Category: Fishing Reports

Thank You Bass #2,000

While my days on the water are likely done for 2017, that doesn’t mean that I can’t tell a few fish stories. What follows are some excerpts from Thanksgiving 2006 and my quest for a milestone. Looking for Bass #2,000 of what I called the “Computer Age.” And here’s the Thanksgiving fish story.

Spoiler Alert – Bass #2,000

“Bass number one of ‘the computer age’ made its way into the database on March 21, 1997 at 5:04 pm. It fell to a blue glimmer spinnerbait on Duck/Deer Lake at Little John and measured eleven inches in length. By November 22, 2006, I had spent over 900 hours chasing bass and stood five fish shy of 2000. Fortunately, me and my girls were headed for Buckheart south of Canton, IL to celebrate Thanksgiving, the weather forecast was favorable and I had permission to fish.

On the morning of November 23rd I spent a fair amount of time wandering around a good-sized strip pit before settling on an area that featured a lengthy stretch of bank containing numerous beaver lodges, probably my favorite piece of structure. After losing a small northern pike on a dew worm hung from a bobber, bass number 1,996 inhaled my jig and pig as I hopped it around some debris on the bottom. I was unable to fool any others on the lake and also was blanked on a smaller pond nearby. While fishing, I crossed paths with my brother-in-law, David Breuer, who was goose hunting and he suggested that I try a spot where we had success earlier this fall.

His advice produced three bass in less than fifteen minutes. All of the fish hit my Rattlin Jig (black/blue) with a #11 pork frog (blue) as I worked a beaver lodge. The second of the three fish joined the record book at a respectable 2-15. Another half hour on the lake failed to produce a bite and I headed for Thanksgiving dinner. I couldn’t help but wonder if fate would be so unkind as to leave me one bass shy of my goal. However, I still held out hope that I could entice one more bite the following day.

Thanksgiving Day 2006 bass at 2-15 on jig & pig (black/blue)

I reached the beaver lodge at 8:12 am on the 24th and quickly retied my jig and pig as I eagerly awaited my first cast. I didn’t have to wait long as only seconds after my jig hit the bottom I felt the familiar tap of a hungry bass. I reared back to hammer the hooks home on number 2,000…and missed. In the seconds that followed I felt the despair of potentially missing my shot, possibly uttered a few uncharacteristic and colorful words and began to reel in my lure for another cast. To my surprise, a bass suddenly appeared out of nowhere and slammed the jig as rode inches below the surface. I’m not sure exactly what happened next but I would have to give the bass credit for hooking itself as I think I kind of went on autopilot before winding up with a firm grip on the lip of number 2,000.

Looking at my watch, I recorded the time at 8:13 am. I proceeded to measure the length of the bass and it was documented at 13 inches. Having met my 12-inch minimum criteria for a weight measurement I reached for my scale despite already knowing the result before making it official. I’ve seen a few bass in my day and can usually give a reasonable, fairly unbiased estimate. In this instance, I was right on the money.

The fish weighed in at 13 ounces.

You see if I had to pick a favorite number, it would be 13, which I would admit to inheriting from Dad. It’s on my license plate ’13Troy’, similar to his “13 Dad”. He sported the number on various athletic jerseys over the years, as did I when it was available. Therefore, it seemed fitting that my quest would end upon landing a 13-inch, 13-ounce bass at 13 minutes after eight o’clock in the morning.

As thankful for this “lucky” bite as much as any bass I’ve ever fooled, dig the beaver lodge in the background, classic piece of bass fishing structure and my favorite

After snapping a couple photos of what would coincidentally be (believe it or not) my 113th 13-inch bass, I decided to work the area for a few more minutes. I managed to get one more bite but busted off on the hookset despite retying after number 2,000. Following a few more half-hearted casts I decided to head back to the guesthouse. I’d spent fifteen minutes on the lake and left satisfied upon having reached my goal. The 2006 season had been good to me and I didn’t care if I had to wait until 2007 to begin the pursuit of my 3,000th bass.”

Happy Thanksgiving to all, let me know if you find any of your own bass during this extended turkey weekend. Talk to you later. Troy

Strip Mine Report 11/4

Been a while since a fishing report and likely going to be a whole lot longer until another new one as this November 4 outing is probably the 2017 finale. But what a year it was and perhaps will have to revisit it with a few recap postings as the 2018 kickoff nears. First things first though, as I set out last Saturday afternoon to meet my annual goal, a November bass before putting away the gear.

Last trip of 2017, over 30 years of rowing, many miles, many bass, many tales with this old companion

Date: November 4, 2017
Locations: Little John Conservation Club (2 lakes)
Time: 2:40pm-5:55pm
Weather: Overcast/breezy
Air Temp: 48-51F
Water Temp: no reading
Totals: 3 bass
1/4 oz. Rattling Jig (black/blue) with #11 pork frog (black) – 1 bass
Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 1 bass
Strike King KVD 2.5 Rattling Squarebill crankbait (sexy shad) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 1-12 KVD 2.5 crankbait
Weight (2 bass at 12” or >): 2-10 (1-12,0-14)

3:52pm First Bass 12″ 0-14 Jig & Pig

Notes & Nonsense

Uplifted – A rainy day, a frustrating week of work, the general weight of getting by and the end of my fishing year in sight kind of had me in a surly mood as I readied my gear for an early afternoon departure. In fact, one my boys, Jayce, was really itching to go but conditions were just not favorable prompting me to comment to Julie that he was more enthused than I was. Not entirely true but just the mindset I was in. But as I cranked the truck and turned on my radio, an old 80s cut had me headed towards a better mood. Thanks, Larry Blackmon and Cameo, as “Word Up” kicked off a better mood as did a string of other tunes, a Top 10 list for another day.

So Close – It took me about 45 minutes to get the bite I was seeking. It came on a jig and pig worked around some overhanging bushes and it sure seemed like I had the monkey off my back as I swung the bass into the boat. However, it came unhitched en route and ended up back in the drink before I ever got a hold of it. Not a lunker by any stretch, maybe a pound, but I was sure disappointed and left wondering if I might have just missed my lone shot at the sought after November catch.

4:30pm Last Bass and Top Bass 15″ 1-12 KVD 2.5 Squarebill crankbait

Second Chance – Fortunately, I only had to cast for about twenty more minutes before another bass took a liking to my jig. Once again, no trophy but didn’t matter a bit to me as I had achieved my goal and the rest of the day would be icing on the cake. Two more bass joined the log over the next forty minutes before the day ended with an hour shutout on a second lake where I normally find some late season lipless crankbait success.

Had to shoot a final 2017 fishing farewell pic in the fading daylight

As I noted in the intro, I suspected that this trip would be the 2017 finale and a combination of responsibilities, work and less than ideal weather on the horizon pretty much seal the deal. But what a year it’s been for me with a personal best Top 5 haul that started off back on March 4 with a 6-2 for my very first bass of the year. Not surprisingly, I never found another to exceed that mark but did fool a couple within shouting distance. No complaints here, never are, as it’s always a treat to get on the water and try and figure them out. Hope to have some more fishing stuff and various other postings throughout the “off season” so stop by to fend off some Cabin Fever. Talk to you later. Troy

Strip Mine Report 10/21

Well, it’s getting to be that time when I start wondering about those last few bites before I put the poles away and call it a year. It’s been a very rewarding year in terms of time on the water as well as the quality and quantity of fish that have taken a liking to my lures. But hey, not quite done yet.

9:42am 14″ 1-8 Red Eye Shad

Date: October 21, 2017
Locations: Little John Conservation Club (3 lakes)
Time: 8:15am-2:05pm
Weather: Partly cloudy to sunny/windy to very windy
Air Temp: 61-77F
Water Temp: no reading
Totals: 19 bass
Booyah Counterstrike spinnerbait (salt & pepper) – 9 bass
Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 6 bass
Strike King KVD 2.5 Rattling Squarebill crankbait (sexy shad) – 4 bass
Top Bass: 2-6 Booyah Spinnerbait
Top 5 Weight: 8-4 (2-6,1-8,1-8,1-7,1-7)

10:39am 14.5″ 1-7 Booyah Spinnerbait

Notes & Nonsense

First Stop – With several bodies of water to choose from, it can present a challenge when deciding where to start on one of these fishing trips. This time around I rolled the dice on a spot that I don’t fish a whole lot, part gut feeling and part wanting to give a couple other potential spots some time to warm a bit. I scratched out three on a spinnerbait around some wood, a favorite fall approach, but nothing of note and it was time for a change of scenery after an hour of casting.

Stop Two – My second stop has been my most productive fishing hole the last several years in terms of quality bass so hopes were high to fool something good. I got my shot as one in about the four-pound range took a swipe at my Red Eye Shad just a few feet from the boat but came up short on the strike. I worked the area over thoroughly two more times with a range of presentations but failed to get a second chance. Eleven bass in just over two hours was fun but Top Bass only tipped the scales at 1-8 and only three met or exceeded the 12” mark.

1:17pm 14.5″ 1-8 Booyah Spinnerbait

1:24pm Top Bass 16.5″ 2-6 Booyah Spinnerbait

1:52pm 14″ 1-7 Red Eye Shad

Final Destination – Having worked over my big bass spot pretty good I decided to take my last shot of the day on a lake where I’d put a hurt on the bass several years prior on a similar day where the wind was howling into a wooded pocket. On this trip, the wind direction was slightly different but I did finally find an area where it had a few bass stacked on a point. Four of my five bass on the lake came from this area along a slight dropoff at the edge of a submerged weedline. Three were on a cool spinnerbait retrieve that crawled the bait over the weed tops and then just kind of killed it at the drop to let it fall slightly where the bass were ready to pounce, including the day’s Top Bass at 2-6. Even with some serious surface chop, the clear water allowed me to see a couple of the bass strike as the bait jumped sideways letting me know I had a fish before I ever felt any pressure.

Had a couple gear casualties on this outing

The Cost – While chucking a buzzbait hoping for a little late season magic my reel handle came flying off. Although I did not hear anything splash, apparently something went into the drink as I found several components scattered about the bottom of the boat but not enough. And somehow or another, I busted the tip off my Berkley Cherrywood rod either in transit to or while unloading at my last stop. Both items are not top of the line as that’s not how I roll but still stinks when equipment gets damaged. The rod was really tough to take as it was an outstanding lipless crank rod at 7’ medium action. Oh well, Christmas is coming into view.

So, a delayed report here from my latest outing and here we are in November. My goal is a November bass to end the year so stay tuned to see how that pans out as weather and responsibilities may make it a challenge. Likely one more shot before it’s all said and done. In the meantime, I do have a backlog of Top 5 submissions coming your way along with another batch of Top 10 tunes. Talk to you later. Troy

Strip Mine Report 10/8

Public strip mine fishing access is fading fast at my stomping grounds in favor of the waterfowl so had to get some casting in before me and my fellow anglers get cast aside.

7:39am First bass 14″ 1-7 Chatterbait

Date: October 8, 2017
Locations: Knox County, IL strip mines (2 public, 1 private lake)
Time: 7:35am-2:20pm (4.25 hours fishing, the rest walking or driving)
Weather: Sunny/breezy
Air Temp: 50-76F
Water Temp: no reading
Totals: 16 bass
Swim Jig with hammertail trailer – 4 bass
Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait (rainbow) – 3 bass
Stanley Vibra Shaft spinnerbait (blue glimmer) – 3 bass
Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 2 bass
Booyah Counterstrike spinnerbait (salt & pepper) – 1 bass
Chatterbait (bluegill) with Zako trailer (smoke) – 1 bass
Rapala Shadow Rap (blue back herring) – 1 bass
Strike King KVD 2.5 Rattling Squarebill crankbait (natural pumpkinseed) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 2-2 Blue Glimmer spinnerbait
Top 5 Weight: 8-2 (2-2,1-12,1-9,1-7,1-4)

A real Smorgasbord with my 16 bass coming on these 8 different baits, lots of one and done, a rather odd performance from the bass

Notes & Nonsense

Good Start – It took only four minutes on my first lake to get on the board with a 1-7 which was followed up twelve minutes later with a solid 2-2. An encouraging start on a lake that had produced three keepers including a 3-8 a month earlier in only 30 minutes of casting. My aim was to invest a little more time and have a closer look so it was cool that my first two bass were quality and the second was bigger than the first. I was hoping that sort of trend would continue but it did not pan out in terms of size although eleven bass in two hours was a darn good success rate.

7:51am Top Bass 16″ 2-2 Blue Glimmer spinnerbait

8:54am 13″ 1-4 Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait

Top 5 – Of those first eleven bass, seven came in at 12” or better and five of those would make up my Top 5 for the day. Sure thought I would be on my way to double digits and beyond with two bass at 3-9 in less than 15 minutes of casting. As it turned out, my first two hours on the water resulted in my Top 5 and I spent the next two hours failing to catch a fish meeting the 12” mark.

Wasted Walk – I fished a spot in September that I hadn’t visited for many years and caught a couple bass while prowling a limited stretch of accessible bank. On this trip I took a second shot at the lake while fishing from my little johnboat and never had a single bite. Very disappointing to say the least as I really had high hopes on this lake as I cannot see it receiving much pressure due to a somewhat remote locale and only a few spots offering decent bank access. Turned out to be a lot of work for nothing, literally.

8:58am 15″ 1-12 Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait

9:22am 14″ 1-9 Swim Jig

Smorgasbord – It was really a kind of strange day as I could never truly get anything going in terms of getting a lure or two dialed in as my sixteen bass came on eight different lures. In fact, my first four bass all came on different baits over the course of 45 minutes on the water. The first on a chatterbait, then nothing further. Switched up to the Blue Glimmer and hooked up right away, then nothing. Same scenario with a KVD Rattling Squarebill followed by a Shadow Rap and then another lull. I then found three on the 1- and was about to relocate when I happened upon a swim jig bite for four more before the lake shut down altogether. The variety was fun but also a little frustrating as I just couldn’t find a consistent and lasting winner.

First Swim Jig bass of 2017, one of my earlier resolutions accomplished

Are you kidding me? The old Blue Glimmer spinnerbait I’d just brought back into the starting lineup bites the dust.

Lure Highs and Lows – I would say that the highpoint of my outing was fooling several on the swim jig. This neglected lure was on the list to throw in 2017 but I had never gotten around to it and really kind of tied it on as a whim to simply try and fool at least one. Wound up with four in about twenty minutes including one of my Top 5. The lowlight would be busting off the top blade on the recently resurrected Blue Glimmer spinnerbait while reeling in a short bass near the end of my day. Crazy, as I had just posted a bit about the return of this bait, opening it from a package I’d had sitting around for better than fifteen years. I’d never busted a blade off in all the years I fished these things but here in 2017, after less than a dozen catches, it was broke.

So, it’s getting to be that time where thoughts of that “last bass” begin to enter my mind. My goal every year is to start with a March bass and end with a November bass. Well, the shot at that latter bookend is only three weeks away. I am not sure what lies in store for the next month or better as much depends on weather and responsibilities but I hope to get in at least a couple more days on the water before I call it quits for 2017. As always, I’ll keep you posted. Talk to you later. Troy

Lake Storey Report 10/2

Did I ever tell you that I like the challenge that is fishing Lake Storey? Well, I do, and this outing was a hit before I ever made a cast. A cool Fall morning, a dark and empty lot, a longer backup to reach the water at the ramp courtesy of the annual drawdown, a lifetime of memories and the anticipation of new ones all meant that I was in my outdoor element.

6:50am Cool sunrise pic of first catch, could use a larger bass and some sort of outdoor catalog model but the truth is what it is.

Date: October 2, 2017
Location: Lake Storey – Knox County, IL
Time: 6:35am-1:50pm
Weather: Partly cloudy/breezy to windy
Air Temp: 64-78F
Water Temp: 68-69F
Totals: 16 bass, 1 crappie
Stanley Vibra Shaft spinnerbait (blue glimmer) – 7 bass
Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait (chrome/blue back or Tennessee shad) – 6 bass
Terminator Spinnerbait (firetiger) – 2 bass
Booyah Buzz Buzzbait (black) – 1 bass
Top 5 Weight: 6-2 (1-11,1-3,1-2,1-1,1-1)

7:13am 12.5″ 1-1 Buzzbait

8:29am 13″ 1-1 “Blue Glimmer” spinnerbait (more on this bait below)

Notes & Nonsense

Lake of Luxury – Prior to this trip and a mid-September outing with my brother, Brent, at “the lake”, I had spent nearly my entire fishing year chasing the bass via Northerner boots or oars. It would be interesting to know how many miles I’ve racked up walking or rowing in my pursuit and maybe I don’t really want to know. But for Lake Storey outings I’m rocking it bass pro style, foot controlled trolling motor, depthfinder and pedestal seat in Dad’s 30-year old Bass Tracker. Still getting the job done and truly wouldn’t trade it for one of those fancy rigs that my fishing mags seem to automatically open to reveal each month and carry a price tag exceeding my annual salary. Nope, for my style and destinations I’m good feeding the kids and stuff like that instead.

What we call “The Big Boat” (pic circa 1987) 

Lucky Break – A Terminator spinnerbait in the firetiger pattern was in my starting lineup and landed two of my first three bass. As I lifted the second one into the boat a metallic sort of flash caught my eye but I didn’t give it much thought as I focused on getting a grip on a short but feisty fish. However, once I gripped a lip it became apparent that the flash was the top blade of the tandem spinnerbait busting loose and landing in the drink. Unfortunate, perhaps, but forced my hand on an idea I had in the works and a lure I had in the tacklebag.

9:32am Top Bass 15″ 1-11 Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait

9:46am 13″ 1-2 Blue Glimmer spinnerbait

Old School – The substitute bait for the busted member of my starting lineup was a lure that I simply refer to as “The Blue Glimmer.” Me and this model of spinnerbait, technically named a 3/8 oz. Stanley “Rainbow” Glitter Vibra Shaft Spinnerbait, go back well over 20 years. But even this creature of habit strays from favorite baits as the years pass and others enter the fray. Indeed, the last bass caught on one of these spinnerbaits came back on 11/1/2008, from good old Lake Storey. I could write a book on the adventures with this bait, but I won’t today, perhaps some other time when revisiting what I call my “Legendary Lures.” Part of the fun of the day’s success with the Blue Glimmer also resides in the fact that it is no longer in production and I’ve had two of these stashed unopen in my tackle, just for a day like this one I guess.

Legendary Lure “The Blue Glimmer”

Healthy Bass – Although I failed to catch anything particularly large, I was again impressed with the look of the Lake Storey bass. All were in great shape, solid balance in body plan between length and girth, just an appealing bunch. Even a few that bore the marks of some rough days in a lake shared with other, larger top of the line predators (muskie and walleye) seemed no worse for wear and obviously still showed an interest in putting the hurt on my lures. With all of those predators, I suspect that Lake Storey can be one nasty neighborhood. Kudos to those who have managed the resource through the years and thanks for the annual drawdown to get things moving as there’s nowhere to hide.

10:49am 13″ 1-3 Blue Glimmer spinnerbait

No trophies and no toothy beasts this time around but had a blast hitting spots that are old friends. Even call them by name when recalling fish stories with my dad and my brother: Chilly Willy Point, Cannon Hill, Freak’s Point, The Dump, Most Fished Tree…

Can I catch more bass elsewhere? Sure.

Can I catch bigger bass elsewhere? Probably.

If I had a do over for this day, would I change my destination? Absolutely not.

Lake Storey may not be some folks’ cup of tea but for me it’s more about comfort, challenge and home than what ends up in the log and blog. Talk to you later. Troy

Lost Grove Lake Report 9/30

In an effort to get a fishing fix, I like to do the weekend pre-dawn lake arrival at Lost Grove Lake. Only about a 25 minute drive from home it sets up nicely for a few hours on the water while the kids hopefully sleep in a bit and give Julie a little peace. Not so much this time around as she texted me on my drive to inform that our youngest, Zac, was already up and rearing to go. Best laid plans foiled but too late to turn back.

Date: September 30, 2017
Location: Lost Grove Lake – Scott County, IA
Time: 6:25am-9:25am
Weather: Sunny/breezy to windy
Air Temp: 45-58F
Water Temp: no reading
Totals: 9 bass
Strike King KVD 2.5 Rattling Squarebill crankbait (sexy shad) – 4 bass
Booyah Buzz Buzzbait (bleeding shad) – 3 bass
Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait (crystal grey ghost) – 2 bass
Top 5 Weight: 2-14 (1-15,0-15)

Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait (crystal grey ghost) lead off with the first bass of the day (see below)

6:43am Short fish but shutout averted and definite room for improvement

Notes & Nonsense

Bad Aim – My first bass came on the Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait and was on the small side so I swung it into the boat, sat my pole aside and began my regular routine of unhooking, measuring and releasing. As I turned to place the fish back into the lake, I spied the last eye of my pole sticking above the surface of the water. Apparently, I missed the boat when sitting my pole aside and dropped it overboard instead. Fortunately, the area was very shallow and time will tell if there are any lasting effects in the waterlogged reel. One positive side note was that the water was much warmer than the 45 degree air temperature so it was actually kind of pleasant holding a warm handle and reel with my rather numb fingers.

7:30am Top Bass 16″ 1-15 Strike King KVD 2.5 Rattling Squarebill crankbait (sexy shad), my second largest at the site, trailing a 2-3

First Cast Bass – One item in a Bass Pro Shops order received a few days prior was a Strike King KVD 2.5 Rattling Squarebill crankbait in the sexy shad color. On this day I substituted it for the natural pumpkinseed pattern that normally resides in my starting lineup for Lost Grove. About 30 minutes into the trip, I reached an area where the squarebill has been effective so it was time for the sexy shad debut. My first cast with the lure was a bit errant and a little closer to some shallow weeds than I’d intended prompting me to say aloud, “Dang, too close.” Luckily, it did not hang in the weeds and about three cranks of the reel handle later my Top Bass of the trip proved me wrong. Always cool when a lure change produces immediate positive results; makes for a good fish story and makes you feel like you know what you’re doing (even with a less than pinpoint cast).

7:52am the other “keeper” 13″ 0-15 Strike King KVD 2.5 Rattling Squarebill crankbait (sexy shad)

Continued Success – The initial success of the sexy shad squarebill was not it’s only highlight of the day. I also employed it while working over the dropoff adjacent to an appealing piece of shallow structure. From a topo map I have, I was aware of some manmade structure placed in the general area but running without a depthfinder can make for some trial and error in locating such fish attractors. Back to back casts in the suspected area each produced a bass and a third one came onboard about five minutes later. Not sure if I found the structures or not and really kind of hope I didn’t as this would be a bonus spot instead. Perhaps at a later date I can determine the answer if/when I get another portable depthfinder (last one fell in a puddle in the bottom of the boat and was ruined last year).

Topwater bite still hanging in there with Booyah Buzz Buzzbait with new bleeding shad pattern skirt

Buzzbait Bite – As the weather cools, my buzzbait bite will inevitably fade to the point where I will put it away in favor of other presentations. But not quite ready to call it a year on the buzzer quite yet as it was still going strong with three more bass to round out my day. Nothing big but there’s always that potential and that’s what will keep me casting these baits for as long as the bass will provide some positive feedback.

Another solid day for me on Lost Grove and will say that it has been a fun second year of exploring the spot. I have learned a fair amount about the area along with landing some better quality fish who seem to be growing up on the young lake in good fashion. Time will tell if I get back out there again this year as the days are getting shorter thus eliminating the post workday window. In addition, the available days to get on the water are also diminishing and as a result I may take the shots I have remaining on bodies of water with better “trophy” potential.

Lake Storey report to come and hopefully some other fishing stuff as time permits. Talk to you later. Troy

Lost Grove Lake Report 9/23

A decent, abbreviated morning on the water across The River in terms of quantity and I also managed to discover a bit about the quality of the fishing hole along the way, kinda the hard way.

Date: September 23, 2017
Location: Lost Grove Lake, IA
Time: 6:40am-10:10am
Weather: Sunny/calm to breezy
Air Temp: 70-81F
Water Temp: no reading
Totals: 13 bass
Booyah Buzz Buzzbait (pearl white chartreuse shad) – 6 bass
5” Senko wacky rig (pumpkin black flake) – 3 bass
Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 3 bass
Strike King KVD 2.5 Rattling Squarebill crankbait (natural pumpkinseed) – 1 bass
Top 5 Weight: 4-10 (1-3,1-2,0-13,0-12,0-12)

8:03am 13″ 1-2 Buzzbait

Notes & Nonsense

Rough Start – Getting a jump on official sunrise (6:50am), I was on the water at 6:40am, not a soul in sight and re-tying my lures all set to hit a spot where I’d heard a large surface explosion several minutes prior while dragging my boat to the launch. In fact, it was the exact area where I’d landed my personal lake record of 2-3 back on June 20. As I re-tied my buzzbait in preparation for its lead-off role in the lineup, a fellow pulls up in the lot, hops out of his truck and launches his first cast directly at “my spot” about 25’ from where I’m sitting. Seconds later the surface erupts and he begins hollering that he’s got a good one, which I already know, because I nearly got splashed by the spray (okay maybe a bit of an exaggeration). So, there goes my shot at the fish that I’d heard earlier, had in my sights and was mere seconds and cast away from possibly fooling.

Gut Reaction – This guy’s bass briefly hangs in some moss, then dislodges and as he drags it in towards his perch on the bank he continues to provide further details stating that it’s a five-pounder. I assure him that I can see it is a good one, adding “Yeah, you beat me to it” then instantly thinking that my comment wasn’t really necessary but just kind of involuntary. So, I mentally take a step back, remember that I do not own the lake and that I too know the limitations encountered as a bank angler; time to shift gears and appreciate a fellow angler’s success.

Do the Right Thing – I offer to help from the water as the fellow isn’t certain about getting the bass up the bank on what he describes as “light line.” However, he’s got it under control and gets the bass in hand but does request an assist with some pliers. I’ve got him covered and ask that he meet me a few yards away at the boat launch. As he arrives, he is very excited and can’t stop talking about his good fortune as I hand him my needle nose pliers to extract what I now see is a topwater popper. Not only am I impressed with the bass but I’m also starting to get caught up in the guy’s excitement over this “five-pounder.” As such, I offer to take a picture for him as a fish of this caliber deserves a better shot than a selfie with its angler. He obliges and I snap a pair of shots with his phone. And while I also have a scale on board, I elect to keep it in my tacklebox rather than offer it up for an accurate weight. Having seen more than a few bass over the last 35 years or so, I knew that it would not tip the scale at the five pound mark as seen through his eyes. Not my fish, and not my fish story. Even so, I kind of hope he’s telling it as a six-pounder by now.  Kudos to the fellow too for releasing the catch.

8:22am Top Bass 13″ 1-3 Buzzbait

I also caught a few bass, the Top 5 of which combined may have only barely exceeded the weight of the “one that got caught by somebody else.” I suppose I’ll spare you many more words and simply let the accompanying pics of my catch suffice for my contribution to another enjoyable and interesting day on the water.

You know, an old fishing standard states that you should “learn something new” each outing. No doubt that I did just that this time around. I gained some insight on the fishing hole, was able to view the pursuit through the eyes of a fellow angler and even discovered something about myself in the process. Oh yeah, I also need to stick with my regular routine of re-tying my lures the night before, won’t make that mistake again. Talk to you later. Troy

Lake Storey Report 9/17

The Fall drawdown on my lifelong “home” lake and fishing with my brother, Brent, meant it was gonna be a good day whether the fish were biting or not. And after a bit of a slow start, they sure were.

Date: September 17, 2017
Location: Lake Storey
Time: 6:45am-1:30pm
Weather: Overcast to sunny/breezy
Air Temp: 72-76F
Water Temp: 75-76F
Totals: 27 bass, 1 muskie (Troy – 18 bass, 1 muskie Brent – 9 bass)
Lures (Troy)
Mann’s Baby 1- Crankbait (Tennessee Shad) – 15 bass, 1 muskie
Booyah Buzz Buzzbait (chartreuse shad) – 2 bass
Terminator Spinnerbait (firetiger) – 1 bass
Lures (Brent)
Mann’s Baby 1- (red/yellow) – 5 bass
Spinnerbait (white or brown/orange) – 4 bass
Top 5 Weight (combined): 8-3 (2-9,1-11,1-6,1-5,1-4)

10:02am 12.5″ 1-4 Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait

Notes & Nonsense

Slow Start, Strong Finish
6:45am-9:19am = 4 bass
9:20am-10:55am = 13 bass, 1 muskie
10:56am-11:56am = 2 bass (back to back casts)
11:57am-1:30pm = 8 bass

10:11am 14″ 1-6 Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait

The Spots – Several reliable spots proved tough over the course of the day with only 4 bass coming on about eight targets ranging from specific pieces of structure to lengthy stretches of bank. However, one other stretch that can waver in terms of consistency turned out to be the big winner. A couple scattered bites got our attention followed up by a lure change after a lull and we were onto the bite we were after. We worked the area over thoroughly and the reward was 13 bass and a muskie in an hour and a half, all of them on the Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait.

9:47am Muskie “accident” 29″ Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait

Close Quarters – Just prior to the Baby 1- bass flurry I landed a muskie that hit the same lure right next to the boat. It suddenly appeared in the stained water as I was ending my retrieve with maybe ten feet of line beyond my rod tip. As quick as the strike occurred it is still interesting how things kind of happen in slow motion for that split second. In this case, I was able to recognize what was going down, set the hook, get my thumb in gear to put my baitcaster in free spool while also maintaining enough pressure to avoid a backlash and let the fish run long enough to give me some more room to have some control. A solid job on the net from Brent and we had a bonus species in the boat. At 29”, not a trophy by any stretch, but always cool and really kind of lucky as if it were much bigger it may have jerked the rod right out of my hand or likely broke me off on the strike.

11:21am 17″ 2-9 Emiquon Special spinnerbait (note the back injury on this fish)

11:23am 14″ 1-11 Emiquon Special spinnerbait

Emiquon Special – Brent’s legendary spinnerbait (another story) added yet another tale to its exploits. Originally casting a white spinnerbait, Brent got snagged on some brush and I employed my lure retriever to rescue the lure. I told him I was not responsible for any abrasions on his line after the save and unbeknownst to me he elected to retie but switched to the legend. Next thing I know, he’s reeling in our Top Bass (2-9) from a log on the very first cast. We were still laughing at the good fortune when his second cast with the bait produced our Top 5 runner-up at 1-11 from the same spot. While he would only land one more bass on the lure the rest of the day, the back to back bass made for a story that will certainly be told each time we cast to that log in the future.

Winning Lures – Emiquon Special and Mann’s Baby 1- 

Prediction vs. Results – During a visit the previous day with my brother-in-law, I mentioned the upcoming Lake Storey outing noting that a six or eight bass day would be a reasonable outcome as those bass can be a bit hard to fool at times. Our haul of 27 definitely shattered that prediction but every once in a while you get it right. The mid-morning flurry certainly beefed up our totals but the back to back bass and three others in four minutes off of a solid piece of structure were also quite rewarding.

12:15pm 13″ 1-5 Emiquon Special spinnerbait

Nothing trophy size given up by our old friend this time around but wouldn’t change a thing about our visit. Plain and simple, the bass here aren’t real easy to fool. Even after close to 35 years on the chase, I still get a charge out of fooling any of them regardless of size. For my money, there is more of a sense of accomplishment when landing these fish than anywhere else I make my casts. Talk to you later. Troy

Johnson Sauk Trail Report 9/11

I took a recent Monday off work after the previous week wound up lengthier than normal due to being on the road for four days to Lincoln, NE and Wichita, KS. With Julie working and the kids in school I essentially had no responsibilities from about 8:00am when the last kids boarded the bus until around 3:00pm when they got back home. Guess what I did.

Date: September 11, 2017
Location: Johnson Sauk Trail Lake, Henry Co. IL
Time: 10:15am-1:15pm
Weather: Sunny/breezy
Air Temp: 64-74F
Water Temp: no reading
Totals: 5 bass
Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 3 bass
Booyah Counterstrike Spinnerbait (salt & pepper) – 2 bass
Weight (only two bass at 12” or better): 2-1 (1-2,0-15)

11:06am Short bass but on the board after 50 minutes of searching

Notes & Nonsense

Dilemma – Public and private, I have a fair amount of fishing holes to choose from so sometimes it gets to be a challenge when deciding where to go on a day off with roughly seven hours to escape, travel and fish, combined.  I’d hit the Knox County strip pits pretty hard and gave my Iowa stomping ground a go a few days prior so I was up for a change of scenery to do some research.  The family had visited Johnson-Sauk Trail State Recreation Area earlier this summer and the lake looked inviting so I figured that this day was my opportunity to give it a shot. Funny thing is, while driving down the interstate I completely missed my exit as autopilot had me headed back to Knox County.  Only cost me maybe 10 minutes and good for a laugh.

Impression – I had not been on the water at this lake since 2002 as my first impression was not favorable. When fishing with my brother, Brent, that year we found it to be so weed-choked that it was essentially unfishable. On this return visit, I still found one half of the lake to be rather difficult to fish due to being extensively shallow and weedy with virtually no shoreline cover having deep water access in close proximity. Venturing to the other half of the lake I was able to find a steeper contour containing some visible structure that resulted in four of my five bass.

11:09am Top Bass 13.5″ 1-2 Red Eye Shad

12:50pm Only other “keeper” 12″ 0-15 Red Eye Shad

“Accident” Potential – Although I was targeting bass as usual, I did have visions of crossing paths with a muskie as the 58-acre lake does have some history when it comes to large specimens of these toothy fish. The camp store on site has a mount of a 48-inch muskie along with a couple photos or recent and released mid 30”+ fish. And then there’s a fish sampled by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources back around 2002 that weighed in at just under 43 pounds, easily topping the 38-8 state record. Nothing of the sort for me on this day but the “what if” factor is always a bonus.

Assessment – I was a bit frustrated with a slow start and the shallow, weedy conditions coupled with a late morning launch had me wondering if I made the right choice. However, two bites in three minutes and finding some water to my liking turned things around. I did have a contour map which provided some clues but rowing around in an eight foot johnboat without a depthfinder on an unfamiliar lake can be a challenge. But that’s how I roll, so no complaints, just takes some work.

Five bass between 10 and 13.5 inches in three hours was not quite the smashing success I was looking for but a reasonable day on the water for this amateur angler.

Will I be back?

Tough call, as I’ve got a lot of other fishing holes that I know a lot better. Still, always fun to see and learn some new water and at 58-acres this one isn’t very overwhelming. Perhaps as a joint trip with another fishing hole in the vicinity, we’ll see. Talk to you later. Troy

Flashback – A Tale of Two Muskies

Five years ago today on the water produced the following fish story, selfishly one of my favorites. As such I can’t resist going back in time today with a revisit of the original blog posting from 2012.

It was the worst of times; it was the best of times.

First things first before any lit teachers, scholars or aficionados elect to point out any perceived potential incongruity between my title and tease. I do indeed know that my title borrows from Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities) while my tease reworks some Tolstoy (War and Peace). I just thought that they were both well suited for what’s headed your way today. And while I know enough to be dangerous about each book, I will fully admit that I have read neither novel, nor do I have any desire to read them in the future. Okay, enough education/trivia/nonsense, on to my own classic tale, a literal, not figurative, fish story.

The One That Got Away – If you happened to catch my Lake Storey Report entry last Thursday, you are aware that I lost the biggest muskie me and my brother, Brent, had ever battled. Right around lunchtime the fish hit a Strike King KVD Rattling Squarebill crankbait about three cranks into a retrieve in maybe three feet of water. The first thing my brain processed was that I’d snagged a big old carp until the fish surfaced and more than got our attention. I fought the biggest muskie we’d ever seen for several minutes with Brent having to duck my line and me walking from front to back to front to middle of the boat as the beast made line striping runs and one spectacular water clearing leap while giving my six foot rod spooled with twelve pound monofilament all it could handle. Following the leap the fish was actually headed away from us with the line wrapped around its body and coming out from beneath a thrashing tail. Somehow it rolled or turned and everything got back to some semblance of normal and the still excitable fish came boatside. I mistakenly advised my net man to hold off on attempting a dip as the fish certainly exceeded the normal size of catch for our tool. Bad, bad move on my part as a subsequent headshake must have been just enough to cut the line and our fish was gone. I was pretty bummed but occasionally able to still cling to the hope that something good was still to come.

Moral Victory – I tried not to beat myself up too bad but told Brent that it was difficult to quell the sick feeling that kept cropping up in my stomach for the next couple hours (the scenario still plays out in my mind). I was proud though upon asking him if I swore after losing the fish and he said he didn’t think so; I didn’t think so either but it was all kind of a blur. I’m not really a profanity fan but would certainly excuse a spate of colorful language from a fellow (or even a lady) under the circumstances and would not pass judgment. I was also proud that I kept my composure in light of the fact that we had an audience of five within earshot including a little guy who had come down near water’s edge from a nearby walking path with his parents. And not that there’s anything wrong with tears, but I also didn’t cry; wanted to, but toughed it out.


Karma –At one point I pondered aloud to Brent about karma and what the fishing gods might have in store for the rest of our day. As we kept moving and casting, I offered that I would take a six pound bass to soothe the punch in the gut of the lost fish. Brent responded, “That’s right, you’ve never caught a six pounder” in recalling that my personal best jumps from a 5-15 runner up to a 7-3 Top Bass. I also reminded him that he’d only barely joined the six pound club (in a good way) with his Top Bass of 6-15.

Ah yes, the old fish stories, a little good natured ribbing and the next cast all help to facilitate the healing process. I was far from over it, but could feel tinges of the way that time does its thing. Sure there’s a whole list of things in my life that are a lot more important than some feisty, powerful, toothy, four foot fish but it sure would’ve made a sweet picture before it was released to maybe get fooled again someday (when it grew up a little bit).

Now, I don’t know what I deserve or what I don’t, if anything at all. But I play by the rules, respect the hobby and the quarry and relish the time on the water when flying solo or joining forces with fishing partners young and not so young. It’s hard not to sound overly dramatic but I’ve been around for forty five years and that fish literally represented the fish of a lifetime. I’m pretty sure that more than a few fellow anglers can relate; a tough pill to swallow that could really ruin your day, you’ve got to just keep casting and that’s what we did.

Second Chance – Not more than a couple casts after lamenting to Brent that the big old muskie sure would’ve made a nice blog picture, my Booyah Counterstrike spinnerbait stopped dead in a spot featuring a small stump and a couple fallen trees in about four foot of water. I hollered to Brent, “Got a second chance!” while also adding, “If he gets anywhere near the boat take a shot and if we get him, we get it, if we don’t, we don’t.” Well, the muskie wasn’t listening initially as he made a run under the boat prompting me to dunk my rod in the water to keep the line from hitting the underside. I could actually hear the fish splashing on the surface on the opposite side of the boat, behind me, but didn’t dare look as I was concentrating on the rod, waiting for the fish to move and hoping it was towards my end of the boat and deep enough to stay out of the trolling motor. The muskie cooperated on both accounts, came within reach and Brent did an excellent job of putting him in the net. I’m far from Mr. Excitement but let out an involuntary, excited and relieved, “Yes!!!” and did some kind of double fist pump that would have perhaps even impressed some of today’s exceedingly celebratory athletes. As Brent shot a few quick photos prior to the release I commented that I hoped they worked out alright as I was shaking. Looks like me, the photographer and the fish all did just fine with the latter leaving my release, swimming back into the stained water and fading from sight.

Date: September 16, 2012
Location: Lake Storey (no further specifics on either fish, sorry)
Time: 2:31pm
Lure: Booyah Counterstrike spinnerbait (snow white)
Length: 43” (originally thought 44.5” until reviewing photos, hey I was excited)
Weight: 19 pounds 8 ounces
Perhaps my most important detail: Released (voluntarily, unlike his counterpart)

Well, there you have it, maybe a bit longwinded but nowhere near the Dickens novel or Tolstoy tome referenced above. Try as we may, “the one that got away” is a recurring fishing staple for those of us who have invested our time and effort in pursuing this wonderful hobby. I’m sure we’ve all been there; you get over it, move on, find another one that doesn’t “get away”, life gets better and the old fish story is retold with a little less heartbreak as time and tales go by. I’m a very pleased to have the photos and memories of a new personal best muskie yet can’t help but wonder…For in true “one that got away” fashion, Brent mentioned, “I think the other one was bigger.” Of course, I think so too.”

As dedicated anglers know, a full day of fishing may only be punctuated by a few scattered batches of catching (and nearly catching). But within those few minutes can lie a tale to last a lifetime. Talk to you later. Troy