But when I headed up to Lake Shawnee on a dreary, cool Tuesday night, I couldn’t have dreamed the night that I would have fishing my little 2 1/8-inch Rapala Square 3 rattling crankbait from the bank.
I was fishing with a 7-foot, heavy action Jimmy Houston Fishing Hunter Pro DX combo that I ordered after my previous pole was stolen from the back of my truck. Interestingly, I’ve now purchased two Jimmy Houston rods and had them both break — one when I fell down a creek and now this.
Apparently, the rods are pretty light duty, even though I love the smoothness of the reel.
Luckily, I had a spare rod left in my truck bed from an old baitcaster I had, so I removed the reel and put it on its new home. It felt surprisingly comfortable in my hand, even though I prefer cork handles. I put the Arashi Square back on the 20-pound Sufix Siege Neon Tangerine monofilament line and tied it with a uni knot, which I’ve been practicing in my spare time.
I headed back down to my first spot and cast out at a 45-degree angles to try to attract a feeding bass. As I was retrieving to the right, I reeled the lure almost to shore when there was a sudden explosion of water right by my feet. I was standing on a rock to get out from the weeds a bit, and this fish must have been 2 feet in front of me. The heavy fish took off running, dragging the line back out to about 10 feet before I could maneuver him back to the shore. I swung the heavy fish out of the water and on the shore, thinking it must have been a giant bass, only to be shocked to again see a blue catfish flopping on the bank behind me.
The funniest part of this is I’ve been trying to catch catfish in other bodies of water using stinkbaits, only to have very little success. Apparently I should have been throwing a crankbait this whole time, because they were attacking it with vigor.
I took a video and released the big catfish, which I estimated to weigh about 8 pounds based on other catfish that I’ve caught and weighed. It was at least 20 inches long, as well, making it easily the biggest fish I’ve caught this year. I thought about keeping it to filet, but I figured that would be the last fish I’d catch on the night.
I was wrong.
I tried walking down the shoreline again to the south, figuring I’d catch some bass near the grass beds. I had what felt like a couple hits on the lure, but nothing was getting hooked. I was about to call it a night, but figured I’d try my first spot where I caught the catfish once more.
Sure enough, after two casts, something massive took hold of my lure and ran with it. There’s no way it’s another catfish, I thought, and when I finally flopped the heavy fish onto shore, I was relieved to see it wasn’t. In the darkness, I thought I had caught a massive bass, perhaps even a wiper — a mix between white bass and striper. I was about to reach into its mouth to grab it when I noticed something off about this “bass.” I don’t know what it was, but something wasn’t right about the dark figure on the ground.
I grabbed my phone and turned on the flashlight, and boy am I glad I didn’t stick my hand in that fish’s mouth. A row of sharp teeth peered ominously out from its mouth, meaning that I had caught some sort of walleye. My dad later told me he thought it was another hybrid called a saugeye — a mix between a sauger and a walleye. However, the patterns on the fish’s skin look more like walleye patches than sauger to me, so it may be closer to a walleye than a sauger. Saugeyes are one of the few hybrid fish that are fertile, meaning a saugeye could mate with a walleye, sauger or even another saugeye and create strange mixes that are three-fourths walleye, one-fourth sauger. Through reproduction, you could eventually end up with something like a saugeye that’s 15/16ths walleye and 1/16th sauger or something like that. I’ll have to ask someone at the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism what they think it is.
Saugeye typically are more aggressive than walleye. They also have more vitality than the fragile walleye population, meaning they can survive the conditions better. They have been introduced in a lot of lakes to help supplement the walleye species. If it was a pure sauger, it would’ve been close to a state record — a 23.75-inch, 4.8-pound sauger caught in 1996 with a jig and minnow on Melvern Reservoir by Jimmy Barnes, of Kansas City. The state record for saugeye was 9.81 pounds and 28 1/2 inches and was caught by Raymond Wait, of Norton, in 1998. The walleye state record is the biggest — 13.16 pounds and 29 inches, caught in 1996 with a Rapala lure on Wilson Reservoir by Dustin Ritter, of Hoisington.