It has been told many times in this space that Terry Bivins of Wellsville is the most talented and versatile angler in these parts.
Now he is in the midst of adding another notch to his belt of versatility by giving chase to the walleye.
His principal forte is probing a reservoir's offshore topography with a jig, working water as deep as 40 feet, which is a realm unexplored by the majority of anglers.
Throughout the `80s, Bivins' name appeared at the top of the leader board with astonishing regularity at bass tournaments at Smithville Lake, Mo., where he worked a jig-and-pork combination across main-lake humps.
In the early '90s, his interest turned to crappie. And for days and weeks on end he could be seen at Clinton Lake, catching and releasing innumerable crappie by plying offshore coverts with a gray jig crafted by Leroy Spellman of Mount Vernon, Mo.
Around 1994 he discovered the joys of tangling with white bass, wipers and striped bass. To perfect his skills on these species, Bivins ventured as far as Texoma Lake on the border of Texas and Oklahoma, where he astonished and bewildered the local experts during the winters of 1994 and '95 by catching an impressive array of fish by casting and slowly hopping that gray jig upon deep-water sanctuaries.
Thereafter, Bivins could be seen catching unbelievable numbers of white bass and wipers at La Cygne, Perry, Pomona and Melvern lakes.
About a year ago he became intrigued with Melvern's walleye. To get a rudimentary understanding of the walleye and how to pursue them, Bivins studied and then copied the techniques of several of the lake's most savvy walleye anglers.
But within less than a half of a day, this erstwhile bass fisherman became bored with the languid tactics of drifting, trolling and vertical fishing employed by most walleye fishermen.
After a bit of experimentation, Bivins discovered he could catch walleye about the same way he catches bass, crappie, white bass, stripers and wipers -- by casting and retrieving one of Spellman's jigs.
The only difference was the jig was often tipped with a nightcrawler in order to elicit a strike from the finickiest walleye.
Part of Bivins' genius is his ability to locate subtle humps and drop-offs, which is where the walleye and other species often abide. He discovers the majority of these hard-to-find locales by bouncing a jig across the lake's floor and consistently monitoring his sonar device.
But it is his keen concentration, focusing on the action and whereabouts of his jig during every retrieve, that separates Bivins from the run-of-the-mill angler.
In addition, he is also a master at running an electric trolling motor, which keeps his boat dead still -- even in a brisk wind -- allowing him to make long, precise casts and methodically hop a jig across a walleye's lair upon each retrieve.
When the water is less than 15 feet deep and the wind isn't blowing, Bivins prefers a 1/8-ounce jig, opting for a 1/4-ouncer when it's deeper or windy.
According to Bivins, the only line to use is eight-pound Trilene XL, which he spools on a medium-action, six-foot Berkley spinning rod and Spidercast spinning reel.
While retrieving the jig, Bivins always points the rod tip at the water, keeping only a three feet of line out of the water. The retrieve is made by making two slow revolutions of the reel handle. The he stops and waits for the jig to bounce on the bottom.
Once the jig hits the bottom, he slowly reels the handle two more times and then lets the jig return to the bottom. He continues that method until the jig is well past the walleye lair.
By casting and hopping a gray jig across scores of Melvern's walleye haunts, Bivins has caught more than 30 walleye an outing this spring.
And he says, "That isn't bad for an ol' bass fisherman."
It is also unusual because in the annals of bass and walleye angling the twain rarely meet.