies just north of the first pond, and is about 100 yards long and about 40 yards wide. A large island rests in the western portion of this pond, and two creek channels run along the island's north and south shore. I was unable to measure the water temperatures of these ponds. "In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated the best fishing period was between 9:33 a.m. and 11:33 a.m. I fished from 11:45 a.m. to 3:45.p.m. "I began fishing the smaller five-acre pond first. I used the following array of lures: a Z-Man's 2 1/2-inch black-blue-flake FattyZ customized tube on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; a Z-Man's green-pumpkin-blue-flake Finesse ShadZ on a blue 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; Kalin's three-inch pumpkin hue Lunker Bass Grub rigged on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; a Bass Pro Shops' 1/8-ounce black Enticer Pro Series Smallmouth Hair Jig with a black Zoom Bait Company's Tiny Salty Chunk trailer; and a Bomber Lures' 3 1/2-inch silver-flash/blue-back Suspending Pro Model Long A, which is a jerkbait. For one hour and 45 minutes, I concentrated on slowly dissecting the large hydrilla bed, the small rock pile, and the steep mud banks and mud point with the Kalin grub, Bomber Suspending Pro Long A jerk bait, and the Z-Man's Finesse ShadZ. To my chagrin, I was unable to draw any strikes. "I then focused on the second pond. I began working a mud point adjacent to a concrete and rock wall on the southern bank with the Bass Pro Shops' black hair jig and black plastic chunk trailer, Bomber Lures' jerkbait, Kalin's grub, and Z-Man's Finesse ShadZ. I failed to elicit any strikes. I then slowly fished the steep mud bank on the east end of the pond. When I had worked my way to the north end of the mud bank, I felt a tentative bite on the black hair jig and black plastic chunk trailer, but I missed the fish on the hook set. I made several more casts with the hair jig and plastic chunk trailer combo, but I failed to elicit any other bites. I then threw the Z-Man's 2 1/2-inch black-blue-flake FattyZ tube in the area where I had felt the first bite. On the second cast with the FattyZ tube, I tangled with my first bass of the day, while employing a subtle twitch-deadstick retrieve. To my dismay, I was unable to garner any more strikes from this area. I continued working my way westward around the northern bank, and after another forty-three minutes had passed without a bite, I landed my second bass of the day, which was abiding on a small mud point just east of the large island. This bass was also beguiled by the 2 1/2-inch FattyZ tube and the twitch-deadstick presentation. I failed to garner any other strikes for the remainder of the afternoon. "In sum, I gleaned only two largemouth bass, and both were caught on the 2 1/2-inch black-blue-flake FattyZ tube rigged on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Though I utilized five of the six of the standard Midwest finesse retrieves, the only productive retrieve was a subtle twitch-deadstick motif. The black hair jig with black plastic chunk trailer combo induced one strike, but I missed the fish on the hook set. The Kalin's Grub, Bomber Lures' suspending jerkbait, and Z-Man's Finesse ShadZ failed to allure any strikes."
Jan. 18 log Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed the following report on the Finesse News Network about his Jan. 18 outing. He wrote: "Windy conditions continue to beleaguer north-central Texas. Thus, I opted to enjoy the afternoon by taking another bank-walking excursion to three community ponds in the north Dallas suburb of Carrollton and two community ponds on the southern edge of Lewisville. It was a beautiful day. The sun was bright and beaming in the powder-blue sky. The National Weather Service recorded the morning low temperature at 36 degrees and the afternoon high temperature climbed to 69 degrees. A peppy wind blew out of the west-southwest at 14 to 25 mph. The barometric pressure measured 30.13. "In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated the optimum fishing period occurred between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. I fished from noon until 5:00 p.m., which covered one and a half of the two best fishing hours indicated by the solunar calendar, and I did not entice a single bite. "All five of these ponds are similar in that they all exhibit stained water with about 1 1/2 feet of clarity. Four of the five ponds have aquatic vegetation. I was unable to measure water temperatures. "I experimented with three baits. The first was a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig that FNN members recently suggested I try for a couple of outings. The second bait was a four-inch Yum Bait Company's black-blue-flake Dinger rigged wacky-style on a black 1/32-ounce Owner weedless Ultra Head wacky jig. The third bait was a four-inch Yum's black-blue-flake Dinger rigged wacky-style on an Owner's No. 2 octopus-style hook for a slower fall rate. "The first of the three ponds I fished in Carrollton is oblong in its configuration and about four acres in size. This is another one of the ponds that baffles me during the winter months. The bass fishing in this pond is fruitful from March through October, but during the cold-water months, the fishing becomes wretched. This pond has not yielded a bass to me since October 5, 2013. It has a decorative stone and concrete retaining wall bordering its east shore. Four large concrete culverts are situated on the pond's northern perimeter, and a smooth concrete dam forms the pond's southern boundary. A large mud flat augmented with scattered baseball-sized rocks stretches along the western bank. A large submerged hydrilla bed extends from the deep-water edge of the mud flat out to the center of the pond. I plied the submerged hydrilla bed, the decorative concrete and rock retaining wall, and the large mud flat with the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's ZinkerZ and the four-inch Yum Dinger rigged on the Owner weedless wacky-jig head. Once again, this pond refused to surrender any of its largemouth bass. "I then drove over to the second and third ponds in Carrollton, which are located about seven miles northwest of the first pond. "The second Carrlllton pond is about 10 acres in size, and is adorned with a smooth concrete dam on its southern bank. A large mud flat spans the northern shoreline, and a prominent mud point with two small brush piles juts out from the east bank. Submerged hydrilla beds are spread throughout this pond. "The third Carrollton pond is much smaller then the second, and is about an acre in size. It is adjacent to the southwest corner of the second pond. The third pond is oval in shape and is surrounded by sparse stands of cattails. A small hydrilla patch lies in the center of this pond and thin tree branches litter the bottom. "I have not caught a bass from these two ponds since November 30, 2013. My experiment with the four-inch Yum Dingers and 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's ZinkerZ failed to produce any bites from either of these ponds. But I was impressed with Owner's weedless wacky-jig head. I dissected two brush piles in the larger second pond with the Yum Dinger rigged on an Owner's weedless wacky jig head without hanging up. "The last two ponds I visited are located on the southern fringe of Lewisville. I last fished these two ponds on January 15. "The first Lewisville pond is about five acres in size with stained water that exhibited about one and a half feet of visibility. A large mud flat stretches across the south end of the pond, and the north end is enhanced with steep mud banks graced with a large hydrilla bed and a small rock pile. A short but steep point adorns the west bank. I slowly worked this pond with the Yum Dingers and Z-Man's ZinkerZ, and like the previous three ponds, it was an exercise in futility. "The second Lewisville pond is about 100 yards long, 40 yards wide, and is graced with a large island near its western shore. The aquatic vegetation has died off in this pond. After a little over four hours into this outing, I landed my first largemouth bass of the day from a steep mud bank on the southeast corner of this pond. This bass inhaled the Yum Dinger wacky-rigged on the Owner No. 2 Octopus hook. I employed a simple lift and drop technique with this bait. Forty-five minutes later, I tangled with two more largemouth bass, which were lurking on a small mud point along the north bank. Both of these bass were enticed by the Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ retrieved with a slow drag-shake-deadstick motif. "This winter's bass-fishing continues to befuddle me. On this bank-walking endeavor, I caught only three largemouth bass during five hours of fishing. In sum, the 2 ½-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ dressed on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig caught two of the three. The wacky-rigged four-inch Yum Dinger on the Owner No.2 Octopus hook caught the other one. I did not catch a bass on the Yum Dinger rigged on the Owner 1/32-ounce weedless wacky jig."
Jan.19 log Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed this report on the Finesse News Network about his Jan.19 outing. He wrote: "I made a solo outing to a nearby 20,820 acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reservoir. I last fished this reservoir during a cold and foggy afternoon on Jan 9. Onthat dreary outing, I inveigled only one bass from the riprap shoreline along the dam. "The sun was ablaze in a cloud-barren sky. Area thermometers registered the morning low temperature at 36 degrees and the afternoon high temperature reached 65 degrees. The average low temperature for this time of year is 33 degrees and the average high temperature is 56 degrees. The wind blew out of the west then turned out of the south at 5 to 10 mph. The barometric pressure was high at 30.30. "In-Fisherman's solunar calendar predicted the best fishing period would occur between 12:39 p.m. and 2:39 p.m. I was afloat from 12:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. "The water was stained with about 1 1/2 feet of visibility. The Texas Water Development Board recorded the lake level at 7.17 feet below normal. The water temperature was 46 degrees at the dam and 47 degrees at the marina. "I prepared my rods with the following baits: a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; a Charlie Brewer Slider Company's 2 1/8-inch Slider Minnow Grub on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; and a four-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse WormZ rigged wacky-style on an Owner's Ultra Head Weedless Wacky Jig head. I wielded the Finesse ShadZ and ZinkerZ about 95 percent of the day. I employed the weedless wacky-style Finesse WormZ to probe one laydown tree, and I used Brewer's Slider Grub about four percent of the time. I plan on using the green-pumpkin ZinkerZ and green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ during my next few outings as well. "I began the afternoon fishing the riprap along the dam, which lies on the southern end of the reservoir. I spent three hours mostly wielding the green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ and the green-pumpkin ZinkerZ. I used a variety of Midwest finesse retrieves, but I failed to garner any strikes. "I spent my last hour skipping the ZinkerZ and ShadZ underneath covered boat docks at the mouth of a cove. Several of these boat docks were situated next to a steep channel bank and floated in water as deep as 35 feet. I concentrated on the docks closest to the channel bank and floating in 10 to 15 feet of water. During the last 20 minutes of this outing, I was able to eke out two largemouth bass from underneath a covered boat dock. Both bass were allured by the green-pumpkin ZinkerZ animated with a slow drag-shake-deadstick retrieve. "In sum, I could only muster two bass during four hours of fishing. Both bass were caught on a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The drag-shake-deadstick retrieve was the only productive presentation. "These wintertime endeavors are teaching me a lesson in patience. I find it interesting that the first two and a half to three hours of my outings are virtually fruitless and that most of the bass I have been catching come during the last hour, regardless of whether I'm fishing reservoirs or ponds. I'm also amazed that the difference of just one or two degrees in water temperature can mean the difference between getting a bite or just getting in an afternoon of casting practice."
Bob Gum of Kansas City filed a report on the Finesse News Network about his Jan. 19 outing to a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir. By midday it was unseasonably balmy. The National Weather Service in Olathe, Kansas, recorded the morning low temperature at 16 degrees, but the afternoon high temperature hit 65 degrees. The wind angled out of the southwest at 9 to 21 mph and switched to the west at 13 to 28 mph, which he described as "a manageable wind" at most of the locales that he fished. It was sunny. At 9:52 a.m., the barometric pressure was 29.98 and dropping. When he arrived at the boat ramp around 9:00 a.m., the ramp was ice covered, and he almost fell to the ground when he stepped out of his truck. The water level was normal. The water clarity exhibited about 12 inches of visibility. The power-plant was generating electricity, but the surface temperature in the heart of the warm-water plume was only 48 degrees. The surface temperature at the dam, which sits a long distance to the south from the warm-water plume, was 42 degrees. Along the fringes of the plume, the surface temperature was 46 degrees. In-Fisherman's solunar calendar stated that the best fishing occurred from 12:31 p.m. to 2:31 p.m. He started fishing around 9:30 a.m. and fished until 3:00 p.m. He began his outing on the east side of the reservoir at a shallow, flat point that separates two coves. This is a sizeable area, and it is graced with two humps, some stumps, ledges, rocks, gravel, boulders, laydowns, two submerged creek-channels, and a significant flow of current that is jettisoned out of the power plant. The surface temperature was 48 degrees. He caught one largemouth bass on a 2 ½-inch Z-Man's purple-haze ZinkerZ affixed to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. From that point, he crossed to the west side of the reservoir and plied a big mud flat that is embellished with a submerged creek channel and a point at the end of one of the reservoir's five bluffs. The surface temperature was 48 degrees. He failed to elicit a strike on this massive flat. From the mud flat, he moved to the north and fished one of the bluffs, which is endowed with laydowns, some man-made brushpiles, rock slides, piles of boulders, and many ledges. His boat floated in 10 to 16 feet of water. The surface temperature was 48 degrees. He worked with a Z-Man's watermelon-red Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, and it inveigled four largemouth bass. He fished two more bluffs, which are also on the west side of the reservoir and sheltered from the southwest and west wind. One of these bluffs was situated along the northern fringe of the warm-water plume, and the other was on its southern fringe, where the surface temperature was 46 degrees. He worked with the Finesse ShadZ, and it failed to catch a largemouth bass. He ended his outing by fishing a 100-yard stretch of the riprap shoreline along the dam, and his Finesse ShadZ combo caught one largemouth bass. That largemouth bass and one crappie were the only fish that he allured during his last two hours of fishing.
Jan. 23 log Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, reported on the Finesse News Network that the reservoirs in he fishes were covered with ice.
Jan. 26 log Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, posted the following report on the Finesse News Network about his bank-walking endeavors on Jan. 26. He wrote: "I made a solo afternoon jaunt to six local community ponds. The weather was mostly cloudy. The afternoon high temperature reached 74 degrees. The morning low temperature was 48 degrees. The wind blew out of the south at 10 to 15 mph, and the barometric pressure measured 29.67. "In-Fisherman's solunar calendar predicted the best fishing periods between 6:04 a.m. and 8:04 a.m. and 6:33 p.m. and 8:33 p.m. I was afoot from 11:45 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. "I did not have the means to measure water temperatures. "The first pond I fished was located eight miles north of Lewisville in the town of Corinth. This pond is a little over two acres in size, and the water exhibited a pea-green hue with about 1 1/2-feet of visibility. A small creek channel extends out of the north end of the pond. A steep mud embankment forms its southern shoreline of the pond, and several small points protrude from the east and west banks. I plied this pond with a 2 ½-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a four-inch Yum black-blue-flake Dinger rigged wacky-style on an Owner's No. 2 Octopus hook. I failed to elicit any strikes. "The second pond I visited is located in the southern portion of Lewisville. I last fished this pond on January 18 and caught three largemouth bass. This pond is about 100 yards long, 40 yards wide, and is graced with a large island near its western shoreline. The water was stained with about two feet of clarity. On my Jan. 26 outing, I landed one bass from a steep mud shoreline on the northeast corner of this pond. This bass was induced by a customized 2 ½-inch Z-Man's black-blue-flake FattyZ tube affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and I retrieved it in a slow twitch-deadstick manner. I also employed a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's PB&J ZinkerZ affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ dressed on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; and a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin FattyZ tube donned on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; and a Z-Man's black-blue Scented LeechZ rigged on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. None of these baits allured any other bass from this pond. "The third pond I fished was about an acre in size, and it lies just west of the second pond. This pond was graced with a small green algae and hydrilla bed near its eastern bank. "The water was clear with about 4 feet of visibility. I caught one bass from the hydrilla bed with the Z-Man's green-pumpkin FattyZ tube, which engulfed the lure on its initial fall. I also tried Z-Man's black-blue Scented LeechZ, but I was unable to draw another bite. "The last three ponds I fished were located in a community park in Flower Mound. The largest of these three ponds is six acres in size with heavily stained water that exhibited less than a foot of visibility. Sparse cattails garnish the north shoreline and a concrete culvert reinforced with riprap enhanced the northwest corner of the pond. Several small mud points protruded from the east, west, and south shorelines. The other two smaller ponds lie just north of the larger six acre pond, and they are less than an acre in size. They were stained to the point that the water clarity in these two small ponds was about 1 1/2-feet. Small hydrilla beds festoon the east side banks of both of these ponds. I plied all three of these ponds with the Z-Man's green-pumpkin FattyZ tube; a Z-Man's five-inch black-blue FattyZ rigged on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ dressed on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig; and a Z-Man's Junebug Hula StickZ rigged on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. I was unable to coax any bites from these three ponds. "In sum, I fished for five hours and could only garner two bass. Both bass were caught on FattyZ tube baits. One bass was enticed by a subtle twitch-deadstick retrieve. The other bass inhaled the tube bait on the initial fall. **********************************************************************************************
Bob Gum of Kansas City filed a brief report on the Finesse News Network about his Jan.26 outing at a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir. He noted that the south generator was working, but the surface temperature within the warm-water plume was a degree or two cooler than it was on his Jan. 19 outing, when he caught only six largemouth bass. On his Jan. 26 outing, he fished from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and battled a pesky north wind from his first cast to his last one. He described this 4 1/2-hour endeavor as a long and hard one, in which he caught only one largemouth bass. And that one was allured by dragging a 2 ½-inch Z-Man's purple-haze ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig in four feet of water on a gravel point, where the surface temperature was 47 degrees. It is interesting to note that the surface temperature on the riprap shoreline along the east side of the reservoir, which was outside the parameters of the warm-water plume, was 38 degrees. Bob Gum isn't the only angler who has struggled at this reservoir this January. For instance, on Jan. 27, Ronald Denayer of Butler, Missouri, reported that he and his friends have fared poorly at this power-plant reservoir all winter, and one of Denayer's friends failed even to garner a strike during two recent January outings.
Jan. 31 log Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, filed this report on the Finesse News Network about his Jan. 31 outing.
He wrote: "North-central Texas enjoyed a spring-like day. The skies were mostly cloudy. The morning low temperature was relatively mild, hovering at 54 degrees. The afternoon high temperature climbed to 74 degrees. A peppy wind quartered annoyingly out of the south-by-southeast at 15 to 20 mph. The barometric pressure was low, measuring 29.75.
"Because of the windy conditions, I opted for an afternoon of bank-fishing at three community ponds on the southern edge of Lewisville's city limits. I fished these ponds several times this month. When the blustery winds prevent me from plying the larger local reservoirs, I will occasionally spend part of a winter afternoon traipsing around these ponds with a rod in my hands.
"In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated the best fishing period occurred between 10:09 a.m. and 12:09 p.m. I fished from 12:15 p.m. until 4:15 p.m.
"The first pond I fished is about five acres in size with stained water that exhibited about one and a half feet of visibility. The north end is enhanced with steep mud banks, a large hydrilla bed, and a small rock pile. A large mud flat stretches across the south end of the pond, and a steep point extends from the west bank. I slowly plied this pond with a Zoom Bait Company's three-inch watermelon-red flake Lil' Critter Craw rigged on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; a customized 2 ½-inch Z-Man's black-blue-flake FattyZ tube on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig; and a 2 ¼-inch Z-Man's black-blue-flake FattyZ tail dressed on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. I coaxed one bass from the northeast edge of the hydrilla bed near the north end of the pond on the 2 1/2-inch black-blue-flake FattyZ tube presented with a subtle hop-and-deadstick retrieve. I failed to garner any other strikes from the large mud flat, the steep mud point, or the small rock pile.
"The second pond I fished is about the length of a football field, and about 40 yards wide. It is graced with a large island near its western shore. Creek channels run parallel to the island's north and south banks, and a decorative concrete and stone wall enhances the southern bank. The water was heavily stained with about one foot of clarity. I utilized different color combinations of the customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's FattyZ tube, 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZs, and Charlie Brewer's Slider Company's 1 7/8-inch Crappie Slider Grubs rigged on a variety of Gopher jigs. I employed a variety of Midwest finesse retrieve styles and subtle variations of those retrieves. Much to my dismay, I failed to elicit one strike.
"The last pond I fished was also about an acre in size. It is situated just west of the second pond. Along its eastern shoreline, this pond possesses a small patch of hydrilla that is adorned with some filamentous algae. Three mud and rock points extend from its northern and southern shores. The water is what I consider clear, exhibiting about four feet of visibility. A creek channel runs down the center of the pond. The hydrilla bed surrendered four largemouth bass, which where beguiled by a customized 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin FattyZ tube rigged on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. I also drew two additional strikes on the same FattyZ tube, but I missed both of them on the hook set. All four bass where bewitched by the slow hop-and-deadstick motif. I also used a 2 1/4-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin FattyZ tail on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, but it failed to educe any bites.
"We are finding that the bass are too lethargic to move very far to take our baits -- even when we move them slowly with the drag and shake retrieve. One of the surprises that we discovered by accident was that our most productive retrieve is a variation of the hop and bounce retrieve, which we call the hop-and-deadstick retrieve. We cast the bait out and allow it to sink to the bottom. We then subtly hop the bait one time, and then we deadstick it for three to five seconds before we repeat the sequence. We do not shake the bait. The bass take the bait during the deadstick portion of the retrieve. We also discovered through experimentation that we got very few bites when we deadsticked the bait longer than five seconds or less than three seconds. The bite is very tentative, and we occasionally detect a slight tick of our line. Thanks to the braid line and fluorocarbon leader that we use now, we can occasionally see that tick in the line, but most of the time, the only indication that we have a bite is when we feel the bait by slightly tightening our lines during the deadstick period, and the bait feels slightly heavier than it usually does. At times, we don't feel anything and the bass is just there.
"In sum, I fished for four hours and tangled with five bass. I also enticed two additional strikes, but failed to hook both fish. The only fruitful bait and retrieve was the customized FattyZ tubes worked in a slow hop-and-deadstick manner.
"I am delighted to see that Midwest finesse tactics have enabled me and my occasional fishing companion, Rick Allen of Dallas, to set a new record for numbers of bass caught in January with 27. This record surpasses our old January 2011 record of 15 bass, and it is a 55% increase in our January catch rate."
Steve Reideler filed a report on the Finesse News Network for Rick Allen of Dallas.
Reideler reported that Allen floated a river in the southern-portions of the Texas Hill Country on Jan. 31.
There was not a cloud in the sky. The morning low temperature was 47 degrees and the afternoon high temperature was 74 degrees. The wind was out of the south-by-southeast at 7 mph. The barometric pressure was 29.81.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated the best fishing period occurred between 10:18 a.m. and 12:18 p.m. Allen launched his boat at 1:00 p.m. and fished until 3:30 p.m.
Allen utilized two baits: a four-inch Charlie Brewer's Slider Company's plum-glitter Slider Worm rigged on a black 1/16-ounce Spider Head jig and a customized 2 1/2-inch green-pumpkin FattyZ tube rigged on a black 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
The water was clear with eight feet of visibility. The surface temperature was 47 degrees.
The part of the river that he fished is separated into three sections by two small concrete dams, and each section is graced with hydrilla beds, stumps, lily-pad-covered flats, steep mud and rock banks, and the ledge of the channel that winds through the center of the river.
Allen started his afternoon by plying several mud and rock banks with the four-inch Slider Worm, and he failed to allure a fish.
His next spot consisted of a mud-and-rock river channel ledge that is situated offshore in eight feet of water. The ledge drops almost vertically into the river channel, and the bottom of the channel was about 16-feet deep and adorned with patches of hydrilla. Allen's sonar pinpointed the whereabouts of those deep patches of hydrilla. After outlining the river channel ledge with several marker buoys, Allen began probing the ledge with the customized green-pumpkin FattyZ tube. He positioned his boat on top of the ledge and executed casts from shallow water into the deeper river channel. He allowed the FattyZ tube to sink to the bottom, and once it hit the bottom, he used a slow hop-and-deadstick retrieve up the side of the ledge. Rick was able to entice two Guadalupe bass and one spotted bass with the FattyZ tube. All three bass were chunky 15- to 16-inchers.
In total, Allen fished for 2 ½ hours and was able to tangle with two Guadalupe bass and one spotted bass. The 2 1/2-inch FattyZ tube presented with a slow hop-and-deadstick retrieve allured all three bass. Allen began employing Midwest finesse tactics in October 2013. This was the first time he has employed Midwest finesse tactics on this river.
Mother Nature even confounded the Finesse News Network anglers who reside in South Carolina. And that is reflected in Glenn Young's photograph that is at the lead of this column. Young and his daughter, Caitlin, who live in Blythewood, South Carolina, teamed up to make and dress this snowman.