Month: February 2019

Blog Banner – Twisted Sisters

“All of the people around us they say, can they be that close?”

We Are Family – Sister Sledge (1979)

Phipps Prairie Park in Silvis, IL with Helena and Carly – April 29, 2018

Okay, so maybe the pose lends itself more to a title of “Turned Sisters” but that didn’t seem as catchy. Besides, it packs a little added musical punch from the days of “hair.” And while I couldn’t find an apt lyric from the band of similar name, you can’t go wrong with Sister Sledge, right?

Plenty going on in this shot of our first two kids. Fun to see them happily coexisting and fortunately that isn’t necessarily uncommon for our teenager and a soon to be teenager. Sure, there’s the expected sibling squabbles but deep down I find that they get the concept of family being the closest bond around.

Spending some of that quality bonding time outdoors away from today’s technological distractions is also an important aspect of this photo. You know, a hike in the woods with the devices put away for a while actually lends itself to something called conversation. Not texting, not chatting, not tweeting but actually speaking to someone within earshot. Comments and observations about the natural surroundings are definitely an added bonus.

Another fun bit of getting along occurred not too long after this photo was taken. As you see, both ladies have matching pairs of shoes at this point. Well, after a misstep in a small creek by the girl in the black shoes, the girl in the green shoes took one for the team. An earlier picture in the Blog Banner series taken after this shot shows that consideration won out over coordination in the form of mismatched footwear.

A small gesture from your kids can sure bring a big smile to their parents.

Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – February 19, 2004

Emstrom’s Pond with Troy Jackson, Tim Townsend and Terry Jackson – February 19, 2004

Sure have heard a lot of icefishing stories lately as it has been a banner season for those who take to the hard water.

Me, not so much. I’ll stockpile my time away from home and wait for open water. While I wait, here’s some pictures and the scoop from the last time I went icefishing just as it was written up in the original post entitled “Outdoor Update” on March 3, 2004.


“On 2/19, Tim Townsend joined Dad and me for some icefishing at Emstrom’s Pond. Seven to nine inches of ice coupled with air temps in the low to mid 40’s is my type of icefishing. I wanted to get out just to say I went considering I hadn’t been icefishing for probably six or seven years. I’m not the diehard that Tim is as exemplified by what we each consider suitable conditions. Tim had a few stories about not standing too close to his fishing partner in order to keep the ice from collapsing or being able to see the bow in the ice from an angler’s weight. No thanks for me; I’ll put in the extra effort to drill through a few more inches. Anyway, it turned out to be a successful outing, once we located the fish.

We started out around The Beaver Lodge with little success as Dad caught three bluegill and I caught one. I elected to move to the east side of the pond where I thought there might be a few green weeds that help keep the water a bit more oxygenated in the area. It didn’t take long before I pulled in a couple bluegill right off the bottom in about seven feet of water. Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long before I had some company. Before we left, the three of us had pulled in 52 bluegill and a bass from this area. Tim caught the bass that we estimated at around 1-6 since we forgot to bring a scale. Dad was the icefishing king as he hauled in 31 of our 56 fish during about a three-hour stay. All fish were caught on ice jigs tipped with waxworms.”


Still plenty of ice out there so will see what the rest of the winter holds in store as I wait for open water. More Blog Banner posts kick in tomorrow to pass the time. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Go the Distance

“Ah, sometimes I grow so tired

but I know I’ve got one thing to do,

ramble on.”

Ramble On – Led Zeppelin (1969)

Just another day of chasing those Knox County, IL strip mine bass – April 21, 2018

You know, at the outset of this project I stated that each post would have an associated song lyric and I’m sticking to it. However, this one sure begged for a movie line so I elected to use it for my title.

If you do not recognize the line, it comes from the movie “Field of Dreams”, one of my favorites as baseball is another of my passions. I always have a good time seeing where these posts are going to go and it’s fun when I can work in a little something extra. But we’re sticking to the fishing part of the outdoors today.

These days my “Field of Dreams” is an expanse or two of strip mine terrain pockmarked by a bunch of fishing holes. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of covering such overgrown, undulating, eroded landscapes on foot you understand that the stuff of dreams can sometimes turn into a bit of a nightmare.

Too many times I have found myself fishing my way into the mess, hopping from pothole to pothole while reeling in solid numbers of bass only to have reality holler at me that it’s a long way back to the truck. Yeah, but there’s one more spot I’d like to hit since I’ve made it this far…and maybe that other one to the east is worth a shot…

Nothing like being well over a mile from the truck, sweaty and beat but with no choice but to put your head down and wade your way back. And that mile plus estimate is the old “as the crow flies.” Folks, there is no such thing as a straight line in this environment. Nor is there anything that resembles “flat” for more than the length of a long cast.

Nope, if you’ve elected to go the distance out, you’re stuck with going the distance back. Every time I do this thing I always wind up with another familiar lyric playing in my head as I kick myself for trying it again.

“I do believe that I’ve had enough.” Time for Me to Fly – REO Speedwagon (1978)

Sure would be nice to fly, too.

Anyway, on the specific trek recorded in today’s screenshot I wound up landing 19 bass. So that’s what, roughly 637 steps per bass? That’s a lot of work, makes you wonder if it’s worth the effort to go the distance.

Stay tuned for the 2019 verdict as those fishing holes open up again in April. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Fellow Fishing Fool

“I think we’re alone now, there doesn’t seem to be anyone around.”

Tommy James & The Shondells (1967)

(Note: I am aware that Tiffany also recorded this tune but I had no idea that new wave performer Lene Lovich had as well. This discovery prompted a fun revisit of this intriguing artist whom I first saw in the early days of MTV when the video offerings were all over the place in terms of genre. Learned something new today from the world of tunes, kind of cool.)

Okay, now back to our regular programming.

Unexpected prints off the beaten path, Knox County, IL strip mines – September 9, 2017

On the heels of yesterday’s Bigfoot post, it seemed fitting to go with a shot of muddy footprints. Nope, not my contribution to the collection of Bigfoot evidence but a mystery nonetheless.

The tracks were found on some of the public Knox County strip mine ground where I do a fair amount of walk-in/bike-in fishing. And that’s the only way that anglers are allowed to access the area. No vehicles and no boats, only bicycles or boots.

While it is not unheard of to see signs of both of those approaches, these footprints were different. They were way off the beaten path around the edge of a pothole pond hidden amidst a vast sea of armpit high vegetation. You don’t even know it is there until you plow through the cover and nearly step in it. Even if you know where it is, it is still hard to find within the numerous ups and downs of the strip mine landscape.

Prior to stumbling upon the tracks, I’d often thought that only a fool would dare tread into such tough to reach territory. I guess that I must now amend my thinking to include a pair of fools.

Once the sting of realizing that I wasn’t quite lost enough to have my own private fishing hole wore off, I actually developed some admiration for the fellow fishing fool. For not only had the angler dared to venture into the tangled interior of the site, he or she had only left behind the proper mark to betray their presence. All too often my initial indication that I am not alone is trash.

So, whoever you are out there, best of luck on our shared water and thank you for taking care of it.

Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Photobombing Bigfoot

“He’s gonna get caught, just you wait and see,

Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me?”

Charlie Brown – The Coasters (1959)

Bigfoot sighting, Macomb, IL – July 4, 2017

Bigfoot was introduced to our children at a very young age. It’s just one of those things that you do as a parent, pass along some of your interests and see if they stick. And with a couple young boys joining the family it didn’t take much arm twisting to get them hooked on this furry fellow.

The photobomber in this picture, our boy Jayce, developed a particularly keen interest at an early age. I hesitate to guess how many Bigfoot hunts he’s undertaken in his near ten years. Tantalizingly close on numerous occasions to capturing the elusive beast but always an amazing escape or some sort of misstep foils the quest. A near miss at dusk at the Lake Storey campground, within reach just beyond the campfire at Little John Conservation Club, seemingly fenced in in the backyard and even cornered in the living room but suddenly gone.

So, when we spotted old Sasquatch along the main drag in Macomb, Illinois we definitely had to stop (that main drag happens to be named “Jackson Street” by the way). Exiting the van with phone in hand I captured this shot of Bigfoot and one of his most ardent pursuers. Of course, a picture was as good as we got, for actually nabbing a Bigfoot comes with a rather hefty price tag.

And thus, the hunt goes on…Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Stairsteps

“Your feet are going to be on the ground, your head is there to move you around.”

Stand – R.E.M. (1989)

Hennepin Canal near Sheffield, IL – August 5, 2017

I love my kids.

In my book, that’s a given, right?

I mean after all, it’s pretty much half my fault that Julie and I have them. I don’t recall which one of us started it over the years but the next thing you know there’s Helena, then Carly, then Jayce and then Zac. And once you have them, well, you care for them and teach them and introduce them to stuff.

In the case of this photo we took a daytrip to the Hennepin Canal just outside of Sheffield, IL. Oh boy, more than a few memories from that Bureau County hamlet in the days before I had children including some where today’s song title of “Stand” required a little extra concentration. Used to be a watering hole up there called “R & J’s” run by a couple buddies…but I digress.

The Hennepin Canal is a pretty cool bit of engineering history that is included on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s plenty to be said about the one hundred plus mile waterway but that will have to wait for another day.

For this day, it’s all about quality family time spent outdoors exploring a bit of regional history. Our crew (minus Julie who was our photographer for this shot) is perched on a series of steps that lead from the high ground above the canal to the towpath along the edge. I felt that the descent was an ideal spot for one of those “line up oldest to youngest/shortest to tallest” shots with a little silliness thrown in.

And indeed it was.

However, the odds of getting four kids on board as we neared the end of their arduous four hour daytrip were generally pretty slim. So this pic worked out about as well as one could have hoped in terms of the goofy pose I envisioned. Four kids and four personalities with some shared traits and some individual quirks, you just never know what will transpire during that split second when the photo is snapped.

While initially frustrating in failing to get the perfect outdoor photo I had in mind, it looks just right in hindsight.

It’s us.

Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Livewell or Live Well

“It’s in the way that you use it, boy don’t you know.”

It’s in the Way That You Use It – Eric Clapton (1986)

Dad, Zac and Jayce on a Knox County, IL strip pit – July 8, 2017

I think about it every once in a while, am I a writer or just a guy who likes to write?

Tough to say, kind of depends on the day or the mood. Perhaps not for me to even say at all.

I can say, however, that I am armed with a pen, a clipboard, a keyboard and a computer and I’m not afraid to use ‘em.

I can also say that ever since I developed this writing affliction, spellcheck has given me some grief. You see, I’m a compound word guy and when it comes to outdoor writing there are plenty of terms where me and spellcheck just don’t see eye to eye.

Tacklebox, baitshop, lawnchair, bassboat, baitcaster and so on. Each of those get the old red underline. I disagree and keep them as one word since I have the benefit of being my own editor (bad idea by the way as you can never effectively proofread your own stuff).

However, today’s picture presents an interesting dilemma as you can’t go wrong either way.

On one hand, Papa and my boys are checking out the “livewell” to inspect their catch. And yes, spellcheck has red flagged my spelling even though it’s correct. Per Wikipedia, “A livewell is a tank found on many fishing boats that is used to keep bait and caught fish alive.” Right on, a credible source even, kinda, sorta.

But splitting the word also works just fine in this case as “live well” applies just as well. For the definition of “live well” sure doesn’t get much better than some fresh air, some fishing and guy sharing his love of the outdoors with a couple of his grandkids hovered over the livewell.

So, spellcheck can generally getlost on this blog. While rules certainly serve a purpose, sometimes you’ve got to cast them aside and let sentiment trump syntax and feeling win out over spelling. Thus, as a writer I may never hit the bigtime in my lifetime but I’ll have a goodtime in the meantime. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Brush with Greatness

“I got goosebumps and dizzy and felt kinda faint,

I think I’ve been talkin’ to Hank.”

Talking to Hank – Mark Chesnutt featuring George Jones (1992)

Meeting a fishing hero, Hank Parker (he’s the guy without the hat) – February 16, 2017 

Way back when, a fellow by the name of David Letterman kicked off a late night talk show. One of his gimmicks in the early days was something called “Brush with Greatness” where Dave would speak with audience members who described their encounters with celebrities. Had I been in attendance it would have went a little something like this.

One day shy of a year ago today, I had the good fortune of meeting bass fishing legend, Hank Parker, at the QCCA Outdoor Show. I enjoyed his bass fishing seminar and then hung around long enough to have a conversation. Part of our chat revolved around his runner-up finish at the 1994 Bassmasters Superstars Tournament staged on the Illinois River out of Peoria, Illinois. My brother, Brent, and I were in the crowd for that final weigh-in and were really pulling for Hank to win it and he sure looked like he had it in the bag with one angler left to hit the scales. That fellow, O.T. Fears III, nabbed a four-pound kicker fish late in the final day and wound up knocking Hank Parker out of the top spot. Brent and I were pretty bummed that Hank got edged out of the title. Fast forward almost 25 years and I got to hear all about it first hand from the angler himself. A very gracious man who gave credit to the winner and who could still grin as he related the close call.

Of course, Hank Parker is pretty much smiling all the time and is as entertaining in person during a candid conversation as he is in front of the camera. It was quite a treat to spend a few minutes talking fishing and I even went as far as asking if I could take a picture with him. Maybe a little weird for a 50-year old guy to make such a request but you’ve got to realize that the man is a flat out hero to this guy. After all, once upon a time I used to be a teenage kid watching him do his thing on a Saturday morning fishing show. Kind of fun to feel like that kid again over thirty years later.

Oh yeah, I also gave him a business card for my website. Still waiting on that first Top 5 submission, Hank, if you’re out there reading buddy. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – February 19, 2014

Today we look back at the very first fish ever submitted to the “Top 5” project.

Pictured above is angler, Bruce Zilkowski, along with the details on his bass from the entry for the catch. And it all started after a conversation with one of Bruce’s friends, Terry Isbell. Now I had long compiled a list of my Top 5 bass catches for each outing but I sure hadn’t thought about keeping a tally of my annual five best bass. How that escaped me I have no idea but I was on board one hundred percent with the concept.

So, in 2014 at a former blogging gig I kicked off the “Top 5”, a sort of virtual brag board. Kind of the modern day equivalent to the stack of pictures that I used to marvel over at a pair of local baitshops, Al’s Sporting Goods and Steve’s Army Surplus.

Oh, what a collection of catches those shops used to hold.

Anglers of all ages and interests adorned the counters with all manner of species and sizes. A strip mine bass here, a Lake Storey muskie there, a hand-sized farm pond bluegill, a stringer of Oak Run crappie, some Spoon River catfish deeper in the stack or a stray Lake Bracken carp slid across the glass amongst a handful of other photos. Various handwritten details adorned the backs providing yet more to amaze this young angler.

Well, it’s all still part of the fun of the Top 5 project which has included anglers from age 8 to age 80 and has expanded to include various species as well. Regular Monday updates when the catching is good grace the blog along with monthly and yearly updates of the stats we amass.

A sample of those initial 2014 bass and their anglers.

And we’re doing it all once again in year number six that kicked off with a New Year’s Day bass nabbed before winter got all ugly around here. But it’s mid-February and pitchers and catchers have begun reporting which brings a faint glimmer of hope that my least favorite season will eventually loosen its grip.

Perhaps I’ll see a fish in front of your smiling face as 2019 rolls on. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Dynamic Duo

“And I wanna spend some time with you, just the two of us.”

Just the Two of Us – Grover Washington, Jr. with Bill Withers (1981) 

Father’s Day photo op – June 18, 2017

Hey, what do you know? Strange how this Blog Banner pic turned up on Valentine’s Day.

It’s not often that my wife, Julie, and I are together on the other side of a camera or phone. Actually, it’s kind of weird that I’m not holding a fish either, cake is good though.

At any rate, I dig this picture taken by one of our kids and hope that they all will dig it a little more as time marches on. A happy photo of their folks on a beautiful Father’s Day from a couple years ago. One day they will better understand just how tired those two smiling, relaxed people really are.

The lady from making hundreds of lunches for our kids every school year, washing and sorting thousands of socks, putting in full days teaching other children and then coming home to tend to her own. Knowing where everybody is supposed to be and getting them there as well as reminding me of my role so I don’t leave anybody stranded. Oh yeah, and this is all on maybe five hours of sleep, six if she is lucky.

As far as the guy in the photo, well, he’s tired too. In fact, on this particular day I was running on about four hours of sleep. Got to bed probably around midnight and back up at roughly 4:30am. The log says that I got my first bass at 6:15am on Lost Grove Lake…on a Booyah Buzzbait…measured 14.5”…weighed 1-9.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day and a big “Thank You” to my wife who takes care of all of those necessary things and lets me get away with some slacking to chase those crazy bass and have some alone time.

Alone time as a couple though is a rare commodity around here and today’s lyrics sum it up nicely from one of my favorite tunes of all-time. However, “Just the Two of Us” can sometimes be a bit of a paradox. Kind of how if got to be “Just the Six of Us”, you know.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Julie. Love you and talk to you later (if we can get in a word edgewise). Troy