"I've got to tip my hat to Leonard Jirak," Davis said.
Jirak is the Wildlife and Parks fisheries biologist in charge of Melvern Lake.
Davis uttered his tribute to Jirak as he hoisted a two-pound smallmouth bass over the gunnels of his bass boat. That two-pounder was the second two-pounder of the morning, and by morning's end Davis had tangled with a total of l8 smallmouth, Kentucky and largemouth bass along Melvern's many miles of rocky shores.
The bulk of Davis' bass weighed a pound or less, but several weighed more than two pounds and one smallmouth broached three pounds. Davis carefully released them all.
Davis' catch was a remarkable feat. In fact, it would have been an impossible task at Melvern just three years ago.
Sorry bass fishing wasn't always the rule at Melvern. During the years immediately after Melvern was impounded in 1974, northeast Kansas bass anglers caught scores of largemouth bass, many weighing from three to six pounds.
Then around 1980, the bass fishing began to deteriorate. By the mid-'90s, the angling turned so bad it was considered a red-letter day when an angler caught five small largemouth bass during a long outing.
Nowadays, Melvern is considered virtually bassless. For instance, from 1996 until 1998, Melvern's bass population has been so inconsequential that the annual Kansas fishing forecast, compiled by Wildlife and Parks, hasn't bothered to list Melvern as a worthwhile waterway for bass anglers.
That means it is considered worse than Clinton and Perry lakes, and most knowledgeable bass fishermen rate those two impoundments as barren.
About the time Melvern's bass population reached its nadir in the 1990s, Jirak quietly and virtually single-handed began stocking a few smallmouth bass into the lower section of Melvern's 6,930 acres.
Beginning this April, crappie, walleye and white bass anglers started catching an impressive number of nice-sized smallmouth bass, mixed with an occasional Kentucky and largemouth bass. But until Davis made his maiden outing at Melvern in August, Jirak's yeoman efforts hadn't been discovered and appreciated by dyed-in-the-wool bass anglers in these parts.
Davis found Melvern's smallmouth can be caught as shallow as a foot of water. The deepest spot Davis tangled with a bass was about seven feet.
On Davis' outing, the smallmouth exhibited a preference for a 5/8-ounce Excalibur Super Spook and a 3/8-ounce Hank Parker's Classic Spinnerbait with gold blades and white skirt, which Davis wielded on casting outfits.
In addition, a spinning rod that sported a split shot and a four-inch purple Berkley Power Worm affixed to a 1/0 Berkley Gold Point hook tricked about half the bass.
Davis called his morning encounter with Melvern's smallmouth bass one of the most unexpected and exciting of his 10 years of ardently pursuing bass in northeast Kansas.
Now Melvern's many miles of rocky and gravel coves should provide ideal coverts for smallmouth bass to procreate, and its many main-lake lairs should shelter scads of smallmouth through the rest of the seasons.
And if all goes well during the next decade, anglers like Davis should enjoy countless encounters with the fruits of Jirak's handiwork at the most pastoral reservoir in the eastern part of the state.