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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Presentation is everything for angler

BY MICHAEL PEARCE
The Wichita Eagle

JOHNSON COUNTY — Unlike most Kansans, Ned Kehde likes when it gets over 100 on a summer afternoon.

But instead of the temperature, he's talking about the tally of bass put in his boat in about four hours.

"Catching 101 is the magic number," said Kehde, of Lawrence. "I've already done it four times this year."

He gives a lot of credit to catching bass on small, life-like lures in a tactic called finesse fishing.

Wednesday, Kehde and a guest combined to catch and release 71 bass between 9:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.

Another 15 to 20 bass came unhooked. About 15 sunfish were caught.

"I only count bass," Kehde said as he punched the silver metal counter by his seat. "They only count if we get them in the boat."

Last year, he and friends finessed more than 5,000 bass. He said finesse fishing helps catch fish that may seemingly see lures every day.

"We only fish public water," Kedhe said as he arched a cast Wednesday morning. "We have a couple of major reservoirs and lot of smaller lakes."

All of the waters are within about an hour's drive of more than 1 million people in the Kansas City to Topeka areas.

He doesn't like to publish exactly where he fishes, fearing it could put too much pressure on one lake.

Lure presentation, he said, is more important than fishing location.

"This kind of fishing will work all over Kansas," he said.

He uses medium-action spinning gear to toss small plastic baits hooked to jigheads from 1/32 to 3/32 of an ounce.

The plastic baits are usually straight and from 2 1/2 to 5 inches in length.

"You can catch big bass on small baits," Kehde said as he cast a 2 1/2-inch offering toward some water willows. "I'm out here casting for bites. I don't really worry too much about size."

He said that's also a realistic goal since many of the places he fishes lack many bass over five pounds. Most have loads of fish from 10 to 15 inches, though.

Like many eastern Kansas waters, the lake Kehde fished Wednesday had its bass population ravaged by disease several years ago.

Wednesday bass from 10 to 13 inches were probably the most common size.

The biggest landed was a tad bigger than two pounds. One of about three pounds came unhooked inches from the boat. Green and warmouth sunfish were also caught.

Kehde was surprised no walleye or catfish were hooked.

On Tuesday he had four nice channel cats with about 40 bass at another lake.

Some days the finesse fishing has resulted in about eight species of fish. One of the secrets, he said, is the liveliness of the lure's presentation.

Kehde focuses on brands of lures that are more porous and soft than standard plastic lures. He also imparts a lot of action during lure retrieves.

The end of his fishing rod is often twitching. Using lightweight jigheads lets the lures snap about and become almost suspended in the water.

The lures are more life-like than most cast by traditional bass anglers. They're also easier on the bodies of those anglers.

"I'm 71 and can't handle that big bass equipment any more," Kehde said. "I can throw this stuff so much easier."

He can also cast one particular lure much longer, too.

"They're pretty tough," he said. "It's nothing to catch over 100 fish on one. It saves me a lot of money."

So does fishing from a basic 16-foot, aluminum V-bottom boat that's about 10 years old. It was cheap enough to be about one-fifth the price of many bass boats. It's light enough that he pulls it with a four-cylinder SUV.

And he'll keep pulling that boat around Kansas for mid-day fishing trips all summer.

Kedhe said he prefers to fish from about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to avoid other boats and anglers. He's never seen mid-day angling hurt his success. And some of the best finesse fishing is yet to come.

"August is one of our best months," he said. "The fish are really concentrated. It's possible to catch 50 in an hour. That's a lot of fun."

For more detailed information from Kedhe on his techniques and equipment, go to www.kansas.com/outdoors.

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