November 03, 2016
By Ned Kehde
During the morning of Oct. 19, I ventured from Lawrence, Kansas, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, in order to fish with Andrew Upshaw of Jenks, Oklahoma; Chris Lindenberg of Tulsa, Gary Dollahon of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and George Toalson of Claremore, Oklahoma, on Oct. 19, 20, and 21.
Lindenberg is Larew's proprietor, and he is an avid recreational angler, who possesses a particular passion for crappie.
Toalson is a former owner of Larew, and he is currently its production manager and lure designer. Before his Larew days, he was a school teacher. He is also a talented black bass and crappie angler, as well as a successful regional tournament angler. In fact, Toalson and Tom Haynes of Tulsa teamed up to compete against 195 teams at the Nichols Marine Tournament Series Classic at Grand Lake on Sept. 10 and 11. Their 10 black bass weighed 35.44 pounds, which put their name at the top of the leader board and garnered Toalson a new Ranger bass boat. Then on Sept. 24 and 25, Toalson and Haynes caught 40.61 pounds and won the Quantum Fishing League Team Tournament Championship at Lake Hudson and Grand Lake.
Dollahon is a knowledgeable recreational angler, who pursues a variety of species. He is also the proprietor of Dollahon Public Relations. His and his staff's offices are located within the confines of Gene Larew Lures' building, and at times he has played a significant role in helping them create new baits, such as the Inch Worm. He and his staff also promote Larew's baits via the public relations firm. He has been a member of the Finesse News Network from its beginning.
Upshaw is a professional tournament angler on the FLW Walmart Tour and other circuits. Larew is one of his sponsors. He received a bachelor's degree in marketing from Stephen F. Austin University in 2011, and he began working for Dollahon in 2013.
Ten days before we arrived in Tulsa we published a rudimentary gear guide about the Inch Worm in a Midwest Finesse column. The Inch Worm is the brainchild of Upshaw, who is a member of the Finesse News Network and an occasional devotee of Midwest finesse fishing. For instance, he used Midwest finesse tactics by customizing versions of Gene Larew's green-pumpkin Salt Flick'R and watermelon-pepper Salt Flick'R and affixing them to a mushroom-style jig at the Walmart FLW Tour event at Beaver Lake, Arkansas, on April 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17. That tactic helped him to finish in 10th place and win $14,000. After his success with Midwest finesse tactics at Beaver Lake, Upshaw, Dollahon, and Toalson, with Lindenberg's approval, began working on creating a Midwest finesse bait that encapsulated some of the virtues of the Salt Flick'R and Larew's Tattle Tail Worm.
One of the primary focuses of this trip was to learn more about Gene Larew Lures' new Midwest finesse bait, which is their multifaceted Inch Worm.
At 1:45 p.m. on Oct.19, I hopped into Toalson's new boat, and we began wielding the Inch Worm at one of the sand-pit reservoirs that grace the suburban and exurban landscape of Tulsa. Day in, day out, he is a power angler, and this was the first time that he had fished with the Inch Worm. He wielded it on an ultra-light spinning outfit that he uses when he pursues crappie, and his reel was spooled with four-pound-test fluorocarbon line. He employed a loop knot to affix a Minnesota Flash Inch Worm on a homemade and unpainted 1/16-ounce crappie-style jig with a No. 2 hook.
The Weather Underground reported that the low temperature was 61 degrees and the high temperature was 86 degrees. The wind fluctuated from being calm to angling out of the northwest, south by southwest, southwest, north, east by southeast, and northeast at 3 to 24 mph. A nearby thunderstorm chased us off the water at 5:05 p.m. In addition to the thunderstorm, the sky fluctuated from being mostly cloudy, overcast, partly cloudy, and scattered clouds. The barometric pressure was 29.87 at 12:53 a.m., 29.80 at 5:53 a.m., 29.91 at 11:53 a.m., 29.84 at 3:53 p.m., and 29.85 at 4:53 p.m.
Toalson said the water level was about normal. The water exhibited more than five feet of visibility. The surface temperature was 74 degrees. All of the shorelines and offshore humps were graced with significant patches of coontail. Some areas were embellished with emergent aquatic vegetation and flooded terrestrial vegetation, as well as with some laydowns and manmade brush piles.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing would occur from 1:41 a.m. to 3:41 a.m., 2:11 p.m. to 4:11 p.m., and 7:56 a.m. to 9:56 a.m.
Around 3:15 p.m. Kelly Bostian, who is the Tulsa World's outdoors journalist, hopped into Toalson's boat. Straightaway, he picked up one of Toalson's spinning rods and caught a largemouth bass on his first cast with a Sooner Run Inch Worm. He fished for a spell and caught several more before he began interviewing us, taking photographs, and working on a video for his Sunday's outdoors column, which was published on Oct. 23, and it is titled "Midwest finesse angler sticks with technique that just keeps on working."
At the same time Bostian arrived, Dollahon and Lindenberg arrived. They launched Dollahon's boat. Until the lightening put the end to our Inch Worm endeavors, the five of us were able to catch and release 138 largemouth bass on the Inch Worm, and we inadvertently caught one black crappie and 11 green sunfish.
Dollahon and Lindenberg made most of their presentations with various colors of the Inch Worm that was affixed Texas-style to a No. 1 offset-shank hook and weighted with a 1/8-ounce slip sinker. At times they customized it by removing the Tattle Tail, making it into a stickbait.
Toalson and I worked with every color of the Inch Worm but the Threadfin Shad hue. The green pumpkin, Sooner Run, and Montezuma's Revenge were our most effective hues. I rigged them on either a 1/32-ounce or a 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head jig, and I removed the barb on the hook so as not to seriously injury the fish that it hooked.
Traditionally, Midwest finesse anglers are inveterate customizers of the soft-plastic baits that they affix to their jigs. To facilitate that tradition, the Inch Worm is designed to be customized. Throughout the three hours and 20 minutes that Toalson and I were afloat, I customized the Inch Worm a number of times and several ways. I removed its head. I also customized it into a stick-style bait by removing its tail and head, and when I did that I could affix either end of the Inch Worm to the Gopher jig. George did not use a customized version of the Inch Worm.
We caught some of the largemouth bass on the initial drop of our rigs, but the bulk of them were caught while we were employing a slow swimming presentation. A few of the largemouth bass were caught as we executed a dragging-and-slight-shaking presentation across and around the coontail patches.
We caught the largemouth bass on a series of offshore humps and along several shorelines. The vast majority of the largemouth bass were abiding around the patches of coontail. Some were associated with the laydowns, and others were lingering around some of the flooded terrestrial vegetation.
We hooked a considerable number of largemouth bass -- perhaps 50 of them -- that liberated themselves before we could lift them across the gunnels of the boat, and the bulk of those self-liberators were on my Inch Worm rigs. (Ultimately, by working with the Inch Worm for three days in the Tulsa area, I came to the conclusion that the circumference of the head and the torso adjacent to the head of the Inch Worm is too big to accommodate the No. 4 hook on my Gopher jigs. So, I am going to have to use a 1/16-ounce Gopher jig that sports either a No. 2 hook or perhaps a No. 1. But when I shorten the Inch Worm, making it into either a 2 1/2- or a three-inch stick-style bait, the Gopher jig and its No. 4 hook works well.) What's more, Dollahon and Upshaw noted that Larew is in the rudimentary stage of creating a finesse jig that will be designed for the many manifestations of the Inch Worm. Several days after our outing, Toalson told Dollahon that the No. 2 hook on his crappie-style jig was too small to accommodate the head of the Inch Worm.
On Oct. 20, George Toalson, Gary Dollohon, Chris Lindenberg, and I were joined by Andrew Upshaw, Tommy Biffle of Waggoner, Oklahoma, and Dan O'Sullivan of Gadsden, Alabama, and AdvancedAngler.com at a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoir that lies in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in northeastern Oklahoma, where we pursued smallmouth bass.
The Weather Underground reported that the low temperature was 51 degrees and the high temperature was 64 degrees. The wind angled out of the north and northwest at 3 to 24 mph. Some thunderstorms erupted from midnight to 2:15 a.m. The sky fluctuated from being overcast to clear to mostly cloudy to being scattered with clouds. It was sunny most of the time that we were afloat, and according to Tommy Biffle, the smallmouth bass fishing is at its best when the sun shines brightly in northeastern Oklahoma. The barometric pressure was 30.03 at 12:15 a.m., 30.13 at 5:15 a.m., 30.27 at 11:15 a.m., 30.27 at 2:15 p.m., and 30.27 at 5:15 p.m.
The Corps of Engineers reported that the water level was slightly more than three feet below normal. The water exhibited more than six feet of visibility. The surface temperature was 67 degrees at 8:52 a.m.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar noted that the best fishing would take place from 2:42 a.m. to 4:42 a.m., 3:11 p.m. to 5:11 p.m., and 5:57 a.m. to 10:57 a.m. We were afloat from 8:52 a.m. to 2:25 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.
For the first five hours and 33 minutes on this day, I was in Tommy Biffle's boat, and he is the antithesis of a Midwest finesse angler. We fished from about five miles to slightly more than nine miles above the dam.
Biffle is 58 years old. He has been a competitor on the national bass tournament scene since Sept. 25-27, 1985 at the Bassmaster New York Invitational on the St. Lawrence River at Clayton, New York, where he caught 24 pounds, eight ounces of black bass and finished in 45th place.
Bassmaster's website reports that across the past 31 years he has competed in 334 of their events, including 19 Classics. At those tourneys, he has caught 9,509 and five ounces of black bass. He won seven of those tournaments. His name has appeared in second place of the leaderboard five times and in third place seven times. He has been in the top ten 65 times, in the top twenty 118 times, and in the top thirty 159 times. He garnered $2,233,606 in prize money.
The FLW website noted that he has competed in 95 of their tournaments, including eight Championships and Forrest Wood Cup events. He won one FLW tourney and finished in the top ten 14 times. He won $623,149 in prize money.
He currently competes at the Major League Fishing events. And across the years, he has competed on a variety of other national and regional circuits.
He is a cognoscente of the art of power fishing. He is such a diehard power angler that until recently he has not had a spinning rod in his bass boat. His change of heart about spinning rods erupted because of his experiences on the Major League Fishing circuit, and he said some of the MLF competitors "will pound you to death with one-pounders" at some of the venues that they fish. Therefore, he has acquired a spinning rod and hopes to learn how to wield a drop-shot rig. (He hinted that the jury is still out on whether he will use Midwest finesse tactics with the Inch Worm.)
Except for several dozen casts and retrieves that Biffle made with a River2Sea's Whopper Plopper, which failed to generate a strike, he wielded a 4 1/4-inch Larew's Sooner Run Biffle Bug affixed to either a 7/16- or 11/16-ounce Larew's Biffle HardHead throughout the entire five hours and 33 minutes that we were float. The Hardhead is copper colored.
The Biffle Bug is a rig that he has been employing with astonishing regularity since Larew created it in 2010, and straightaway he used it to win the Bassmaster Elite Series Sooner Run tournament at Fort Gibson Lake, Oklahoma, and Muskogee, Oklahoma on June 17-20, 2010.
He employed both rigs on what he described as a seven-foot, six-inch Quantum flipping stick, which to his chagrin is no longer manufactured. He described it as a heavy-power rod that is ideal for employing his Biffle Bug rig, but he said it was never an effective flipping rod, and because much of his 31 years in the tournament world was spent flipping a jig, and because he has been often heralded as the king of flipping and pitching, his assessment of the virtues of a flipping rod are something to consider.
His rods sport a Quantum baitcasting reel with a 7.0:1 gear ratio. The reels are spooled with 20-pound-test Sunline's Shooter Fluorocarbon. He uses a palomar knot to affix the Hardhead to his line.
He affixes the Biffle Bug to the HardHead's extra-wide-gap-offset 4/0 hook by placing the point of the hook into the tip of the head and then taking it out between the second and third rib from the tip of its head. After that the point of the hook is pushed through the belly of the torso and out of its back and the point and barb portion of the hook is exposed and lies in a crevice that runs from its head along the middle of its back to the point where the torso joins the bait's patented cupped tail. Even though the hook is exposed, the crevice is somewhat of a hook guard. The first three-quarters of an inch of the top portion of the Biffle Bug is solid plastic, and from that solid section to the junction of its tail there is a 1 1/2-inch section of its torso that is hollow. A number of times during the Oct. 20 outing, Biffle filled the hollow portions of the torso with Biffle Bug Juice, which is a scented crawfish and garlic gel. (There are times when he inserts Larew's Bass Glass Rattles into the hollow portions of its torso.)
Plying shallow-water habitats is Biffle's primary focus with the Biffle Bug, and that is where he executed virtually all of his casts and retrieves on Oct. 20. Most of the locales that he fished were flat shorelines and points, where the underwater terrain consists of gravel, rock, and boulders, as well as an occasional stump, lay down, and brush pile. He probes water as shallow as six inches to as deep as 10 feet, searching for solitary boulders, rock piles, stumps, laydowns, and brush piles. When he is chasing smallmouth bass, he prefers to have the sun shining intensely.
His casts are extremely long, ranging from 60 to 90 feet. And as soon as the Biffle Bug and HardHead touches the water at the end of the cast, he begins turning the reel handle. The pace of the retrieve is quick, cranking it as fast as he can while keeping constant contact with the bottom. The fast pace of the retrieve keeps it from becoming snagged.Biffle calls it "bottom bugging." Others might call it "polishing the rocks." He says it allows him to quickly dissect a lot of water at a pace similar to that of wielding a lipless crankbait, but he says it catches more bass than a crankbait catches. As he reeled, he held his rod in the 2:30-to-4:00 o'clock position. The rod is perpendicular to his belt buckle. When a fish engulfs the rig, he sets the hook by vigorously moving the rod either to the left or right, keeping it almost parallel to the water.
He made his first cast along a slightly wind-blown flat, shallow, and rock-laden shoreline partway inside a massive cove. The bow of the boat floated in 11 feet of water and its transom floated in 15 feet of water. His cast landed about 10 feet from the water's edge, where the water was about 1 1/2 to two feet deep. And throughout our outing, the bulk of his casts landed from 10 to 15 feet from the water's edge; they rarely reached the water's edge.
At 8:54 a.m., he had a strike.
At 9:00 a.m., he caught a smallmouth bass in about four feet of water on a slightly wind-blown point. The boat was floating in nine to 11 feet of water.
At 9:05 a.m., he caught another smallmouth bass. The boat was floating in 21 feet of water, and this smallmouth bass was caught when the Biffle Bug was about halfway back to the boat.
When the boat is in shallow water, Biffle will usually retrieve the rig all the way back to the boat. But when the boat is in deep water, he will retrieve until the Biffle Bug is in water that is deeper than 10 feet. Sometimes when he is reeling it at an extremely fast pace, he will pause it for a couple seconds in order to provoke a follower to engulf the rig.
At 9:18 a.m., as he approached a main-lake point, where a flat and shallow shoreline joined a main-lake bluff, he caught a largemouth bass.
At 9:19 a.m., he caught the biggest smallmouth bass of the outing at the main-lake point. This smallmouth bass was about 10 yards from the water's edge and abiding somewhere between five and 10 feet of water. Biffle described it as a transition spot; its underwater terrain consists of gravel and rock, and it is enhanced with boulders, and it is a significant change from a flat terrain to a steep one.
From 9:20 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., he quickly fished some of the spots again that yielded the largemouth bass and the three smallmouth bass.
At 9:30 a.m., he moved farther inside the massive flat cove, and until 11:07 a.m., he dissected a series of flat and shallow points and adjacent shorelines. He probed boulders, rock piles, subtle ledges, a couple of significant ledges, and stumps.
He garnered a strike on his first cast and retrieve. At one flat point, he employed an inside-out presentation by casting into 10 to 11 feet of water and retrieving the Biffle Bug rig back to the boat, which was floating in six feet of water. At other flat points, he dissected them from a variety of angles.
George Toalson was fishing inside this massive cove, too, but he was fishing much shallower than Biffle. Toalson was casting a Sooner Run Biffle Bug and 7/16-ounce HardHead to the water's edge. Around 11:00 a.m., Andrew Upshaw joined him, and they continued to pound the water's edge in the shallow and flat coves for the rest of the day, as well as a few flat and shallow main-lake points and shorelines. And when they caught a smallmouth bass, it was seldom more than four cranks of the reel handle from the end of the cast that landed almost upon dry land.
From Biffle's perspective, the wind was not brisk enough to catch the smallmouth bass in extremely shallow water. Therefore, he rarely made a cast that landed near the water's edge.
At times, he maneuvered the boat into the wind, and at other times, he allowed the mild-mannered wind to move the boat around a point and along a shoreline.
At 10:41 a.m. his boat floated in 13 feet of water, and he picked up the rod that sported the 11/16-ounce Hardhead and Sooner Red Biffle Bug and began probing deeper water, and he did it from a variety of angles.
At 10.49 a.m., the boat was floating in six feet of water on a secondary point, and he caught a smallmouth bass.
At 11:07 a.m., Biffle moved up the lake and ventured partway inside another cove, where he fished a flat and relatively shallow shoreline and some tertiary points. The underwater terrain consists of sand, gravel, rocks, and boulders. Before this shoreline merged with a main-lake point, he caught a smallmouth bass at 11:29 a.m. while his boat was floating in 12 feet of water.
Biffle moved at 11:39 a.m. to a main-lake island that is graced with a long and shallow-water reef. The underwater terrain consists of sand, gravel, rocks and boulders. Less than a foot of water covers the top of the reef. Deep water is nearby. The boat floated in 14 to 17 feet of water at several locales along the edge of the reef, and at other spots it floated in eight feet of water. At 11:43 a.m., he caught a smallmouth in five feet of water near the tip of the reef. He fished the entire north side of the reef to where it joined the island, and he failed to elicit a strike.
At 12:27 p.m., Biffle moved to a flat and shallow main-lake shoreline that is situated, as the proverbial crow flies, about nine miles from the dam. Someone had told him this shoreline had yielded a significant number of smallmouth bass a week ago when ranks of waves were rolling onto it, but it was sheltered from the north wind on Oct. 20. The geology of the underwater terrain consists of primarily gravel and some rock piles. At one end of this shoreline, there is a significant outcropping of boulders, creating one of Mother Nature's natural jetties. This area failed to yield a strike.
At 12:51 p.m., he moved 75 yards to a flat point at the mouth of two tiny feeder-creek arms. The boat floated in eight feet of water. The underwater terrain consists of clay, gravel, rocks, an occasional humongous boulder, and an occasional pile of brush. He fished two sides of the point and most of an adjacent flat. He spotted a smallmouth bass foraging on the surface in the vicinity of the island, where the water is four feet deep, and he made several casts with his Whooper Plopper without eliciting a strike. At 1:25 p.m., he caught a smallmouth bass on the Biffle Bug and 7/16-ounce Hardhead around a tiny pile of brush sitting on a clay bottom in five feet of water.
At 1:49 p.m., he moved to a main-lake point and adjacent shoreline, where he fished some riprap, a boat ramp, and a gravel and rocky shoreline. He did not elicit a strike.
At 2:02 p.m., he moved to a main-lake point at the mouth of a small feeder-creek arm, which Ozark anglers call a hollow. He fished the entire hollow and both of its main-lake points. The underwater terrain consists of gravel, rocks, and boulders. Some of the boulders look to be as big as a bass boat. About halfway inside this hollow, along its north shoreline, he hooked a fish that broke his line, and that was the only fish that he tangled with at this locale
At 2:25 p.m., Dollahon called to tell us that it was time for lunch, and we headed lickety-split to the marina. During the first 24 minutes of this outing, Biffle caught one largemouth bass and three smallmouth bass, and them from 9:20 a.m. to 2:25 p.m., he caught four smallmouth bass.
At lunch, George Toalson and Andrew Upshaw informed us that they had a fruitful outing. Toalson estimated that they caught more than 60 smallmouth bass by casting a Sooner Run Biffle Bug on a 7/16-ounce HardHead. And before Upshaw had joined Toalson, he had tangled with an impressive array of smallmouth bass. Upshaw said they focused on flat shorelines and points. Most of these shorelines and points were laden with gravel, rock, and boulders, and a few were clay and gravel. The majority of them were situated inside big flat coves, but a couple of them were located on the main lake. The most fruitful locales had clusters of threadfin shad moseying around them. As they plied these shorelines, Toalson tried to keep his boat in about six feet of water, and near enough to the water's edge that he and Upshaw could make a 30-foot cast, and the Biffle Bug rig would land at the water's edge. The vast majority of the smallmouth bass that they caught were hooked within three to four cranks of their reel handles. These smallmouth bass were abiding in about 1 1/2 to three feet of water, and as Toalson and Upshaw retrieved their Biffle Bug rigs across the shallow-water rocks and boulders, they ricocheted off of the rocks and boulders.
When our lunch ended around 3:30 p.m., we went fishing again. Dan O'Sullivan and Chris Lindenberg joined Biffle. Toalson and Upshaw fished together again. Dollahon and I fished together.
Biffle, O'Sullivan, Lindenberg, Toalson, and Upshaw continued using the Biffle Bug and Hardhead rigs. Upshaw also worked with the Rat-L-Trap StutterStep and River2Sea USA Rover. Dollahon and I used the Inch Worm.
Dollahon and I began our late afternoon endeavors with the Inch Worm along the shorelines and secondary and tertiary points in the back of a feeder-creek arm. Dollahon fished with a customized green-pumpkin Inch Worm that was affixed Texas-style to a No. 1 offset-shank hook and weighted with a 1/8-ounce slip sinker. He trimmed the Tattle Tail off of the Inch Worm, which created a stickbait motif. I used an uncustomized Sooner Run Inch Worm affixed to a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. After we fished for 40 minutes and hooked only one largemouth bass that jumped and liberated itself, Dollahon called Toalson and Upshaw and asked them if they were catching black bass. They said yes and invited us to join them in the back end of a big and flat feeder-creek arm, and we did. They led us to the back of this arm, which is where they had tangled with an array of smallmouth bass earlier in the day. They told us the smallmouth bass where abiding in extremely shallow water, and Upshaw advised us to cast our Inch Worm rigs to the water's edge and employ a swim-and-glide retrieve back to the boat. While we fished the flat shorelines, secondary points, and tertiary points in this area, Toalson and Upshaw fished similar shorelines and points in another section of this arm. Dollahon and I fished from about 4:30 p.m. to 6:10 p.m., and we lifted six smallmouth bass and five largemouth bass across the gunnels of Dollahon's boat, and another six black bass liberated themselves before Dollahon could video record them and lift them into the boat. (We attributed those failures to the No. 4 and barbless hook on my 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.) A few of them were hooked on the initial drop of our Inch Worm rigs near the water's edge, but most of them were caught while we were employing a swimming presentation about four to five feet below the surface, and these black bass were 10 to 20 feet from the water's edge. We could not replicate the extremely shallow-water motif that Toalson and Upshaw had used earlier in the day.
As we loaded the boats onto the trailers and put up our gear, we learned that Toalson and Upshaw had continued to catch a respectable number of smallmouth bass in extremely shallow water on their Biffle Bug rigs, and Upshaw tangled with a few with topwater baits. Toalson estimated that he and Upshaw caught nearly 40 smallmouth bass during their late afternoon outng, giving them an approximate catch of 100 smallouth bass. And Biffle, O'Sullivan and Lindenberg found and caught smallmouth bass on flat and rocky main-lake points and shorelines with 7/16-ounce HardHeads and Sooner Run Biffle Bugs.
During the morning of Oct. 21, Biffle, Dollohon, Lindenberg, O'Sullivan, Toalson, and I were afloat at another sand-pit reservoir that lies in the southern suburbs of Tulsa.
The water exhibited about six feet of visibility. The surface temperature was 69 degrees. The water level looked to be normal. Extensive patches of coontail embellish this reservoir, and there are scores of manmade brush piles — some of them are submerged and some are partially submerged. There are also manmade piles of concrete blocks and manmade piles of rocks.
The Weather Underground reported that it was 42 degrees at 7:53 a.m. and 63 degrees at 12:53 p.m. While we were afloat, the wind varied from being calm to angling out of the north, north by northwest, and west by northwest at 3 to 6 mph. The barometric pressure was 30.31 at 12:53 a.m., 30.30 at 5:53 a.m., and 30.26 at 12:53 p.m.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing would occur from 3:50 a.m. to 5:50 a.m., 4:18 p.m. to 6:18 p.m., and 10:04 a.m. to 12:04 p.m. We were afloat from about 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The primary focus of this endeavor was to introduce O'Sullivan to the Inch Worm, Midwest finesse fishing, and Larew's new Bass Shooter System. Therefore, a lot of time was spent with interviews and taking photographs and recording video footage on how and where to use the Inch Worm and the Bass Shooter System. Dollahon was also engaged in taking photographs for his public relations duties and capturing some video footage for his weekly Oklahoma fishing report on Fox Sports Southwest Outdoors."
Lindenberg was in Biffle's boat, and they fished more than the rest of us. And during the first 90 minutes, they estimated that they had tangled with more than 40 largemouth bass. Biffle employed a variety of power tactics, and Lindenberg wielded an Inch Worm rig that Upshaw assembled for him. Upshaw used a drop of Loctite Super Glue Gel on the head of a Mad Bluegill Inch Worm and affixed the head flush to the flat head of a black 1/16-ounce Outcast Tackle's Money Jig, which sports a No. 1 hook. This super-glue tactic enhances the durability of the Inch Worm dramatically. In fact, Lindenberg caught 20 largemouth bass on it before he had to retire it. Towards the end of their outing, Biffle tangled with a lunker-size largemouth bass that eventually broke his line.
Upshaw fished in Toalson's boat, and O'Sullivan was with them.
Toalson primarily worked with the Bass Shooter System. The Bass Shooter that he used was a hand-poured one, and that is because the production mold has yet to arrive at Larew's headquarters.
The Bass Shooter System is designed for anglers to use with a spinning rod and reel to shoot and skip a soft-plastic bait on a jig under boat docks; it is similar to the Bobby Garland Crappie Baits' Dock Shoot'R system that Larew introduced to the angling world in 2015. Toalson was wielding it on a 1/8-ounce Bass Shooter Pinhead jig. He used the Glacier hue, and he customized the color of it with a permanent-ink marker to create a laminated effect. He employed it by swimming and gliding it over and around the patches of coontail and brush piles, and there were no docks in sight. As Toalson retrieved the Dock Shooter, it exhibited a unique darting and gliding motion, and it inveigled an impressive array of largemouth bass, providing that it can be effectively used around areas that are devoid of docks.
While Toalson was wielding the Dock Shooter, Upshaw used the same Inch Worm rig that Lindenberg used. He employed a swim-and-glide presentation that he executed by making several rotations of the reel's handle ans pausing, and it proved to be quite effective.
Dollahon and I fished together off and on for about two hours. I worked with a variety of manifestations of the Inch Worm on a blue 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. And all of them were effective. The Sooner Red, Montezuma's Revenge, and Mad Bluegill hues were the three that I used. I continued to have problems landing the largemouth bass that I hooked when I rigged the uncustomized Inch Worm to the No. 4 and barbless hook on the Gopher 1/16-ounce jig, but I did not suffer that problem when I used other variations of the Inch Worm.
Initially, Dollahon fished with a customized green-pumpkin Inch Worm that was affixed Texas-style to a No. 1 offset-shank hook and weighted with a 1/8-ounce slip sinker, and he also used an uncustomized Sooner Run Inch Worm on his slip-sinker rig. But he spent most of his time swimming and gliding the Dock Shooter affixed to a 1/8-ounce Bass Shooter Pinhead jig, and he caught a largemouth bass on his first cast with it, and on a goodly number of casts after that first one, he continued to allure and catch largemouth bass. I eventually tied a Dock Shooter onto one of my spinning rods, and on my first casts with it, I caught a largemouth bass that was abiding around a partially submerged brush pile and a patch of coontail. Shortly after that first cast with the Dock Shooter, our outing came to close, and around 1:45 p.m. I was on the road back to Lawrence, Kansas.
(1) The folks at Larew anticipate that their Dock Shooter System will be available sometime between Dec. 1 and early January of 2017. When it is available for anglers to purchase, we will publish a gear guide about it.
(2) Here is the link to our gear guide about the Inch Worm: http://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/gene-larew-lures-inch-worm/.
(3) While I was with Tommy Biffle on Oct. 20, he talked a bit about how he used a Sooner Run Biffle Bug and HardHead at Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota, during the Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Sept 15-18. During the three days of that tournament, he took 15 smallmouth bass to the tournament scale that weighed 67 pounds, five ounces. That catch garnered him fourth-place honors.
He found those smallmouth bass by using his side-imaging sonar to locate relatively small and isolated rock piles adjacent to patches of submerged aquatic vegetation along the north side of the lake. He estimated that he located 50 of them that ranged in size of a big bass boat to twice the size of a bass boat. Throughout the tournament, he only fished half of them. On the first day of practice, he caught 25 pounds of smallmouth bass by 10:30 a.m. On the second day of practice, he caught 28 pounds of smallmouth bass by 9:30 a.m. In addition to catching an array of big smallmouth bass, he caught between 30 and 50 walleye during each day of practice and the tournament, and some of them were humongous walleye. During the tournament, the wind howled out of the south, and the rock piles that he fished were covered with ranks of white caps. In some ways the wind and white caps were a handicap. But they were also an asset, because they kept many of the competitors from plying the areas he was focusing upon.
The small rock piles did not yield a lot of smallmouth bass. In fact, he rarely caught more than one, and never more than two.
During the three tournament days, he culled five smallmouth bass each day, and all of them weighed at least four pounds.
He discovered that one of the best ways to thoroughly dissect a rock pile was to position the boat on top of the outside edge of the submerged aquatic vegetation that bordered the rock pile. From that position, he would cast his Biffle Bug rig into the wind into deeper water, and this inside-out tactic allowed him to retrieve the Biffle Bug uphill. And as he retrieved it with his traditional bottom-bugging motif, it ricocheted off of the rocks.
The rock piles that he fished are situated in five to 12 feet of water, and they drop off into 15 feet of water. And the bulk of the smallmouth bass that he caught were abiding near the outside or deep-water edge of the rock piles.
(4) When I was fishing with George Toalson on Oct. 19, he also talked about how he has caught the dickens out of Mille Lacs Lake's wallege and big smallmouth bass with a Biffle Bug and Hardhead every June since 2011. He called it a whale of a walleye bait that allures vast numbers of them and scores humongous ones.
When Steve Quinn of Brainerd, Minnesota, and In-Fisherman's senior editor initially heard Toalson talking about the effectiveness of the Biffle Bug at Mille Lacs, he thought it was "lure company hype." For years on end, Quinn has been a grub and tube devotee. But during the past year or so, Quinn and his son, Dan, who lives in Hudson, Wisconsin, and is the Field Promotions Coordinator at Rapala, have found the Biffle Bug rig to be an outstanding smallmouth bass lure. Instead of affixing it to a Hardhead, the Quinns rig it onto a VMC's SWRJ Swinging Rugby Jig. VMC is one of Rapala's many wings, and its Swinging Rugby Jig is similar to Larew's Hardhead.
(5) I was hoping to spending some time fishing and talking with Upshaw about the Inch Worm on Oct. 19, but he was unable to join Toalson and me. So we were relegated to talking about it in a telephone conversation.
Here is a short-hand version of what he had to say about the Inch Worm:
He is wedded to the Inch Worm and its Tattle Tail, and so far, he has not yet used any customized versions of it. He always rigs it on a black 1/16-ounce Outcast Tackle's Money Jig, which is a mushroom-style jig with a No. 1 hook, and he applies a small drop of Loctite Super Glue Gel on the head of the Inch Worm before he slides the head of the Inch Worm flush to the flat side of the Money Jig. On average, he can tangle with eight black bass before he has to retire it and affix a new one to the jig.
He fishes it in one to 12 feet of water, and at all of the Oklahoma waterways that he fishes, he has found that he can catch a significant number of black bass that abide in one to 12 feet of water year around. On the majority of his outings, he catches them in three to five feet of water. (George Toalson agrees with Upshaw's observations about the depth of water that some of Oklahoma's black bass can be caught in.)
A week and half before our conversation, he was working on a promotional video featuring the Inch Worm. During this session, he was plying a steep bluff that is graced with a series of ledges, and at times he caught smallmouth bass at almost a hand-over-fist pace. His basic Inch Worm retrieve when he is dissecting a bluff is to shake it as it plummets from the surface to the bottom. Once it reaches the bottom, he deadsticks it for about two seconds. Then he lifts it off the bottom and allows it to move to the next ledge, and as it falls, he shakes it. When it reaches the next ridge, he deadsticks it for about two seconds. He continues that scenario until the Inch Worm hits the 12-foot mark.
When Upshaw is plying flat shorelines and points, he allows the Inch Worm to fall to the bottom without shaking it. Once it reaches the bottom, deadsticks it for about five seconds. After that, he shakes it six times, and then he drags across the bottom for about 10 feet. Then he deadsticks it for five seconds. After the second deadstick routine runs its course, he reels the Inch Worm in and executes another cast and deadstick-skake-drag-and-deadstick presentation.
The first batches of Inch Worms were manufactured on Sept. 29. Therefore, most anglers have not had a chance to use them. But Ryan Latinville of Plattsburgh, New York, and Brett Carnright of Plattsburgh, used the Mad Bluegill hue Inch Worm at a one-day tournament at Lake Champlain on the New York and Vermont border during the second weekend of October. They rigged it two ways: one was affixed to a mushroom-style jig, and the other was nose hooked on a 1/0 drop-shoot hook. They caught 21.16 pounds of smallmouth bass in 16 to 20 feet of water. Their names graced the second spot on the leaderboard.
During the week of Oct. 24-28, Upshaw began shipping some Inch Worms to the professional anglers that Larew's sponsors, and in the weeks to come, he hopes to learn more about its effectiveness at other waterways across the nation.