There won't be as many largemouth bass caught in northeast Kansas this summer as there were in summers past.
It's not because a horrible disease has afflicted our fish. It's because Kevin Davis has left town.
On the last day of spring, Davis moved from Lawrence to northeast Texas and he now lives a short distance from Lake Fork, Lake Cooper and Purtis Creek.
Even though Fork's extraordinary largemouth bass fishing has flagged recently from the effects of a lethal virus, this part of Texas is still called a bass fisherman's nirvana. Moreover, a dozen more famous bass lakes, including Sam Rayburn and Toledo, are nearby.
During the last half of the 1990s, Davis developed into a consummate angler. As a member of Lawrence's Sunflower Bassmasters, he won many club tournaments, and at the ones he didn't win, his name often appeared near the top of the leaderboard.
Although he was primarily a recreational and club angler, he occasionally competed in regional tournaments. On April 28, for instance, Davis exhibited his talents at the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League tournament at Milord Lake. At this very difficult contest, where 40 percent of the field failed to catch a bass, Davis caught three bass that weighed 10 pounds, 13 ounces, finished third and won $550.
In the vernacular of the bass fishing fraternity, Davis is a power angler, which is different than a finesse angler who uses small lures and lightweight tackle.
Davis's forte revolves around using big spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jigs and plastic tubes on casting outfits and heavy line. Like all successful Kansas bass anglers, Davis uses these lures in shallow water and around visible objects near the shoreline.
On a typical outing at a Kansas waterway, Davis always ran his electric trolling motor at a quick pace and often worked his lures parallel to the shore. When he came upon such shoreline objects as logs, limbs, stumps, aquatic weeds or a boat dock, Davis would stop and thoroughly probe those spots from a variety of angles even pitching his jig or tube into a thickest maze of brush or weeds.
One of his favorite Kansas environs were the patches of American water willows that line the shorelines at La Cygne and Lone Star lakes. He also loved fishing the many log jams that graced the Wakarusa River above Clinton Lake.
During the past three years, it was said that Davis tangled with more largemouth bass at Clinton than any other angler.
Last winter he expanded his angling horizons by discovering the joys of chasing Coffey County Lake's smallmouth bass and white bass, and for a short spell he even became comfortable brandishing a spinning rod and an 1/8-ounce marabou jig.
As a Kansan, Davis was never at ease fishing such offshore areas as submerged humps, ridges and brush piles in deep water. Too boring, he told me. He also disliked relying on a sonar device to interpret the lake's terrain and bass whereabouts.
But as a Texan his aversion to sonars and deep-water coverts will have to change, or he will often fare poorly.
In fact, Davis ruefully reported in late June that he had fished Fork and Ray Roberts lakes without garnering a bass.
Consequently, he was homesick for the shallow-water bass of Kansas. It was a pity, he said, that in his 34 years of being a Kansan he hadn't truly appreciated how delightful and easy the fishing had been.