Month: June 2017

Camping Report – Little John

Last weekend, the family got out for our first camping trip of the year selecting Little John Conservation Club near Victoria, IL as our destination.  On Monday we had committed to the trip, by Thursday a call for thunderstorms prompted us to call it off in favor of a day trip closer to home, by Friday lunchtime we’d changed our minds yet again as the forecast had taken a favorable turn and off we went.  What follows is a sort of chronological photo essay of some of the adventure.

June 2 – 7:33pm Arrival and my man, Jayce, still finds it fun to volunteer for gate duty

8:28pm First catch of the trip and Carly’s first ever crappie

9:11pm Last catch of the night for my young diehard angler

June 3 – 5:49am First catch of a new day for the old diehard angler

8:47am Omelet in a bag in the works

9:23am Happy camper with her finished product

9:25am Boys testing out/potentially destroying my Boga Grip fish lipper

9:27am Sleeping Beauty (aka Helena) emerges from our lodging

10:12am First fish (have to look closely) on a boat ride 

10:45am Little brother, Zac, outdoes his big brother with a barely less small catch

11:33am As seen on Facebook, “Tarzan” with a little help from his sister

4:25pm Headed home early due to crazy weather, a short but enjoyable outing

Well, roughly 21 hours gate to gate for this weather shortened trip.  Things were looking good at about 1:00pm on Saturday as we headed to the pool in Galva with the iPhone weather app showing not a storm in sight.  After two separate rumbles of thunder made for the “everybody out” call at the pool a pair of times, the decision was made to head back to camp.

Unfortunately, in the direction of our destination there were very ominous skies and you could see the rain against parts of the backdrop.  We got an up-close look on the drive as it was raining so hard you could barely see.  But somehow or another, Little John was bone dry, tucked into a pocket of decent weather although the temp had dropped from the upper 80’s to the mid 60’s in no time at all.  Some dark skies and occasional thunder left us counting our blessings and packing for home figuring we’d gotten very lucky to not be rolling up a saturated tent and sleeping bags.

Not sure if it stormed any more but we were content with the abbreviated adventure…and dry.  Overall, a fun “day trip” and pretty cool how well this bunch gets along out there in the wild.  Upon returning home, however, they were fighting over a Wii game in no time.  Simply siblings but a ringing endorsement for getting them outside.  Talk to you later.  Troy

Top 5 Stats

A new month means a new stat wrap-up for the Top 5, here we go.

2017 Totals (* = new record)
*January = 1 bass (no previous entries)
*February = 13 bass (old record 7 in 2016)
March = 10 bass (record 13 in 2014)
April = 9 bass
May = 8 bass

Top 5 Weight by Month (* = new record)
*January = 2-11 (2-11) no previous record
February = 21-5 (5-2,4-14,4-2,3-15,3-4) record 22-9 in 2016
March = 22-15 (6-2,4-11,4-9,4-3,3-6) record 28-0 in 2016
April = 25-0 (6-0,5-15,5-9,3-14,3-10)
May = 25-0 6-15,5-8,5-2,4-1,3-6)

Boat vs. Bank
Boat = 31 bass
Bank = 10 bass

Boat vs. Bank Weight
Boat = 30-9 (6-15,6-2,6-0,5-15,5-9)
Bank = 20-2 (5-2,4-1,3-14,3-10,3-7)

Public vs. Private
Public = 21 bass
Private = 20 bass

Public vs. Private Top 5 Weight
Public = 26-10 (6-0,5-15,5-2,4-14,4-11)
Private = 29-4 (6-15,6-2,5-9,5-8,5-2)

The Baits – unspecified (* = new record)
Crankbaits = 14 bass (Top Bass 6-0 Randy Sampson Sr.)
Jigs = 9 bass (Top Bass 6-2 Troy Jackson)
Swim Jigs = 5 bass (Top Bass 5-2 Jake Bresson)
Lipless Crankbaits = 3 bass (Top Bass 4-3 Bruce Zilkowski)
Underspins = 2 bass (Top Bass 5-2 Mark Balbinot)
*Buzzbaits = 2 bass (Top Bass 5-9 Troy Jackson)
Old record 5-8 Terry Isbell 9/14/14
*Creature Bait = 2 bass (Top Bass 6-15)
Old record 6-1 Jeff Marshall 5/23/14
Jerkbait = 1 bass (Top Bass 3-0 Mark Balbinot)
Plastic Worm = 1 bass (Top Bass 3-5 Troy Jackson)
Spinnerbait = 1 bass (Top Bass 2-1 Troy Jackson)
Tube = 1 bass (Top Bass 4-1 Jake Bresson)

Monthly Top Bass (* = new record)
*2-11 Mark Balbinot (no previous record)
5-2 Mark Balbinot
6-2 Troy Jackson
6-0 Randy Sampson Sr.
6-15 Mark Balbinot
Top 10 Bass (* = new Top 10 all-time)
*6-15 Mark Balbinot 5/13 (#7 all-time)
6-2 Troy Jackson 3/4
6-0 Randy Sampson Sr. 4/15
5-15 Mark Balbinot 4/14
5-9 Troy Jackson 4/25
5-8 Mark Balbinot 5/13
5-2 Mark Balbinot 2/26
5-2 Jake Bresson 5/20
4-14 Randy Sampson Sr. 2/19
4-11 Randy Sampson Sr. 3/25

Angler Weights
27-10 Mark Balbinot (6-15,5-15,5-8,5-2,4-2)
22-3 Randy Sampson Sr. (6-0,4-14,4-11,3-6,3-4)
20-11 Troy Jackson (6-2,5-9,3-6,3-5,2-5)
18-5 Jake Bresson (5-2,4-1,3-10,3-7,2-1)
18-0 Bruce Zilkowski (4-9,4-3,3-15,3-0,2-5)
3-2 Brent Jackson (3-2)

Bonus Species – Northern Pike
Total = 54.5” Jake Bresson (33.5”,21.0”) both on Tubes

Bonus Species – Green Sunfish
0-13 Jayce Jackson

Lots of good fish but still a lean year in terms of participation. I get it, modesty and/or secrecy sometimes outweigh the desire to join a “brag board.” My advice is to just view our project as the modern equivalent of having that Polaroid picture of your latest catch on the counter of the local baitshop. Just ignore the fact that the baitshop is pretty much available to anyone around the world. Good luck and send them my way. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Nothing new in the Inbox so it was fortunate that I got out via a vacation day and managed to fool one that gave me a boost of a few ounces.  This fish was part of my final May outing and the full fishing report was passed along in yesterday’s post.  Here’s the intimate details on the latest addition to my creel.

Weight: 2-5 (17″)
Angler: Troy Jackson
Date: May 30
Location: Little John Conservation Club, IL
Lure: Booyah Buzzbait (snow white shad)
Structure: Weed edge
Angler Comments: This one gave me a second chance after a good blowup and a long distance swing and a miss in some windy conditions that were pushing the limits for buzzbait commotion.  Didn’t have much of an option for the normal Senko follow up cast in the conditions so figured it was buzzbait or nothing.  Lucky for me, this one was either dumb enough or hungry enough to blast it again.
Top 5 Weight: 20-11 (6-2,5-9,3-6,3-5,2-5) culls a 2-1

So, still got one in the two-pound range bringing up the rear which is a reasonable target to boot on most of my fishing holes.  Gave a couple of those spots a brief shot this past weekend so stay tuned for a report later this week on how it panned out.  As always, if you’re catching them send them this way for a few minutes of “fame.”  Talk to you later.  Troy

Strip Mine Report 5/30

Last Tuesday, I extended the holiday weekend to a four day “vacation” by taking a needed day off of work.  My recent role as fishing guide for the kids had exacerbated the itch to go fishing so I selfishly decided it was time to fly solo while the youngsters trudged through their next to last day of school.


Date: May 30, 2017
Locations: Knox County, IL strip mines (3 public, 2 private)
Time: 5:55am-3:00pm (6.25 hours fishing, the rest walking/driving)
Weather: Sunny-partly cloudy/windy-very windy
Air Temp: 53F-77F
Water Temp: no reading
Totals: 20 bass, 1 green sunfish
Booyah Buzz Buzzbait (snow white shad) – 15 bass
Zara Spook (black shore minnow) – 3 bass
Senko weighted wacky rig (electric shad) – 2 bass
Top Bass: 2-5 Buzzbait
Top 5 Weight: 9-9 (2-5,2-0,1-14,1-11,1-11)

8:01am 16.5″ 1-11 Zara Spook                                                    Me and the Spook go way back, still produces

Notes & Nonsense

Old School – A bright and early start, a run of stable weather and late May had me preparing for a topwater bite to start the day.  For one weapon of choice I opted to go old school and tied on a Zara Spook in the black shore minnow pattern, we were real tight back in the 80’s and 90’s.  It produced my first two bass and three overall with the last being the best, solid in terms of size (1-11) but more so in a technique meets location scenario.  I had a nice narrow finger in this particular strip pit that featured a solid weed mat clogging the back end and a couple pieces of brush for a lure to pass in open water as it headed back to the boat.  I’d made a couple casts with a buzzbait to no avail before deciding that I needed something that would dance a bit more near the weed mat and not buzz through the area too rapidly.  Turned out to be the right decision as a cast within a few inches of the weeds followed by a handful of twitches in a walk the dog retrieve and I had a taker.  Nice when it works like that.

Recuperated and Rejuvenated – My best estimate on my haul on this day was a definite post-spawn mood.  Plenty of bass were willing to bite so it seemed like they had shifted their focus from rejuvenating the lakes to recuperating via strapping on the feedbag.  Most of the bass were on the skinny side as well indicating that they had recently spent most of their energy on restocking but were now on the road to recovery as evidenced by a positive activity level.  Did still see several bass on beds but much less than during my last outing.

8:41am 15″ 1-11 Buzzbait                                            12:08pm 16.5″ 1-14 Buzzbait

Clouds – “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now.  But now they only block the sun…” – Both Sides, Now – Judy Collins (written by Joni Mitchell)
And, boy, was blocking the sun just what the doctor ordered.  The combo of a sustained chop on the surface from a stout wind and brief windows of lowlight conditions each time a cloud bank passed between me and the sun was the key to a sustained, day long buzzbait bite.  Once the predicted clouds showed up about 11:30am (an hour late) the bite was on whenever the sun disappeared.  Nine buzzbait bass from 11:41am-2:25am with none in the sun had me convinced that clouds were key.  Also had me tweeting as follows.

11:41am and 1:38pm (left to right) – it took fishing to make a tweeter out of me…and have also found some “Friends”, still a recluse in real life though.

No Kicker – While I definitely landed some decent fish I just couldn’t fool what the pros call a “kicker.” Nope, the big one eluded me even when able to successfully wield a bait all day long that can certainly get a lunker to make a mistake.  Fifteen of my twenty bass came on the buzzbait with twelve of those fish coming in at 12” or better.  Quality was not that surprising as the buzzer is a fairly large and fast moving bait typically lending itself to a bigger bite.  However, quantity exceeded expectations due to the unusual strong afternoon finish.

A good day on the water as I covered a lot of ground which is pretty normal for my strip mine trips.  I’ve always enjoyed hopping around the collection of modest sized waters that I have at my disposal.  An hour or two on most of these fishing holes is plenty to make the rounds to my spots and then it’s time for a change of scenery to do it all over again.  Look forward to doing it again soon.  Talk to you later. Troy

Pond Reports 5/27 & 5/29

Memorial Day weekend provided great weather and a great opportunity to get our young anglers out casting.  Two trips with one a smashing success and the other not so much but always interesting with this bunch.


Date: May 27 and 29, 2017
Location: Henry County, IL pond and Butterworth Park, East Moline, IL
Totals: 5/27 (Jayce & Zac) = 14 bass, 1 green sunfish
5/29 (Carly & Jayce) = 1 bass, 1 green sunfish
Bait: Waxworms on jighead with slip bobbers
Top Bass: 0-11 (two different bass for Jayce and Zac)
Top 5 Weight: 3-2 (0-11,0-11,0-10,0-10,0-8)

Top Bass tie 0-11                                                 Family record green sunfish 0-13 (dropped in parking lot)

Notes and Nonsense

Waxworms – I ended my “Resolution – Kid Fishing” post last month with a word of warning to waxworms and bluegills.  Well, the bluegills dodged a bullet this time but the waxworms got a workout.  Duh, they’re bait, right?  On the guys’ trip they were also “sacrificed over a cliff”, given out as a snack to several bass prior to releasing the catch, impaled on each barb of the two treble hooks on a crankbait and launched into the lake with Zac explaining that they “needed a bath.”

Fun with waxworms, not for waxworms                                       Jayce wanted to cast this setup but we did not

Borrowing my shades                              Destroying my pliers                                                Did not feed this guy waxworms

Quote of the day (5/27): “Guess what, Dad?  We caught more fish than you, that means we can’t go fishing with you for a long time…that’s what Mom said.” – Jayce (Note: Julie has outfished me, I did say that once and we did go fishing together again several years later.)

Retro Rod and Reel – An added highlight from the guys’ trip was Jayce reeling ‘em in with the first rod and reel combo I called my own.  This setup dates back to 1984 as prior to receiving it as a 17th birthday gift I utilized whatever Dad had in the shed.  It faded from use once I turned into a bass fisherman but still worked just fine over 30 years later for another Jackson boy.

“Shoulda been here yesterday” – A favorite fishing quote tells it like it happens sometimes as Carly learned upon joining up for Round Two at the fishing hole.  Me and Jayce laid it on pretty thick after the success of our initial outing, and honestly, I was feeling quite confident of a repeat performance.  One fish apiece for this pair in about an hour and they’d had enough, pushing to try our luck elsewhere which was even more disappointing at Butterwoth Park with zero bites.  No matter how long you’ve chased fish you are gonna run into days where you can’t fool them.  Just another lesson in the learning process.

Carly first bass                                                   Jayce green sunfish master

One of the most important skills to teach your co-anglers (Hint: make it seem fun)

Great to get the kids out even though it wound up with a tough finish.  Interestingly, it also started a bit rough when Jayce and I hit the local Walmart to pick up our waxworms. As the checkout lady was ringing up Jayce’s bait she says, “So, you and grandpa going fishing?”

Nah, I just made that one up, didn’t really happen.  Chronologically quite feasible but just hoping that adventures like these fishing outings will continue to keep me young.  Talk to you later.  Troy

According to Alice Cooper…

I considered some theme music for this posting but wasn’t sure how to do it or if there were any sort of copyright hang-ups.  So instead it’s up to your imagination for the background music featuring Alice Cooper’s classic #7 hit “School’s Out” which debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart forty five years ago this week.  With a catalog that contains today’s anthemic theme song, the anti-drug composition “Hey Stoopid”, uncharacteristic ballads such as “You and Me” and “How You Gonna See Me Now” and rock standards like “Be My Lover” and my personal favorite, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” you just can’t go wrong with a dose of Detroit rocker Vincent Furnier (no he was not born Alice Cooper).  Diverse, not overly serious and a stage persona second to none make Cooper a legend.

Anyway, school ended Tuesday afternoon for the kids (Julie got a couple day head start), so in my book it is now officially summer regardless of the date.  I asked around to see what was on the agenda and the list included swimming, hiking, camping (Lake Storey and Little John Conservation Club), fishing (Carly wants to add a catfish to her species list) and some sand volleyball.

Personally, I’m looking forward to no more 6:15am wakeup calls for four kids in order to depart at 7:20am for the girls and 7:40am for the boys.  Most days I’ll only have to make my own breakfast and Julie won’t have to have two or three sack lunches packed.  However, there’s still plenty of duties and chaos that comes with four youngsters but hopefully a little less rushed than the last nine months of weekday mornings.

So, “Out for summer, out ‘til fall” and here’s looking forward to plenty of outdoor adventures before that old back to school routine sneaks up on us again.  To get June headed in the right direction I’ve got more than a few catch up postings headed your way including some fishing reports and a park review over the next several days.  Beyond those, who knows…Hope you’ll take a peek and talk to you later.  Troy

Resolution – Traplines

Okay, folks, there’s a fine line between ambitious and foolish.

So, I already used “Stupid Stunt” for an earlier Resolution but have mulled over that same sentiment for what I am about to announce here.

To coincide with the beginning of trapping season in November I am going to kick off a multipart series of blog postings that I collectively refer to as “Traplines.”   And when I say “multipart series”, you don’t even know…

Actually, I’m not even 100% sure about this beast as it has went through a few different incarnations since the first words were put to paper back on August 20, 2015.  Yep, this thing is gonna be over two years in the making as far as constructing the collection of pics and postings.  But more accurately it is several lifetimes on the trapline in the making from a group you will meet along the way.

Looking back at my blogging efforts at my last gig, I counted 31 trapping postings submitted over the past five years with the bulk of the articles appearing in 2011 and 2012.  Thus I feel it is high time to give this pursuit a shout out as it kind of flies under the radar when it comes to outdoor activities.  In addition, my dad announced his retirement from trapping after giving it one more go last season which also means that it’s time to take a well-deserved look some tips, techniques and tales (a few taller than others) from the trapline.

While this project is still many months from kickoff, I’m gonna need plenty of that time to get it just right as best I can.  And what better method of commitment than the risk of public humiliation should I fail to come through.  Then again, it’s quite likely that I’m the only one keeping score.

And with that, I now wrap up the Resolutions and start playing catch up on some fishing reports and other recent outdoor activities.  Talk to you later.  Troy