Hennepin Canal Report – March 24

March was off to a solid start on The Canal after several hikes and I was eager to get the boat out on its waters for the first time. I selected one of my best spots and anticipated a batch of bass with the potential for quality catches. Read on if you dare as the results were quite disappointing.

Stats
Date: March 24
Location: Hennepin Canal
Time: 1:50pm-3:50pm
Totals: 0 bass
Weather: Overcast/very windy, 48F
Water temperature: Not available

Darn wind will just not quit this year

Notes and Nonsense

Destination Decision – I was counting my chickens as I pulled up to my selected spot. After all, the bass had begun to get more active and the past two years on the stretch had resulted in nearly two hundred bass in the logbook. In addition to being my best numbers spot, it also had the heaviest Top 5 of any stretch on The Canal at 15-15 (3-5,3-5,3-4,3-2,2-15).

These are winners, just not on this day

Lure Decisions – My starting lineup featured a spinnerbait, chatterbait, and lipless crankbait. I figured that the first two baits would do well enough that I would not even need the third. Actually, I figured that the spinnerbait would do the trick and be the only lure that I needed. Wrong and wrong, although the spinnerbait produced the lone bite of the outing. That fish got wrapped in some brush and came off before I could get over to grab it.

Blog Decision – This report serves as a perfect example of my commitment to post a report for every outing. Folks might say “Who cares” when it comes to a write-up detailing an outing where I couldn’t fool a fish. I counter with the reply that it is only fair to report the bad with the good. No matter who you are, days like this happen from time to time, so I hope that fellow anglers can relate to being in the same boat.

Get ’em next time

And with that, I will conclude the report on this fishing shutout and credit the bass with a win on this outing. Three more fishing reports are in the works, and I promise that they will include fish. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

A fun update today features a comparison of black bass “cousins” with a spotted bass from the southeast and a local largemouth bass.

Weight: 1-7 (15”)
Angler: John Kirkemo
Date: March 27
Weather: High 60s low 70s air temperatures with partly cloudy skies. Light wind
Water Temp: 60 – 63 degrees
Location: Lake Keowee, SC
Lure: Four inch black and silver shallow running Rapala
Angler Comments: Fished late morning and midafternoon. During the morning session I noticed open water surface feeding. I started trolling the Rapala and within a few minutes got the hit. The fish was strong, and my line was only 6 lbs. test fluorocarbon, so it took a while to get him to the net. This was my first ever spotted bass. I had no other hits.
Top 5 Weight: 2-12 (1-7,1-5)

Weight: 1-11 (15″)
Angler: Troy Jackson
Date: April 1
Weather: Overcast/windy, 51F
Location: Knox County public strip pit
Lure: Rapala Shad Rap (blue)
Structure: Drop
Angler Comments: As my day neared an end, I finally found a spot where the bass would bite. This was the first and biggest of nine bass in forty-five minutes all on the Shad Rap.
Top 5 Weight: 9-2 (2-6,1-14,1-11,1-11,1-8) culls a 1-7

The weather is on the upswing locally this week with above average temperatures and no more rain. Taking a peek at the Lake Keowee weather, it also looks pleasant although a bit damp mid-week. Perhaps this week’s featured anglers will have an opportunity to add to their creels. Of course, anybody else is free to pitch in as well. Talk to you later. Troy

Hennepin Canal Report – March 17

On the heels of a decent Saturday bite, I hit The Canal again for a Sunday St. Patrick’s Day outing. However, the weather and the bite were not so hot. Read on for the scoop.

1:48pm – First bass at 1-0 (12.5″) on a chatterbait

Stats
Date: March 17
Location: Hennepin Canal
Time: 1:45pm-4:00pm
Totals: 2 bass
Weather: Overcast/very windy, 37F
Water temperature: Not available
Lures: Z-Man Chatterbait (sexy shad) with a BPS Speed Shad trailer (pro blue) – 1 bass, Strike King Rattlin’ Jig (green pumpkin) with plastic craw trailer – 1 bass
Top Bass: 1-0 (one each on chatterbait and jig)
Top 5 Weight: 2-0

Winning Lures

Notes and Nonsense

Deceptive Feedback – I caught my first bass of the outing within a cast of my truck on my fourth cast of the afternoon. It hit a chatterbait hard and shallow along a submerged log. Hopes were high that the cold front wouldn’t put lockjaw on the fish. However, I never got another bite on the chatterbait and ended up leaving it behind as I hooked another submerged log. That is the cost of doing business from the bank as I tried to slow my retrieve and get as close to the cover as I could. I just got too close.

2:27pm – Last Bass at 1-0 (12.5″) on a jig

No St. Patty Fatty – My year was off to a solid start with eighteen bass, but I had only fooled one bass topping the two-pound mark. The stretch that I fished on this outing has produced three three-pounders in my two and a half years of fishing and I have spoken to other anglers who have landed bass over four-pounds on the pool. Luck and Mother Nature were not on my side for this day with a pair of bass at exactly the one-pound mark.

St. Patty Flatty – When biking The Canal, I ride between targets to cut the transit time with the goal of getting more quality casts over the course of a few hours. Sounds like a good idea until you get a flat. I had only made it to my second spot, so I wasn’t too far from the lot, so I walked it back to my truck and spent the rest of the day on foot. Still haven’t gotten around to finding a local bike shop but kind of looking forward to the visit. I expect it to bring back memories of childhood visits to Dave’s Schwinn Center in Galesburg.

A tough day but not unexpected with the cold front conditions. You can’t catch them sitting on the couch so it’s always worth a try. More reports to come. Talk to you later. Troy

Hennepin Canal Report – March 16

I had not been feeling well but I couldn’t pass up a chance to get on the water for a couple of hours on a decent mid-March evening. After all, it was March 16, which was my prediction for the first bass of the year as noted in the January 6 text exchange below with my friend, John Kirkemo. Fortunately, the monkey was off my back with a March 3 bass to get me on the board. Therefore, there was no pressure on this trip, and it turned out to be my best outing so far.

Stats
Date: March 16
Location: Hennepin Canal
Time: 3:50pm-5:50pm
Totals: 6 bass
Weather: Partly cloudy/very windy, 52F
Water temperature: Not available
Lures: Z-Man Chatterbait (sexy shad) with a BPS Speed Shad trailer (pro blue) – 5 bass, Strike King Red Eye Shad (red craw) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 2-6 Chatterbait
Top 5 Weight: 8-7

3:50pm – First cast bass at 1-14 (15″) on a chatterbait

Notes and Nonsense

Young Anglers – I had company on the stretch that I selected for this outing. Four young boys were prowling the bank after a parent had dropped them off at the lot. I thought that was cool and took a minute to talk with a couple of them, complimenting their lure choices. From the looks of it, I must be doing something right as these boys also had a chatterbait and a lipless crankbait on their poles. I also left them with a few of my blog “business” cards. So, if you guys are out there reading, good luck and perhaps we’ll cross paths again.

The setup for a bike and hike outing

First and Last – It isn’t often that you land your two best bass of a trip on your first and last casts. A first cast bass can sometimes be seen as a curse as no matter how your day turns out, it’s technically all downhill from there in terms of percentages. But, hey, I’ll take a first cast bass every day as I am only mildly superstitious. As far as a last cast bass, you can kind of make that happen. And that is what took place on this outing. I was near the truck, had perhaps ten more minutes to fish, and had just landed my best bass of the day at 2-6. Most outings I like to push my time on the water as long as possible (or sometimes longer than I am supposed to), but I found this catch to be a good bookend bass and called it quits.

 

 

The Usual Suspects – Five of my six bass came off wood cover: four from submerged logs and one from a laydown. The sixth fish hit in the middle of The Canal after a cast to a point. Classic early season spots and I hit every one of these targets as I make my way down The Canal and often hit them again on the way back to my truck. Of course, not every spot produces a bite every time but sufficient feedback from the bass proves that these spots are winners.

5:50pm – Last cast bass at 2-6 (16.5″) on a chatterbait

Another successful couple of hours on the water as 2024 is off to a solid, early start. As noted in the introduction, I predicted a first bass on March 16. The six bass on this trip boosted my yearly total to eighteen bass. Not too bad considering that the previous three years had seen a total of only ten bass during the entire month of March. And the early season bass were not done yet as I have several more March reports to come. Talk to you later. Troy

Hennepin Canal Report – March 10 & 13

Since starting my own blog, I have committed to posting a fishing report to cover every outing, good or not so good. In the case of today’s report, I am combining a pair of reports from a couple hikes on The Canal. Read on for the details.

Stats
Date: March 10 & 13
Location: Hennepin Canal
Time: 3.75 hours total (2.00 and 1.75)
Totals: 7 bass (2 bass & 5 bass)
Weather Sunny, windy 47F/Overcast, calm 67F
Water temperature: Not available
Lures: Strike King Red Eye Shad (red craw) – 3 bass, Lunkerhunt Finesse Swimbait (perfect pumpkin) – 3 bass, Z-Man Chatterbait (sexy shad) with a BPS Speed Shad trailer (pro blue) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 1-4 Red Eye Shad
Top Weight: 5-11

Notes and Nonsense

Sight Fishing (March 10) – I decided to take along a pole during a scouting hike on this day even though the wind and temperature had things on the chilly side. The two stretches that I walked offered limited bank access and few targets within reach of my casts. Fortunately, I did spot a bass hanging along some shoreline riprap and the Ned Rig worked its subtle magic in getting the fish to commit. In this instance, I cast the lure out beyond the fish taking care not to make much body movement and spook the bass. From there I gently swam the bait to the fish and left it sitting within sight. A few light twitches of the lure got the bass interested and on the hook. It doesn’t always work but it is rewarding to catch one that you spot in advance.

 

One That Got Away (March 10) – On the second leg of my hike, I hooked into something heavy with the Ned Rig. It pulled briefly, headed towards the surface as if it was going to roll, and then came undone. I never got a look at the fish and had visions of my first four-pounder on The Canal dancing in my head. Then again, it may have been a big old catfish. I guess I’ll never know but I do plan to get some more casts into the deep hole as the year progresses.

March 10 – 4:44pm Top Bass at 1-4 on a lipless crankbait

Perch Fishing (March 13) – There are no perch in The Canal areas that I fish, but there are several aqueducts built to traverse creeks that run below canal level. These are like highway overpasses but filled with water. On the side of the towpath/hiking trail, these structures feature a roughly five-foot railing to prevent hikers and bikers from taking a swim. To effectively fish the entire length of the aqueducts, I climb up and sit on top of the railing and lock my feet into the gaps so I don’t take a plunge. On this outing, I managed to land a pair of bass on the Ned Rig from such a vantage point.

 

 

These two trips resulted in adding a few more “bonus” bites to the log. You never know what you are going to get in terms of weather and opportunities to chase some bass in March, so I am glad to be off to a solid start. Now, if it is not too much to ask, I just need some bigger bites. More reports on the way so talk to you later. Troy

Hennepin Canal Report – March 3

After being shut out on my first two trips of the year, I was able to get that first bass in the log about fifteen minutes into a bike and hike outing on The Canal. Turns out a few more were interested as well. Read on for the rest of the story.

Stats
Date: March 3
Location: Hennepin Canal
Time: 8:40am-11:10am
Totals: 5 bass
Weather: Sunny/very windy, 64F
Water temperature: Not available
Lures: Z-Man Chatterbait (sexy shad) with a BPS Speed Shad trailer (pro blue) – 3 bass, Strike King Red Eye Shad (red craw) – 2 bass
Top Bass: 1-8 Chatterbait
Top 4 Weight (only 4 at 12” or better): 5-6

Winning Lures

Notes and Nonsense

Go Forth North – I chose this section of The Canal as it not only offered a shot at some quality bass, but it also featured hiker friendly bank access on the northern towpath. The north side also receives the brunt of any sunlight and on this day was also getting pounded by strong winds from the south. The latter can affect casting accuracy, but you just must adjust your aim, play the wind, and let Mother Nature assist in hitting your targets.

8:55am First bass of 2024 at 1-7 (14″) on a chatterbait

Just a bit windy

The Answer My Friend – No matter what season you are fishing, you play whatever cards Mother Nature deals and try to make it work in your favor. The wind was gusting up to forty miles per hour with a direct hit on the northern bank. In the early spring, such conditions are amplified as there is no foliage or undergrowth on the southern bank to break the wind. Full force in my face is where I want to be as I work into and parallel along the bank that is getting pummeled. The wind will stir things up and can stack up the food chain on cover along the windblown bank.

10:38 Top Bass of the day at 1-8 (14″) on a chatterbait

Wood is Good – Much of The Canal is shallow (five feet or less) and the rest is shallower. Any wood cover that I can find extending out from or entirely away from the bank is a primary target. Brush, laydowns, and submerged logs all get some casts. Large or small, each has potential to hold a bass. And I work them over from different angles where bank access permits. A favorite approach is parallel and so tight to the wood that my lures nearly touch the cover. If I need to work perpendicular to submerged cover, I rapidly retrieve a spinnerbait or chatterbait to barely clear the wood and then slow my retrieve and lower my rod tip to drop the bait in the water column next to the cover. Make enough of these presentations and you’ll get your bites.

 

You Gotta Wear Shades – A final factor that gets overlooked are polarized lenses. No matter sun or overcast, I always have my shades. Not only do they provide a bit of protection, but they also reveal targets that are hidden from the naked eye. Anytime that I walk or bike The Canal, my eyes are on the water looking for these targets. Just be careful as the occasional pothole or washout can trip you up when you are paying more attention to the water than to where you are going.

Told Julie I would ditch the winter beard once I caught my first bass of the year

On this day, the above factors resulted in my first five bass of 2024. It took some work as even though the air temperature was in the sixties, the water was still quite cold. Early March bass in our neck of the woods are sluggish but striving to put the right lure in the right place at the right time can still get it done. And as the weather warms and the daylight lengthens, things will only get better. Stay tuned as there are plenty more reports to come. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Happy April Fool’s Day as another angler joins the pursuit with a quality fish. No fooling either as this catch happens to be his Top Bass of all-time.

Weight: 3-4
Angler: Jayce Jackson
Date: March 31
Weather: Partly cloudy/breezy, 58F
Location: Hennepin Canal
Lure: Z-Man Chatterbait (white) with a Strike King Rage Swimmer trailer ()
Editor’s Comments: This bass represents Jayce’s largest bass, topping a 2-5 from the Knox County strip mines in 2018.
Top 5 Weight: 3-4 (3-4)

Way to go, Jayce, as that is a quality catch anywhere and an impressive specimen from The Canal. A great start to your Top 5 and I look forward to seeing what you can add as the year rolls on. More on the catch when I get around to catching up on fishing reports. Talk to you later. Troy

Early Season Shutouts

Time to rack up some more fishing miles

The open water fishing season started earlier than normal this year as my first cast hit the water on February 25. Unfortunately, neither that initial cast nor three and a half more hours’ worth amounted to a bass in the boat. The next outing on March 2 failed to produce a bass as well. So, before I get started on the successful fishing reports it is only proper to hit the stats and “highlights” from the early season shutouts.

An impressive beaver lodge but held no hungry bass on this day

Stats
Date: February 25
Location: Knox County, IL public strip mines
Time: 11:10am-2:40pm
Totals: 0 bass (only one bite on a jig)
Weather: Sunny/windy, 52F
Water temperature: Not available
Lures: Tried a Strike King Rattling Jig and craw, Strike King Red Eye Shad, Rapala Shad Rap, Lunkerhunt Finesse Swimbait, Strike King KVD Jerkbait, and a War Eagle Spinnerbait

Solid cold water offerings but not takers

Notes and Nonsense

It is a rare combination to have open water and fifty-degree temperatures in February. Even rarer is to be greeted with such conditions on a day off. As a result, I got ambitious in breaking out the boat and investing in an hour drive to my Knox County strip mine stomping grounds. Hopes were high on a spot that holds some quality bass, but the extent of my “success” was a lone bite on a jig and craw. The fish was in the two-pound range but came unbuttoned as I attempted to lift it into the boat. Admittedly, I was a bit bummed out and could not muster another bite for a second chance. It was still good to get out and I reminded myself that a February outing is a welcome bonus whether the bass bite or not.

Miles and miles to choose from on The Canal

Stats
Date: March 2
Location: Hennepin Canal
Time: 3:40pm-4:40pm
Totals: 0 bass (only one bite on a Shad Rap)
Weather: Sunny/windy, 48F
Water temperature: Not available
Lures: Tried a Strike King Rattling Jig and craw, Strike King Red Eye Shad, Rapala Shad Rap, Lunkerhunt Finesse Swimbait, Strike King KVD Jerkbait, Z-Man Chatterbait, and a War Eagle Spinnerbait

Notes and Nonsense

After the shutout with the boat, I opted for a bike and boots outing on The Canal. I waited until late in the day to allow the air and sun to warm things a bit and had about an hour of decent daylight to try my luck. The best I could do was having a bass briefly hooked on a Shad Rap near the edge of an aqueduct. A bend in the pole, a swirl on the surface, and the fish was gone.

The old fishing companion is back for another year

While the outings left me 0-2 on my 2024 bites, I wasn’t too worried about a slump. Like Major League Baseball, I considered it “Spring Training”. Back in January, during a text conversation with my friend, John Kirkemo, I had made a first bass prediction of March 16. Spoiler alert, I beat the prediction. But that is another fishing report. Stay tuned and talk to you later. Troy

Hennepin Canal Pre-Season Prowls

I am not much of an ice fisherman, so in the “off season”, I find other ways to scratch the fishing itch. For many years, that has involved writing on the blog but for various reasons this winter I ended up taking a two-month break from November to January. Upon resuming blogging the posts have still been few and far between compared to the first seven years of my own blog and many years of previous writing gigs. Regardless of whether I am posting or not, I spend a lot of time thinking about fishing.

The past several months found me engaging in a fair amount of prowling on the Hennepin Canal. Both on the internet and on the ground. Concerning the latter aspect, I racked up over forty miles walking at multiple locations between Colona and Mineral starting with a New Year’s Day hike. These walks were multi-purpose jaunts. For starters, it is always good to get some fresh air. The hikes also help me to get into better shape for this year’s strip mine hikes to commence shortly. And finally, they are invaluable in scouting areas for future fishing trips on The Canal.

 

After fooling my first pair of bass on The Canal back on June 5, 2021, near Geneseo, I decided that the historic fishing hole was worth a return visit. Several return visits later, I was further convinced that I should make it a regular destination. As I expanded my range on The Canal, I eventually came up with a couple more goals. One goal was to catch a four-pounder and I am still in pursuit with a 3-10 as my Top Canal Bass to date.

The next goal started with breaking The Canal into sections divided by various landmarks or features. Rather than just logging that I caught a bass on The Canal, I could make my log entries much more specific by noting something along the lines of Lock 24/Bridge 36 to Bridge 35. From there, the goal of catching a Top 5 limit in each section from the Rock River to the Sheffield Visitor Center came to mind. To date, I have fished twenty of the thirty-one sections I have designated and established Top 5 marks on sixteen of those stretches. Perhaps I will delve into those numbers another day.

Regarding today’s topic, my off-season aim was to observe some of the unseen sections during the winter to gather information before ever making a cast. Such exploration consists of evaluating aspects such as spots to drag in my boat, passable tubes beneath county roads, and what sort of structure/cover is available. An added bonus when onsite is crossing paths with folks who have fished the area and swapping fish stories. I also spend plenty of time on the internet perusing reports, pictures, and videos. Comments, landmarks, or clues in those posts can also be helpful while out gathering information.

Thanks to these off-season prowls, my ever-expanding collection of notes and videos include the following commentary: “Looks good”, “Fish this”, “large beaver lodge”, “solid lilypads, impossible to fish after spring”, “tubes passable both ends”, and other bits of helpful information. While I don’t know if I could yet write a whole book on The Canal, I sure think that I could put together a few chapters. Thus far in 2024, I have revisited familiar areas but once the weather and the bite warm a bit, it’s time to cash in on some of the off-season reconnaissance with the tackle in tow on spots unfished. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

We have another limit and another contender as three more bass join the ledger.

Weight: 3-1
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: March 17
Weather:
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Chatterbait

Weight: 3-14
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: March 18
Weather:
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Chatterbait
Angler Comments: Made it out yesterday for about three hours and today for like one and a half hours. Very windy both days, but much cooler today. Yesterday ended up with four bass. Three dinks and a 3-1 that all came on a black and red skirted chatterbait. Today only had one bite but it was a nice 3-14 on the same chatterbait.
Top 5 Weight: 17-5 (4-6,3-14,3-10,3-1,2-6)

Weight: 1-5
Angler: John Kirkemo
Date: March 23 at 3:00pm
Weather: Partly cloudy and breezy with air temperature in high 60s to low 70s
Water Temp: 61F
Location: Lake Keowee, SC
Lure: Wacky worm
Angler Comments: This fish hit the wacky worm in about 5 feet of water along a sun-drenched wooded shoreline (See attached picture of location.) This was the only hit I had in about two hours of afternoon fishing. My first ever South Carolina largemouth. No competition from shore fisherman. (See attached picture of shoreline warning sign.)
Top 5 Weight: 1-5 (1-5)

Good stuff as Jim edges nearer the coveted twenty-pound mark and the Top 5 bass collection expands to the southeast with John’s catch from The Palmetto State. As April nears, it looks like the local weather forecast is promising and hopefully it will translate into an uptick in the bite. Talk to you later. Troy