Small lakes can produce big results, even record fish

Photo by Indianapolis Star
Curt Reynolds of Ferdinand held the state record bass mark for a while, caught out of a small reservoir near the town.


There weren’t many opportunities for fishing other than small ponds or strip pits as I was growing up in Southern Indiana’s Perry County in the 1950s and 1960s. I recall a half-acre or so pond right outside St. Croix where I learned to swim and also catch bass and bluegill. It almost never failed to produce something. Occasionally, Dad would take me somewhere new that held promise. We tried some pits near Santa Claus and Mariah Hill. We drove over to West Fork to fish a creek called Stinking Fork. I don’t know why it was named that because it had no smell that I could discern. It did have some deep holes that held some small bass which Dad was after, and I was able to catch sunfish or rock bass. I also recall him driving all the way to near Ferdinand to fish a water supply lake that he had heard about.

I believe my dad’s uncles, Levi and Gussie, accompanied us on that first trip. We pulled off of a gravel road southeast of Ferdinand and got our first look at a body of water that was triangle shaped and maybe three acres with a mostly forested edge. It afforded some bank fishing, which was all we were capable of. I can still see my great uncles seated along the dam fishing with minnows while Dad and I tried for bass with lures. We went back a few times, so we must have caught something.

I was in Ferdinand the other day and was reminded about this lake because in an earlier column I related the story of Elizabeth Shultz, who broke the state record bass mark in 1991 with her astounding 14-pound, 12-ounce bass taken on a topwater lure in Southeast Indiana’s 120- acre Seven Springs Lake. The prior record holder was a grade school student of my dad’s, Warren Alexander, who had caught a 12-6 out of a Perry County farm pond on a spinnerbait. Prior to that, Curt Reynolds of Ferdinand had held the mark with an 11-11 taken from the so-called “new” Ferdinand Lake southeast of town. Was the lake still there?

About a month ago, I headed out of Ferdinand on Fifth Street and not far along I spied the dam on the right. A town worker had just finished mowing and I asked him if this was a public lake. He said yes, that there were fish, and people from all over had come to try it. That always sounds promising. I pulled up to the lake for a look-see. It appeared to me exactly like it did 60 years ago, except the grass was neatly mowed, and it had a decent ramp for boat accessibility. Is it possible an 11-pound bass could have come from this nondescript lake? Guess so.

I dug around the internet to find an article in the Indianapolis Star from June 16, 1968. Here is the story:

“Curt Reynolds, a 42-year-old lineman for the Ferdinand Power Company, gave the Indianapolis Star’s Big Fish Contest a good shuffling last week with an 11-pound, 11-ounce largemouth bass.

“Reynolds took the 24.3-inch monster from the new Ferdinand Water Reservoir on a Heddon Sonic. He also used a Wright and McGill spinning outfit loaded with 10-pound line.

“He entered the bass, which had a girth measurement of 22 inches, with Perry County Conservation Officer Loren Howe of Tell City and Indiana Division of Fish and Game Biologist Bob Hollingsworth of Avoca Fish Hatchery near Bedford.

“The fish was first weighed at the IGA Store at Ferdinand by Howe and Reynolds, but Hollingsworth checked the weight of the fish on scales used in his work. Entry of Reynolds’ monster has broken a record in the Largemouth Bass Division of the Star’s contest which has stood since the spring of 1966 when Russ Havely, an Indianapolis insurance broker, came up with a 10-pound, 8-ouncer from a small lake west of Indianapolis.”

I’ve bass fished a lot but still haven’t improved on the seven-pound, three-ounce bass I caught in 1971 from a small strip pit near Mariah Hill. I’ve often wondered if that lake is still there or has been filled in or is now private. I recall that I caught that fish on a plastic worm that I hand poured, a little hobby that I had to abandon when fumes from the melting plastic threatened to overwhelm my wife and me. Well, actually, just my wife. It didn’t help that I was using the ventless kitchen stove for the heat supply.

It was good to see the Ferdinand Lake again and revive memories of long ago. Soon I’ll load up my boat and give the lake a shot. Could there be another giant lurking in the depths?

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