Across the years, we have noted that it is a rare feat for an angler or a team of anglers to win a bass tournament with Midwest finesse tactics.
But it has been done occasionally at club tournaments and at other small-time venues.
At times several decades ago, Guido Hibdon of Sunrise Beach, Missouri, used a tube, which is a standard Midwest finesse lure, to catch an array of black bass at big-time tournaments.
In the eyes of power anglers, a shaky-head jig adorned with a four to six-inch worm is a finesse tactic. And during the first decade of the 21st Century, when the shaky-head phenomenon was being employed by a goodly number of anglers, it helped some of them to win a few major league events. But from the perspective of ardent Midwest finesse anglers, the standard shaky-head rig isn't one of their finesse tactics. In fact, Midwest finesse anglers call it power finesse.
The drop-shot rig is not a Midwest finesse method. It is a Japanese and California tactic that more and more tournament anglers employ. But it is not an easy one to employ, and simplicity lies at the heart of Midwest finesse fishing. Therefore, it is not part of our repertoire.
Shinichi Fukae of Osaka, Japan, and Palestine, Texas, used a Japanese variation of Midwest finesse tactics to win the Walmart FLW Tour's Walmart Open at Beaver Lake, Arkansas, on April 8, 2006.
Since 2010, we have been told that a few anglers on the Bassmaster Elite and Walmart FLW Tour circuits have occasionally wielded one of the standard Midwest finesse lures to eke out a few bass on those days when these anglers are struggling to catch them with their traditional power tactics.
But since 2012, we have almost completely stopped writing about bass tournaments, and how anglers go about fishing them. One reason for that is there are scores of publications, television shows, and social-media venues that focus on bass tournaments and the tactics that bass tournament anglers use. Another reason revolves around the fact that there is a need to teach youngsters and novice anglers how to catch fish, and we have discovered that teaching them to mimic the power tactics of the tournament anglers is not the best way to do it. A third reason is that as anglers age many of them can't or don't want to employ power tactics. These senior anglers say it is a boring ordeal to catch only one or two bass an hour by emulating the power methods of the professional tournament anglers. And as it has been told in past Midwest Finesse columns, the population of aged anglers has grown significantly during the past three decades. Now, about one of every eight Americans is 65 years or older, and by 2030 nearly 20 percent of Americans will be 65 years or older. And we think it is an important mission to try to keep the senior anglers fishing. So nowadays, most of the words we write explain how, when, and where novice and elderly anglers can employ Midwest finesse tactics and catch as many as 25 bass an hour on the best of outings rather than focusing on tournament anglers and how they fish.
But when David Reeves of Prescription Plastics of Lansing, Kansas, and a contributor to the Finesse News Network, reported that Dalton Combs and Joe Satterly, both of Ozark, Missouri, teamed up to win the Teen Anglers, Inc.'s 2015 Championship at Stockton Lake, Missouri, on June 13 and 14 by employing one of the hallmark Midwest finesse baits, we quickly agreed with Reeves that it would be a good idea to feature Combs' and Satterly's tactics in one of our Midwest Finesse columns.
This championship tournament featured 79 teams from 25 Missouri high schools. Combs and Satterly, who are 15 years old, are members of the Ozark (Missouri) High School Fishing Team.
Here is how their tournament days unfolded:
The archives at Weather Underground indicated that on June 13 it was 70 degrees at 5:52 a.m. and 84 degrees at 2:52 p.m. The sky fluctuated from being partly cloudy to mostly cloudy to having scattered clouds. (Combs noted that it rained on them around 1:00 p.m.) The wind angled out of the southeast at 9 to 25 mph and out of the south at 21 to 28 mph. The barometric pressure was 29.89 at 5:52 a.m., 29.91 at 11:52 a.m., and 29.84 at 2:52 p.m. On June 14, it was 71 degrees at 5:52 a.m. and 84 degrees at 1:52 p.m. The sky alternated from being mostly cloud to being overcast to having scattered clouds. The wind angled out of the south at 8 to 18 mph and out of the southwest at 9 to 11 mph. The barometric pressure was 29.91 at 5:52 a.m., 29.90 at 11:52 a.m., and 29.94 at 1:52 p.m.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar noted that the best fishing should have taken place on June 13 from 8:09 a.m. to 10:09 a.m., 8:36 p.m. to 10:36 p.m., and 1:55 a.m. to 3:55 a.m. And on June 14, the best fishing should have transpired from 8:57 a.m. to 10:57 a.m., 9:25 p.m. to 11:25 p.m., and 2:44 a.m. to 4:44 a.m. They fished from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on June 13, and from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on June 14.
The water level at this 25,000-acre U.S. Army Corp of Engineers' reservoir was 5.47 feet above normal. Vast quantities of terrestrial vegetation were flooded. The water exhibited four feet of visibility. The surface temperature was 77 degrees.
During both days of the tournament, Combs and Satterly focused on eight flat main-lake points. They began each day about 10 miles from the dam and slowly worked their way towards the dam.
Most of the time, Combs and Satterly wielded spinning tackle that sported either a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's Dirt ZinkerZ affixed to a green-pumpkin 1/8-ounce Prescription Plastics' Ozarks Finesse Head jig or a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's Canada Craw ZinkerZ affixed to a green-pumpkin 1/8-ounce Prescription Plastics' Ozarks Finesse Head jig. When the velocity of the wind increased, they rigged their 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZs on a green-pumpkin 3/16-ounce Prescription Plastics' Ozarks Finesse Head jig. Combs employed these baits on a seven-foot, medium-light-power, and moderate-fast-action spinning rod. His spinning reel was spooled with six-pound-test fluorocarbon line. Besides the ZinkerZ rigs, Combs and Satterly occasionally worked with either a 6 3/4-inch Zoom Bait Company's watermelon-candy Trick Worm affixed Texas-style to a green-pumpkin 3/16-ounce shaky-head jig or a five-inch Zoom's watermelon-candy Magnum Finesse worm affixed Texas-style to either a 3/16- or a 1/4-ounce green-pumpkin shaky-head jig.
From the perspective of most anglers, the 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ rig is not an effective search bait. But for Combs it has become an exceptionally effective search bait. Consequently, if their ZinkerZ rigs failed to catch a bass on a point within 10 minutes, they would move and explore another point. When they caught a bass, they spent a lot of time dissecting that point, and that point usually yielded several more bass. And during both days of the tournament, they would probe the most fruitful points more than once.
As they dissected these flat points, their boat floated in 20 to 25 feet of water. They found the strike zone to be quite extensive, ranging from water as shallow as 10 feet to as deep as 25 feet. None of the black bass that they caught were abiding in the flooded terrestrial vegetation. The majority of the bass were extracted from 15 feet of water. They caught the bass by executing long casts that allowed their two ZinkerZ rigs or two Zoom rigs to fall into 10 feet of water. Once these baits hit the bottom, Combs said they held their rods between the one- and two-clock positions and executed a drag-and-shake presentation by slowly turning the reel handle several rotations and then pausing for a couple of seconds. The pause allowed the ZinkerZ rigs or Zoom rigs to rest on the bottom. They noted that it was necessary to have these baits on the bottom for the entire retrieve. The shake was not an incessant one. Instead, it was periodically implemented by flexing the wrist for a couple of seconds during one of the pauses. They retrieved these baits until they were under the boat in a vertical presentation.
On the first day of the tournament, Combs and Satterly caught more than 40 largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass, as well as scores of walleye. The bulk of these fish were caught on the two ZinkerZ rigs. Sixteen of the black bass were 15 inches or longer, and the three largemouth bass and two smallmouth bass that they brought to the scale weighed 8.79 pounds, which put them in 24th plac
On the second day, their catch rate declined to about 30 black bass, but at 10:00 a.m., Combs caught a 6.50-pound largemouth bass on the initial fall of the Zoom's watermelon-candy Magnum Finesse worm on a 1/4-ounce green-pumpkin shaky-head jig in about 10 feet of water. The five bass that they brought to the scale weighed 13.20 pounds, which gave them the winning weight of 21.99 pounds. They also won the big-bass prize. And besides catching nearly 30 black bass on the second day, they also enjoyed tangling with a goodly number of walleye.
Dalton Combs' father, Darren, described it as a delightful weekend for his son and Joe Satterly, and they said the ZinkerZ rig had a lot to do with making it a stellar time.
And we are looking forward to writing about Combs' and Satterly's adventures on the Teen Anglers Inc.'s circuit next spring.