Category Archives: fishing basics

Bryozoans Look Like Jelly Blobs In the Water

“Jelly Blobs”  is a term often used for a type of single cell animals called Bryozoans. They are one of several strange critters you may encounter in lakes and rivers. Several varieties live in freshwater and attach in colonies to twigs, limbs, ropes and dock posts in the water. They look like brown blobs of jelly.  If you look at them closely they have small star-like structures that are different groups of the animals, called zooids

      Bryozoans Description  – Round or oval-shapped blobs of jelly-like material attached to things in the water.  Color is shades of mottled browns.  They feel solid but slimy to the touch.

          Bryozoans Size  – The balls can be as big as two feet across and contain 2,000,000 individual zooids. Most are smaller, with a one-foot across blob fairly big in most waters.

          Bryozoans Distribution  – Different kinds of jelly blobs are found in almost all freshwater worldwide. 

          What Bryozoans Eat – Normally, diatoms, green algae, bacteria, rotifers, protozoa, tiny crustaceans or nematodes are in their diet.   

          Bryozoan Reproduction  – Asexual reproduction is the norm, through budding to form new animals, but sexual reproduction does take place.

          Bryozoans Attraction to Light – none

          Bryozoans Life Cycle  – A single zooid can attach to something in the water and reproduce by budding, building a colony that looks like the blob you see. Some die off in the winter, with just a few individuals surviving to start a new colony in the spring.

          Bryozoans Problems  – These blobs may look and feel bad, but they actually indicate good water quality.

          Jelly Blobs or Bryozoans are common and do not cause problems.  They indicate good water quality.  These tiny animals that are similar to corals should not bother you unless they are on your dock ladders and ropes.   

National Fishing and Boating Week

National Fishing and Boating Week is June 4 through June 9 this year.  This week, set aside to recognize the millions of people that love fishing and boating, was started in 1979 a National Fishing Week and Boating was added later to include others.

    Georgia celebrates this event by offering ”Free Fishing Days” from June 4 – 11th.  During this week you can fish on public waters without first buying a fishing license.  You also can fish on WMAs without a Land Pass and do not need a trout stamp to fish for them.

    Based in those relaxed rules, this would be a good week to check out Big Lazer PFA south of Thomaston.  It offers great shore or boat fishing and has good facilities for fishermen and their families.  Although gas is ridiculously expensive to get there, there are no other costs once you arrive with your tackle and bait.

    Also consider trips to High Falls, the Flint River (a public access boat ramp is at the Highway 18 bridge,) Still Branch Reservoir and Jackson Lake.  All are less than an hour from Griffin and give you the chance to enjoy the water and catch some good eating fish for dinner.

    I’m glad this all takes place after Memorial Day weekend. There are already many jokes on social media about the kinds of clueless boat owners that visit the lake on holiday weekends.

Some are just funny, like the pictures of boat ramps with truck underwater with boat trailer still in parking lot, or boat floating in the water with trailer still firmly attached under it. 

But what is scary to me are the folks out there that don’t have a clue on driving a boat safely.  They are apt to cut across in front of you illegally as well as not obeying other laws. They hqave no clue about boating “rules of the road.”

I will be home this weekend.

Four Fishing Etiquette Tips Desperately Needed By High School Fishermen and Captains and Too Many Other Fishermen

FOUR FISHING ETIQUETTE TIPS

One of the biggest pet peeves for many freshwater anglers is when they are having a good day fishing from a boat in a quiet spot on the lake or river and another angler comes along, pulls up right beside them and starts casting in the same area without asking first.

“It happens pretty much on a daily basis,” said Mercury Pro Team member Michael Neal.

If it’s a public body water, everyone is welcome to use the resource, of course. In most places, there are no written rules about how far you need to stay away from other boats and anglers. It’s within your rights to fish next to someone, as long as you aren’t harassing them (intentional angler harassment is against the law in many states). It’s up to each individual angler to decide what’s responsible behavior in terms of how much distance to put between your boat and theirs. Practicing good fishing etiquette means treating other anglers and boaters on the water with respect and giving them their space.

Neal, who fishes the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour and Pro Circuit, said it all comes down to following the Golden Rule. “Treat others the way you want to be treated,” he said.

“Communication is key. It’s the number one thing that makes your day on the water go smoothly,” added Mercury Pro Team member and Bassmaster Elite Series angler John Crews.

Here are four fishing etiquette tips from these two pros to help keep it friendly and fun for everyone on the water. What’s outlined here are unwritten rules that guide tournament anglers and serious recreational anglers.

  1. A “bent pole pattern,” indicating that an angler has a fish on the line, is not an invitation to take your boat to that angler’s position and start fishing right next to them. It’s probably better to go somewhere else, but if it’s a spot you had already hoped to fish, just wait it out. “My advice is to wait until they leave to go over to that spot,” said Neal.
  2. When another angler is fishing in a spot near where you would like to fish, stop your boat within hailing distance and let the person know your wishes. For example, if an angler is fishing partway back in a creek, and you want to fish all the way in the back, ask first if he or she intends to head deeper into the creek before you go there yourself. “If I go into an area where someone else is fishing, I ask them if they are going to continue, and if it’s OK for me to fish there. If they are having a bad day and they want to be rude about it, you don’t want to be fishing around them anyway,” Crews said. On crowded lakes, you’re likely to wind up fishing near someone. In that case, keep a respectful distance. “We usually have a mutual understanding: ‘Don’t get any closer to me, and I won’t get any closer to you,’” Neal said, referring to his fellow tournament anglers.
  3. Don’t pass too close to another angler’s boat. “Stay away from the side where their rods are; pass on the other side if you can,” Crews said, adding that it’s important to give other boats with active anglers a wide berth when you pass, if there’s room. “Two hundred to 300 feet is ideal; 100 feet at a minimum. Pass at speed and make a minimal wake rather than slowing down and pulling a big wake. However, if there isn’t room to pass far enough away, come off plane well before you get near the other boat and idle past.”
  4. Never, ever cross lines with another angler. “The number one no-no is to cast across somebody else’s line. I’ve had it happen to me personally. I decided to leave the spot to him. I figured, if it’s important enough for him to do that, he can have it,” Neal said.

Use common courtesy, and there should be enough space for everyone to fish in harmony. When in doubt, err on the side of being as respectful as possible.

“Most anglers are super cool, and as long as you can communicate with them, you can make it work,” Crews concluded.

Alternative Ned Rigs

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By Ted Pilgrim
from The Fishing Wire

Alternative Ned Rigs elevate your finesse game


The legendary Ned Kehde isn’t likely to utter the phrase that’s made him famous; the term for the rig that’s forever transformed the bass fishing landscape. Actually, the chances of Kehde going third-person like some Prima donna wide receiver are roughly the same as his odds of playing in the NFL. That’s just Ned being Ned: the fact the humble Hall of Fame angler would rather credit those other fathers of finesse—Chuck Woods, Guido Hibdon, Harold Ensley, etc.—than acknowledge his own momentous role in bass fishing’s backstory.


Such modesty can be misinterpreted, but in Kehde’s case simply underscores the exceptional skill with which he practices the method known more broadly as ‘Midwest Finesse.’ Friend and former NASCAR driver Terry Bevins says, “Ned’s one of the best finesse anglers in the country. Put him in the back of the boat with one of his finesse jigs, and he’s likely to whoop your butt.”

To hear Kehde tell it, the bass-catching power of his “little jig” is so great there’s simply no reason to change it. “In years past, we’ve experimented with just about every new rigging refinement you can think of.” notes Kehde. “In the shallow impoundments we fish, none have been so fruitful as an exposed-hook, mushroom-style jig dressed with half a ZinkerZ or other finesse worm. Day after day, season after season, it inveigles dozens and dozens and dozens of bass.”

The Ned-Miki

The ‘Ned-Miki Rig’ has scored big bags of largemouth, spotted and striped bass for pro angler and guide, Joey Nania

Interestingly, the same simple motivation to catch more bass has inspired anglers across America to create unique and individualized versions of the Ned Rig framework—both in retrieve and the way they fasten a finesse bait to a hook.Longtime Ned Rig fan Joey Nania, professional angler and Alabama based fishing guide, has devised a couple key mods to the presentation. Recently, he’s guided clients to loads of spotted, largemouth and striped bass, wielding a concoction he calls the Ned-Miki Rig.

“As bass fans know, the Damiki Rig has been a money presentation for enticing shad-focused bass suspended in 15 to 30 feet,” says Nania. “But you need a really well-balanced, 90-degree jighead and a compact shad-shaped bait to pull it off. Having fished the Z-Man NedlockZ HD jighead for a lot of my regular Ned Rig fishing, I realized this head would really shine for ‘video-game’ fishing—working individual bass on sonar, vertically, playing cat-and-mouse. It’s versatile enough that you can cast the bait to suspended fish, too, just letting it glide and pendulum as you work it back to the boat.

“The Ned-Miki Rig: NedlockZ HD jighead and StreakZ 3.75A 1/10- or 1/6-ounce NedlockZ HD, says Nania, melds perfectly with a Z-Man StreakZ 3.75, a bait he calls “one of the best small shad imitations ever. And because it’s made from ElaZtech, the bait’s super buoyant. When you pause and let the Ned-Miki soak, the bait maintains a natural horizontal posture. Similar fluke-style baits aren’t buoyant, making them ride tail-down, rather than hovering horizontal like a live shad.

“Northern anglers fish a similar method, keying on suspended or rock-hugging smallmouth bass. The Ned-Miki has even evolved into a superlative substitute for a dropshot rig, which isn’t quite so precise for big sluggish smallmouths hunkered down between boulders.”Watch the bait drop on the sonar screen until it’s about 1 foot above the fish’s head,” Nania explains. “Hold the bait still. When a bass begins to rise and chase, lift the bait to take it away. Sometimes, a bass will chase the Ned-Miki up 15 or 20 feet, absolutely crushing it on an intercept course. Other times, you have to entice them a little, using the bait’s super-soft, high-action tail to close the deal. Almost like a dropshot, but even more dead-on.

“All-Terrain NedGoing where no Ned Rig has gone before, Nania is ecstatic when he mentions another new finesse device. “What can I say about the Finesse BulletZ, man? This jighead is off-the-charts cool. Rig one with a Finesse TRDMinnowZ or TRD CrawZ and fish simply can’t tear it off. I’ve had the same bait on the same jighead for the past week, and dozens of bass later, it’s still going strong.

“Made to snake Ned Rig style ElaZtech baits through the thickest cover, the Finesse BulletZ sports a subtle bullet-shaped head and a slender keel weight molded precisely onto a custom, heavy-duty size 1 VMC EWG hook. “People look at this jig and wonder how the heck you rig a bait without tearing it. It’s funny because it’s actually a non-issue with ElaZtech, which is pretty much tear-proof. And once the bait’s in place, it’s there until you take it off.

“Goes without saying that the bait’s weedless,” says Nania. “But I’m also just discovering how well the little jig skips under docks,” he adds. “Regardless of the cover— rocks, brush, grass, manmade structures, etc.—this is one incredible jig-bait combo for finessing big bass in places you couldn’t previously throw a Ned Rig.”I like to rig a 1/10-ouncer with a TRD MinnowZ—Smelt and Hot Snakes are two of my favorite patterns—and skip it under docks. Rigging the same bait on a 1/6-ounce Finesse BulletZjig also shines for casting into deeper schools of bass.

“Nania notes how the jig’s keel weight makes the bait glide and slide horizontally, rather than nose-down. “It’s like some radical, improved version of the slider head, except this jig perfectly matches 2- to 4-inch finesse-style baits. And you can pull it right through the thickest brush piles with no problem at all.”From southern impoundments to northern lakes and rivers, the Finesse BulletZ jig may be at its best when rigged with Z-Man’s authentic mini-crayfish bait, the 2.5-inch TRD CrawZ.

“The TRD CrawZ is a subtle, unassuming little critter,” says professional angler Luke Clausen. “But rigged with the Finesse BulletZ jig, the bait rides in this freakishly lifelike, claws-up posture. Put it in the water and its buoyant little claws flap and wave, virtually taunting bass to bite—and they do,” Clausen laughs.

Ned-Neko Rig

Blurring boundaries between Ned-style and other finesse presentations, creative anglers have concocted what we’ll call the Ned-Neko Rig.

Coupling a Finesse TRDHula StickZ or other buoyant finesse bait with a Neko hook and Neko weight yields astonishing action, and an intriguing underwater posture.Hooking configurations depend on cover and bass activity level. The simplest is to Texas-rig your chosen finesse bait onto a #1 to 2/0 Neko style hook. Finish the Neko-Ned Rig by inserting a 1/32- to 1/8-ounce Neko weight into the bait’s tail-end, resulting in a compelling pogo-stick-action along bottom.

Also effective is a drag-and-deadstick retrieve, particularly in small, high-percentage zones.Or, you can get extra wacky (pun intended), and hook the worm right through the middle, leaving the Neko weight in the tail. The toughness of ElaZtech even eliminates the need for an O-ring; just a 1/0 Gamakatsu Finesse Wide Gap hook, your favorite TRD and another alluring look bass can’t say no to. Ned inspired. Ned approved.

Trophy Florida Bass Tests Angler Weight Estimates

The “Eyeball Challenge” for Trophy Florida Bass Tests Angler Weight Estimates
From The Fishing Wire

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Nearly 900 anglers completed the final round, and the results were quite revealing: on average, anglers were off by plus or minus 2.22 pounds per bass in estimating weight from photos. Even the top 5% of all guessers — the A-pluses at the head of the class — were only able to shave their error down to plus or minus 1.35 pounds of the actual weight.

How big do you think this bass is? Ten pounds? Seven? Twelve? A unique study by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) along with partner, Bass Pro Shops, recently revealed that guessing right is harder than you think — whether you are an experienced bass angler, fishing guide or even a bona fide fisheries biologist. The Eyeball Challenge arose from FWC’s TrophyCatch program, which collects data from anglers on bass eight pounds or larger for use in fisheries management and conservation. The core requirement for submission is a photo or video of the entire bass on a scale with the weight reading clearly visible. And, every trophy bass must be released.

“Given the very specific submission requirements, I’m still a bit mystified whenever I get the ‘That bass isn’t 10 pounds!’ comment on one of our posts,” said biologist and TrophyCatch Facebook Manager, John Cimbaro. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from looking at thousands of bass photos, it’s that the same fish can look very different depending on how the picture is taken and how the fish is held. A hero shot of an angler holding a trophy bass up is usually the best-looking photo for a Facebook post. But the fish-on-scale photo is the one that matters for the research program and that’s the photo l point a doubting commenter to.”

The Eyeball Challenge asked anglers to estimate the weights of bass in three separate challenges, each with a series of photos. Each bass was weighed by a biologist with field scales to ensure accuracy. The Eyeball Challenge culminated in August with Round 3, which featured 24 individual Florida bass. Nearly 900 anglers completed the final round, and the results were quite revealing: on average, anglers were off by plus or minus 2.22 pounds per bass. Even the top 5% of all guessers — the A-pluses at the head of the class — were only able to shave their error down to plus or minus 1.35 pounds of the actual weight.

Does fishing experience endow anglers with weight-guessing skills? Eyeball Challenge participants told us if they identified as novice, intermediate or avid anglers, and they provided the number of years of bass fishing experience they had accrued. Interestingly, statistical analysis indicated that there was no performance difference among the three levels of anglers. Technically, increased years of bass fishing experience translated into improvements in guessing bass weights, but in practical terms, it takes anglers a lifetime of fishing experience (60 years) to gain only about .5 pound of accuracy over inexperienced anglers. The bottom line is that no matter how good you are at catching fish or how long you’ve been fishing; a variety of factors makes it hard to accurately guess the weight of a fish from a photo.

One key result from the Eyeball Challenge was that how an angler holds his or her bass in a photo makes quite a difference in how we perceive it. Half of the bass featured in the Round 3 challenge were held out toward the camera, at arm’s length. The other half were held much closer to the angler’s torso. As anglers might guess, there was a highly significant difference in anglers’ ability to accurately guess the weights of bass in the two groups. Anglers were much more accurate at guessing weights of bass held at arm’s length but had a slight bias toward overestimating those bass. For bass held close to the body, anglers underestimated those bass by over 1.25 pounds on average. For more details on the study, visit TrophyCatchFlorida.com/Eyeball-Challenge.

“It’s now scientifically proven—If you want the best photos of your catch, hold that fish out toward the camera,” said biologist Drew Dutterer, who helped design the study. “If not, it may be impossible to convince your fishing buddies just how big that bass really was!”

The TrophyCatch program has been popular for not only allowing citizen-scientists to contribute their data, which anglers report is their primary reason for submitting catches, but because industry partners such as Bass Pro Shops provide rewards for participation. To register for TrophyCatch and learn more, visit TrophyCatch.com. For more information about the TrophyCatch program, email Laura Rambo at Laura.Rambo@MyFWC.com.

Mayfly Life Cycle

I was surprised when I shook the limb that had been full of Mayflies on Sunday and Friday, to see two dead ones fall out and not even one fly off. Mayflies attract bream that attract bass, but the hatch does not last long.

The life cycle of a Mayfly is amazing to me. Adult females lay from 50 to 10,000 eggs, depending on the species, on the surface of the water and the eggs settle to the bottom. They hatch in about two weeks into nymphs that live from two weeks to two years on the bottom, feeding on decaying material and growing.

When grown, the nymph swims to the surface and the skin splits and a winged subimago fly emerges to fly to a nearby bush. After resting overnight, it molts into the adult winged fly, the only insect that molts after developing a winged stage.

Soon after the final molt, the adult flies mate and the females lay eggs on the surface of the water at dusk. The males die after mating and the females die after laying eggs, usually living only one day but sometimes live as long as two days.

No wonder they were all gone at Bartletts Ferry in a week!

Manners when the B.A.S.S. Classic Comes to Town

Classic Takeoff

Let’s Mind Our Manners when the B.A.S.S. Classic Comes to Town
By Frank Sargeant High-dollar bass tournaments like the Bassmaster Classic, scheduled for Lake Guntersville March 6-8, are a great potential learning experience for local anglers as they get the opportunity to follow the top pro’s around on the lake and see how and where they fish and what tackle and boat they use.

And most of the pro’s actually enjoy the gallery of rooting fans—after all, the more popular they are, the more sponsor money they make.But a large gallery can also affect the outcome of the event. Big names like Kevin Van Dam (who won’t be at this Classic because he moved to the MLF circuit) sometimes have 20 or more boats roaring after them down the lake and gliding up behind them as they drop the trolling motor to fish. While lots of fans are a plus at a football or basketball game, on the water at a bass tournament, not so much. Bass don’t take kindly to the sound of outboard motors, or even of a dozen whirring trolling motors in their neighborhood. Some anglers believe they’re even put off by the “ping” of fish finders.

So while the well-meaning fans are cheering for their favorite, they may actually be reducing his chances of success. This is particularly true when an angler gets on an extended stretch of “hot” shoreline, where bass may be scattered over a hundred yards or so of terrain that the angler may want to work multiple times. As the gallery slides in behind him as he works down the structure, they turn off the bite that might have been active on repeat passes.

The best way to follow the anglers is from a distance, and carry binoculars so that you can see the lures they’re using and how they’re fishing them. This gives everybody a bit of breathing room, and hopefully won’t affect the outcome of the event. There are also some anglers who can’t wait until the tournament is over to try the new holes that the smart pro’s reveal to them. As soon as the pro angler pulls off, they pull on and start casting.

This makes things a lot more difficult in that spot on the next day when the angler returns to the spot again during the three day event. To be sure, the lake is a public asset and all of us have a completely equal right to fish anywhere in it at any time. Paying a tournament entry fee does not give any special rights. On the other hand, when you consider that the pro anglers are fishing an event where one successful cast could change the course of their lives, it seems only common courtesy to maybe save their spots to the GPS for future use but leave them alone for those few days of the competition.

In any case, for those who want to follow their heroes, the daily launches are at Civitan Park just off S.R. 69 on the Brown’s Creek arm of the lake at 7 a.m. B.A.S.S. welcomes spectators with free coffee, and a number of top boat manufacturers are on-site offering test drives of their latest bass boats. (You can’t launch at Civitan during the event, though—choose one of the other ramps around the lake.)

For those who can’t get out on the lake, the weigh-ins are at BJCC in Birmingham, with arena doors opening at 3:15 p.m. daily for the weigh-ins. The Classic Outdoors Expo, also at BJCC, opens at noon on Friday, 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. 

See more here: https://m.bassmaster.com/news/attend-2020-academy-sports-outdoors-bassmaster-classic-presented-huk 

Learning Fish Behavior from A Garmin Panoptix

I  have learned a lot from my Garmin Panoptix I installed last November.

This system is a sonar that shows a live picture of what is underwater on the screen, much like shining a spotlight at night shows what is in its beam.  And it shows movement as it happens, not as a line on the screen like older units.

One of my first surprises was how many fish are down there. I see schools of crappie and hybrids and clouds of baitfish suspended over deeper water this time of year.  And I can see fish moving along the bottom, probably catfish and carp.

Fish hovering around stumps, rocks and brush, or holding right on a drop off, are probably bass.


And there are lots of them. But seeing them does not mean they will hit my bait.

Time after time I see my bait move through them and they ignore it. Even worse is when I watch my jig fall on the cast or hop it and see a fish come up to it and follow it back down but never hit it. That does make me change colors, size and baits more often.


When I see fish in brush or on other cover, it makes me make more casts to it. The first tournament I used my Panoptix I saw what looked like fish in a brush pile in front of a dock. Normally i would hit a brush pile two or three times with a bait then move on. But seeing fish in that one made me make multiple casts and I caught a keeper on about my tenth cast!

I have always heard bass move tight to cover in muddy water.  In November and December, Jackson was very clear and I could see bass holding just over rocks and other cover, and they would slowly move around it. But after the rain Jackson muddied up and now I see bright dots indication bass right against the rocks or down in the brush.  And they don’t move, they just sit there.

I know a bait cast out and sinking will swing back toward the boat, and to get it to go straight to the bottom I “feed” line to it as it falls.  That is important when trying to get you bait to the bottom under docks and down to brush.Watching my bait swing back toward the boat as it falls amazes me.  A half ounce jig with a twin curly tail trailer cast on 14-pound fluorocarbon line makes an arch back toward me no matter how much line I feed to it.  It moves back toward me about a foot for every five it falls, so if I cast to a brush pile 20 feet deep I have to cast at least four feet past it to get my bait to hit it.

Another confirmation of fish behavior is the reaction of fish as my boat gets near them. Fish holding over rocks and brush will slowly sink down into it as my boat approaches. In clear water it is very noticeable. Bass over cover 20 feet deep started sinking down into it when my boat got within 30 feet of them.


I saw this happen many times when i moved in to try to jig a spoon or use drop shot. N ow, after seeing it happen, I will try to make very long casts in clear water!

I am just exploring lakes with my Panoptix and hope to learn a lot more in the coming months.

Ned Kehde, Originator of the “Ned Rig”

Legendary angler, outdoor writer and guide, Ned Kehde

A Conversation with Ned Kehde, Originator of the “Ned Rig”
from The Fishing Wire

Ladson, SC – Classy, kind-hearted and self-effacing to a fault, Ned Kehde likes to tell you the world has passed him by. That he’s not the angler he used to be. That he uses simple baits because he’s a simple man. The truth is, Kehde has a wise reason for everything he does; knows precisely how to make bass bite; and for goodness sake, knows more about the history of bass fishing—including exact months and years various events occurred— than almost anyone alive.

A retired archivist for the University of Kansas and legendary writer of fishing stories, Kehde recalls that April day in 2006 when the modern Midwest Finesse technique clicked into place.

“I was in Japanese angler Shinichi Fukae’s boat at Beaver Lake,” Kehde recalls. “What immediately struck me were Fukae’s methods, which mirrored the finesse tactics my friends and I had adopted back in Kansas. Using a 3/32-ounce jig and shad-style worm, Fukae retrieved the lure a few inches off bottom, reeling and shaking as it went along.

”That same year, Kevin VanDam showed Kehde an early ElaZtech bait. The bait, a Strike King Zero, was the first ultra-durable soft stickbait manufactured by the parent company of what would eventually become Z-Man Fishing. Not long after, the Ned Rig was born. But we’ll let Ned take it from there . . .

Tell us about the history of what’s known today as Midwest Finesse fishing.

Kehde: A lot of folks think finesse bass fishing started in California, on those deep clear reservoirs, back in the 1970s and 80s. Actually, in the 1950s, a Kansas City angler named Chuck Woods was already fishing a soft lure called the Beetle on a spinning rod. Woods designed the Beetle, Beetle Spin and Puddle Jumper—three classic finesse lures—and also created the first Texas-rigged jigworm.

I first met Woods at a Kansas City tackle shop in 1970. He was a taciturn old cuss, but I believe he probably caught more Kansas largemouth bass than any man in history.Guido (Little Gete) Hibdon was another legendary Ozarks angler who regularly wielded a spinning rod rigged with a light jighead and soft plastic bait long before Western anglers. The first time Midwest finesse met Western waters was when Drew Reese fished the first ever (1971) Bassmaster Classic at Lake Mead. Reese finished in 7th place, fishing a jigworm and Beetle Spin. Finally, during a 1980s trip to Mille Lacs, Minnesota, Ron Lindner put a Gopher Mushroom jighead in my hands. I was amazed by how you could drag this jig over rocky terrain and rarely get hung up.

Kehde says the TRD MinnowZ is one of the most underrated, durable and productive finesse baits ever created.

Beyond the history, what’s one thing most folks today should know about Midwest finesse tactics?

Probably the most misunderstood and yet most important thing about the way we fish is what we call a no-feel retrieve. Most anglers prefer to fish a jig so they’re in constant contact with it, mostly hopping it along bottom. But the way we prefer to fish, if you’ve got constant contact it means you’re using too heavy of a rig.I’m primarily fishing from 3 to no more than 12 or 15 feet deep, mostly with 1/32- and 1/16-ounce jigheads.

One favorite retrieve among Midwest Finesse anglers is something we call swim-glide-shake. We’re retrieving the lure 6 to 12 inches above the bottom, which is difficult to do with a heavier ¼- or 3/16-ounce jig. We like to err on the side of lightness. I guess you could say we try to use our intuition to figure out what the bait is doing — sort of let the soft ElaZtech material naturally shake, shimmy and do its thing without getting in its way too much. It sounds more complex than it really is because when coupled with the right line (Kehde prefers 15-pound braid), you immediately detect any resistance the lure encounters. That includes sensing the difference between the lure contacting filamentous algae, a twig or a lightly biting bass.

Why do you prefer a 1/16-ounce jig with a #4 hook for most of your fishing?

A 1/16-ounce #4 mushroom is the most unbeatable jig in the history of the world. We already talked about how this shape performs so beautifully around cover. But it really allows an ElaZtech bait to do its thing — shake and shimmy — without getting in its way. I know a lot of anglers think a #4 hook is too small, but to me, a bigger hook doesn’t slide through brush or vegetation nearly so well as a #4, which is almost snag-free

.I also feel like I do way less damage to the fish with a smaller hook. But beyond that, a bigger hook just gets in the way of the bait’s gyrations, sort of neutralizes some of the magic of super-soft, buoyant ElaZtech baits.

What’s the deal with your favorite red jighead?

I was already a fan of red jigheads when I fished with Shin Fukae that day on Beaver Lake, back in 2006. He was using red and doing a number on the fish, which really reinforced my beliefs and confidence in the color. Fukae also used red nail polish to paint polka dots on his crankbaits and topwaters.Years before that, Gopher Tackle owner Conrad Peterson would constantly urge me to fish “red, red, red,” regardless of water clarity. But when red isn’t going, I like blue and chartreuse, too. A blue jig is especially effective during the bluegill spawn. A flash of blue really mimics that super vivid hue present on a bluegill’s pre-dorsal area. Another hot pattern lately has been a Junebug colored Finesse TRD with a chartreuse jighead.Kehde’s favorite red mushroom jighead, this one rigged with a Finesse TRD and TRD SpinZ for extra flash and vibration.

What’s your record for the most bass caught on a single ElaZtech bait?

I believe the all-time record was 232 fish on a single 4-inch Z-Man Finesse WormZ. Few years ago, while testing a prototype of the TRD HogZ, we caught 55 bass in 69 minutes. When I mailed the bait to Z-Man, it had already produced 112 fish, and was still in really good shape.

Although the Finesse TRD and ZinkerZ receive most of the press, what are a few of your other favorite finesse baits?

One bait that for sure deserves more attention from finesse anglers is the TRD MinnowZ. The MinnowZ moves totally different in the water than the Finesse TRD. It totally lacks salt, making it exceedingly durable, buoyant and lively underwater. My fellow finesse anglers have caught untold numbers of bass on this bait, rigged on a mushroom jighead or a dropshot, including some 8-pound lunkers.From my experiences, the TRD MinnowZ possesses some of the attributes of a reaper, stick-style bait, and worm, all in one. I prefer to rig it with 1/32-ounce jig so the bait lays flat on its side, aligning the tail horizontally. It offends the eyes of some anglers, but the bait fishes beautifully this way. The ultralight 1/32-ounce jig produces a wonderful glide effect.

Jerk the bait once and let it glide. With this combo, 10 to 25 fish an hour is a realistic goal.The Finesse ShadZ is another serious fish catcher. It’s got an incredibly appealing shad-shaped profile that bass respond to. Because it lacks salt, the extra-buoyant, super-soft bait fishes light and with tremendous, subtle undulations. These manifold virtues enhance the ShadZ’s ability to render an unparalleled no-feel retrieve.A weedless Ned Rig alternative, the Finesse BulletZ weedless jighead dressed with a TRD MinnowZ.

What factors do you think account for the popularity of the Midwest Finesse (Ned Rig) style of fishing?

Well, I look at tournaments after all these years of observing the best anglers and am still amazed by how few fish they catch in competition. Fishing for five big fish is not a good way for us or the everyday angler to propagate the sport.I think tournaments have exaggerated the price of what it truly costs to go fishing. It’s important for recreational anglers to understand that fishing really can be much simpler, and much less expensive than it’s too often purported to be. Midwest finesse style fishing pares everything down to its bare minimum—just you, a simple jig and lively bait and the bass. Every angler can relate to that.

At the end of the day, most of us just want to catch a bunch of fish. Ned Kehde, Lawrence, Kansas, is a retired university archivist, fishing guide and longtime outdoor writer who has helped fine-tune a phenomenal fish-catching system known today as the Ned Rig. Connecting hundreds of anglers across the continent, Kehde’s online Finesse News Network features some of the most detailed fishing reports ever written. At the heart of the Ned Rig system, always, are a mushroom shaped jighead and an ElaZtech finesse-style bait. In recent years, the popularity of the Ned Rig has proliferated well beyond its Midwestern roots, becoming a staple presentation among recreational and tournament anglers across North America.

About Z-Man Fishing Products: 

A dynamic Charleston, South Carolina based company, Z-Man Fishing Products has melded leading edge fishing tackle with technology for nearly three decades. Z-Man has long been among the industry’s largest suppliers of silicone skirt material used in jigs, spinnerbaits and other lures. Creator of the Original ChatterBait®, Z-Man is also the renowned innovators of 10X Tough ElaZtech softbaits, fast becoming the most coveted baits in fresh- and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest-growing lure brands worldwide. 

About ElaZtech®: 

Z-Man’s proprietary ElaZtech material is remarkably soft, pliable, and 10X tougher than traditional soft plastics. ElaZtech resists nicks, cuts, and tears better than other softbaits and boasts one of the highest fish-per-bait ratings in the industry, resulting in anglers not having to waste time searching for a new bait when the fish are biting. This unique material is naturally buoyant, creating a more visible, lifelike, and attractive target to gamefish. Unlike most other soft plastic baits, ElaZtech contains no PVC, plastisol or phthalates, and is non-toxic.

A Primer on Hooks

Hook Parts

A Primer on Hooks, from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission
Knowing the right kind of hook to use, selecting the correct size and keeping it sharp will help every angler land more fish.

No matter how good a rod you’re using, no matter what brand of line is on the reel, no matter what you paid for that lure, it all meets the fish at only one point—the hook. Knowing the right kind of hook to use, selecting the correct size, and keeping it sharp will . . . put more fish on the hook!

The parts of a hook (left) are relatively simple, and will apply to nearly all kinds. There are many different kinds of hooks available, but don’t let yourself be overwhelmed—a few basic hooks will meet most of your needs.

When choosing hook size, go smaller rather than larger when in doubt . . . many large fish have been caught on small hooks! Note that the numbering of hook sizes increases as the hook gets smaller (the bigger the number, the smaller the hook!). The exception is when the numbering gets down to 1 for larger hook sizes (1/0 or greater), in which case the hook size increases as the number does (1/0, 2/0, 3/0, etc.).

The Aberdeen is an excellent all-around choice for light freshwater bait fishing. The fine wire minimizes damage to the bait, and reduces interference with its natural movement. The long shank also makes hook removal easier even if the fish has partially swallowed the bait. This hook is designed to bend and pull loose under heavy pressure if it becomes caught on a solid object such as submerged brush. For this reason, don’t use too heavy a line with an Aberdeen—if there’s a big fish on the other end instead of a stump, you want the drag to slip before the hook straightens! Good sizes include 8-10 for bream, 4-6 for crappie, and 2-6 for light-line bass or catfish angling.

For heavier bait fishing, many savvy anglers have turned to the popular circle hook.

Although not a new design (it’s been in use by commercial anglers for years), the circle hook has more recently been popularized as a valuable tool for recreational fishermen too. This unusual-looking hook is designed to minimize gut-hooking, instead catching the fish near the corner of the mouth almost every time. Not only that, but anglers experience a significantly higher percentage of successful hookups too—circle hooks reduce the number of missed strikes. Instead of setting the hook when you get a strike as you do with conventional hooks, you should simply apply increasing pressure and the fish will basically hook itself. Circle hooks are especially helpful for unusually difficult hooking situations, such as bait fishing for tough-mouthed larger bass or tarpon.

Worm hooks for weedless rigging of plastic baits come in a variety of styles. These hooks usually have a distinct elbow bend in the shank near the eye, where the following part of the hook will emerge from the plastic bait. These are available in straight or offset shank styles. In order to rig a “straight” worm that will not twist unnaturally when retrieved, lay the hook on top of the worm and note where it should emerge from and re-enter the body. By rigging the worm this way, you should be able to avoid making the worm kink. Sizes used generally range from 1 to 5/0, depending on the size of the plastic bait. Wide gap versions have become increasingly popular for plastic baits.

Getting to the point: Modern hooks come out of the package much sharper than their ancestors did! If you are using a name brand hook, you may not need to sharpen it at all, or only touch up the point if it gets dulled. For freshwater hooks, a small whetstone works better than a metal file, which tends to remove too much metal too quickly. Sharpen the hook on each side first, and then finish up by sharpening the point opposite the barb. If the hook hone has a “point groove,” then the final step is that much easier. The traditional test of hook sharpness, seeing if it “sticks” when you touch the point to your thumbnail, still works.

To barb or not to barb: Although more and more hook styles are becoming available barbless, most of the time it’s still up to the angler to provide this option for himself if he wants it. Barbless hooks have the advantages of penetrating a fish’s mouth more readily and being easier to remove (from fish, shirt, or fishin’ buddy!), in addition to reducing the level of hooking injury likely to occur to the fish itself. Especially for beginning anglers, quick hook removal from fish or self is a major convenience. De-barbing is probably most important for bait fishing, where the chances of a fish swallowing the hook are higher. However, many anglers de-barb all their lure hooks, too. Regardless of whether you fish simply for the sport, or strictly for the frying pan, the FWC encourages anglers to use barbless hooks so that those fish that are released have a better chance of survival.

So remember . . . a good rod-and-reel combo and decent line can help you catch fish, but you’ll want to have a good hook too!