Category: Something Else

Say Cheese

“So won’t you smile for the camera
I know they’re gonna love it”
Peg – Steely Dan (1977)

Today’s blog entry arose from a comment on one of my Facebook posts last September by a family friend (and fellow blogger), Deb McGrath.

Smile (verb)form one’s features into a pleased, kind, or amused expression, typically with the corners of the mouth turned up and the front teeth exposed.

Physiologically, I don’t think bass are able to smile based on the definition above as their mouth is built in a frown. I also suspect that they are not amused by a hook in the lip as they shake their head during the fight to rid themselves of the annoying lure. Bass do have teeth though as evidenced by a welcome fishing affliction known as “bass thumb” that results from the scraping of sandpaper-like teeth on an angler’s thumb.

Yes, bass do have teeth

While I would say that bass don’t smile, they sure put a happy face on the anglers (as do bluegill and crappie in the slideshow below).


And, just for fun, to get in my music fix, here are my Top 10 Smile/Smiling songs.

10. Keep On Smiling – Wet Willie (1974)

9. You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile – Annie (1977)

8. Smile a Little Smile for Me – The Flying Machine (1969)

7. Smiling Faces Sometimes – The Undisputed Truth (1971)

6. I Can’t Smile Without You – Barry Manilow (1977)

5. Smile – Uncle Kracker (2009)

4. Make Me Smile – Chicago (1970)

3. Your Smiling Face – James Taylor (1977)

2. Illegal Smile – John Prine (1971)

1. Sara Smile – Hall & Oates (1975)

Here’s to more smiles in 2023 as spring is upon us which means that the bass bite should be kicking into gear. Talk to you later. Troy

Sledding Silliness

Zac and I kept up our annual tradition of a visit to the local sledding hill after a recent snowstorm. A GoPro in tow just adds to the fun as evidenced by the YouTube video below. While we had a good time, here’s hoping that the snow is over, and we can move on to some fishing videos instead.

Fingers crossed and talk to you later. Troy

Musing Over A Muskie Miss

My recent trip to Lake Storey featured a hookup with a muskie, the first one for me on the lake since 2017. It did not end well as the fish busted off at boatside a foot or two from my dipnet. Today’s post features the GoPro footage along with my assessment of the near catch. First up, some footage, followed by a description of the event, and finally some of the “what ifs” when hooking a muskie on bass fishing gear.


The Fight

I hadn’t hooked an “accidental” muskie at Lake Storey in five years, but such an opportunity is always in the back of the mind when casting on the old fishing hole. Well, that drought ended with a solid hookset on a Red Eye Shad that immediately registered as something heavy. The fish headed deep and while I had yet to get a visual, I suspected that it had teeth. Sure enough, a couple of explosions on the surface confirmed my suspicion. The view also confirmed that the lure was inside its mouth which spells trouble for twelve-pound monofilament line. I figured that it was just a matter time before the line would get cut so I went for a do-or-die approach to get it within net reach as soon as possible and hope I got it before it freaked out. Net in hand, I had the fish within a foot or two of potential capture when a head shake separated my lure from my line. The muskie lay near the surface just out of reach for a split-second as I made a futile stab before the fish realized it was free and disappeared with a thrash. It was exciting while it lasted but still kind of makes me sick to my stomach watching the replay in my head (and on video).


What If

Line – I am a monofilament guy and was casting twelve-pound test Trilene line and targeting bass. Of course, there is always a chance of hooking a toothy muskie or walleye on Lake Storey so braided line and especially a wire leader can be beneficial. I like the action of my bass lures on monofilament, so I take my chances and in this case I lost.

Drag – The fish did pull drag, so I am satisfied that the setting did not cost me this fish. At the point of the breakoff, my rod was still rather upright and absorbing much of the load from the large fish. I maintain that the weak link was the way in which the fish was hooked.

Fight – Upon seeing the fish roll, I knew I was on borrowed time since the lure was not visible on the outside off the muskie’s mouth. I took a shot at trying to get the fish within net’s reach as soon as I could knowing full well that a fresh fish could end the fight with a sudden run. I just didn’t feel that a prolonged battle would end favorably with the mono scraping around those teeth.

Net – It’s a bit of a stunt trying to guide the fish with one hand on the pole while taking aim with the dipnet with the other arm. My net was in the water within a foot or two of the fish when the line snapped. So darn close but what if I had a fellow angler in the boat? I am sure that the odds would have been better, but I probably would have instructed the netter to remain to my left in the video clip thus farther from the fish when it came loose. My plan would have remained at guiding the fish to the net and hoping it didn’t freak out at boatside.

Percentages – I have landed fifteen muskies in my life. Fourteen of the fifteen have been while fishing with ten or twelve-pound monofilament. The lone outlier was caught while actually targeting muskie with braided line and a leader. Beyond the muskies landed, I have lost three. One was short fish (mid-twenty inch) that flopped out of an inadequate dipnet. Another was the heaviest muskie that I have ever hooked that busted off at boatside when I asked my net man, Brent, to hold off for a second (bad move on my part). And of course, this fish which would’ve probably ranked third among the largest muskies I have ever hooked. That previous poor decision to have my net man wait also came into play in rushing the fish this time around as well.

The “one that got away” is a fishing standard. It happens to anyone who spends time on the water. I have been fortunate to not have too many heartbreaks that keep me up at night wondering what might have been or what should have been done differently. This one bothers me. And I’m sure it will bother me for a long time. Not only losing the fish but hoping that it will not suffer any ill effects and be able to rid itself of my Red Eye Shad in some fashion so that either myself or another fortunate angler will cross paths with the fish in the future. Talk to you later. Troy

Remembering “Bru”

I was back in Galesburg last Saturday to pay my respects to a former coach and early fishing mentor, Gary Bruington. The passing of the longtime Galesburg High School teacher and baseball coach prompted plenty of reminiscing, some of which comprises today’s post.

“Bru” in action

Affectionately known as “Coach Bru” or just “Bru,” he was my coach on the diamond during the 1983-85 baseball seasons. I recall an instance during the start of the 1983 season when I was a member of the sophomore squad. I showed up in the gym on a March game day in my uniform all ready to go. This caused a fair amount of razzing from a handful of teammates and varsity players. You see, it was snowing outside and rather obvious that there wasn’t going to be a game on that Saturday. Bru stepped in and told the hecklers to knock it off stating that he supported my approach in showing up ready to play. His words went a long way towards soothing my embarrassment and perhaps contributed to enough varsity playing time later in the year to earn a letter.

It wasn’t just baseball where Bru offered support and advice. In those days, Bru was also quite an angler, and I was just catching the bass fishing bug. Sitting in his classroom one afternoon after school had been dismissed, he presented me with my first spinnerbait. Being a novice angler chasing panfish with Beetle Spins, that gaudy bait looked more in tune to deep sea fishing than something that would fool those little bass I had previously caught on accident. He instructed me on how, when, and where to throw it, and what do you know, it was a winner on bigger and better bass.

Bru also showed me how to rig up a Texas rigged worm and proceeded to take me on a fishing trip at Oak Run for firsthand experience. It was my first time ever in a real bass boat, complete with a white-knuckle grip as he zipped around the lake. We stopped to work a “secret” brushpile on a point and Bru made it look easy as he fooled several bass. On the other hand, my offering came up empty.

But I learned. Not only how to rig and work a worm but also that Bru’s teaching extended beyond the field and the classroom.

August 14, 1985 fishing log entry

Whether he felt sorry for me or enjoyed my company on the water, Bru invited me back in his boat again that summer along with a teammate, Joe Dennis. Those trips were combined fishing and water-skiing outings. Bru hauled us around the lake coaching us on getting up on those skis with Joe being a natural and a bit more vocal than yours truly. You see, both Joe and Bru were competitive and more than willing to engage in a little trash talking. Joe continued to dare Bru to increase the speed, try to dump him, and even taunted him by putting the rope handle between his teeth as he sped behind the boat. I believe Joe came out on top, remaining upright and not loosing any of his pearly whites. The downside of Joe’s antics was that Bru subjected me to similar punishment despite me keeping my mouth shut beyond laughing at their battle of brawn. We all survived, but I swear by the end of the skiing portion of the trip, Bru was trying to kill us.

We then started fishing as Bru shifted gears to a considerably lower impact level of teaching. Joe and I just spoke about this adventure at Bru’s service last Saturday and he reminded me that he and Bru caught fish while I got shut out. Joe said that he didn’t even want to fish, preferring to keep skiing, and still outfished me. I reminded Joe that despite being the toughest person I’ve ever known, I always had to take off his fish. In fact, the only way he would touch them was when he wore an old leather glove. That aspect of our fishing history still brought a laugh with Joe fully admitting that he had no desire to handle a fish without “The Glove.”

August 19, 1985 fishing log entry

I also had to bait Joe’s hook back in the day as he didn’t like worms either. Which brings me to one of the oddest comments I ever heard from Bru. During a wet, spring baseball practice, a couple of teammates got to chasing Joe around with dew worms that had emerged from the saturated ground. Having seen enough, Bru hollered out, “You guys leave Joe alone!” Now understand, Joe had given most of us some grief over the years via trash talking or a bit of physical play on the diamond, grid iron and basketball court. Therefore, it was quite strange hearing Bru tell those guys to give Joe a break. As for me teasing Joe, I always refrained as I knew that sooner of later you had to put down the worm.

Bru left us with plenty of stories and had his share to tell as well. One final outdoor bit took place as we drove back from an Oak Run trip in the fading daylight. We were riding in his old light green van and Bru noted that he’d seen a black panther cross in front of his vehicle one night as he drove the same road. Local black panther tales were familiar to me from reported encounters at another Knox County stomping ground, Lake Bracken. However, this was the first one I had heard from an eyewitness. Bru was a seasoned outdoorsman, so I had no reason to doubt his tale. Bru was also known to pull your leg. Almost forty years later, I’m still not sure which direction he was going on that drive.

Shot this pic at Lake Storey after Bru’s service. Many years ago he showed me a bridge and a hump in this stretch of the lake.

Bru was a great teacher, coach, mentor, and man. He was also a great motivator. An old trick he used on the ball field to get you back on track or to get your head in the game was to call you by your mother’s name. I can still hear him yelling, “Come on, Joyce!” after I did something that did not meet his expectations.

Mom crossed paths with Bru about a month ago and had a short conversation about the good old days and how our families were doing. She said his mind and delivery were the same old Bru, but he looked tired and frail. No longer suffering now, I hope he can enjoy a place where the umps nail every call, the big ones don’t get away, and he and Alice enjoy leisurely strolls. Talk to you later. Troy

Thoughts at 55

So, this is an outdoor page and there will be a bit of outdoors in today’s post, but I also like to wander. And since it’s my blog, well…

Going back to 2011, I’ve done an annual birthday blog post of “Thoughts at…”, so here we go again with a ramble on “55” covering my hobbies and passions.


Growing up a Dallas Cowboys fan, this guy was the Top #55

How about the day I was born in Cubs history via their portion of the boxscore below? This was the second game of a doubleheader, remember those? Looks like Banks had a dinger. With Dad being a lifelong Cubs fan, there is some speculation that his first kid could easily have wound up as Ernie Jackson. Nice, but I’m fine with the way it turned out.



I’m a huge music fan so how about the Billboard #1 chart topper every eleven years since July 23, 1967 (55 is evenly divisible by 11, thus my breakdown)
#1 Song on July 23
2022 “As It Was” – Harry Styles
2011 “Party Rock Anthem” – LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett and GoonRock
2000 “Bent” – Matchbox Twenty
1989 “Toy Soldiers” – Martika
1978 “Shadow Dancing” – Andy Gibb
1967 “Windy” – The Association

Proof that I am getting old, music ain’t what it used to be. I like the entries for 1967, 1978 and 2000. Just listened to the 2011 and 2022 cuts for the first time and not real keen on the 1989 tune.

Not a number one but a Sammy Hagar classic is certainly worth a mention


Did you know that Kevin VanDam (KVD), arguably the best bass fisherman of all-time, was also born in 1967? During a previous blogging gig, I received a couple lures from a reader with a humorous KVD reference.

And finally, my 55th bass of 2022 turned out to be a good one.

2022 Bass #55 on April 23 weighing 3-2 from the Hennepin Canal (currently at 265 total bass for the year and looking to add a few more on my birthday)

So, I guess it is official. I am now closer to sixty than fifty.


Talk to you later. Troy

A Fish Story 30 Years in the Making

As an aspiring YouTube sensation (sounds good, right), I check out what other anglers are doing on their channels. One item that I frequently notice is the good, old, “links in the description below” reference somewhere in their clip that details the equipment used for reeling in their catches. Time will tell if this fish story makes a YouTube appearance, so I am going to provide my “description below” in a blog post just in case.

Reel – Shimano Lexica LX-100

Rod – 7’0” Shakespeare Excursion Medium Heavy Action

Lure – Heddon Zara Spook in the natural frog pattern

Rest of the Story

Many anglers looking at the above details would scratch their heads wondering who in the heck fishes with this gear and why?

Well, since you asked…I set out for the Hennepin Canal last Sunday to make a “fish story”.

Once upon a time, my longtime friend, Matt Reynolds (aka Hack), purchased a baitcasting reel. The best he could recall, the purchase was made somewhere around 1993. As he had not used the reel for decades, he asked if I would be interested in adding it to my tackle. While he lives in the southeast, he has family back in my old neck of the woods and it made its way back last Thanksgiving. Being prone to dragging my feet, I finally reached out last Saturday and was able to make a pickup. Later that evening, I spooled it up with ten-pound Trilene (didn’t have any twelve-pound on hand) and it was ready to go.

Having damaged a rod tip recently, I was in the market for a replacement and found a couple bargains at the local department store. The Shakespeare models met my three primary qualifications for a casting rod: cheap, at least 6’6”, and one-piece. You can have your $300 rods and I suppose there are some benefits. But with these marked down from $22.26 to $15.00, I could have bought twenty of them for the same investment. I only bought two, however, and just like that I had a new rod and reel combo for a whopping fifteen bucks.

Being summer, there was no doubt what lure was going to land the first bass with the “new” reel. Hack and I had spent a fair amount of time in the 80s and 90s tossing around a Heddon Zara Spook topwater with solid results and some quality bass. In those days, at a spot called Ponder’s Pond, the natural frog pattern was a winner, prompting Hack to give it a nickname. Thereafter, it became known as “The Pickle”, a term of endearment in reference to its gherkin-like look.

My first cast with “The Pickle” at The Hennepin Canal was met with a light strike but the fish failed to hook up. While it would have made a good fish story to land a bass on the first cast, I wasn’t too disappointed. Fishing the warm, partly cloudy July evening on the shallow waters of The Canal, I was confident that sooner or later the Spook would produce. About fifteen minutes later, a solid blast by another bass with bad aim reinforced my outlook. Although I should have tossed a Senko into the boil created by the strike, a Spook bass was my goal, and I ran it by the area again to see if the bass was still interested. It was not and I set the Spook aside for a bit as I waited to reach another promising stretch of water.

That promising stretch of water wound up a winner with a quality bass weighing in at 2-6.

Couldn’t have written it up any better than the way it went down. And it sure won’t be the last bass that I land with that near thirty-year-old reel that looks and works like brand new.

I fished for another forty-five minutes or so with a couple other lures, but nothing was going to top the “fish story”. And on the way home, I got another bonus with a trio of tunes on the radio that took me back to running around with Hack and the Junk brothers all those years ago. Stay tuned for an abbreviated and overdue “Trip Tunes” post. Talk to you later. Troy

New Gear Update

Since we do not have a Top 5 Update for this week, I am instead substituting a post about new gear. Some of the items may seem less than exciting to many folks but they mean the world to me due to my penchant for record keeping.

First up, I had to replace my tape measure as the tag end of the old red one broke on a recent trip, resulting in the entire tape retracting into the casing. My Boga Grip does have a rusty old tape attached in case of emergency although I have seen enough bass that I really don’t need a tape other than to be “official.” Over the years, I have chosen a cloth tape rather than metal to avoid them rusting out. I grab these from the sewing aisle of the local department store, and they work great. While I am not a tailor, I do hang around with many seamstresses (Julie, Mom, mother-in-law Penny and my girls) so I do know my way around that section.

A more familiar section in stores are the tackle aisles which I visit every time I frequent an establishment that carries fishing stuff. Recently, I was on the road in Tennessee for work and stopped by a retailer to pick up some bottled water and grub. Dropping by the outdoor section of the Mount Union, TN location of a major chain I spied a batch of 5” Yamasenko worms in the natural shad color. This is the greatest Senko color of all-time but has disappeared from anywhere I have shopped in person for many years. I was so happy to see the color that I bought them all (luckily only three packs left on the peg). I gave one to Jayce and kept the other two for myself.

I tell you, another item that is hard to find is a wire bound, landscape-oriented batch of 4” x 6’ ruled index cards. This setup has been my go-to notebook for a fishing log since 2013. Going into 2022, I knew that I would need a new log if I were to land roughly 250 bass and as of June I was headed in the right direction. After scouring every department store, office supply store, and drug store I could find without success, I had to break down and order online. I opted to order the three-pack as that should keep me going for a while. My current log dates to March 7, 2020, and I have one page remaining (roughly fifteen fish per page) as I submit this post. All told, the current log contains data on nearly 1,000 bass and a handful of other catches. Looks like I won’t need to go on the hunt for a log for a while based on my fishing skills, fishing holes and catch rates.

One of the tapes has already been put into use. One of the notebooks will get dropped into the tacklebag before next week. One of the Senkos hit the water yesteday but came up empty despite being the best color ever. But yesterday, it didn’t really matter what I threw on The Canal as the bass were just not in the mood. That’s another story for next month’s July “Prowl the Canal” series. Talk to you later. Troy

20 Years of Fish Stories

Today marks twenty years since I started writing fish stories and such for public consumption. It all started out on April 30, 2002, as something that I called the “Family Fishing Hall of Fame Newsletter”. The intent was to share fishing reports and data with a small group of family and friends. The archives reveal that I sent out a total of forty-six posts during the remainder of 2002. Since then, the project has undergone a few changes of scenery. Without getting to carried away, I will mark today’s anniversary with a timeline of some of the writing highlights over the last twenty years.

April 30, 2002
Launch of the “Family Fishing Hall of Fame Newsletter” to share and collect fish stories with family and friends via email.

June 14, 2003
“Day on the Lake” feature debuts as I “borrow” the concept from Bassmaster to give a sort of play-by-play of a fishing trip. The first edition covers a trip to Lake Bracken with Brent.

April 6, 2010
I accept an offer from Peoria Journal Star outdoor writer, Jeff Lampe, to blog for free at the Prairie State Outdoors website which is associated with the newspaper. I entitle my blog “Meandering” to reflect my outdoor writing style.

March 25, 2011
Declining interest in by those in charge of the Prairie State Outdoors website after Jeff Lampe’s departure prompts me to do the same.

April 5, 2011
After a couple weeks off from blogging, I receive an offer from Jeff Lampe to blog on the Heartland Outdoors website as he has purchased the longtime regional publication.

March 19, 2014
Inspired by the record keeping of a fellow angler, Terry Isbell, I launch the “Top 5” project which invites readers to share their bass fishing catches. The project continues to this day.

May 1, 2017
Finding myself as the lone dedicated blogger on the Heartland Outdoors website, I bid farewell after six years of “Meandering’.

May 1, 2017
Troy Jackson Outdoors launches along with electing to do the social media thing to promote the new venture.

July 23, 2017
Julie and the kids get me a GoPro camera for birthday number fifty. What a fun addition to my fishing hobby, a constant companion ever since.

September 5, 2017
Trip Tunes debuts allowing me to find a way to include my passion for music with my passion for fishing. I envision a Final Jeopardy clue someday stating, “The first song to appear on Troy Jackson Outdoors’ Trip Tunes”. The contestant triumphantly responds, “What is ‘Bad Medicine’ from Bon Jovi?” And the crowd goes wild.

March 16, 2018
Friday Flashback debuts as I take a weekly look back at outdoor adventures from 5,10,15…45 years ago.


April 1, 2018
First Blooper Reel

October 25, 2018
Lake Lowdown feature is launched at Lake Storey and I am smart enough to bring Brent along for some highlights and he sets the new lake record.

March 15, 2020
YouTube debut

July 4, 2020
The “Snakeden at 30” series celebrates the July 1, 1990 public access debut of Snakeden Hollow, many, many fish ago.

August 1, 2021
“Top 40 Fishing Lines” borrows a page out of Casey Kasem’s book with a countdown of songs containing fishing references. It also coincides with the 40th birthday of MTV.

March 19, 2022
After nearly a year without a post, it’s time for a YouTube return to play catch up with videos old and new.

Time marches on and so do the fish stories. Stay tuned and talk to you later. Troy

Go Fish!

If you are reading this post hot off the press, I am either en route or enjoying the first fishing trip of 2022. It’s been a long wait since my last bass, 123 days in fact since November 17, 2021.

Plenty of time to prep for a new season, right?

Well, sorta.

In terms of gearing up, I am good to go from a tackle standpoint. New line on my reels and a restock of some needed and unneeded items are all in order. Although I still have until the end of the month on my 2021 Illinois fishing license, I already have the 2022 version in my wallet. A few licensing adventures over the years have taught me to plan ahead on the annual purchase.

Another aspect of many of my fishing trips involves being in shape. If I had to give myself a grade on this one, I would go with a B-. I’ve got just over a week of daily walking to the tune of three to four miles under my belt (even ran a little bit as well). I managed to drop thirteen pounds over the winter but most of that was shed during a January spat with the pandemic. I’m headed in the right direction but will fall considerably shy of my April 1 target weight by ten pounds. But hey, something is better than nothing and I’m feeling ready to tackle another year of strip mine hiking.

Final prep includes charging Go-Pro batteries, organizing tackle, fueling up the truck (that stinks with this administration), preparing some take along grub, packing extra clothes in case I fall in the lake, and helping catch up on laundry.

And when each of those items have been checked off the list, it is on the road to the fishing holes. I have my eyes on possibly four different strip mine lakes and want to add a new feature to the blog entries this year with a look at the record book. Some of the lakes have accepted names while others are my creation. Here we go with the initial batch of “Record Quest” data.

Record Quest

Goldenrod Lake (2006-present)
Top Bass: 3-8 Troy Jackson 9/2/2017 Crankbait
Best Top 5 Weight: 8-2 (3-8,2-2,2-1,1-12,1-9) 10/8/2017
All-Time Top 5 Weight: 11-0 (3-8,2-2,2-1,1-12,1-9)

Slurry Lake (2020-present)
Top Bass: 4-3 Troy Jackson 6/19/21 Lipless Crankbait
Best Top 5 Weight (only 2 fish): 7-12 (4-3,3-9) 6/19/21
All-Time Top 5 Weight (only 3 fish): 8-13 (4-3,3-9,1-1)

Bearclaw Lake (1990-present)
Top Bass: 3-15 Troy Jackson 8/14/2001 Stickbait
Best Top 5 Weight: 9-0 (3-4,2-1,1-9,1-5,0-13) 8/31/06
All-Time Top 5 Weight: 16-8 (3-15,3-6,3-4,3-3,2-12)

Beaver Lake (1990-present)
Top Bass: 4-5 Brent Jackson 10/13/19 Spinnerbait
Best Top 5 Weight: 9-4 (4-0,1-14,1-6,1-2,0-14) 7/1/20
All-Time Top 5 Weight: 14-6 (4-5,4-0,2-6,1-14,1-13)

Brent and I are scheduled to be on the water today around lunchtime so stay tuned for a full report next week. Talk to you later. Troy

Gearing Up 2022

Winter is fading, waters are thawing, and the first casts are on the horizon.

Things are looking up for a new year of chasing some fish.


A new license is in hand, membership dues have been paid, reels are respooled and a batch of new gear is ready for action.

Christmas windfall helps to gear up for another year

I’ve got to be a mono, mono man

27 years and counting, three to go for waived dues

Legal and paid in full for 2022

Bonus baits, homemade from an old high school baseball buddy


Now I just need some decent weather, some time away from work, and some gas money. Talk to you later. Troy