The action was slow for three regulars at the pay-dock at Rock Creek Marina. None had caught a crappie for about 15 minutes.
After about five minutes without a strike Robert Roudybush, a Topekan who hadn’t fished the dock in more than a year, made some changes to his lure. It wasn’t long before he lifted a fat, 11-inch female crappie from the water. Within a matter of seconds he caught a smaller fish that had to be released, quickly followed by another.
What sparked the fast action? Roudybush had changed from a dark to a white body on his crappie jig. He had also tipped the hook with a secret weapon — a kernel of corn.
Such are just two of scores of tips he offers in his book “Fishing Secrets, Where & How to Catch ’Em.” The book was released late last year, and was largely written about his about 60 years of fishing in eastern Kansas and the Ozarks.
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“It’s mainly for the weekend fisherman, the guy who can use some help to increase his success rate,” Roudybush said. “It’s also for the guy who doesn’t have a boat. I’ve owned a boat for a few years, but never really needed one to catch fish. Also here in Kansas the nice days can be pretty limited. It’s either really blowing or it’s really cold.”
Roudybush, 70, got his start fishing as a boy in the Manhattan area. Raised in a “whole family that fished,” he spent a lot of time on the Kansas River, local streams and Tuttle Creek Reservoir in its infancy. Meticulous by nature, Roudybush kept a fishing journal for many years. He’s noticed he carries less and less tackle to the water. He said helping new anglers select what they do and don’t need is a major part of the book.
“Most people are really limited to when they can go fishing, and they just don’t have the time to try out a lot of new stuff,” Roudybush said. “I’ve found that about every year I’ve used the same things and been catching a lot of fish. It’s like the old saying, ‘stick with what you know’ and I know these things will work.”
Roudybush takes an assortment of jigheads and plastic bodies to the water most days. He’s a big believer in putting more than just plastic on the jig’s hook.
He credits the late Homer Circle, considered by many the top angling author of all time, for the idea of putting a small piece of corn on a lure’s hook when fishing for crappie or bluegill. He also carries several varieties of commercial fish nibblets than can be used, too. For bluegill, he often fishes with faux-maggots made of the same material.
“Sometimes kids get a little squeamish about hooking on worms and these maggots work just as well,” he said. “I can often catch about 10 fish before I need to rebait. It’s just one of those things you learn by doing.”
Likewise, he’ll often tip a hook with a live or dead minnow. A small piece of worm or small piece of minnow or flesh from a caught fish can often help. Roudybush often rubs his lure along the sides of any fish he catches.
“I think it just kind of provides more scent,” he said. “I don’t see any way that it could hurt your chances.”
In the book, Roudybush said he always liked his chances of catching fish below a lake’s dam when water is being released through the outlet. He said they’re great places to find a variety of species of fish in one small area. Often they can be caught with some simple tackle and techniques.
“You can catch about every species of fish (in the lake) with a jig tipped with a minnow or a nightcrawler,” he said. “You cast it kind of upstream and let the jig bounce along the bottom. A lot of people fish too deep. Most of the fish are kind of out of the current, closer to the rocks.”
Wednesday at the pay-dock at Perry Reservoir, Roudybush held his own compared to six or seven anglers also on the dock. Several of the other anglers were fishing two or three rods at a time and some baited with live minnows. About 50 yards away, though, an angler fishing a section of rip-rap shoreline probably caught as many crappie as all the anglers on the dock combined.
Roudybush caught about 20 crappie in less than three hours. Like with the other anglers, few of his crappie were above the lake’s 10-inch minimum length limit.
“They’re still a lot of fun to catch,” he said as he dropped a small crappie back into the lake. “It’s hard not to have fun when you’re catching fish.”
He’s hoping, through his book, more beginning anglers will come to know that enjoyment.