I had the good fortune to live in Minnesota from 1986- 1993. It was while living in Minnesota that I transitioned from casual live bait angler to a more serious minded artificial lure user. A state with 10,000 lakes can certainly make its mark on the fishing community. When you think about the anglers, tackle companies, and innovations that have been spawned on the lakes of Minnesota, you can only conclude that when it comes to things fishy, Minnesota runs through it. That brings me to the man known as The Father of Finesse, Ned Kehde.
If you met Ned today, a retired University of Kansas archivist, you wouldn't have a clue as to the
fishing life he has lived and chronicled- a true angling renaissance man. Ned grew up in Sedalia, Missouri, where he began fishing a minor tributary of Lake of the Ozarks. The Minnesota connection was made as his family’s love for fishing led his grandfather to buy a cabin on the shores of Lake Hubert. It was during family trips to Minnesota that Ned would fish all day while his family escaped the heat of the central Midwest. Young Ned befriended a local lodge owner and soon found himself a summer job taking folks fishing in a row boat. Throwing topwaters was the game back then, but when the early spinnerbaits made the scene, things began to change- even more so when lures like the Heddon Sonic were introduced.
The years Kehde spent guiding bass in Central Minnesota allowed him to be part of a period of great innovation in freshwater fishing. During this time, Kehde witnessed master walleye angler Harry Van Doren become the first angler to back troll for old marble eye. This new technique allowed guides to use the wind to work weed lines and other structure for multiple species. Thus Ned witnessed the birth of deep weed edge fishing for bass. Between the summers 1953-1958
the young angler learned many lessons from some of Minnesota’s most talented fishermen, the beginning of his extraordinary angling education. College was a priority for the young angler and he divided the experience between University of Missouri, University of Kansas, and Central Missouri State.
In 1965, while working on his Masters degrees in History and Library Science, Ned needed a little extra money, so he returned to what he knew best- guiding. This time it was on Lake of the Ozarks. It was here that Ned met Little Gete Hibdon, better known as Guido. They hit it off right away, and Guido took Ned under his wing, teaching him the benefits of light jigs, light line and how to turn his intuition, concentration, and superior eyesight into an advantage. As an academic, and an archivist by trade, it was no
wonder that Ned quickly understood the value of documenting what he was learning.
When Ned decided to share his vast learnings, it was his Minnesota connections that paid off. In 1981 Ned published one of his first articles in the Lindner’s Brainard MN based In-Fisherman magazine. Since that time he has written many articles, and it has been important to Ned to capture in print the techniques that have become the foundation for modern angling, as well as to document the genius of the anglers who pioneered these techniques.
It was his non-fishing career that took him to Lawrence, Kansas, where fate introduced him to Chuck Woods, the crusty designer of the Beetle, and Beetle Spin- two classic finesse lures. Wood’s lures formed a basis for what is now recognized as the earliest finesse fishing. Woods,
Hibdon, and their cronies, were fishing little baits with light line and spinning rods long before it became popularized in California. The first to use finesse tactics in competition was Drew Reese, another Kehde colleague, who fished the first Bassmaster Classic with a jig worm and a Beetle Spin.
Kahde was the first to put these concepts together into a “package” he called “Midwest Finesse”- small baits fished on spinning tackle when nothing else will get a strike. Meanwhile, on a trip back to Minnesota to fish Mille Lacs , Ron Lindner introduced Kehde to the Gopher Mushroom jig head. The result is considered today to be the true emergence of modern Finesse. Ned took a
1/16th ounce jig with a #4 hook, and added a small plastic worm. The Ned Rig was born.
When word spread, a lot of bass fishermen were skeptical. Ned documented how the jig would slide, glide and crawl perfectly across bottom structure. He found it particularly effective when he gave it a little shake. Since then, the Ned Rig has become one of the hottest finesse methods from coast to coast.