Month-by-month guide to Midwest finesse: March 2013
April 08, 2013
Winter was relentless this March.
In fact, many locales in northeastern Kansas were pummeled with more than five inches of snow on Mar. 23, Palm Sunday. The normal low temperature on Mar. 24 is 34 degrees and the normal high is 58 degrees, but this time around the low temperature plummeted to 18 degrees and the high temperature reached only 34 degrees. What's more, Old Man Winter sporadically punished with some more flakes of snow.
Before Mar. 28, the average temperature this March was seven degrees below normal, where as it was 14 degrees above normal during March of 2012. But the tide began to turn on Mar. 27, as our countryside was covered with many inches of snow, area thermometers climbed to 51 degrees by 5 p.m. The normal high for Mar. 27 is 58 degrees. The morning low temperature on Mar. 28 was 38 degrees, and the normal low for this date is 35 degrees. Then the high temperature on Mar. 28 hit 63 degrees; the morning low temperature on March 29 was 41 degrees and the afternoon high temperature peaked at 71 degrees; the morning low temperature on Mar. 30 hovered around 49 degrees, climbing to a high of 71 degrees; the morning low temperature on Mar. 31 was 46 degrees (the normal low is 37 degrees) and the afternoon high temperature was 67 degrees (the normal high is 60 degrees.)
Even when Old Man Winter isn't a thorn in our sides, March traditionally presents Midwest finesse anglers with 31 days of problematic largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass fishing in northeastern Kansas. For instance, during the past nine Marches, commencing with March of 2005, weather woes allowed me to fish only 87 times, and when I could fish, I caught only 2,051 largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, or 23.5 an outing.
This March Old Man Winter's blustery ways allowed me to fish only six times for a total of 17 1/2 hours. And I and my partners caught only 103 largemouth bass, which was a piddling average of 17 largemouth bass an outing and 5.8 largemouth bass an hour. The surface temperature on Mar. 7 was 40 degrees. On Mar. 15, the surface temperature was 43 degrees. On Mar. 28 and 29, the surface temperature ranged from 42 to 46 degrees.
In contrast to the hellish weather that we endured this March, the March of 2012 was nirvana. I was afloat 14 times and tangled with 630 largemouth bass, and on Mar, 30, 2012, John Reese of Lawrence, Kansas, and I caught 117 largemouth bass. What's more, the surface temperature on Mar. 1, 2012, ranged from 45 to 48 degrees. On Mar. 15, 2012, it ranged from 53 to 55 degrees. And on Mar. 30, 2012, it hit 67 degrees.
We were in Texas from Mar. 8 to 16, taking a respite from angling endeavors during this long-winded winter and visiting our youngest daughter and her family. Therefore, we missed several warm days, such as when some area thermometers hit 85 degrees on Mar. 15, and most of the major piles of snow vanished. But Terry Bivins of Lebo, Kansas, Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, Bob Gum of Kansas City, Clyde Holscher of Topeka, Kansas, and Dave Weroha of Kansas City struggled to catch significant numbers of largemouth and smallmouth bass during that warm spell. Some anglers suspect that the vast quantities of water that coursed into the reservoirs in northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri from the melting snow put the largemouth bass into a funk.
In sum, this monthly guide is a paltry one, containing only four of my logs, which are supplemented by the logs and reports created by Bivins, Frazee, Gum, Weroha, Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, and Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina.
Until Mar. 4, when Pok-Chi Lau of Lawrence, Kansas, and I made the 75-mile jaunt to a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir, neither one of us had been afloat since our joint outing at a 195-acre community reservoir on Feb. 18.
Since that last outing, Old Man Winter walloped us with two major snowstorms, dropping as much as 24 inches of snow in some locales in northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri. In addition to the snow, area thermometers plummeted well below the normal high and low temperatures for days on end.
The primary reason that we made the long drive to the power-plant reservoir was that we suspected that it was the only one of our reservoirs that was graced with a boat ramp that was free of snow.
The normal low temperature for Mar. 4 is 28 degrees. The normal high temperature is 50 degrees. This time around the low temperature was 33 degrees, and the high temperature was 50 degrees. The wind was mild-mannered, angling from the southeast at sunrise, from the east and northeast during the midday hours and it switched to the north around sunset. The sky was embellished with some thin layers of clouds from 9 a.m. until noon; then the clouds evaporated and the sun shone brightly. The barometric pressure was 29.69 at 10 a.m. and slowly dropping. The weather was balmy enough around 2 p.m. that Lau and I peeled off some of our winter wardrobe. What's more, a lot of the snow melted, and streams of water were trickling into this reservoir and surrounding waterways, and that made us think about a wife's tale that we used to hear. The gist of this tale was that snow created a chemical effect in our waterways that caused largemouth bass to become lethargic and difficult to catch. But I have not heard that wife's tale for a number of years, and Lau said that he had never heard it.
As of Mar. 4, we have had 2.71 inches of precipitation around Lawrence, Kansas, which is about a quarter of an inch above normal. By the end of 2012, we were 19 inches of precipitation below normal. Consequently the water levels at a few of the flatland reservoir in northeastern Kansas are four to seven feet below normal, but the water level as this reservoir looked to be a slightly above normal. At some locales, we could easily see the propeller on our trolling motor, and at several other locales, we couldn't see the propeller. (When we can see the propeller, we classify the water clarity as Kansas clear, which a lot different from Canada clear or Bull Shoals Lake clear.) The coolest surface temperature that we encountered was 47 degrees, and that was along a long stretch of riprap on the eastern shoreline of the reservoir, which was outside the warm-water plume. The warmest surface temperature was at the mouth of the warm-water outlet, where our temperature gauge registered 65 degrees. Other than exploring the long stretch of riprap along the east shoreline, we spent the rest of our endeavors within the plume of warm-water, where the temperature ranged from 50 to 63 degrees.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing occurred from 4:09 p.m. to 6:09 p.m.
We fished from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the fishing wasn't as fruitful as it was during my three outings at this reservoir in January, when I and a colleague or two caught 136 largemouth bass, including one that weighed five pounds, 14 ounces and another that weighed five pounds, 11 ounces and an array of other lunkers. On this early March outing Lau and I struggled to catch 28 largemouth bass, 13 white bass and four crappie. We fished six spots that failed on yield a fish, and only one of those six spots yielded a strike, and it felt like the vigorous strike of a freshwater drum or crappie rather than a strike of a largemouth bass or temperate bass. Those six fruitless spots consisted of a hundred stretch of a riprap shoreline along the eastern shoreline and outside of the plume of warm water, a 40-yard stretch of riprap inside the warm-water plume, a riprap point at the mouth of the warm-water outlet, a mud-flat point and ledge, an island point, a bluff on the northern edge of the warm-water plume, and one bluff point.
We caught six largemouth bass, five white bass and two crappie along a riprap shoreline and a rocky point at the mouth of the marina cove, where the surface temperature was 50 degrees. We caught 14 largemouth bass, eight white bass, and one crappie along two bluffs and an adjacent flat on the southern perimeter of the warm-water plume, where the surface temperature was 58 degrees. We caught eight largemouth bass and one crappie along two bluffs that lie in the heart of the warm-water plume, where the surface temperature was 62 to 63 degrees.
Our biggest largemouth bass weighed about three pounds, and we caught it and five other smaller largemouth bass along a 15-yard stretch on one of the bluffs in the heart of the warm-water plume.
On our January outings, Z-Man Fishing Products' green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to a 1/32-ounce chartreuse Gopher Tackle Mushroom Head Jig was the most effective combo. On our Mar. 4 outing, Lau and I found that a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ affixed to either a red or chartreuse Gopher jig was the most fruitful combo for alluring largemouth bass. A three-inch pearltruse grub with a boot tail affixed to a 3/32-ounce Gopher jig allured the bulk of the white bass, several largemouth bass and two crappie. This outing was the inaugural test of Z-Man's three-inch FattyZ prototype. The color looks to be a watermelon-red-flake hue, and we rigged it on a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Even though watermelon hues are not the best colors for alluring largemouth bass in the stained flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas, the prototype inveigled five largemouth bass and one white bass, and in our eyes, that was a significant showing on a day when the largemouth bass bite was problematic. What's more, the bulk of the fish we caught were exhibiting a preference for fish-like lures, such as a grub and the Finesse ShadZ, and not an invertebrate type of one. But when they -- especially the largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass -- exhibit a preference for crayfish and other invertebrates, the three-inch FattyZ should entice them. As for colors, Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas prefer colors that more opaque than translucent, and the prototype that we were testing was a tad too translucent in our eyes.
A drag retrieve that was occasionally punctuated with a few shakes seemed to be the most effective one. But a slow Charlie-Brewer-style-do-nothing retrieve allured a respectable number of the 45 fish that we caught. One largemouth bass was caught on the initial drop of the Finesse ShadZ, and another largemouth bass was caught while deadsticking the three-inch FattyZ.
At the boat ramp, Lau and I crossed paths of Travis Brooks and Ronny Denayer, both of Butler, Missouri and Fat Boyz Bait. They fished several cold-water locales, including the dam and the riprap shoreline that parallels the access road to the power plant. We also saw them plying one of the bluffs in the heart of the warm-water plume. They are power anglers, and they said they caught 15 largemouth bass, and lost one that looked as if it would weigh at least six pounds. This brute was hooked on a jerkbait along the riprap of the access road.
Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas, and I made quick trip to a 55-acre community to test his new mushroom-style jigs. We tested them from 10:35 a.m. to 1:50 p.m. In addition, he tested a new Z-man's Hula StickZ rig that he assembled on the evening of Mar. 6.
By the time, we arrived at the boat ramp at 10:25 a.m., more than 60 percent of the snow had melted. But the snow along the south shoreline was still thick, and the south lane of the boat ramp on the east side of the reservoir was still covered with snow.
The drought of 2012 radically dropped the water level at this reservoir, but the rapidly melting snow was in the process of raising the water level to nearly normal. We could see the trolling propeller; so the water clarity was what we call Kansas clear. The surface temperature was only 40 degrees. The rivulets from the melting snow not only raised the water level, but we thought those streams of snow-cold water affected the surface temperature, and, of course, the unseasonably cold temperatures that Old Man Winter has handed us since Feb. 18 has kept the water temperatures low.
Our morning low temperature was 23 degrees in Lawrence, Kansas, which was five degrees below normal, and our afternoon high temperature hit 51 degrees, which is normal. At the boat ramp, which lies about 53 miles south of Lawrence, our thermometer registered 57 degrees at 2 p.m. Throughout our three-hour-and-20-minute outing, we spied scores of ducks, geese, and robins flying north, which we interpreted as a harbinger of warmer weather, and the National Weather Service said that our high temperatures will hit 59 degrees on Mar. 8 and 62 degrees on Mar. 9, and the low temperatures will range from 34 to 46 degrees. The wind angled out of the east by southeast at about 12 mph while we were afloat. The sun was eye-squintingly bright. The barometric pressure around 10 a.m. was 30.26 and slowly falling.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing occurred from 6:27 a.m. to 8:27 a.m.
Historically, this small reservoir can be a difficult venue in March. For instance, a friend and I caught only three largemouth bass on Mar. 5, 2010, when the surface temperature was 39 to 40 degrees, and during that outing, we had to break ice in order to fish some areas. But on Mar. 3, 2009, when the surface temperature was 40 to 42 degrees, a friend and I caught 40 largemouth bass. On this outing, Reese and I found the fishing to be very trying. We caught only 11 largemouth bass and one black crappie, and we failed to hook eight strikes.
Three of the largemouth bass were caught along the north shoreline of the reservoir's east arm, which is a rather steep bluff that is graced with rock ledges, boulders and some brush piles. These three largemouth bass were situated more than halfway inside this arm, and the boat was floating in 10 to 15 feet of water, and two of them were caught along a 10-yard stretch of the northern shoreline. We caught eight largemouth bass and one crappie along the east side of the back quarter of the reservoir's south arm. Six of these largemouth bass were in about an 800 square foot area. The boat was floating in four to eight feet of water; essentially this is a flat that is graced with some brush piles and boulders, but it is not embellished with any aquatic vegetation, such as curly-leaf pondweed, which usually attracts largemouth bass when the water is cold in January, February and early March.Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas, with one of largemouth bass that he inveigled.
The most effective bait was Reese's new Hula StickZ concoction. A green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on Reese's 1/15-ounce, green-pumpkin jig caught a few, as did a three-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin Hula StickZ on Reese's 1/15-ounce, green-pumpkin jig. And Z-Man's watermelon-red-flake three-inch FattyZ (prototype) on Reese's 1/15-ounce, green-pumpkin jig caught one largemouth bass. Even though Reese and I couldn't find a concentration of active wintertime largemouth bass, we were impressed with the way his new jigs negotiated the brush piles, stumps and boulders: they became snagged only three times, and we quickly liberated them from the snags.
It is likely that there will be more words appearing on the Finesse News Network about Reese's new Hula StickZ creation in the months to come. What's more, his mentor, the late and great Chuck Woods of Kansas City, would be intrigued with Reese's creation.
Dave Weroha posted a report of the Finesse News Network about his outing with Bob Gum of Kansas City at the same power-plant reservoir that Pok-Chi Lau and I fished on Mar. 4.
Gum and Weroha fished from 7:30 a. m. to 4 p.m., and they struggled to catch 19 largemouth bass, three freshwater drum, two wipers, one buffalo and one channel catfish. They hooked five bass, which they failed to lift over the boat's gunnels. The largest largemouth was a 16-incher.
Weroha wrote: "Upon our arrival, there were 17 boats in the water in the marina for a tournament sponsored by Backlashers of KC. Throughout the day, we had several opportunities to speak to several them on the lake, and all of them said it was a tough day. None of them enumerated how many largemouth they had caught, but one of angler said he caught a six-pounder on the flat immediately east of the dam. At no time did Bob or I see a tourney boater catch a single fish.
"Upon our arrival at the marina around 7 a.m., our thermometer registered 47 degrees. The wind angled from the south by southeast at 15 mph. Upon our return to the marina, it was 58 degrees, and the wind was out of the south. It also started to rain just as we returned to the marina. The wind kept us from fishing the flats and points near the marina.
"Bob and I caught a wiper along the same flat where the tournament angler said he caught claimed a six-pound largemouth. Bob's wiper was allured by a 2 1/2-inch coppertreuse ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-oz Gopher jighead. My wiper was enticed by a 2 1/2-inch customized green pumpkin-pearl-tail ZinkerZ on a black 1/16 oz. Gopher jighead.These are Dave Weroha's customized 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZs.
"A pearl-green-pumpkin-tail 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig was also tested, and it failed to illicit a strike. Bob said that he rarely catches largemouth bass on a pearl-colored soft-plastic bait at this reservoir. I caught several largemouth bass on the green pumpkin-pearl tail ZinkerZ, and it was encouraging to see it successfully catch largemouth on its debut outing.
One retrieve method proved most effective all day: drag-and-deadstick. Due to the winds, we typically kept our rod tips low in the 5 o'clock position during the drag phase.Bob Gum of Kansas City shows off the 25-pound buffalo that he caught on a 2 1/2-inch coppertreuse ZinkerZ and 1/16-ounce red Gopher Jig.
"Near the mini-hot water outlet adjacent to the power plant, we came across a school of buffalo and for 20 minutes our largemouth bass expedition was on hold to fish for a buffalo-fishing contest. It was my request, I could not resist the urge to fish for them. The school was so massive it was akin to shooting fish in a bucket. The gist of the contest was that we had to catch them legitimately by not snagging them. We made a deal, stating whoever caught the first buffalo wins the contest, and then our largemouth bass fishing endeavors could resume. Within 3 casts I allured a 25-pound buffalo on the 2 1/2-inch green pumpkin-pearl tail ZinkerZ. I got it to the boat and had my hand underneath its gill plate to lift him into the boat but a due to my lack of assertiveness combined with its violent head shake, it liberated itself. Moments later I nearly landed a 10-pound buffalo but it too liberated itself. Bob finally ended the contest with a 25-pound buffalo allured by a 2.5" coppertreuse ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-oz Gopher jighead. It would prove to be Bob's biggest buffalo ever caught. We shared some chuckles from this brief contest.
"We did not fish any of the bluffs. But we fished nearly all of the riprap shorelines that lie of the east side of the reservoir. We also fished the riprap along the dam. On portions of the east riprap that stretched into the warm-water plume, the surface temperature was 52 degrees. The surface temperature along the dam ranged from 48 to 49 degrees. We caught 12 largemouth bass along the riprap shorelines on the east side of the reservoir and five largemouth bass along the dam.
"Bob had success with the 2 1/2-inch coppertreuse ZinkerZ on a red 1/16-oz Gopher jighead and with a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/32-oz Gopher jighead. I had success with the 2 1/2-inch green-pumpkin-pearl-tail ZinkerZ on a black 1/16 oz. Gopher jighead, a customized four-inch green-pumpkin Z-Man Saw Tail WormZ on a chartreuse 1/16 oz. Gopher jighead, and a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-oz Gopher jighead.Dave Weroha's customized Saw Tail WormZ.
"On this outing, the three-inch-green pumpkin FattyZ prototype on a black 3/32-oz Gopher jighead failed to get a strike.
"Although it was not a good numbers day, it was encouraging to catch fish in areas south of the marina and outside the warm-water plume, which I struggled to do consistently in my few attempts in these areas since January."
Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, posted a brief report on the Finesse News Network about his Mar. 9 and 10 outings.
He wrote: "Perfect weather with the sun shining and thermometers climbing into the 60s allowed me to spend a couple of days on the water. Our lakes, however, are dark and cold.
"On Mar. 9, I started fishing at 11:00 a.m. and fished for two hours without a bite. I was using a No. 5 crawfish-hue Rapala Shad Rap in the dam area of the lake where I had had some success the last time I was afloat on February 24.
"Then I moved up the lake to the shallower creek arms that were clearing from the recent influx of rain, but the visibility was about four inches. Eventually I started getting strikes on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig with a 2 ½-inch green-pumpkin-red-flake Strike King Lure Company Zero.
"The some of the largemouth bass were on rocky bluffs, and others were in the flatter pockets. The flatter-pocket retrieve was a reel and shake retrieve, and the largemouth bass were in about three feet of water. Along the bluffs, the largemouth bass were hitting on the initial fall, and they were in about four feet of water. During the last two hours that I fished I caught ten largemouth, and all of them weighed more than two pounds, and all of them were caught of the Zero-and-Gopher combo."
"On Mar. 10, I fished with a friend who is used to power fishing larger reservoirs. I had called him advising him to bring some spinning tackle, but he ignored that suggestion.
"We started fishing at 10 a.m., and had another poor start. He was wielding crankbaits and spinnerbaits. I was using the same Zero-and-Gopher combo I used on Mar. 9, but boat was moving too fast for me to efficiently and properly present the Zero.
"He finally caught two nice largemouth bass on a black-and-blue homemade jig dressed with a Strike King Rage Tail Craw. This provoked him to slow down enough that I could strain the areas with the Zero. After he caught those first two largemouth bass, I caught the next 16 on the Zero. These largemouth bass were in the backs of the feeder creeks along some of the steeper banks, as well as in some of the flatter pockets. The Zero-and-Gopher combo could be maneuvered over the shallow algae while anything touching the bottom was a wasted cast.
"We ended up catching 25 largemouth bass, and the average size was impressive, and all but four were caught on the Zero and Gopher.
"Now my friend is in the Midwest finesse business now. He fishes a number of reservoirs infested with docks that I believe he will be targeting them this spring with the 2 ½-inch Zero and 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. And that combo saved me this weekend."
Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, filled a brief report about his Mar. 10 outing on a 120-acre reservoir in the northern suburbs of Kansas City.
He wrote: "I was finally able to get afloat after about a two-week absence.
"My first impression: The water temp was a chilly 35 degrees! I'm sure a lot of that was from the snow melt. I really wasn't expecting much. And the fishing wasn't great. But it wasn't bad, either.
"A friend and I started off with jerkbaits, and we caught two keeper bass on them. But the best bait was the 2 1/2-inch PB&J ZinkerZ on a black 1/16-ounce jig. That was a welcome development, because it hadn't produced last fall and into the winter. But it seems to work well in the spring, and this was no exception.
"In three hours of fishing, we caught 12 bass (four of them keepers), five big trout and one keeper walleye. Most of the action came around weeds. Rocky areas weren't producing at all.
"I worked the Zinker Z by just slowly pulling it through the weeds on the bottom. The line would just get heavy when a fish would strike.
"I was going to try a Finesse ShadZ, but every time I would go to change, I'd get another hit. Again, finesse methods saved the day."
Terry Bivins of Lebo, Kansas, fished a 5,090-acre power-plant lake on Mar. 13
He filled this report on the Finesse News Network: "The wind was light, which is a necessary ingredient to fish this reservoir. The power-plant was shutdown, and it had been shut down since Feb. 4 and water temp was 42 lake wide. I was told it would not be running for about another three weeks. I fished for 3 1/2 hours, probing several thousand yards of riprap and several other traditional late-wintertime smallmouth bass haunts. And I caught only two fish: a three-pound smallmouth bass and a two-pound largemouth bass, and both were caught on a Smithwick Suspending Rattlin Rogue. I failed to hook two other Rogue strikes on a rouge 3 pound smallie and a 2 pound black, and I didn't get a strike on a 1/16-ounce black Leroy's marabou jig."
Terry Bivins of Lebo, Kansas, reported that he fished a 6,930-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoir on Mar. 15, which was an unseasonably balmy late-winter day, and area thermometers peaked at 85 degrees. The wind, which angled out of the southwest, was mild mannered. But by Mar. 16 Old Man Winter's quickly wrath reappeared.
He noted that the surface temperature on the main body of the reservoir was 41 degrees, and he explored the back end of a big secondary creek on the north side of the reservoir, where the surface temperature was 43 degrees.
In the back of that feeder creek, he said, "I got into the best bunch of crappie I have been in for a long time. I caught 123 and at least 100 of them were keepers to 14 inches. Been many a day since I've had that many with such quality. I turned them all back. They were suspended suspending five feet off the bottom, and the bottom was in 10 feet of water. I caught them by casting a 1/16-ounce black Leroy's marabou jig, counting to six after the jig hit the surface of the water and reeling slowly. At times I caught would catch eight in eight casts and retrieves. I sat on that spot for over 2 1/2 hours. I finally left them and tried a Smithwick Suspending Rattlin Rogue and the black 1/16-ounce Leroy's jig for about an hour and never had a bass hit."
Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, reported to the Finesse News Network that he fished from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mar. 17.
In-Fisherman Solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing times occurred from 3.44 p.m. to 6:44 p.m.
Poe noted that it was the day after the warmest one of 2013, with thermometers climbing to 78 degrees. The sky was sunny, and the wind howled from the southwest. On Mar. 17, clouds covered the sun, the wind was light and area thermometers hit 60 degrees. The water was dingy, and the surface temperature was in the mid-50s.
He wrote the largemouth bass were extremely aggressive and abiding around shallow wood cover in very dingy water. And the bulk of them were abiding around shallow feeder-creek shorelines and in shallow pockets.
He caught four largemouth bass on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig affixed to a green-pumpkin- red-flake 2 1/2-inch Zero and 18 largemouth bass on a 3/8-ounce Z-Man's Chatterbait with a gold blade and dressed with a chartreuse-and-white skirt.
The largemouth bass engulfed the Chatterbait along the outside edges of the wood cover as it was swimming only inches below the surface of the dingy water.
He wrote: "A 1/16-ounce Gopher and 2 1/2-inch Zero are a delight to skip under willows and other objects. And on this outing, skipping a Zero and Gopher under willows was extremely fun.
"The most exciting part of the day occurred when I skipped the Zero and then pulled it quickly back to avoid an overcast. The bait was actually out of the air when a bass came out of the water and inhaled it. Midsummer activity in March. I did not land it, but it looked to be about a three pounder.
"None of the bass were small. All were bigger than two pounds, and one looked to weigh between five and six pounds, and a bunch of of them were three- and four-pounders. I should have been there at daylight.
" Big rains were in the offing, which probably stimulated the activity of the largemouth bass on this outing."
Pok-Chi Lau of Lawrence, Kansas, and I went bass fishing for trout at a 416-acre community reservoir, and it snowed on us from our first casts to our last casts. We started fishing 11 a.m., and we surrendered to Old Man Winter's wrath when our fingers and toes began to ache at 1:15 p.m.
We estimated that it snowed more than inch during the two hours and 15 minutes that we fished. We didn't have any rainwear in the boat; therefore, some parts of our bodies were getting a touch wet. We left the rainwear in the truck, because the National Weather Service said that it would be "mostly sunny, with a high near 55. Light and variable wind becoming south 10 to 15 mph in the morning." But the morning low temperature was 24 degrees. Around 10 a.m., many area thermometers registered only 36 degrees, which was the high temperature of the day. At 1 p.m. area thermometers hovered at 33 degrees. At times, the wind angled out of the south at about 5 mph, and at other times, it was nil. The barometric pressure around 11 a.m. was 30.24 and climbing.
To our surprise and amusement at 11:30 a.m., while it was snowing to beat the band, we saw four men -- one dressed in shorts -- playing golf at the course that twists around parts of the eastern shoreline of this reservoir.
The water level looked to be three feet below normal. The surface temperature was 42 degrees. We could easily see the propeller on the trolling motor; so, we called the water clarity Kansas clear.
According to In-Fisherman's solunar calendar, the best fishing times occurred at 5:01 a.m. to 7: 01 a.m.
We fished the upper third of this reservoir, where we focused on three bluff shorelines and two flat shorelines and their adjacent mud flats.
Our spinning outfits sported a 2 ½-inch Z-Man's pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a 2 ¼-inch green-pumpkin FattyZ customized tube on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, a PB&J Rain MinnowZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and a Mud-Minnow Rain MinnowZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
We caught one white bass, four largemouth bass and 14 rainbow trout. The white bass and largemouth bass were caught on the bluffs. Thirteen of the rainbow trout were caught along the two flat shorelines and one of the adjacent mud flats, and one rainbow trout was caught along a bluff. Eight of the trout were caught as far as 120 feet from shoreline, where they were milling about on a mud flat in three to six feet of water. The smallest rainbow trout weighed two pounds, and the biggest looked to be a four-pounder. The biggest largemouth bass weighed about two pounds.
The most effective bait was the green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on either a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig or a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. The second best bait was the PB&J Rain MinnowZ on the blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. The 2 ½-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ inveigled one trout, and the Mud Minnow Rain MinnowZ allured one largemouth bass.
The best retrieve was the drag-and-deadstick motif, but the deadstick feature was more of a three-second pause rather than a genuine deadstick tactic. Two fish were caught on the initial drop, and four were caught during a drag-and-shake retrieve.
It wasn't an easy two hours and 15 minutes of fishing, and Lau said it would be his last northeastern Kansas outing before he heads to Stuart, Florida, to chase snakeheads, tarpon, snook and other denizens for a month. In sum, Lau doesn't relish fishing in cold weather, but he said he enjoyed his first and last bass-fishing-for-trout endeavor for 2013. He loves the donnybrooks that a four-pound rainbow trout can render on finesse tackle.
On the last day of winter, some areas of northeastern Kansas received several inches of snow, and this first day of spring exhibited the air of winter, too. Moreover, the National Weather Service predicts that the first eight days of spring will be wintry, too.
When Pok-Chi Lau of Lawrence, Kansas, and I were bass fishing for trout at a 416-acre community reservoir on Mar. 19 through a wet and cold snowstorm on Mar. 19, we had the wherewithal to fish for only two hours and 15 minutes. I thought about returning to that reservoir on this outing, but area thermometers didn't climb above freezing until noon. Since I waited until it was above freezing before I left home, I concluded it was best to fish nearby a 195-acre community reservoir rather than make the longer drive to the 416-acre reservoir.
When I launched the boat a 1 p.m., it was 34 degrees, and eventually some are thermometers climbed to 42 degrees. But throughout the entire 2 ½ hours I was afloat, my finger tips were cold, and my ear were tucked under a wool stocking cap and a hood. The wind angled out of the northwest at 10 to 24 mph. Around 1 p.m., the barometric pressure was 30.39 and dropping. The sky exhibited a China-blue hue. The sun was bright and intense enough that my nose and lips became sun burnt, and it warmed surface temperature along one of the northern shorelines to 45 degrees.
The last time I fished this reservoir was on Feb. 18, and the water level was about four feet below normal. On this outing, it looked to be about three feet below normal; the heavy snows that fell on Feb 21 and 26 raised the water level about a foot. The surface temperature ranged from 43 to 45 degrees. The water color exhibited the greenish hue of a planktonic algae bloom, which made it difficult for me to see the trolling motor's propeller.
From 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., I probed a mud flat and a nearby northern shoreline midway inside this reservoir's southwest feeder creek arm. This locale is graced with a ledge, a dozen boat docks, and some patches of curly-leaf pondweed. During the first six minutes, I caught five largemouth bass on a green-pumpkin Z-Man Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig by dragging and periodically shaking this comb on the bottom in five to seven feet of water.
Then during the next 54 minutes, I caught only six more largemouth bass. One largemouth bass was caught on a 2 ½-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and five were caught on the green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ combos. These six were caught in five to six feet of water on either a drag-and-subtle-shake retrieve or a drag-and-minor-deadstick retrieve, but one of those six largemouth was caught that initial drop of the Finesse ShadZ combo.
At 2 p.m., I moved to a massive mud flat in the back of the southwest feeder creek arm. The water clarity was extremely green and even murky in spots. I caught a largemouth bass on the initial drop of the Finesse ShadZ combo on my first cast. But after that I fished for 50 minutes and caught only three black crappie and five largemouth bass, which were extracted from three to four feet of water around patches of submerged curly-leaf pondweed that were situated in the middle of this mud flat and more than 150 feet from the shorelines. Traditionally, several significant concentrations of largemouth bass abide upon this massive mud flat for several weeks after the ice melts. This year those concentrations of wintertime largemouth bass began to disappear during the first week in February. And even though the water temperature and weather has been winterlike for several weeks, the wintertime aggregations of largemouth bass haven't reappeared. In sum, the largemouth bass seem to be scattered. Occasionally we will cross paths with a small concentration of largemouth bass, where we can quickly catch a half dozen, but we can't catch 25 largemouth bass an hour, which happens at this reservoir on the outing immediately after the ice melts.
At 3 p.m. I moved to the northern shoreline of one of the reservoir's eastern feeder creek arms. This area is embellished with massive boulders, chunk rocks, gravel, stumps, brush piles, curly-leaf pondweed, milfoil, and a ledge that plummets into 12 to 20 feet of water. Here I caught three largemouth bass on a green-pumpkin Rain MinnowZ on a chartreuse Gopher jig. I also caught four largemouth and one black crappie on a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ and red 1/16-ounce Gopher. One largemouth bass was caught when I deadsticked the Rain MinnowZ for more than a minute, and the rest were caught on a drag-and-subtle-shake retrieve. All of these fish were caught in three to seven feet of water.
I made by last cast and retrieve at 3:30 p.m., and my fish counter indicated that I had caught 23 largemouth bass and four black crappie, which is an average of 9.2 largemouth bass per hour. It is important to note that the four black crappie fought more vigorously and were bigger than most of the largemouth bass. There is an old wife's tale that water from melting snow tends to put largemouth bass into a funk. And many of the reservoirs across northeastern Kansas have had an influx of water from melting snow during the past two weeks. I normally pay no heed to these tales, but the largemouth bass in these reservoirs have been difficult to catch, and the lunker-size largemouth bass have been extremely difficult to locate and allure. What's more, the crappie have been putting up a better tussle than the largemouth bass can muster, or in other words, the largemouth bass seem lethargic.
The National Weather Service is predicting that we will be cursed with freezing rain and snow on Mar. 21, 22, 23, and 25, and the temperatures will be many degrees below normal for the next seven days. Thus, it looks as if we will not be afloat for a while.
Dave Weroha of Kansas City posted a report on the Finesse News Network about his strip-pit outing in western Missouri of Mar. 23.
It was a solo affair, and the weather was wintry.
He wrote: "Wind, rain, sleet, snow, and mud. Despite those elements, I caught 23 largemouth bass at two strip pits near Hume, Missouri. These two strip pits are different from the ones Bob Gum of Kansas City and I fished on Feb. 19 and wrote about on the Finesse News Network. The biggest largemouth bass was a 19-incher and weighed 4 pounds, 4 ounces. "
He fished from 10:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. When he launched the boat, area thermometers registered 37 degrees and the wind angled from the east by northeast at 12-15 mph. At 1:30 p.m. the temperature was 41 degrees, and the wind speed and direction was the same as it was when he launched the boat. Skies stayed cloudy the entire time. The barometric pressure was 30.01 and dropping at 11 a.m. In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that best fishing times occurred from 7:57 a.m. to 9:57 a.m.
The surface temperature ranged from 40 to 41 degrees. The water exhibited six to eight feet of clarity.
His three most effective lures were a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig, the 2 1/2-inch PB&J ZinkerZ on a red 1/32 oz Gopher jighead, and a customize four-inch pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ with a Finesse WormZ tail on a 1/32-ounce Gopher jig.These are Dave Weroha's customized 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZs with a tail from a Finesse WormZ.
Weroha's four inch ZinkerZ-Finesse WormZ combo caught 12 of the 23 and it came as a pleasant surprise. The tail action is similar to that of the Finesse ShadZ.
His retrieve most fruitful was a slow drag, while he held his rod at the five o'clock position, and he accentuated the drag with a couple twitches. Nearly all of the largemouth bass were caught around the corners at the end of the pits.
Weroha closed his report by noting: "There is one particular pit that I eagerly want to fish. It is one that Bob Gum says is excellent, but the journey to the pit from either the east or the west requires physical exertion equivalent to that of being in Army boot camp. So I journeyed to it from the south and took video footage of the trek: http://youtu.be/MppIGhqfNiw.
In a postscript to his report, Weroha stated that he is no longer using a fluorocarbon leader with his 15-pound-test Spiderwire EZ Braid in a moss -green hue, and according to tabulations, he hasn't experienced a reduction in strikes.
Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, about his four-hour outing on Mar. 23.
"Our spring is getting to us slowly down here. Nothing like your blizzards but still very cool.
"Saturday's high was 38 degrees with sleet. I could not resist the temptation, but no one would join me.
I fished from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.; then my baby sitting duties kicked in.
The bass were back off from the shallow wood, which they had been around when it was warmer, and today, they were located on some steeper rocky banks. Last weekend the chatterbait was awesome, but not today.
"The red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig with a green-pumpkin-red-flaked Zero caught 10 largemouth bass. All weighed more than 2 1/2 pounds.
"The steeper banks were nice for my favorite initial drop bite retrieve. One largemouth bass was so kind as to remove the bait from a snag for me. I have no clue where the smaller bass are, having failed to catch one the entire month. But I am not complaining. "Boat control was easy as there was no wind. I fished in portions of the three main feeder creeks. Perhaps the dam area would have been better but I had limited time.
"No one else was silly enough to be out. I tinkered with "real baits" but had no luck on a standard jig, nor crank bait, spinnerbait, or chatterbait.
"Finesse is so nice and easy."
Old Man Winter took a short respite today, and according to the National Weather Service, his hiatus will last until April 1, when area thermometers will struggle to reach 38 degrees and there will be a chance of snow.
When I awoke at 5:15 a.m., some are thermometers were hovering at the morning low of 36 degrees, which felt like nirvana compared to the 18 degrees that these same thermometers registered during the morning hours of Mar. 26. At the first ghost-light of dawn, the birds were singing with more vigor than we have heard for the entire month of March. By mid-afternoon, some area thermometers hit 68 degrees, others registered 65 degrees, and some reached only 63 degrees. The sun was shining as intensely as a newly minted dime. The wind angled out of the east at less than 5 mph, and often it was nil. Barometric pressure was 30:21 and dropping around 11 a.m. In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing occurred from 11:46 a.m. to 1: 46 p.m.
Our granddaughter competed in a swimming meet in Topeka, Kansas, and we wanted to watch her. And if I fished, I could only do it for about an hour, and as I debated the merits fishing only for an hour, the sounds and feel of spring ultimately allured me to make the 16-mile trip to a nearby 195-acre community reservoir, and I fished from 11:10 a.m. to 12: 20 p.m.
As I drove to the boat ramp, the roadside ditches and some shaded hillsides were still covered with snow, but it was melting rapidly. In fact, 99 percent of the snow was gone by sunset.
The water clarity at this reservoir, which has been beset and stained with algae blooms, was the clearest that I have seen it for a while. The water level looked to be about 2½ feet below normal. The surface temperature was 43 degrees.
I had time to fish about 125 yard stretch of a northern shoreline in one of the reservoir's eastern feeder-creek arms. It is embellished with a couple boulders that look to be as big a Volkswagen Beetle, many smaller boulders, football-size rocks, gravel, clay, man-made brush piles, stumps, milfoil and curly-leaf pondweed.
As my hour came to an end, my fish counter indicated that I had caught 24 largemouth bass, and all of them were caught in four to eight feet of water around patches of curly-leaf pondweed. I was hoping to catch 25 largemouth bass in that hour. So, I decided to see how long it would take me to catch one more. It took about 10 minutes, and after I landed the largemouth bass No. 25, I made another cast to remove a line loop on the spool of my spinning reel, and on that cast I caught another largemouth bass. In total, I caught 25 largemouth bass on a customized green-pumpkin Rain MinnowZ dressed on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig and one largemouth bass on a green-pumpkin Finesse Shad Z affixed to chartreuse 1/32-ounce Gopher jig.
Three largemouth bass were caught on the initial drop of the Rain MinnowZ, but the bulk of the largemouth bass were caught while I was implementing a drag-and-subtle-shake retrieve. The boat was floating in 12 to 16 feet of water, and most of the casts were aimed to allow the Rain MinnowZ to make its initial fall into three to four feet of water.
It would have been nice to have been able to fish for three more hours, but watching our granddaughter swim was more rewarding than catching another 75 largemouth bass.
What a difference 24 hours and 25 miles can make in a Midwest finesse angler's catch rate.
On Mar. 28, I fished from 11:10 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. and caught 26 largemouth bass a 195-acre community reservoir. On Mar. 29, I traveled 25 miles to the west and joined Clyde Holscher and Jared Rogers, both of Topeka, Kansas, at a 416-acre community reservoir, where we bass fished for trout from 11: 30 a.m. to 2:40 p.m.
Mar. 29's weather was rather similar to the weather of Mar. 28, exhibiting hints of spring, and even a few hyacinths were wanting to bloom. The morning low temperature hovered around 41 degrees and the afternoon high temperature climbed to 71 degrees. The sun burned brightly warmly in a China-blue sky. The wind angled out of the east at 10 mph and then out of the southeast 9 mph. Barometric pressure was 30.21 and dropping at around 11 a.m.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing would be between 12:45 p.m. and 2: 45 p.m.
The water was relatively clear or a touch better than what we call Kansas clear, which a far cry from being as clear as Bull Shoals Lake on the Missouri and Arkansas is. The water level looked to be about 3 ½ feet below normal. The surface temperature ranged from 43 degrees to 46 degrees.
We anticipated that fishing would be relatively easy, allowing us to catch at least four trout and 10 largemouth bass an hour, and scores of other anglers must had similar inclinations, because it was the most fishing pressure that we have seen in 2013. But we could muster only 11 largemouth bass, five trout, one freshwater drum, one crappie and one white bass in three hours and 10 minutes of hard fishing.
This paltry assembly of fish was allured by a green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a 1/32-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig, green-pumpkin Rain MinnowZ on a 1/16-ounce chartreuse Gopher jig, and several color-patterns of a 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ affixed to a 1/16-ounce jig. We employed a variety of retrieves, and there was none of them shined. One main-lake shoreline on the west side of the upper third of the reservoir yielded eight of the 19 fishing that we caught, one main-lake point on the east side of the lower quarter of the reservoir yielded five fish, a main-lake point on the east side in the upper third of the reservoir yielded two fish, the other four fish were caught hither and yon, and scores of areas failed to render a strike.
We talked to another veteran finesse angler, who reported that his catch was sorrier than our measly one. It was a disheartening outing, indeed.
Terry Claudell of Overland Park, Kansas, reported to the Finesse News Network that he and a friend fished from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at a 101-acre state reservoir on Mar. 30
Several hours before 10 a.m., it rained. The morning low temperature was 49 degrees and the afternoon high temperature was 71 degrees. The sky was cloud covered, and the barometric pressure around 10 a.m. was 29.95 and fluctuating up and down a point for the time they were afloat. The wind was mild-mannered and variable. In-Fisherman's calendar indicated that the best fishing ties from 1:48 p.m. to 3:48 p.m.
The largemouth bass seem to be lethargic, and the drag-and-deadstick retrieve was the most effective of the three retrieves that they used. Some of the largemouth bass were extracted from points. A few were in shallow water, but most were 15 feet or more off of the shorelines in about eight feet of water.
They caught 23 largemouth bass, one white bass and one wiper. A green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig was the most fruitful bait.
A score or more of bank anglers were clustered along several shorelines. And some of them had tangled with some big crappie, and one crappie looked to be a two-pounder. Another bank angler reported that several big largemouth bass had been caught during the past two days, and two of those lunkers were in the six-to-seven-pound range.
Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, sent a brief report about his Mar. 30 outing with his father.
He wrote: "During the first hour, while I waiting for my father to arrive, I caught seven largemouth bass, and two of them were five-pounders. All of them were caught on a Strike King 2 1/2 -inch, green-pumpkin-and-red-flake Zero in shallow water in the upper end of a feeder creek. The biggest bass boiled on the Zero as it hit the water.
"Once my father arrived at 9:30 a.m., we fished for the next four hours without a bite. As my father ages, his filter on his thoughts gets a little less. Therefore, he vocally discounted my tales of success prior to his arrival.
"Finally we found a few largemouth bass, and he caught a couple of four-pounders on a wacky-rigged Senko, and I snared about five more on the Zero. I have no clue why we could not get a strike for such a long period. Various baits and depths were explored with no luck.
"The surface temperature was 50 degrees. It was cloudy, the wind was light, and the air temperature hit 60 degrees."
Bob Gum of Kansas City reported on the Finesse News Network that he and his wife, Yan, fished a 2,600-acre power-plant reservoir on Mar. 31.
The low temperature was 45 degrees, and the high temperature was 65 degrees. The wind angled out of the northwest at 7 to 15 mph. The barometric pressure fluctuated from 29.94 to 29.95. In-Fisherman's calendar indicated that the best fishing times occurred from 2:53 p.m. to 4:53 p.m. They fished from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
He wrote: "As I drove south, the first thing I noticed was that no power was being generated in either power plant. I had planned to call the marina Saturday, but I got busy with yard work. The folks at the marina said the power plant had been shut down for four days.
"I decided to fish the southern half of the lake thinking the temperature change would be less drastic.
"The lake level was up slightly. In fact, I witnessed water flowing over the cut-out section of the spillway, and there was a considerable amount of woody debris floating around. Water clarity was about 2 ½ feet.
"We fished the east riprap, east and west portions of the riprap along the dam, the riprap along the access road, the short stretch of riprap west of the power plant, and the south bluff. Temperatures were as follows: 52 degree along the east riprap, 52 degres along the dam and 56 degree along the south bluff.
"We caught everything on the green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ on a red 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. I alternated working the coppertreuse and purple-haze ZinkerZ with a red 1/16-ounce Gopher jig for about an hour with no bites. In total, we had only 11 largemouth bass and one big drum. The biggest largemouth bass was a 17-incher. I lost a quality largemouth along the dam that I didn't get a good look at."
Since the end of January, this reservoir has been a problematic venue for Midwest finesse anglers. But that trying spell should start to wane around April 15, and from mid-April to May 30, it traditionally is a delightful and entertaining venue for Midwest finesse anglers to purse lunker-size largemouth bass.