Category: Family Outdoors

Camping – 27 Hours in 3 Minutes

Last weekend we got in our first camping trip of the year. Actually it was the first camping trip in three years. Obviously, 2020 has been quite strange. So strange that most folks couldn’t even go camping unless they had a secluded spot. And even that possibility for us had some limitations. But with an ease in opening up some amenities (read pit toilets), we were off and running as our weekends are quite free as of late.

Rather than a ramble, I’m opting for a video and slideshow recap of our chance to get away from home.


A good time was had by all. So much so that plans are in the works to do it again soon. Talk to you later. Troy

Guest Perspective

NOTE: On this special day, I welcome a guest blogger, my wife and the mother of our brood, Julie. Enjoy.

To quote a dear friend of mine, “It’s all about perspective.” – Aaron VanMiddlesworth.

Think about it. Today your fishing report is brought to you from a new perspective. A female. A wife. A mother. But then again, is it? An angler. An outdoor person. A spouse. A parent. That’s the usual perspective of TJO, right? Let’s throw in photographer. There’s always piscatorial pics embedded throughout the traditional roving report.

Once upon a time, I took a photography class at Carl Sandburg College. I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures, but it was inspiring to have to take specific kinds of photos for different assignments for the class. Seeing things from behind a camera lens was creatively appeasing, and I think I captured some pretty interesting images. They were all black and white because I developed my own film and printed the photos myself as well. I loved going to the darkroom, as it was exciting to see what would be revealed on the film and photo paper since I used a manual camera without a digital display to see what the photos would look like before being printed. All adjustments needed to be made before the button was pressed. No delete and reshoot 13 times like with my cell phone pics today.

The point of my photography class recap is to introduce you to a picture I took during that time. You may need no introduction – you may know it very well. It’s the one that TJ Outdoors uses on his business cards and YouTube Channel. And it shows what my perspective was back when he and I used to go on outdoor adventures just the two of us. Because there were only two of us.

The picture I speak of is the silhouette of TJ walking up a path packing his tackle and poles headed to a fishing hole. I followed him that day with my camera in hand and just thought my view was a nice perspective of this fisherman. I can’t recall now if he knew he was a subject for one of my assignments at the time or if I even used it for class, but it has always been one of my favorites. And TJ must like it ok too if he prints it on his cards. I also don’t recollect if fish were fooled let alone specific species or sizes. I know someone who could find out for me though…

So recently, we took our four children on one of those outdoor adventures and I recaptured that perspective. Of course this time the picture was taken with my cell phone camera with a color digital display, and I snapped several shots as the kids followed their father – all toting tackle and poles up the path to the fishing hole.

Not only is my photography at another juncture, but so are our outdoor adventures. Now we’ve always taken our kids fishing, hiking, camping and such. But this time it was different. It had been awhile. I didn’t spend the entire morning packing. We didn’t have strollers, diaper bags, potty seats, pack and plays or any sort of pint-sized paraphernalia. The kids helped make sandwiches and pack a cooler. Each kid wore his/her own boots and walked the path (or lack thereof sometimes) in them. They even grabbed their own gear for the most part.

That’s the moment I was struck with incentive to share my perspective. Again. As I bent down to pick up just my equipment and follow the rest of the crew, I remembered taking a picture of TJ all those years earlier and how the scene from that perspective had changed a bit. I wasn’t preoccupied by babies and baggage and just consumed the contentment as I clumsily collected my camera in the form of the cell phone from my pocket to capture the moment in order to share and compare this sight with the image printed on the TJO business card.

It really is all about perspective. Amen, AVM!

Happy Mother’s Day everyone.

Family Fishing Report – May 2

Last weekend presented another opportunity to get the whole family outside for some fresh air, some fishing and a picnic supper. Sticking with my general fishing report format, here is how it all went down.

Date: May 2, 2020
Location: Little John Conservation Club
Time: Evening
Weather: Partly cloudy/breezy, sweatshirt weather
Totals: 6 bass
Lures: Senko wacky rig, weighted and weightless (various colors)
Top Bass: 0-14 (Carly)
Totals: Girls – 6 bass, Boys – 1 bass


Trip Lyric
“Rock and rock and roll radio, let’s go!”
Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, The Ramones (1980)
So, our daughter, Helena, is working on the driving hours required to obtain her license this summer. Well, the standing policy is pretty much that the driver runs the radio. As such, this lyric fits the bill for our round trip as the current Top 40 had no resemblance whatsoever to my old “rock ‘n’ roll radio”.

Notes and Nonsense

Lucky Shirts – During a normal May we would be taking part in the annual JDRF One Walk for type one diabetes. A classmate and friend of one of our daughters was diagnosed with Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes in 2011 at age five. Since moving to the Quad City area in 2014 we have joined Team Morgan’s Hope for the annual event aimed at raising money and awareness in a quest for a cure. Obviously, this is not a normal May thus the event has transitioned to a virtual experience. For details and donations click here.

Sporting our collection of Team Morgan’s Hope shirts from past JDRF One Walks

Girls Rule – It didn’t take long before the whole crew was tossing Senkos looking for a bass instead of wetting some waxworms in search of panfish. And it didn’t take long before the ladies did some catching. Carly posted the first bass and also claimed Top Bass among her three catches. Julie took runner-up honors with a pair of bass and Helena posted her first Senko bass. The boys, well, they were a little more distracted but did get on the board just after suppertime. Their lone bass came on the first cast by the fifty something year old boy who first set foot on those strip mine banks over thirty years ago.

Can’t go wrong with these choices from my “clients”

Additional Catches – Beyond the bass, I witnessed anglers catching a stump, a tree and a bridge. In addition, we had major loops and tangles in a couple of our ultralight spinning rigs. The above are reasons us “fishing guides” bring along plenty of spare poles and tackle. Hey, as long as we avoid catching any family members, it’s all good.

Had to respool a couple reels after this trip

Mission accomplished with some fresh air in these strange and isolated times. My favorite bunch of people to be isolated with and enjoyable when we can do it outdoors. Talk to you later. Troy

Family Fishing Report – April 18 & 19

As a blogger, I find that fishing reports are the best posts to compose and submit. The only problem is that when you get ample opportunities to fish it gets tough to find time to put the reports together. A nice problem to have when blogging, so I guess belated is what you get as I am also a husband, dad and employee ahead of the whole wannabe writer thing.

Today we have a weekend report that covers a solo outing with my son, Jayce, on a recent Saturday followed up by an entire Jackson 6 trip on the following day. This one will be part regular fishing report format and part video/slideshow as the clips and pics say it better than I could write it. The slideshows and more video from our family outing are up in entirety at Troy Jackson Outdoors You Tube, click here.

Date: April 18 & 19, 2020
Location: Knox County, IL strip mines (public & private)
Totals: a handful of bluegill, a few bass and a lone crappie
Lures/bait: Rapala Shad Rap (blue), Senko wacky rig (white), waxworms on a jighead hung from a slip bobber


Trip Lyric 4/18
“That don’t bother me at all” – Two Hangmen, Mason Proffit (1969)
It’s always cool when I catch this rare tune on the radio and good, old 107.7FM “Vintage Radio” out of Erie, IL came through on this ride to the fishing hole. My role on outings with the kids is to observe, instruct and encourage while making a handful of casts of my own at best. This lyric was right on the money.

Trip Lyric 4/19
“Baby, you can drive my car.” – Drive My Car, The Beatles (1965)
I don’t know the last time that I was not behind the wheel on the ride home from my Knox County strip mines. And when I was, I know it was not due to an effort to get our 15-year old some behind the wheel time. Helena did a stellar job during the hour drive featuring off the beaten path, county road, state route and Interstate (with construction).

Notes and Nonsense

Shad Rap, Jayce Jack, A Bended Pole – My boy, Jayce, just wasn’t getting any takers on his go to presentation, the Senko wacky rig. I suggested that he learn about the Rapala Shad Rap as I had fooled over double digits with the lure a week prior on the same fishing hole. Three casts later, he had his first bass of the afternoon. Unfortunately, the bite dried up as soon as it started as the Shad Rap couldn’t find any more interested bass. However, it did hook a fisherman as he was throwing it again the next day.


Gear – I am notorious for packing too much gear but for the family outing I actually dialed it back. Working as fishing guide in tandem with Julie as our hostess, we got by with twelve boots, ten poles, two tacklebags, roughly seventy waxworms, two coolers, six sandwiches and fifteen bottles of water.

COVID Note – We are constantly reminded and continue to do our part, so generally I try to leave this alone in my fishing reports. However, as a frugal father and fisherman, I need to give a shout out to saving a few bucks due to the pandemic. At $1.59 a gallon, I am more willing to take a family road trip during these potentially uncertain financial times. And the whole social distancing thing likely saved me $20 or more on sodas and treats as we had an excuse to avoid the “gas station.”


An enjoyable afternoon/evening with a batch of cooperative panfish, a couple bass and a tired bunch by the time we headed home. The coolest thing was a unanimous “that was fun” and a request to go back and try our luck again. In fact, plans are in the works as I post this report. Talk to you later. Troy

Sleds, Shishkabobs & Snowballs

The aim to remain on friendly terms with winter continues as we head towards a Groundhog Day/Super Bowl Sunday combo. Yep, still plenty of winter to go but I must admit that it is slip sliding away in timely manner. Groundhog Day around here is supposed to see temps in the mid-40s which may put a damper on one of our winter missions but no complaints here. After all, we may still get our shot at that mystery activity. You just never know what Mother Nature may have in store for the shortest month of the year.

In the meantime, me and my boy, Zac, finished out January with another visit to the sledding hill with a bit of a new wrinkle with the GoPro. Another project was foiled by the consistency of the snow but we made the best of getting outside with a little target practice.

Videos below and more posts to come…

A little more sledding….


A few wipeouts and a “shishkabob” on the slopes…


A new wrinkle was sled target practice aimed at the GoPro…


Finally, we resorted to target practice on the durable GoPro…


Talk to you later. Troy

Embracing Winter-Sledding Vol. II

Unlike the gloom and doom forecast from two weekends ago that fortunately never came to pass, last weekend the weather folks were more on target. Rain, followed by freezing rain, followed by several inches of snow arrived as winter got its money’s worth. While it made for some treacherous travel, it also provided some quality conditions at the neighborhood sledding hill.

And sticking to the theme of embracing winter, a couple of the kids were pushing to get out and take advantage. That meant a Saturday morning trip to get in some fun before bone chilling temps arrived. What started as a mid-30s sunup would soon plummet into the single digits combined with high winds resulting in below zero wind temps.

Even so, the proper amount of bundling up allowed us to hang in there for over an hour. Me and our youngest sledder, Zac, were joined by big sister Carly on the slopes. All were troopers as the winds had pushed the windchill temps to near zero by the time we headed back home at noon.

Once again, we shot plenty of GoPro video during our outing as included below.

First up, some highlights…


And then there were the wipeouts…


I was pretty proud of our effort and dedication in getting outside during the less than comfortable conditions. In years prior, there is no way in heck I would have been out in that stuff. Thumbs up to the kids for pushing me to take them sledding and allowing us to not only make good on the winter embrace concept but also realize several of the 2020 Visions (namely Family, Video and Variety).

We’ll see what the rest of winter holds in store in terms of weather but I’d say we’ve already got our money’s worth of cold weather fun. In fact, a couple of us hit the slopes again today. Talk to you later. Troy

Embracing Winter

I can’t say that I have really ever been much of a winter fan despite spending my whole life around West Central Illinois. You never know anymore what you’re going to get in these parts with winter but you will get some. Nothing you can do about it and lately my means of dealing has simply been staying inside unless I’m shoveling.

Well, 2020 is going to be different as I’ve elected to “embrace” winter.

Heading into last weekend, the local forecasters were all gloom and doom with as much as 7-10” of snow on the horizon. In preparation, I stopped at the store on Friday afternoon to pick up a few sleds as well as a couple young boy sized shovels. Of course, the snowfall barely covered the ground which I can’t say was overly disappointing despite my aim to get outdoors.

The boys, however, were a bit bummed and made me live up to my boast. Barely enough snow but plenty of fun as evidenced by the videos below.

First up, we sot some basic footage with the GoPro.


Next, we got a little fancier with our tricks and video technique.


Of course, there were also a few wipeouts.


Winter is in full force this weekend with plenty of snow, some ice, gale force winds and bone chilling temps. Not sure what we will accomplish but looking to pull a few more stunts while my least favorite season lasts. Talk to you later. Troy

More Than A Few Good Reasons

As you may know, if you’ve hung around here very much, this is not your run of the mill outdoor website.

After all, what kind of blogger professes to be a bass fisherman yet hasn’t caught a bass in over a month?

Well, there’s good reasons for that as bass fishing resides a ways down the old priority list.

The month of May has been a wild one in regards to those reasons. How about lots of bad weather, a First Communion, a birthday party, 2 field trips as chaperones, 3 stitches in the forehead, 3 plays/concerts, 4 awards ceremonies, 5 music lessons, 5 fundraisers and 16 sports related events.


And it’s only May 26, so there’s nine more items to add to those totals above before we bid May farewell.

From the stats and the video I hope you can understand why those green fish have gotten a break from this sometimes bass blogger.

Time will tell when I see them again but stay tuned as plenty of other stuff to pass along in the meantime. Talk to you later. Troy

A Really Crappie Day

                                                                         Mother’s Day weekend crappie chasing success

While there are no fish on hand for the Monday Top 5 Update, we do have a fishing report as a suitable substitute.

And it goes like this…

My boys and I were invited down to a “secret” destination by a noted local guide who goes by the name of “Papa” for our crew and several others. For decades he has had the crappie dialed in at this fishing hole during the Mother’s Day weekend. While the weather forecast left much to be desired with early rain, barely 50 degree high, gray skies and a stiff breeze, we confirmed our reservation around lunchtime and headed out for the late afternoon outing.

First casts were made at roughly 3:35pm and in no time the bite was on. My brother, Brent, and his kids joined the fun a little after 4:00pm and our bunch hung in there until 5:15pm during a bite with barely a lull.

            Jayce called this contorted technique “Pretzel Fishing”, can’t argue with the results

All told we combined for somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty crappie and a few bluegill courtesy of waxworms on a jighead hung from a bobber. Location was key as the fish were flat out shallow and on the inside edge or first pockets in the abundant surface vegetation. Not uncommon for this fishing hole, been there done that before.

Weather was really pretty crappy for the second weekend in May but what was cool is that there were zero complaints from our young anglers. In fact, we grownups were the only ones who commented on sore and somewhat numb fingers and a chill that just kind of stuck. And mind you, those kids handled and released a bunch of fish.

                                                                                          Cousins conquering crappie

Post fishing fun included hot dogs over the much needed warmth of a campfire at the area campground along with some kid led hiking. Good stuff considering that Brent and I have been on the kid end of such adventures on those same trails dating back to the 1970s.

      Our guide led us to a sizeable earlier dead muskie discovery

All in all a great outdoor day in less than great conditions. Plenty of practice for the youngsters in terms of casting, catching and fish handling and always fun to watch their confidence grow in regards to each aspect. Also fun to teach in the same outdoor classroom with the guy who taught Brent and me the same lessons well over 40 years ago. Yet again proves that the best time to go fishing (or get outdoors) is anytime you can.


One other impressive observation was the fact that the only devices in use were in the hands of me and Brent as we preserved some quality memories for posterity (and a blog posting). Never heard a peep from the kids either as they were too busy having some old fashioned, low-tech fun, gotta love it.

And thus ends today’s fish “Storey.” Talk to you later. Troy

2018 Fishing Video Recap – Top 5

Back in 2014 on a former blogging gig I kicked off an audience participation thing called “Top 5.” It all began with bass and basically you send in your catches as the year progresses working towards a year end Top 5 weight. I’ve covered all of the specifics here on the website a couple times, most recently in the January 7 Top 5 Update post so I’ll refer you there for the scoop.

For 2018, 116 more bass entered the database thanks to anglers both young and not as young, waters both public and private and lures galore. It’s always a treat to see a new message in the Inbox, catch one for myself or have a front row seat when a fishing partner gets a good one.

And the latter is where we are headed with today’s video. All of the 2019 bass had their merits so how in the world would a guy pick a Top 5 from the Top 5 to call his favorites.

Actually, it was pretty easy.

And they ain’t even mine.


Yep, it was quite a day. Chunking Senkos on Cinco de Mayo with my boy. Don’t get much better than that.

I’ll leave it at that too, as the video says plenty. You don’t need any more words from this guy, just go back and watch the video instead.

Talk to you later. Troy