PERRY, Kan. - Brody, a Westie that serves as the first mate on Clyde Holscher’s fishing boat, was curled up for a nap in the shade.
But when he saw that Holscher had a fish on, he sprang into action. He hopped onto the rod locker and hung his head over the side, intently waiting to see what was on the end of the line.
When he saw that it was a nice-sized largemouth bass, he gave a “ho-hum” look and returned to his resting spot.
“For some reason, Brody has always been a white-bass specialist,” Holscher said with a laugh. “He’ll get real excited when it’s a white. He’ll snap at it, even take it in his mouth after it’s unhooked and try to release it.
“But largemouths and smallmouths? He doesn’t get too excited.”
Brody was the only one in the boat who wasn’t enthused about the bass fishing at Perry Lake, an 11,600-acre reservoir in northeast Kansas.
The reservoir, always known for its crappie fishing, has quietly become one of the best black-bass fisheries in Kansas. It not only has an impressive population of largemouths, it also has a growing number of smallmouths.
For many, it brings back memories of the “good old days” when Perry was a thriving bass lake.
“This lake had lots of bass from 1968 to 1974,” said Ned Kehde, an avid bass fisherman and a writer for In-Fisherman. “I remember one day when Jim Joy (who has since died) went out and caught 10 bass weighing 59 pounds on spinnerbaits here.
“But the lake got old, a lot of the nursery cover disappeared and the bass population fell off. I don’t know if it will ever be what it once was, but it’s coming back.”
Fishermen and fisheries biologists for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism credit much of that resurgence to the high water Perry has experienced in the last five years. The biologists say the newly flooded area provided an abundance of nursery cover for the fry to hide from predators . Fishermen think Perry received an unexpected stocking of larger fish when area farm ponds were flooded during the high water.
The smallmouths were stocked by the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, and they too are doing well in the rocky, shad-rich reservoir.
Whatever the case, Perry’s bass population has made a comeback. In fact, Bassmaster magazine rated Perry as one of the top 100 bass lakes in the nation this spring.
Holscher and Kehde both think that might have been overdoing it a bit, but they agree that Perry is coming on strongly.
Holscher, who runs the Guide Lines Guide Service, and Kehde proved it on a recent weekday. Holscher pulled up to a rocky point with a steep dropoff, and tossed out a brown and charetreuse Stinger plastic bait and let it settle. Before it even reached the bottom, a healthy largemouth bass grabbed it and immediately went into fight mode.
After a short tussle, Holscher lifted the 16-inch fish into the boat, admired his catch, and tossed it back. Then he launched another cast to where he had caught the first fish and repeated the action.
“That fish is almost exactly the same size,” Holscher said as he examined his second largemouth, then plopped it back into the water.
A third cast produced another strong pull and the spirited fight of a bass. But this time it was a smallmouth, about the same size as the two largemouths.
“These bass like to relate to that first dropoff off the bank here at Perry,” said Holscher, who lives on Lake Shawnee near Topeka. “I think the turbidity of the water keeps them shallow, even in the heat of summer.
“As opposed to the Ozark reservoirs, which have clear water, the food chain stays shallow here.”
Holscher paused and added, “Still, you usually don’t catch three nice-sized bass like that in the same place.”
Fishing riprap and rocky points near deep water, Holscher and Kehde regularly caught bass on an overcast morning. Each used plastic finesse baits b?” Holscher cast Culprit Stingers, Kehde used Z-Man Zinker Zs b?” fished in a way that is becoming the rage with bass fishermen. They cut 5-inch baits in half, then used one of the pieces on a light jig head.
Those methods work well. Holscher and Kehde combined to catch and release 28 bass, a mix of largemouths and smallmouths. They also caught nine white bass, fish that got Brody’s heart racing.
That’s part of the intrigue that lures Holscher to Perry each spring and summer. There are many smaller bodies of water in northeast Kansas that produce more bites. But for good-sized fish, Perry is getting tough to beat.
A recent guide trip in the heat of summer served as proof. Holscher and his party caught one bass weighing 5 pounds, two that registered 4 and two others in the three-pound range. And in spring 2011, a customer caught a largemouth that weighed 6 pounds, 1l ounces, using light line and a plastic finesse bait.
All of which doesn’t excite Brody much. But there are white bass mixed in to keep him attentive.
“I’m going to have to work on him with these black bass,” Holscher said with a smile. “When we come to Perry, that’s what we’re going to be catching.”