Category: Something Else

Prowl the Canal – July Notes

Each month, I try to go beyond the numbers with some further insights and observations from my time on The Canal. Such notes from July cover water conditions, Canal access, a nostalgic technique, and an out of the ordinary item from The Canal’s “Lost and Found.”

More water on this stretch of The Canal as last year the submerged rocks in this photo were high and dry

In contrast, the exposed bank on this stretch was under water last year

Water Levels – I have fished The Canal for just over two years and it has been interesting to explore the miles and miles of water. One observation that stands out for 2023 is the change in water levels on different stretches. I don’t know the rhyme or reason for the differing levels, but I have struggled to parlay these changes into a solid bite. On the pools that are deeper this year, I can’t find a consistent bite on the increased shoreline structure. On the low pools, I can’t find where they are hiding in the abundant vegetation. Just a strange year for me out there and beginning to think that The Canal spoiled me in previous years.

Old school pedal power as I go back to my Canal roots

Back on the Bike – My first experiences on The Canal beginning in June 2021 were either on bike or on foot. For July this year, six of my eight outings went back to my roots with pedal power. These trips were quick hits when I had less than two hours to cast. The approach was quite effective in landing two thirds of my July catches and all my July 2023 Top 5 bass.

The good, old Texas rigged plastic worm has been getting it done for a long time

Texas Time – On the previously mentioned bike rides, I invested a significant amount of time throwing a Texas rigged worm. This presentation goes back to my bass fishing roots in the early to mid-80s but has been neglected for a long time. New techniques, lures, and confidence baits have dominated my offerings instead. However, I found an area that featured a deep, clean channel and decided to break out the old setup. The bass in the area took a liking to the lure and included four over two pounds.

Instead of a lost lure, I found a prehistoric creature last month

Dimetrodon Discoveries – An occasional bonus from prowling The Canal is adding some tackle to the collection. This is particularly true when accessing the water by boat as you can pluck lost lures from trees that a bank angler cannot reach. 2023 has provided slim pickings though as shore bound anglers are either improving their casting or not fishing where I fish. My July discovery pictured above was made in a parking area rather than the trees. It was a plastic creature that I recognized as Dimetrodon from back when I was a kid and totally into dinosaurs. Upon doing a bit of research for this post though, I found that Dimetrodon was not a dinosaur but rather a “non-mammalian synapsid” that predated the dinosaurs by many millions of years. In fact, Dimetrodon became extinct roughly 40 million years before the dinosaurs roamed the earth. It was cool to discover some new information from my Canal discovery. And while it was rewarding to find that those in the know still called this creature Dimetrodon, the revelation that my childhood “dinosaur” collections weren’t quite paleontologically accurate was disappointing. Of course, some of the sets also included cavemen, which I already knew was wrong, just like Cha-Ka from the old “Land of the Lost” series.

And now, it is on to see what August holds in store as I continue to “Prowl the Canal.” Talk to you later. Troy

Thoughts at 56

Well, it is once again time for my annual tangent. Let’s celebrate another year with some fifty-six associated thoughts.

Did you know that in his final year of Major League Baseball, Bert Campaneris wore uniform #56 for the Yankees? Neither did I until I searched for players who wore that number. I was thinking football but “Campy” wound up being my favorite choice. Beyond earning three World Series rings with the entertaining Oakland A’s (1972, 73, 74), he took the American League stolen base crown six times.

One of the greatest statistical numbers in the history of baseball. It represents the MLB consecutive game hitting streak record established by Joe DiMaggio in 1941.

Fifty-Six, Arkansas
Had I known that I was only fifty-three miles from Fifty-Six when I was in Heber Springs, Arkansas a couple weeks ago, I would have stopped for a photo. Of course, I was only fifty-five at the time.


Top Bass #56 of 2023
Oddly enough the catch above was one of a matching pair, both caught on 5/6. Now, that’s weird.

Billboard #1 Song July 23, 1967 vs. Billboard #1 Song July 23, 2023
1967 – “Windy” – The Association
Classic, still sounds great from a time when vocals were just vocals.
2023 – “Last Night” – Morgan Wallen
Never heard it until I pulled it up as I wrote this and I’ll still take Randy Travis, Keith Whitley, Clint Black, Dwight Yoakam, Steve Earle and so on. I guess I am getting old.

Lyndon Baines Johnson (1967) vs. Joe Biden (2023) – Nope, time to sign off…

Please tune in tomorrow as we resume our regular programming with a Top 5 Update. Talk to you later. Troy

Prowl the Canal – May Notes

Lone find from the “Lost and Found” in May

Along with the stats, there are usually some other bits and pieces to report from a month of casting on The Canal as I try not to ramble too much on the specific fishing reports. So, read on for the rest of the story from a series of prowls in the merry, merry month of May.

“The one that got away” in the clip below


Majestic cottonwoods litter the surface of The Canal with fuzz as described below

The Fuzz – The Canal is lined with some massive cottonwood trees. The leaves, bark and twigs of these trees can be messy, but the bane of anglers is the cottony fuzz that these trees scatter in seed dispersal. The fuzz gathers on the line during the retrieve and proceeds to clump on the line ties, the hook eyes, and the spools of reels. It can be darn tough to get it completely cleaned off these spots particularly your line. This year, the fuzz appears to be a bumper crop, possibly a cyclical phenomenon where plants produce an abundance of seeds known as “masting.”

Cottonwood fuzz accumulates rapidly at this time of the year

Gnuisances – The gnats are especially irritating this year on The Canal. Up your nose, in your ears, on the inside of your glasses, and in your hat, they are everywhere. And some of them bite as evidenced by a dozen or more itchy welts on my neck, face, and ears after several outings. All part of the pursuit and while I am aware of potions, elixirs, and sprays, the smell of most of those concoctions annoy me more than the bugs. But, hey, at least it’s not mosquitoes…yet.

Weeds abound despite efforts to control, but the bass are hiding in there somewhere


June on The Canal is underway so stay tuned for those reports and more. Talk to you later. Troy

A New Old Reel

Daiwa Procaster PMA 10S – my first ever baitcasting reel (circa 1986-87)

While attending the Quad City Outdoor Show in February, I stopped by the Croegaerts Great Outdoors booth and spotted a batch of refurbished reels on display. While I wasn’t in the market for one of those repaired reels, I did have a tub of my own in the garage that needed attention. I inquired about someone having a look and they said to bring them by the shop. Last month, I finally got around to hauling five baitcasting reels in various states of disrepair over to Rock Island.

The breakdown of what was broke down

Included in my tub of broken down baitcasters were three Bass Pro Shops reels (level wind, handle, line guide issues), a Pfleuger model (broken anti-reverse), and an old Daiwa (thumb bar sticking). The latter just so happened to be the first baitcasting reel that I ever purchased.

Bass Pro Shop models – no local repair option it seems

It turned out that the three Bass Pro Shops reels were not able to be repaired onsite. Parts were not available to the local bait shop and will need to be addressed directly with Bass Pro Shops. Unfortunately, I was informed during a visit to Bass Pro Shops in East Peoria last week that the reels must be shipped to the Springfield, Missouri location. Not happening for now.

Pflueger TRI62LP

The Pflueger TRI62LP model was suffering from an anti-reverse issue as it reeled in both directions despite having an anti-reverse feature. Croegaerts was able to get it back in working order and now it only reels the right way.

Daiwa Procaster PMA 10S

It was great to get the Pflueger fixed, but the real treat was the shop getting my old Daiwa Procaster PMA 10S back in business. Of all the reels that I dropped off, it was the one that I anticipated being least likely to get repaired. My concern was parts being unavailable due to the reel being over thirty-five years old. Luckily, the fix was simply greasing and cleaning.

I’ve already got the Daiwa spooled up and ready but I am waiting on a rod repair to complete a setup reminiscent of the old days. Like the old Shimano Lexica that I obtained last summer from a longtime friend and fishing buddy, Matt Reynolds, I’m fired up to put the Daiwa to use. From my logs and pics, the best estimate is that I purchased the Daiwa reel in 1986 or 1987. If I got eight or ten years out of it, I would be surprised. Therefore, it has been hauled around through several moves to different homes (and garages) for close to twenty-five years.

Daiwa Procaster PMA 10S – not pretty but ready to come out of retirement

Lots of stories and memories involving the reel and the time when it was reeling in a bass or two. Those tales from the distant past will wait for another day.

For now, stay tuned for the return and a big “Thank you” to Croegaerts for their role in some new fish stories. Talk to you later. Troy

Catch Analysis – Big Ned

Trying something new with a post that delves into the details of a specific catch. I call today’s post “Big Ned,” an oxymoron with a small lure presentation fooling a large catch. Read on for the data, background, play-by-play, and video that put this bass in the log.

Tale of the Tape
April 7, 2023 at 2:49pm
Island Lake – Knox County public strip pit
1/4 oz./3” Lunker Hunt Finesse Swimbait (perfect pumpkin)
Length: 22”
Weight: 5-3

Previous lake record of 2-3 caught by Brent on April 12, 2021

The Lake
We have taken to naming the unnamed strip mine fishing holes that we have prowled for years. This one goes by Island Lake as it has an island or two in it. Prior to this catch, the lake record was a 2-3 landed by Brent on April 12, 2021. Not being one of our more frequent stops, my wanderings had only resulted in 28 bass in 4.75 hours of fishing over the last ten years.

The Lure
Brent and I elected to invest in a lightweight, low key, finesse bait on this outing, generically called a “Ned rig.” Our unassuming stubby worms, grubs, or swimbaits were fished on light jigheads and crawled or hopped slowly along the bottom in the cold-water conditions we encountered.

The Catch Chronology

7:17pm Thursday – A plan develops.

11:28am Friday – First Ned rig catch of the day.

12:06pm – Brent scores on the Ned rig

2:32pm – “Since we’re this close, I am going to give Island Lake a shot.” No luck on my first spot along the bank.

2:42pm – “Since we’re here, I’m going to fish down this finger.” Turned out to be a good decision.

2:48pm – I spot the silhouette of a large fish in roughly three feet of water.

2:49pm – I gently pitch my Ned rig out past the fish, hop it back, and then kill the retrieve about a foot in front of my target.

A puff of sediment appears as the bass nears the lure. Instinct, vision and feel all tell me that the fish has inhaled the bait and I set the hook.

The fight is on, and I quickly realize that the fish I estimated in the three-pound range is considerably larger than I thought.

As I am perched on a rise in the bank, I must now figure out how to land the bass. I plop down on my backside, slide down the slope, dangle my boots in the water, and successfully manage to grab the bass near my left knee.


2:50pm – I half crawl/half climb back up the bank without losing or grounding the fish and it’s time for the measurements. The bass comes in at 22” and I guesstimate it going 4-6. To my surprise the scale reads 5-3. I guess I don’t catch enough that big, so my eyeball calibration needs some more practice.

2:51pm – After a few pictures, the bass is released to grow up. With a little luck, I have just boosted the lake record by three pounds.

2:57pm – After catching my breath, bragging time is on as I shamelessly text Brent, my wife, Mom and Dad, and my friends, John, and Jim. Hey, that’s all part of the fun, right?

The thing that stinks about the catch is that my GoPro video was somehow corrupted. The original clip was fifty seconds long but for some reason I was only able to salvage thirty-four seconds of video without sound. It is what it is, I guess although no such thing as making a fishing video was possible for me until I got some technology in 2017. The salvaged clip is below and still hoping that I can find a way to recover the entire clip.


We’ll see how the rest of the year goes and how the GoPro holds up to determine if I revisit any more catches. Any feedback on whether you find this feature worthwhile is appreciated as well. Talk to you later. Troy

Pre-Season Prep

While I am already on the board with a 2023 bass, I am still finishing up my pre-season prep for another year of chasing some fish. As a writer, I have long been a fan of alliteration, so let’s pull out that tried and true technique for todays’ post.

Pre-season prep this year consists of half a dozen “Rs” as follows:


This aspect should have started sooner than it did and involves getting in some semblance of shape. Most of my fishing involves either hiking, biking, or rowing so a bit of physical fitness is in order. A handful of hikes along The Canal provides not only exercise but also a chance to do a little scouting for potential destinations.


 I am not a winter angler, so my off season is spent exploring in ways other than casting. My lifetime Bassmaster and InFisherman subscriptions continue to pay dividends while the internet, social media, and Google Maps are treasure troves of information (and misinformation if you are not careful). The QCCA Outdoor Show is also an annual stop to take in a couple seminars and pick up a tip or two from local organizations.


Between Christmas, Father’s Day, and a birthday, I usually acquire a gift card or two from some major tackle retailers. In addition, I like to make a few winter stops at local shops during my previously noted scouting missions. The QCCA Outdoor Show also featured a few bargains that I could not pass up. And don’t forget to renew that fishing license.


A new year means it is time for new line as the reels are often low due to frequent retying and line checks during the previous year. As it has been for most of the last thirty-five years, Trilene monofilament is the line of choice in either ten- or twelve-pound test for my bass fishing.


Over the years, a collection of rods and reels have taken a beating and broke down. Being a frugal pack rat, I have kept them around with thoughts of getting them fixed. Two local tackle shops have been employed to fix three damaged rods and five broken down reels. The rods should be no problem but a couple of the reels are rather ancient (dating back to the 90s), so still awaiting a verdict on those being salvageable. Sure would be cool to get at least one of them back in the lineup for old times’ sake.


Being a stat guy and longtime keeper of a log, I like to look at the numbers to see if I am close to any milestones. Perhaps it is Bass #100 from a remote strip pit or maybe targeting a body of water that needs a Top 5 boost. Whatever the case, a stroll through the databases, spreadsheets, and record book aid in developing a plan for the new year.

While I feel good about the status of the pre-season prep, I have only been able to translate the work into one bass this year. But spring has sprung and sooner or later those water temps will be on the rise along with the bass activity level. Stay tuned and talk to you later. Troy

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