La Cygne Lake in eastern Kansas had a lofty reputation as a big-bass producer before this spring even arrived.
But after what happened the weekend of March 18-19, the lore of the power-plant lake about 60 miles south of Kansas City grew even greater.
In that two-day stretch, two bass of a lifetime were caught and released at La Cygne,
Jeremy Conway of Lawrence, Kan. (shown above), grabbed the most attention when he caught a 10.55-pound bass on March 18 on his first cast during a tournament. That monster is believed to be the biggest ever caught on La Cygne, a 2,500-acre reservoir about an hour south of Kansas City.
News travels fast in the bass-fishing community and Kit Lueg of Stilwell, Kan., heard about the catch and headed to La Cygne the next day with his friend Jim Wilson.
Flipping a finesse jig with a plastic crawdad trailer, he got a big bite…and caught a big bass (right). It weighed 10.1 pounds on one hand-held scale, and over 9 pounds on another.
Two days, two giant bass.
And the spotlight is back on La Cygne, a cooling lake for a power plant.
Conway’s bass, however impressive it was, couldn’t match up to the Kansas state record., 11.80 pounds. That fish was caught in 2008 on a strip pit in southeast Kansas.
Bass in the 10-pound range are rare in the middle of the country, but not unheard of. In 1996, I did a story while I was working at The Kansas City Star of a 10.41-pound bass caught at La Cygne by Tom Alsop of Overland Park.
Then five years ago, Alsop’s son, Kyle, landed a 9-pound, 2-ounce bass that eventually went on display at the Cabela’s store in Kansas City, Kan.
Lueg maintains other bass in that size range have been caught and released at La Cygne without much fanfare. He has a photo of a young Casey Scanlon, now a pro fisherman, holding an enormous bass that was caught at La Cygne.
That fish was released before it could be weighed, but Lueg and others say it had to be close to the 10-pound mark.
Conway’s bass was weighed on certified scales and quickly turned the fisherman into a local celebrity.
He posted a video of the catch on YouTube, and it already has had 2,000 hits, he said.
All of this on a day when Conway wasn’t expecting much.
“I was running late and I didn’t have time to rig my rods or anything,” he said. “I didn’t really even know where I was going to fish.
“The first place I wanted to go had a boat on it, so I went to a bluff where I had caught fish before.”
When Conway cast his Rapala DT6 crankbait and started retrieving it, he was greeted with a big hit. The bass swam into a brush pile and Conway spent two minutes trying to get it free.
“At first, I could feel the bass still tugging,” he said. “But then, it stopped and I thought I had lost it.”
But Conway, an avid tournament fisherman, eventually worked it free and got it into the boat.
“I knew there were some huge bass in La Cygne, but I never imagined I would catch a fish like this,” Conway said. “The biggest bass I had ever caught was 6 pounds. To catch a bass like this was just exciting.”
Conway brought the bass to the scales for the Kansas Buddy Bass Solo tournament he was fishing, then released it.
Here’s the kicker: He didn’t even win the tournament. He only caught one more keeper bass the rest of the day. But then again, he might have been a bit preoccupied.
Lueg heard about Conway’s bass and went out the next day. Though it wasn’t planned, he headed to the same bluff area where Conway had caught his fish.
He flipped his jig and pig combination to a laydown and immediately felt a thump.
“I thought it was a catfish or drum at first,” he said. “It just swam right under the boat, and I wasn’t sure I was going to get it in.”
He did land the giant bass, though, and he posed for photos, then released his catch.
So that begs the question: How many giant bass does La Cygne contain? Is there a state-record bass roaming the reservoir waters?
Fisheries biologists don’t rule out the possibility. La Cygne has a big advantage in that it has a longer growing season than other Kansas reservoirs. Because it is a power-plant lake, its water is drawn into the plant to cool the turbines, then sent out again in a warmed state.
La Cygne also was stocked at one time with Florida strain largemouths, which grow larger than their northern counterparts. Biologists think those genetics might still be in the La Cygne population.
Add a good forage base and plenty of good habitat, and you have bass heaven.
The reservoir does get a lot of fishing pressure, and some fishermen say the big ones are “educated” after seeing so many lures.
But Conway and Lueg proved that they still can be caught, especially when they are in the pre-spawn phase.
“This bass wouldn’t have weighed nearly as much if it had spawned,” Conway said. “It could have been carrying as much as a pound of eggs.
“I definitely caught it at the right time.”