In winters past, there have been a number of Groundhog Days in northeastern Kansas that marked the end of winter. Then, Midwest finesse anglers contently fished for largemouth bass and watched Old Man Winter merely limp around for the next 46 days and the arrival of the spring equinox.
The normal high temperature on Groundhog Day around Lawrence, Kansas, is 41 degrees and the normal low temperature is 19 degrees, and this time around, the weather was almost like spring with the afternoon high temperature reaching 51 degrees, and the sun shone brightly in a China blue sky.
This February we had some crocuses blooming on Feb. 8, when Old Man Winter waylaid anglers, such as Rich Zaleski in Stevenson, Connecticut, and others anglers in Massachusetts and New York with a whale of a snowstorm. By 9 a.m. on Feb 18, area thermometers around Lawrence, Kansas, registered 58 degrees, snow bells were blooming in our gardens and the green leaves of the daffodils protruded several inches above the soil.
This is not to say that a balmy Groundhog Day and a 16-day spell of delightful weather always spell the end of winter. Because in February past, Old Man Winter has revealed that he possessed enough moxie at times to whack us during the tail end of February, well into March and even into April with some nasty cold wind, ice, sleet and snow. And he accomplished that feat this time around, walloping us with a dose of winter weather that covered our crocuses, daffodils and snow bells with nearly 12 inches on Feb. 21. What's more, during the 10-day spell that stretched from Feb. 19 to Feb. 28, Old Man Winter displayed his moxie by driving the thermometers around Lawrence, Kansas, on Feb. 23 to a low of minus-two degrees at 6:52 a.m., which was 25 degrees below the normal low. The normal high temperature ranges from 45 to 47 degrees from Feb. 19 through Feb. 23, but Old Man Winter kept some of the daily high temperatures as much as 14 degrees below normal. And on Feb. 22 and 23 ice began to cover some of the waterways across northeastern Kansas for the third time since the winter solstice. Then on Feb. 25 and 26, northeastern Kansas was pummeled by another series of snowstorms, which covered our crocuses, daffodils and snow bells with another seven inches of snow.
February bass fishing in northeastern Kansas is often a troublesome endeavor. From Feb. 1, 2004 to Feb. 29, 2012, Old Man Winter allowed me to fish only 49 times. On many of those outings, I was accompanied by another Midwest finesse angler, and the two of us were able to catch only 841 largemouth bass and 107 smallmouth bass. That's a sorry average of only 19.3 bass per outing and 4.8 bass an hour. Our three best Februarys occurred in 2006, 2009, and 2012. In 2006, we were afloat 10 times and caught 60 smallmouth bass and 86 largemouth bass. During 2009, we fished nine times and caught one smallmouth bass and 210 largemouth bass. Then in 2012, we fished nine times and caught 358 largemouth bass, and on Feb. 9, 2012, my cousin Rick Hebenstreit of Shawnee, Kansas, and I caught 118 largemouth bass in about three hours of fishing. But there have been numerous toilsome February endeavors, such as one outing in 2005 and another outing in 2009 when we caught only one largemouth bass. In 2005, we endured three arduous outings when we caught only two bass on each of those outings.
Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, wrote in an e-mail on Feb. 21: "We are also staying to the cold side of things, with lakes constantly unfreezing and refreezing every couple days. 10-day forecast isn't much help yet, but spring is just around the corner. I imagine the first week or two in March I'll be able to start finessing the bass on my local waters."
Whereas Waldman was at bay the entire month, I was afloat eight times, encompassing 24 hours of fishing. Six of those outing were solo outings. One endeavor was with Clyde Holscher of Topeka, Kansas, and the other outing was with Pok Chi Lau of Lawrence, Kansas. During these outings, 248 largemouth bass were caught, which was an average of 31 largemouth bass an outing and 10.3 an hour.
In addition to the logs that describe those eight outings, the insights and logs of Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, Bob Gum of Kansas City, Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, Chris Rohr of Overland Park, Kansas, and Dave Weroha of Kansas highlight this month's log blog.
From 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Dave Weroha of Kansas City fished a 100-acre community reservoir in the southwestern suburbs of Kansas City.
That morning, he sent an e-mail saying: "About a fourth of the lake has ice, some of it remains in the northeast area of the lake around the boat ramp. Weather-wise, it's a great day. I can attempt to fish it for a couple hours this afternoon if you think it's worth it?" I responded with our patented answer: "If 20 percent of the reservoir is covered with ice, it is usually a difficult endeavor to catch largemouth bass."
Weroha didn't heed my advice, and when he arrived at the ramp with his boat, virtually all of the ice had melted. Ice, however, still covered about 300 yards of the upper end of this reservoir's main-feeder-creek arm, which is a shallow mud flat that is embellished with patches of coontail. Traditionally the best areas to catch largemouth bass as soon as the ice melts at a flatland reservoir in northeastern Kansas are shallow mud flats that are graced with patches of aquatic vegetation. Therefore, he didn't get to explore the best February location.
The surface temperature was 40 degrees. Water level was about a foot below normal. The clarity was stained, exhibiting about two feet of clarity.
In his report to the Finesse News Network, he wrote: "Regarding the remaining ice, it was so thin that even my 10-foot boat, trolling at less than one mph broke it with ease. I imagine that an angler with pitching and flipping tackle, using a heavy jig, could have punched the jig through the ice. With temperature highs in the 40s and 50s this week, the ice is probably on its last legs."
The wind angled from west and northwest at 9 to 15 mph. The sky was cloudless. The morning low temperature was 23 degrees, and the afternoon high hit 51 degrees. Barometric pressure around 3 p.m. was 30.17 and falling.
Solunar calendar indicated the best fishing times occurred from 3:22 p.m. to 5:22 p.m.
He fished the upper portions of the main-feeder-creek-arm that were not covered by ice, and he caught seven largemouth bass. Five largemouth bass were allured by a Z-Man Fishing Products' green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a 1/32-ounce Gopher Tackle Mushroom Head Jig, and two largemouth bass were inveigled by a Z-Man's redbug-hue Finesse WormZ on a 1/32-ounce Gopher jig.
Three largemouth bass were caught around patches of coontail on a main-lake point. Two largemouth bass were caught around a stone bridge that was embellished with a little ledge and some aquatic vegetation. The last two largemouth bass were caught around some vegetation on another main-lake point. These bass were extracted from water as shallow as two feet and as deep as eight feet.
Weroha closed his report by noting: "I spooled all five of my rods and reels with 10-pound-test braided line and a five-foot fluorocarbon leader. I am quite satisfied with the castability and the little to no line loops. I can whip a 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and Finesse ShadZ twenty-five feet or more. Thus I spent less time fiddling with line loops. Spending more time casting and retrieving is always better."
Duc Pham and Dave Weroha, both of Kansas City, fished a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir from noon to 5 p.m. and caught 13 largemouth bass. In addition, seven largemouth bass liberate themselves before Pham and Weroha could haul over the boat's gunnels, and they enticed a half dozen strikes that they failed to hook.
At noon, the wind angled out of the east at 5 to 7 mph, and by 5 p.m., it blew out of the south at 15 to 20 mph. The air temperature at noon was 47 degrees.
The water gushing out of the warm-water outlet registered 63 degrees. Along the northern edge of the warm-water plume, the surface temperature was 50 degrees. In the heart of the plume, the surface temperature was 60 degrees.
Weroha wrote: "The total count of 13 largemouth bass on the surface would not indicate a good day of finesse fishing, but we caught bass at every location fished except where the three creek channels converge in the middle of the lake between the warm-water outlet and the third bluff. We fished the convergence (approximately 8-9 feet deep) for about 10 minutes without any bites. The convergence's structure is subtle, and much of the channel looks as if it's silted in."
They caught their largemouth bass on four finesse baits: 2 ½-inch YUM red-shad Dinger affixed to an 1/8-ounce jig, 2 ½-inch YUM watermelon-pearl laminated Dinger on a 1/8-ounce jig, green-pumpkin Z-Man's Finesse ShadZ on a 1/32-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig, and four-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin Saw Tail WormZ on a 1/32-ounce Arkie Jigs Swim Bait Jig. The 2 ½-inch YUM Dinger was created by cutting a five-inch Dinger in half. The four-inch Saw Tail WormZ was customized by trimming its head and tail.
They employed a variety of retrieves. They described one as a glide-twitch-deadstick retrieve. Another one was the swim, glide and shake. One largemouth bass was caught on the initial drop, as YUM Dinger and jig plummeted from the surface towards the bottom. Weroha wrote: "The majority of the retrieves I employed for the Saw Tail WormZ and Finesse ShadZ consisted of four to six subtle shake and glide with my rod in the 2 o'clock position."
Their largest largemouth bass weighed three pounds, 10 ounces. It was allured by the green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ attached to a 1/32-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig with the four-to-six-subtle-shakes-and-glide retrieve. It was caught along a bluff in the heart of the warm-water plume.
Weroha noted: "As we passed fellow anglers, most said they had caught a couple, and they were power anglers wielding large jerkbaits and spinnerbaits. One angler asked us what we were using and we gladly explained."
Bob Gum and Marc Sherrell, both of Kansas City, fished the same 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir that Pham and Weroha fished. And Sherrell caught an 18 ½-inch largemouth bass on the same bluff that Pham and Weroha caught their three-pound, 10-ouncer. Sherrell inveigled his largemouth bass on a mud-minnow-hue Z-Man's Rain MinnowZ on a red1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Gum and Sherrell had some success using a jerkbait along a wind-blown stretch of riprap along the east shoreline of the reservoir, which was near the southern fringe of the warm-water plume.
I made a solo outing to a nearby 195-acre community reservoir from 10:50 a.m. to 1:05 p.m.
A brisk and cold wind angled out of the north at 12 to 17 mph. Area thermometers registered a morning low of 26 degrees and an early afternoon high of 45 degrees, but by 2 p.m. the thermometers had plummeted to 39 degrees. The sun was eye-squinting bright. Around 11 a.m. the barometric pressure was 29.93 and rising.
The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times occurred from 5:51 a.m. to 7:51 a.m.
The water level looked as if it was 3 ½ feet below normal, which is a touch higher than it was in November and December of 2012. (Our precipitation was normal in January, which might have caused the water level to rise a tad.) The surface temperature ranged from 39 to 40 degrees. The water was relatively clear around the dam and east boat ramp, but it was stained in the back of the southwest feeder cove to the point that it was difficult at times to see the propeller of the trolling motor.
I fished two spots.
One area was a massive mud flat in the back of the southwest-feeder-creek arm. There were some patches of curly-leaf pondweed sprouting on this flat. I probed depths of two to five feet of water, searching for concentrations of largemouth bass. I found two small aggregations largemouth bass from which I extracted 28 of them, as well as three crappie and one bluegill. One of the crappie possessed the biggest and handsomeness body of any crappie that I have ever caught, but it was not the heaviest I have caught. At times the water was so shallow that I could touch the silt-laden bottom with the tip of my rod.
At the second area, I caught two largemouth bass along the north shoreline around some docks in the southwest feeder creek arm. These two largemouth bass were in about five feet of water. I didn't find any curly-leaf pondweed in this locale, but I suspected that it was beginning to sprout.
The best bait was a Z-Man's green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Four other baits caught a few of the largemouth bass, and they were a PB&J Rain MinnowZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher, a clear-silver 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a black-and-blue 2 ½-inch FattyZ customized tube on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a pumpkin-chartreuse 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher.
The best retrieve was a crudely executed drag and shake. The wind interfered with all of the retrieves that I tried to employ.
Traditionally massive numbers of largemouth bass inhabit the shallow mud flats in February and March, and the best flats are endowed with bright green sprouts of curly-leaf pondweed. During the two hours, I was afloat I failed to find a mother lode of them; perhaps that mother lode was abiding on a shallow flat in the back of another feeder creek arm. In the days to come, I will explore the other flats.
There was one other boat afloat. It was a Ranger boat from Johnson County. Both anglers were using spinning rods. One worked with drop-shot rig, and the other was wielding a jerkbait. They were plying deep-water lairs along a submerged creek channel edge. That kind of location is a textbook wintertime area, but most Midwest finesse anglers have found across the years that those textbook locales, which we read about in Bassmaster Magazine and other publications that herald that the tactics of tournament anglers, aren't bountiful enough for our tastes.
I returned to the 195-acre reservoir that I fished on Feb. 4 with hopes that I could find two or three aggregations of shallow-water largemouth bass abiding around patches of curly-leaf pondweed that were sprouting on the massive mud flats in the back portions of this reservoir's feeder-creek arms.
Clyde Holscher of Topeka, Kansas, joined me around noon. I launched the boat around 11 a.m., and for 30 minutes, I milled around one of the reservoir's eastern-feeder-creek arm, using an underwater camera and searching for burgeoning patches of curly-leaf pondweed, and I found some in three to four feet of water scattered across this feeder-creek arm's massive mud flat. And when Holscher arrived, we would probe those patches. It is always handy to have a pair or even a threesome of anglers to help dissect these massive flats that are the size of several football fields.
As I waited for Holscher to arrive, I fished a 30-yard stretch of this feeder creek's northern shoreline. This area was graced with a few patches of curly-leaf pondweed and some milfoil, and a submerged creek channel edge meandered nearby. From a ledge that paralleled the shoreline and some of the patches of aquatic vegetation, I extracted 10 largemouth bass with a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. These bass were in four to six feet of water. One engulfed the Finesse ShadZ on the initial fall, but the other nine took it as it was been slowly dragged along the bottom.
Once Holscher joined me, we searched in vain for largemouth bass around the patches of curly-leaf pondweed on the mud flat in three to four feet of water. But we caught three largemouth bass along the south shoreline of this eastern-feeder-creek arm, and two of them were associated with some curly-leaf patches on a secondary point in about three feet of water. These two largemouth bass were caught on the green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ and a 2 ½-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a 1/16-ounce jig. The third one was caught in six feet of water on the 2 ½-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a 1/16-ounce jig that was being drug and strolled about 30 feet behind the boat.
We futility searched largemouth bass at several other lairs in this arm, including the ledge that I extracted 10 largemouth bass from before Holscher arrived.
From this eastern-feeder-creek arm, we ventured to the shallow mud flat in the southwest-feeder-creek arm, where I caught and released 28 largemouth bass on Feb. 4. But the largemouth bass were difficult to find and catch. In our eyes and minds, they seemed to be scattered and constantly moving. What's more, they seemed to strike our baits with a tentative disposition; consequently, we failed to hook about dozen fish that made a pass at our baits. Ultimately, we eked out 17 largemouth bass, which were allured by the green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ, pumpkin-chartreuse 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ and a black-and-blue FattyZ customized tube affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
From this mud flat, we probed an immense, shallow mud flat in the back of the reservoir's southern-feeder-creek arm. It was graced with many patches of sprouting curly-leaf pondweed, submerged stumps, and a submerged bridge. Here we caught only one largemouth bass, and it was caught by the bridge in four feet of water on the green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ.
During the last 15 minutes of our outing, we fished another eastern-feeder-creek arm, where we failed to garner a strike. We plied the submergent curly-lead pondweed in the pack of this arm and along its northern shoreline. We made our last casts and retrieves at 3 p.m., and our fish counter revealed that we had caught and released only 30 largemouth bass.
I was hoping that with Holscher deft hands at wielding Midwest finesse tactics we would find and catch more than 60 largemouth bass in three hours. But something was awry. And if they are rapidly milling about those massive mud flats, which they seemed to be doing, it is difficult to locate them. And it is even more trying if they are tentative when they make a pass at our lures, which they were at times on this outing.
Except for an occasional gust of wind, the weather was ideal. The morning low temperature was 20 degrees, and the afternoon high temperature was 61 degrees. The wind angled out of the northwest at 9 to 23 mph. The sun shone brightly.
The surface temperature ranged from 39 to 41 degrees. The water level was about 3 ½ feet below normal. The water clarity was affected by an algae bloom, and at several locales I could not see the propeller on the trolling motor.
February 6 weather notes
The low temperature around Lawrence, Kansas, was 24 degrees and the high was 64 degrees. The normal low is 20 degrees and the normal high temperature is 42 degrees. The record high temperature of 70 degrees occurred in 2009; the record low of -10 happened in 1982. Year to date, we have had 0.96 inches of rain; normal rain fall is 1.17 inches.
It began raining lightly at 4 a.m. and stopped at 11 a.m., and according to the National Weather Service, Lawrence, Kansas, received three-quarters of an inch of rain.
After the rain ceased, I made another solo trip to the nearby 195-acre community reservoir and fished from 12:30 p.m. to 3:40 p.m. This was my third outing to this reservoir this week. In years past, I wouldn't fish the same reservoir more than once a week, but old age has diminished my desire to drive 30 to 50 miles and fish for three hours. So I made the 17-mile drive to this reservoir again, and I fear these short drives and two- to three-hour outings will occur a lot in 2013 and in the years to come.
Area thermometers registered a morning low temperature of 47 degrees and an afternoon high temperature of 51 degrees. The barometric pressure was 29.98 and slowly rising around noon. After the rain ceased, the sky ranged from mostly cloudy to partially cloudy, which allowed the sun to shine and make my eyes squint at times. The wind angled out of the north at 13 to 29 mph.
The solunar calendar listed the best fishing times as 7:29 a.m. to 9:29 a.m.
The surface temperature ranged from 41 to 43 degrees. The water level was still about 3 ½ feet below normal. An algae bloom stained the clarity, making it difficult for me to see the trolling motor's propeller at most of the locales that I fished.
I returned to the southwest-feeder-creek arm that I fished on Feb. 4 and on Feb. 5 with Clyde Holscher of Topeka, Kansas. In this arm, I plied four spots. One of these locals was situated in the center of a massive mud flat, and it was graced with a shallow ditch and a few patches of curly-leaf pondweed, and it rendered 12 largemouth bass largemouth bass that were extracted from three to four feet of water. The second was a shallow shoreline on the south side of the massive mud flat, and it was embellished with eight boat docks, some patches of coontail and curly-leaf pondweed and man-made brushpiles, and it yielded 18 largemouth bass that were extracted from three feet of water. The third spot was a shallow tertiary point that was stippled with submergent aquatic vegetation, and it failed to bear a fish. Those three locales were situated in the back of this feeder-creek arm, and they were slightly wind-blown. The fourth spot was about halfway inside this southwest-feeder-creek arm and along its north shoreline, and it was sheltered from the wind and festooned with six docks, several brushpiles, some rocks, a ledge and a few patches of aquatic vegetation, and I failed to garner a strike around these various lairs that were lying in three to seven feet of water.
Around 2:50 p.m., I ventured to one of the reservoir's eastern-feeder-creek arms, and I fished its north shoreline, which was sheltered from the wind. I started fishing about two-thirds of the way inside this arm and fished my way towards its mouth. This shoreline was lined with gravel, rocks, stumps, massive boulders, milfoil and curly-leaf pondweed. The boat floated in seven to 12 feet of water. I fished 150 yards of this shoreline, and I caught 19 largemouth bass, and most of them were associated with the submergent aquatic vegetation or a combination of boulders and vegetation. Back in the good old days, stretching back from the 1970s into the early 1990s this was one our most fruitful wintertime locales to twitch a suspended Smithwick Rogue or similar jerkbait, and that was before this reservoir was graced with aquatic vegetation,
When I made my last cast and retrieve at 3:40 p.m., my fish counter indicated that I had caught and released 49 largemouth bass. Besides those 49 largemouth bass, I garnered approximately 40 strikes that I failed to hook.
I caught one largemouth bass on a 2 ½-inch black-and-blue FattyZ customized tube affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. I caught two on a PB&J Rain MinnowZ fastened to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher. I enticed 18 largemouth bass to engulf a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ attached to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. I inveigled 28 largemouth bass on a 2 ¼-inch tail of a green-pumpkin FattyZ that was affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher Jig. I haven't used this part of the FattyZ since August, but after this outing I suspect that I will have one at the ready for the rest of the winter.
In the back of the southwest-feeder-creek arm, the most effective retrieve was the drag and shake, and the shake was slight but incessant. Along the north shoreline of the eastern-feeder-creek arm, most of the bass were caught on the tail section of the FattyZ, and the bulk of the bass engulfed it as it glided off the outside edge of a patch of submerged aquatic vegetation. During that glide, I executed some subtle shakes.
It wasn't wise a choice to fish the nearby 195-acre community reservoir again. It was my fourth outing there during the past five days, and it is never smart to fish these small flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas more than once a week. And one reason why it was unwise to venture there on this outing was when I arrived at the ramp, there were two boats afloat. In one of the boats, there was a pair of veteran Midwest finesse anglers, and they were plying the single best wintertime lair on this reservoir, which is the massive mud flat in the back of the southwest-feeder-creek arm. They had been milling around this big mud flat for about three hours, and they had worn the largemouth bass to a frazzle.
But I didn't get the trailer hitched to the truck until 10:40 a.m. So, I opted to make a 17-mile drive rather than a 26- or even a 38-mile drive. In sum, I wanted to spend more time fishing and less time driving.
I made my first cast at 11:15 a.m. and my last one at 2:45 p.m. The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing occurred from 8:22 a.m. to 10:22 a.m.
The wind was variable, changing from the south to the east and to the south again, ranging from zero to 5 mph. The morning low temperature was 31 degrees, and the afternoon high reached 45 degrees. Initially, it was partly cloudy and then the sky exhibited a China-blue hue. The barometric pressure at 11 a.m. was 30.34 and falling.
The reservoir's surface temperature ranged from 41 to 43 degrees. There was an algae bloom, but the water was clear enough at one locale that I could clearly see a hooked and fighting bass four feet below the surface. The water level was three to four feet below normal.
Before I crossed paths with the pair Midwest finesse anglers, who were pummeling the largemouth bass at the massive mud flat, I spent the first 75 minutes of this outing fishing the northern shoreline in one of the reservoir's eastern-feeder creek arms. I fished this shoreline on Feb. 7, and I noted in the Feb. 7 log that this shoreline was graced with gravel, rocks, stumps, massive boulders, milfoil and curly-leaf pondweed. As I fished along 125 yards of this shoreline, the boat floated in seven to 16 feet of water, and I caught 36 largemouth bass. Most of the largemouth bass were associated with the submergent aquatic vegetation or a combination of stumps, boulders and vegetation in three to seven feet of water. Thirty of these largemouth bass were allured by a 2 ¼-inch tail of a green-pumpkin FattyZ that was affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher Jig. Four largemouth bass were caught on a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ attached to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and two others were caught on a 2 ½-inch green-pumpkin FattyZ customized tube fastened to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
The most effective retrieve was accomplished by dragging these baits across the bottom and over the boulders, rocks and vegetation. During the drag, I executed a lot of shakes.
The other boat that was afloat contained a pair of power anglers, and they fished the north shoreline with me. They were twitching jerkbaits and inveigled seven largemouth bass.
At 12:30 a.m. I ventured to the massive mud flat in the back of the southwest-feeder-creek arm in hopes on tangling with 40 more largemouth bass, but as I noted above, this area had already been waylaid by a pair of talented Midwest finesse anglers. And by the time I arrived, the largemouth bass had become extremely tentative. After a few minutes of chatting with this pair of anglers and making a few futile casts and retrieves, I decided to venture elsewhere to search for another wintertime concentration of largemouth bass. To do this, I plied locations that were similar to the spots that have been yielding scores of largemouth bass since Feb. 4. To my chagrin, I could not locate the whereabouts of another aggregation of largemouth bass In fact, I could eke only nine largemouth bass, and they were scattered virtually pell-mell around this reservoir's 195 acres. Beside those nine scattered largemouth bass, I garnered six strikes that I failed to hook, and these strikes were not concentrated in a particular area.
After catching 36 largemouth bass in 75 minutes, I ended my 3 ½-hour outing with a catch of only 45 largemouth bass, one white bass and one crappie.
Dave Weroha of Kansas City reported that he and Joe Heckelbeck of Kansas City fished a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and they caught only 15 largemouth bass. Through most of the day, they had to fish behind and around a goodly number of anglers who were competing in a bass tournament.
Weroha noted that the air temperature was 37 degrees at 8:30 a.m. and 50 degrees at 5 p.m. Initially, the wind was out the south, blowing at 15 mph, and as the day wore on, it angled out of the south by southeast at 20 mph. During the late morning hours, the sun began to peak through the partly cloudy sky.
Surface temperature at the southern and northern fringes of the warm-water plume was 50 degrees. It was 55 to 57 degrees in the heart of the plume. The temperature of the water that jetted from the warm-water outlet was 63 degrees. The water level was nearly normal. An algae bloom stained the water, limiting the visibility to two feet.
Weroha and Heckelbeck spent most of the day plying five bluffs, which lie on west side of the reservoir and within the warm-water plume. Two bluffs failed to yield a strike. One bluff yielded seven largemouth bass. They caught four largemouth bass on another bluff, and two largemouth bass on another bluff. And in a flat cove immediately north of the warm-water outlet, they inveigled two largemouth bass. They also fished half of the riprap along the dam and 150 yards of a riprap shoreline along the reservoir's east shoreline, and they failed to elicit a strike along those many yards of riprap.
Their largemouth bass were caught on a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a 1/32-ounce Gopher jig and Reaction Innovations' Sweet Beaver in the hematoma hue affixed Texas-style to a 5/0 extra-wide-gap hook with a 1/8-ounce slip sinker.
During the afternoon, they crossed paths with a number of tournament anglers, and all of them were wielding a large jerkbait, jig-and-pig or spinnerbait, and Weroha and Heckelbeck saw only one tournament angler catch a largemouth bass.
As this trying day unfolded, Weroha began to suspect that the large wintertime concentrations of largemouth bass that had been abiding along the bluffs in January were in the midst of disbanding and moving across the reservoir to mill around on the nearby mud flats. Weroha and Heckelbeck wanted to explore some spots on those flats, but a brisk southerly wind was pummeling them to the point that Weroha couldn't properly control his boat.
Bob Gum of Kansas City sent a brief report to the Finesse News Network about the outing that he and his wife, Yan, had at the 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir on Feb. 9. He wrote: "The parking lot was packed with trailers. I assumed there was a tournament going on. I figured with the southerly wind everyone would be churning up the waters along bluffs. So we opted to avoid those areas altogether and concentrate along the riprap. Winds were out of the southeast, gradually picking up during the day, so I was able to fish only a portion of the east side riprap, the riprap just north of the power plant and most of the eastern half of the dam. In total, we caught only 13 fish, five of those were drum and eight were largemouth bass. We ran into Dave and his partner along the dam. Dave commented they were having an equally trying day."
To my surprise, water was running over the dam's outlet at the 100-acre community reservoir in the southwestern suburbs of Kansas City that I fished on this outing. In addition, the water clarity was stained. It was especially stained in the upper portions of this reservoir's primary feeder-creek-arm, which is where Midwest finesse anglers normally find and catch largemouth bass in January, February and early March.
For decades, it has been an angling axiom that cold and murky water creates problematic largemouth bass fishing. I normally pay little or no heed to angling postulates that describe how weather and water conditions affect the behavior of largemouth bass. But of this outing, the largemouth bass fishing was problematic, indeed. Therefore, the cold and murky water might have had adversely affected my abilities to catch at least nine largemouth bass an hour, which is our average catch rate per hour throughout the calendar year. But since I cannot see nor communicate with the largemouth bass, my interpretations of what is transpiring in the murky world of the largemouth bass would be pure speculation and devoid of any tangible facts.
Even though I don't know what was going with the largemouth bass in this cold and murky reservoir, I do know that I could catch only 13 of them and one humongous carp between 10:30 a.m. and 2:25 p.m.
I also know that area thermometers recorded a morning low of 22 degrees and an afternoon high temperature on 48 degrees. The normal low temperature for Feb.11 is 21 degrees; the normal high temperature is 43 degrees. The wind angled out of the northwest and west at 9 to 16 mph. At 11 a.m., the barometric pressure was 30.16 and rising.
The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times occurred from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
This reservoir's surface temperature ranged from 41 to 42 degrees. As noted above, the water clarity was stained and very stained in the upper sections of this reservoir. Some of the stain might have been from the 30- to 45-mph winds that waylaid northeastern Kansas on Feb. 10, and perhaps this reservoir's watershed was inundated on Feb. 5-6, when a series of moderate to intense rain storms crisscrossed northeastern Kansas.
Eleven of the largemouth bass were caught on a large mud flat in three to five feet water in the upper end of the primary feeder-creek arm, which is the kind of environment we normally catch scores of largemouth around in February. This flat, which is the size of about three football fields, was embellished with scanty patches of coontail, and these 11 largemouth bass were abiding in an area about the size of a basketball court around some of those patches of coontail.
Two largemouth bass were caught on a small flat and around some skimpy coontail patches in the back of a small feeder-creek arm in three feet of water. This small feeder creek lies on the east side of the reservoir and about three-quarters of a mile from the dam. The water at this locale was clearer than the water was in the upper end of the primary feeder-creek arm.
Besides fishing the coontail patches on the two flats, I fished three steep shorelines. One was on the west side of the upper portions of the primary feeder-creek arm. The second was along its east side. The third was along its northern shoreline. And I failed to garner a strike at these three locales.
Five of the largemouth bass were inveigled by a 2 ¼-inch tail of a Z-Man's black-and-blue FattyZ that was affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Six largemouth bass were caught on a 3 ¼-inch Z-Man green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Two largemouth bass were enticed by a 2 ¼-inch tail of a Z-Man FattyZ in a California-craw hue that was affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
Ten of the bass were caught on a drag-and-shake retrieve. Two were caught on the swim-glide-and-shake retrieve. One was caught on the Hula StickZ combo with a Charlie Brewer's do-nothing retrieve, which is executed by swimming the combo slowly and steadily.
Traditionally, the largemouth bass fishing at this 100-acre reservoir is more productive in November and during the first week or two of December than it is in February and March. Because of my broken forearm, wrist and hand, I was able to fish it only on Dec. 4, when Terry Claudell of Overland Park kindly shepherded me around the reservoir in his boat, and we caught 50 largemouth bass in about four hours of half-hearted fishing. But a pair of veteran Midwest finesse anglers reported that the largemouth bass fishing was very bountiful for them in November and December of 2012.
After suffering through four-hours trying and perplexing fishing on Feb. 11 at the 100-acre community reservoir in the southwestern suburbs of Kansas City, I decided to return to a nearby 195-acre community reservoir, where I caught and released 154 largemouth across four outings and 12 ½ hours of fishing on Feb. 4, 5, 7 and 8.
But on this Feb. 12 outing, this reservoir's largemouth bass eluded and befuddled me. From 11:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., I caught only nine dinky largemouth bass and garnered eight half-hearted strikes, which might have been hesitant largemouth bass.
Dave Weroha and Bob Gum, both of Kansas City, endured similar struggles at a 2,600-acre power-plant lake on Feb.9. Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas, who is a veteran and astute Midwest finesse angler, thought the radically fluctuating weather patterns during the previous four days might have discombobulated the largemouth bass.
On this outing, the sky was cloudy. The wind was calm, but on Feb. 10, it howled, hitting more than 40 mph at times. Area thermometer registered a morning low of 16 degrees, causing some shallow waterways to become glazed with a thin layer of ice, and the afternoon high temperature reached 43 degrees. At 11 a.m. the barometric pressure was 30.12 degrees and falling
The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times occurred from 11:27 a.m. to 1:27 p.m., and I labored through that entire spell.
The surface temperature was 40 to 41 degrees. An algae bloom put a minor ring around the hull on the boat, and it stained the visibility to the point that I could not see the propeller on the trolling motor. The water level was three to four feet below normal.
I fished three areas.
One was a 50-yard stretch along a southern shoreline in the back of one of the eastern-feeder-creek arms. It was endowed with a few patches of curly-leaf pondweed and a secondary point. I probed depths of three to six feet of water, and I didn't register a strike.
The second area was a 175-yard stretch of the northern shoreline in the eastern-feeder- creek cove. It was graced with gravel, rocks, stumps, massive boulders, milfoil and curly-leaf pondweed. I plied depths of three to 10 feet of water. And I caught six largemouth bass, and they were caught along a 50-yard stretch near the mouth of this arm. I encountered four strikes, as well as one largemouth bass that slowly followed a green-pumpkin Rain MinnowZ to the surface and the boat.
The third area was a massive mud flat in the back of this reservoir's southwest-feeder-creek arm. Traditionally the largemouth bass mosey around this flat in two to five feet of water. It was embellished with patches of curly-leaf pondweed and some coontail. The entire flat is about the size of four football fields, which makes it an arduous task to dissect. I did a sorry job of dissecting it, and therefore, I eked out only three largemouth bass and elicit four lackadaisical strikes.
A 2 ¼-inch tail of the FattyZ caught the nine largemouth bass. And I used two colors: a black-and-blue tail on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a California Craw tail on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
I tried the five standard Midwest finesse retrieves, including some improvisations on those five motifs, and no effective presentation pattern developed.
Even though the weather was relatively balmy on Feb. 13, I was so disheartened from my dismal outings on Feb. 11 and 12 that I didn't fish.
Dave Weroha of Kansas City sent a report to the Finesse News Network from Tucson, Arizona, about his Feb.12 outing.
He wrote: "I walked the bank and fished at Lakeside, which is a well-maintained 14-acre lake in Charles Ford Lakeside Park from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and caught five largemouth bass that were from six to eight inches long. I fished the entire circumference of the lake and ran into seven other bank fishermen, all of whom were either bobber or bottom fishing for trout or catfish. It is interesting to note that one fisherman said 'I've never seen largemouth bass caught out of here' when I revealed what I was angling for.
"The fishermen said the bite was slow, and the reason may be two-fold: over the weekend a cold front moved through Tucson, and it rained, and it was raining at the airport upon my arrival at 8 p.m.
"The wind angled out of the north by northwest at 5 mph, and area thermometers read 45 degrees. The water was stained with about two feet visibility.
"I employed the drag, twitch, and deadstick retrieve and caught all of them on a green- pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, which Dwight Keefer of Phoenix suggested that I use. And I am eager to fish with Dwight tomorrow."
Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, posted a brief report on the Finesse News Network about his outing on a 120-acre community in the northern suburbs of Kansas City.
He wrote: I finally got out and fished [around here] for the first time since Jan. 1.
It appears that our bass are finally awakening from their long slumber. The fishing wasn't great by any means -- I caught only nine bass in 2 1/2 hours of fishing. But three of them were keepers, which was a welcome sight. No giants (all of the keepers were 15-16 inches long), but at least the bass are starting to stir.
"I used a purple-back suspending Rogue to catch five of the bass and two of the keepers. And I had a number of strikes that didn't result in fish.
"The remainder of the bass came on PB&J and Junebug Zinker Zs. All of the fish were shallow and relating to chunk rock.
"With the water temp 41 degrees, the bass didn't fight at all. In fact, it felt like I was reeling in weeds until the bass got close to the boat.
"The wind made it difficult to fish some of the areas I wanted to fish. Still, the bass were relating to those wind-blown areas.
"The lake level is still way down, which is disheartening. The low water is eliminating some good fishing spots such as the hole in front of the tubes. It's fishing like a new lake and I think that will take some getting used to. But I get the feeling that the big ones are about to break loose.
Dave Weroha sent two reports to the Finesse News Network about his bank-walking outing with Dwight Keefer of Phoenix. Keefer is one of the forefathers of Midwest finesse tactics, and he studied at the side of the great and late Chuck Woods of Kansas City. Of course, Woods has been anointed as the father of Midwest finesse.
For more information about Dwight Keefer and Chuck Woods see these blogs:
In Weroha's first report, he wrote: "I just returned from fishing with Dwight, and it was great having a chance to fish with him. I'll write up more tomorrow, I'm tired from driving from Tucson to Anthem (north of Phoenix). Dwight sure is a great character. By the time we started fishing at 7 p.m., dusk already set so it was a night fishing adventure where we caught five fish but had several other bites and I caught one that weighed over five-pounds. I did a lot of the fishing while Dwight and I talked."
In his second report, Weroha wrote: "Dwight Keefer and I bank fished Anthem Park from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and caught five fish including a bluegill and four largemouth bass. By 7 p.m. the area was cloaked in darkness; so my first outing with Keefer was a night venture that even he has not tried yet for this park.
"Area thermometers read 59 degrees at 7 p.m. There was no wind. The surface temperature was 52 degrees. The visibility was two to three feet.
"Anthem Park consists of a string of interconnected small lakes that range in size from a half to 1½ acres.
"This foray's theme was: 'A fireside conversation and fishing with Dwight Keefer,' we discussed various piscatorial topics of the past and present. I did much of the fishing while Keefer recommended areas to fish. He occasionally demonstrated how he wields certain lures such as the drop shot with the Finesse ShadZ.
"We started with trying a variety of lures such as a spinnerbait, paddletail minnow, and a green pumpkin Finesse ShadZ. Ultimately, we found two presentation methods were effective: (1) Unpainted 1/16-ounce Gopher jig with a Junebug-hue Finesse ShadZ and (2) Junebug Finesse ShadZ on a drop shot.
"The drop shot in the traditional sense is a vertical presentation in a boat, but Keefer wields it in a manner similar to a swim-glide-and-twitch retrieve. It was effective in eliciting several strikes.
"The bass were caught on the Junebug-hue Finesse ShadZ on an unpainted 1/16 gopher jig. They were allured by a subtle swim-glide-and-twitch retrieve with the rod tip held in the two o'clock position.
"The largest bass was at least five pounds and since we did not have a scale or ruler, it is impossible to determine its true weight. I believe it felt heavier than five pounds but saying it is a five-pounder is a safe bet.
"Moments before I caught the five-pounder, Keefer's instructions were: 'Aim for between that tree and cactus (above a waterfall), cast as far as you can.' Only the 1967 World Series of Sport Fishing Championship champion could have given me that advice. It just tickled Keefer that I caught the lunker on my first cast in that area.
"It was worthwhile to drive over 120 miles from Tucson to Phoenix for an opportunity to fish with another Finesse fishing master angler."
On this outing, I fished from 10 15 a.m. to 2:25 p.m. at the 195-acre community reservoir where I caught only nine tiny largemouth bass on Feb 12.
Because the weather forecasters said that a cold front was quickly approaching and the wind would soon be howling from the north and northwest with gusts that would broach 25 mph, I anticipated that it would be a short endeavor. That cold front, however, never appeared. Therefore, I fished four hours and 10 minutes and struggled to catch 43 largemouth bass. Forty of those largemouth bass came from a 50-yard stretch on a massive mud flat in the back of this reservoir's southwest-feeder-creek arm. This mud flat is the size of four football fields, and the forty largemouth bass that I caught were meandering around in four feet of water. This 50-yard stretch was about 10 yards wide, and it was embellished with patches of curly-pond weed, and most of the largemouth bass that I caught were associated with those patches of curly-leaf pondweed.
I caught two largemouth bass in three feet of water in the back of this reservoir's south-feeder-creek arm, and they were relating to patches of curly-leaf pondweed. One bass was caught near the mouth of one of the eastern-feeder-creek arms, and it was associated with a hump that was graced with humongous boulders and a few big stumps and a scattering of milfoil and curl-leaf pondweed.
In addition to catching those 43 largemouth bass, I had about another 40 strikes that I failed to hook, which is not an unusual phenomenon during the winter when the surface temperature hovers around 40 degrees. It seems as if the largemouth bass grab hold of the tail rather than engulfing the entire bait, but since I can't see what is transpiring, this is merely speculation rather than tangible fact. But one fact is that the tail portion of the 2 ¼-inch FattyZ that I have used for the past six outings was finally dismembered from its torso during this outing. And to the best of my crude calculations, I suspect that this tail had been mauled by more than 100 largemouth bass before a largemouth bass finally amputated it
It took me 100 minutes to catch and release 30 largemouth bass. After catching and releasing the thirtieth largemouth bass, I attempted in vain to find another concentration of wintertime largemouth bass. I even spent sometime time dragging and strolling a 1/16-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig and 2 ¼-inch green-pumpkin FattyZ in eight to 12 feet of water along the riprap of the dam, and I garnered only one strike, which I failed to hook. On that entire search endeavor, I caught only three largemouth bass.
Because the bites were so far and few between during the 110 minutes that I was searching and hoping to find another aggregation of wintertime largemouth bass, I decided to spend the last 25 minutes of the outing on the 50-yard stretch of curly-leaf pondweed that yielded 30 largemouth bass, and it yielded 10 more.
During the past two outings on Feb. 12 and 14 at this reservoir, I haven't been able to determine if the wintertime largemouth bass that are abiding in their traditional shallow-water lairs are just difficult to catch this winter or that there are not as many of them abiding in those traditional lairs as there were in winters past before the largemouth bass virus whacked this reservoir. I have searched and examined other locations, but I have been able to find only one other concentration of largemouth bass at this 195-acre reservoir, and after my Feb. 8 outing, that group of largemouth bass has either scattered or I can't find a way to make them bite.
What's more, the gizzard shad have not made an appearance in the traditional shallow-water haunts. Perhaps, if and when they appear, the largemouth bass fishing will improve, and we will inadvertently catch more black crappie, too. So far I have caught only four black crappie.
The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times occurred from 2:28 p.m. to 4:28 p.m.
My six spinning rods sported a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a pearl Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, a 2 ¼-inch black-and-blue FattyZ tail on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a 2 ¼-inch green-pumpkin FattyZ tail affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a Junebug Rain MinnowZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a pearl Rain MinnowZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. For a short spell, I made a dozen casts and retrieves with a 2 ½-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a 1/16-ounce blue Gopher.
The pearl Finesse ShadZ caught two largemouth bass. The green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ and green-pumpkin 2 ¼-inch FattyZ caught 41 of the largemouth bass. A few bass hit on the initial drop, but most strikes occurred on a slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve, and the shakes were very minimal, and at times I didn't shake at all.
The water level was three to four feet below normal. There was an algae bloom, but the water was clear enough that I could see the trolling motor. The surface temperature fluctuated from 40 to 41 degrees.
The wind angled out of the north and northwest at 9 to 15 mph, and at two locales, the wind seemed to be nil. Initially it was sunny, and then it became partly cloudy. Area thermometers registered a morning low of 24 degrees and an afternoon high of 51 degrees. The barometric pressure was 30.03 and rising.
Chris Rohr of Overland Park, Kansas, sent a report to the Finesse News Network about his short Feb. 15 outing.
He wrote: "With a brief window of opportunity yesterday afternoon, I snuck out to fish a local farm pond from 3:30-4:30. I landed three large crappie and six bass during that brief period. I hooked, but did not land four other fish during that time as well. I only got a visual confirmation on one of those lost fish, and it was a bass about 18-inches long. All fish were caught in less than three feet of water on a 1/16-ounce chartreuse jig and a 2 ½-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ. The air temperature was 38 degrees when I started fishing and 35 degree when I left. The wind was out of the north by northwest at 10 to 15 mph. I fished the windswept shorelines on the south and southeast side of the pond. The water exhibited about two feet of clarity, and the water temperature was 43 degrees, which was cooler than it was five days ago. The aggressive nature of both the crappie and the bass was impressive; they absolutely smacked the Zinker with reckless abandon."
Dave Weroha of Kansas City reported on the Finesse News Network about his 2 ½-hour outing at a 160-acre state reservoir.
Weroha wrote: "I fished from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and caught seven largemouth bass that were 13 to 15 inches long. Overnight a snowfall of one to two inches blanketed the Kansas City area. When I launched my boat, area thermometers read 35 degrees, and they had climbed to 38 degrees when I put the boat on the trailer. The wind angled out of the southwest at 10 mph, which was not a good wind direction for plying wintertime largemouth bass lairs at this reservoir. The sky was partly cloudy.
"The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times occurred at 3:19 p.m. to 5:19 p.m.
"The surface temperature was 40 degrees. The water level looked to be 10 feet below normal. The water clarity exhibited about four feet of visibility.
"On this outing my objective was to locate concentrations of bass under ice-off conditions and I failed to meet that objective. Specifically, I plied the backs of both northeast- and northwest-feeder-creek arms and did not venture to other locations of the lake in this brief outing. All seven largemouth bass were caught in the northeast arm in five feet of water and the boat was situated in seven feet. They were allured by a subtle glide-and-twitch retrieve with the rod tip at the 2 o'clock position. Three largemouth bass were caught on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig affixed to a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ. Four largemouth bass were caught on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig attached to a 2 ½-inch green-pumpkin-red-flake ZinkerZ. To ensure proper coverage, I ventured to the farthest reaches of both feeder-creek arms. At times the boat was floating in three feet or less, as I was casting and retrieving 360 degrees around the boat. In future outings, I will probe depths of 8 to 12 feet of water in hopes of finding a wintertime concentration of largemouth bass."
Dave Weroha and Bob Gum of Kansas City sent a report about their outing to two strip pits near Hume, Missouri, where they fished from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and caught 24 largemouth bass. When they launched their boat, area thermometers hovered around 34 degrees, and those same thermometers hit a high of 59 degrees. The wind angled from the south at 10 mph, and the sky was sun splashed all day.
The deepest locales in the two pits dropped into 35 feet of water. The water was clear, exhibiting about eight feet of visibility.
Weroha wrote: "Bob caught all of his bass on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig affixed to a Z-Man's 2 ½-inch PB&J ZinkerZ, using a twitch-glide-and-deadstick retrieve while he held his rod at the two o'clock position. His two biggest largemouth bass measured 16 ½ inches and 18 ½-inches long. The bulk of the largemouth bass were caught slightly off structure, such as laydowns, and about five or more feet from the water's edge.
"I caught my largemouth bass on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig attached to a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ as I executed a subtle glide-and-twitch retrieve with the rod held at the two o'clock position. All of the fish I caught were during the glide portion of the retrieve, and they were five feet or more off the bank. My two biggest largemouth bass were 17- and 19-inchers.
"It is interesting to note I that I have yet to lose a largemouth bass of 17 inches or more on the No. 6 hook of the 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, which I started using a few weeks ago. In fact, two of the 19-inchers that I have caught on that tiny jig had the No. 6 hook penetrating the firm skin that covers the roof of the largemouth bass' mouth and a bone plate. Setting the hook required a quick upward snap with the wrist (compared to the traditional "crossing-the-eyes" hook setting technique that uses the entire arm, as well as upper body). I am curious if a larger hook could have pierced the skin in the same way or would it likely have pierced the bone and if so, require a stronger hook setting technique?
"On this outing, I also wielded a drop-shot rig, using a Junebug Finesse ShadZ and a four-inch black-and-blue Z-Man Finesse WormZ on a Gamakatsu No. 4 drop-shot hook with a 1/16-ounce sinker. I employed the drop shot in the middle of the pit and along the shoreline and neither approach garnered any strikes. However, in these same areas the green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ and 1/32-ounce Gopher jig did not get strikes either. The action of the WormZ and Finesse ShadZ on a drop shot is alluring and I will keep testing it.
"I am echoing Brent Frazee's sentiments in his Feb. 13 report, saying 'I get the feeling that the big ones are about to break loose.' For a February outing with surface temperatures in the lower 40s, catching 18- and 19-inch largemouth bass gives us a spring season to look forward to."
Chris Rohr of Overland Park, Kansas reported to the Finesse News Network about a disheartening outing that he and a friend endured on Feb. 17 at a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir. The weather, however, was delightful. The sun shone warmly and brightly. The morning low temperature was 38 degrees and afternoon high temperature was 59 degrees. The wind was from the south-by-southeast at 15 to 25 mph.
He wrote: "We fished from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with only six strikes and one small crappie for our efforts. Tried every finesse bait and color combo possible. Fished all the bluffs, the cove just north of the hot water outlet, the hot water outlet and went up the main channel all the way to the bridge. The surface temperature was 49 degrees at the south bluff and 57 degrees at the north bluff. There was about two feet of clarity in the water.
"There were 18 boat trailers in the parking lot. Talked to a couple of locals who said they shut the plant down on Saturday afternoon and didn't fire it back up until around sun up on Sunday. They indicated it takes two to three days after they fire up the plant for fishing to return to normal. They reported that they caught only a couple of crappie and no bass for their efforts. A couple of power fisherman stated they didn't have a single strike."
Pok-Chi Lau of Lawrence returned home last week from nearly a month of chasing tarpon, snook and several saltwater fish in the Caribbean. So when he joined me at a 195-acre community reservoir on this outing, it was his first northeastern Kansas outing in 2013.
We thought about venturing to a 100-acre community reservoir that lies in the southwest suburbs of Kansas City. But the National Weather Service said that a cold front that would be accompanied by extremely stiff winds was about to waylay northeastern Kansas. Therefore we opted to make the shorter journey to the nearby 195-acre reservoir in case it became too cold for Lau's Caribbean-tempered blood to withstand and too windy for me to control the boat.
When I picked up Lau at his house at 9:45 a.m., area thermometers were hovering at 58 degrees, and the wind was lollygagging from the south at a mere 12 mph. But by the time we launched the boat and were heading up the reservoir's southwest-feeder-creek-arm, the wind made a dramatic shift to the northwest and area thermometers began to plummet. And by the time we put the boat on the trailer at 2 p.m., some wind gusts from the northwest hit 44 mph and area thermometers dropped to 44 degrees, and the thermometers continued to drop after we arrived home, reaching 38 degrees around 4 p.m.
During our outing, we spent the first 100 minutes dissecting a massive mud flat, which was covered with three to five feet of water, in the back of this reservoir's southwest-feeder-creek arm. For the first 15 minutes, we made scores of casts and retrieves across scattered patches of curly-leaf pondweed without garnering a strike. Then we caught and released a largemouth that we guessed to weigh about 3 ½-pounds, and it was caught smack-dap in the middle of this flat. For the next 15 minutes, we crisscrossed and zigzagged across two football-field-sized sections of the mud flat without catching another largemouth bass. Eventually, we elicited three strikes that we failed to hook, and about five minutes later, we caught and released two small largemouth bass. We gradually worked our way back to the area where we caught the 3 ½-pounder and began to thoroughly probe that location, which was about the size of two tennis courts. From this area, we eked out another 15 largemouth bass, including one that weighed three-pounds, six ounces. We also caught a big white crappie.
In due course, we found the wind to be too pesky and cold for us to endure, and the largemouth bass that were abiding in the scattered patches of curly-leaf pondweed in the middle of this mud flat were too difficult for us to catch. Thus, we moved and spent the next 90 minutes probing the north shore line and a small mud flat in this southwest-feeder-creek arm. This long stretch was embellished with a few patches of submergent aquatic vegetation, an occasional ledge that dropped from four feet of water into seven feet of water, some gravel and boulders, several stumps, several man-made brushpiles and a dozen boat docks. We were also sheltered from the cold and brutal wind. And from three small lairs along this stretch, which were in about five feet of water, we extracted 10 largemouth.
After we fished this wind-sheltered area, we made a mistake by venturing to one of the eastern-feeder-creek arms, where the northwest wind was too ferocious for us to efficiently fish. And after toiling with the wind for 20 minutes and catching only one largemouth bass, Lau and I decided to head for home.
The high temperature of the day occurred around 10 a.m., and it was 58 degrees. The sky was mostly cloudy from our first casts to our last casts. By the time we executed our first casts at 10:30 a.m., the south wind at 9 mph had switched to the north at 24 to 35 mph. The barometric pressure was 29.55 and rising around 10 a.m.
The normal high temperature for this date is 45 degrees, and the normal low is 23 degrees. The unseasonably warm temperature on Feb. 17 and 18, which peaked at 60 degrees around 3 p.m. on Feb. 17, provoked a few snow bells to bloom in one of our gardens, but according to the National Weather Service, our outing on Feb. 18 might be the only one for the next seven to eight days, and the snow bells are destined to be covered with sleet, freezing rain and some snow.
The solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times occurred from 4:32 a.m. to 6:32 a.m.
The surface temperature was 41 degrees. The water level was three to four feet below normal. The wind, waves and algae bloom reduced the water clarity to the point that we could not see the trolling motor.
We caught the largemouth bass on a green-pumpkin ShadZ and a 2 ¼-inch tail of a FattyZ. We worked with two colors of the FattyZs: a green-pumpkin one affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and a California Craw one on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The ShadZ was a green-pumpkin one, and it was affixed to either a chartreuse or a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
The most effective retrieve was the drag motif that was occasionally highlighted with a few shakes.
Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, sent a report to the Finesse News Network about his six-hour outing on Feb. 25.
He began his report by saying that he felt a tad guilty about posting a report when the Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas had been sequestered by Old Man Winter for several days on end.
He wrote: "I took solo trip yesterday that produced eight largemouth bass; everyone else thought it was too cold and water was too muddy.
"It was a bright and sunny day. The high temperature reached 61 degrees. The wind angled out of the north a 7 mph.
"The water was muddy from fresh runoff, and the surface temperature was in the mid-40s
"All of the largemouth bass weighed three pounds or more. It was one of those rare days when you did manage to get a bite that you knew it would be a good-sized bass. Seven were caught on a No. 5 Shad Rap with a brown body and a red bill. One largemouth bass, which looked as if it would weigh seven pounds, was caught on a 3/8-ounce Z-Man Fishing Products' Chatterbait. The Chatterbait was dressed with a chartreuse blade, white-and-chartreuse skirt and a white split-tailed eel.
"I fished the Shad Rap on 10-pound-test braid, which allowed me to feel it working and magnify the nipping bites. With the Chatterbait, I used a Bill Poe's custom-built G. Loomis 783 rod affixed to a Shimano Curado that was spooled with 14-pound-test Trilene XT monofilament. The Curado 7.0:1 gear ratio, which makes for some slow winding in February.
"I fished six hours and probably spent an hour or so with other baits, including the 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ and Gopher jig, but I could not get any responses. Last year at this time, it was ridiculously easy to catch them on the 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ combo, but the water was ten degrees warmer and clear."