Category: Top 5

2019 Top 5 Stats & Guidelines

(Note: click here for the rules and guidelines for the Top 5)

Been a rough winter around here so pretty slim pickings to start the 2019 Top 5. If it weren’t for some dedication from Top 5 veteran, Jim Junk, we’d be shutout. His New Year’s Day bass saved the day and stands as the lone entry to date. Winter arrived in full force shortly after that catch resulting in the first February blank since kicking off the project back in 2014. But, as always, if we’ve got fish, we’ve got a monthly stat update.

Our lone bass of 2019 but here’s hoping for another banner Top 5 year 

2019 Totals (* = new record)
January = 1 bass
February = no submissions
March = no submissions…yet

Top 5 Weight by Month (* = new record)
January = 3-3 (3-3)
February = no submissions
March = no submissions…yet

Boat vs. Bank
Boat = no submissions
Bank = 1 bass

Boat vs. Bank Weight (* = new record)
Boat = no submissions
Bank = 3-3 (3-3)

Public vs. Private
Public = 1 bass
Private = no submissions

Public vs. Private Top 5 Weight
Public = 3-3 (3-3)
Private = no submissions

The Baits (* = new record)
Lipless Crankbaits = 1 bass (Top Bass 3-3 Jim Junk)

Monthly Top Bass (* = new record)
3-3 Jim Junk
No submissions
No submissions

Angler Weights
Jim Junk 3-3 (3-3)

Other Species
No submissions

Locally, winter is showing signs of loosening its grip and we’ve moved into the later sunset so things are headed in the right direction. I’m going with the lack of entries being due to weather as opposed to a lack of interest so send ‘em my way when you finally get a shot to do some casting. One final note to pass along is that Jim’s catch puts us at 592 bass all-time so what do you say you take a shot at being the answer to a Top 5 trivia question regarding bass #600? Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – February 19, 2014

Today we look back at the very first fish ever submitted to the “Top 5” project.

Pictured above is angler, Bruce Zilkowski, along with the details on his bass from the entry for the catch. And it all started after a conversation with one of Bruce’s friends, Terry Isbell. Now I had long compiled a list of my Top 5 bass catches for each outing but I sure hadn’t thought about keeping a tally of my annual five best bass. How that escaped me I have no idea but I was on board one hundred percent with the concept.

So, in 2014 at a former blogging gig I kicked off the “Top 5”, a sort of virtual brag board. Kind of the modern day equivalent to the stack of pictures that I used to marvel over at a pair of local baitshops, Al’s Sporting Goods and Steve’s Army Surplus.

Oh, what a collection of catches those shops used to hold.

Anglers of all ages and interests adorned the counters with all manner of species and sizes. A strip mine bass here, a Lake Storey muskie there, a hand-sized farm pond bluegill, a stringer of Oak Run crappie, some Spoon River catfish deeper in the stack or a stray Lake Bracken carp slid across the glass amongst a handful of other photos. Various handwritten details adorned the backs providing yet more to amaze this young angler.

Well, it’s all still part of the fun of the Top 5 project which has included anglers from age 8 to age 80 and has expanded to include various species as well. Regular Monday updates when the catching is good grace the blog along with monthly and yearly updates of the stats we amass.

A sample of those initial 2014 bass and their anglers.

And we’re doing it all once again in year number six that kicked off with a New Year’s Day bass nabbed before winter got all ugly around here. But it’s mid-February and pitchers and catchers have begun reporting which brings a faint glimmer of hope that my least favorite season will eventually loosen its grip.

Perhaps I’ll see a fish in front of your smiling face as 2019 rolls on. Talk to you later. Troy

2018 Fishing Video Recap – Top 5

Back in 2014 on a former blogging gig I kicked off an audience participation thing called “Top 5.” It all began with bass and basically you send in your catches as the year progresses working towards a year end Top 5 weight. I’ve covered all of the specifics here on the website a couple times, most recently in the January 7 Top 5 Update post so I’ll refer you there for the scoop.

For 2018, 116 more bass entered the database thanks to anglers both young and not as young, waters both public and private and lures galore. It’s always a treat to see a new message in the Inbox, catch one for myself or have a front row seat when a fishing partner gets a good one.

And the latter is where we are headed with today’s video. All of the 2019 bass had their merits so how in the world would a guy pick a Top 5 from the Top 5 to call his favorites.

Actually, it was pretty easy.

And they ain’t even mine.


Yep, it was quite a day. Chunking Senkos on Cinco de Mayo with my boy. Don’t get much better than that.

I’ll leave it at that too, as the video says plenty. You don’t need any more words from this guy, just go back and watch the video instead.

Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update and Guidelines

So, here we go again with year number six of the Top 5 project already off and running thanks to a West Central Illinois New Year’s Day bass. Yep, that’s right, open water on a non-power plant/cooling lake to start the year, rather unusual. Of course, that is only part of the equation as you also need to figure out how to get bit. Congrats to Jim Junk on getting it done with all the details below.

Weight: 3-3
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: January 1
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Rat L Trap
Angler Comments: Didn’t really think I would be putting you to work this early in the year. Healthy 3-3 Banner bass hit a Rat L Trap.
Top 5 Weight: 3-3

If a New Year’s Day bass wasn’t cool enough, Jim had also landed a 2018 Christmas Day bass as pictured below, quite impressive.

(Note: Below is a rundown of the “rules” for the Top 5 project as a refresher for some and an invitation for others.)

The Top 5 is an audience participation project for anglers to submit their catches for public consumption on what I like to call a virtual brag board. 2019 marks year number six of the project and it’s been an entertaining addition to my fishing and writing hobbies as well as something to look forward to with weekly update postings each Monday and monthly updates of the running totals.

While initially focusing solely on bass, beginning in 2017 the project was expanded to include other freshwater species. I will accept either weight or length data based on the angler’s preference so there will potentially be separate categories within species according to the information provided. One stipulation is that the fish be landed via rod and reel.

Bass will still remain a collective group for your Top 5 creel (largemouth, smallmouth, spotted or whatever other black bass species you might run into on a fishing journey somewhere) and must measure 12” or better to qualify whether submitted to the length or weight category. Don’t hesitate to send in some early members of your “limit” that you anticipate displacing later. It’s always fun to watch the progression in such instances and even the Bassmasters have to post some “dinks” along the way.

I don’t really have any minimum criteria on other species at this point and I am leaving each species on its own. For example, the catfish family will all be separate, thus a flathead Top 5, channel cat Top 5 or even a bullhead Top 5 if that’s your specialty.

For those who elect to weigh their catch, while a digital model is preferred, if you still roll with a DeLiar and such, it’s all good as long as you can get within a couple ounces of accuracy (remember there is no big money check). We run on honor code. I shoot straight in terms of weight in all of my fishing reports and I assume others do as well.

The amount of information you are willing to share is entirely up to you. I’m a more information the better guy but I get it if you’d rather remain somewhat elusive. I have compiled a database of the 591 bass and handful of other species submitted over the years and it’s always fun to take a look at the record book. Thus, it would be cool to have it dialed in, but I’ll take whatever I can get.

Here’s what I’m asking for in your submissions:

Weight/Length: I record weights in pounds and ounces such that 5-4 equates to five pounds four ounces as opposed to decimals so I ask that submissions be reported in this fashion to avoid conversion and/or confusion. For length submissions let’s go with the nearest half inch.

Lures/Bait: if you aren’t willing to reveal specifics such as brand, model, presentation and color, a generic category such as spinnerbait, plastic worm or crankbait would be appreciated. Chicken liver, stinkbait, dew worm, cutbait and so on work just fine as well.

Location: if you don’t want to say “Emiquon Preserve” just go with Fulton County and a designation of public or private would also be of interest. Even West Central Illinois strip mine or Eastern Iowa stream would be beneficial if you prefer not to be too specific.

Date: can’t see much of an issue with this aspect but I guess I’ll just list it as the date I received the submission unless otherwise noted. Once again though, the more accurate the better in my book.

Name: totally up to you whether you want to use your real name or a nickname, just let me know what you prefer.

Photo: a pic is required so have your cameras or “phones” at the ready. After all, part of the premise of this entire project is to show more fishing pictures on the website than just my little bass. Whether you put your mug in the frame is your choice.

Angler Comments: if you’ve got a story, something weird or otherwise interesting to pass along with the catch, by all means, include your tale. Same goes for structure as it’s fun to hear if the fish came off a point, alongside a laydown, amidst a patch of lilypads and so on. I will be happy to use your description, as written, in the periodic updates so don’t use any “bad” words, that way I don’t have to spend time editing.

And here is the general process:

Step One: You catch, weigh/measure, document and photograph a fish that resides in your Top 5 heaviest of 2018.
Step Two: Send your pic and details to
Step Three: I track the catches and photos in order to provide periodic updates (typically each Monday) as you build your Top 5. (Note: you send each fish as you work towards a Top 5 rather than waiting until you have five, unless, of course, you wipe ‘em all out on your first trip).
Step Four: Repeat the above, replacing (or culling to use a tourney term) smaller Top 5 fish as larger ones join your ledger. For instance, say your Top 5 by May 1 is as follows: 3-4, 2-7, 2-3, 1-12 and 1-11 for a total weight of 11-5. Then on May 6 you reel in a 3-3 so out goes the 1-11 and the total weight bumps up to 12-13. Same concept for length submissions.

And as you saw at the beginning of this lengthy post, we are already off and running. Good luck to all and talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Record Book – Part II

Top 5 bass stats Part II without further ado.

Public vs. Private Water (2014-2018)
Public = 373 bass (92/52/95/42/92)
Public Top 5 Weight = 32-2, 31-7, 30-5, 27-7 and 24-5 (2018)
Private = 201 bass (53/48/39/37/24)
Private Top 5 Weight = 38-10, 30-0, 32-13, 33-14 and 31-9 (2018)
Undisclosed = 17 bass (9/6/2/0/0)

Comments: It’s tough to beat having access to some private fishing holes and our sample pool of bass show that such waters can pump out some quality bass. But it is also refreshing that the numbers show that our anglers do quite well when chasing bass on waters where everybody can take their shot.

Boat vs. Bank (2014-2018) * = new record
Boat = 379 bass (90/63/103/68/55)
Boat Top 5 Weight = 30-7, 31-7, 32-13, 33-14 and 31-9 (2018)
Bank = 206 bass (64/43/27/11/61)
Bank Top 5 Weight = 40-14, 27-6, 27-12, 20-14 and 24-2 (2018)
Undisclosed = 6 bass

Comments: Like many hobbies, fishing can be as expensive as one chooses to make it ranging from bass boats to boots. To each their own as our numbers demonstrate that casting from a seat or on your feet are both effective approaches.

The Baits (44 undisclosed) * = new record
138 Plastic Worms (Top Bass 6-8 Mark Balbinot 11/20/16)
68 Crankbaits (8-0 Kamryn Kaesebier 4/13/14)
*62 Spinnerbaits (5-14 Mark Balbinot 10/20/18) – Old Record (5-4 Terry Isbell 10/22/14)
50 Jigs (9-4 Jake Bresson 5/23/14)
*42 Lipless Crankbaits (6-3 Mark Balbinot 10/20/18) = Old Record (5-13 Troy Jackson 3/21/15)
29 Swimbaits (8-10 Gary Le 5/4/14)
27 Swim Jigs (6-13 Jake Bresson 4/9/15)
26 Creature Baits (6-15 Mark Balbinot 5/13/17)
21 Buzzbaits (5-9 Troy Jackson4/25/17)
20 Jerkbaits (5-10 Ty Hartlipp 6/5/14)
14 Chatterbaits (Top Bass 4-10 Mark Balbinot 2/20/16)
12 Tubes (Top Bass 5-0 Jake Bresson 4/28/15)
11 Topwater Frog (6-11 Ty Hartlipp 6/11/14)
9 Underspins (Top Bass 7-7 Mark Balbinot 12/11/16)
5 Stickbaits (6-6 Mark Balbinot 8/27/17)
5 Ultralights (3-1 Paul Kessler 10/12/17)
4 Livebait (5-14 Jim Junk 7/4/14)
2 Inline Spinners (5-2 Jake Bresson 9/17/17)
2 Propbaits (6-2 Jake Bresson 5/1/15)

Comments: What can you say about the tried and true plastic worm? Still getting it done in a variety of presentations and more than holding its own against the never ending parade of “can’t miss” concoctions constantly tugging at your wallet.

The 20-Pound Club * = 2018 entry
33-14 Mark Balbinot 2017 (7-4,6-15,6-13,6-8,6-6)
32-13 Jake Bresson 2014 (9-4, 8-8, 6-6, 4-10, 4-1)
32-13 Mark Balbinot 2016 (7-7,6-8,6-5,6-5,6-4)
32-0 Gary Le 2014 (8-10,6-8,5-12,5-10, 5-8)
*31-9 Mark Balbinot 2018 (7-2,6-12,6-3,5-14,5-10)
29-7 Austin Chapman 2015 (6-4,6-2,6-0,5-14,5-3)
27-12 Jake Bresson 2015 (6-13,6-2,5-5,5-0,4-8)
27-6 Randy Sampson Sr 2015 (7-0,6-1,4-13,4-12,4-12)
27-6 Jake Bresson 2016 (6-3,5-13,5-4,5-2,5-0)
26-13 Troy Jackson 2017 (6-2,5-11,5-9,5-0,4-7)
26-4 Austin Chapman 2016 (5-14,5-10,5-2,4-14,4-12)
26-1 Brice Wangler 2014 (5-11, 5-5, 5-2, 5-0, 4-15)
25-8 Brice Wangler 2015 (5-7,5-4,5-2,4-14,4-13)
24-14 Ty Hartlipp 2014 (6-11, 5-10, 5-5, 4-0, 3-4)
24-9 Terry Isbell 2014 (5-8,5-4,5-2,4-8,4-3)
23-12 Jake Bresson 2017 (5-4,5-2,5-2,4-3,4-1)
23-11 Randy Sampson Sr. 2017 (6-0,4-14,4-12,4-11,3-6)
*23-8 Jim Junk 2018 (5-4,5-2,4-9,4-5,4-4)
22-15 Adam Bean 2015 (5-13,4-9,4-6,4-2,4-1)
22-13 Mike Mooney 2014 (6-4, 5-7, 4-3, 3-9, 3-6)
22-12 Troy Jackson 2015 (5-13,4-13,4-10,3-12,3-12)
21-8 Randy Sampson Sr. 2016 (5-12,5-8,4-11,3-1,2-8)
21-7 Brice Wangler 2016 (4-8,4-7,4-4,4-2,4-2)
21-3 Troy Jackson 2016 (5-9,5-4,3-9,3-7,3-6)
*20-15 Chris Schwarz 2018 (4-11,4-11,4-8,4-0,3-1)
20-14 Troy Jackson 2014 (4-13, 4-6, 4-2, 4-1, 3-8)
20-9 Austin Chapman 2014 (4-15, 4-4,4-0,3-13,3-9)
20-1 Bruce Zilkowski 2014 (4-11,4-3,4-0,3-12,3-7)

Comments: Three more entries into the coveted 20-pound club in 2018 including another one up there in the rare air of the 30-pound club. Mark Balbinot makes it a three-peat of titles, all 30-pound limits. Jim Junk posts his personal best total and impressively reels them all in from the bank. Newcomer, Chris Schwarz, also gets the job done along with sharing his enjoyment of our hobby with a batch of youngsters (perhaps a closer look at that bunch later this year).

Top 10 Top 5 Bass * = 2018 entry
9-4 Jake Breeson 5/23/14 Jig
8-10 Gary Le 5/4/14 Swimbait
8-8 Jake Breeson 5/23/14 Jig
8-0 Kamryn Kaesebier 4/13/14 Crankbait
7-7 Mark Balbinot 12/11/16 Underspin
7-4 Mark Balbinot 10/29/17 Jig
*7-2 Mark Balbinot 11/23/18 Underspin
7-0 Randy Sampson Sr. 3/22/15 Jig
6-15 Mark Balbinot 5/13/17 Creature Bait
6-13 Jake Breeson 4/9/15 Swim Jig
6-13 Mark Balbinot 12/10/17 Creature Bait

Comments: Our 2018 champ nabbed the only bass that was able to crack the all-time Top 10 and that’s not easy to do. It will take a near seven-pounder to displace a fish from this list as we head into a New Year.

And just for fun…

All-Time Weights (40-pound minimum “career” mark)
(Note: not all anglers have participated each year)
111-11 Jake Bresson (32-13,27-12,27-6,23-12)
107-3 Troy Jackson (20-14,22-12,21-3,26-13,15-9)
98-4 Mark Balbinot (33-14,32-13,31-9)
76-4 Austin Chapman (20-9,29-7,26-4)
73-0 Brice Wangler (26-1,25-8,21-7)
72-15 Bruce Zilkowski (20-1,17-0,17-14,18-0)
72-10 Randy Sampson, Sr. (27-6,21-8,23-12)
67-7 Brent Jackson (18-7,6-10,13-2,10-2,19-2)
66-12 Paul Kessler (18-6,17-6,16-6,14-10)
64-11 Jim Junk (11-7,16-5,13-7,23-8)
45-11 Mike Mooney (22-13,4-9,18-5)

Comments: We have our second member of the “career” 100-pound club despite the fellow struggling a bit and failing to keep his 20-pound limit streak alive. Maybe this year and looks like the next catch for our current champ will put him in the club as well.

Year five is in the books and back for more in 2019 for anyone who is interested. And we’ll take all species again this year if you chase or happen upon something other than bass. We already have our first catch of the New Year so make sure you stop by tomorrow for the earliest Top 5 Update in the history of the project. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Record Book – Part I

No time to fool around with the annual Top 5 all-time record book look as the 2019 version is already off and running. This post and another tomorrow will get us up to speed just in time for Monday’s initial Top 5 Update of the New Year, the earliest start in the history of our project. As we await the latest, here’s a look at the numbers from the five year history of the Top 5.

A fine batch of 116 bass in 2018 brought the all-time total to 591 bass submitted. 2018 also marked the second year of a Top 5 expansion to include other species and we added a half dozen more to the “Other Species” portion of the record book. We’ll kick things off there before moving on to the bass breakdown.

Other Species (* = 2018 entry)

Channel Catfish
*13-0 Teagan Mills
*8-2 (25”) Chris Schwarz

Green Sunfish
0-13 Jayce Jackson from 2017

131” Jake Bresson (47”,31”,29”24”) on Rapala X-Rap from 2017
*70+” John Kirkemo (40”, 30+”) from 2018
29” Troy Jackson on Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait from 2017

Northern Pike
167.25” Jake Bresson (37.0”,35.25”,33.5”,32.0”,29.5”) from 2017

Rainbow Trout
*22” John Kirkemo (11”,11”)

118” Jake Bresson (26.5”,26.0”,25.5”,20”,20”) Rapala X-Rap or jig & minnow – 2017

Moving on to the bass, let’s take a look at how our fish stack up with respect to the calendar. Five years, 34 different anglers and 591 bass (all but 22 from Illinois waters) make up the all-time record book. Here we go.

Group Totals = 591 bass
2014 = 154
2015 = 106
2016 = 136
2017 = 79
2018 = 116

Submissions by month (2014-2018) * = new record
130 April (43/33/31/11/12)
106 May (27/23/19/13/24)
74 June (34/14/15/1/10)
68 March (13/11/34/10/0)
56 July (18/11/8/11/8)
45 October (4/5/4/8/24*)
38 September (6/4/6/6/16*)
29 February (2/2/7/13/5)
18 November (6/0/4/0/8*)
13 August (1/3/1/4/4*)
8 December (0/0/7/1/0)
6 January (0/0/0/1/5)

Comments: While Spring continues to rule the day in terms of submissions, a record batch of late season bass was a welcome change to extend the weekly updates in 2018. It can be tough to upgrade late in the year but those bass are definitely out there if you don’t put those fishing poles away too early. Mid-summer is still a bummer with the August haul needing a boost so don’t forget the dog days although they are a ways down the road.

Top 10 Top 5 Monthly Weights (group total) * = new entry
37-9 May 2014
29-8 June 2014
29-7 March 2016
29-2 April 2014
*28-9 October 2018
28-7 December 2016
27-14 April 2015
27-12 March 2015
27-11 July 2014
27-10 April 2016

Comments: Takes nearly 28 pounds of combined weight from our anglers to crack the Top 10 all-time which is getting to be pretty tall order as we kick off our sixth year.

Top 5 Weights per Month (group total) * = new record
*January (2018) = 13-5 (3-15, 2-7, 2-6, 2-6, 2-3) old mark 2-11 in 2017
February (2016) = 22-9 (6-7,4-15,4-10,4-1,2-8)
March (2016) = 29-7 (6-5,6-1,5-14,5-10,5-9)
April (2014) = 29-2 (8-0, 5-11, 5-10, 4-15. 4-14)
May (2014) = 37-9 (9-4, 8-10, 8-8, 6-1, 5-2)
June (2014) = 29-8 (6-11, 6-4, 5-10, 5-8, 5-7)
July (2014) = 27-11 (6-6, 6-0, 5-5, 5-0, 5-0)
August (2017) = 18-9 (6-6,5-11,4-3,2-5)
*September (2018) = 23-8 (5-2,5-1,4-9,4-8,4-4) old mark 22-3 in 2014
*October (2018) = 28-9 (6-3,5-14,5-10,5-10,5-4) old mark 26-11 in 2017
*November (2018) = 26-1 (7-2,6-12,4-3,4-0,4-0) old mark 24-9 in 2016
December (2016) = 28-7 (7-7,6-5,5-13,4-11,4-3)

Comments: Pretty cool to see one third of the calendar set new marks in 2018 kicked off by a full January creel to replace the former mark held by a lone 2017 bass. Crazy close on the year as well with three of the final four months getting a boost, good stuff.

Monthly Top Bass * = new record
3-15 Mark Balbinot (old record 2-11 Mark Balbinot 2017)
6-7 Mike Overturf 2/27/16 Plastic Worm
7-0 Randy Sampson Sr. 3/22/15 Jig
8-0 Kamryn Kaesebier 4/13/14 Crankbait
9-4 Jake Breeson 5/23/14 Jig
6-11 Ty Hartlipp 6/11/14 Topwater Frog
6-6 Jake Breeson 7/11/14 Plastic Worm
6-8 Gary Le 8/16/14 Swimbait
6-0 Austin Chapman 9/19/15 Jig
7-4 Mark Balbinot 10/29/17 Jig
7-2 Mark Balbinot 11/23/18 Underspin (old record 6-8 Mark Balbinot 2016)
7-7 Mark Balbinot 12/11/16 Underspin

Comments: Outstanding bookend bass by our 2018 Champ, Mark Balbinot, saw him establish a pair of new monthly marks, January (3-15) and November (7-2). For the second straight year we also have uncommon January open water in the local area so…

This will put a wrap on Part I of the Top 5 record book update with plenty more to come tomorrow with a look at the how, what and who. And seriously, if you can swing it, get out there the next few days as we don’t get these temps and open water in West Central Illinois very often during the first week of January. Give it a go, keep it slow and you know where to send your submissions. Talk to you later. Troy

2018 Top 5 Final Stats

Another successful year of sharing fish stories in the book as 2018 gives way to a New Year. As always, we’ve got stats…and a Top 5 Champ to crown. So dive right in for the rundown of the numbers and blurbs as we close the book on 2018, year five of the Top 5.

Congratulations to Mark Balbinot our 2018 Top 5 Champ

2018 Bass Totals (* = new record)
*January = 5 bass (old record 1 in 2017)
February = 5 bass
March = 0 bass
April = 12 bass
May = 24 bass
June = 10 bass
July = 8 bass
August = 4 bass
*September = 16 bass (old record 6 in 2014,2015,2017)
*October = 24 bass (old record 8 in 2017)
November = 8 bass
Comments: Ten bass by the end of February was a sight for sore eyes as you never know what the weather holds where most all of us Top 5 folks wet a line. I must say that March ended up as downer though with nary a submission. A strong finish to the year really pulled us through and included new record monthly totals among those last 48 bass.

Top 5 Weight by Month (* = new record)
*January = 13-5 (3-15, 2-7, 2-6, 2-6, 2-3) previous record 2-11 in 2017
February = 7-3 (2-6,1-7,1-5,1-2,0-15)
March = no submissions
April = 14-15 (4-0,3-0,2-12,2-10,2-9)
May = 19-5 (4-11,4-8,3-10,3-7,3-1)
June = 18-10 (4-5,4-1,3-9,3-7,3-4)
July = 18-13 (4-0,3-14,3-13,3-11,3-7)
August 11-6 (3-15,3-10,2-12,1-1)
*September = 23-8 (5-2,5-1,4-9,4-8,4-4) previous record 22-3 in 2014
*October = 28-9 (6-3,5-14,5-10,5-10,5-4) previous record 26-11 in 2017
*November = 26-1 (7-2,6-12,4-3,4-0,4-0) previous record 24-9 in 2016
Comments: Record breaking bookends on the calendar were a cool feature and prove that you can still get it done in cool water. An outstanding batch of bass during the final three months of submissions included all of the Top 10 bass for the year (more on that later).

Chris Schwarz, Jayce Jackson, Paul Kessler, Riley Danner (left to right)

Boat vs. Bank
Boat = 55 bass
Bank = 61 bass

Boat vs. Bank Weight (* = new record)
Boat = 31-9 (7-2,6-12,6-3,5-14,5-10)
Bank = 24-2 (5-4,5-2,4-11,4-9,4-8)
Comments: You know, it kind of does my heart good to see a breakdown such as this. I’ve spent my share of time in both spots, still do. Both have their merits and the latter of the two is a necessity by rule on at least one of my stomping grounds. While the boated bass outweighed the banked bass, it certainly was an impressive batch for the bunch that prowled the banks. A boat definitely alleviates that old “sure wish I could get over there” feeling but the limited access of the bank can also pay dividends. That limitation can force you to slow down, work your spots thoroughly and maybe hit them a second time on the way back to the parking lot.

Nick Tiska, John Kirkemo (left to right) 

Public vs. Private
Public = 92 bass
Private = 24 bass

Public vs. Private Top 5 Weight
Public = 24-5 (5-4,5-2,4-11,4-11,4-9)
Private = 31-9 (7-2,6-12,6-3,5-14,5-10)
Comments: Even if you’ve got more than enough fishing holes to choose from do you ever wish that you had some more private honey holes? Sure, but those can be hard to come by these days. Thus, it’s fun to see the results that the Top 5 crew produced by spending a lot of time fishing where everybody can fish.

The Baits (* = new record)
Plastic Worms = 56 bass (Top Bass 5-2 Jim Junk)
*Spinnerbaits = 17 bass (Top Bass 5-14 Mark Balbinot) beats 5-4 Terry Isbell 2014
Crankbaits = 15 bass (Top Bass 5-10 Mark Balbinot)
*Lipless Crankbaits = 8 bass (Top Bass 6-3 Mark Balbinot) beats 5-13 Troy Jackson 2015
*Chatterbait = 7 bass (Top Bass 4-11 Chris Schwarz) beats 4-10 Mark Balbinot 2016
Buzzbait = 3 bass (Top Bass 4-8 Troy Jackson)
Creature Baits = 3 bass (Top Bass 3-9 Paul Kessler)
Jigs = 2 bass (Top Bass 2-12 Brent Jackson)
Underspins = 2 bass (Top Bass 7-2 Mark Balbinot)
Jerkbait = 1 bass (Top Bass 1-6 John Kirkemo)
Topwater Frog = 1 bass (Top Bass 3-7 Nick Tiska)
Undisclosed = 1 bass
Comments: What can you say about the good, old plastic worm? Presentations may have changed as wacky rigging ruled the day amongst our anglers, but these things still get it done. Several new records are also established in 2018 and it took some darn good bass to set the marks.

Brent Jackson, Jim Junk, Troy Jackson, Teagan Mills (left to right)

Monthly Top Bass (* = new record)
3-15 Mark Balbinot (old record 2-11 Mark Balbinot 2016)
2-6 Troy Jackson
No submissions
4-0 Chris Schwarz
4-11 Chris Schwarz
4-5 Jim Junk
4-0 Jim Junk
3-15 Jim Junk
5-2 Jim Junk
6-3 Mark Balbinot
7-2 Mark Balbinot (old record 6-8 Mark Balbinot 2016)
Comments: The new monthly Top Bass to begin and end our year were each part of their respective monthly Top 5 record books. Lots of folks can catch them when the conditions are favorable while January and November can kick up the challenge just a notch.

Patricia Kirkemo, Landon Hannam (left to right)

Top 10 Bass (* = new Top 10 all-time)
*7-2 Mark Balbinot 11/23 (#7 all-time)
6-12 Mark Balbinot 11/23
6-3 Mark Balbinot 10/20
5-14 Mark Balbinot 10/20
5-10 Mark Balbinot 10/20
5-10 Mark Balbinot 10/29
5-4 Jim Junk 10/26
5-3 Mark Balbinot 10/28
5-2 Jim Junk 9/8
5-1 Brent Jackson 9/23
Comments: In a case of “saved the best for last”, the final submission of 2018 turned out to be the largest bass of the year. It also managed to crack the all-time Top 5 Top 10 list which is a pretty tall order these days as it takes a near 7-pounder.

Top Bass Angler Weights 
Mark Balbinot 31-9 (7-2,6-12,6-3,5-14,5-10)
Jim Junk 23-8 (5-4,5-2,4-9,4-5,4-4)
Chris Schwarz 20-15 (4-11,4-11,4-8,4-0,3-1)
Brent Jackson 19-2 (5-1,4-11,3-8,3-7,2-7)
Troy Jackson 15-9 (4-8,3-2,3-0,2-9,2-6)
Paul Kessler 14-10 (3-10,3-9,2-12,2-10,2-1)
John Kirkemo 10-8 (2-7,2-3,2-0,2-0,1-14)
Jayce Jackson 7-8 (2-5,1-13,1-5,1-4,0-13)
Nick Tiska 3-7 (3-7)
Patricia Kirkemo 2-15 (2-15)
Landon Hannam 1-5 (1-5)
Riley Danner 1-5 (1-5)
Teagan Mills 1-2 (1-2)
Comments: Congratulations to our 2018 Top 5 Champ, Mark Balbinot, whose strong finish propelled him to his third straight winning weight. All told, 13 anglers posted our 116 bass as well as the species to follow below.

Other Species
Comments: The Top 5 expanded to include species other than bass back in 2017 and the contributions have been rather slim with just over a dozen non-bass in the database. However, it’s good to see that there’s other fish in the lakes, ponds, rivers and streams than those crazy bass. It’s always a treat when one of those “others” shows up in the Inbox with this year’s newcomer being the rainbow trout.

Muskie Length Totals
70+” John Kirkemo (40”, 30+”)

Channel Catfish Totals
13-0 Teagan Mills
8-2 (25”) Chris Schwarz

Rainbow Trout Totals
22” John Kirkemo (11”,11”)


There you have it. The Top 5 turned five with a solid and rewarding batch of catches from some boys and a girl spanning the age spectrum from youngsters to considerably more “experienced” youngsters. The 2018 totals of 116 bass and 6 others represented a welcome boost from 79 and 13, respectively, in 2017.

So, you know what? We’re going to do it again in 2019.

In fact, it’s already off and running. But before we get to the year’s first submission via next Monday’s earliest Top 5 update ever, we’ll take a look at the record book. Tune in over the next two days for a look at the all-time stats from five years of fishing. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

A hefty batch of bass as a late season arrival provide us with at least one more update before we bid farewell to 2018. If this is indeed the conclusion it sure is an impressive finale.

Weight: 5-3
Angler: Mark Balbinot
Date: October 28
Location: Fulton County strip pit
Water Temp: Mid 50s F
Lure: White Big Bladed Spinnerbait
Structure: Tree top

Weight: 5-10
Angler: Mark Balbinot
Date: October 29
Location: Fulton County strip pit
Water Temp: Mid 50s F
Lure: Bandit Crankbait (chartreuse/blue)
Structure: Tree top

Weight: 6-12
Angler: Mark Balbinot
Date: November 23
Location: Fulton County strip pit
Water Temp: Mid 40s F
Lure: Underspin with Magic Shad
Structure: Tree top

Weight: 7-2
Angler: Mark Balbinot
Date: November 23
Location: Fulton County strip pit
Water Temp: Mid 40s F
Lure: Underspin with Magic Shad
Structure: Shallow Flat
Top 5 Weight: 31-9 (7-2,6-12,6-3,5-14,5-10) culls 5-3 and 5-0

Thanks, Mark, for the outstanding batch of bass. And I would also like to give a shout out to the rest of our bunch who made for yet another exciting year of fish stories. Stay tuned for a final stat update sometime in January to put the finishing touch on the 2018 Top 5. In addition, I will have a series of wrap-ups that take a look at the all-time stats as we conclude year number five of our project. Plenty more other stuff too for December to close out the year so stay tuned. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Open water is disappearing in my neighborhood and with it go my hopes of hitting my annual goal of a November bass. However, another of our Top 5 anglers continues his impressive run with a couple more submissions. It takes some work these days to get it done so here’s a tip of the stocking cap to Jim Junk for keeping us going.


Weight: 3-11 and 4-0
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: November 16
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Chatterbait
Angler Comments: Didn’t have very high expectations when the place I wanted to fish was ice covered and the past two times out had been limited to one small bass. Found some open water though and these two, 3-11 and 4-0, both on a chatterbait.
Top 5 Weight: 23-8 (5-4,5-2,4-9,4-5,4-4)

In corresponding with Jim last week he also noted that he’d applied a bit of Reel Magic to the rod guides to keep them from freezing up his line. Good tip, I’ll have to keep that one in mind. Also got a grin upon noticing a glove in one of the pics. Now, that’s some dedication in searching for “one more bass” before calling it a year. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

The weather in West Central Illinois has taken a dip in the cold direction and even featured a measurable snowfall last week. But a couple anglers have still managed to get out there and fool some fish, including the first pair that add another entry to our “Other Species” category (meaning something that’s not a bass).

Rainbow Trout
Length: Both 11”
Angler: John Kirkemo
Date: November 5
Location: Lake Argyle – McDonough County, IL
Air Temp: mid 40sF
Water Temp: 53F
Lure: #2 Roy Self Spoon trolled behind ¼ oz. bead chain keel sinker
Structure: Open water 20’ deep
Angler Comments: Murky water, strong at time south wind, overcast with occasional very light rain
Trip Tune: “The Way It Is” – Bruce Hornsby & The Range
Top 5 Length: 22”

Weight: 3-10
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: November 5
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Lipless Crankbait
Angler Comments: Ended up with two bass on a lipless crank, big one was 3-10

Weight: 4-0
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: November 7
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Lipless Crankbait

Weight: 4-3
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: November 7
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Lipless Crankbait
Structure: Weeds
Angler Comments: Six more bass with a pair of 4-pounders. All on lipless crank. Pulling it through weeds, pretty classic, hits came right after pulling it through a weed.
Top 5 Weight: 23-8 (5-4,5-2,4-9,4-5,4-4)

Kudos for continuing to get out there and get it done. I’ll keep on posting them as long as you can keep catching and sending them. Thanks also to all for the late season contributions which have made for a strong finish to our 2018 Top 5. Been a fun year, will be interesting to see if we’re done quite yet. Talk to you later. Troy