For the largemouth bass anglers in northeastern Kansas, there is no finer time than June, July and August. Even at the virtually bassless waters of Clinton, Perry, Hillsdale and Pomona lakes, a fortunate and savvy angler can tangle with a bevy of nice-sized bass on the best of summer outings.
One of those grand occurrences happened to Kevin Davis of Lawrence on June 19 at Hillsdale. That was when Davis enjoyed the finest tournament outings in his life, winning the Lawrence Sunflower Bassmasters club tournament by catching six big bass.
In fact, the bass fishing has been so fruitful in these parts since the end of May that several anglers are calling it the year of the bass. One reason why its the year of the bass is that the angling for other species has been extremely trying. Another reason is that the fishing at the smaller waterways such as Banner Creek Lake at Holton has been extraordinary, and catching and releasing a hundred small bass in four hours is often a cinch.
During the past 60 days, no fisherman has relished the summer bass bonanza more than Scott Ribordy of Lawrence has. His most fruitful outings occurred around the solstice.
Then the weather and water were unseasonably cool, exhibiting the feel of the northwoods of Minnesota rather than the sultry plains. During this four-day spell, Ribordy caught and released 14 smallmouth bass and 150 largemouths.
Most of the reservoirs Ribordy plied were smaller than 200 acres, but one was 5,090 acres.
Nowadays Ribordy seldom fishes the big lakes hereabouts. He has come to the conclusion that they arent suitable habitats for the largemouth bass. According to Ribordy, the largemouth bass woes stem from the big lakes pervasive crappie populations, and these rapacious crappie prey on the young bass, virtually annihilating each springs spawn.
Ribordy points to the Sunflower Bassmasters tournament at Hillsdale as example as how difficult that the bass fishing is at the big lakes. Despite Davis fine day, most of the contestants struggled to catch three bass >from dawn to 3 p.m., and some caught none. By the tournaments end a lot of the tournament anglers complained about the horrid fishing.
The major problem most of these anglers have, Ribordy says, is that they fish too fast and their lures are too big. Moreover, the bulk of the anglers ply the same shallow-water shorelines and visible coverts.
When Ribordy fishes these nearly bassless big waters, he employs the same tactics he uses on the small reservoirs. He works bass lairs that are overlooked by most anglers, and he fishes slowly, using a spinning outfit, eight-pound line, a No. 4 or 5 splitshot, a No. l wide-bend offset hook and a four-inch Berkley Power Worm. His preferred worm is a red-shad one.
With this worm on a splitshot rig, Ribordys favorite areas to probe are drop-offs, humps, rock piles and brush piles on massive mud flats, which can lie many yards off the shoreline and are usually untouched by other anglers. The best spots are so subtle that they cant be found with a sonar. Therefore, Ribordy finds them by slowly bouncing the splitshot along the bottom. It is a slow and somewhat tedious procedure especially on those days when the bass are sullen.
He also likes to work the splitshot rig on steep, rock-laden shorelines. In years past, he spent a lot of tournament days searching miles of riprap for a couple of unobvious lairs.
It is unlikely, however, that Ribordy can win many tournaments with a splitshot rig, but he is invariably near the top of the leader board. And more often than not, he will catch more, but smaller, bass than the winner catches.