Category: Fishing Holes

Friday Flashback – September 1988

Original log entry detailing the September Ponder’s Pond bass featured in the photo shoot below.

A May posting in the Friday Flashback series took a look at a spot called Ponder’s Pond (aka “The Ponderosa”) and we’re back again for another batch of memories.

Couldn’t resist creating my own fishing card mimicking the classic “In Action” series included in the 1972 Topps baseball set

Today’s post comes courtesy of a decent bass landed back in September of 1988 at the fishing hole which was a favorite spot for a group of fishing buddies. One of those buddies is a fellow by the name of Matt Reynolds (aka “Hacksaw” or “Hack”). He and I spent a fair amount of time prowling the pond in the late 80s which resulted in some solid catches and more than a few fish stories.

Hack was on the camera end for this catch and I’ve long been grateful to him for taking the time to shoot this series of “In Action” photos. To me it’s just kind of a cool glimpse of yesteryear, four images frozen in time as the catch comes aboard. Not so easy to do for a photographer back in the day shooting with some sort of basic camera in the days of film with no do overs or previews of your pics.

Plenty of other fun in the shot as well. Still got me a jean jacket all these years later and about time to bust it our again with fall on the horizon. Been many years since the flannel period and many baseball caps since my Knox College Siwash model. And throw in some old, bleach stained jeans with more than a few holes, luckily there was no dress code at the East End or Green Diamond taverns on the way home, actually fit right in.

Also included is a nostalgic glimpse of my old Berkley Lighting Rod spinning rig that caught many a fish before getting the tip shut in the trunk of a vehicle. One of my first two true bass fishing rods courtesy of a Berkley buy one get one free offer back in the mid-80s. Even remember purchasing it at Al’s Sporting Goods, a classic Galesburg, Illinois shop that is now long gone as well.

Boy, can you say “those were the days”? Talk to you later

Friday Flashback – August 28, 1988

We head back 30 years this week with a quality bass from what was once a quality fishing hole.

The original log entry from 1988 tells of both the bass (23″ catch from 8/28) and the popularity of the destination

Green Oaks, Knox College’s biological field station, is located a few miles south of Victoria, Illinois in close proximity to another contemporary fishing haunt, Little John Conservation Club. I still fish Little John all these years later but my days on Green Oaks Lake are long gone.

But back in my college days, it was a regular weekend bass fishing stop as well as an off the beaten path camping spot. A perfect getaway where a group of college buddies could enjoy a few beers around a campfire often resembling a bonfire.

But I digress…

My personal best at the time, hitting 5-8 on a good, old DeLiar scale

Today’s featured fish came from a spot on the lake that we called “The Forbidden Zone” due to it being designated as off-limits for watercraft. And yes, I am posing in a beached watercraft for the release below which is all I will admit to although I suspect that the statute of limitations has long passed.

Speaking of that beached boat, 30 years later I am still rowing it around across the road at Little John and dragging it around up the road at Snakeden Hollow. Sadly, the same can’t be said for putting it to use at Green Oaks and contending with the moral dilemma presented by the outstanding cover in “The Forbidden Zone.”

Tease from earlier this year on my Facebook page which brought the disappointing revelation below

For as someone in the know commented on a Facebook entry I posted in late April of this year: “Unfortunately a winter fish kill a couple years ago has made Green Oaks a large crappie pond. No bass.”

Kind of sad. But boy, there was a time…Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – August 1993

“Woody” (read on for more details) posing with our bass fishing arsenal near one of his grandma’s ponds back in the early 90s.

Back in the 90s I had the good fortune of getting an opportunity to fish a handful of ponds at “Woody’s Grandma’s” down off the beaten path somewhere around the border of Illinois’ Hancock and Adams counties. More specifically, I guess, in the middle of nowhere amidst locales like Augusta, Bowen, LaPrairie and Golden. A place where grass grew in the middle of the two gravel tire tracks that were the road (technically probably a lane) and if it rained too much you were out of luck as the once dry creekbeds filled and flowed over the rural “highways.”

Got several tales from this area that likely will show up another day in a flashback so for today we’ll just take a look at who this “Woody” character is and how I wound up on the banks of his grandma’s fishing holes 25 years ago.

Scott “Woody” Woods and I would have first met sometime in the early 70s I suppose when our dads (Mike Woods and Terry Jackson) played more than a little fastpitch softball together. Under their influence, we each also took a liking to baseball and although we grew up playing ball in neighboring communities, our paths would cross again thanks to the sport.

1983 Galesburg Legion Post 285 – Woody on left, me on right, flanking Woody’s future Monmouth College teammate and one of my oldest buddies, Arnie Gonzalez.

Woody would star on some very successful Knoxville High School baseball teams in the early 80s while I was enjoying time covering various parts of the infield at Galesburg High School. Our local Legion Post 285 drew players from both schools so in 1983 Woody and I would have a chance to be teammates on the squad.

A fun clipping from 1986 of Woody and me in action as rivals at our shared position on the diamond.

Fast forward a few years later and we would find ourselves as dueling third baseman in the local college rivalry. Woody manned the hot corner for the Monmouth College Fighting Scots while I did the same for the Knox College Siwash. Definitely some heated competition as the teams have never really liked each other. Perhaps even worse than a Cubs-Cards feud, just on a smaller stage. Maybe more like the Hatfields and McCoys (a little less redneck though as that is where another division opponent, Illinois College, came into play, just kidding, sort of).

After putting our college baseball days behind us, Woody and I would wind up as co-workers for about ten years at a Galesburg, Illinois manufacturing plant, National Seal Company. And there it was, that Woody mentioned word of the good bass fishing at his grandma’s farm.

Oh yeah, a fish would be good for this post. August 1993 – Quality bass from one of “Woody’s Grandma’s Ponds” 

Fortunately, those Knox-Monmouth days were far enough behind us and I got a few invites to battle those bass.  And the one pictured above comes from 25 years ago this week, hard to believe how time flies.

Several others also grace the photo albums but those will have to be stories for another day, giving me yet another opportunity to take a walk down Memory Lane (in this case, grassy, only room for one truck and off the beaten path). Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – August 6, 2003

Many years ago, when I used to play a little baseball, we had a saying “Have a day” when a teammate was hitting on all cylinders. I guess it was the modern equivalent of “in the zone.” Well, August 6, 2003 could have qualified as I enjoyed a successful multi-species double header of sorts.

Original “boxscore” from a full day on the water.

The day started off with an early morning wade in the creek with Dad as detailed in the excerpt below. The report and pics were originally submitted to family and friends back on August 21, 2003.

August 6 (Pat’s Creek) As a break from the fast-paced world of bass fishing, Dad and I headed for Pat’s Creek armed with two dozen dew worms for some multi-species angling. Our efforts were rewarded with seventeen catfish, two carp, two freshwater drum and a turtle. Top catfish was my 2-3 and top carp was my 2-7. Dad somehow caught the turtle. We were standing above a deep hole when he jokingly said, “I’ve got a turtle” as he reeled in his bait. As I was downstream on his left, I jokingly said, “Don’t reel it by me.” Although neither one of us was serious, sure enough, here came a painted turtle past me as Dad reeled it in. I guess we should have tried joking about having a ten-pound catfish hooked. Overall, a very successful outing. Our worms lasted right up to the last hole, no busted shins, no falls and I didn’t get lost in the cornfield.

The nightcap of my split fishing double header involved bass chasing on an old favorite pond with my brother, Brent. Once again, an excerpt from the same report included below.

August 6 (Emstrom’s Pond) – Brent called me up to see about hitting Emstrom’s for a couple hours. Julie and I had no plans so I figured there’s no sense in passing up a second fishing trip. We fished from around 5:30-7:30 pm and caught two bass. They weighed a total of 5-1 and one only weighed 12 ounces. The other was a 4-5 that was actually skinny. Its mouth and head were very large and its length was 22″. Either sick or malnourished, the fish could have weighed considerably more, but I can’t complain. Despite the 82 degree water temperature, the bass was extremely energetic as it cleared the surface when it slammed my buzzbait (silver glimmer) and again during the fight. This bass is now the Top Buzzbait Bass, eclipsing Dad’s 3-15 from Emstrom’s Pond on 9/8/01. Dad’s 2-3 from August 5th lasted as Top Bass of August 2003 for approximately 36 hours. My 4-5 would relinquish Top Bass honors in less than a week. Thanks for the phone call, Brent.

A little tease there on the end of that submission. I’ll cover the details in next week’s flashback, as the summer of 2003 featured some real solid catches. Fun to look back for a glimpse at life before Julie and I started a family. It provides part of the answer to the old question, “What did we ever do before we had kids?” Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – July 1998

Once upon a time, we had access to a place we called “Pat’s Creek.”

The Henderson County, IL fishing hole was the site of many adventures. Among the activities at the location was bankpole fishing which is featured in today’s flashback from July of 1998. Heavy on pictures for this one and a little lighter than normal on words for a change of pace.

A substantial walk through the corn was required as the creek resides at the treeline in the background. Left to right are Dad, Tim Townsend and Brent Jackson.

Dad and Tim baiting up with minnows, also used crawdads, bluegill, green sunfish and corn over the years.

Another bankpole ready for action and these armpit deep ones were always a little exciting to run as you and your catch are pretty much face to face.

Crazy to look back at the depth of the creek as wading into the same holes in later years wouldn’t even get deep enough to make you breathe funny (if you’ve waded a creek you know the water level I’m talking about).

Success and rebaiting for round two.

And it ain’t all fish folks.

The penchant for data kicks in and perhaps I should’ve stayed on the other side of the camera…or at least worn a shirt.

Time to pack it up for another time and was always a treat to let the current push you through some of the deep holes.

A triumphant return from the creek bottom after another old fashioned adventure in an old pair of “creek shoes.”

Don’t get much better than wading the creek, fond memories that never fail to bring a smile.

More creek fishing up next month in another Friday Flashback post. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – June 6, 2003

How many times have I told you that I am glad that I took to documenting outdoor adventures via the modern equivalent of a journal?

At least a couple, and I mean it. How fun is it to look back in time and get another smile, chuckle or head shake out of some details that are long gone from the memory?  Sure the big fish or weird catch sticks with you but it’s all the little details that really make the writing worthwhile.  Throw in the photo album and some video these days and you’ve got a winning combination.

For example, the words and pics for today’s flashback come courtesy of the original report submitted to family and friends back on June 10, 2003.

Pat’s Creek with Dad on 6/6/03

Weather – Despite the weatherman predicting rain, we went fishing, spending around four hours in the creek.  Part of the time it rained, the rest of the time it rained harder.

Tips – Wait to see if anyone is injured before laughing.  I’ve learned this one over the years and was able to chuckle after Dad slid down the bank into the creek.

Hygiene – Always clip your fingernails before creek fishing.  Dad and I were on the same wavelength.  He mentioned it in the middle of the creek and I was on the same page.  We left no room for grit (the subtle things you learn from Dad…)

Boots – Smart enough to check for a matching pair.  Not smart enough to check for holes.  With a knee-high hole in one of my hipboots, I might as well have worn sandals.

Bites – Numerous fish with a handful of hookups, but the rain limits mosquitoes and biting flies.

Monsoons – Rivals Beefy’s Monsoon of 2001.  But, that’s another story…which may be another article…possibly concerning my penchant for “another story”

Species contest – Dad wins again 2 to 1 (5 channel catfish/1 carp versus 1 channel catfish)

Record Book – Dad (Channel Catfish 3-9 and Carp 5-12)

So, have you started your own outdoor or fishing journal yet?  Years down the road, you’ll be glad you did.  Talk to you later.  Troy

Friday Flashback – May 17, 1988

“TJ” with a 1988 bass from “The Ponderosa”

Always fun to reminisce about fishing holes from the past and Ponder’s Pond was a winner. Nicknamed “The Ponderosa” and located north of Knoxville, Illinois, it was a regular stop for a group of fishing buddies back in the late 80’s.

The friend who gained us access and clued us in to the pond’s nickname was generally referred to by a nickname or two himself. “Hack” or “Hacksaw” grew up in Knoxville and had connections with the family who owned the farm pond and the Ponder’s were kind enough to let some college boys test their waters. That buddy’s given name is Matt Reynolds but we still refer to him as “Hack.” In fact, I just did so last weekend when getting to visit for the first time in a few years.

But the nicknames don’t stop there as we also made a few casts at the location with a batch of anglers also known as “Geek”, “Swerve” and “Catfish/Catdaddy.” In real life these guys are actually named Mark Junk, Mick Swanson and Jim Hunter (fitting nickname for that fella, huh?).

Snips from the original 1988 log entry 

And the weapon of choice on today’s featured outing, designated in the log entry above as Zara Spook (frog) was affectionately nicknamed “The Pickle.” Well, “The Pickle” knocked ‘em pretty good on this day with three of the four bass coming in from 17-20.5” and weighing 2-2, 2-13 and 3-12.

The original “The Pickle” or two are long gone but picked up this one for old time’s sake last year

Another aspect of these trips that added to the adventure and enjoyment was the fact that our route to the fishing hole went right by a watering hole. Which, of course, had a nickname. The East End tavern on the outskirts of Knoxville was also referred to as “The Old Double Eagle.”

While partaking of more than a few of the bar’s beverages, typically “The Beast” or some “Beast Light”, we’d usually cross paths with some of the regulars that “Hack” knew, including “Fast Eddie” and “Two Speed.” And when another buddy, John Junk, was along for the adventure one of the bartenders would simply refer to him as “The Big Guy.” Of course, there was also “The Little Guy”, yours truly (aka “TJ”), who still is considerably shorter than John.

Ah yes, the good, old days of fishing, drinking, darts, pool, country music on the jukebox…fun to reminisce. Haven’t picked up a pool cue or dart for many years but still enjoy an old country tune from time to time. And 30 years later, I’d like to think that I’m a better fisherman these days and not ashamed to say, a worse drinker. Just can’t hang like that 21-year old kid. Honestly, don’t even want to try. 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

So You Wanna Fish The Strip Mines? – Part II

The follow-up to a similar themed posting from last week takes a further look at walk-in fishing as one of my public access stomping grounds. This time around I lean a little more heavily on visuals over words.

Below is where you start and out there off the road somewhere is where you fish.

These are another anglers footprints which means you are not off the beaten path far enough.

These are the type of prints I like to see in the undisturbed muck, another fish pursuer known as the great blue heron.

This is my print about six inches deep in the nasty strip pit mud, if you see it, I would say work this water hole over pretty good.

The cattail “path” is not a good option although less worse than the higher ground routes.

As this video demonstrates, there is no good path, everywhere looks about like this.


This is where you return at the IRAP strip mines east of Victoria, IL

Permit required, obtain online if you dare…

Why in the world would you actually want to try this?

Enough said. Talk to you later. Troy

So You Wanna Fish The Strip Mines?

Tackling the public, walk/bike-in strip mines that I have long called my stomping grounds is an undertaking that will get you weighing the pros and cons of such a stunt. Well, I did it again last Saturday and not much has changed.

Nemesis – On a tip, my first stop was a spot where access had been made a bit more angler friendly via some bulldozing. The landscaping had indeed opened up some bank access but had also allowed an old enemy, poison ivy, to take over. Tough call, but the bass beckoned so I made sure to take a leak before entering the area and then tried not to drink too much the rest of the day and kept Nature’s call at bay. Yep, been there before and don’t want to go back again. So far, so good…

Topography – Very little about post-mining terrain left to Mother Nature is conducive to a leisurely walk in the park. I’ve often said that you need to be part mountain goat to scale some of the inclines or find suitable purchase for footing around the banks. In addition, the dense, scrubby vegetation does a really good job of concealing the multitude of ruts and gullies created by erosion on the damaged ground.


A couple eye level shots of the path ahead don’t really do justice to how dumb these stunts are.  But that glimpse of water has produced three bass over three pounds in a couple hours this year, so I dare to be stupid, yet again.

Terrestrial Vegetation – Dense vegetation as high as your head can make for some tough walking. In fact, at one location I had to actually turn around and backtrack as I was physically unable to wade through the tangle, pretty frustrating.

Shoreline Vegetation – On most lakes, the terrestrial vegetation grows right up to the edge of the water making for both tough footing and tough casting. Spinning rod and reel combos are quite beneficial in such spots as getting much of a backcast can be downright impossible. Creative casting techniques can be required and the spinning setup certainly offers more flexibility.

Backlash is what happens when you lose sight of limited area for your backcast in these confined shoreline spaces.

Aquatic Vegetation – Another source of frustration can be lakes that are rimmed with several feet of matted surface weeds which make it tough to work your baits through much open water. Paired with the terrain providing little visual access of your targeted body of water until you stumble upon it, this can provide for a wasted walk should you find your fishing hole too choked with weeds. Of course, there are topwater options to combat this scenario but tough casting, limited hookup percentage and losing bass in the salad are also drawbacks to consider.

Muck – It is nice when low water conditions do allow for a bit of bankside footholds. However, these footholds typically hold your feet with an odd mixture of sticky and foul smelling muck that is saturated strip mine ground. On this trip, there were several instances where I had to maneuver my feet around for a few seconds just to get loose from the sticky grip. I wish I had taken a couple pics but didn’t think of it at the time. The good thing is, that should I return I can probably get a photo of my original footprints or create some new ones. And it is unlikely that I should wonder if they are mine as I saw no other footprints in a pair of off the beaten path locations.

Being a stat guy, this is kinda neat but I try not to monitor it too much until I’m done, don’t really want to know how far I am from the truck.

Mileage – There are more than a few lakes or potholes that lie just off an interior road or adjacent to an area mowed down by site personnel. Those are nice and do have some bass but they just aren’t the ideal spots that I’m looking for when I set off on one of these adventures. Nope, too easy. Instead, I’m in search of areas with no footprints and no trash, a clear sign that nobody else is dumb enough to try it and the bass are dumb enough for even me to fool. Several of those spots on my latest outing helped to rack up over four miles of walking.

Don’t want to forget this injury known as “bass thumb”, a welcome malady for any bass chaser.

Injury – Every time I do this, several body parts come out a little worse for wear. This time around, both knees complained for a couple days when going down stairs (think it’s part of that mountain goat thing). Also jammed my back a little when the ground was a few inches lower than anticipated upon stepping into a concealed rut. The back was also a bit sore from lugging too much tackle but only myself to blame for that one and I can live with that. And it’s pretty much a given that there will be a spill along the way. A lone fall this time around but it was one of those prolonged tumbles that took several seconds as I foolishly fought gravity instead of just going with the flow. Fortunately, no lasting effects and I always laugh after making sure that I’m still in one piece, imaging an observer watching the spill as it progresses. Luckily, no one in their right mind would be anywhere near. Would be interesting though once I get the GoPro back in order. May have to turn off the sound though if I pass along a “highlight” clip to keep things family friendly.

The Reward – By the way, my right hand is gripping weeds and my right knee is planted in a pocket of the slope in order to keep from sliding down the incline to the water and my sticky footprints about ten feet below.

Conclusion – Little has changed with these landscapes, still a challenge and perhaps a little trickier the older I get. But I am pleased to say that one thing that has not changed is my mind as I plan on being back again before they close the gates. The allure of multiple fishing holes, solitude and unpressured bass still trump the challenges and sore body parts. Talk to you later. Troy