Top 5 Update

Welcome back to Top 5 veteran angler, John Kirkemo, as he adds his first submissions of 2023. He and a young fishing partner took on Snakeden Hollow’s McMaster Lake last week on a balmy evening and had a good outing.

Weight: 1-15
Angler: John Kirkemo
Date: May 31
Weather: Partly cloudy with air temperatures in the 90s
Water Temp: 79-83F
Location: McMaster Lake
Lure: Wacky worm

Weight: 0-14
Angler: John Kirkemo
Date: May 31
Weather: Partly cloudy with air temperatures in the 90s
Water Temp: 79-83F
Location: McMaster Lake
Lure: Wacky worm
Angler Comments: Fished from 4:15pm to 7:45pm. Most fish were caught before 6:00pm while the sun was still high. Not much action after 7:00pm. Only one other power boat on the lake and only a few shore fishermen.
Top 5 Weight: 2-13 (1-15,0-14)

Well done, John, as that crystal clear lake can be a challenge, especially on a sunny, summer-like afternoon. Great to hear a report from that unique fishing hole. More fishing stats and notes in the works. Stay tuned and talk to you later. Troy

Prowl the Canal – May Stats

After a tough start to 2023 on The Canal in March and April, things took a turn for the better in May. Overall, I managed to hit the water for six outings covering eight different pools. Five of the pools represented new water as I tried to do some exploring in hopes of establishing Top 5 weights for these spots. Some worked out, others fell short, so I suppose that means a return trip to complete some unfinished business. Those will be tales for another day. For today, here’s the monthly look at the totals from prowling The Canal in May.

May Breakdown
May 2023 Totals: 41 bass in 19.75 hours (2.08 bass/hour)
May 2022 Totals: 57 bass in 19.50 hours (2.92 bass/hour)

May 2023 Top Bass: 3-2 May 25 Buzzbait
May 2022 Top Bass: 2-12 May 27 Spinnerbait

2023 Best May Top 5 Day: 10-4 (3-2,2-6,1-10,1-10,1-8) – May 25
2022 Best May Top 5 Day: 9-9 (2-12,2-7,1-10,1-7,1-5) – May 27

2023 May Top 5: 12-6 (3-2,2-8,2-7,2-6,1-15)
2022 May Top 5: 12-9 (2-12,2-11,2-8,2-7,2-3)

2023 May Lure Breakdown
Buzzbaits – 12 bass
Spinnerbaits – 12 bass
Propbaits – 9 bass
Plastic Worms – 8 bass

Top 5 All-Time May Bass Weight: 13-9 (3-2,2-12,2-11,2-8,2-8)

2023 Overall Canal Stats
52 bass in 35.50 hours (1.46 bass/hour)
Top Bass: 3-2 Buzzbait – May 25
Best Top 5 Day: 10-4 (3-2,2-6,1-10,1-10,1-8) – May 25

Yearly Top 5 Totals
2023 Top 5 Canal Weight: 13-5 (3-2,2-14,2-8,2-7,2-6)
2022 Top 5 Canal Weight: 15-15 (3-5,3-5,3-4,3-2,2-15)
2021 Top 5 Canal Weight: 15-6 (3-6,3-4,3-1,2-14,2-13)

And with that I close the books for another month on The Canal. A pair of June bass are already in the log with a couple upcoming outings in my sights to see about finding some more. Stay tuned for those reports and drop in tomorrow for another Top 5 Update. Talk to you later. Troy

Hennepin Canal Report – May 29

The Canal content rolls on as I get caught up on my recent fishing reports. Today’s post covers another May outing on some more new water. This stretch featured some quite dingy water courtesy of countless spawning carp along with sparse, scattered cover amidst a modest batch of shoreline weed mats.

6:52am – First bass and not sure there is confidence in my brother’s reply

7:26am – Second bass, smaller than the last

Date: May 29
Location: Hennepin Canal
Time: 6:25am-10:10am
Totals: 9 bass
Weather: Sunny/breezy, 65-74F
Lures: 5” Yamasenko wacky rig (perch) – 4 bass, Booyah Buzzbait (black) – 3 bass, War Eagle Spinnerbait (chartreuse/white) with a BPS XPS double tail grub trailer (Houdini) – 2 bass
Top Bass: 1-10 Buzzbait  and Senko (tie)
Top 5 Weight (only 4 at 12” or better): 4-14 (1-10,1-10,1-0,0-10)

Winning Lures

Notes and Nonsense

Early Bird? – I love to be on the water when it is darn near still dark before sunrise. Well, I didn’t make it on this trip as my first cast splashed down at 6:25am. From there, I proceeded to catch a total of two bass in the first hour and forty minutes. The remaining two plus hours resulted in seven bass. Now, there are many variables in play when assessing my “luck”, but I swear that some days I get up earlier than the fish, even when I have a later arrival than hoped.

8:16am – Top Bass at 1-10 (15.5″) on a buzzbait

Vegetation Variations – I am pondering a topwater frog post or two as therapy for my lack of luck, but I will leave specifics for another time. On this trip, I gave the frog a shot in froggy spots to start the day without a ripple. Therefore, it was on to Plan B. I targeted as many variances as possible in the otherwise identical stretches of weed mats. If there was a pocket, channel, swing, or void, I took my first shot with a power spinnerbait/buzzbait approach and collected a handful of bites. As the sun began to hit the shore full bore, I switched my focus to pitching a wacky rigged Senko around such spots, especially if they combined shade, wood, or shoreline riprap with diminished weed cover. The Senko came through with four bites in forty-five minutes to somewhat save the day.


For the second time in four days in this general area of The Canal, I fell one bass short of establishing a Top 5 on my maiden voyage. Like the other stretch, it is unlikely that I will make a return trip anytime soon in search of that fifth bass. Now I am not naïve enough to think that my first impression is a true representation of what the pool has to offer, I just have other new waters seeking a first impression of their own. Talk to you later. Troy

Hennepin Canal Report – May 28

Last Sunday morning found me back on The Canal around sunrise. The plan was to get in three hours of fishing and then make a donut run for my son’s birthday. I did invite him along, but at fourteen I guess getting up at 4:30am wasn’t high on his birthday list. I suppose at that age I wasn’t up before daylight much either. Hard to remember though as that was a long time ago. Anyway, my donut mission was a success and read on to see how the fishing turned out.

5:58am – Top Bass at 2-8 (18″) on a Whopper Plopper

Date: May 28
Location: Hennepin Canal
Time: 5:35am-8:35am
Totals: 6 bass
Weather: Sunny/breezy, 54-68F
Lures: Whopper Plopper 110 (bone) – 6 bass
Top Bass: 2-8 Whopper Plopper
Top 5 Weight: 8-9 (2-8,1-15,1-11,1-9,0-14)

Winning Lure

Notes and Nonsense

Top 4 to Top 5 – In 2022, four hours on this stretch of The Canal had left me one bass short of completing a Top 5 with an unimpressive weight of 4-4. I know there are some quality fish in the spot, so my first goal was to land one more keeper. Three minutes into casting, I had a 1-9 in hand and an initial Top 5 of 5-13. Next up was a daily Top 5 which I completed via a 1-11 with about twenty minutes left to fish. This put me at 8-9 for the day and that’s where I would stay. Overall, my all-time Top 5 for this pool now stands at 9-0 so I still have some work to do for a double-digit creel.

Near real time updates are fun as Brent and I were on different water at the same time

Synchronized Fishing – I sent my brother, Brent, a text after I caught my 2-8 and was not surprised to find that he was getting ready to start casting at Snakeden Hollow. It turned out that I was not the only one fighting aquatic vegetation as his text and pic below described the weeds on his fishing hole as “crazy.” He reported back later with a 1-15 and 1-14 on a topwater frog after a short morning on the weeds, I mean water. While it is preferable to share time on the water in person, today’s communication allows for some near real time updates from our stomping grounds. Those devices are good for something after all.

I guess the weeds on The Canal may not be so bad after all


Check off another Canal location with a Top 5 but keep it on the list as I intend to give it a boost to double digits before the year is over. One more report to get things caught up and the monthly “Prowl the Canal” posts are in the works to put a wrap on May. I hope to get back on The Canal soon to see how the bass treat me in June. I am also looking to have some company one of these days now that school is out and the evening light is longer. Stay tuned and talk to you later. Troy

Hennepin Canal Report – May 27

After success on two new waters two days prior, I set out again for an unfished stretch of The Canal. My mission was twofold; establish an initial Top 5 for the pool and decide if the spot would be worth another visit.

7:20am – Top Bass at 2-7 (17.5″) on a buzzbait

Date: May 27
Location: Hennepin Canal
Time: 5:55am-9:10am
Totals: 8 bass
Weather: Sunny/breezy, 48-65F
Lures: Booyah Buzzbait (black) – 4 bass, 5” Yamasenko wacky rig (perch) – 3 bass, War Eagle Spinnerbait (chartreuse/white) with a BPS XPS double tail grub trailer (Houdini) –1 bass
Top Bass: 2-7 Buzzbait
Top 5 Weight: 7-8 (2-7,1-7,1-4,1-4,1-2)

Winning Lures

Notes and Nonsense

The Launch – Some may lament the lack of actual concrete or gravel boat ramps on The Canal, but you won’t hear me complain. With a little effort, you can get a car top or truck bed boat or kayak in the water. That said, remember that gravity works more to your advantage going downhill. On this trip, I got into a spot where I got the boat into the water but wasn’t so sure that I could get it back out. As a result, I found an easier spot at the end of the day which required a longer drag back to the truck. Kind of created a new saying for me that “there is more than one way to launch a boat.” Oh yeah, also watch out for the poison ivy.

Weeds – Three of the stretches that I fished in my four days on the water featured a ridiculous amount of shoreline aquatic vegetation. While it does vary, several width descriptions of The Canal generally cite it as being ninety feet wide. Using that as a gauge for the waters I fished, then about sixty feet of that span were weeds with a thirty-foot open water channel down the middle. This provided plenty of cover for the bass to hide and eliminated open water casting access to the sparse collection of wood along the banks. Determining targets in such conditions tests my mettle as it is hard to pinpoint something different when everything looks the same.

Texting my friend, John, and confessing my imitation amphibian ineptitude

Quote of the day:
“I am the worst frog fisherman in Canal history.”
Based on the description and picture above, you’d think that an angler would have a heyday with a topwater frog. And I see the photos and descriptions on the internet that boast of quality catches with such presentations. But for the life of me, I cannot get bit even though I toss a frog in all the places that any frog in its right mind would not go. As a result, I was talking to myself on the water uttering the above phrase. I’ll keep plugging away as I should, but I am all ears if anyone has any pointers.


Returning to my intro for this report, I was successful in getting my initial Top 5 from some new water. I’ll admit that I give myself a pat on the back when I achieve that goal, but I still fell short of my ultimate double-digit weight target. This leaves me pondering a return trip to find the boost I need from my 7-8 Top 5. As of now, I would say not this year as I have other stretches of The Canal that are calling my name to establish a Top 5. The reports from two of those stretches are headed your way next. Talk to you later. Troy

Hennepin Canal Report – May 25

The Hennepin Canal offers over one hundred miles of fishing with the vast majority being off the beaten path. Those remote spots are where I do most of my prowling to get away from the crowd. However, there are several spots on my “to fish list” that are closer to communities. Having taken Thursday off work, I set my sights on a dual duty day on the waterway. This consisted of a morning visit to an “urban” stretch and an evening outing on a “rural” area. Both spots were new water for me. I had observed the areas during some scouting hikes and drives but had never made a cast on the waters. Read on for the results.

9:20am – First bass was a solid 2-6 on a Whopper Plopper

Date: May 25
Location: Hennepin Canal (two locations)
Time: 9:20am-1:10pm & 5:30pm-8:00pm
Totals: 15 bass (11 bass & 4 bass)
Weather: Sunny/breezy & sunny/windy
Lures: War Eagle Spinnerbait (chartreuse/white) with a BPS XPS double tail grub trailer (Houdini) –9 bass, Booyah Buzzbait (black) – 3 bass, Whopper Plopper 110 (bone) – 2 bass, 5” Yamasenko wacky rig (perch) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 3-2 Buzzbait
Top 5 Weight: 10-4 (3-2,2-6,1-10,1-10,1-8)

Winning Lures

Notes and Nonsense

Morning Mission – I headed west to start my day and got some quick feedback with a 2-6 on a Whopper Plopper on my second cast of the morning. While it would be my largest bass of my first stop of the day, I did fool several more “keepers” with seven of the eleven bass coming in at 12” or better and a Top 5 of 7-1. My three hours of exploring were well spent on a stop worthy of a return trip.

6:26pm – Top Bass was a long and lean 3-2, could it have made 4-0 with some bulk?

East Evening – After a break of several hours, I opted to end my day on some water to the east of my normal stops. The evening bite was tougher than my morning, resulting in only four bass in three and a half hours of casting. On the upside was posting my Top Bass of the day at 3-2. Three of my four catches were keepers and combined to weigh in at 5-2.

Ten-Pound Top 5 – As I have mentioned before, my on the water goals in chronological order are don’t get shutout, land five keepers, and post a double digit Top 5 weight. Over the course of the two trips, the bass came through with a 10-4 total to check that often elusive third goal.


A banged up and lean 3-2 Top Bass, possibly spawned out

Four-Pound Quest – The search for my first four-pounder from The Canal continues as my Top Bass on this outing came up well short. But the weight was the only thing short about it as it measured 19” in length. A bass of that length has all the potential to tip the scales at four pounds but this one was just long and lean. Granted the fourteen ounces it needed may be a stretch, but this bass was near razor thin, although proportionate. No big head and scrawny body but perhaps just spent from the spawn. It was also missing a chunk of its tail and both sides of the fish had sustained some sort of damage. If only bass could talk, we would have had a good conversation.


Great fun exploring and it is hard to beat the allure of new water. In fact, I enjoyed the pursuit so much that I headed for a couple more stretches of “uncharted territory” over the Memorial Day holiday. But those are fish stories to come. In addition, I need to work in my May “Prowl the Canal” stats and notes once June arrives. Too much fishing and not enough time to write. A good “problem” to have. Stay tuned and talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

While some of us older guys put in a fair amount of time on the water this past week and caught some decent fish, we couldn’t fool anything to boost our weights. Fortunately, a couple more youthful anglers reeled in some quality bass to provide an update this week. My niece is a newcomer to the Top 5 while the other angler has posted a batch of bass in the past. Read on for the scoop on our latest submissions.

Weight: 5-6
Angler: Natalee Townsend
Date: May 26
Location: Lake Okeechobee Canals – Florida
Lure: Lipless Crankbait

Weight: 2-3
Angler: Natalee Townsend
Date: May 26
Location: Lake Okeechobee Canals – Florida
Lure: Lipless Crankbait
Top 5 Weight: 7-9 (5-6,2-3)

Weight: 3-8
Angler: Landon Hannam
Date: May 27
Location: Lake Storey
Lure: Wacky worm
Top 5 Weight: 3-8 (3-8)

Welcome aboard to Natalee whose heaviest bass represents our second largest bass of 2023 and biggest on a lipless crankbait. And great to have Landon back on board again. Rumor has it that he may have another outing in the works later this week. Good luck to all as the local bass should be finishing up the spawn and a bit more eager to bite. Talk to you later. Troy

Strip Mine Report – May 20

After separate strip mine visits for me (May 6) and Brent (May 13), we were able to team up to try our luck. For a few years now when we get together, I have incorporated some prognostication prior to making our first casts. Directly below are the pre-launch predictions followed by the lowdown on how it all shook out.

Pre-launch predictions

6:40am – First bass at 2-4 on a Mann’s Chug and Spit popper

Date: May 20, 2023
Location: Knox County, IL strip pits (1 public, 2 private)
Time: 6:25am-2:25pm (6.50 hours fishing)
Weather: Sunny/windy
Air Temp: 50-72F
Water Temp: not available
Totals: 29 bass (Brent – 15, Troy -14)
Lures: 5” Yamasenko wacky rig (perch) – 13 bass, 5 3/8” Bass Pro Stik-O wacky rig (green pumpkin) – 10 bass, Mann’s Chug and Spit Popper – 5 bass, Whopper Plopper 110 (bone) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 3-9 Senko wacky rig (Troy)
Top 5 Weight: 15-5 (3-9,3-4,2-15,2-13,2-12)

Mann’s Chug and Spit

Notes and Nonsense

Public Water – We spent 6:25am-9:25am on a public strip pit landing eight total bass which included seven over two pounds and four of our eventual Top 5 for the day. Sun and a frustrating wind pushed us to relocate after a solid start to our day.

11:01am – Top Bass at 3-9 from Little John on a Senko wacky rig

Private Water – From 10:25am-2:10pm we fished a pair of lakes at Little John Conservation Club (LJCC) landing twenty-one more bass but only one that would boost our Top 5 weight. That 3-9 would be our Top Bass of the trip with thirteen of our haul being “keepers” weighing between 0-14 and 1-13. The day ended tough with only four bass on our second LJCC lake in the final hour and forty-five minutes of early afternoon casting. The LJCC portion of the outing was my first time on these waters since November 17, 2021. Skipping out on 2022 marked only the second year in over thirty-five years that I had not made a visit to LJCC.

Whopper Plopper and Senko wacky rig

Got Pliers? – While fishing at our first stop, a kayak angler hollered at us requesting some pliers. It turned out that he had caught a bass in the three-pound range that had another hook in its gills. Brent and I were able to extract the hook and an attached four-inch swimbait. The angler was surprised and indicated that it was a lure that his partner had broken off on a fish during an earlier trip. Indeed, I had seen what his fellow kayaker was throwing on this trip, and it sure looked like the same deal. Not the first time I’ve seen such a thing but those are tales filed away for my “Believe it or Not” series one of these days.

Final results and prediction winners

Armada or Flotilla – As Brent and I left the public water we were greeted by half a dozen young anglers dragging out their kayaks and a johnboat. One of the anglers spotted our GoPros and asked, “Do you guys do YouTube?” I confirmed the YouTube content as well as a blog and dug around in my tacklebag for a few business cards to pass around. I also gave the angler looking for pliers a couple so who knows, maybe someone else will look at these fish stories. If you guys are out there, I enjoyed chats, and you have some catching up to do as I wasn’t lying when I said that there is a ton of content here on the blog.


Another good day on the water and always fun to share it with Brent. We’ve been doing this for a long time but don’t get a shot to do it often enough these days it seems. As reported in this week’s Top 5 Update, we were able to post four bass that helped our 2023 weight. The LJCC addition marked the first private water submission of the year. I dig LJCC, always have, but there’s an added satisfaction when you fool them where everybody can fish as we did to start our day. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Back with a solid update and a funky musical shout out as last week’s catches were a “Family Affair” (Sly and The Family Stone – 1971). While not quite The Jackson 5, three of our Jacksons had some “Hot Fun in the Summertime” (Sly and The Family Stone – 1969). Okay, kind of a stretch as we still have a month to go until summer but a cool tune to work into the update theme. Anyway, I don’t know if Sylvester Stewart is an angler, but as “Sly” from Sly and the Family Stone, his music continues to entertain many listeners. And here are the Family Jackson submissions for Monday’s regularly scheduled entertainment.

Weight: 2-11
Angler: Terry Jackson
Date: May 16
Location: Little John Conservation Club
Lure: Senko wacky rig
Editor’s Comments: Dad’s catch came during an outing where he and Mom took some grandkids out for an evening of fishing. A good time was reported by all and Dad posted Top Bass on a favorite presentation, the Senko wacky rig. He’s got a few of the kids slinging the lure as well because it is a winner.
Top 5 Weight: 2-11 (2-11)

Weight: 2-13
Angler: Brent Jackson
Date: May 20
Weather: Sunny/windy
Location: Knox County public strip pit
Lure: Mann’s Chug and Spit popper

Weight: 2-15
Angler: Brent Jackson
Date: May 20
Weather: Sunny/windy
Location: Knox County public strip pit
Lure: Senko wacky rig
Top 5 Weight: 14-14 (3-8,2-15,2-13,2-13,2-13) culls 2-12 and 2-11

Weight: 3-4
Angler: Troy Jackson
Date: May 20
Weather: Sunny/windy
Location: Knox County public strip pit
Lure: 5” Yamasenko wacky rig (perch)
Structure: Pocket
Angler Comments: My brother and I were working an isolated, oval pocket off the main body of the lake. He took one side and I took the other. A decent fish had come loose on my Senko a few minutes earlier but he either came back for a second chance or had a buddy in the neighborhood.  

Weight: 3-9
Angler: Troy Jackson
Date: May 20
Weather: Sunny/windy
Location: Little John Conservation Club
Lure: 5” Yamasenko wacky rig (perch)
Structure: Pocket
Angler Comments: Once again a pocket off the main lake comes through. Brent and I had come up empty on multiple casts to the small area but perseverance paid off as we suspected that there was a bass or two around. Turned out we were right as Brent also landed a 1-1 just a few minutes later. It’s always cool when experience and a gut feeling pay off. 
Top 5 Weight:20-15 (5-3,4-10,4-2,3-9,3-7) culls a 3-1

A quality haul by three guys who won’t show up on the pro bass fishing trail stats. Just a trio of “Everyday People” (Sly and The Family Stone – 1968) like most of us who chase those green fish. To conclude, I want to “Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin” (Sly and The Family Stone – 1969) and putting up with another of my musical tangents in a fishing report. I am also hoping to stray down that path again before the end of the month with a Trip Tunes post. In the meantime, here’s hoping you can get outside for a bit of fresh air, perhaps reel in a fish or two, and turn on the radio to “Dance to the Music” (Sly and The Family Stone – 1967) along the way. Talk to you later. Troy

A New Old Reel

Daiwa Procaster PMA 10S – my first ever baitcasting reel (circa 1986-87)

While attending the Quad City Outdoor Show in February, I stopped by the Croegaerts Great Outdoors booth and spotted a batch of refurbished reels on display. While I wasn’t in the market for one of those repaired reels, I did have a tub of my own in the garage that needed attention. I inquired about someone having a look and they said to bring them by the shop. Last month, I finally got around to hauling five baitcasting reels in various states of disrepair over to Rock Island.

The breakdown of what was broke down

Included in my tub of broken down baitcasters were three Bass Pro Shops reels (level wind, handle, line guide issues), a Pfleuger model (broken anti-reverse), and an old Daiwa (thumb bar sticking). The latter just so happened to be the first baitcasting reel that I ever purchased.

Bass Pro Shop models – no local repair option it seems

It turned out that the three Bass Pro Shops reels were not able to be repaired onsite. Parts were not available to the local bait shop and will need to be addressed directly with Bass Pro Shops. Unfortunately, I was informed during a visit to Bass Pro Shops in East Peoria last week that the reels must be shipped to the Springfield, Missouri location. Not happening for now.

Pflueger TRI62LP

The Pflueger TRI62LP model was suffering from an anti-reverse issue as it reeled in both directions despite having an anti-reverse feature. Croegaerts was able to get it back in working order and now it only reels the right way.

Daiwa Procaster PMA 10S

It was great to get the Pflueger fixed, but the real treat was the shop getting my old Daiwa Procaster PMA 10S back in business. Of all the reels that I dropped off, it was the one that I anticipated being least likely to get repaired. My concern was parts being unavailable due to the reel being over thirty-five years old. Luckily, the fix was simply greasing and cleaning.

I’ve already got the Daiwa spooled up and ready but I am waiting on a rod repair to complete a setup reminiscent of the old days. Like the old Shimano Lexica that I obtained last summer from a longtime friend and fishing buddy, Matt Reynolds, I’m fired up to put the Daiwa to use. From my logs and pics, the best estimate is that I purchased the Daiwa reel in 1986 or 1987. If I got eight or ten years out of it, I would be surprised. Therefore, it has been hauled around through several moves to different homes (and garages) for close to twenty-five years.

Daiwa Procaster PMA 10S – not pretty but ready to come out of retirement

Lots of stories and memories involving the reel and the time when it was reeling in a bass or two. Those tales from the distant past will wait for another day.

For now, stay tuned for the return and a big “Thank you” to Croegaerts for their role in some new fish stories. Talk to you later. Troy