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Junction City angler sets new smallmouth record fishing club tournament at Milford

Kansas Department of
Wildlife & Parks

On Aug. 15, Jason Heis of Salina was competing in his local bass club's tournament at Milford Reservoir when he got the surprise of his life. It was about noon - not the ideal time to catch fish in mid-August, but it was an unusually cool summer and a relatively cool day.

Heis was determined. After fishing different parts of the lake with little luck, he maneuvered his boat about 30 feet from the dam and began casting into the 2-foot deep water near the rocks.

His determination paid off when something hammered the 4-inch plastic worm he was working through the water. That "something" would be a new state record smallmouth bass.

"I got to the dam, and I just started smokin' 'em," Heis recalls. "I had caught about six or eight fairly small fish, and then 'Bam,' that one hit hard. My partner helped me land the fish with a net. I was a little bit dumbfound to see a smallmouth of that size off the dam in August." Heis knew he had something special immediately, but he also faced a dilemma.

"He went off my 22-inch measuring board, so I knew from previous fish I had caught and weighed that I had a potential state record. But there were still three hours left in the tournament, so I had to make the decision whether to continue fishing or head back to the dock and weigh the fish. I decided to continue fishing because I wanted to win the tournament, but it was killing me. I kept checking the livewell every 10 minutes to make sure it was okay."

When the anxious three hours passed, Heis rushed to the weigh-in site and found that the 6.687-pound bronzeback was, indeed, a new state record. Fisheries biologist John Reinke was called in to confirm the record, and an application was sent to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. After the department's waiting period, the fish was confirmed as a new record smallmouth.

Because of the quality of smallmouth at Milford and Wilson reservoirs, both fairly close to Salina, Heis has been pursuing them specifically in recent years. "I really started to get a preference for smallmouth because our club fishes Wilson and Milford so often," he explained.

This preference paid off in spades on Aug. 15; Heis not only caught a state record, but he won the tournament, as well.

"I put this above hitting a hole-in-one," Heis declared. "Lots of guys have hit holes-in-one, but to win a tournament and set a state record in one day - that's something special."

The previous state record smallmouth also came from Milford. It was caught by Jimmy Gilreath in 1997 and weighed 6.37 pounds.



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