Category: Fishing Reports

Lake Fork, TX Report – December 3

This week’s work duties found me making a round trip drive with stops in north central Arkansas and south central Texas. Such an itinerary gave me the opportunity to take a drive by a legendary northeast Texas fishing hole named Lake Fork. I packed a few poles and some tackle just in case I could swing a pit stop on my way home. After a final half day of work and a five hour drive, I made it to the lake with about 45 minutes of daylight remaining. Texas weather wasn’t as nice as I’d hoped but there I was on the bank of a spot that I’d dreamed about for over thirty years.

 

Stats

Date: December 3, 2020
Location: Lake Fork – northwest of Quitman, Texas
Time: 4:53pm-5:18pm
Weather: Overcast/windy
Air Temp: 45F
Water Temp: felt warmer than the air
Totals: 1 bass
Lures: Chatterbait (bluegill) with Zako trailer (green pumpkinseed with white) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 2-7

5:18pm – Mission accomplished as daylight faded

Notes and Nonsense

Search for a Spot – After a five hour drive from Seguin, Texas it was time to find an area with decent bank access. In such cases, I always look to start with the dam (rocky bank with proximity to deep water). However, I could not find any dam access roads and only a pay ramp area with shallow water and rather barren bank access. A gas station stop for some dam advice proved fruitless so it was back to Google where I spied a causeway crossing an arm of the lake. All in all, I wasted the better part of an hour of daylight just trying to find somewhere to cast.

Technology makes it cool to see exactly where I found my Lake Fork bass

Riprap Really Rocks – The causeway that I selected happened to have parking for a public launch ramp and bank access to the water beneath the causeway. Plenty of large rock, known as riprap, lined several stretches of bank, just the kind of spot I look for when chasing bass from the bank on a new lake. Typically, these riprap stretches have a batch of rock that extends out into the lakebed and provides several appealing factors. For starters, the breakline/transition between rock and lake bottom provides a classic “edge” where bass like to hang out. In addition, there are countless nooks and crannies in those underwater rocks that hold forage such as baitfish and crawdads. In terms of presentation, these areas are custom made for a parallel retrieve from the bank. This keeps your lure in the strike zone for the entire cast and also allows you to bump the structure along the way. Finally, from a financial standpoint as a frugal fisherman, I can often get a hung lure freed by walking to the bait to give it some slack or a pull from the opposite direction.

A look back at the stretch of structure that this bass called home

Plan B – After 15 minutes of casting along the causeway riprap without a bite, I headed to the ramp area for crunch time as daylight faded. I tried a spinnerbait on riprap stretches on each side and along the ramp but found no bites. As a result, I decided to switch to a chatterbait and work the ramp area again with the new presentation. A few casts later, I had a solid strike jar me out of my mindset that things were not going to work out for a Texas bass. Very cool and some important fishing lessons reinforced by the catch. If you think you have some good water but aren’t finding a bite, a change in lure, retrieve speed or angle can be the key to fooling a fish. And while this outing was very limited in terms of time, it is well worth hitting a good looking spot a couple times in order to cross paths with an interested bass.

$37 Bass – A non-resident one day permit in Texas comes in at $16 and there is also a $5 transaction fee. I opted for a pair of one day passes but things did not work out on the previous day as I ran into access issues and fading daylight but that’s another story. At any rate, that Lake Fork bass wound up with a price tag of $37. I suppose if I was to calculate the hourly cost of fishing it would be $74/hour as I only cast for about 30 minutes on my two days’ worth of permits.

Seen a lot of pics and vids of Lake Fork over the last 30 years, fun to join the club

All good in the end as I was actually there for work after all, the fishing was just icing on the cake. I’ll tell you what though, it sure made my day. The combination of six days away from my family, a thousand miles from home, hotel beds, restaurant food, too much beef jerky and M&Ms and poor radio reception for most of the journey just wore me out. Therefore, it was good to find something to recharge my batteries. Fishing on a renowned bass lake that I never dreamt I would see and taking a picture with one of its inhabitants was a winner. Still smiling as I type. Talk to you later. Troy

Election Day Strip Mine Report Nov. 3

11:43am – November bass, mission accomplished

Well, Election Day 2020 has certainly earned a unique spot in the history books. But no one can dispute the fishing results here on the blog although there has been a bit of a delay in reporting.

Stats
Date: November 3, 2020
Location: Knox County, IL private strip mines (3 lakes)
Time: 11:25am-4:35pm (3.5 hours fishing)
Weather: Sunny/windy
Air Temp: 64-70F
Water Temp: not available
Totals: 2 bass
Lures: Chatterbait (bluegill) with Zako trailer (smoke) – 1 bass, Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 2-2 (Chatterbait)
Top Weight (only two at 12” or better): 3-1 (2-2,0-15)

3:06pm – Top Bass at 16″ and 2-2 on a chatterbait

Notes and Nonsense

Poll to Pole – Up at 6:00am, Julie and I completed our civic duty and were back home from the polling location before 7:30am. I had taken a vacation day so as not to have any time restriction on casting my vote. Granted, I could have voted early but I am old school and do my duty in person, pandemic or no. And I was glad that I did. We live in a diverse area and it was rewarding to stand outside in the crisp morning air with several dozen other community members of varying races and ages looking to put their candidates into The White House. And, since I had the rest of the day off, I packed up my gear and headed to the fishing hole.

Winning Lures

Dead Heat – Too close to call on the Top Lure for the trip. The Red Eye Shad came through with the sought after first catch, a November bass to meet my annual goal. The chatterbait later produced the Top Bass for the day. One bass apiece on the lures and equally important on a tough day.

Had a couple social media comments on the dark coloration of the Top Bass with one actually referring to it as a “nice smallie.” Indeed, a largemouth but the the color did elicit a comment from me in the clip below (second catch in the video).

 

Trip Tune – I caught a few tunes on the way down but must admit that I was dialed in to talk radio on the way back home that evening. All manner of evaluations and projections came over the airwaves and like most of the last four years I put little stock in anything I heard no matter the slant. And when I got home it only got weirder. I guess if I had to assign a lyric, I would draw from John Lennon. Nope, not Imagine or Instant Karma or Mind Games.

“Everybody’s talking and no one says a word…Strange days indeed, most peculiar, Mama.” – Nobody Told Me (1984)

Likely another year in the books from the Knox County, IL strip mines

The pleasant weather has hung around but chores and responsibilities have kept me off the water, which is fine. I was able to do a lot of casting in 2020 and got my bookend March and November bass to meet my annual goals. As such, these may be my final bass of the year. However, still plenty of blog posts to come including another quality Top 5 Update from one of our anglers coming tomorrow.

Talk to you later. Troy

More Lake Storey Stuff

I try not to get too carried away in my fishing reports in order to keep the length of the posts fairly readable. Sometimes I succeed but most times they are still probably too long for current attention spans. Such was my dilemma with the latest Lake Storey trip so I figured it was best to split it up. Part II to follow after an important correction in the interest of literary accuracy.

Correction – I strive to get my facts straight in my posts but sometimes my useless knowledge gets a bit cloudy. Therefore, I would like to point out that my reference in a social media post direct from Lake Storey stating “Ever read that Winnie the Pooh ‘Blustery Day’ book?” was an error. There is indeed no “Blustery Day” book as it was actually “a 1968 animated featurette based on the third, fifth, ninth, and tenth chapters of Winnie-the-Pooh and the second, eighth, and ninth chapters from The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne” per Wikipedia. Admittedly, never much of a Pooh fan anyway so not entirely disappointed in my misstatement but felt that it was important to clarify after some post trip research proved me wrong.

Additional Notes and Nonsense

Lucky Hat – I’ve had some hat trouble this year causing a late season scramble for another lucky fishing lid. While the whole hat fiasco is a concept for a future post, this time I left the floppy hat on the bench. The wind was just too much for the model I’d recently brought out of retirement and the lack of a chinstrap was also a concern. Instead, I went with the baseball cap of my favorite squad hoping it would bring me some luck. As it turned out, me and some decent bass were on the same page. In contrast, the guys who get paid to wear the Cubs cap are sure missing something regarding that factor called “chemistry.” Something just isn’t right on the North Side and it goes deeper than the strange, abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Bought this one recently with a Lake Storey plan

“I love it when a plan comes together” – Col. John “Hannibal” Smith

Woke – In the initial report, I mentioned picking up a new Strike King Wake Bait for several specific Lake Storey areas. The lure above was a winner with a couple bass on a couple of those precise spots.

Devoured – My Top Bass of the trip left no doubt that it was intent on a meal as my crankbait wobbled past. The pictures above show that the lure was completely engulfed to the point of not being visible in profile. This was a cause for concern in extracting the bait but fortunately the trebles were not embedded in anything vital. In fact, there was no bleeding and the bass looked to be in good shape as it swam back into the depths (see clip below).

Lakeside Chat – I had texted my friend and fellow Lake Storey angler, John Kirkemo, shortly after I got on the water and he mentioned that he may stop by later for a visit. John dropped in mid-afternoon and we had good chat on a stretch of dry exposed lakebed. We text or email fairly frequently so it was good to have an in person (socially distant) chat. Turns out the timing was kind of cool too as I managed to hook my Top Bass after our visit while John was still within sight. He even shot a few pics of my fish from his vantage point which I have included in a post catch slideshow below.

 

Time will tell if this is the final first hand fishing report for 2020. I do have a couple more vacation days that I have to use and I aim for catching at least one November bass so we’ll see. Got some other stuff to keep the blog rolling though so hope you’ll continue to stop in for a look. Talk to you later. Troy

Lake Storey Report – October 12

As my fishing year winds down, I always try to get in a shot or two at Lake Storey during the fall drawdown. Kind of one of those “tradition” or “for old time’s sake” deals. My brother, Brent, and I had a tough day in September before the drawdown hit full swing so I was eager to get another shot. In this case, I was flying solo on a pretty nasty morning with the lake dropped as far as I have ever seen (made the ramp a little sketchy).

Stats

Date: October 12, 2020
Location: Lake Storey – Knox County, IL
Time: 9:35am-3:35pm
Weather: Overcast to sunny/very windy with a light early rain
Air Temp: 55-67F
Water Temp: 64-65F
Totals: 8 bass
Lures: Strike King KVD 2.5 Rattling Squarebill Crankbait (natural pumpkinseed) – 3 bass, Strike King Wake Bait (natural shad) – 2 bass, Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 1 bass, Chatterbait (bluegill) with Zako trailer (green pumpkinseed with white) – 1 bass, Jig and Craw (green pumpkin) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 3-9 (KVD Squarebill)
Top 5 Weight: 9-0 (3-9,2-3,1-4,1-0,1-0)

 

Notes and Nonsense

Shiver to Sweat – I left the Quad Cities around 8:30am where the temperature was 67F. When I launched the boat just north of Galesburg, roughly 45 miles from home, it was 55F. Not only was it cool but there were gale force winds and I later got rained on for maybe 10 minutes. While the wind got worse, the temperature did climb to the upper 60s by the time I was loading the boat to head for home. In the span of six hours, I had went from some achy, cold knuckles to ditching my sweatshirt after trailering the boat. Fall fishing at its finest, comes with the territory. And worth the occasional struggles.

10:17am – Newly purchased wake bait comes through as planned

Waking ‘Em Up – Several days prior to this outing I had made a trip over the river to Iowa to pick up some new wheels for my johnboat transporting dolly. While in the neighborhood, I dropped into the Field & Stream location in Davenport for some late season tackle stocking. A Strike King Wake Bait caught my eye as I had several perfect spots at Lake Storey for such a presentation. I had my sights set on three extensive, shallow stretches that feature scattered patches of rocky debris. Two out of three came through with a bass, nice when they make you feel smart every once in a while.

Stuck – The wind was terrible and, of course, blew directly against me when headed back to the ramp. I run a bow mounted, foot controlled trolling motor for working over my spots and hop to the rear trolling motor for runs between spots. As I began to head back I fell prey to the wind and the limited turn radius of the rear motor, winding up blowing onto a flat with both motors stuck in the mud. It took several minutes to dislodge the motors and truly had me worried. I was at the point of deciding whether to keep my shoes on or take them off figuring that I may have to go overboard. Fortunately, continued work with the emergency oar got me floating again and I was once again fighting the direct wind and whitecaps from near 30 mph gusts. All told, I probably wasted 40 minutes of fishing time before I found an area that allowed for casting and boat control.

2:40pm – Top Bass at 19″ and 3-9 on a crankbait

Reward – After nearly five hours of fighting the wind and maintaining my balance, I got back within sight of the ramp and found a bit of a windbreak. Half a dozen bass in the log with a 2-3 Top Bass was already a pretty solid Lake Storey day for me, particularly with the less than desirable conditions. However, the best was yet to come, courtesy of a healthy 3-9 on a Strike King Squarebill crankbait. I added one final bass along the home stretch at 1-4 which gave me a rewarding finish and filled out my Top 5 among the eight bass day.

Headed home from a the old “home” lake after a productive and tiring day

I left the lake happy and tired following yet another fall drawdown visit with an old favorite fishing hole. The Lake Storey challenge may not be everyone’s cup of tea as other area fishing holes may offer the shot at more and bigger bass. But I wouldn’t trade my traditional fall finale for a trip to any exotic destination. For my money, there’s no place like “home.” Talk to you later. Troy

Snakeden Hollow Report – October 11

In celebration of “Snakeden at 30” I wanted one last shot at the walk-in portion as a sort of 2020 grand finale for the site. Well, I got my shot but the bass were not in a partying sort of mood.

Stats
Date: October 11, 2020
Location: Snakeden Hollow (2 lakes), Little John (1 lake)
Time: 8:05am-1:40pm (4.25 hours fishing)
Weather: Sunny/breezy
Air Temp: 60-77F
Water Temp: not available
Totals: 6 bass
Lures: Chatterbait (bluegill) with Zako trailer (smoke or green pumpkin/white) – 6 bass
Top Bass: 1-3 (Chatterbait)
Top 5 Weight (only two at or 12” or >): 2-5

10:29am – Top Bass at 13.5″ and 1-3

Notes and Nonsense

Confusion – I was looking to get in a final shot at the Snakeden bass before the annual shutdown to anglers went into effect. Typically, the shutdown date is two weeks prior to the Central Illinois Goose Season opener (October 24) which would mean an October 10 closure. However, a social media post from an angler who had visited Snakeden during the first week of October indicated the site was already closed on October 8. I was fishing nearby on October 8 so did a drive by and all indications showed the site to still be open. A pair of fellow anglers then noted that they were onsite on October 10 and there were no signs of a shutdown. Finally, I called the site office to find a recording stating that the site would close to anglers on October 13. So, I went with that and no one showed up to run me off. As of this post though, I do believe the site is closed until sometime in January 2021. But don’t quote me on it.

Winning bait on the day as the chatterbait landed all of my bass

Quick Release – As if it wasn’t rough enough that I could only get half a dozen bass in the log, I lost just as many as they threw the lure on the way to the boat. While I do come up short when it comes to hook sharpening, I’m not really sure that was the issue. Instead, the bite was real funny, not very aggressive, just heavy or something odd with the action of the bait. In addition, nearly every bass seemed to be coming at me on the strike. As a result, my hooksets may have not produced full impact and there was a momentary period of catch up in reeling while the bass were moving full speed ahead towards the boat. Overall, just a weird feel as me and the bass were not in synch.

10:51am – Top Bass Runner-up at 13.5″ and 1-2

The Plan – I had three, possibly four lakes in mind for my visit. Lake one was a disappointment with zero bites in 90 minutes of fishing. My second stop lifted my spirits a bit with six bass in the next 90 minutes. After a decent walk back to the truck I headed for Lake three only to find a couple other anglers had beaten me to it. In addition, I was feeling a little beat from the energy exertion required and being out of shape again. As a result, I took the easy way out with a drive to some private water where I could back the truck right up to the water. A decision which earned me zero bass in an hour as a two-pounder tossed my chatterbait during a leap. Just was not my day despite some pretty spectacular fall weather.

Trip Lyric:
“I ain’t as good as I once was,
My how the years have flown,
But there was a time,
Back in my prime…”
As Good As I Once Was, Toby Keith (2005)
Well, when the Snakeden Hollow site opened back in 1990, I was 23 years old. Some days that is more apparent than others. There are a couple more lines that sum up my decision to keep plugging away at this type of stunt as Keith sings:
“Now my body says ‘Oh, You can’t do this boy’,
But my pride says ‘Oh yes you can.’”
The off season has a way of recharging that spirit so we’ll see if “I’m feeling bulletproof” in 2021.

 

Fortunately, I did not have to wait long to get another shot at some bass with a Lake Storey trip lined up for the following morning. Although the weather was less than appealing, the bass thing worked out considerably better. But that’s another story. Stay tuned and talk to you later. Troy

Strip Mine Report – October 8

With three fishing trips in five days, it’s hard to keep up with the fishing reports here on the blog. Today, we have Part II of the fishing report from last week’s outing with Dad/Papa and my boy, Jayce. While Part I focused largely on the peripherals, Part II resembles more of my standard report.

2:47pm – Top Bass (yes, I used this pic in a previous post but it’s a darn good shot)

Stats
Date: October 8, 2020
Location: Knox County, IL strip mines (2 lakes)
Time: 3:30pm-6:45pm (3 hours fishing)
Weather: Partly cloudy to sunny/breezy
Air Temp: 70F
Water Temp: not available
Totals: 8 bass (everybody got at least one)
Lures: Senko wacky rig (various) – 8 bass
Top Bass: 1-3 (Senko)
Weight (all bass): 4-10

3:18pm – Top Bass Runner-Up

Notes and Nonsense

Guesstimation – I’ve touched on this contest before, most recently on a Lake McMaster outing with my brother, Brent. For this trip, Papa read my mind and had each of us make a guess regarding our success as we drove to the fishing hole. The pic below is the official document and reading from top to bottom each angler predicted our total number of bass, a species count, a Top Bass weight and Total Weight for all of our bass combined. For this outing we opted to weigh every bass instead of only recording the Top 5 meeting the 12” minimum length criteria.

The official “Guess Sheet”

5:10pm – we weighed them all and this one registered at five ounces

And The Winner Is – I guess that I would have to go with Papa for the victory as his weight prediction was only a mere ounce from our actual total. The rest of our estimates really didn’t pan out as our two fishing holes proved to be a bit finicky. I did toss around a Gulp minnow on a jighead hung from a bobber but found no takers among the panfish. Top Bass also fell well shy of our hopes which was also unfortunate as it is extra cool to get a nice fish with a young angler onboard.

I enjoy that Jayce enjoys handling the release duties on everyone’s catches

I guess you’d call this a handheld livewell as Jayce gives a catch a delayed release

The Extras – I’m not sure on the ratio, but me and Papa made substantially more casts than our young angler. On the flipside though, we spent a lot less time dunking the dipnet, examining/releasing our catches and collecting aquatic vegetation. It’s all part of the “make your own adventure” aspect of a fishing trip or an outdoor outing in general. You just can’t beat it when your boy says, “This is fun” during a fishing trip at a point when he hasn’t even made a cast for probably fifteen minutes. And even better as he honestly wasn’t missing much in terms of catching.

Found this unintended casualty of random dipnetting after we got the boat back in the garage

A most excellent adventure with quality time for three generations on what Jayce described as “the longest fishing trip I’ve ever been on.” Indeed, at roughly three hours on the water, I believe we set a new record (and that does not include the roughly two and a half hour combined truck time). Later that evening, I was further rewarded as I overheard Jayce telling his sisters about the day on the water. Mission accomplished. Talk to you later. Troy

Much More Than Fishing

At some point, most folks come to realize that a fishing trip ain’t just about the catch. I’ve always enjoyed the peripherals of outdoor adventures over the years whether fishing or trapping. Things like observing nature, shooting the breeze on the ride, razzing each other over breakfast, stopping for a treat on the way home and so on. Of course, as I have put a few more years behind me and added a wife and family to the equation, the outdoor perspective has continued to evolve. Earlier this week, the stars were aligned allowing for me, my son Jayce and Papa to get outdoors for some quality time. Here are some tunes, tales and treats with a handful of bass for icing on the cake.

I like my tunes on the ride and Jayce is developing a pretty solid appreciation and recognition of my 70s and 80s musical stomping grounds. Our mission during the commute time was to select the favorite jam that we heard while surfing the FM dial.

Top Tunes
Jayce – “Smooth Criminal”, Michael Jackson (1988)
Dad – “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, Alice Cooper (1973)
Papa – no selection as we were too busy telling stories for the radio

I call this “Pass the bass” but, of course, it’s a lot more than that

Old Tales
Having fished together for so many years, me and Dad naturally have quite a collection of stories. Throw in a couple lifetimes in Knox County and, well, Jayce got an earful.

Muskie Mania
So, Jayce mentioned wanting to muskie fish…
Me: “One time me and Papa fished Lake Storey and I fished for muskie while he fished for bass.”
Papa: “Tell Jayce how that turned out.”
Me: “I caught nothing, never even saw a muskie while Papa caught 25 bass.”
Papa: “Best Lake Storey bass fishing day ever.”

Missing Metropolis
Me: “There used to be a town here. It was called Appleton.”

Coonhunting
Papa (east of Appleton): “Me and my dad used to coon hunt over there, drove that lane back into the timber.”
Papa: (east of Victoria): “Used to coonhunt over that way with a guy named ‘Stew’, think he had a relative who lived there.”

Old Fish Story
Me: “Papa caught a good one right here one time.”
Papa: “That’s the one that swam under the boat and jumped out of the water behind us.”

Older Fish Stories
Papa: “I saw Uncle Frank hook a northern here at Little John a long time ago.
Me: “I saw Uncle Brent catch one in the 80s, last one I’ve seen out here.”

One of the new tales related below

New Tales
Of course, new stories arise from every trip and we certainly managed a few on our outing. I can imagine Jayce telling his siblings on our next visit to Little John and who knows, maybe one day relating the adventures to his kids, nephews or nieces.
Each tale could begin something like this:
“One time, me, Dad and Papa were out here fishing…”
AND
“We caught a praying mantis out of the water in a dipnet.”
“I first learned how to drive a foot controlled trolling motor.”
“I got a bass stuck in the dipnet, he was hanging by his lip and Papa had to get him out.”
“I got to ride in the boat or stand in the back of the truck as we drove through Little John.”
“Every time I went to grab the gate key from Papa he would drop it before I could grab it.”
“If you look real hard you can see a Senko worm up there about twenty feet high in that tree.”

Oh yeah, we also caught some bass but I’ll save that for Part II of the report.

In closing, I would also like to thank our “Sponsors” on this trip.
HyVee Gas, Mountain Dew, Little Debbie, Oreos, Taco Bell, Culver’s, Yamamoto Lures and Bass Tracker (circa 1987) – sure would be nice if they actually gave us free stuff.

Almost home and too big to carry into the house these days.

Talk to you later. Troy

Strip Mine Report – September 28

Some of my public strip mine fishing holes have a limited window of opportunity. In this case, access ended on September 28 so I invested a vacation day for the 2020 farewell visit. I was hoping for a good parting shot but I had concerns that a significant cold front might have the bass in a less than cooperative mood. Read on for the outcome.

Stats
Date: September 28, 2020
Location: Knox County, IL public strip mines (6 lakes)
Time: 10:35am-4:55pm (4.75 hours fishing)
Weather: Partly cloudy to overcast/breezy to windy/brief rain
Air Temp: 54-57F
Water Temp: not available
Totals: 43 bass
Lures: Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 25 bass, War Eagle Spinnerbait (Never Fail) – 8 bass, Chatterbait (bluegill) with Zako trailer (smoke) – 7 bass, Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait (parakeet) – 3 bass
Top 5 Weight: 8-5 (2-12,1-7,1-7,1-6,1-5)

Winning Lures

Notes and Nonsense

Cold Front/Crunch Time – As noted in the intro, this was the final day for fishing on the site and I always like to get one last chance at the bass. Of course, you can’t control the weather and I highly prize my vacation days so it was do or die regardless of the prevailing weather conditions. The area offers plenty of smallish bodies of water that make for a fun approach of spot hopping. If they aren’t biting in one spot it ain’t far to new water for another try.

10:36am – First cast, first bass

First Cast Bass – It sure didn’t take long to get some feedback from the bass as my first two casts resulted in catches. I was certainly pleased but admittedly a bit surprised although the narrow cut I chose for my initial casts has the “like shooting fish in a barrel” potential. It features a trough where the bass pretty much have to stack up as the remainder of the lake is quite shallow. I call the spot “Beamon Lake” in honor of the longtime world record long jumper, Bob Beamon. In low water years, the spot is so narrow that he could probably clear it in a leap.

50 Bass Day? – After two bass on my first two casts, my outlook on the day improved considerably almost to the point of getting a little cocky. While only two casts into my day, I was pretty certain that I had lucked into my goal of finding my fall feeding frenzy bite. Two bass in two minutes and roughly six more hours to roam had me shooting for a 50 bass day. Although I ultimately fell short of that number, no complaints. I definitely could have lingered on a couple spots that were cranking out some 10-12” fish but opted for a shot at some larger bass and eventually found a few.

My ancient floppy hat nearly met an untimely demise

Close Call – Near the end of my day, I ditched my hat on a particularly long stretch of walking between fishing holes as I started to work up a sweat. Instead of on my head, I put my hat in my hand along with my collection of half a dozen rods and reels. After a few casts at my destination, I figured that I’d better put my hat back on as I’m a little lacking on hair up top. However, my old floppy hat was not among my rods and backpack in the shoreline weeds. Nope, it was somewhere in the waist high grass over the last quarter mile or so of hiked ground. Fortunately, after only a few minutes of backtracking I found my lucky lid. I was quite grateful as not only did it save me some sunburnt scalp but it will also allow me to give the old cap a more fitting farewell someday.

2:38pm – Top Bass (tie) at 16″ and 2-1 on a chatterbait with a tip of the cap to some serious wind

Top Bass – The top three fish on the day came from my next to last stop on the hike. Historically, this spot has been my best producer of quality bass. I call it “2×4 Lake” in honor of a pair of four pounders caught back in 2013 on my first ever visit to the lake. The following spring I fooled another four-pounder from the spot but elected to stick with my original name as what sense does “3×4 Lake” make?

 

The epitome of a grand finale as the gates closed on this batch of fishing holes. It takes some work putting in four miles of hiking but I truly enjoy this type of fishing as much as any other approach. This makes eight years of exploring and I still learn something new every time out. The ups and downs, surprises and disappointments, small bites and big bites always keep me looking forward to the next chance to visit. Only 179 days until the April 2, 2021 opening day. Got it marked on my calendar but plenty of other fishing holes out there in the meantime. Talk to you later. Troy

Lake McMaster Report – September 26

As part of the “Snakeden at 30” celebration I had it in mind to get back on “The Big Lake”, Lake McMaster, for the first time since 2013. While it is less tiring and more comfortable to launch and fish from the “big boat”, I still prefer prowling the walk-in interior fishing holes thus the long stretch without a visit. So, here’s how it went down as Brent and I ditched the boots and bikes, borrowed Dad’s Bass Tracker and got it done.

11:58am – First bass, no shutout, hoping they get bigger

Stats

Date: September 26, 2020
Location: Lake McMaster (Snakeden Hollow) – Knox County, IL
Time: 11:35am-6:35pm
Weather: Partly cloudy/very windy
Air Temp: 68-77F
Water Temp: 69-71F
Totals: 14 bass
Lures: Yamamoto Senko wacky rig (smoke) – 10 bass, Mann’s Baby 1- Crankbait (Parakeet) – 2 bass, KVD Strike King Rattling Squarebill Crankbait (sexy shad) – 1 bass, Strike King Pro Model Series 5 Crankbait (sexy shad) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 1-12 Senko
Top 5 Weight: 5-14 (1-12,1-4,1-0,1-0,0-14)

Notes and Nonsense (song title version)

The Weight (The Band, 1968) – I thought it would be fun to bring back an old feature that we used to enjoy on some fishing trips. The guess the final weight game came with the added visual of writing it down on paper. I will admit that I borrowed the latter aspect from Bassmaster as it plays well for social media and a blog. The concept is to see who is closest with their prediction for the weight of our combined Top 5 bass (both of us contribute to the one final weight total). Brent was the winner although we fell a pound short of his guess. I ended up guessing a bit higher than my original thought as the sunny day in an earlier forecast had changed to overcast/partly cloudy. However, it also changed to very…

Windy (The Association, 1967) – While some surface chop on clear water can serve to make the bass a little less spooky, the winds on this trip were way overboard. I have no idea what the gusts were and overall it was a sustained wind the entire time. Even as we left at dark, the wind was still howling. The only breaks on the day were a short stretch of timbered bank on the southwest shore and part of the dam on the main body of the lake. Beyond that sixty minutes or so of casting, we took a beating. Truthfully, it would have been a better day for bank fishing and hiking but we were on a mission.

Did I mention it was windy?

Only the top color and hook combination was a winner

It’s In the Way That You Use It (Eric Clapton, 1986) – No matter when, where or how I fished my Senko wacky rig, the bass showed no interest. The above picture shows each of my efforts as I changed from weighted to weightless and ran through a batch of colors, all without a bite. I even fished a similar color to Brent’s and wound up outfished 10-0 on the Senko. Now, I’m used to getting outfished by him and frequently it involves a spinnerbait. But a Senko shutout on Lake McMaster still has me scratching my head. My best guess is that I needed to slow down more and let the Senko sink as fishing too fast is one of my bad habits. Or maybe as Dad would say, “You weren’t holding your mouth right.”

Fly Like an Eagle (Steve Miller Band, 1976) – this one took off before a close-up

Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper, 1984) – We weren’t sure about our boat lights so the plan was to be back at the ramp at sunset which was 6:47pm or so. A glance at the ramp showed one trailer besides ours left in the lot and as we rounded a nearby point we spotted a boat at the dock. Perfect timing as the other anglers were taking out, right? Nope, it was a pair of night anglers just launching and seconds later a second truck and trailer pulled into the on deck circle. So we opted to troll over to the overflow on the dam so I could snap a few pics for the blog. And believe it or not, a third truck and trailer pulled up to get in line to launch. No big deal, no hurry to get home but I swear it rarely fails that the ramp suddenly becomes a popular place whenever we show up to launch or load.

 

A bit of a struggle versus conditions and bass but mission accomplished and fun to visit an old fishing hole. While the lake is still quite clear, it has gotten noticeably murkier over the last 30 years. While quality bites were in short supply, I’m sure there are still plenty of good fish that call McMaster home. While I was soundly outfished, it is always good to share a trip with my brother and he’s a darn good angler, no shame in being taught a lesson. Time will tell if we are able to get in another tag team effort on the bass before the poles are put away. Another solo trip is in the books, however, so stay tuned for the fishing report from a productive strip mine hike. Talk to you later. Troy