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Midwest Finesse Fishing: February 2021

Feb. 2

Bill Kenney of Denton, Texas, posted a log on the Finesse News Network about his outing with Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, on Feb. 2.

Here is an edited version of his log.

Steve and I started the afternoon fishing at an U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' hill-land impoundment in north-central Texas from noon to 2:30 p.m.

The high temperature for the day was 64 degrees. The morning low temperature was 38 degrees. The wind angled out of the east-by-southeast at 8 to10 mph. The barometric pressure was 30.23.

In-Fisherman's solunar calendar noted that the best fishing times would occur from 10:05 a.m. to 12:05 p.m. and 10:53 p.m. to 12:53 a.m.

We had hoped to cross paths with a goodly number of pre-spawn white bass in a minor feeder-creek arm that is situated in the northern region of this reservoir. We spent about 2 1/2 hours fishing the lower and middle sections of the creek arm. We did not venture into the upper or back end of the creek arm. And much to our dismay, the white-bass fishing was awful.

The water temperature at the mouth of this feeder-creek arm was 55 degrees, and it warmed to 61 degrees in the midsection of the creek. The water exhibited three to four feet of visibility. The water in the main-lake area outside of the creek arm was muddy with less than a foot of visibility. The water temperature was 50.2 degrees. The water level was normal.

The underwater terrain inside this creek arm is composed of mostly clay and pea gravel. The shorelines are littered with numerous laydowns, brush piles, and submerged logs. The main creek channel courses its way through the center of the creek arm, and it is covered with water as shallow as three feet and as deep as 14 feet.

We fished about two miles of this feeder-creek arm, and it was a tedious chore for us to catch two white bass and one dinky spotted bass on a slow swimming retrieve with a 2 ½-inch Z-Man Fishing Products' pearl Slim SwimZ affixed to a blue 1/15-ounce Z-Man's Finesse ShroomZ jig. These three fish were caught many yards apart from each other, and they were abiding in the vicinity of the main creek channel in five to seven feet of water. We detected many more scattered fish and shad concentrations on our sonar units throughout the lower and middle sections of the creek arm, but we were unable to provoke any other strikes with our Slim SwimZ rigs.

After this dismal endeavor, we decided to leave this reservoir and we put the boat away. We then travelled about six miles to a private reservoir that I fished on Jan. 26. We were afoot at this impoundment from about 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

This impoundment has depths ranging from a shallow shelf that is covered with about two feet of water to a deep depression that is covered with 16 to 18 feet of water. There are scores of thick patches of American pondweed that festoon the shallow-water areas, and in some spots, the patches extend about 20 feet from the water's edge. The water temperature was 52.8 degrees. The water displayed about four feet of clarity. The water level appeared to be normal.

At this reservoir, we caught 21 largemouth bass, one bluegill, and a large black crappie. They were caught around the edges of the patches of American pondweed in water as shallow as three feet and as deep as 16 feet.

Nine largemouth bass and one bluegill were caught on a slow swim-glide-and-shake presentation with a 2 ½ inch Z-Man's pumpkin-chartreuse ZinkerZ on a chartreuse 1/32-ounce Z-Man's OG Mushroom Jighead.

Another nine largemouth bass were caught on a Z-Man's Finesse TRD in the molting-craw hue. It was Texas-rigged on a Z-Man's green-pumpkin 1/15-ounce BulletZ jig. It was employed with a hop-and-deadstick retrieve.

It is interesting to note that when I fished this pond on Jan. 26, I hooked a hefty largemouth bass on a molting-craw Finesse TRD rig, and it broke my line shortly after I set the hook. During this Feb. 2 outing, I was fortunate enough to hook and land that same bass, and it still had that molting-craw Finesse TRD rig still in the back of its mouth. This largemouth was the largest of the day, and it weighed four-pounds, nine ounces. I removed both of my Finesse TRD rigs, and it swam off vigorously upon release.

A shortened four-inch Z-Man's black-neon Finesse WormZ rigged weedless on a red 1/32-ounce Charlie Brewer Slider Company's Crappie Slider jig, which was utilized with a slow drag-and-deadstick retrieve, allured three largemouth bass and a large black crappie that weighed one-pound, 15-ounces.

All together, we caught 21 largemouth bass, one spotted bass, two white bass, one large black crappie, and one bluegill in 4 1/2 hours.

We caught one spotted bass and two white bass in the Corps' reservoir. The other 21 largemouth bass, the large crappie, and the one bluegill were caught from the private impoundment.

Feb. 6

Brandon Marlow of LaFollette, Tennessee, posted a log on the Finesse News Network about his outing on Feb. 6 with Jason Marlow at a highland reservoir in northeastern Tennessee.

Here is an edited version of his log.

The air temperature when we arrived was 31 degrees around 10:00 a.m., and it was 42 degrees at 2:00 p.m. The sky was mostly cloudy. There was no wind.

The water level was 19.31 feet below full pool. The surface temperature was 44 degrees. The water exhibited eight to 10 feet of visibility.

According to In-Fisherman's solunar calendar, the best times to fish occurred from 5:51 a.m. to 7:51a.m., 6:20 p.m. to 8:20 p.m., and 11:37 a.m. to 1:37 p.m.

We fished in the lower end of this reservoir from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

This was one of those days where the bass were really keyed in on shad. We spent the first couple of hours fishing rock-laden shorelines with a 45-degree slope, several points, and some bluffs, which yielded two largemouth bass and one smallmouth bass. One of the largemouth bass was caught on a Z-Man's green-pumpkin-orange TRD CrawZ affixed to a green-pumpkin 1/15-ounce Z-Man's Finesse ShroomZ jig with a slow dragging presentation in 10 feet of water along a rock-laden shoreline with a 45-degree slope. Along the same shoreline, the smallmouth bass and the other largemouth bass was caught on a Z-Man's PB&J Finesse TRD affixed to a green-pumpkin 1/16-ounce mushroom-style jig with a drag-and-pause presentation in about 20 feet of water.

We were unable to catch anything from the bluffs and points.

We could no longer ignore all the shad that the black bass were feeding upon across the offshore and open-water areas. The shad were everywhere.

These black bass are difficult to catch, which is why I ignore them unless they are within casting distance. We spent two hours chasing these bass.

I wish I could give a detailed description of how to catch these fish, but if I am being honest, it is mostly luck. They will be feeding a hundred yards away, and by the time you get there they are gone, and they will be some feeding where you just left. It is just being in the right place at the right time.

We were lucky to catch nine smallmouth bass. We used the same jigs that we had been using, but they were dressed with a 3.75-inch Z-Man's shiner StreakZ. When we were able to be in the right place at the right time, we would cast our rigs right into the middle of the feeding frenzy. Sometimes we would get a bite as soon as it hit the water, and at other times, we would catch one by allowing our rigs to free fall. We also caught a couple by working our rigs erratically.

The one thing I did notice was we caught more when they were feeding on or near the surface in water depths of 20 feet or less than we caught when they were feeding on the surface and or near the surface in 70 to 100 feet of water.

We probably could have stayed along the shorelines and caught a few black bass. But when there is such a quantity of shad for the black bass to feed upon, many of those shoreline black bass will venture offshore and gorge on the shad. It seems to be too good for them to pass up this time of year.

Feb. 6

Steve Reideler of Denton, Texas, posted a log on the Finesse News Network about his outing on Feb. 8.

Here is an edited version of his log.

The black-bass and white-bass fishing has been horrid in north-central Texas, which is typical for this portion of Texas during the winter months.

One example of the wretched white-bass fishing occurred on Feb. 6, when I fished for four hours at a north-central Texas' U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoir. I found four massive schools of white bass in water as shallow as 32 feet and as deep as 45 feet in the lower region of the reservoir. They were suspended 15 to 34 feet below the surface in the middle of a major tributary arm, and I was baffled as to why I was unable to generate a single strike.

I was afoot at three community reservoirs in north-central Texas on Feb. 8, from noon to 5:00 p.m., and the black-bass fishing was as sorry as the white-bass fishing.

It rained from about 5:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 8, and the sky remained overcast for the remainder of the day. The morning low temperature was 36 degrees. The afternoon high temperature was 64 degrees. The wind angled out of the south and southeast at 10 to 15 mph. The barometric pressure fell from 29.94 at noon to 29.89 by 5:00 p.m.

The best fishing, according to In-Fisherman's solunar calendar, would take place from 1:14 a.m. to 3:14 a.m., 7:29 a.m. to 9:29 a.m., and 7:59 p.m. to 9:59 p.m.

I spent the first three hours dissecting the most promising features at the first two community reservoirs, and I failed to generate any strikes.

After that frustrating beginning, I spent the last 90 minutes of this outing at the third community reservoir.

The water was stained more than usual from the early morning rain, and it exhibited about 12 inches of clarity. The water level was about a foot high. The water temperature was 51.3 degrees.

This reservoir's submerged terrain consists of red clay and gravel. Bald-cypress trees border portions of the water's edge.

I caught two largemouth bass and one large bluegill from the east shoreline. This shoreline has about a 30-degree slope. It is endowed with three tertiary points and two primary points. These two largemouth bass were caught in four to six feet of water from the end of a primary point and one of the tertiary points. They were caught on a drag-shake-and-deadstick presentation with a 2 3/4-inch Z-Man's black-blue TRD TubeZ affixed to a blue 1/32-ounce Z-Man's OG Mushroom Jighead.

The west side of the reservoir, which features one primary point, a couple of smaller tertiary points, and a long and shallow clay-and-gravel ledge, yielded one largemouth bass. It was extracted from four feet of water along the deep-water side of the shallow ledge and in close proximity to a patch of lily-pad stems that adorn a portion of the ledge. This largemouth was coaxed into striking the black-blue TRD TubeZ combo that was employed with a slow drag-shake-and-deadstick retrieve at about a 30-degree angle to the ledge.

I failed to locate any largemouth bass from a small feeder creek and a mud flat that are located on the north end of the reservoir.

The area along the dam, which is situated on the south end of the impoundment, was also fruitless.

All told, the fishing was lousy, and it was a chore to catch three largemouth bass and one large bluegill in four hours.

After I got home, I spoke with Bill Kenney of Denton by phone. He lamented about his trying afternoon outing at a nearby private impoundment, where he struggled to catch three largemouth bass.

A major winter cold front is expected to arrive in north-central Texas during the evening hours of Feb. 8, and it will keep us at bay for the next week.

Feb. 10

Brandon Marlow of LaFollette, Tennessee, posted a log on the Finesse News Network about his outing on Feb. 10 to a southeastern Tennessee reservoir.

Here is an edited version of his log.

When I arrived at the boat ramp, the air temperature was 46 degrees, and it was 59 degrees by the time I left. The sky was mostly sunny for the entire outing. The wind angled out of the northwest.

The water exhibited about three feet of visibility. The surface temperature was 44 degrees. The water level was slightly more than seven feet below full pool.

According to the In-Fisherman's solunar calendar, the best fishing would occur from 9:26 a.m. to 11:26 a.m. and 9:54 p.m. to 11:54 p.m.

I fished from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Throughout this outing, my main focus was making sure my Midwest finesse rig was tight to the bottom as I was working it along a ledge or side of a submerged creek or river channel. To accomplish this tactic, my casts were made at a 45-degree angle to the area that I was dissecting. If I were to make a straight or perpendicular cast to the area, then the strike zone became very small. By making a 45-degree cast and retrieve, my rig stayed in the so-called strike zone longer, which allowed the largemouth bass to have more time to react to my presentation.

I spent the first couple of hours fishing inside a feeder-creek arm, where my main focus was upon plying a submerged creek channel. I kept the boat in the middle of the channel, and my casts were made at a 45-degree angle and aimed so that my rig dropped directly to the edge of the submerged creek channel. And from the that edge, I retrieved my rig down along the ledge or wall of the submerged creek channel.

There was not a lot of current coursing along this creek channel, which allowed me to use a green-pumpkin 1/15-ounce Z-Man's Finesse ShroomZ jig affixed to a Z-Man's PB&J Finesse TRD.

Along this creek channel, I caught 12 largemouth bass and several white bass by slowly dragging the bait tight to the edge and ledge. The largemouth bass were caught in eight to 10 feet of water near the base of the creek channel. I also caught several white bass on the initial drop of the rig, and I snagged a couple of large gizzard shad.

I fished up and down the channel of this feeder creek several times before I moved out of this feeder-creek arm to fish the main river, where I focused on the same type of structure or underwater terrain that I fished in the feeder-creek arm. The river channel, however, had a lot more current coursing along it, and it was a little deeper. Therefore, I elected to replace the 1/15-ounce jig with a 1/6-ounce green-pumpkin Z-Man's Finesse ShroomZ jig affixed to the Z-Man's PB&J Finesse TRD. I am not a fan of using heavy jigs, but because of the current, I needed a heavier one. I positioned the boat off the edge of the river channel, where the water was 20 to 25 feet deep. My casts were made to the edge of the submerged river channel, and I retrieved the rig down the ledge or wall into 15 feet of water. I fished this area for about 45 minutes and caught two largemouth bass.

After that main-river-channel endeavor, I returned to the feeder-creek arm and used the 1/15-ounce rig again. I began fishing at the mouth of the feeder creek, and my Garmin Panoptix LiveScope System was lit up with what I thought was bait fish. But it turned out to be white bass and yellow bass. I am convinced I could have caught a couple hundred of these things if I really wanted to. Most of the ones I caught were no bigger than my hand, but occasionally I would catch one close to a pound. It was fun, but I was targeting largemouth bass; so, I moved on up the creek. I employed the same pattern as I did before, positioning the boat in the middle of the creek channel, casting the rig to the edge of the channel and working it down and tightly to the ledge or wall. I caught seven more largemouth bass. One of them turned out to be my biggest Midwest finesse bass to date. It weighed 7.84 pounds, which was caught from a section of the channel that is embellished with a lot of stumps. This lunker was holding tight against the channel edge in about eight feet of water. Initially, I thought I was snagged on a stump, but when it started swimming to deeper water, I knew I hooked into something big. My first thoughts were that it was a freshwater drum or maybe a catfish. I had caught several three-pound largemouth bass throughout the day, but I really was not expecting to tangle with one this big. Luckily, it did not wrap me up in the stumps, and it never jumped. When I got it in the boat, I found someone with a set of scales at a nearby marina, and we were able to weigh it before I let it go.

I really enjoy fishing this reservoir. It is a nice change from the deep and clear-water reservoir that I fish all the time. Even though it is heavily fished, there are several largemouth bass caught from it every year that weigh over 10 pounds. I would like to catch one of them on a Midwest finesse rig. That is my plan. I do not know if it will ever happen, but I am going to keep trying.

Feb. 14

Brandon Marlow of LaFollette, Tennessee, posted a log on the Finesse News Network about his outing on Feb. 14 on a highland reservoir in northeastern Tennessee, with Adam Smith of Corryton, Tennessee.

Here is an edited version of his log.

Today was a cold one. We had an overnight low temperature of 17 degrees with an expected high temperature of 23 degrees. The sky was partly cloudy.

The water level was 19 feet below full pool. The surface temperature was 43 degrees. The water exhibited eight to 10 feet of visibility.

In-Fisherman's solunar calendar indicated that the best fishing would occur from 12:20 a.m. to 2:20 a.m., 12:41 p.m. to 2:41 p.m., and 6:31 a.m. to 8:31 a.m.

We spent this outing fishing at the mouth of a cove in a major feeder-creek arm, focusing mainly on two points. One was shallow and tapering. Its underwater terrain consists of clay and pea gravel. The other point is steeper, and its underwater terrain consists of boulders and chunk rock all the way to where it dropped into the submerged creek channel.

At the shallow, tapering, clay and pea-gravel point, I tried to keep the boat floating in 40 to 50 feet of water. We executed our casts so that our Midwest finesse rigs would fall into 10 feet of water, and we retrieved our rigs slowly down the point with either a drag-and-pause presentation or a significant deadstock presentation.

Adam was using a Z-Man's molting-craw Finesse TRD affixed to a 1/15-ounce green-pumpkin Z-Man's Finesse Shroomz jig. I used a Z-Man's PB&J Finesse TRD affixed to a 1/15-ounce green-pumpkin Z-Man's Finesse Shroomz jig. Adam caught two smallmouth bass in about 20 feet of water on the drag-and-pause presentation. I caught one smallmouth bass on the deadstick presentation in about 10 feet of water. We continued to dissect the underwater terrain of this point for 30 minutes and failed to elicit another strike.

Around the second point, we caught one spotted bass and six smallmouth bass. Two of the smallmouth bass were caught on the molting-craw Finesse TRD rig by slowly dragging it along the bottom in 10 to 15 feet of water. Three smallmouth bass were caught on the PB&J Finesse TRD rig with a deadstick presentation in 10 to 15 feet of water. I switched to a 3.75-inch Z-Man's shiner StreakZ affixed to a green-pumpkin 1/15-ounce Z-Man's Finesse ShroomZ jig and retrieved it with what we call a tightlining presentation. It is a popular wintertime technique in eastern Tennessee. The rig travels or moves back to the boat with a pendulum motif. An angler uses the reel only to keep up with the line, being careful not to move the rig horizontally. The rig's action comes from constantly making the tip of the rod quiver. The rig is affixed to the leader with a loop knot, and this knot allows the rig to move freely.

When we basically lost feeling in our fingers and toes, we decided to cut this trip short. This is my favorite time of year to fish. But after today, I am looking forward to spring.

Feb. 20

Brandon Marlow of LaFollette, Tennessee, posted a log on the Finesse News Network about his outing on Feb. 20 at a highland reservoir in northeastern Tennessee.

Here is an edited version of his log.

I fished a cove inside a feeder-creek arm from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

The overnight low temperature was 21 degrees, and the temperature at noon was 36 degrees. There was little to no wind. The sky was partly cloudy.

According to In-Fisherman's solunar calendar, the best times to fish were from 4:55 a.m. to 6:55 a.m., 5:19 p.m. to 7:19 p.m., and 11:06 p.m. to 1:06 p.m.

The water level was 18.47 feet below full pool. The area I fished had 6 to 8 feet of visibility. The surface temperature was 43 degrees.

The cove that I fished had two shorelines that are rock-laden with a 45-degree slope. One of them was endowed with some laydowns and floating docks. I focus on shorelines like this throughout the winter.

I spent all three hours of this outing fishing the outer thirds of both shorelines of this cove, and I caught 11 smallmouth bass, two largemouth bass, and one spotted bass, which was a catch rate of 4.6 black bass an hour.

Nine of the smallmouth bass were caught on a Z-Man's PB&J Finesse TRD affixed to a green-pumpkin 1/16-ounce mushroom-style jig. Two smallmouth bass, two largemouth bass, and two spotted bass were caught on a Z-Man's PB&J TRD HogZ affixed to a green-pumpkin 1/16-ounce mushroom-style jig.

On every outing, I really pay close attention to what is going on until I catch the first three black bass. This allows me to find the pattern for that particular day. The easiest way to do this on a highland reservoir for me is to pick a depth in which to position the boat. Most of the time I try to keep the boat in 30 feet of water, and I cast my Midwest finesse rig into a couple of feet of water and retrieve them on the rock-laden bottom until the rig is directly under the boat. Once I catch three black bass doing this, I have established my pattern for that outing. When I come to a laydown, floating dock, or other forms of cover, I will fish them in shallow water and deep water, and that is because the black bass tend to abide in various depths around those pieces of cover.

On one side of the cove, I caught nine smallmouth bass on the Finesse TRD rig by using the drag-and-pause technique as I fished my way to the mouth of the cove. All of them were caught in about 10 feet of water. Once I got a pattern figured out, and because I was fishing by myself, I was able to fish parallel of the shoreline, which allowed me to keep the rig in 10 feet of water or in the strike zone longer. But sometimes I would cast the rig into shallower water and retrieve it into 10 feet of water. Other times I would cast it into deeper water and retrieve it uphill to 10 feet of water. Either way, I was making as long a cast as I could, and all of the smallmouth bass were caught when the Finesse TRD rig got into about 10 feet of water.

On the other side of the cove, I used the TRD HogZ rig. Its shoreline was identical to the other one, but it had a few laydowns and a couple of floating docks. I paralleled the shoreline and continued to focus on using the drag-and-pause retrieve in 10 feet of water, and two smallmouth bass were caught on that tactic. Two largemouth bass and one spotted bass were caught around a laydown, which I fished from shallow water into deep water. The spotted bass engulfed the TRD HogZ on the initial fall while I was fan casting around the limbs of the tree. The largemouth bass was caught around the base of the laydown in shallower water, and it engulfed the rig as soon as it hit the water, which usually means there are more than one largemouth bass at that locale. When I threw right back to the same spot, I caught the second largemouth bass. In the warmer months, those black bass will usually follow the one that's hooked out to the boat, but in the winter months, they are more inclined to stay put and that makes them catchable.

I was unable to catch a fish from around the two floating docks.

Feb. 21

Brandon Marlow of LaFollette, Tennessee, posted a log on the Finesse News Network about his outing on Feb. 21 with Jason Marlow at a highland reservoir in northeastern Tennessee.

Here is an edited version of his log.

Jason Marlow and I fished the upper end of a major feeder-creek arm from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The overnight low temperature was 23 degrees, and it reached 54 degrees by 5:00 p.m. It was sunny. The wind angled out of the west, which created a wind chill.

The water in this section of the reservoir was stained from all the rain and snow that fell throughout the week, reducing the clarity to two to three feet of visibility. The surface temperature was 44 degrees. The water level was about 17 feet below full pool.

According to In-Fisherman's solunar calendar, the best times to fish were 5:41 a.m. to 7:41 a.m., 6:06 p.m. to 8:06 p.m., and 11:28 a.m. to 1:28 p.m.

We caught eight largemouth bass and three smallmouth bass.

Jason worked with a 1/8-ounce Z-Man's PB&J ShroomZ Micro Finesse Jig. I used a Z-Man's PB&J Finesse TRD affixed to a green-pumpkin 1/16-ounce mushroom-style jig.

We spent this short outing fishing irregularities along a shoreline. All the shorelines on a highland reservoir look basically the same, but they will all have some form of an irregularity. Whether it be a transition from one kind of rock to another, or it could be a shelf, a point, or a cut. These are all high percentage areas. It is a fast way to cover water, and you do not need electronics to do it. We would merely idle along a shoreline, looking ahead for an irregularity on which we would make a few casts, and then we moved to the next irregularity.

Our most productive spots were transitions. We fished three of them, and we caught three smallmouth bass and four largemouth bass on them. The Z-Man's ShroomZ Micro Finesse Jig caught three largemouth bass and three smallmouth bass. The Finesse TRD rig caught a largemouth bass. They were caught by slowly dragging the rigs around the transitions in five to 10 feet of water. These areas transitioned from pea gravel to chunk rock and boulders.

The cuts held fewer black bass, but the size of the largemouth bass was better. The Finesse TRD rig with a drag-and-pause technique caught four largemouth bass in about 10 feet of water.

We also fished around several points, which did not yield a black bass.

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