It was not my intention when starting this blog to feature Blue Marsh Lake fishing. As I have stated previously, this South Central Pennsylvania Lake has not been that kind to me. But I keep finding people who have consistent fishing success on Blue Marsh Lake. Gary Rothweiler is one of those anglers. Gary is unique in that he just started fishing Blue Marsh Lake in 2016 but has already had great results. He also has a slightly different approach in that he exclusively fishes Blue Marsh Lake with finesse techniques.
So keep reading to learn about how to finesse your way to Blue Marsh Lake bass fishing success.
You recently started fishing Blue Marsh Lake and had a really good 2016 season. What were your biggest keys to learning this Central Pennsylvania Lake?
I really only started fishing Blue Marsh in 2016. I had been there a few times in the past but that’s about it. In wanting to expand my bass fishing, I decided I needed more than just the small electric lakes that I had previously fished regularly for years. With the large size of Blue Marsh I knew there was very little chance of learning the lake quickly. There’s just too much water.
After a lot of research and the fact that I had just a 14′ john boat at the time I decided to start out on the Tulley Arm of the Lake. It was perfect with the Sheidy Ramp being that far up in the lake and it gave me a lot of water to fish from the small boat.
What I did was break the lake into many small lakes in my mind. I would study maps of the lake and pick a smaller area and only fish that area for numerous trips. So the key was to treat it as many small lakes and only hit one area at a time. This gave me the opportunity to learn those areas much like I had the smaller lakes I was so used to fishing. Not that I didn’t venture off from time to time but I tried to stay pretty consistent in my original plan.
What kind of numbers of bass did you catch in 2016?
Given the fact that I have only fished the lake for one full season, I can say that 2016 was pretty good to me. For being my first year on the lake I managed to catch and release, 246 Largemouth Bass, which I felt was pretty good for Blue Marsh.
You mentioned that you have gone finesse in most of your techniques. What have been the biggest adjustments to fishing a finesse as opposed to a power style of fishing?
So many of the lakes here is Southeastern, Pennsylvania have gotten so much pressure the past few seasons. I have been counting my Bass catches for almost 10 years now and I was seeing my numbers dwindle each season. The Bass on those lakes really became accustomed to all of the top Bass baits.
I have always read that when the bite gets tough to downsize. But the biggest epiphany I had was when I read Ike’s book on Finesse Bass Fishing. That book really opened my eyes and gave me a good idea of what was involved in Finesse fishing. Believe it or not; after reading his book I listed all of my fishing gear on Craiglist…and sold it rather quickly I must add.
There went all of my baitcasting gear; crankbaits, spinnerbaits, topwaters, frogs; you name it; I had it. I took that money and purchased my first two ML spinning combos. I also purchased quite a few finesse baits and terminal tackle needed.
The biggest adjustment though was learning to slow down. By nature I am not a very patient person so to be much more patient on the water was a little rough in the beginning. Previously I could cover a hundred yard stretch of bank in a matter of 15 minutes; now I have spent over two hours ripping apart that same hundred yard section. I have always disliked following behind another boat going down the shoreline; now it doesn’t bother me one bit. I know that I am going to fish a small bait into every log, crevice, rock etc. If there is a bass there I am going to catch it.
Are there particular finesse techniques that you have found to be the most successful on Blue Marsh?
This is actually a pretty easy question to answer. My favorite technique on Blue Marsh is a wacky rig. Hands down it has caught more bass for me on the lake than all the other baits combined. So many times I start with a wacky rig and end up never even picking up another rod the whole day. I fish the wacky rig on a 6 feet 9 inch Medium action spinning rod. I just recently switched from 6 to 8 pound test line. The bass are getting bigger so I felt the need to move up to 8 pound test line.
I use a simple VMC wacky hook in a size 1/0 and it has served me well. There are so many good wacky worms on the market right now. I certainly have my favorite but just made the switch to a brand new bait just one week ago. I would say the typical wacky bait would be a Senko styled bait but I opt for something just a little bit different. I’m still testing the new bait though so I am not ready to reveal it just yet, haha.
Up until a week ago my favorite bait was the Berkley Havoc Flat Dawg. Man is that bait loaded with salt and the action is crazy. Another key is the use of the wacky tool and o-ring. Before that I might catch one or two bass on each bait before it’s ripped to pieces. I have actually caught up to 20 bass on one bait since using the o-ring. All I can say is that it does work and I have had no less bass hooked since using the o-ring.
My other favorite finesse bait would have to be a Ned Rig. I can’t say I have a had a lot of action with the technique yet on Blue Marsh but I am working on it…haha. I have caught some great numbers on other local lakes with this technique; I just do not give it enough time on Blue Marsh as of yet.
Have you found color to matter in your finesse plastics on Blue Marsh?
My color selection is pretty basic for any bait or any body of water that I fish here in Pennsylvania. I want something with green pumpkin in it and something with black in it. For Blue Marsh if the water is muddy I go straight for a black or black/blue bait. If the water is the typical greenish color then green pumpkin is just fine.
I try to keep things real simple these days. I used to carry a ridiculous color selection of soft plastic; but I was always reaching and catching with those tow basic colors. So in order to keep my tackle light I made the switch to those two.
What do you conisder your two specific favorite finesse baits?
Honestly; my favorite all time finesse bait is the Berkley Havoc Back Slide. Unfortunately this bait was discontinued by Berkley a while ago. But when I found out about it I went onto Tackle Warehouse and purchased every single pack they had in my favorite color patterns. They came in a 5-pack and I have about 300 of them right now.
This bait was amazing. The bottom inch of the bait was heavily loaded with salt so it would actually glide backwards as it sank in the water. It’s a small 4 inch french fry bait with a flat underside; it sure doesn’t look like much but it sure does catch bass.
I have recently come to love the Missile Baits Fuse 4.4 recently as well. I like this bait for it’s versatility. I can fish it weightless texas rigged; on a drop shot, on a Ned Rig, on a Neko Rig and so forth. This bait is amazing.
One thing that I find frustrating about finesse is if the action isn’t hot that it can be slow and boring. How do you stay focused when you are working that bait slowly back to the boat?
A very good question. I asked myself that question numerous times when I started out with finesse. The only answer I have is that you need to teach yourself patience and that only comes form practice. I have grown to really enjoy everything out on the lake, not just catching fish. I take note of everything; the birds, the plants, the rocks…juts everything. Once I learned to appreciate the whole picture that keeps me focused on the actual trip itself, not whether the bass are hitting or not. That probably sounds a little crazy, but it’s my honest answer.
How do you make sure you detect the subtle bit that often occurs with finesse fishing techniques?”
As far as detecting a subtle bite; the key is quality gear. I have an Abu Garcia Veracity Spinning Rod that is amazing. I can have a large amount of slack in the line form the wind or current and the second I get a light hit on a bait I can feel it on the rod. Those Blue Marsh Bass typically do not nail a small finesse baits so I need good gear to be able to feel the bite.
Another key is my line. Call me crazy but I still use, and have for over 35 years, Dupont Stren Mono in the clear/blue fluorescent. Line watching is very invaluable with finesse fishing. I have had huge bass hit a bait and my line may only jump and inch or two and I have never actually felt anything. If I would have not been watching the line I would have never known they were there.
You upgraded your boat this year. What boat have you upgraded to?
I went from a 14′ decked out john boat with a small 2.5 outboard and 45 lb thrust trolling motor to a Tracker Pro-160 Bass boat this season. This has changed my whole game on the lake. Now I can get to spots quicker. Now I am not afraid to go out onto the main lake. There was no way I was taking my 14′ john boat on the main lake.
Now I am on the front deck of my boat with the foot pedal instead of the back of the boat with a transom mount trolling motor. This has allowed me to have better boat control and has allowed me to focus more on fishing than steering my boat with one hand all the time. My boat only has a 20 hp outboard but I can make it from the State Hill Ramp to the no wake in a matter of 5 minutes. I do not really need to go much faster than that. Plus once you get up into the no-wake it really doesn’t matter what size motor you have.
There’s also the mental aspect of fishing out of the new boat. I feel more like a bass fisherman now which mentally makes me a better fisherman. It took me a good 2 months to become completely comfortable with the new boat but now it’s just what I needed for Blue Marsh.
If my research is correct, you caught an 8 pound plus bass a few years ago here in Pennsylvania. Do you think this level of trophy bass exists in Blue Marsh?
Absolutely! I guarantee you there is a State record swimming around in the lake. Your research is almost correct, haha. To date I have three 8 pounders pulled out of Pennsylvania lakes and ponds and one 10 pounder as well. Just a few weekends ago I caught and released an 8 plus pounder out of Blue Marsh.
The key is to fish slow, fish patiently and down size your baits. My Blue Marsh monster was caught on a wacky rig in about 2 feet of very muddy water. Actually, of the 4 Pennsylvania bass that I have caught over 8 pounds, three of them were caught on finesse techniques. I honestly expect to catch more Bass of this size out of the lake after I start to learn it a bit more. So yes…they are in there!
I love Gary’s take on finesse fishing. Great stuff! Have a fantastic rest of your season Gary in your new boat!
Learn more about Blue Marsh Lake fishing at our Fishing Spot page for the Lake.