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Power tactics for smallmouth bass

Power tactics for smallmouth bass
Vic Oertle holds one of the big smallmouth bass that he caught this past summer at Milford Lake

On October 2, we posted a blog about finesse fishing for smallmouth bass, and today's blog focuses on the power tactics that Vic Oertle of Manhattan, Kansas, has been employing in his pursuit of catching a new Kansas state-record smallmouth bass.

Oertle, 73, is a guide and proprietor of Fishtech Lures who has been chasing fish at waterways across Kansas for four decades. For a spell in his youth, he competed in the budding tournament world in the 1960s, and back then a number of tournaments allowed anglers to purse a variety species. Oertle won the 1969 Kansas Wildlife Federation State Tournament, which was a multispecies event. Since those days, he has been a multispecies guide and angler.

Milford Lake, Kansas, is one of the waterways that Oertle regularly guides and recreationally fishes. It is also one of the best smallmouth bass reservoirs in Kansas, and it has a tradition for producing big and state-record-size specimens. In fact, the current state record was caught by Frank Evans, Jr., of Salina, Kansas, using a jerkbait on April 4, 2010, at Milford; this brute weighed 6.66-pound. The previous record was caught by Jason Heis of Salina, on a 4-inch Senko-style bait along the riprap of the dam in August of 2004.

From 2004 to 2010, Milford's lunker-sized smallmouth virtually disappeared, but according to Oertle that hiatus has ended, and he thinks a new record is in the offing, which is why he spent many days in July and August trying to catch a record-size smallmouth bass. Every outing began at 6 a.m. and ended at 11 a.m.

Weather and lake conditions have been unseasonably odd in 2011.

For example, Milford Lake was as much as 15 feet above normal, and because the Missouri River was in flood stage, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers didn't begin dropping the water level until mid-September. There were also many mid-summer days when area thermometers hovered around 100 degree, and the surface temperature reached into the high 80s, flirting at times with the low 90s. Then towards the end of August, a toxic blue-green algae bloom erupted, which provoked officials to close the lake.

Despite these conditions, Oertle caught and released an impressive array of big smallmouth bass, and the biggest one weighed 6.1 pounds. And after blue-green algae bloom ended his two-month foray on Milford's big smallmouth, he concluded that the lake has a lot more big smallmouth bass than he and other veteran anglers originally thought it had earlier in the year.

Here is how he caught them:

His primary lure was a Gene Larew Lures' Hoodaddy Jr. affixed on a homemade 3/8-ounce swinging head jig and 4/0 Gamakatsu EWG Worm Hook. Green-pumpkin and black were the two most productive hues. He used this combo on a 6.5-foot, medium-action baitcasting outfit that was spooled with either 17-pound-test clear/blue florescent monofilament or 20-pound-test braid with a 17-pound-test monofilament leader. At time, he attached a 4-inch green-pumpkin tube to that outfit.

He also wielded two topwater options on that outfit: 4 3/8-inch Storm Rattlin' Chug Bug and half-ounce FishTech Lures' Dinner Bell buzzbait. He worked these on a six-foot medium-heavy action baitcasting outfit.

At times, he picked up a six-foot medium-action spinning outfit that was spooled with 20-pound-test braid and a 6-foot 17-pound-test monofilament leader. On his spinning outfit, he employed three lures. One was a 4-inch Yum Dinger on either 1/16- or 1/8-ounce FishTech Lures' Shakytech jig. Another was a 4-inch Yum Dinger Texas-rigged on a 3/0 Gamakatsu EWG Worm Hook and either a 1/16- or 1/14-ounce slip sinker. The third one was a 2.5-inch Z-Man Fishing Products' ZinkerZ on an 1/8-ounce jig and No. 1 Eagle Claw 635 jig hook. The three most effective colors for these three lure were green-pumpkin-chartreuse, green-pumpkin with red flakes and peanut butter and jelly.

Even though Oertle caught the bulk of the big smallmouth on his power presentations, he inveigled the second and third biggest smallmouth bass on the 2.5-inch ZinkerZ on a 1/8-ounce jig.


Throughout the summer, there were acres and acres of newly flooded green trees and brush, which was difficult for anglers to penetrate. Oertle worked the brushy environs, but he caught the bulk of his smallmouth bass on bluffs, which were mostly devoid of flooded trees and brush. The big smallmouth bass on the bluffs tended to be associated with a big rock or boulder, and there was never more than one smallmouth bass on a boulder

He caught others on submerged roadbeds and shorelines that were covered with riprap. A few others were found around various manmade objects, such as light poles.

Even though the water temperature was in the high 80s, he caught the bass in five to seven feet of water.

After the blue-green algae bloom and the precipitous drop of the water level, Oertle hasn't resumed his quest to tangle with a state-record smallmouth bass.

Typically fall has been a problematic time to consistently catch big smallmouth bass at Milford. So instead chasing them, he has been spending his days afloat tangling with Milford's big wipers. For some insights about his wiper fishing see:

He says that he might incidentally tangle with a humongous smallmouth bass while wielding one his half-ounce Dinner Bell buzzbaits for wipers, noting that some big smallmouth bass occasionally frequent some of the wipers lairs in early to mid-October. But it would not be until late March through early May of 2012 that he will give his undivided attention to his pursuit of a state-record smallmouth bass.

For more information about Oertle's guiding service and lure company, please see:

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