Month: April 2018

Happy Birthday Blog

So, one year ago today, I kicked off a new chapter in this whole outdoor writing thing I’ve had going since April 30, 2002. This new venture was my own blog and after 365 days, I’m giving myself a pat on the back.

Happy Birthday to!

With 240 postings, over 1,200 pictures, three dozen video clips, tangents, tunes and the Top 5 it’s been an exciting ride. For better or worse, here’s a brief jaunt down Memory Lane from year one.


From my first bass featured on the blog (5/1/17) to bass #475 (4/26/18)


From A-rig to Zara Spook

From breakfast burritos to taco in a bowl


From Bigfoot to Yeti


From a Cardenal to a Hawk


From Flashbacks to fishing’s future


From an old, small shortstop to an old 3rd baseman with a big largemouth 


 From lure smorgasbords to post fishing trip grub smorgasbords


From buzzbaits to Buzz Capra


From walks to swims


From The Top 5 to The Top 10


From wacky worms to wacky co-anglers


From “the one that got away” to one that didn’t

And according to the original tease on the banner, the site was to offer up…







Fun and…


Some Foolishness.


Mission accomplished and enthused about whatever hijinks lie in store for year two. Thanks to those who took a look, hope you will continue to stop by and don’t forget to tell all your friends about the most prolific outdoor blog on the web (I just made that up, by the way).  Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

The 2018 update string hits three consecutive weeks with the addition of our first species other than a largemouth bass. And this one’s a good one, with some teeth.

Length: 40” class
Angler: John Kirkemo
Date: April 26
Location: Lake Storey
Lure: Wacky worm
Angler Comments: I was about 10 yards off the bank in about 8 feet water. The surface temperature of the water was 60 degrees. I was fishing for bass with a 6 ½ foot medium action spinning rod with braided line tipped with a 6 lbs. test monofilament leader. The picture shows the fish lying across the boat floor. The floor at that point is 44 inches wide. This is my first ever muskie. It was returned to the lake.

Many thanks to John for sharing as the first full year of Top 5 submissions here at the not so new digs has been rather sparse. And speaking of “not so new”, tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of striking out on my own with a blog. Hard to tell whether I am actually striking out though as I don’t do any sort of visitor tracking. Still just a fun venture at this point and the fun continues with a few days of celebration to kick off the new month and year number two. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 10 Trip Tunes 4/21 & 4/22 – Part II

And now…the countdown continues. A new wrinkle this time around with a countdown within the countdown as I rate my all-time favorites from one of the artists.

5. Second Hand News – Fleetwood Mac (1977) – Lead cut from legendary “Rumours” album which hit the charts and made a mark on this kid who was in fifth grade at the time. But it wasn’t until many years later that I actually owned the CD and was able to discover that the hits just kept on coming beyond the singles on the radio. Love songs come in many guises, such as this peppy, driving, breakup cut. And it don’t get any better lyrically than “Won’t you lay me down in the tall grass and let me do my stuff.”

4. Count on Me – Jefferson Starship (1978) – Hey, what do you know?  I guess you can count on me for another love song in the countdown.  Number two on my Top 10 list from the various incarnations of the band.  A list dominated by the 1975-79 time frame, a period between an Airplane and a simple Starship.
My Top 10 Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship Songs
1. Miracles (1975)
2, Count On Me (1978)
3. Runaway (1978)
4, With Your Love (1976)
5. Jane (1979)
6. Play On Love (1976)
7. Somebody To Love (1967)
8. White Rabbit (1967)
9. No Way Out (1984)
10. Guess it’s a tie for all the rest

3. Sweet Talkin’ Woman – ELO (1978) – Among my favorite bands and fun to discover some themes in my favorite tunes. Unique instrumentation, another batch of call and response along with a pattern of dropping a “g” for some bad grammar. You know, searchin’, hopin’, waitin’, runnin’, talkin’… I kind of like to use that trick in my writin’ too. At any rate, a true audio treat.

2. Tiny Dancer – Elton John (1972) – Sir Elton and his buddy, Bernie Taupin, picking up steam, just nailing it with a battery of killer cuts and the rest is prolific pop music history. Got a great “Old Grey Whistle Test” 1971 performance of this one on DVD, just a guy and his piano doing it up right before the over the top theatrics, which were also a wacky bit of fun. And admittedly a sucker for the “Almost Famous” sing-along scene (got it on DVD too).

1. Running On Empty – Jackson Browne (1978) – Bucking for my favorite song of all-time, how did Browne write this before he even turned 30? What a gift to write something about a place in time or state of mind that not only strikes a chord with a listener but will remain relevant, well, forever. And I’ve long dug that wistful, nostalgic slide guitar amidst the driving beat to add to my interpretation of this song. A song that speaks to me a little more with each passing year. “Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels…” Keeps moving faster all the time.

Until next time, I hope this tangent may prompt a few to revisit the radio, dust off the music collection or surf in search of an oldie but goodie.

Back to the outdoors come Monday with a Top 5 Update followed by a birthday blowout, a new look and who knows what else. You wouldn’t want to miss that, right? Talk to you later. Troy

Top 10 Trip Tunes 4/21 & 4/22 – Part I

Time to kick out some jams from the trip to the fishing hole. Actually from surfing the radio dial during a pair of trips combined into one Top 10 countdown. Gotta reign this concept in a bit although I dig talking tunes, don’t want to wear it out. You know, kind of like after you hear a tune too many times it loses some of its luster?

Yeah right, been jamming to most of these cuts for over 40 years, good tunes never get old.

10. Disco Inferno – The Trammps (1978) – Told you this tune would make a second appearance on the blog within a week. Where else on the web are you gonna get that kind of content? Oh man, eleven years old, not hip, still ain’t, but lyrics like “people gettin’ loose y’all”, “the funk was flamin’”, “the boogie started to explode” and “burn the mother down” were a hit and remain so to this day. Singing along as I type y’all.

9. California Dreamin’ – The Mamas & The Papas (1966) – Although this one predates me by a year, just cool. I ‘m a sucker for the whole call and response format in a song and this one definitely hits the spot. And while I left the 60s as a two-year old and I’ll never get “California”, kind of cool that a song older than me still stops me on the radio dial.

8. Breakfast in America – Supertramp (1979) – Title cut to one of the few vinyls I could afford after investing most of my money on baseball cards and a couple bicycles. “Not much of a girlfriend, never seem to get a lot.” Some lyrics just stick with you and while I will not touch Roger Hodgson’s lament from the lead verse (and repeated later), they would comprise a portion of my list of all-time best opening verses.

7. Ebony Eyes – Bob Welch (1978) – Best “Ebony” song ever, sorry Sir Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. Interesting video from back in the day with an intriguing collection of hats including beret, top hat, fez and gaucho, perhaps? From the album “French Kiss” which was an eye catcher to an eleven year old boy perusing the albums at the local record shops.

6. Walk Away – James Gang (1971) – But seriously, folks…does it get any better than some Joe Walsh guitar, lyrics, vocals and just flat out crazy rock and roll fun? No way, Jose.

I can only hope that music means as much to some out there as it does to this guy and you will continue to cut me some slack on this here “outdoor” website. Top 5 tomorrow. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – Fungus 2003

With the brief morel mushroom season about to go full bore here in West Central Illinois, today’s Friday Flashback takes us back to some finds from 15 years ago.

I shot this pic of an April 2003  find from Adams County, IL on Easter weekend by some of Julie’s cousins.

Early May 2003, not to be outdone by the Adams County crew I found these at Lake Bracken in Knox County, IL..  Was actually fishing and hopped ashore to use the “facilities” where I spotted these miniature fungi. 

I will never be mistaken for a stellar morel hunter as my forays into the woods over the years rarely resemble what adept fungus hunters would qualify as a good haul. And that’s just fine as I really don’t gauge my success through weight or numbers. I realize that I am lacking in whatever that magical ability (or location) is for covering a picnic table or filling a truck bed. Heck, I can’t even fill the grocery sized mesh bags that I carry with me through the timber. And don’t spread this around, but sometimes it’s so bad that I don’t even have a reason to take the bag out of my pocket.

Nope, for this guy it’s enjoyable just to go for a walk in the fresh air. The thing is, these days I need to invest my outdoor time wisely and I’d have to say that a tackle bag takes precedence over an onion bag.

Number wise, this is actually a pretty good find for me, from early May 2003 on some Knox County, IL strip mine ground.  Found these with my former brother-in-law and the large, bent one is about as big as I have ever seen in the wild.  Obviously this haul pales in comparison to those who know how to get it done but it is what it is.

Early May 2003, if these were bass, would they qualify as “lunkers”?

Good luck to anybody out there with or without the knack for finding these rewards of a springtime treasure hunt. Feel free to drop me a line or some pictures if you want to boast a little. And don’t worry about giving up too many secrets, nobody reads this stuff anyway. But that sure won’t stop me from writing. Talk to you later. Troy

Strip Mine Report 4/22

With the kids away last weekend at my folks it meant consecutive days on the water. And that’s a good thing even in the midst of yet another cold front (albeit mild) which would provide for a challenge and a diminished bite. However, what lacked in quantity was made up for with a pair of quality bites.

8:55am First Bass 15.5″ 1-12 Rapala Shad Rap

Date: April 22, 2018
Location: Little John Conservation Club (2 lakes)
Time: 8:10am-11:45am
Weather: Partly cloudy/very windy
Air Temp: 48-62F
Totals: 4 bass
Rapala Shad Rap (blue) – 2 bass
Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 1 bass
Strike King KVD 2.5 Rattling Squarebill crankbait (sexy shad) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 3-0 Squarebill crankbait
Top 5 Weight (2 bass at 12” or better): 4-12 (3-0,1-12)

Notes and Nonsense

No Hot Sauce? – Slept in a little later than normal on a fishing morning so I opted for a fast food breakfast instead of making my own. I was looking forward to a Super Sonic Burrito from the local Sonic even though probably not the best for me. Particularly appealing is the inclusion of a batch of jalapenos in these breakfast creations. Throw in some hot sauce and it’s a great start to the morning. Well, good on the jalapenos but disappointed when the lady at the window informed that they’d ran out of hot sauce. Boy, what kind of spot runs out of hot sauce? Certainly not my house as noted by my current collection below.

Weather You Like it or Not – Wind gusts that made it a chore to row, water that numbed the fingers when pulling up the anchor and 40 degree starting temps…hey, what’s new for 2018? As I struggled to get bit, I Iapsed into that whole blame the weather routine that us anglers have been known to employ as a reason for not fooling the fish. That’s right, reason, not excuse. Been doing this for a long time, I know the semantics. At any rate, as I replayed bits from the four previous trips alongside the current weather I realized that I had not had a decent day to go fishing all year. In fact, I would have to say that my bonus February 27 outing was actually the “nicest” day. And there was still ice on a quarter of the lake. Been an ugly 2018, sure hope Spring shows up before Summer.

Shad Rap – This old bait saved the shutout again after I struggled to get a bite on several other presentations. I really don’t know what it is about this unassuming, quiet bait but run at a slow crank, just enough to keep it in a tight wobble, it is a winner when looking for a cold water bite or two. I’ve got a pile of stuff in my “Legendary Lure” series of writings over the years and this one is bucking for inclusion. One of these days I also want to go off on a tangent about this bait that I bought in the 80s as it begs for a melding of tunes and tackle. After all, its cool name brings to mind an exposure to the musical genre that included the likes of Kool Mo Dee, Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash, Whodini, Run DMC and The Sugarhill Gang.

10:17am Top Bass 18″ 3-0 Squarebill Crankbait

Top Bass – The KVD crankbait came through on an old faithful sort of spot that was getting hit by the east wind. Not my preferred direction but proves that wind can still be a winner in positioning some fish. This fish came minutes after I’d relocated to a second lake and had me thinking that perhaps I had found some interested bass. I hit a number of similar setups but only got one more bite the rest of the way. The whole “wind from the east” saying was right on target again.

Got a Friday Flashback tomorrow, some loosely related fishing stuff over the weekend and perhaps a Top 5 Update for Monday. May need a little help with that last item though. Anybody interested? Talk to you later. Troy

Burn Baby Burn

Okay, for starters, today’s title borrows a snip of lyrics from The Trammps hit “Disco Inferno” which reached #11 back in 1978. And, believe it or not, there will be another reference to this cut later this week. Seriously folks, you can’t get this sort of content anywhere else on the web, so stay tuned.

But first…

My initial 2018 visit to some public, walk-in Knox County, IL strip mines was a real eye opener and a sight for sore eyes that went a long way towards easing some sore legs. I’ve racked up a lot of miles (and a lot of bass) since 2013 when I began fishing this area and up until this year the terrain was dominated by a tangle of vegetation. In the Spring it consisted of the dead webbed over grass and thistles that hid the ruts and gullies and required a great deal of high stepping to avoid a tumble. Later in the year, it was grass taller than your head making for an exhausting wade from fishing hole to fishing hole.

So cool to see a landscape devoid of vegetation, a winning trip before I ever got a bite.

So, I can’t truly express how grateful I was to see a completely charred landscape spread out before me as I pulled into one of the parking lots a couple weeks ago. The best I can do to convey my gratitude is today’s collection of pics and a video regarding the first burn I have encountered at this particular stomping ground.

Trudged along this route in 2017 and swore I’d not do it again.  Also swore, like bad words and all, along with breaking a pole.  What a mess back then but a piece of cake now.

This was kind of fun as I could see my footprints in the soot after I descended this substantial spoilbank.  Would never have dreamed of taking this route in the past but likely saves over a mile of roundabout walking in navigating a cut that bisects the area.

This turtle was a casualty of the burn as were several young bunnies (skipped the pic on that one), couldn’t help but think of that old tortoise and hare tale, didn’t work out for either species.

Saw four of these residents as that old black soot had to heat things up a bit and get these critters moving.

A windy day on the burnt terrain sure made a mess of my tackleboxes.  And my eyes, and my sinuses, and my hands…

And my 50 year old legs that were sooty clear up above the knee.  Not near as sore as normal though so it’s all good.

Before I sign off, here’s one last bit of media from the GoPro that I found kind of fun to put together.


Many thanks to those who participated in the burn as I am ever so grateful for the ease of access it has afforded in 2018. Two trips encompassing 8.9 miles, 25,148 steps and 38 floors according to my Health App have produced 92 bass, and better yet, limited sore muscles. Talk to you later. Troy

Strip Mine Report 4/21

Got a chance to fish with my brother, Brent, for the first time this year. It pretty much happened on a whim as I was on my way out of the driveway when I thought that I would shoot him a text to see if he was free. He was and I had a partner for a walk across some public Knox County, IL strip mine land.

10:23am Brent wastes little time in kicking off his 2018 Top 5 with a 1-9 on a spinnerbait


Date: April 21, 2018
Location: Knox County, IL public, walk-in strip pits
Time: 8:30am-3:30pm (5.50 hours fishing, the rest walking)
Weather: Overcast/windy
Air Temp: 48F-59F
Totals: 32 bass (Troy = 18, Brent = 14)
Lures Troy
Booyah Blade Spinnerbait (white chartreuse) – 10 bass
Strike King KVD 2.5 Rattling Squarebill crankbait (sexy shad) – 4 bass
Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 3 bass
Senko weighted wacky rig (morning dawn) – 1 bass
Lures Brent
Spinnerbait, jig & plastic, Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait (several colors)
Top Bass: 2-12 Brent Jig
Top 5 Weight: 10-11 (2-12,2-10,1-14,1-12,1-11)

10:31am Brent’s grip on Top Bass was short lived, booted by my 1-12 on a spinnerbait

Notes and Nonsense

Save the Best for First – I hit the area about an hour and a half ahead of Brent as he had some items to take care ahead of the impromptu outing. I used the time to hike across to where he would park and then invest some casts in testing a body of water that I don’t typically fish. Four small bass gave me head start and wound up being what separated our totals as we each fooled 14 bass while fishing together. I elected to save my best spot until Brent showed up and in our first 25 minutes of casting on it we nabbed four of our overall Top 5 fish including his 2-12 Top Bass of the trip.

10:37am Brent’s back on top to stay for Top Bass with a 2-10 on a jig

10:48am Brent with another boost to 2-12 on a jig and would last as Top Bass

Top Bass – Things were fast and furious right out of the gate in our pursuit for the Top Bass title for the day.  We began our joint effort at 10:20am and Brent got us on the board with the first “keeper” weighing in at 1-9 at 10:23am.  At 10:31 I snatched the title away with a 1-12 only to be outdone six minutes later by Brent’s 2-10.  I got a quality fish at 10:40am with a 1-11 (well short of the new mark) but it was Brent’s 2-12 at 10:48am that would claim the title.  It was a crazy flurry of bites that we could not replicate or exceed over the next five hours of casting on half a dozen other spots.

One of the reasons I frequently fish solo as I averaged roughly one bass per quarter mile of hiking

Approaches – I fish solo a great deal for various reasons (another post, some other day) but when teaming up for bass fishing I’d have to say that Brent or Dad are tops on the list.  In regards to this trip with Brent, it reinforced the confidence factor in our shared hobby.  Brent does his thing with his favorite baits and I do mine with my go to baits.  His spinnerbait offering was brown/orange while mine was white/chartreuse, both were successful.  He whacked ‘em on a black and blue jig with a plastic trailer (pumpkinseed) while I never got a bite on a black and blue jig and pig.  He fooled only a few on a bright orange/red crankbait while light colored crankbaits produced nearly half of my haul.  Way too much to analyze as bass anglers are wont to do, but here’s what’s cool.  We both fished our strengths, some of which produced better than others, and in the end we wound up with exactly fourteen bass apiece during our time fishing together.

11:45am Brent’s 1-14, the lone member of our Top 5 that came from beyond our best lake

I find it fun to keep Julie up to speed and my optimistic “Stay tuned” wound up being the next day so stay tuned for another report

Another enjoyable day of trying to fool some fish and another batch of stories to add to an already expansive collection.  I’d have to estimate that we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 combined years of trying to figure out these crazy green fish they call the largemouth bass.  In doing another piece of mental math as I thought back over our “experience”, I realized that come next February we will combine to hit the century mark in life experience.  Pretty wild.  Talk to you later.  Troy

Top 5 Update

Been a little lean on the good, old Top 5 project so it’s cool to have consecutive Monday reports for the first time in 2018. As an added bonus, I was able to recruit a longtime fishing partner, a fellow I’ve known for just over 48 years. The pics and details follow and look for a full fishing report from our outing coming soon.

Weight: 1-9
Angler: Brent Jackson
Date: April 21
Location: Knox County, IL public strip pit
Lure: Emiquon Special Spinnerbait
Structure: Chute/drop

Weight: 2-10
Angler: Brent Jackson
Date: April 21
Location: Knox County, IL public strip pit
Lure: Jig (black/blue) with split twin tail trailer (pumpkinseed)
Structure: Chute/drop

Weight: 2-12
Angler: Brent Jackson
Date: April 21
Location: Knox County, IL public strip pit
Lure: Jig (black/blue) with split twin tail trailer (pumpkinseed)
Structure: Chute/drop

Weight: 1-14
Angler: Brent Jackson
Date: April 21
Location: Knox County, IL public strip pit
Lure: Emiquon Special Spinnerbait
Structure: Brush/drop
Angler Comments (actually mine): Got a chance to chase bass with my brother on some walk-in strip mines and he caught our three largest of the trip and four of our Top 5 with the submissions above.
Top 5 Weight(four bass): 8-13 (2-12,2-10,1-14,1-9)

Weight: 3-0 (18”)
Angler: Troy Jackson
Date: April 22
Location: Little John Conservation Club
Lure: Strike King KVD 2.5 Rattling Squarebill crankbait (sexy shad)
Structure: Windblown point
Angler Comments: This bass was right where it should be on an old reliable piece of structure that was just getting pounded by the wind. And I was happy to get the strike on one of those “wind from the east, fish bite the least” days which lived up to the old adage.
Top 5 Weight: 12-3 (3-0,2-9,2-6,2-3,2-0) culls a 1-13

Now, that was fun. Been a weird run of weather for the first four months of the year but looks like some stability on the horizon in this neck of the woods. Here’s hoping the warming water temps will get the bass out of their world of confusion and see some more make a mistake for their 15 minutes of fame here on the Top 5. Plenty of room for more if anyone wants to play along. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – April 17, 1988

Smack dab in the middle of this old sample of my 1988 fishing log lies an entry from this week featuring a place called “Green Oaks.” The spot still holds many memories 30 years later. Some of those memories I remember and some it’s probably better off that I don’t as the spot wasn’t just about fishing for me and some college buddies.

You see, this area was the field station for Knox College and it also featured a rather primitive campsite just uphill from the lone decent stretch of bank access on the lake. Couldn’t ask for a better set up for some college fellows who enjoyed fishing, camping and more than a few beverages. Bonfire sized campfires, beer, fresh bluegill fillets, beer, Guns N’ Roses (Appetite for Destruction) and Steve Earle (Guitar Town) on the tape deck of a boom box and little more beer. Those were the days.

Sometimes hard to believe it was 30 years ago but that’s how it goes.

Further snip from the original log entry featuring some old confidence baits

And, believe it or not, some of those baits are still in my collection, rotten skirts and all

My original baitcasting reel used on this trip, always thought it would be fun to get repaired for a few more casts

There’s just not many pics from those days and like some of the lost memories, I suppose that could be a good thing. Don’t know if my buddies have any photo documentation but I guess it would be interesting to see. You guys know who you are and where to find me if you’ve got anything to share for a future post on this great place to getaway. I’ve included some related pics of what I suppose are antiques these days, some of the old tackle I’ve still got stashed away. I guess there was a reason to keep that stuff after all.

In addition to Green Oaks, the log also features a couple other classic fishing holes from the formative days of this bass fishing thing that’s still going strong. We’ll revisit those spots before this whole Flashback series wraps up so keep stopping by every Friday.

A young, future blogger in his Knox Siwash baseball cap releasing a Green Oaks trophy.  We’ll see them both again on a Friday in August.

And one last note, if anybody knows a way to get an alumnus into Green Oaks for a reunion with a favorite old fishing hole, drop me a line. Seems alumni can take in the sights that the site has to offer but have to leave the fishing poles at home. Talk to you later. Troy