Back in 1976, Terry Bivins of Lebo gave Dale Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison a run for their money on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit.
Bivins finished eighth at the '76 Daytona 500. He even led the race for one lap. And at a number of other races, he placed high on the leader board. Moreover, he finished second in the balloting for rookie-of-the-year that season.
Five years later, Bivins decided to retire from racing and switch to fishing.
During the past 20 years, he has become as talented an angler as he was a stock-car race driver. In fact, many think he is the best multi-species angler in all of Kansas.
Initially, Bivins became enthralled with largemouth bass. By fishing for largemouth in deep water, he learned how to catch crappie. Then, by crappie fishing, he learned how to catch white bass. By white bass fishing, he learned about walleye and wiper.
Ultimately, walleye taught him about the smallmouth bass, and the smallmouth taught Bivins some more secrets about catching largemouth bass.
He catches the preponderance of fish on a jig, and the best time to view Bivins' prowess with a jig occurs when winter's fury turns the sky as sooty as coal smoke, the wind howls and thermometers plunge into the teens. Then Bivins often frequents the heated dock at Melvern Lake.
At Melvern, he uses an assortment of jigs in a variety of subtle ways to catch an incredible number of crappie. Nowadays, just like when he was a race car driver, very few fishermen can keep pace with Bivins. He normally out-fishes the other anglers at the heated dock by a stunning 15-to-1 ratio.
Until the Corps of Engineers began dropping Melvern at 500 cubic feet per second in early January, causing the crappie to move out of the coves and into the lake's main body, Bivins caught hundreds of crappie from around the heated dock.
After the lake dropped, Bivins used his boat to probe main-lake crappie coverts in 15 to 30 feet of water. And, of course, he caught several species, including a lot of big crappie.
The fact Bivins constantly caught big crappie surprised many anglers. During the fall and early winter, Melvern's fishermen complained it was difficult to catch a crappie that measured 10 inches or more. But like all exceptional fishermen, Bivins fishes differently than most and discovers a way to catch the best fish in a waterway.
This winter he began using a quarter-ounce jighead festooned with a three-inch Bass Assassin. The use of such a big lure for crappie is unheard of, but from Bivins' days of walleye and bass fishing with a three-inch Bass Assassin, he knew that big crappie relished it.
Some winters there are only aquatic insects and zooplankton for the crappie to feed on. When that occurs, the big crappie often snub big jigs, favoring mini-jigs or micro-spoons instead.
In the angling world, it is called "matching the hatch or prey," and Bivins is an expert at it.
This year Melvern contains an astronomical number of three-inch gizzard shad, and the big crappie have been consuming them for several months, another reason why Bivins' three-inch Bass Assassin has been so fruitful.