One of the discoveries that has been extremely beneficial to me as an angler has been the Ned Rig, a type of setup made popular by Lawrence-based angler Ned Kehde, the architect of the Midwest Finesse style of fishing.
I've had particularly good luck fishing with the Bubblegum color of the Z-Man TRD plastic on a black, weedless Shroom Z mushroom jig head. The pink coloring of the jig shows up particularly well and looks ultra-realistic in the often-murky waters of Kansas lakes, and it helped me to catch the nice largemouth bass pictured above while fishing in the notoriously difficult Shawnee State Lake, which despite the finicky nature of its fish produces a quality bass population weighing up to 5 pounds.
I tried the light bait again Tuesday during a quick trip to an urban pond in Topeka. The Cedar Crest ponds, or Governor's Ponds, are named as such as they are located on a large plot of land near the governor's mansion. The area includes hiking/biking trails and some fitness equipment, and is a beautiful spot to just go for a walk or get in a little bit of fishing without having to travel far if you live in the city.
The ponds, similar to the state lake, are challenging spots. The area is heavily fished, making bass and bluegill extremely hesitant to bite on anything artificial, and though I've seen catfish weighing up to 5 pounds taken from the stocked ponds, it's more typical to see small, young fish. Many of the larger fish seem to get harvested by community anglers, leaving the ponds in a continual phase of rebuilding its stock.
That is what made this particular trip so special.
I was walking the edges of the ponds, casting under structure (the east pond has two docks) and near submerged cover and along the bank.
I'd had a couple small bites but nothing was really taking the bait at first. I was using a Shakespeare Micro Series spinning crappie rod I'd purchased at Walmart the night before and spooled with 8-pound fleurocarbon line. As the sun was setting around 7 p.m., I moved to a shadowy area on the west pond where I figured bass would be lurking beneath the cover of darkness.
I noticed several swirls in the water where fish and turtles were moving about and saw one in particular near the bank that I could tell was a fish. I cast along the shoreline and carefully bobbed the small jig through the shallow water until I felt a big tug on the other end of the line. The fish more or less set the hook, all I had to do was keep pressure on the line.
The fish felt massive on the light crappie pole, and it bent in half as I fought this big fish splashing around in the shallows. It kicked its tail to try to go into deeper water, and I could tell by the size of the wake that this was a brute.
As hard as it was fighting, I thought I'd snagged a big catfish. However, as I maneuvered the fish with my pole I saw a glimpse of green and knew I had a big largemouth on the line.
Worried my hook would get dislodged or even that the line would break, I quickly got the fish to shore, excitedly stammering "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!" as a pair of female walkers looked on and probably laughed.
Almost as soon as I got the fish on the bank, the small hook popped out of the bass's mouth, and I quickly put my foot in front of it to keep it from flopping back down the bank into the water.
I picked up the big bass and was shocked at the weight in my hand. It was a solid 2 1/2, maybe even 3 pounds. It felt just as big as the nice bass I caught on Shunga Creek in the spring, and definitely bigger than the big bass I caught on the state lake that was about 2 pounds.
With my thumb in its mouth, I picked up its tail with the other hand as measured it visually. It was definitely one of the longer bass I've caught, certainly longer than the 15-inch keeper minimum listed for the pond.
I cursed myself when I realized I left my phone in the truck, not expecting to catch one of the best bass I'd caught all season, so unfortunately I have no photographic evidence that such a fish swims in such an unassuming spot.
However, I'll always have that memory of catching a monster bass in an urban pond on my little crappie pole and lightweight Ned Rig, and that's good enough for me.