If you target densely populated waters with highly effective lures, chances are good you’ll pull out a good number of fish. They may not all be trophies, or even keepers, but in my mind there’s nothing as fun as getting on a hot bite and catching fish all day long.
However, this healthy bass fishery has earned a rating of Excellent from the agency for its great bass-fishing opportunities, a rating it shares with only five other lakes in the state — Cowley, Butler and Bourbon counties’ state fishing lakes, Richmond City Lake and Fort Scott’s Gunn Park Lake No. 2.
With that in mind, I made a last-minute decision this week to forego my typical fishing spots for one a little more out-of-the-way, with the caveat that I knew it was loaded with largemouth bass and spotted (or Kentucky) bass. It was a fair trade-off, as the summer heat draws many bass to deeper waters and makes them more elusive for bank anglers than during the aggressive feeding periods of the spring spawn cycle or the ideal topwater fishing conditions of fall, when fish load up with calories before the harsh winter water temperatures hit and make them lethargic.
I made the winding drive through the beautiful Flint Hills to Westmoreland, a small town about 15 miles northwest of Wamego — almost a straight shot north from Flush, if you get lost. When I arrived, I was taken aback by how calm the water was. As I drove up, I could see the swirls of feeding baitfish across the glassy surface and I was the only person at the lake. The whole day I saw maybe two other vehicles drive down to the lake, and I’m not even sure either of them were fishing. Compare that to Lake Shawnee, where ski boats and jet skis speed past you every five minutes and swamp up your fishing spot with giant wakes and kids throw rocks and jump in the water near your bobber — not to mention the heavy fishing pressure and foot traffic. This secluded spot was a nice little slice of heaven, away from the hustle and bustle. Now that I’ve written about it, I fully expect to see hundreds of anglers lining the banks and boats filling the waters upon my next trip there. But, hey, it’s my job to write about fishing in Kansas waters.
Uncertain of where to fish and what sort of prey the bass would target on this body of fairly clear water, I went with a natural color scheme on the tried-and-true Ned Rig, a Blue Craw-colored Z-Man TRD stickbait on one of their red Finesse ShroomZ jigheads. This bait is a confidence-booster for me, as I know if there’s anything in the area, it will likely hit on the small, unintimidating presentation. I was using my finesse setup — a 7-foot medium Berkley Cherrywood HD rod with plenty of backbone but a quick tip and a Shakespeare Micro Series spinning reel, one of my favorite budget reels for crappie and panfish that holds its own with bass and even small catfish. The reel was spooled with 10-pound Sufix Performance Braid in Hi-Vis Yellow with a 6-foot leader of clear Yo-Zuri H.D. Carbon 10-pound fluorocarbon.
On the very first cast, I watched as my line almost immediately began to take off and I set the hook on a small bass. In the first 10 minutes of fishing, in fact, I caught four fish — three largemouths and a green sunfish — with one decent keeper-sized fish. The high abundance of fish and the Ned Rig’s ability to coax bites even out of the most finicky fish made for a deadly combination, and within the first half-hour I had caught six more fish, including another solid bass.
As clouds began to roll in over the lake and the skies darkened, I knew a color change to a darker lure was in order, as well. Hoping to target some of the larger fish, I switched to a bulkier lure — a Tightlines UV Whisker Series Hy-Brid Craw on a Z-Man CrosseyeZ Power Finesse jighead. The skirted jighead combined with the many appendages of the blue-and-black plastic craw gave the lure a bulky profile, and the purple UV tips supposedly help give the lure a bit of a glow to help bass locate the lure.
The area I was fishing was a rocky point with grass in the shallows to either side, making the crawdad an ideal choice as I worked across the rocks near the grass line where the bass had been hiding from the sun. Bass typically will find shallow cover in weeds when it’s sunny and not overwhelmingly hot, but will start moving out into deeper water once the sky gets overcast, so I worked my way from the grassline out to the deeper areas beyond the rocky point. After several casts and slow, methodical retrieves, I noticed my line was sitting at a weird angle as I reeled it in and thought I might just have a fish on. I yanked back for the hook set and soon hauled in a 1-pound spotted bass for my 12th fish of the day.
After fishing the bulky craw a bit more, I switched poles and downsized to a small, unpainted crappie jighead tipped with a wax worm under a slip bobber. I caught a nice little bluegill right away, followed by a green sunfish in the shallows as I was slowly reeling in. As I was running low on wax worms, my bobber disappeared in the blink of an eye as something larger than a panfish finally hit on the jighead. I had missed a good fish earlier that hammered the bait, but got the hook set on this one and was surprised by the weight that met me on the other end.
I hoped the tough-fighting fish was a big bass or perhaps even a walleye, but was not surprised to find a 1-pound channel catfish on the end of my line.
I kept fishing until I ran out of wax worms and then took off down US-99 highway back toward Wamego, where I stopped and enjoyed some delicious fish tacos at a local spot called Toto’s Tacoz before heading back home. I’m glad I found a new spot for when the bass fishing gets tough, and I can’t wait to try it out during the fall when the conditions are actually good. As nice as it was to catch 15 fish in four hours, a nice fishing day with the Ned Rig has been known to land 100 fish in that time frame, even on much less dense lakes.