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Jim Spills The Beans On RECORD BASS … Sort Of … Part I
Jim Edlund, NAFC Online Editor
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Seems like every fisherman has a story about a private lake where fish practically jump in the boat …
In my case, that lake is an old limestone and road gravel quarry in central Iowa. It’s one of those idyllic spots that a fisherman dreams about, a fishing gem far from the madding crowds where the bass are fat and plentiful.
And I do dream about it …
This 22-Inch Quarry Bass Didn't Even Get Me Close In The Family's Biggest Bass Contest
Find me dozing off in front of my computer, and chances are that’s where I am … dreamily reminiscing a couple of bass that I know push 8 pounds, the white-hot flash of their bellies 20-feet down, their heft like a bag of wet sand, the mystery still down there, awaiting my next visit.
Now, when you consider the friendly ribbing this Minnesotan has given our neighbors to the south over the years, I’m damned lucky to have the inside track on this particular spot. But cut me some slack: I’m the product of my upbringing.
During the years my dad (“Pee Wee”) owned and operated Rainbow Bait, a retail tackle and wholesale bait business in west central Minnesota, he jokingly referring to throngs of vacationing Iowa fishermen as “striped whistlers.” They’d pick up a rod and reel and ask “How much?” Then, hearing the price, they’d whistle “
” and stuff their hands back in their overalls and presumably return to the sale aisle.
Given this questionable education, you can imagine the work my wife (a proud Iowa native) had ahead of her to convince this northern rube that the Hawkeye state had anything to offer beyond corn, college football and skinflints unwilling to spend more than a few dollars on fishing gear.
You Can Take The Girls Out Of The Country, But Not The Country Out Of The Girls:
My Wife and Daughters Driving The Farmall Cub, Rural Iowa
But she was diligent. And even more than her diligence, her family and large network of friends showed me how wrong I had been about the state and its people. They were a lot like Minnesotans, only more pragmatic and progressive.
Sorry Minnesota. Call me a traitor.
So Iowans are great people … But there was still this matter of fishing in Iowa. When we first married I worried that our visits to her home turf would be fishing-less.
And then I discovered the Northeast Triangle. My guess is that nearly 30% of the 220,000 on my F-150 can be attributed to intentionally getting lost amongst the stellar brown trout streams of Iowa’s “Little Switzerland.”
Think there aren’t 20-inch-plus browns in Iowa?
Beyond that, though, mum’s the word. I ain’t spilling the beans past what the muckrakers at the
New York Times
exposed, sending droves of Orvis-clad aristocrats to the Midwest.
Further disproving my unfair prejudices, some time around 2006 or 2007 I was introduced to a shallow-water walleye bite on the Shell Rock River by my father-in-law and his friend Dave, the tall lanky guitar-slinger who jammed with bluesman
back in the day.
And then there were a few hours here and there spent catching two-pound smallies on the Cedar River and crappies in the nearby sandpits on Dave’s hand-tied jigs.
But none of those experiences come close to what I’ve experienced over the past several years at what we simply call “The Quarry.”
I'll be blunt: The Quarry is a big bass and bull bluegill factory.
Life Is Good: Web Ed. Jim And A Couple Quarry 'Gills
First, a little history: 25 years ago activity ceased at the road gravel quarry and the 80 acres surrounding it were purchased by a husband and wife who intended to turn the area into a bird sanctuary. They had no intent in turning the place into a viable fishery.
In fact, it was never officially stocked.
According to the son of the owners, a nearby farmer began transplanting buckets of fish from nearby waters and the rest, as they say, is history ...
Like years of insane crappie fishing when all a guy had to do was stand on the shore and cast out a simple marabou jig. “A crappie on every cast,” the owners’ son told me over breakfast at a local greasy spoon.
And then the crappie boom collapsed. But there was a silver lining—although probably unrelated to the crappie crash—the bass and bluegill population really took off.
So that’s where the quarry is today, although there's a small population of large pike like the 38-inch I caught ice-fishing for bluegills two years ago.
Fluke On 2-Pound Test: A Winter Quarry Gator
This fish was joking referred to as “the biggest pike in Iowa” by guys who saw the cell phone photo at a local auction… While that's not even close to being the case, it's not every day pike over 10-pounds are caught through the ice in central Iowa. I guess this is what my Cajun buddy in Bywater, Louisiana, would refer to as a
It gets better (especially for this northern boy) ... apparently the same farmer transplanted a few buckets of walleyes several years ago. But we’ve yet to catch one. And what this will do to the overall fishery has yet to be determined.
But we’ve caught lots of bass … some big ones, too, which has created an informal yet highly competitive scrimmage between friends and relatives, a quorum of the only folks who fish the place.
My Father-In-Law Mark And A Typical Quarry Bass From Earlier This Year
For almost two years the largest bass caught in the quarry was 24-inches. Former Marine and all-around-good-guy James (aka "J-Lin") held top honors. Then, last summer, although no photo exists to prove it, my father-in-law Mark caught a bass he claims was 26-inches, although Dave says it was just a hair short.
And Dave is a man of his word. For that matter, so is Mark, and a he's a scientist to boot, but there are bragging rights at stake. After all, I am the son-in-law who works for a fishing magazine. No matter the 1/16th-of-an-inch discrepancy, that still means Mark's fish was
. STATE RECORD BIG.
Hearing that, I did some research into Iowa state record fish.
According to the Iowa DNR, the Iowa State Record largemouth bass was caught by Patricia Zaerr in May of 1984. The mammoth northern-strain largemouth weighed 10-pounds, 14-ounces but was only 23 and a half-inches long. Caught in May? You guessed it, full of eggs.
Knowing that, I now believe that there is an Iowa State Record in ‘The Quarry.’ Catch J-Lin’s 24-incher or Mark’s just-a-hair-shy of 26-incher in the spring—when they’re loaded with roe—and we’re probably looking at a new Iowa State Record bass …
Yep, you know where I'll be pitching my tent as soon as the ice melts!
Check back next week to read about my most recent Thanksgiving weekend trip to 'The Quarry' and learn the pattern we used to catch big fall bass ... And how I made a $2000 mistake ...
P.S. Mark: If you happen to read this blog (and get this far), I am forever indebted to you for permission to fish 'The Quarry' ... and marry your lovely daughter, of course. You do understand.
Until then: Slack is evil; tight lines,
Web Ed. Jim
Sunday, December 04, 2011 8:46 AM
I have a place like your "quarry"...I call it "The Swamp", because that's basically what it is. It's a 2 or 3 acre pond built by beavers. I was told it is about 60 to 70 years old, and like your quarry, never officially stocked. This swamp is no more than three feet deep, yet produces trophy bass and cats. I see guys there all the time catching small 'gills to take to the river for bait. If they only knew! LOL!
Jim Edlund, Web Editor
Sunday, December 04, 2011 7:47 PM
Thanks for your response. 'The Swamp' sounds like a real gem! How did you learn about it? Did you stumble upon it randomly or did someone introduce you to it? What's your favorite way to fish it?
We'd love hear more and see some photos ...
Web Ed. Jim
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