Category: Flashbacks

Friday Flashback – October 18, 2014

Original log entry from a successful day on the water

Here’s a fish story from a pretty amazing Central Illinois fishing hole that I was fortunate enough to get a look at for the first time five years ago today.

Originally Posted 10-22-14

Is this there anything quite as exciting for an angler as new water?

It always gets me pretty fired up; even more so if it is a premier fishing hole with a reputation for some outstanding Illinois bass fishing. So when I got an invite this summer from a fellow named Chris Rock to wet a line in his lakes I was more than a little enthused. However, I was also more than a little bit busy and nearly missed my shot for 2014. A challenging weather day didn’t make it easy on us but it was sure worth an occasional numb digit and several layers of clothing.

Stats
Date: October 18, 2014
Location: Peoria County lakes
Time: 9:30am-4:45pm
Weather: Overcast/windy
Air Temp: 47-52F
Water Temp: 54-56F
Totals: pushing 100 bass (Troy – 46 bass, Chris – similar numbers)
Lures Troy: Booyah Counterstrike Spinnerbait (salt & pepper) – 18 bass, Xcalibur XR50 lipless crankbait (chicken pox) – 11 bass, Senko weighted wacky rig (baby bass or natural shad) – 8 bass, Jig & Pig (black/blue or watermelon/green/black) – 7 bass, Strike King KVD Rattling Squarebill Crankbait (natural pumpkinseed) – 2 bass
Lures Chris: primarily a jig along with a chatterbait and Strike King crankbait
Top Bass: Chris 5-10 Jig

 

As big as they got for me but quantity was real solid for a chilly October day

Notes & Nonsense

Backstory – Chris runs a truck route for one of my employer’s plants and apparently is one of the few people that I’m not related to who actually reads my blog postings. A co-worker mentioned that I should meet Chris and in that process I got an invite to fish. I was well aware of the lakes from the occasional appearance on a regional outdoor website and was real interested.

Fishing Fall – If pressed to select a favorite time period to chase bass, mid-September through October would quite likely be tops. However, during this time frame you just never know what hand Mother Nature will deal as the weather can be all over the place. Being a weekend angler with family obligations these days it narrows the window and keeps me honest when professing that “the best time to go fishing is anytime you can.” On this day the mercury hit the low 50’s but with a pretty steady north wind it sure never resembled what one would call warm. Despite reeling in more than a few bass neither Chris nor I worked up a sweat that necessitated removing any layers. In fact, we both went as far as stocking caps shortly into the trip and stayed that way all day. Luckily we never had to resort to gloves and a near 100 bass day does go a long way towards negating the occasional chill.

Had to shift gears from the tried and true black and blue to fool a few

A Pig of a Different Color – When it comes to jig fishing, I am true black and blue through and through. I’d bet that 90% of my jig bass have been fooled by some variety of this general color scheme. Therefore, it was a little unsettling when my old faithful bait just wasn’t getting the job done. Chris was knocking them pretty good on a brown variety so I decided that it was time to give the star performer a break and put it on the bench. It kind of felt like scratching a Cal Ripken off the lineup card and inserting a Mark Belanger but you gotta do what you gotta do. Don’t know if it was a good idea or not but the color combo pictured above did manage to produce several fish. Even so, it took some getting used to and I never really got used to it.

Speaking of Hogs – The bass pictured below claimed the Top Bass title for this trip and was a real interesting looking fish with a series of dark markings. Even though it’s a good photo it still doesn’t do justice to the splotches around the eye, on the gill plate, on both pectoral fins and near the tail; really cool stuff. And it was also really cool when Chris set the hook on one of those bites that looks and feels more than a little different than your run of the mill bass. He stated that it was a good one and the bend in his rod seconded that assessment. I got the honor of lipping the fish for him as he brought it boatside getting to hold a fish nearly a pound larger than what I’ve been able to muster on my own, good stuff.

Chris with a 5-10 Top Bass of the trip 

Good Company – As good as the fishing was, it was also enjoyable shooting the breeze on matters fishing and otherwise. I don’t really hang with any friends who fish so it’s always cool to talk fishing (ranks among my favorite topics along with my family, old school baseball and 70’s classic rock/pop music). It was extra cool having Chris provide a history on the area from rock quarry to fishing hole while relating epic catches, describing the lay of the land under the surface and pointing me in the right direction to catch some bass.

All in all, a great time on some cool water with a guy who knows how to get it done. It’s always interesting fishing with a new partner and I just do my thing and hope it leaves a favorable impression. I was encouraged near the end of our outing after needing Chris to troll in to rescue my jig for the only time all day. He offered that staying unstuck in such a jungle of trees showed that I knew what I was doing. I was even more enthused when he mentioned trying our luck again next year. 

Nothing close to a lunker for this guy but boy, what an interesting fishing hole.

I was able to fish the spot again in April of 2015 and March of 2016 but those are flashbacks for another time. Perhaps another time I may also be able to create some new fish stories at the fantastic fishing hole. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – October 7, 2009 Pt II

As promised, here are some numbers and notes to complete the flashback that we started yesterday. Read on for Part II of the original 2009 post entitled “As Advertised” and a further look at a place called “Emiquon.”

12:22pm 2-0 Spinnerbait

Statistics
Date: October 7, 2009
Time: 10:20am-6:20pm
Weather:  Sunny turning partly cloudy/windy
Air Temp: 50-60 F
Totals:  Brent (98 bass) Troy (56 bass)
Lures:  Troy – Strike King Pro Model crankbait (chartreuse sexy shad) 21 bass, Zoom Baby Brush Hog (candy bug) 12 bass, Rapala DT10 crankbait (parrot) 12 bass, Rapala DT6 (parrot) 5 bass, Yum Dinger worm (cotton candy) 3 bass, Hank Parker Classic spinnerbait (white) 2 bass, Senko wacky rig (blue pearl blue) 1 bass
Lures: Brent – Bass Pro Shops spinnerbait ¼ oz. (crawdad) roughly 80 bass, Mann’s 4- crankbait (green firetiger) roughly 15 bass, Bagley DB series crankbait (unknown) 1 bass
Record Book Bass:  Troy (2-6, 1-15, 1-14, 1-13, 1-12, 1-12, 1-11, 1-9, 1-8)
Brent (2-3, 2-2, 2-1, 2-1, 2-0, 1-15, 1-14, 1-13, 1-12, 1-9)
Top 5 Weight: 10-13

Rare photo of “The Emiquon Special”, a spinnerbait that got it’s nickname as a result of this outing

The Bait – Brent’s spinnerbait was an old Bass Pro Shops model sporting tandem (two) copper hammered (dimpled like a golf ball) Colorado blades (see photo) and a brown/orange skirt (often referred to as crawdad). He just happened to have it tied on from a previous trip to Spring Lake and it proved to be a wise decision to stick with it. I’ve never seen anything like the performance. It is also worth noting that the bait is one of the first spinnerbaits we purchased upon getting into bass fishing which makes the lure close to twenty five years old. You can bet that I’ll be rummaging around the baitshop in my garage prior to setting off again for Emiquon.

Sounds funny, but too bad I didn’t have a phone back in the day to get a better picture of “The Clicker”

The Clicker – I’m not sure where I picked up my counter years ago but figured that it might be a handy tool for keeping track of my partner’s catch. It has four digits and I mentioned to Brent as we neared the ramp to leave that we can potentially rack up 1,000 bass. However, having just pummeled the Emiquon population he was quick to point out my error with soaring confidence stating, “Actually it would be 9,999.” I’m thinking he’s probably up for a return trip.

The Bass – The vast majority of our fish were in the 12-14” range. All were healthy, aggressive and hard fighting. A handful that I examined also had fish tails emerging from their throats yet were still in pursuit of another meal. We’ve seen two bass on one lure and reports have noted several bass following a hooked fish to the boat on occasion. With the obvious population density it’s no wonder that these bass are so competitive but fortunately it doesn’t appear that anyone is starving at this point.

No brutes on this trip but the overall quantity and quality were unmatched by any body of water we have ever fished

The Lake – I would advise getting in on the action while it is hot as nothing lasts forever. Mother Nature and morons always have the potential to adversely affect things that seem “too good to be true.” I’ve got no problem with the former as that’s just the way things work in the natural world. There’s always potential for disease if the population remains unchecked, flooding is no stranger to our neck of the woods and aquatic weed growth can pose problems. As far as the latter is concerned, I do have a problem as these days there’s no shortage of irresponsible outdoorsmen (I use the term loosely) who poach, introduce exotic species or have a general disregard for rules and regulations. I hate to sound bitter but the whole “few bad apples” routine gets old after a while. Anyway, that’s enough of the editorial. 2009 is drawing to a close but make sure to have your gear ready for 2010 and if you’ve been nice ask Santa for a decent size johnboat, a stout trolling motor and a couple batteries.

Ten years have passed and a lot of fish have been caught since this epic day on Emiquon. Regardless of what has occurred in the interim, this tale remains a favorite. I suspect it always will no matter what my fishing future holds in store. A true fish story. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – October 7, 2009 Pt I

Only part of the original log entry on a day when Emiquon showed it’s true colors

How about another Emiquon post as 2009 was quite a year on a brand new fishing hole the likes of which we had never seen. No better proof than an October 7, 2009 trip that actually takes a pair of flashback posts to cover. Part I today and a bonus Saturday Flashback to help tell the tale.

11:11am 2-1 on a spinnerbait

Excerpt from the original 10-11-09 post entitled “As Advertised”

Brent and I were back in the boat again less than two months after our successful August outing at McDonough County’s Spring Lake. The time frame is noteworthy as we’d previously gone nearly four years between trips largely due to just being busy. On October 7th we eliminated work from the equation as we each took a vacation day specifically to get in a trip to Emiquon. Brent had yet to see the area and I looked forward to seeing his reaction to the expanse of water that slowly comes into view as you drop into the river bottom on Route 97. He was definitely impressed but I couldn’t help thinking, “You ain’t seen nothing yet” while hoping that the bass would live up to their reputation. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried.

11:19am 2-2 on a spinnerbait

We hit the water at around 10:20am following a visit to Dickson Mounds Museum in order for Brent to obtain his fishing permit. After a twelve minute ride to one of our prime spots and a few tense minutes without a bite, we hauled aboard our first bass at 10:39am. Although we experienced a few flurries of activity in the first several hours I still maintained that Brent had yet to see Emiquon reveal its true colors. Sometime just before 3:00pm it started.

While I’d been fairly successful pulling bass out of a stretch of ditch with a couple different crankbaits, Brent was picking off scattered fish using a spinnerbait along the shelf on the west edge of the ditch. As the crankbait bite slowed, we decided to pursue Brent’s spinnerbait pattern. It would prove to be the right move as Brent quickly began to add to his total. I’d brought along a counter that allowed me to punch in each bass for him rather than relying on tick marks in my fishing log, and the clicks began coming with increased frequency.

3:59pm Brent Top Bass 2-3 on a spinnerbait

I couldn’t find a suitable spinnerbait in my arsenal to replicate his success and my crankbait bite had subsided so I experimented with a few other baits and enjoyed the show. At one point, I could no longer resist commenting on his good fortune asking, “Do you know how many you’ve caught?” He indicated that he wasn’t sure but didn’t seem too surprised when I said, “Fifty.” And it wasn’t long before I let him know that he’d reached seventy. Although I didn’t ask him at the time, I was beginning to consider the possibility that he could reach the century mark as we still had about an hour and a half of fishing remaining. Not wanting to jinx him, I kept my mouth shut content to keep clicking off bass after bass as we settled into a favorite spot to finish off our day.

Apparently the area is no secret as it had drawn a crowd the entire day preventing us from taking our shot. But sure enough the bass were still there and cooperative despite getting pounded all day by the other anglers. Just before 6:00pm, curiosity got the best of my brother and I informed him that his total now stood at ninety two bass.

We agreed to fish until 6:15pm before taking off on the roughly ten minute boat ride back to the ramp in order to be off of the water before sunset as stipulated in the rules. Thus our only choice was to run back through a productive stretch of water that had already given us roughly three dozen bass. Were there eight more left for his spinnerbait? I honestly had my doubts even knowing how the Emiquon bass can turn on in a hurry. However, right away Brent stuck one on the spinnerbait and lost a second at boatside much to our dismay. I’d considered quitting so as not to take any of “his fish” but went about my business catching a couple on a Baby Brush Hog before a snag made the decision for me and I just sat back to watch the thrilling conclusion.

Brent slowly chipped away at the mark before we simply ran out of time. In fact, he was the one who made the call. It was a valiant effort and we left satisfied with the outing since you’d be a fool to complain about “only ninety eight bass.” I did get a laugh though as Brent joked in hindsight stating, “Man, I shouldn’t have eaten lunch.”

10:54am Top Bass on the day 2-6 on a crankbait

By the way, I thought that I had a decent day although fifty six bass certainly pales in comparison. I’d like to say it was due to running the motor, logging the trip or taking Brent’s fish of the hook for him but none of the above were the case, I just plain got outfished. Overall, I was pleased with my output even though I found myself trailing by forty two bass when all was said and done. On “normal” lakes it is a rare trip where we can combine for forty two bass, let alone wind up with that amount being the difference. Suffice to say, that place is nuts.

Downright crazy, indeed. Man, those were the days. Still brings a smile and a head shake every time I revisit this outing. Which I am going to do again tomorrow with a few more notes and some stats. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – September 27, 2014

 

Original log entry from the outing

Today we venture back to a “fall drawdown” outing on Lake Storey. Each fall the water level is dropped, largely as a fishery management practice, and it has been a favorite annual fishing challenge for many years. Below is an abridged version of the original report detailing whether any fish let their guard down at the drawdown.

Originally Posted 10-16-14

My “home lake”, Lake Storey, is a little farther from home these days with my family no longer residing in Galesburg. Therefore, me and three of our brood headed down Friday after work to stay at my folks in order to ease the chaos and crankiness of an early morning departure (our little guy, Zac, was sick and stayed home with Julie). As a result, Dad and I were on the water at a reasonable time, making our first casts just after 8:00am.

12:26 pm – Keeping it real in a fishing report as they are not all trophies

Stats
Date: September 27, 2014
Location: Lake Storey
Time: 8:10am-2:10pm
Weather: Sunny to partly cloudy/calm to very windy
Air Temp: 65-81F
Water Temp: 69-72F
Totals: 6 bass, 1 muskie
Dad Totals: 2 bass
Troy Totals: 4 bass, 1 muskie
Lures Dad: Muskrat style creature bait – 1 bass, Zoom Baby Brush Hog – 1 bass
Lures Troy: Xcalibur XR50 lipless crankbait (chicken pox) – 2 bass, Zoom Baby Brush Hog – 1 bass, Strike King Red Eye Shad (orange craw) – 1 bass, Strike King KVD Rattling Squarebill Crankbait (natural pumpkinseed) – 1 muskie
Top Bass: Dad 1-11 Zoom Baby Brush Hog
Top 5 Weight (only one bass 12” or better): 1-11

A pattern called “Chicken Pox”, these discontinued baits are going for $20 or more online

Notes & Nonsense

Patience – There were several other boats on the water on this pleasant Saturday but nothing that we all couldn’t work around in terms of sharing water. A couple muskie anglers beat us to one of our spots so we waited them out before moving in behind. I figured that they were targeting a different species and some different cover than we had in mind so I didn’t mind fishing “used water.” We were a little bummed when they moved off the first spot and camped on a second spot to eat their lunch. While the first spot let us down, we again waited out their lunch break, moved in and Dad proceeded to nail our Top Bass of the day. It was definitely worth the wait and further reinforcement that we’ve paid our dues on the lake and learned a couple things.

1:30pm – Dad with our Top Bass of the day at 1-11

Make My Day – We’d been on a proven spot for about twenty minutes without a bass when we spotted another boat fishing towards us. Our spot was a traditional winner but we’d pounded it good and I didn’t want the other anglers to hit another spot I wanted to fish on the other side of the lake so I decided to make a move. Now, a fishing day is made up of a lot of decisions, not all of which pan out; that’s fishing. In this case, however, on about my second cast after relocating I set the hooks of my crankbait into something that didn’t move. A few seconds later, I hollered “Muskie!” to Dad who went for the dipnet. The fish put up a classic fight with a couple line stripping runs, an exciting (and worrisome), completely airborne leap and managed to evade our dipnet twice. But the 12-pound Trilene survived, the hooks held and Dad scooped him in, luck was on our side. In terms of the fortuitous move though, I’m still torn on whether we were lucky or good. Then again, it doesn’t really matter, we got a fish that made our day, shot a couple pics and released it to fight again.

11:08am – One of those good, old Lake Storey bass fishing “accidents”

Second Chances – We revisited the proven spot noted above for another shot about an hour and a half after moving off and happening upon the muskie. True to form, a couple Lake Storey bass that called the place home were now in a biting mood. Dad and I each pulled one out with his on a muskrat bait and mine on a Zoom Baby Brush Hog. A productive Round Two confirms another Lake Storey fact (and general bass fishing approach) that if you’ve got a good spot it is wise to pay a couple visits in order to increase the likelihood that you’ll be in the neighborhood when they decide to bite.

8:35am – I’ve got lures that are darn near as big as this small bass

When combined with last week’s strip mine report, me, Brent and Dad landed 141 bass and a muskie in two trips. Two trips that were like night and day in terms of quantity (135 bass vs. 6 bass) but I’d actually be hard pressed to decide which trip was the best. 135 bass are cool but when they are really dumb you don’t feel really smart and while 6 bass is a tough day when they are extra wary you feel extra wise. And a decent toothy critter don’t hurt either; tough call.

A tough bass bite in terms of both quantity and quality but you’ll have that, it’s fishing. Just keep on casting though as evidenced by this outing as our best bass was the last catch, over five hours into our day. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – September 21, 2009

A look back at a blog feature that has since evolved into something I call “Lake Lowdown.” Today’s flashback includes an excerpt from the original September 28, 2009 post along with the pics of our catches and a few noteworthy peripheral items.

Originally Posted 9-28-09

While my initial “Day on the Lake” feature for 2009 turned into a weather shortened and embarrassing flop at Emiquon this April, our second attempt proved more fruitful. Dad also was a good sport when I revealed that I wanted to give Lake Storey a shot on September 21. However, he did comment at one point that he would have preferred another trip to Emiquon (can’t blame him as that place will spoil you). Anyway, for anyone unfamiliar with this annual feature, I document the specifics of every bass reeled in by either angler along with snapping a photo regardless of the size of the fish.

All told, we combine for fifteen bass as Dad edges me out by one fish. I claim Top Bass with a 2-10 but overall Dad lands more quality fish. We manage seven keepers among our catch (Dad 1-10, 1-10, 1-9, 1-0, 1-0 Troy 2-10, 1-4) with our five heaviest tipping the scales at 8-11. The Mann’s 4- leads the way with six fish followed by the Bomber Flat A and Brush Hog/Baby Brush Hog (3), the Rapala DT6 (2) and the Rapala DT10 (1).

 

Notes

Goodbye Old Friend – After hauling up one of my crankbaits from some sort of snag I observed that the eye on the end of my pole had busted off about an inch below the tip. There was a bit of sadness as the rod was an old Shimano Fightin’ Rod that represented the last of the original group of poles from my initial foray into the exciting and expensive world of bass fishing. That thing was close to twenty five years old so I had certainly gotten my money’s worth, ripping the hooks home for the better part of three decades. Dad mentioned repairing it but it was a rather short rod to begin with at 5’6” so I’ve decided to just say goodbye. I commented at the time that I should chuck it into the middle of Lake Storey as a fitting final resting place. However, some sort of environmental conscience got the best of me and I hauled it home for trash day instead.

Money Saver – While Dad’s Mann’s 4- crankbait was the hottest lure of the day, another important tool from my tacklebox also had a starring role. My lure retriever saved our crankbaits at least half a dozen times (a bare minimum of $25 in savings), never failing to dislodge the treble hooks from various submerged snags. Along the way we caught stumps, logs, several pieces of fishing line whose owners need to purchase lure retrievers and even an anchor rope at The Most Fished Tree.

Budding Angler – Regardless of how the fish were biting, Dad and I had plans to reach the fishing shelter at Cannon Hill around 10:45am. Julie was bringing Carly and Jayce out to visit with us after picking up Carly from pre-school. We had a little life jacket ready and Carly took us up on an offer for her first ride in “the big boat” while it was actually on the water (she hangs out in the boat in Papa’s garage on occasion). She loved it and at one point inquired about her Princess pole. While we hadn’t brought it along I was proud of my girl for wanting to get in on the fun.

Old friend, teammate, fishing buddy and college opponent, Arnie Gonzalez

Gonzo – During my annual fall visits to Lake Storey, I rarely fail to cross paths with a longtime buddy. Coach Arnie Gonzalez and I have been friends since kindergarten and played high school and Legion baseball together. He’s been the head baseball coach at Galesburg High School for quite a few years and teaches an Outdoor Living class which is why I see him (more accurately hear him first) with his students at the lake. It’s always good to see him and we had a good visit from boat to bank. Over the years, we racked up many adventures, fishing, sports and otherwise. But one of my favorites will always be a changeup he delivered that looked like a beach ball on a 3-2 count during a Knox-Monmouth baseball game many years ago. After the pitch, we just gave each other a slight nod of acknowledgement as I trotted around the bases. I will admit that he also got the best of me during some matchups, but since this is my story, you’ll have to ask him for any details.

Storey vs. Emiquon – After experiencing the unprecedented bass fishing action at Emiquon, it is quite tempting to forego fishing any other body of water. However, Lake Storey does have its merits that draw me back year in and year out. If you listen to some locals, “Lake Storey is dirty” or “has no fish in it.” Wrong, big time, but I’m glad that many feel that way because it leaves more fish for me and Dad. From my experience you’ve got to work for your fish but therein lies the reward. There’s an undeniable satisfaction from fooling a 2-10 at the challenging lake that rivals the “got to see it to believe it” feeding frenzy that one can take part in at Emiquon. In addition, every cast made while bass fishing at Lake Storey has the potential for an “accident.” There are muskies in there that are scary, I’ve seen them up close and they get your attention. So will a nearly eight pound walleye like I stumbled upon last October. Granted there are some nice fish at Emiquon but it was pure luck that I got my picture taken with one of them.

Looks like another rainy weekend around here. Dang! Although that didn’t get in the way last weekend…Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – September 21, 2014

Today’s flashback is nearly five years ago to the day and was quite a trip in terms of quantity. Below is the original post in its entirety providing a testament for choosing boots over boats if you have the access and are willing to put forth the effort.

Originally Posted 10-9-14

After forty one days without a fishing trip I was eager to rip some lips and faced the usual fall dilemma of where to ply my trade. The Lake Storey drawdown is always an eagerly awaited annual challenge but the recent rain had filled it back up quicker than the water was flowing out of the drain. Snakeden beckoned as it closes on October 15 and I’d neglected the site this year after catching my first few bass on an “old faithful” pothole back in late March. Little John Conservation Club is a winner although I tend to hit it more heavily in spring and summer and don’t get too antsy for one more shot as compared to the waterfowl season “shutdown” fishing holes. No offense, waterfowlers, but I’ve long borne a grudge towards those darn ducks and geese that deny me access to my fishing holes. In the end I choose another batch of Knox County public strip pits that shutdown on September 30 and invited my younger brother along for another cross country, walk-in pursuit of uneducated bass. And boy did we find ‘em!

Quality could have been better for me but no complaint on quantity as noted below

Stats
Date: September 21, 2014
Location: Knox County strip mines
Time: 8:50am-3:50pm (5 hours fishing, the rest walking)
Weather: Partly cloudy/windy
Air Temp: 65-72F
Water Temp: no reading
Totals: 135 bass (9 different lakes)
Brent Totals: 67 bass
Troy Totals: 68 bass
Lures Brent (no specific lure totals available):
Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad), Emiquon Special Spinnerbait (brown/orange), Zoom Baby Brush Hog
Lures Troy:
Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 35 bass, Senko weighted wacky rig (baby bass) – 15 bass, Booyah Counterstrike Spinnerbait (salt &pepper) with twin tail trailer (salt & pepper) – 10 bass, Yum Wooly Curltail (green pumpkin) – 8 bass
Top Bass Brent: 3-13 Emiquon Special
Top Bass Troy: 1-4 Strike King Red Eye Shad
Top 5 Combined Weight: 9-11 (3-13, 2-0, 1-9, 1-4, 1-1)

Brent with a 2-0 in this pic that I shot from across the lake

Notes & Nonsense

Slinging Blades – Me and spinnerbaits used to make a pretty good pair for quite a few years. But for the last twelve or fourteen years it’s been rather hit and miss. And if it were not for a place called the Emiquon Preserve, my spinnerbait totals would be quite paltry when compared to back in the day. Regardless of usage and results, I’ve been a fan as long as I’ve chased bass so it was cool to set the hook on a handful of Booyah blade bites, the first of 2014. Every type of bait has its merits, its feel and, after thirty years of bass fishing, its history. It was certainly welcome feedback to once again feel my retrieve get heavy, skip a beat or go slack as a spinnerbait biting bass will do.

Emiquon Special II – Speaking of spinnerbaits, I was not at all surprised to watch Brent wield his go to bait with uncanny effectiveness yet again. For many years he put a hurt on the bass with a homemade spinnerbait that would eventually garner the moniker of “The Emiquon Special” after it was a major contributor on his 98 bass day back when that crazy fishery was hitting on all cylinders. Well, the original lure finally gave out resulting in a new version of the old weapon. It still seems to work the same although Brent did point out one noticeable difference with a reverent nod to the legend in stating, “This one’s still got paint on the head.” Another trip like this one though…

I got a kick out of Brent secretly snapping this pic of my makeshift selfie setup

Front Row Seat – Okay, so I was actually standing but nonetheless it’s a good figure of speech. On a spot I call Far Lake, I had a perch several feet above the lake surface where about a three foot weedless chute cut through the weedline on a fair drop off. The water was pretty clear allowing me to watch half a dozen or more bass suddenly appear out of nowhere as my retrieve neared its end and just smash my Red Eye Shad. It was awesome to watch those camouflaged predators bolt from their ambush points and nail their target in a flash. It further reinforced the contention of Dad, Brent and I that there is no way you could reel a lure fast enough to keep it away from a hungry bass. The vantage point also reminded me how cool the bank can be as there are perspectives to be found that outrank any fancy bass boat. And those perspectives also provide some incentive to keep hiking in to places like Far Lake which got its name for just the reason one might suspect.

Top Bass of the day at 3-13 for Brent. Had these two met before? Read below.

Makes You Wonder – Back in April, Brent and I hit this same location and many of the same lakes to the tune of 107 combined bass. Our quality was much better on that trip with our Top 5 coming in at 17-2. Included in that bunch was a 3-8 fooled by Brent with a jig and pig on a spot I call Horseshoe Lake. Fast forward to this trip and Brent lands a 3-13 from the same lake while standing pretty much in the same spot, this time on his Emiquon Special. Was it the same fish? Who knows? What I do know is that I need to beat him to that spot when we head back next year (or leave him home).

A bass I called #3772 but that’s another story…

It should come as no surprise that we had a good time. Trekking across the undulating terrain of the strip mines can be taxing and it can be a drag walking half a mile to get to a spot that is only a few hundred yards away as the crow flies. But that’s part of the deal; known that and done that for a long time. The legs are tired and the back is sore after one of these adventures as are wrists, forearms and shoulders from reeling in all those bass. Nice aches to have, I can live with that.

Once again, glad that I took to documenting these outings as it helps me remember stuff I forgot. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – September 14, 1999

Once upon a time, me and my girlfriend could pretty much pack up the truck and go whenever we wanted. Perhaps it would take a vacation day or two from work but there were plenty of those to go around with the jobs we had at the time. And considering we were kid free it sure made the packing and the planning just a tad bit easier too.

Kind of hard to remember that lifestyle twenty years, a marriage and four kids later. All good though, been a wild ride and kind of funny how you shift gears, get more responsible and become parents.

But that’s all another story. The happily ever after part that’s still being written.

20 years later and I’ve still got the hat, the sweatshirt and most importantly, the girl (Julie’s still got that camping chair too).

Instead, we’re going back to 1999 today at Morrison-Rockwood Park in Whiteside County, Illinois. Julie and I selected the location for a late summer camping trip and chose to bring Dad’s boat in tow to try our luck on the site’s Lake Carlton.

Chivalry is not dead when a fellow buys a fishing license for that special lady.

From the pics below, you can see who the winning angler was during some exploration of the lake. Yep, the wannabe bass fishing guy was outfished by his companion two to zero. I used to joke that if someone caught more fish than I did on a trip that I wouldn’t take them anymore. Not entirely true, of course. In fact, when you get outdone on the water by your girlfriend that should serve as a hint that perhaps you have found a keeper. Took me two more years to pop the question but obviously glad I did all of these years later.

 

Speaking of all of these years later, we should actually try to go fishing again sometime. Anybody up for taking care of a batch of kids? Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – September 11, 2004

Today we take a second look back at Pat’s Creek from 15 years ago (click here for the July 25 flashback post). The timing on this one is kind of funny as my boy, Zac, just asked me the other day, “Dad, who is a better fisherman, you or Papa?” The best I could offer as a response was “It depends on what we’re fishing for.” Read on for some evidence via an excerpt from the original October 5, 2004 post.

September 11, 2004 – Dad and I headed for Pat’s Creek in hopes of matching the success from our trip in late July. Well, Dad did pretty well and I caught one fish. Guess I wasn’t holding my mouth right or something (a concept for a future article). However, the trip did have a few highlights.

Action shot and catch from Dad’s Top Carp as detailed below

Top Carp 2004 – Less than twenty minutes after our first cast, Dad nailed a 5-1 carp that stands as the current record for the year. The fish bested my 4-9 from Pat’s Creek on 7/29. The carp stands as number three from Pat’s with my 6-11 on top and Dad’s 5-12 at number two. The fish also established a new record for the month of September as no other carp had been entered for this month.

Early Fall – Though the season had another week and a half to arrive, I got to witness a fall firsthand. The last trip Dad and I made to Pat’s, we both took a tumble as we entered the creek as detailed in my 9/8 article. During our latest trip, only one of us went down and it wasn’t me. Things actually looked pretty good as I hit the creek stating “We both made it” only to watch Dad take a dive. No injuries other than pride and always good for a laugh at someone’s expense.

A pleasant and unusual catch from the creek described below

Smallmouth – While on the subject of falling, the creek had dropped considerably and was much clearer than normal. In fact, I was able to watch a school of minnows nibble on my shins as I stood in water just over my knees. Typically, you can feel something but can’t see anything below the surface. A pair of smallmouth bass fell to our offerings marking the first appearance of this species at Pat’s Creek. In speaking with Uncle Dick, this occurrence was not surprising considering the water clarity. Smallmouth prefer less turbid conditions and have moved in as favorable conditions arose. It was exciting to add a new species to the list of fish caught at Pat’s and if anyone could shed some light on the arrival of smallmouth, Uncle Dick would be your guy.

Dad doing what he does best, and considerably better than the other guy on this trip

Species Title – Dad nabbed the species title, easily outdistancing me six to one. While I managed only a smallmouth bass, Dad reeled in a redhorse sucker, a carp, a creek chub, a channel cat, a freshwater drum and a smallmouth. Actually, an argument could be made for a seventh species as he reeled up a small turtle that politely unhooked itself.

The log doesn’t lie as the “D” signifies Dad’s catches, the “T” my catch

So, I guess there’s Zac’s answer to his question and this outing was not a fluke. Hands down, Dad is the better creek fisherman. Zac also asked, “Dad, who is a better fisherman, you or Uncle Brent?” Well, I’ll save that answer for a couple flashback posts later this fall. However, next up in the Friday Flashback series is a fishing trip with another of Zac’s relatives. The boy didn’t ask if I was a better angler than his Mom. Tune in for that one next week and plenty more in between including Zac getting back on the water. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – September 2, 2009

Emiquon and a connection got me and my fish on the March 2010 issue, a 2020 Friday Flashback for next spring

Back in April 2010, I got an opportunity to go public with my writing habit upon joining as a blogger on the Prairie State Outdoors (PSO) website. That gig lasted roughly a year and 169 posts before I moved on to Heartland Outdoors for six years and nearly 600 posts. Anyway, as my “pro” career was launched (made a whole $50 once) I decided to come out with guns blazing which included some catching up on fish stories from the previous year. And this tale was a pretty good one if I say so myself.

Originally Posted 4-21-10 as “A Needle In A Haystack”

On September 2, 2009 as Dad and I rolled down Illinois Route 97 en route to Emiquon he asked, “Would you rather catch one hundred small bass or just one big one?”

Good question considering that during an abbreviated first visit in April, I’d somehow managed to not catch a single bass while being battered by wind and waves for roughly an hour. Although I eventually came to terms with the humbling and humiliating episode, it did leave a bruise on my ego that lasted for a bit. So, while I thought that I’d learned a lesson in overconfidence, my response to his question indicated otherwise as I replied, “Why not both?” Well, if it wasn’t for sunset, my wish might just have come true.

About three hours into our trip (5:45pm) I landed a 23.5” bass that tipped the scales at 7-3 . Somehow or another, this large bass just happened to beat the multitude of naïve 12-15” bass to my lure. I don’t know the odds, but after several other fruitful days at Emiquon following this trip, it seems like one in a million. In other words, while I’d like to take credit for making some kind of crucial decision, in the end it was just one lucky cast. My new Top Bass eclipsed my old personal best of 5-15 caught at Emstrom’s Pond on February 18, 2002.

A year one Emiquon trophy and still my personal best 

The fish hit on a Rapala DT6 crankbait (parrot) in a spot where we’d already hauled in well over a dozen bass. Upon setting the hook I told Dad, “This is a good one” although I really didn’t know just how good even after a brief glimpse and a powerful run that stripped line from my reel. Then the monster surfaced and truly got our attention. A few seconds later, Dad had the Boga grip firmly clamped on its lip and hoisted it into the boat as I began to celebrate. While I didn’t “go Ike” (referring to Michael Iaconelli, 2003 Bassmaster Classic champ renowned for his boisterous vocal outbursts), I certainly can’t recall being that excited by a fish for a long time. As I measured the length and fumbled around for my scale we gave our customary estimates on the weight. My guess was 6-14 while Dad said, “I think it’s gonna go seven.” Not too bad considering that we just don’t see bass like that every day, particularly on the end of our line. After the weigh in and a few more celebratory utterances of disbelief (no expletives included even in my euphoric state), Dad snapped a couple photos and the fish was released to fight again.

Original log entry detailing a portion of a pretty special day on Emiquon with Dad 

In the aftermath, a few different trains of thought came up in conversation. Dad asked if I’d thought about keeping it and getting it mounted and I must say that it never crossed my mind. Ten years ago, possibly, twenty years ago, probably, but not today (and it’s not just because I’m broke). Not that there is anything wrong with keeping a fish that size, it’s just more rewarding for me to watch it swim away. Besides, now I know where this fish lives and who can tell what it might weigh if I fool it again this year. If you’re interested, just head out from the boat ramp and take a left (north). That’s all you get from me unless we’re fishing together. Then I’ll put you right on the spot and let fate and the thousands of other bass decide if anyone catches it. And that’s another thing that’s changed over the years, it really wouldn’t matter who caught it as I’d just like to be there to share in the excitement one way or another.

I also said to Dad, “I’m sending this one in.” I e-mailed a photo to PSO (note: now defunct) and got it posted on the weekly fishing report (9-3-09) along with the basic details of the catch. In addition, I sent the photo and tale to another site that I visit regularly, Larry’s Fishing Hole (sadly also defunct), and he elected to add it to his fishing report for September 10th. It’s been fun sharing my good fortune and engaging in the age old fishing tradition of bragging even if it is now via cyberspace instead of having a Polaroid in the stack of photos on the counter of the local baitshop.

Finally, I pondered where the bass would rank in relation to the birth weight of each of my kids. However, the best I could do was speculating as after three children the details all kind of run together. I figure that as long as I know when their birthdays are its all good. After doing the necessary research (I asked Julie), the tale of the tape is as follows: Helena (7-4) Bass (7-3) Jayce (7-2) Carly (6-13).

Funny thing is another of the forty two bass we landed was likely more significant than my new personal best. As we completed a rather unsuccessful drift through a promising looking area, Dad hooked into one of the many cookie cutter foot long fish that call Emiquon home. Assessing the conditions where he’d caught this fish, Dad proposed revisiting a nearby spot that was quite similar. We ended up sitting a cast away from a narrow brushy chute that the wind was blowing directly into and started catching bass after bass. And after weeding out some of the smaller ones we wound up with something special. But had it not been for the final bass of our initial drift and some expert analysis on Dad’s part, I’d likely have one less long winded fish story.

As we drove home following the rewarding day on the water, I forgave Emiquon. But I couldn’t resist feigning some disappointment when stating, “I’ve still never caught a six pounder.” Maybe this year. (Note: didn’t actually get that six until 2017)

Okay, one more pic, will be tough to top this one even if I get lucky and fool a bigger fish someday

I’ve said it before but it is worth repeating that I am glad that I took up documenting outdoor adventures. It’s always fun to look back and read the details that otherwise would be lost over time. And those parts are just as important, if not more, than the catches, even when one of them is your Personal Best. Talk to you later. Troy

Emiquon at 10 – Windows

Once upon a time, those crazy Emiquon bass put a positive spin on the old saying, “When it rains, it pours.” Those head shaking bursts of feeding activity were something I referred to as “windows.” Of course, I wrote a little something about it as detailed below.

Originally Posted 5-11-11

It doesn’t seem to occur as frequently or intensely as it did in 2009 but there are still occasions when the bass bite gets hot and heavy. Such bursts of activity exceed anything I’ve ever witnessed in over three decades of bass fishing both in terms of quantity and quality.

I’ve fished long enough to know that presentation and location are key. I also know that you might need to hit your “hotspots” several times during a day before finding fish in a biting mood. At Emiquon these feeding windows can be something to behold. After prodding around on some fishy looking areas and picking up the occasional bass it’s as if someone suddenly flips a switch and the bass go crazy.

Original log entry from a window, never seen anything like it, fun, fun fishing

My fishing log bears out these instances and it is often quite tempting to abandon my practice of documenting the catch in favor of casting. The above page from September 9, 2009 displays the results of a feeding frenzy typical of the “old days” with bass on several consecutive casts. Mind you that the gaps are due to me wasting time writing when I could be catching. Keep in mind also that Dad was reeling in just as many if not more as I logged his success with tick marks.

Dad, Brent and I have witnessed two bass on one lure similar to numerous internet reports from other anglers. In other instances several bass have followed a hooked companion to the boat looking to get a piece of the action. On one memorable occasion I even took a break to simply sit back and watch as my brother worked his magic. Brent had the right lure in the right spot at the right time and I elected to quit casting as I punched in bass after bass on the clicker that I bring to tally such catches. Before sunset sent us packing he was two bass shy of one hundred.

Two bass on one lure and three in the boat will certainly bring a smile

In an article I wrote for family and friends on October 11, 2009 I stated, “I would advise getting in on the action while it is hot as nothing lasts forever.” Things do seem to have slowed since anglers were turned loose on those naïve bass that spring but it’s still darn good.

As I have alluded to previously, things have gotten off track at Emiquon in terms of fishing since I wrote the pieces shared this week. I am honestly out of touch with what is going on down there in terms of management and fishing reports but understand that the once stellar fishing hole is but a skeleton of its former self.

So, why not keep the old memories rolling with an Emiquon Friday Flashback coming your way tomorrow. Talk to you later. Troy