Hayden angler Thomas Heinen had a pretty nice end to his month, from finishing first and second in a pair of tournaments last weekend to fishing with a legendary angler the week prior.
“Yeah, Saturday went pretty well,” Heinen said. “We had three keepers. I caught a 20 1/2-inch bass that helped us a ton because a couple of other teams had three fish, so that bass added some weight to our bag.”
Heinen followed up his performance at Milford the next day with a first-place finish at the first Flint Hills Bass Club tournament of the year at Melvern Lake while fishing with teammate Jim Parsons, also of Topeka. Parsons was named “Boater of the Year” last year by the Flint Hills Bass Club and Heinen was named “Non-Boater of the Year.”
Fishing with Ned
Heinen said he caught all of his fish on the Z-man TRD in California craw coloring. The TRD (The Real Deal) is a bait that Z-man came out with to rig on a mushroom head, a setup that has been nicknamed the “Ned Rig” after legendary angler Ned Kehde, who lives in Lawrence and writes for In-Fisherman Magazine.
“I went fishing with him and (fishing guide) Clyde Holscher at Shawnee Lake, and that was a great experience. Learned a ton,” Heinen said. “He showed me some ways to fish the rig that I never knew or thought of doing. I have always used this rig and never would have thought to be on the water with the man that created it. This was definitely a great experience for me and to learn more and more about the Ned Rig.”
Kehde said he came away from the fishing session with Heinen impressed with what he saw in the young angler.
“He’s a good kid,” Kehde said. “He’s a really wonderful kid and I think he has great potential as a fisherman, too. You know, he looks good to me in my eyes and, you know, I’m 77 years old and I’ve seen a lot of fishermen in my day. I was impressed.”
“His passion’s incredible,” Kehde added. “That love that he has, it’s just one of those unique things that you can’t explain why it erupts, but boy, it has erupted in him.”
Holscher noted Heinen’s ability to pick up on the little things that are necessary to succeed when using their almost Zen-like Midwest Finesse style of fishing.
“He’s an astute observer of the sublime,” Holscher said. “In the fishing world or hunting or whatever you’re doing when it comes to one of God’s creatures, you kind of have to be one with that.
“The terminology ‘power-fisherman’ — and I’ve been there, done that back in the late ’80s, early ’90s with tournament fishing Lake of the Ozarks and Truman and all of that — you basically just thrash the water. It’s a different type of deal. I’m blessed to be older and have been doing this for 45 or 50 years, so it really was a joy for Ned and I both to be with Thomas and share some of those little subtleties.”
Heinen said he is a “firm believer” in the system and that he put what he learned to use while fishing the Ned Rig at the tournament.
“The Ned Rig was not in his repertoire at all,” Holscher said. “He thought that it was in the finesse fishing, but it’s a different type of finesse fishing than he had ever done before. He picked up on it, absorbed it, had question after question. For somebody his age, he just absorbs and is a sponge and just observes things very, very well.”
Always looking to improve
Heinen said he was honored by his recent inclusion in the 2017 Bassmaster High School All-State list this year, where he and Bila earned honorable mention. Heinen was a first-team all-state angler last year. This year, the first-team honors went to Zachary Vielhauer, of Buhler, and Hunter French, of Shawnee.
“I am just very thankful for all the people I have in my corner,” Heinen said. “Especially the Flint Hills club. Everybody in the club is willing to donate their time and help me achieve my dreams.”
Kehde said Heinen would continue to develop as an angler thanks to his propensity for learning.
“You know, he’s 17, and he will find a lot of ways to improve his craft,” Kehde said. “Right now, he’s doing very well for his age and he’s learning. What’s good is he has a great sense of what questions to ask and what to look for and his perspective is very on-target.”
He also added that he’d be more than willing to lend a hand should the young angler ever seek advice.
“Oh, I would love to (work with him in the future),” Kehde said. “He’s very easy to be around and I would love to. Any day he wants to go, I will take time out to go.”