Blog Banner – Redear Queen

My daughter, Carly, has turned into quite an angler over the course of her eleven years. Along with her skills while wielding a rod and reel, she is also a dedicated sort as without fail she outlasts her siblings when our bunch goes out casting. And she is one of those anglers who just seems to have a knack for fooling a variety of fish.

Today’s photo from June 2016 displays her propensity for fooling redear sunfish which are generally pickier than their cousin, the cooperative bluegill. Hard to explain when the rest of us are in close proximity and tossing the same waxworm on a slip bobber setup and being completely ignored by the redear, but that’s fishing.

August 2015 with a redear hybrid variation

It’s cool too as she routinely claims the species title including a Grand Slam sort of limit last spring during an hour of casting from the bank with her siblings. Her haul consisted of bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass and a green sunfish. While no redear on that occasion, I suspect if we’d had more time one would have shown up to extend the species count.

June 2017, not redear but the fact that it is dark and we’re the last two on the bank says it all

But no matter what the catch it’s always enjoyable to spend time together pursuing a shared hobby. The following excerpts from the original post detailing an August 2015 outing sum it all up quite well.

“I had planned to go on a solo bass trip that particular morning while the rest of the crew slept off a late night of tacos in a bag and s’mores around the campfire. But at 5:30am, as I rolled around out of the tent, I was met by Julie and our youngest daughter, Carly, who was interested in accompanying Dad on the water.

While a nine year old girl and her forty eight year old dad’s interests are sometimes separated by the traditional generation gap, during those few hours in the wild we were right in tune. An ‘experienced’ outdoorsman, an eager pupil and the natural backdrop were a perfect combination.”

An early 2017 birthday gift that she picked out and put to work so she no longer needs to borrow one of my “ancient” spinning rigs 

Looking forward to more in 2018 as she’s got her eyes on adding a new species to her list, one with whiskers. Stay tuned and talk to you later. Troy

Bassmaster Classic Musings

The Bassmaster Classic has long been my favorite fishing event to follow but this year’s tournament featured the added weight of many of the competitors possibly making their final appearance. Indeed, 20 of the 25 anglers who made the cut to fish on Sunday have taken their show on the road to the Major League Fishing circuit (including all of the Top 5 in the snip above).

As a result, this year’s event packed a few emotional farewells as longtime Bass competitors said their piece. In addition, animated angler Mike Iaconelli took the opportunity to defy some longtime marching orders from the Bass brass. His antics included tossing his tourney jersey into the crowd before making a successful “stage dive” onto the arms of the fans at stage side (yes, they caught him). A good show all the way around for the record breaking crowd.

A multitude of ways to enjoy the Classic are available as the event unfolds

Now this thing is always an emotional event as it is a life changer for the angler who takes the title. The pressure is palpable as the three biggest days in bass fishing unfold and it is even cooler with today’s technology. The live coverage gives the armchair angler a close up view from anywhere there is internet access. Initially, I kind of thought that the concept would ruin all of the fun and spoil the edge of your seat excitement of the final weigh-in. Not so much, as I took in live on the water coverage, up to the minute blogs, weight updates and webcast weigh ins from the living room, van and even the garage as I did some fishing gear cleanup in preparation for my own 2019 kickoff.

The Basstrakk feature provides unofficial on the water data but still leaves plenty of room for suspense at the weigh-in 

All of this coverage has been a welcome addition for a guy who used to be content with reading about the results a month later when the latest issue of Bassmaster magazine hit the mailbox. Of particular interest is watching the live on the water talks with the anglers and eventually getting the scoop on what, where and how they do their thing.

Now this is pretty cool as the live feed tracks and talks with several anglers as they fish

And 2019 was cool as the techniques featured a very high percentage of power fishing with the likes of crankbaits, spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits and chatterbaits getting it done. So much more my speed than flipping and pitching and great to see that one of my favorites, the spinnerbait, hasn’t been completely lost among some of the pros after all.

Perhaps I invested a bit too much of my weekend in following the Classic but it’s just too hard for this old angler to resist the new types of access.

Finally, I wondered, is it weird to get goosebumps when watching fishing?

Probably not, if you’ve been doing it and watching it since you were a kid.

Probably not, if you’ve had a Bassmaster magazine subscription since 1983.

Probably not, if you pulled the trigger on the Bassmaster lifetime membership in the early 90s once you got a decent job and had a little extra money.

Probably not, if you still appreciate every bite you get and also realize that sometimes you (and even the pros) don’t get bit at all.

I guess that sums it up for this near 52 year-old fisherman who is older than all of the 52 angler field in this year’s Classic (yep, got Kevin Van Dam by just about three months).

Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – March 20, 2004

We head back 15 years today with a look at an afternoon of strip mine fishing with a couple of the Brothers Jackson. And for added effect, you get the original post from a larger fishing report originally submitted to family and friends on March 27, 2004.

March 20 – Brent and I head out for Snakeden Hollow for some biking and bassing. Air temperatures were around 60 F with sunny skies and strong winds out of the Northwest. Our first target, Long Lake, was rather disappointing as we failed to catch any bass in about forty-five minutes of fishing. Jigs, crankbaits and jerkbaits all failed to produce. This lake is typical strip mine habitat with steep banks and crystal clear water. Looking for a change of pace we headed up the bank to a shallower lake that had more stained water and more diverse structure.

 

This is kind of fun as I took this shot of Brent’s new lake record from “across the lake”, not far in a straight line but a long walk in strip mine distance.

We spent about an hour and a half on Crosscut Lake and combined for ten bass. Brent posted an addition to the record book with a 2-10 that hit a Mann’s 4- crankbait (chartreuse). The bass also broke the lake record of 2-0 set by Tim Townsend on 3/23/00. All of our fish came on Mann’s 4- crankbaits worked with a steady retrieve along dropoffs in 2-5′ of water. Jigs produced a couple strikes without hookups and lipless crankbaits got no attention. After working over this relatively small body of water, we decided to head for Little John. However, we had to bike back to the truck first, directly into some fierce winds. At one point, the wind actually exceeded gravity. We had to pedal to go downhill as the wind was so strong that we couldn’t coast. Not exactly a treat paired with my current level of physical fitness.

Still have the lure that did the trick per the above database entries but can’t tell you the last time it hit the water.

Definitely gets me fired up for another year on the strip mines. It’s always a treat to hop between the potholes and fingers that dot the landscape and gets me to wondering about a new look at some of those old places. Lots of ideas, just need some time and open water. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – March 19, 2009

March 19, 2009 – first bass of the year, Snakeden Hollow State Fish & Wildlife Area near Victoria, IL

Hey, how about that? Open water in these photos, looks good.

Not so much in 2019 and I suspect that we’ve still got a final weekend of icefishing on the local haunts. It will be interesting to see how things play out in terms of getting on the board with the annual goal of a March bass. A goal that has been achieved every year since 2002 (with a few bonus February catches thrown in the mix).

This first pair of bass from ten years ago came from two walk-in lakes at Snakeden Hollow in Knox County, IL. From 2009 through 2014 this was the standard plan for nabbing the first bass of the year and the collection of strip pits never let me down.

Original log entry from the outing, only a two bass day but I’d certainly take that right now

Here’s the original, brief report that was submitted as part of the rundown on the start to 2009.

2009 is off to a slow start for me, much the same as 2008. Weather, work and family responsibilities have all conspired to keep me off the water. I managed a pair of bass on 3/19 from a couple Snakeden Hollow lakes with the larger of the two (actually more like the least small) weighing 1-4. Both came on Bomber Flat A crankbaits (baby bass).

Top Bass for the day 13.5″ and 1-4 on a Bomber Flat A crankbait, a classic cold water bait

Yep, 2009 had a rough start on the water and it lasted through much of the summer as Julie and I welcomed a third kid in late May. However, once I consistently got a chance to cast beginning in mid-August and running through October it turned out to be a pretty darn good year. And a lot of that success was due to the opening of a place called “Emiquon.”

But those are stories for Friday Flashback posts later this year. Don’t worry though as there’s plenty to fill the all the Fridays until then. And don’t forget, there are two final Blog Banner posts coming your way to complete that 30 post series. Sooner or later got to be some fishing too. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Nature’s Ninjas

“They were chopping them up, they were chopping them down…”

Kung Fu Fighting – Carl Douglas (1974)

Jayce and Zac wielding a butcher knife, a boomerang, a katana and a staff

Wildcat Den State Park, IA – May 13, 2017

The outdoors is a wonderful place.

So is a kid’s imagination.

And when those places collide…well, it’s quite an adventure.

The wooded ravines of Wildcat Den State Park in Muscatine County, Iowa were a bit safer on this day thanks to a pair of martial artist brothers. Not only were their hands considered lethal weapons but they also managed to collect several other weapons from nature’s stash.

Who knew that lying trailside amidst the towering bluffs, along the running streams and beneath the forest canopy one would find such an arsenal?

Sadly, not a fifty year old guy more concerned with the flora, fauna and geographical features of the site. But you know, those young imaginations are more than a bit contagious.

So while I scan the terrain this spring for Virginia bluebells, bloodroot and Dutchman’s breeches I’ll also be on the lookout for swords or hatchets or spears.  All the while under the watchful eyes of my entertaining and stealthy outdoor protectors. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – You Go Girl

“You just call on me brother (or sister) when you need a hand…”

Lean on Me – Bill Withers (1972)

Carly with a Henry County, IL pond catch that took an extra hand to hold – May 29, 2017

Anybody remember the Addams Family?

Well, that’s not Thing giving our youngest daughter, Carly, an assist with her bass but instead it’s her younger brother, Jayce. He’s much more in tune with handling the catch. In fact, he can hardly wait to get a hand on a fish no matter who is on the catching end.

When it comes to catching though, Carly will give that boy a run for his money as the most prolific fishing kid. A scan of the outdoor photo collection shows her with a bluegill on the end of a Mickey Mouse pole a month shy of turning two years old.

Carly also holds the unofficial kid species record with a collection of bluegill, crappie, bass, green sunfish and redear. She seems to have a knack for the latter of that bunch, prompting a previous blog entry for the original Blog Banner series entitled “Redear Queen” (click here).

I definitely give this pic a thumbs up just as Carly is doing with one of her two free hands. Hey, no harm in getting by with a little help from your friends (or a sibling). Heck, I used to fish with a Golden Gloves boxing champ in high school, toughest dude around, who either used a leather glove or had me unhook his fish. True story, and he was also afraid of worms. But those are tales for another day, if I ever decide to risk the reveal.

Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Take A Hike

“We’ll leave the TV and the radio behind, don’t you wonder what we’ll find.”

Steppin’ Out – Joe Jackson (1982)

Johnson-Sauk Trail State Recreation Area – August 5, 2017

How appealing does this picture from a summer day look to anyone else who is tired of a full blown Midwest winter?

Beyond the sign lies a wonderful world of discovery for our young crew and a reconnect for their folks. Back in the 90s and early 2000s, before Julie and I tied the knot and later found ourselves responsible for four kids, we used to spend a fair amount of time roaming the outdoors. Field guides in hand we prowled numerous Illinois state parks from the home base of a much smaller tent than what is required nowadays.

Johnson-Sauk Trail State Recreation Area near Kewanee, IL had made the cut back in the day making it even more fun to revisit and view through the eyes of our offspring.

As expected, the park did not disappoint with nature’s pallete of greens, yellows, reds, purples, and oranges all catching our attention. The plants bearing those colors included tulip tree, jewelweed, trumpet creeper, Joe Pye weed, tall bellflower, cup-plant and one of my favorites, bergamot, all of which we demonstrated identifying with our field guides in tow.

Now, winter’s been a rough one around here, but sooner or later those woods will spring to life yet again during another act of nature’s fascinating annual play.

Keep your eyes peeled for the stars of the show such as trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, mayapple, bloodroot, violets, phlox and more. And if your timing and eyesight are right, perhaps you’ll cross paths with a generally highly regarded springtime fungal treasure known as the morel.

So dust off those hiking boots or an old pair of tennis shoes and be ready to step out when nature calls (you know what I mean). Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Instant Feedback

“Words are weapons sharper than knives…”

Devil Inside – INXS (1988)

Texting our realtime results from the field – April 21, 2018

Ah yes, the wonderful world of technology and its effect on my hobby.

Plenty of things that we take for granted never even entered my mind back when I started chasing bass in the 1980s.

Blogging for instance, or even the internet for that matter. Heck, I had to wait for the October 1984 issue of Bassmaster to find out that Rick Clunn had captured his third Bassmaster Classic title in mid-August of that year . Nowadays, in a couple weeks I’ll be able to track near realtime catch and weight data, read up to the minute blogs and watch the live daily weigh-ins from the Bassmaster Classic on the computer in my living room.

Or better yet, on my phone, from anywhere.

Which brings me to today’s Blog Banner picture which is actually a screenshot.

So, my brother, Brent, and I are roaming around some Knox County strip mines last April doing a pretty good number on the bass. Well, as he lands a few good ones I fire away with the camera which is actually part of a phone these days. And it’s not good enough to simply store the pics on the phone which boasts a storage capacity that was unheard of on personal computers not too awfully long ago. Nope, you’ve also gotta boast a bit to the fans at home. Instant feedback via texting rather than having to take your film in for processing before it can find a home on the local baitshop counter or bragboard.

Instant feedback indeed in sending a note and picture from the middle of nowhere to Mom, Dad and Julie to keep them up to speed on our results. I’ve gotta say that while sometimes I have about all the tech I can take, the ability to send out on the spot fishing updates is still pretty cool.

For this outing, Brent’s 2-12 would stand as Top Bass, besting my best bass by exactly one pound. Looking back I have to laugh at Julie’s response of “Where’s yours?” as it confirmed that I was once again getting outfished by my younger brother. My reply of “Stay tuned” conveyed that I still had high hopes but in the end I couldn’t effectively provide her with a suitable text and pic reply.

Sometimes the whole instant feedback thing can be double edged sword. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – The Last Bass

“Life, so they say, is but a game and we let it slip away.”

We May Never Pass This Way Again – Seals & Crofts (1973)

End of the line with a gaunt bass from a dying Knox County, IL public strip pit – July 30, 2017

Back in 2006 I wandered well of the beaten path at some public strip mines and found a few bass in a secluded lake partially surrounded by a grove of locust trees. Since it didn’t have a name on a map, I christened it Locust Lake.

For the next several years I made a handful of visits and even managed to portage a boat into the spot on a couple occasions. It was a decent fishing hole in terms of numbers and worth the effort to reach. However, I could never find any heavy bass that I suspected called it home. Closest I got was a big bite that busted off my Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait one afternoon but I never got a look at the fish. But I’ve done this long enough to know that not only was it a good fish but also that it could be as big as the story I chose to tell.

Fast forward to the summer of 2017 and I finally got my look at what might have been on my line, actually several examples. All floating on the surface as I crested the rise that effectively hides the lake. The collection of dead fish, including several bass in the four pound range, was an unfortunate explanation for the foul stench that permeated the air during my approach.

Having put forth the effort to haul in my little boat, I decided to give it a go for old time’s sake to see if I could find any survivors. The picture above from the Blog Banner was one of three bass that came aboard in a couple hours of rowing around the rotting fishing hole. It measured 17.5” and tipped the scales at a sickly weight of only 1-13. I was surprised it even had enough left in the tank to bite and I remember at the time thinking that I didn’t really even want to lip it as it looked almost infectious.

Truly a sad end to the remote body of water and even more disheartening when observing those quality floating bass on its surface. I guess at least it confirmed my suspicions of some decent fish. Sure wish they would have been on the end of my line instead of at the end of the line. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Say Cheese

“This is your big debut, it’s like a dream come true,

so won’t you smile for the camera.”

Peg –Steely Dan (1981)

Knox County, IL strip mine – April 25, 2017

While such catches just don’t show up for me every trip, 2017 was a pretty solid year. So this fish definitely deserved a spot in the Blog Banner as it was fooled during the time period designated for this collection of photos. And yes, I will admit that much of the purpose of the Blog Banner is to grab attention as that’s all part of the game for a website. Such a tactic is referred to as “clickbait”, a lure all in itself but not one that resides in a tacklebox. No deceit here though as my posts deliver what the pics represent and that’s what this whole Blog Banner series is laying down.

This fish is just another piece of that message as it is actually a big bass and not some sort of internet photoshop trick. I wouldn’t pull such a stunt as this blog shoots straight and reports weight (5-9 on this 22” bass). Catches of this size are also fun in the age of the selfie as they make you wonder if your arm is going to be long enough to capture the whole fish in the frame.

Another note on fishing pics is that if you elect to put your mug in the shot (and I think you should), don’t forget to put a smile on your face. Looking back over 50 years of family outdoor pics, I’m proud to say that most all of them have some happy looking outdoor folks in them.

Of course, if I luck into one this size that grin is kind of automatic. Pretty much lasts all day too. In fact, it brings a smile as I type up this blog entry nearly two years later and I imagine that it always will.

Talk to you later. Troy