Three days with Gene Larew Lures and Bill Lewis Outdoors
November 20, 2015
I ventured to northeastern Oklahoma on Nov. 9 to attend a press event staged by Gene Larew Lures and Bill Lewis Outdoors at Fort Gibson Reservoir and Tenkiller Ferry Reservoir. At this event, there were 16 professional anglers and 16 journalists, as well as four representatives from Larew and four from Bill Lewis. We were billeted at The Lodge at Sequoyah State Park on the shoreline of Ft. Gibson.
Larew is a renowned manufacturer of soft-plastic baits. For decades on end, the Salt Craw was its most heralded bait. Nowadays the Biffle Bug affixed to a Biffle Hardhead is its most lauded bait. Besides the Salt Craw and Biffle Bug, Larew manufactures 23 soft-plastic baits for black bass anglers, and 10 Bobby Garland Crappie Baits, as well as three Crappie Pro jigs, for crappie anglers. Larew also has two scents: Mo'Glo Slab Jam for crappie anglers and Biffle Bug Juice for bass anglers. They have two types of rattles: Crappie Glass Rattles and Bass Glass Rattles. And for crappie anglers, they have a spinner that they call Slab Ticklers and an apparatus that they call the Dock Shoot'R Pull Tab.
Bill Lewis is the home of the preeminent Rat-L-Trap, which untold numbers of anglers have been wielding since 1964. And 27 pages of its 36-page 2016 catalog features the various color schemes, sizes, sound systems, and other elements that make-up the manifold virtues of this lipless crankbait. Two of the catalog's pages feature the new Echo 1.75, which is a flat-sided square bill crankbait. The Echo disseminates many of the low- and high-pitch sound qualities that Rat-L-Traps radiate. Besides its unique acoustical elements, it exhibits an unique side-to-side action, which some folks describe as a wide-kicking action as it dives under the surface like a traditional square bill crankbait. Bill Lewis has also added the Rocket Bobber to their repertoire, and they say that it is a godsend for Midwest finesse anglers who employ the float-and-fly method.
When I arrived at Fort Gibson during the afternoon of Nov. 9, I crossed paths with Gary Dollahon of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, at 3:00 p.m. He is the proprietor of Dollahon Public Relations of Tulsa, which handles the public relations for Larew, and he was the helmsman of this event. After we chatted for a spell, he asked me if I would like to hop into Andrew Upshaw's boat, and I said yes. Upshaw had been afloat on Ft. Gibson for a few hours, and he had been wielding a Midwest finesse rig and catching some largemouth bass and spotted bass from a small main lake cove that is graced with several boat docks. The shorelines around this cove are relatively flat, and the underwater terrain is composed of gravel, rocks, and an occasional boulder, as well as some brush piles and several other objects. A riprap jetty is situated at the mouth of this cove.
After I joined Upshaw, we thoroughly dissected that cove again, plying the shorelines, its tertiary points, the riprap jetty, and the boat docks, while his boat floated in three to 15 feet of water.
Upshaw used a 2 1/2-inch segment of the tail of a green-pumpkin Larew's Salt Flick'R, which he affixed to a 1/10-ounce Z-Man Fishing Product's Weedless Finesse ShroomZ jig. I affixed the 3 1/4-inch torso and arrowhead-shaped tail of a Larew's Bama Bug Wheeler's Punch Out Craw to a red 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head Jig, and this bait looks similar to the Mar Lynn Lure Company's Reaper that some old-time Midwest finesse anglers, such as Guido Hibdon of Sunrise Beach, Missouri, used to affix to a jig in the 1960s and 1970s. I also affixed a 2 1/2-inch section of a Larew's green-pumpkin-chartreuse-laminated Tattletail Technique Worm to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. At times, I also used a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
On Nov. 9, the Weather Underground reported that it was 35 degrees at 5:53 a.m. and 66 degrees at 3:53 p.m. The sky fluctuated from being sunny to partly cloudy to mostly cloudy to scattered clouds. The wind angled out of the south by southeast at 4 to 8 mph, out of the south by southwest at 8 mph, out of the south at 3 to 5 mph, and it was calm at times. The barometric pressure was 30.22 at 12:53 a.m., 30.20 at 5:53 a.m., 30.19 at 11:53 a.m., 30.10 at 3:53 p.m., and 30.09 at 5:53 p.m.
The water level at Ft. Gibson was 0.84 feet above normal. The surface temperature was in the mid-60s. The water was stained with an algae bloom, exhibited about 2 1/2 feet of visibility.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing time on Nov. 9 would occur at 8:08 a.m. to 10:08 a.m., 8:29 p.m. to 10:29 p.m. and 1:57 a.m. to 3:57 a.m. Upshaw and I were afloat from about 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and during this 90 minute outing, we tangled with one freshwater drum, two spotted bass, and seven largemouth bass, which were extracted out of water as shallow as 2 1/2 feet and as deep as six feet. Upshaw presented his Salt Flick'R rig with a presentation that he described as a hop and deadstick retrieve. I employed a swim-glide-and-slight-shake presentation. (See endnote No. 1 for a complete synopsis of Upshaw's 2 1/2-days of fishing at this event.)
After this short outing, Upshaw and I joined the other anglers, journalists, and staffs of Larew and Bill Lewis at dinner, where we also examined a variety of Bill Lewis' and Larew's baits. At this end of this gathering, Dollahon announced that the anglers and journalists would meet at the Sequoyah State Park marina on Ft. Gibson at 7:00 a.m., and we would be on the water until 5:30 p.m.
From 7:30 a.m. to 9:20 a.m. on Nov. 10, I was afloat with Brian Branum of Brookeland, Texas; Richard Broadwell of Alexandria, Louisiana; and Wes Higgins of Alexandria, Louisiana. We remained in sight of the marina for the entire outing.
Higgins is president of Bill Lewis Outdoors. Broadwell is its national sales manager. Branum is the engineer who designed the Echo 1.75. Branum is also a fishing guide at Lake Sam Rayburn and the manager at The Umphrey Pavilion at Sam Rayburn. Branum occasionally competes in local bass tournaments, and he has won several of them, including the Texas Shootout on June 28, 2015.
On Nov. 10, the Weather Underground reported that it was 44 degrees at 5:53 a.m. and 75 degrees at 1:53 p.m. The wind angled out of the south at 5 to 28 mph and out of the south by southeast at 5 to 11 mph. It was sunny during the daylight hours, and it was overcast four hours during the night. The barometric pressure was 30.10 at 12:53 a.m., 30.08 at 5:53 a.m., 30.00 at 11:53 a.m., 29.91 at 2:53 p.m., and 29.90 at 5:53 p.m.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated the best fishing should transpire from 8:48 a.m. to 10:48 a.m., 9:11 p.m. to 11:11 p.m., and 2:37 a.m. to 4:37 a.m.
The water conditions were the same as the ones that Upshaw and I experienced on Nov. 9.
The outing with Branum, Broadwell, and Higgins was primarily a seminar that focused on why and how they created the Echo 1.75. It also featured a casting and retrieving exhibition with the Echo 1.75, and it was an extremely enlightening and intriguing presentation. They also exhibited acoustical features of the Knock-N-Trap. At 9:05 a.m., Higgins said that he was interested in seeing a few Midwest finesse tactics. For the next 15 minutes, he and I employed a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. Higgins also removed the ZinkerZ rig and made a few casts with an 1/8-ounce rainbow-trout-hue Tiny Trap. And during those 15 minutes, our finesse tactics inveigled one freshwater drum, one spotted bass, and three largemouth bass. They were extracted out of two to four feet of water along a riprap main-lake point at the mouth of the marina cove.
From 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., I was not afloat with any of Bill Lewis' and Larew's professional anglers. Instead I spent that time chatting with Gary Dollahon and Chris Lindenberg, who lives in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and is president of Larew. I also spent some time casting and retrieving a Midwest finesse rig around the shoreline behind the marina and along inside edges of the docks, where I caught one white bass, three green sunfish, and 10 largemouth bass. At noon, all of the anglers and journalists ate lunch at the marina, and we exchanged stories about how our mornings unfolded.
At 12:30 p.m., I got into Lee Pitts' boat. Pitts resides in Cedar Bluff, Alabama. He is a crappie and black bass guide on Weiss Lake, Lake Guntersville, and Neely Henry Lake. He is sponsored by Bobby Garland Crappie Baits, Crappie Pro, and Larew. He was instrumental in helping them create the Dock Shoot'R Pull Tabs and Dockt'R Shooter Heads.
For two hours, I watched Pitts shoot and skip crappie jigs like an arrow into minuscule openings around boats in pursuit of crappie. It is a tactic that he began employing in 2005, and he is a wizard at this finesse tactic. While I watched and listened to him explain each shot or skip and retrieve, he caught an array of largemouth bass and white bass, but only two crappie. He suspected that he had whacked the crappie population around these boat docks too hard during the morning hours, and the only fish that were left were the largemouth bass and white bass.
When he is dock shooting, Pitt works with a seven-foot Lew's Wally Marshal, Signature Crappie Series rod; it is light-power and fast-action rod. His reel is a Lew's 100 Laser Lite Speed Spin, which is spooled with six-pound-test Gamma Panfish Copolymer Fishing Line.
He used a loop knot to affix either a 1/24- or a 1/32-ounce jig to the line. He worked with three jigs: a Dockt'R Shooter Head, an Overbite Sickle Mo'Glo Jighead, and Mo' Glow-in-the-Dark Jighead. To the jigs, he affixed a two-inch Larew's Slab Slay'R, a 2 1/4-inch Minnow Mind'R, and a 2 1/2-inch Stroll'R. Once the Slab Slay'R, Minnow Mind'R and Stroll'R were affixed to the jig, Pitts added the Dock Shoot'R Pull Tab.
The crappie, largemouth bass, and white bass that he caught were caught as he retrieved the jig and soft-plastic bait about three feet below the surface. During the retrieve, he held his rod at the two o'clock position, and he executed what he called a pendulum-swing presentation, which was occasionally punctuated with a subtle twitch or shake of his rod, and when the bait reached the outside edge of the dock, he twitched it again.
He noted that boat control is a critical component in dock shooting. It is also important not to be too close to the dock, and that is because the wake from the propeller of the electric trolling motor seems to make the crappie wary.
The wind can confound the presentation and boat control. Therefore, Pitts plies docks that are sheltered from the wind.
Shade is another critical element. Thus, he found that on sunny days the crappie often abide in the shadiest areas around a dock. And on cloudy days, they are often scattered at a variety of locales around a dock. He says there has been untold number of times when he has dissected 20 boat slips without garnering a strike, and then at boat slip No. 21, he will tangle with 20 or more crappie. To the human eye, there is no noticeable difference with those 21 boat slips, and therefore, anglers have to probe each boat slip as if it is a piscatorial gold mine.
From 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., I was scheduled to be afloat with Brian Latimer of Belton, South Carolina, who competes on the FLW's Rayovac Southeastern Division and Bassmaster's Northern Opens. He is sponsored by Bill Lewis. I, however, failed to tell him that we were supposed to fish together, and he fished with another journalist. Therefore, I spent the rest of the afternoon talking with several anglers and journalists who were coming and going during that spell, and when I was not talking, I was wielding a Midwest finesse rig around the shoreline behind the marina, where I caught one crappie, one bluegill, two freshwater drum, three green sunfish, and seven largemouth bass.
At 6:00 p.m. the anglers, journalists, and staffs of Larew and Bill Lewis had dinner together. After dinner, we listened to insightful presentations by Wes Higgins, Brian Branum, Richard Broadwell, Andrew Upshaw, Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, Alabama, and Mark Daniels, Jr. of Tuskegee, Alabama, who told us about their experiences with Rat-L-Traps and the new Echo 1.75.
At 6:35 a.m. on Nov. 11, the entire entourage began carpooling to the marina and boat ramp on Burnt Cabin Creek at Lake Tenkiller.
The Weather Underground reported that it was 64 degrees at 12:53 a.m. and 81 degrees at 12:53 p.m. To our chagrin, however, the wind howled, angling out of the south by southeast at 11 mph, out of the south at 10 to 28 mph, out of the south by southwest at 19 to 48 mph, and out of the west by southwest at 9 to 25 mph. During the morning, the sky fluctuated from being overcast to mostly cloudy, and occasionally it rained lightly, and for a short spell around noon, it rained hard. Then the sun shined intensely during the afternoon hours. The barometric pressure was 29.83 at 12:53 a.m., 29.87 at 5:53 a.m., 29.66 at 11:53 a.m., 29.64 at 2:53 p.m., and 29.72 at 4:53 p.m.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing would occur from 9:32 a.m. to 11:32 a.m., 9:55 p.m. to 11:55 p.m., and 3:21 a.m. to 5:21 a.m.
The water level was 0.62 feet above normal. The surface temperature was in the middle 60s. The water clarity in the main body of Tenkiller exhibited five to six feet of visibility, and in the back portions of Burnt Cabin Creek, the water was stained, exhibiting 12 to 18 inches of visibility.
From 7:45 a.m. to 9:15 a.m., I fished with George Toalson of Claremore, Oklahoma.
From 1998 to 2006, Toalson was the proprietor of Gene Larew Lures. He was also the lure designer. After he sold the company to Chris Lindenberg, Toalson has been Larew's lure designer, and in his words, he humbly describes his role as being the plant's manager and handiman. He occasionally competes in a bass tournament, and across the years, he has garnered an impressive amount of prize money. One of his piscatorial fortes is wielding a Larew's Biffle Hardhead affixed to a Biffle Bug, which he and Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Oklahoma, designed.
We began our outing by fishing two flat gravel points inside Burnt Cabin Creek that were sheltered from the wind. These points are embellished with rock piles, ridges of rocks, and some significant drop-offs. Toalson's boat floated in water as shallow as eight feet and as deep as 25 feet.
For a few minutes, Toalson wielded a tandem spinnerbait with a white skirt and chrome blades, and then he switched to a tandem spinnerbait with a white skirt and gold blades. I fished with a Larew's green-pumpkin Baby Hoodaddy affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, a 2 1/2-inch section of a Larew's green-pumpkin-chartreuse-laminated Tattletail Technique Worm on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. We failed to elicit a strike at this locale.
At 8:15 a.m., Toalson made a relatively short run into Sand Bass Bay, where we thoroughly dissected a massive gravel flat that is endowed with piles of rocks and boulders, as well as a series of secondary points. In addition to the piles of rocks and boulders, there are some long ridges of rocks and boulders. This flat was sheltered from the wind. One of the points is enhanced by a radical drop-off, and around the other points and ridges of rocks and boulders, the drop-offs were more gradual. As we fished, Toalson's boat floated in water as shallow as four feet and as deep as 18 feet.
Initially, Toalson probed this area with a 4 1/4-inch Larew's dark-watermelon-and-pumpkin-purple Biffle Bug and a 7/16-ounce Biffle Hardhead. But we were following Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Oklahoma, who competes on the Bassmaster Elite Series and he is sponsored by Larew, and he was wielding a 4 1/4-inch Sooner Run Biffle Bug on a 7/16-ounce Biffle HardHead, which inveigled 10 smallmouth bass. Mark Hicks of Glouster, Ohio, was the journalist who accompanied Biffle. (See endnote No. 3 about the largemouth bass and smallmouth bass that Biffle caught.)
After Biffle had his way with the largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass that were abiding on these rock piles and ridges, the only way we could garner a strike was to use spinning tackle and Midwest finesse baits. So, Toalson put his baitcasting tackle away, and he used a 2 1/2-inch section of a Larew's green-pumpkin-blue Tattletail Technique Worm on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and I used a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. We employed a swim-glide-and-subtle-shake retrieve, and during the 60 minutes that we dissected portions of this massive flat, we caught eight smallmouth bass. These smallmouth bass were around some rock piles in three to six feet of water in an area that is smaller than a tennis court.
This was the first time that Toalson had use Midwest finesse tactics, and he said it impressed him. He called it a dandy way to get a lot of bites and catch an array of black bass. He also noted that it would be difficult to win a bass tournament with it, but he thought it would be a way for a tournament angler at a difficult venue (such as Beaver Lake, Arkansas) to catch enough bass to garner a paycheck.
At 9:30 a.m. I got into Fred Roumbanis' boat. He grew up in California, and nowadays, he resides in Bixby, Oklahoma. In 2015, he competed in the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Central Open, and Major League Fishing tournaments. He is sponsored by Larew.
Roumbanis said he wanted to spend the outing talking about and employing Midwest finesse tactics, and to accomplish that feat, he made a relatively long run across ranks of white caps to Chicken Creek, which was entirely sheltered from the wind. Some of its shorelines are bluffs, steep, and deep. The other shorelines exhibit a 35- to 50-degree angle as they approach the water's edge. Roumbanis' boat floated in 10 to 25 feet of water.
We employed four Midwest finesse rigs: a 2 1/2-inch section of a Larew's green-pumpkin Salt Flick'R on a chartreuse 3/32-ounce Gopher jig, a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 3/32-ounce Gopher jig, a Larew's green-pumpkin Hoodaddy to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ affixed to a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig.
We caught 14 smallmouth bass, five largemouth bass, and two spotted bass. Several of them were caught on the initial drop of our baits. Three of them were caught as we dragged the bait behind the boat. Two of them were caught with a deadstick presentation. The others were caught on either a extremely slow swim-glide-and-shake retrieve or a hop-and-bounce retrieve.
Secondary points and shorelines where a bluff makes the transition to a rock-and-gravel terrain were the most fruitful areas.
We rarely use a 3/32-ounce jig, but it worked well along the steep terrain in this feeder-creek arm, and it caught more than half of the 21 bass.
As we made our last casts and retrieves at 12:20 p.m., Roumbanis said he was pleased with his maiden outing with Midwest finesse, and he is eager to experiment with other Midwest finesse retrieves and baits in the near future and even employ some of them in some tournament situations.
From 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., I fished with John Murray of Phoenix, Arizona, but he and his family will be moving to eastern Tennessee in December. He is sponsored by Larew, and across the years, he has competed in scores of Bassmaster, FLW, WON, and other tournaments.
Like Roumbanis, Murray said he wanted to work with some Midwest finesse tactics, noting that for years he was a practitioner of West Coast finesse tactics, which revolved around split-shot rigs, doodling, darter jigs, grubs, tubes, and Westy Worms. But during the past 10 or 12 years, his finesse tactics have gone by the wayside. Now he wants to see if he can reintegrate some finesse methods into his repertoire. He thought that a Midwest finesse tactic or two might be useful for him to employ occasionally on the tournament trail in 2016 and recreationally with his son in Tennessee.
Unfortunately, when we were afloat, the wind began to roar unmercifully. Some gusts hit 40 or more mph, and it proscribed our ability to travel and fish areas that hadn't been pommeled by other members of the Larew and Bill Lewis entourage.
Murray and I used the same Midwest finesse rigs that Roumbanis and I used, but were able to eke out only four largemouth bass and four smallmouth bass along a slightly wind-sheltered main-lake bluff, where Andrew Upshaw had caught an array of smallmouth bass during his morning outings with Ron Wong of Memphis, Tennessee, and John Neporadny of Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.
After we left that overly fished bluff, we sought shelter from the wind in the back portions of Burnt Cabin Cove, which also had been pounded by Murray and other anglers during the morning hours. We were not surprised that we were able to catch only one largemouth bass and one smallmouth bass. Consequently, it was impossible for Murray to properly evaluate the effectiveness of Midwest finesse. Nevertheless, he was still intrigued by it.
From 2:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m., I fished with Casey Martin of New Market, Alabama, who competes on the Walmart FLW Tour. He is sponsored by Bill Lewis. He is also sponsored by Z-Man, and at the behest of the staff at Z-Man, he has attempted to employ Midwest finesse tactics several times this year, but they were never fruitful endeavors. Therefore, he wanted to spend some time using and talking about how, when, and where to use a Midwest finesse rig like a Z-Man's Finesse T.R.D. on a Z-Man's Finesse ShroomZ jig.
Unfortunately, Martin and I had to battle the same windy conditions that beleaguered John Murray and me. We began our outing plying flat and rocky shorelines and points in Burnt Cabin Creek that were sheltered from the wind. But since 7:45 a.m., nearly every inch of these shorelines and points had been whacked by other anglers.
Initially, Martin wielded a Z-Man's California Craw Finesse T.R.D. on a chartreuse 1/10-ounce Finesse ShroomZ. But this rig was too heavy for the flat and rock terrain that he was probing, which caused it to become snagged frequently, and it also diminished the critical no-feel feature of the retrieves that Midwest finesse anglers employ. What we mean by no feel is that we cannot feel what the jig-and-soft-plastic combo is doing or where it is during the retrieve. This is the antithesis of the way power anglers experience their retrieves. Often newcomers to Midwest finesse tactics find the no-feel retrieve to be so disconcerting that they quickly give up and resort to using what we call power finesse tactics. In order to feel their baits, these power finesse anglers work with 1/10-, 1/8-, 3/16-, and 1/4 — ounce jigs. And in order to feel their baits, they always drag and hop them along the bottom, replicating the way most anglers retrieve a soft-plastic worm rigged on a shaky-head jig, and that style of retrieve is seldom the most effective way to present a Midwest finesse bait to largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass. For more information about the six Midwest finesse retrieves, please read the column at this link: http://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/six-midwest-finesse-retrieves.
Eventually, Martin switched to a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig, and his woes with snags disappeared. Likewise, I used a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's green-pumpkin ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/16-ounce Gopher jig. We probed several hundred yards of gravel and rocky shorelines and five secondary points, where we caught one spotted bass, two largemouth bass, and five smallmouth bass in water as shallow as three feet and no deeper than five feet. These fish were caught while we employed a slow swim-glide-and-subtle-shake presentation, which allowed these baits to travel a few inches above the bottom.
Around 4:45 p.m. we loaded Martin's boat on his trailer, and we drove back to The Lodge at Sequoyah State Park at Ft. Gibson, where we enjoyed a congenial dinner with all of the anglers, journalists, and staff members from Bill Lewis and Larew.
After dinner, we listened to and watched an engaging presentation by Larew's staff and anglers. Chris Lindenberg began this session with a short history of the company and applauding the contributions of the staff and professional anglers that help design, field test and promote the baits that Larew manufactures. At the end of his presentation, he invited Andrew Upshaw to take the podium and tell us about the new baits, such as the Itty Bit Slab Slay'R, Dock Shoot'R Pull Tabs, Dockt'R Shooter Heads, and Overbite Sickle Heads for crappie anglers.
Then Uphsaw introduced John Murray's newest creation, which is the eight-inch Tattle Tail Technique Worm, and he invited Murray to tell us why he created it, as well as where, how, and when to employ it.
After Murray finished talking about the new Tattle Tail Technique Worm, Upshaw invited Jacob Wheeler to talk about the Wheeler's Punch Out Craw.
Wheeler hails from Indianapolis, Indiana. In 2015, he competed at the Bassmaster Classic, on the Bassmaster Central and Northern Opens, on Major League Fishing, on the Walmart FLW Tour, at the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, and on Ultimate Match Fishing. He gave us a multifaceted seminar, with the aid of an aquarium, that showed us several of the ways he rigs and presents the Punch Out Craw to his quarries.
When Wheeler completed his presentation, Dollahon came forward and thanked all of us for attending this event — especially Tommy Biffle who is usually deer hunting on Nov. 9, 10, and 11. He asked the taciturn and modest Biffle to join him at the podium, but he humbly declined, saying that he was heading home to get ready to go deer hunting in the morning. Biffle received a round of applause. As we called it a day, the anglers and journalists remarked to one another that it had been an edifying, enjoyable, and collegial couple of days.
Several of the journalists and anglers, such as Fred Roumbanis and Jacob Wheeler, were afloat for a spell on the morning of Nov. 12, but I was on the road, heading home to northeastern Kansas.
(1) We asked Andrew Upshaw to summarize how, when, and where he fished at Ft. Gibson and Tenkiller.
Here is an edited and condensed version of his summary:
I caught 72 largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass during the 2 1/2 days that I fished. I used two baits over the course of the event. A 2 1/2-inch Gene Larew's green-pumpkin Salt Flick'R on a 1/10-ounce Z-Man's Weedless Finesse ShroomZ caught 60 of those black bass. I used three retrieves: a deadstick presentation, a hopping presentation, and a slow swimming retrieve to entice all of my bites. I had to keep the bait near the bottom, and once I felt the bottom, I would hop the bait off the bottom and shake my rod, and then I would allow it to drop back to the bottom. During the latter part of the day at Tenkiller, when the wind was howling, I switched to the Larew's Purple Flash Shad Rally Grub affixed to a black 3/16-ounce Outkast Tackle's Money Jig, and I polished the rocks on the bottom by employing a slow swimming retrieve as I fished for smallmouth bass. The biggest one I caught weighed around 2 1/2 pounds.
When I first started using the Midwest finesse rig this year, I used the 1/6-ounce Z-Man's Finesse ShroomZ head, and I didn't get near as many bites on it as I can garner on the 1/10-ouncer. In fact, I spent most of my time breaking off the jig and tying a new one on. One observation I made this week at Ft. Gibson and Tenkiller focuses on the effectiveness of the Weedless Finesse ShroomZ. I was able to effectively fish a little deeper water with the 1/10-ounce model, but not jeopardizing the lure by hanging it up constantly. I used only two Weedless ShroomZs the entire trip. I know that most Midwest finesse anglers ply shallow water, but at Tenkiller I was catching bass in 15 feet of water. In the near future, I will get some lighter jigs, and I will see how they work.
The most fruitful locations at Ft. Gibson were flats that would eventually drop into deeper water. And the best bite occurred where there was some type of rock on the edge of the drop-off.
At Tenkiller I fished two different locales. One was a transition from a 45- degree shoreline to a bluff wall. The fish were holding tight to the break or a ledge, and they were near the bottom. The second locale was an offshore sand flat that is about 50 yards from the shoreline. My boat was floating in 18 feet of water, and I was casting the Rally Grub into eight feet of water and working it along the drop off, which plummeted from 12 to 18 feet of water. The smallmouth bass were milling about slightly above the bottom.
(2) If this event had been a weigh-in tournament, Gary Dollahon said that Tommy Biffle would have won it. Biffle told Dollahon that he caught 40 largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, including two five-pound largemouth bass. The majority of the 40 were smallmouth bass, and the biggest smallmouth bass looked to be a three pounder. He was employing a 4 1/4-inch Larew's Sooner Run Biffle Bug on a 7/16-ounce Biffle Hardhead, and most of his bass were in two to five feet of water along windblown and rocky shorelines inside feeder-creek arms and some main-lake areas.
(3) Gary Dollahon thinks that a Gene Larew's 1/24-ounce Dockt'R Shooter Head jig affixed to a finesse worm or a customized soft-plastic stickbait is an idea combo for skipping and shooting around docks. It is also an effective combo for plying shallow riprap, shallow rock piles, patches of coontail, and other types of submerged aquatic vegetation.
(4) The Dock Shoot'R Pull Tab allows an angler to grip the PullTab, not the hook of the jig, between his thumb and index finger. To shoot a boat dock, an angler positions his spinning rod low and parallel to the water's surface. While he is gripping the Pull Tab, he pulls the jig towards his spinning reel, and he pulls it until it is four to six inches behind the reel. This creates a bow in his spinning rod. He aims or points the rod to the spot inside the dock that he wants the jig to hit, and then he releases the Pull Tab. The Pull Tab prevents an angler's fingers from being impaled with a hook, and it adds a touch of flare and sparkle to his underwater presentation of the jig.