Category: Flashbacks

Friday Flashback – May 22, 2005

Today’s flashback covers a fishing trip with Dad to Lake Bracken exactly 15 years ago today. According to the original fishing report, our outing was quite successful (see original log entry and original report below).

May 22, 2005 – Following our success on 5/21, Dad and I decided to hit Lake Bracken again this morning even though I had to work second shift later in the day. We were on the water at 5:40 am and fished until 10:40 am as I had plans for a nap that never actually materialized. Our focus was on bass fishing and the largemouth did not disappoint. We combined for 39 bass including a pair that eclipsed the Top Bass for the year. My 2-5 on a plastic worm held the title for about an hour and a half. Dad then bested my fish by a pound as he nailed a 3-5 to reclaim the title. A great finish to a successful weekend of fishing that saw us catch 72 bass in our 12 hours of bass fishing. We each found our own secret weapons to catch bass and post records today but we’re remaining tight-lipped for the time being.

Dad with a couple quality bass caught on his “Secret Weapon” (read on for reveal)

All of these years later, here is the rest of the story regarding those “secret weapons.” Dad was wielding a tube, a lure that had its heyday back in the late 90s but never caught on in our family. On this outing, however, Dad used the tube to fool his three best fish totaling just shy of six and a half pounds. You see, Dad is a bit more willing to change it up than his oldest boy who gets a little stubborn and set in his ways.

Dad with our Top Bass of the outing at 3-5 on a tube

After a tough start on this outing though, I cast the stubborn streak aside in favor of trying something new. That something new was a highly regarded presentation generally known as the Senko wacky rig. These days I simply refer to the setup as a “Senko” although many other manufacturers besides Gary Yamamoto make such baits and they can be fished in many ways beyond wacky. My first ever Senko bass came fifteen years ago today at 7:38am off of a drop on the southeast edge of Snake Island and weighed 2-5, my Top Bass of the day. Currently, the log shows that I am sitting at 962 Senko bass and counting. Perhaps I’ll have a celebratory post honoring Senko Bass #1,000 which I suspect will show up in the next month or two.

A historic bass, my first ever Senko catch at 2-5

Another Senko Friday Flashback tale coming your way next month but plenty more stuff in the meantime. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – May 25, 2000

I don’t know about you but when I fish an area frequently I begin to come up my own names for spots on the body of water. Such was indeed the case for Knox County, Illinois’ Lake Bracken. I first fished it with some Little League teammates around 1978 or 1979, enjoyed our family’s membership through the 80s and then owned a house with the lake as my backyard from 1994-2003.

5/25/2000 Lake Bracken 17.5″ 2-9 Mann’s Baby 1- Crankbait from Shed Cove

Many memories and many fish including those in today’s flashback which takes me back to a time with far less responsibilities. Not only had we not started a family yet but I didn’t even have a job in May 2000. The latter aspect was about to change but I still had a few days to goof around.

And part of that goofing around was fishing.

5/25/2000 Mark Junk 5-11 Carp on a doughball at The Spillway

From the log entry above, it looks like I made a day out of it. I spent the afternoon bass fishing on the lake and then headed to The Spillway to chase some carp for the evening with my buddy, Mark “Geek” Junk. And then it was back up to the lake to try our hand at some catfishing at The Clubhouse. Results appeared to be decent with Geek’s nice carp and one fair sized bass for my contribution.

5/25/2000 Mark Junk 13-15 Carp at The Spillway on a doughball

But the real reward is being able to look back at the pics and the log entry and reminisce. There’s no place quite like The Spillway and The Clubhouse was no longer a “clubhouse” as the building had burnt down many years prior. And all of these years later, I could still take you right to Patterson’s Cove, Idlewild, Sandy Bank and Shabena Cove. Bet I could even find a bass or two along the way. Talk to you later. Troy

Guest Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It really is all about perspective. Amen, AVM!

Happy Mother’s Day everyone.

Friday Flashback – May 3, 2000

Twenty years ago I was without a job and essentially without a care. My employer of the previous ten years, National Seal Company, had left town in January 2000 and left me with a reasonable severance package that paid me until June. A single, thirty something guy with a longtime girlfriend (now my wife) could get by for a while.

A keepsake from that old job (1990-2000) that I keep in my tacklebox 

But as the need to find a new job began to become a bit more pressing, so did the need to get on the water while I had ample free time. Today’s flashback outing was about as long distance as I get with roughly an hour drive from my hometown of Galesburg, IL to Fulton/Peoria County’s Banner Marsh. I made this trip with my then brother-in-law, Tim Townsend, and my Dad’s Bass Tracker in tow.

I’d never fished the area before and horsepower restrictions relegated us to a trolling motor only approach. I recall it being a struggle to find some bass in the pair of lakes we chose, one of which required a substantial troll (and much of our battery) to reach a wide open expanse of humps and flooded timber.

Original log entry from the May 3, 2000 outing

And it was in a spot with such a mix of cover that I boated the larger of the only two bass I fooled on the day. But hey, if you are only going to catch two bass it sure is nice when one is a four-pounder (one ounce shy is close enough, right). Kind of fun too, that I caught both of my bass on the Blue Glimmer spinnerbait. Twenty years later, almost to the day (5/4/2020), I had a banner day on an area strip mine with the very same lure (Top 5 Update and fishing report to come next week).

Another shot of my first ever Banner Marsh bass

And also twenty years later, the spot is in the midst of statewide closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic despite it being rather remote and spread out. I know one Top 5 angler who is particularly missing his stomping grounds. Hang in there, Jim, as at least we’ve got some other fishing holes for a fix.

In fact, I have several fishing reports to come from some of those waters along with a batch of Top 5 bass on Monday so stay tuned. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback-April 27 to May 5, 1985

Looking back 35 years ago for this week’s flashback, it appears that I may have missed my calling. From the looks of my old fishing log, I should have been a fishing guide. After all, during the nine days spanning April 27, 1985 through May 5, 1985, I spent parts of seven days on the water and fished with ten different “clients.”

April 27, 1985

April 28, 1985

April 29, 1985

These “clients” included my dad and each of my three siblings (two brothers and a sister). I guess Mom must have been busy that week.

In addition to family, friends rounded out the rest of the ten fishing partners. The log only identifies the co-anglers by first name but I think they all deserve a shout out. From the Galesburg High School Class of 1985 were Doug Dawson, John Junk, Craig James, Jason Radakovich and Joe Dennis. And the GHS Class of 1987 was represented by Mark Junk.

Quite a crew, several of whom were frequent fishers out at Knox County’s Lake Bracken during the latter half of my high school senior year and on through that summer. All told, the old green notebook that served as my first fishing log covers sixty-four fishing trips spanning January 19, 1985 through August 25, 1985.

April 30, 1985

May 3, 1985

May 4, 1985

May 5, 1985

I suspect we’ll explore more of the contents of that green notebook as 2020 progresses. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – April 25, 2010

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat.

I am not what one would call a master morel hunter. In fact, I would have to classify myself as a mediocre morel mushroom man, at best. There have only been two occasions where I have stumbled upon what I would consider a motherlode of mushrooms. The first occurred on the wild south side of Lake Bracken back in the 1990s, right where one would expect to find some, near some dying elm trees. Never could duplicate the feat upon repeated visits over the following years despite adhering to the standard morel harvesting guidelines. Those being pinching not pulling and toting a mesh bag.

The second big haul occurred in a much stranger setting on the wild south side of Galesburg in a vacant lot next to our house at the time. That 2009 highlight will have to be a story for another day. Similar to the first motherlode, I was never able to repeat as only three showed up the next year likely due to someone regularly mowing the vacant lot (not me).

Anyway, for today’s flashback, a portion of the original report from April 29, 2010 went like this:

“On April 25, I found seven at Little John. Now when I say seven, I mean seven individual mushrooms, not seven pounds like the reports from some of the more talented hunters. Two hours of walking resulted in four singles and a batch of three in another spot (along with two ticks). Such is my typical lack of success but I was not alone as two other fellows I encountered that afternoon reported similar single digit finds.”

You know what’s cool though? My kids had no clue that my mushroom per hour ratio was pretty humbling. In fact, they actually thought I was some kind of morel hero. Fungus finder or fungus failure, it’s good to be a dad. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – April 14 & 22, 1995

If you fish or run around in the great outdoors enough, you will certainly log a few of those “believe it or not” tales.

And this is one of them from a place called “Sewage Lake.”

No, that’s not the “believe it or not” part. That’s actually one of my made up names from 30 years ago that still kind of tickles me all of these years later. You see, it lies below a village water treatment reservoir so I found it both apt and amusing.

Dateline: April 14, 1995
Weight: 2-13
Lure: Spinnerbait (white)
Comments: So, this is my brother, Brent, posing with his catch from an appealing windblown point on the west side of Sewage Lake. One side of the point dropped rapidly into the main lake basin while the other side transitioned into a shallow flat. Somewhere out there on the point of this point was the sweet spot where this bass took a liking to his spinnerbait.

Dateline: April 22, 1995
Weight: 2-13
Lure: Jig & Pig (black/blue)
Comments: So, this is Brent’s brother, Troy, posing with his catch from an appealing windblown point…where this bass took a liking to his jig and pig.

Okay, beyond the date and the lure, everything was the same on these two days when we fished this spot together.

And when I say “everything”, I’ve long wondered if this could actually have been the same bass. After all, the same weight and caught from the same lake on the same spot eight days apart. Makes for a good fish story and flipping through the photo album it is tough to tell.

Same weight, same spot, same bass, or not?

Further photo analysis through magnifying the photos on the computer, however, seems to point to the contention that these could be the same bass as more fish story than fact. As highlighted below, the tail fin on Brent’s bass has been damaged while the tail fin on my bass looks to be intact. Technology seems to dispel the potential “believe it or not” of these catches. Of course, that same technology also has the capability of enhancing a fish story through something known as photoshop.

But that’s not how Troy Jackson Outdoors rolls. Instead, we’ll leave it as this pair of bass being brothers, just like the anglers who caught them. That makes for a good fish story too. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – April 6, 2010


This week marks ten years of being a “public” blogger and it all started with the introductory post below on a now defunct website called Prairie State Outdoors. The ten years also included a stint at Heartland Outdoors before kicking off my own thing in May 2017.

Originally Posted 4-6-10 as “The First Step”

My name is Troy and I have a writing problem.

In fact, my selection of a name for this blog, “Meandering”, is partially meant to poke fun at my customary writing style since I sometimes find myself “wandering aimlessly or casually without destination.” In addition, a “meander” can be defined as “a winding path or course” as well as “a turn or winding of a stream;” been there and done that too. My wife actually went as far as suggesting the name, “To Make a Short Story Long” (she thinks she’s funny like that).

But it’s tough to dispute her point as originally I had composed a series of six introductory postings that totaled nearly nine printed pages and approached 5,000 words. However, upon consulting my free blog advisor (yes, my wife), it was decided that such an approach was perhaps a bit much. Therefore, I will tone things down, spread things out and take my time. Here is the abridged version of the six original postings to get things started.

Who? Generally me, my family, my friends, some fish, some fur, some fungus

What? Fishing, trapping, camping, mushrooming and occasional strange inspiration

When? Somewhere between frequently and sparsely as time allows

Where? Mostly our neck of the woods

How? Rather cheap, often behind the times and not too seriously

Why? Good question, stay tuned

Okay, well, it was nice to meet everyone, thank you for your time and please check back for the remaining 4,700 words because sooner or later they gotta come out.

And just a few more than 4,700 words later, here we are and still going strong. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – April 8, 1995

I certainly enjoy putting together these flashback posts but the ones that include a fishing partner mean a little something extra. A lot more going on upstairs than just a fish story when I get to composing a post like today’s edition.

While these photos go back 25 years, me and that guy go back even farther. That guy is a fellow known to many as “Geek” and our friendship dates back to the early 80s. I’ve got a couple years on him but was fortunate to share the court with him back in 1984-85 as a Galesburg Silver Streak. Geek (actually, Mark Junk) would go on to be one of the leading GHS scorers by the time he graduated in 1987 and then would take his game to the next level at Knox College. Yep, among the top scorers of all-time there, too, as well as being enshrined in the school’s athletic hall of fame.

Geek’s older, shorter, former teammate gets in on the act

On the other hand, the combo of a lack of height, talent and desire found me perched in the top row of the bleachers at Knox College’s Memorial Gym recording the stats of Geek and his teammates. Yep, I was known as “Stat Boy” among a few in the b-ball circle. Part term of endearment and part poking fun, never was quite sure on the breakdown percentage wise. Regardless, I earned some beer money, had a great view and the focus on the game required while documenting the numbers further reinforced an appreciation for my friend’s talent.

Jan. 13. 1990 – Official box score Knox vs. Monmouth rivalry 

Closer look at the “good guys” who came up short on this night (stat sheets courtesy of “Stat Boy”)

Anyhow, many stories over the college years and beyond, some of which we vividly remember and others that are a little foggy. Among those that fit into both categories were trips to the Lake Bracken Spillway, home to a batch of carp (and other species) that sometimes cooperated and sometimes had lockjaw. You know, fishing. But hey, if the fish weren’t in the mood to bite, we always had an ample supply of refreshments and rambles to keep us happy.

Note: important to stay hydrated in the rugged spillway environment. Oh yeah, nice catfish. too. Celtic cap, on the other hand…

Fortunately, on this particular April day, twenty five years ago, the bites and The Beast* were top notch (*Milwaukee’s Best Light). Here’s to good (?) beer, great fishing and best friends. Geek, if you’re out there reading this, knock a couple down for me.

Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback (Belated)-Mar. 28,2010

March 31, 2010 – First bass of the year

No matter whether it is a “good one” (2 pounds or heavier is my criteria) or one slightly (or significantly) smaller, I always look forward to meeting that first bass of the year. Being an open water guy who prowls West Central Illinois, the chance to chase that first bass usually rolls around in March. In fact, that has become my goal going back many years. Start my year with a March bass.

Today’s flashback looks back ten years to a handful of smaller than “good ones” that I tracked down at a couple remote Snakeden Hollow potholes. The log entries below refer to Upper and Lower Twin Lakes, my unofficial designations. I believe they may actually have real names and I originally called them by other names, but those are tales for some other day.

These spots required a substantial hike and beginning the next year I kicked off my March bass quest at a couple Snakeden fishing holes a bit closer to a parking lot. Yep, stories for another day.

Far from trophies but these bass represented “Mission Accomplished” for the start of another year on the water. And just under the wire too, as I barely made it to open water before March 2010 drew to a close. As March 2020 draws to a close in a few hours, I am thankful that I was able to meet the same goal ten years after landing today’s featured fish.

Ten Years After – First bass 2020

With a grand total of 1 bass for 2020, I now bid March farewell. As always, I wonder just what April and the rest of the year holds in store. Even more so in these unusual times. Talk to you later. Troy