GLEN ELDER LAKE, Kan. -- The cast went long and landed float, lure and more than a yard of line over the bent limb of a flooded bush.
Rather than a tangled problem, my error turned to pleasure as the float sank and a fish pulled hard enough to yank the line from the limb as it headed to open water.
While unhooking the fish -- a crappie as long and thick as a $30 rib-eye -- Bob Roberts was trying to end a cell phone call to land a similar fish that smacked a line hanging over the side of the boat.
At the same time, Jeff Ensz was landing a crappie he had hooked the old-fashioned way.
Such was the craziness of a recent crappie fishing trip at Glen Elder Lake.
With 94 crappies kept and most between 12-14 inches, it was probably the finest fishing day I've had in Kansas.
Many Kansas anglers have made memories this spring. High water from the past several years made for the ideal hatching and rearing conditions, so most of our lakes are teaming with large numbers of large fish.
This spring's run of mild weather gave fish weeks to build established patterns and perfect conditions for fishermen.
Mid-March brought tales of great fishing for white bass and walleyes. Early April brought great stories of spawning crappies. Anglers at Fall River and Toronto lakes found crappie to 15 and 16 inches. The fishing has also been good at El Dorado and Kaw lakes.
Roberts didn't need to ask twice if I'd like to sample the great fishing he and Ensz had found at Glen Elder.
Ensz knew they were in the backs of coves, preferring water about four feet deep with submerged brush.
We put floats about two feet above crappie jigs to keep them out of the flooded branches and at the right depth.
My float disappeared on my second cast and the first crappie of the day was tossed in the livewell.
And the fish were something to behold. Many were huge males that were black, six inches from back to belly and about 2 inches thick.
I don't think we caught a crappie of less than 10 inches and know we didn't keep any under 11 inches.
The first cove produced about 25 crappies.
The next had just been fished by a boat with anglers using traditional casting techniques.
Ensz said we'd still find plenty of fish using the bobber method.
We caught about 50 while there.
Near the back of the cove I caught five fat crappies on as many casts at the south side of some brush.
Sometimes the floats instantly sank from sight as if torpedoed. Other takes were subtle.
Ensz had the experience and eye to notice when the float started riding higher on the water because a crappie had taken the jig and was swimming upward.
We worked around one little island of flooded brush three times, Ensz and I continually taking crappies from the opposite side while Roberts caught his fish directly below the boat.
The action was so fast and the crappies so big, often all I could do was shake my head, laugh and thank my hosts.
That about 90 percent of what we caught were males means the spawn could last another week or more.
I'd love to make it up again but doubt my schedule will allow. I've shared crappie fillets with many friends and my freezer is well-stocked.
My memory banks are well-stocked, too.
FISHING FOR CRAPPIES TIPS:
Expert crappie anglers Jeff Ensz and Bob Roberts offer the following advice:
--Spawning crappies prefer to relate to brush in shallow water when spawning. They also prefer areas with solid bottoms.
--Attaching a quarter-sized float above a jig will help keep lures from getting snagged and at the right depth. The added weight also helps when casting small jigs. About two feet is usually the right depth but it's wise to experiment.
--Chartreuse and white are the most popular colors for crappie lures. Florescent pink heads are often used. It's wise to carry an assortment of colors should the old faithfuls fail.
--Cold fronts and rising water can hamper the spawn fishing, as can fishing pressure and boat traffic. Get on the fish as quickly as you can once they move shallow.
--Most good anglers see 60 degrees as the perfect temperature to send crappies to the banks. Temperature swings of five or more degrees are common in different parts of the same lake.
--A great way to fix crappies is to roll the cleaned fillet in flour, dip it in an egg wash and roll it in instant potato flakes before frying. Lightly salt the fish after it's golden brown and serve.