The Kansas Angling Experience – Another Chalking Mission Full of Suprises
My bro Brian and I executed a short “chalking mission” to Kansas. The “sunflower state” far exceeded our expectations. Excellent angling, beautiful scenery, quality time with my bro, a top notch guide, great food – what else can you ask for? My only regret was that I didn’t plan a longer duration trip.
Planning the Kansas Mission
On the Timing
I like to take a short”ish” vacation in September before the fall feeding frenzy when I’ll be on the water daily. It’s a great time of year to fish just about everywhere in North America. Dropping temperatures cause everything that swims to pack on the pounds prior to the arrival of winter. I prefer to fish tannic water in places like Minnesota, Wisconsin, or the St Lawrence this time of year. However, getting sick last summer put me behind pace in my 50 before 50 mission. So, I “had” to go somewhere new. Enter Kansas.
Having travelled a lot this year and facing a packed fall calendar, I didn’t want to spend too much time away from home. However, when traveling to fish, you’ve gotta spend at least 2 days on the water at that destination to ensure you have ample opportunity to chalk the state. So, I blocked off 4 days (travel on the first and last day, fish middle 2 days) and got a hold of Brian.
Brian and I are friends from the Marine Corps days. We’ve travelled/fished extensively together over the years. More recently, we’ve been going on family trips (Arkansas, Oklahoma, Adirondacks). Although both of us enjoy quality time with the fam, we haven’t done a bro trip in ages so one was in order. His reaction to my pitch to chalk Kansas wasn’t exactly enthusiastic, but he trusts my judgement and knew we’d have a good time regardless.
With Brian on board and a general timeline established, I got into the details. Planning the trip was super easy. All I did was open google maps, put Kansas in the center of the screen, typed “fishing guides,” and started looking at where they were located. There wasn’t much, but there was a little cluster near Lawrence, KS. So, I looked at all the guys operating in that area.
The choice of guide was easy. Brian Ondrejka of Kansas Angling Experience had all the right things going for him – great website, many 5-star reviews, strong social media presence, etc. After talking with him for a couple minutes I was sold.
Keeping it Simple
I’ve used the word “easy” a couple times now because that was one of the most striking things about planning this trip. Flights from Buffalo, NY to Kansas City, MO are short and cheap. The drive to Lawrence, KS (the hub city) was less than an hour from the airport. The morning drive to where we would be meeting our guide was less than 10 minutes. Dining options were abundant. We just needed cooperative fish and Mother Nature to keep adverse weather away.
I must admit that I didn’t do too much research about where we’d be fishing, the target species, and the likely techniques we’d use. My lack of research wasn’t because I didn’t care. I’ve learned along the way that the wonder of arriving somewhere new and being surprised is part of the journey. I mentioned this in my North Dakota, Mississippi, and Oklahoma trip reports too – I only have a handful of states left in this journey and they aren’t exactly angling destinations. That surprise factor is paramount on these trips to obscure locations.
You might be wondering why I would invest time and money on trips to such random places when there are far more “attractive” options. Here’s a quick reminder – I set a goal to fish all 50 states before turning 50 and damnit I’m going to accomplish it. Not just for the sake of accomplishment either. I keep going because I have yet to be disappointed. Every place I’ve wet a line on this mission has had something special going on. I continue to be surprised after 46 states. With a quality guide booked in Kansas, I was confident something interesting was going to happen. At a minimum, Brian and I would be chalking yet another new state.
I’m going to let the pictures do most of the talking but I’ll say this much – Kansas shattered all expectations. Here’s the daily breakdown:
Day 1 – Travel
I departed BUF at 8:00AM, flew into MCI, picked up a rental car, drove 50 mins to Lawrence, KS, checked into our hotel by 11:00AM. Lawrence is the home of Kansas State University so it’s a college town with MANY dining options. We asked the lady at the front desk where we could get some good BBQ and she sent us to Biggs. The food was excellent – we ended up going back there 2 more times. After filling up on burnt ends, wings, beer, and more, we returned to the hotel and passed out.
Day 2 – AM Session – Fished Clinton Lake
We met our guide Brian Ondrejka at around 6:15AM – pre-dawn – on Clinton Lake. Yeah, it was Brian guiding Brian and Ryan – writing about this is far more difficult than communications between us. After introductions, we climbed aboard his Lund Pro V 1875 and took off to our first spot.
Brian’s boat is brand new and outfitted impressively well. Super clean, creative branding throughout, high quality rods and reels, Garmin Live Scope set ups both in the bow and back of the boat – it’s got all the options a modern, tech savvy angler could need. We took advantage of all of them.
Action was freakin’ ridiculous. Our guide Brian hooked up in less than a minute while demonstrating the technique (vertical jigging small jigs and snaping jigging raps). Brian and I got bent minutes later. I have no idea how many fish we caught but doubles were a regular thing with a few triples in the mix. Action was non-stop for the better part of 4 hours. Then it died off, so we returned to the dock to grab lunch and regroup before our evening session.
Day 2 – PM Session – Fished Clinton Lake
We returned to Clinton Lake for the evening bite. Although the action wasn’t quite as insane as the morning bite, we lost count and had a blast until the sun went down.
Day 3 – Fished Melvern Lake
After having such crazy action the day prior, we opted to explore some new water. That might seem counterintuitive, but having already accomplished the mission. With the pressure off, we wanted to get a bigger dose of what Kansas had to offer. So, we made the 45 min trek south to Melvern Lake. What a pretty spot! We didn’t pound by any stretch, but I managed to land 6 species – largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, white bass, long nose gar, flathead catfish, and freshwater drum.
Day 4 – flew home
Even though our drive to the airport was through torrential downpours and wild lightening, our flights were only delayed by a half and hour or so.
I’ll say it again, Kansas was awesome. Brian and I have our guide, Brian, to thank for such a good time. He’s a “big fish in a small pond” and has that place dialed. With over 12 years of experience, he’s got a sweet thing going and is making a nice life for himself in the guide business.
As I mentioned in the intro, my only regret is that we didn’t spend a couple more days there. Not necessarily to fish, more to explore the diverse terrain of the state. For example, the western part of Kansas is badlands. We really wanted to check it out but the drive to get there was close to 6 hours one way. Something to look forward to.
The little slice of the state we visited was beautiful in its own right, but very hard to capture in photos with an iPhone. Rolling hills, coulees, big skies, and gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. Yeah, there’s a lot of agriculture going on, but it’s not off-putting like the big, industrial agriculture areas are. Kansas does a great job with its state parks too – there are many and the ones we saw were very well kept providing ample opportunity to spend time outdoors.
As we were driving to the airport for our return flight home, Brian and I remarked that it couldn’t have been a better trip. Excellent weather, easy logistics, inexpensive, awesome guide, willing fish, and great food. Is Kansas an angling destination…no. Maybe it should be though. Especially if you’re looking for a quick break and want to explore something new. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I wet a line in Kansas.
As we were driving to the airport for our return flight home, Brian and I remarked that it couldn’t have been a better trip. Excellent weather, easy logistics, inexpensive, awesome guide, willing fish, and great food. Is Kansas in Angling destination…no. Maybe it should be though. Especially if you’re looking for a quick break and want to explore something new. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I wet a line in Kansas.