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Van Dam: Inside-out perspective of Midwest finesse

Van Dam: Inside-out perspective of Midwest finesse

In November and December of 2012, while my severely broken forearm, wrist and hand were healing, my wife, Patty, occasionally took me fishing. On these short outings, we fished by walking the shorelines at a nearby 195-acre community reservoir.

Those bank-walking outings with Patty spawned memories of the days back in the 1960s, when Guido Hibdon and I were young guides at Two Waters Resort on the Gravois Arm of the Lake of the Ozarks. Those were the days before electric trolling motors, and as guides we used to do a lot of bank walking. We did it by beaching our boats on gravel shorelines, and then we and our clients would traipse up and down shorelines and around points, casting from the shallows into deeper water. By walking the banks, we developed this inside-out and deep-to-shallow perspective. Then as the years went by, there were times, when Hibdon could be seeing maneuvering his boat near the shoreline, and he and clients would be casting towards deep water as we did when we used to walk the shorelines. Hibdon said that there are times when the Lake of the Ozarks' largemouth bass seemed to prefer a bait that is retrieved up a bank (or from deep water to shallow water) than down a bank ( from shallow water to deep water). Hibdon actually called it "fishing uphill."

On April 18, Kevin Van Dam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, wrote a blog on the Bassmaster Web site entitled "Bull Shoals throws down a challenge." This was when he and 99 other anglers were at Bull Shoals, Arkansas, for the Bassmaster Elite Series Ramada Quest tournament.

In this blog, Van Dam discussed the weather, water and fishing condtions, and how he planned to deal with those situations.

He wrote: "The weather is weird. We've had a long, cold spring and then we had a big warm up." He noted that during the practice days of April 15 to 17 that the water temperature escalated from 51 to 61 degrees, which Van Dam called "radical."

He noted the rise in the water temperature provoked a goodly number of the reservoir's largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass to inhabit their traditional spawning sites.  And "the traditional way to fish spawners is to sit out deep and throw shallow, but I'm going to try to sit shallow and throw deep. I'm thinking that I'll be less visible to the fish; and by bringing the bait from deep to shallow, the bass will be less spooky."

Then on April 18, Mother Nature walloped Bull Shoals and its watershed with a massive storm, which postponed the first day of the tournament and caused the water level to rise two feet. During that storm, he penned this blog about fishing inside-out or fishing uphill.

And even though the weather and water conditions were different on April 19 than they were during his practice sessions on April 15, 16 and 17, Van Dam said in a telephone conversation that he utilized the inside-out motif when the wind was not blowing on the lairs he was probing. Thus, when the wind was calm or at locales that were sheltered from the wind, he positioned his boat along the shorelines, where it floated in about five feet of water along flat shorelines and points. And it floated in deeper water along steeper shorelines. From this inside-out perspective, he executed long cast at a 45-degree angle from his position in the front of the boat, and probed depths of 15 to 20 feet of water.

He said his inside-out approach was primarily a calm water phenomenon, but he did employed it on some wind-blown bluff points, where he would position his boat near the shoreline and fan cast the entire point with a jerkbait. This allowed him to fish areas on those points where most anglers would position their boats so they could cast and retrieve their baits from the shallows into deep water. In short, he was alluring suspended bass with a jerkbait from a long way from the shoreline.

His casting rods were spooled with 10-pound-test fluorocarbon line. They sported crankbaits and jerkbaits, as well as a 3/8-ounce Strike King Lure Company's Tour Grade Finesse Football Jig dressed with a KVD Perfect Plastic Baby Rodent.

On his spinning rods, he worked with six-pound test fluorocarbon line. To the line, he attached a 3/16- and 1/4-ounce shakyhead jigworm. These jigs were dressed with Strike King's KVD Fat Baby Finesse Worm. According to Van Dam, the Bull Shoals bass exhibited a preference for a rapidly descending shakyhead combo. Therefore he primarily used the 1/4-ounce one.

Van Dam didn't win the tournament. But this inside-out tactic helped him catch 15 bass that weighed 36 pounds, 14 ounces, and garner 19th place and $10,000. Moreover, he was just one pound short of being in 12th place and competing on the fourth day of the event.

Since last fall, I have been pondering the effectiveness of the inside-out approach, noting that Midwest finesse anglers rarely deploy it nowadays  unless they are walking a shoreline or using a float tube. This is a grand mistake. The inside-out approach to largemouth bass fishing stems back to the beginning of Midwest finesse fishing in the 1950s and '60s, when its founder, the late Chuck Woods of Kansas City, spend untold number of hours walking shorelines, catching fathomless numbers of largemouth bass in the waterways of northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri by wielding the Beetle, Beetle Spin, jigworm, jig and pork chunk or eel, and Bass Buster Lure Company's Scorpion.

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