July 2, 2008
Fisherman Hopes to Catch 101 Bass — Each Time Out
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- When Ned Kehde talks about Bass Fishing 101, he isn't referring to some introductory course in college.
He is defining his primary goal in life.
Each time he goes fishing in northeast Kansas, he strives to catch 101 bass.
"My approach to bass fishing is significantly different than that of tournament bass fishermen and serious recreational anglers," said Kehde, 68, who lives in Lawrence. "They are satisfied with getting only six or seven bites in an outing in hopes of catching five hefty-sized bass.
"I would be frustrated and unhappy with catching only six or seven bass. In fact, I am unhappy when I catch only 30. Even 50 bass an outing is considered lackluster in my eyes.
"When I go fishing, I want to get lots of bites. I want to catch lots of fish.
"I don't really care how big they are. I'm after the action."
Kehde often finds that action when he goes bass fishing in northeast Kansas.
He spends most of the week fishing the obscure small lakes of the region that are loaded with bass but aren't widely known. His goal: nonstop action.
And he often finds what he is looking for.
"Northeast Kansas is a Nirvana for a bass fisherman, especially if you want to get a lot of bites," said Kehde, who releases all the bass he catches. "I limit myself to fishing within a 75-mile radius of Lawrence. But there are more than 47,000 acres of public water in that area.
"Last week, I fished five public lakes and I only burned 15 gallons of gas in my vehicle and outboard motor. I went out twice by myself and three times with a friend and ended up with 232 bass."
Kehde was looking for similar success when he headed out on a recent weekend.
He started at Perry Lake and caught five bass, several of them in the 15-inch range. But it wasn't until he moved to a small state fishing lake (which he preferred not to name for fear that it will get overrun with fishing pressure) that he found the type of rapid action he desires.
Tossing a Strike King finesse worm attached to a one-sixteenth-ounce mushroom jig head to the edge of the weeds, he felt a tap and quickly set the hook.
When he did, a 12-inch bass shot to the surface, made an acrobatic leap and landed with a loud belly flop.
"These smaller lakes are loaded with bass this size," Kehde said as he swung his catch into the boat. "But there are some bigger ones in here, too.
"I've caught bass up to 7 pounds, 3 ounces on these finesse baits. And we'll catch bass in the 5-pound range every year."
Kehde kept casting _ and he kept catching fish. By the time he and I were done, we had caught 66 bass.
That fell short of Kehde's goal, but still amounted to a good day on the water.
"I haven't hit 101 yet this year; the closest I've come was 83," he said. "But I've done it in the past. I had one year where we hit 101 six times.
"So it's not impossible."
Kehde doesn't make things easy on himself. Not only does he set his arbitrary goal at 101, he limits himself to four hours of fishing. He goes out at midday _ 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. _ not normally looked upon as prime fishing hours. And he only fishes public water, not the private farm ponds or strip pits that are filled with bass.
But he has learned that his methods will catch bass virtually any time of the day.
He starts by using finesse baits such as the Strike King finesse worm or Zero hooked to light mushroom jig heads. Then he uses spinning equipment and a reel spooled with 8-pound test line to cast those lures to weed lines, rocky banks and laydowns and stumps.
Kehde, a freelance writer whose work is often seen in In-Fisherman magazine, has spent most of his life fishing for bass.
He went through a phase where he used larger baits in hopes of catching huge bass. But then he became intrigued with the finesse tactics the late Chuck Wood, a well-known lure manufacturer in the Kansas City area, used in the 1950s through the 1970s. Wood, who developed such popular lures as the Beetle Spin, preached that you didn't need a big lure to catch a big bass.
Wood has since passed away, but Kehde and others are carrying on his legacy. They have established an informal "101 Bass Club" and trade information almost daily about their progress in hitting the lofty mark.
Kehde believes that heavy fishing pressure at some of the small lakes is taking its toll, making it harder to reach that elusive total. But he said that it's still possible. And that keeps him casting.
"I live in a good area for this type of fishing," Kehde said. "I don't have to burn a lot of gas to get to lakes that have a lot of bass in them."