September 16, 2013
Stacey King says he is at the point in his life where he relishes finesse fishing for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and spotted bass.
Since the 1980s, King of Reeds Springs, Missouri, who is 64 years old, has plied the Bassmaster, FLW, Professional Anglers Association and several other circuits, as well as at the U.S. Open at Lake Mead. Most of his tournament endeavors across those many years have been executed with power tactics. But a finesse tube, hair jig, split-shot rig, grub, and tiny jigworm have occasionally been part of his tournament repertoire, and at times they have paid some handsome dividends.
King says it is difficult to win a major tournament with finesse tactics, but it can be done — especially at some of the reservoirs in the Ozarks. For instance, Shin Fukae of Palestine, Texas, and Osaka, Japan, won the Wal-Mart FLW Tour event at Beaver Lake, Arkansas, in April 2001 by using a spinning outfit decked out with a 3/32-ounce jig dressed with a Gary Yamamoto Custom Bait's Shad Shape Worm (see: http://archives.in-fisherman.com/content/meet-shinichi-fukae-wizard-finesse). And Brent Ehrler of Redlands, California, won the Wal-Mart FLW Tour competition at Table Rock, Lake, Missouri, in March 2010 by working primarily with four-inch Gary Yamamoto Custom Bait's Single Tail Grubs and a four-inch Yamamoto Swimming Senko; he affixed these baits to a quarter-ounce jig (see: http://www.in-fisherman.com/2011/09/08/brent-ehrler%E2%80%99s-winning -tactics/ ). At other tournament venues when power tactics wane during the last hour or two of compeition, King says he will often use one of his Midwest finesse rigs to inveigle his final keeper-size bass of the day.
King didn't win the April 2013 Walmart FLW Tour event at Beaver Lake, but he caught 49 pounds, 15 ounces of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, which garnered him ninth place on the tournament's leader board and $14,000.
Throughout the four days of competition, he wielded only spinning tackle and four Midwest finesse baits: a 2 ¾-inch Bass Pro Shops' green-pumpkin-red-flake Teaser Tube affixed to a 3/32-ounce jig, a 2 ½-inch Strike King Lure Company's coppertreuse Zero on a 1/16-ounce jig, a four-inch XPS smoke-copper-red-flake Single Tail Grub on a 3/32-ounce jig, and a black 1/8-ounce bucktail jig. (His bucktail jig was sparsely tied and not adorn with a trailer.)
He employed these four baits on seven-foot, two-inch Johnny Morris CarbonLite Series Spinning Rods that were fitted with Johnny Morris Signature Series Spinning Reels (JM20). The reels were spooled with 10-pound-test XPS 8 Advanced Braid Fishing Line and a five-foot leader made from eight-pound-test XPS Signature Series Fluorocarbon Fishing Line.
Before his practice session began on April 7, King thought that he would be making most of his casts and presentations during the practice and tournament days with two power tactics: an Alabama rig and a jerkbait. His three practice sessions from April 7 through April 9 were conducted from Prairie Creek to the dam, which is a massive expanse of clear water. The surface temperature ranged from 57 to 60 degrees. The water level was 3 ½ feet below normal.
To his dismay, he had a difficult time provoking Beaver Lake's bass to exhibit an interest in his jerkbaits and Alabama rigs. Ultimately, he discovered that he could entice a significant number of smallmouth bass and spotted bass that were abiding on what he called "pre-spawn staging areas," which were gravel flats and points in 10 to 15 feet of water that were adjacent to locales that the bass would eventually spawn. And he allured these bass on his four finesse baits. King noted that the water clarity in the areas that he fished had about 10 feet of visibility, and the bulk of the bass that he caught were residing along the bottom in 10 ½ to 11 feet of water.
During his practice outings with his finesse presentations, he tangled with a few smallmouth bass that weighed from 2 ½ to 3 ½ pounds and a couple two- to 2 ½-pound spotted bass, which are considered humdingers around Beaver Lake.
He retrieved the tube by incessantly shaking it along the bottom. He employed a bottom-bouncing retrieve for the 2 ½-inch Zero, and a considerable number of the bass engulfed the Zero on the initial drop.
He retrieved his grub by allowing it to plummet to the bottom, and as soon as it hit the bottom, he slowly swam it back to the boat, allowing it to swim from six to 12 inches above the bottom. During the retrieve, he pointed his rod tip at the grub. He employed a similar retrieve with the hair jig.
At several of these lairs during his practice session, he would wield a jerkbait and an Alabama rig, and they weren't effective in the clear-water areas that he fished. But several competitors who plied the upper reaches of the White River caught the bulk of their bass on Alabama rigs. The tournament was won by Jason Christie of Park Hill, Oklahoma, who worked with an Alabama rig in the dirty water in the White River.
Throughout the tournament, King focused on pre-spawn lairs scattered around a huge stretch of the reservoir between Moulder Hollow and Rocky Branch Park and Marina, which lies in Beaver's mid-lake section. He spent all four days of the tournament working with his finesse rigs. Until the fourth day, which was windy, the tube was his most productive lure, and then when the wind howled at 15 to 25 mph from the south on April 14, the 2 ½-inch Zero became his best option by dragging it and shaking it along the bottom. One of the virtues of this bait is that it cast like a bullet -- even into the wind when it is hellishly strong.
In 2014, the Alabama rig can't be used by anglers on the Walmart FLW Tour. Thus, King suspects a few more of anglers will use finesse tactics when they compete at Beaver Lake on April 10-13, 2014. In King's eyes, that might be a godsend for him. King has caught scores of handsome bass on his Alabama rigs during the past two years, but he says it is not a fun way to fish. King is a master at wielding spoons, big skirted jigs and trailers, crankbaits, topwater baits and spinnerbaits, but if he has his druthers nowadays he prefers to uses a spinning rod and a variety of Midwest finesse baits — especially when he is fishing for the fun of it with his grandchildren.