Blog Banner – Uncle Martin

“And I freaked ‘cause the guy sitting next to me was a Martian”

Martian Boogie – Brownsville Station (1977)

Inadvertent backdrop took me back to an old TV show

This shot was included in the Blog Banner as an example of a weird accident turned trivia opportunity that wasn’t noticed until taking a closer look at the pic after the trip. These days we do have the welcome feature of immediate feedback on digital photos but I generally just give them a quick glance. I make sure the shots are in focus and that my lighting is acceptable before giving it the okay and letting the fish swim away.

In the case of this shot, it was not a particularly impressive bass but it was my first of the evening which calls for a picture. After all, while you intend to add more to the log, you just never know when those fish will get stingy and leave you without another bite. Since taking up blogging, the first fish shot has become a habit just for such a reason.

Upon having a closer look when compiling my fishing report I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit at the “antennae” protruding from my floppy hat courtesy of one of the electrical towers in the background. The photobomb immediately made me think of the old sitcom My Favorite Martian that used to run in rerun on weekday summer afternoons as a kid. I was never what you would call a fan as I was more of an outdoor kid but I saw enough to get the character of Uncle Martin lodged somewhere in my brain.

And there you have it, another fun bit of once useless trivia put to work all of these years later in an outdoor blog. The actor who played Uncle Martin had a later role that hit closer to my generation. It was none other than Ray Walston who portrayed History teacher, Mr. Hand, in the classic 80s comedy, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Good stuff. Aloha and talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Booyah Y’all

“Lights out, aha, blast, blast, blast!”

Lights Out – Peter Wolf (1984)

(Note: this fun solo effort from the onetime J. Geils Band frontman is kind of a lost cut and I would also recommend checking out the entertaining video for his 1987 tune “Come As You Are”)

Booyah Buzz Buzzbait in the Snow White Shad pattern

blast (verb) – to attack vigorously

blast (noun) – an explosion or violent detonation

blast (noun) – an enjoyably exciting experience, event or occasion

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

Well, wait a minute. I guess I need to check out one more definition.

Booyah (exclamation) – used to express triumph or exuberance

Yeah, that also fits the bill on a buzzbait catch.

Being an amateur scribe, I don’t get compensated to pitch anything but Booyah if you are out there…

Anyway, I buy these off the rack just like most of us fishing folk. For my money they are just right as the price is reasonable for one thing. Many places you can find them for under $5 and after a couple good strikes I’d say the bait has returned your investment. Of course, they last much longer but the rest is just icing on the cake.

The second aspect that is a winner is the fairly brainless nature of a buzzbait retrieve. Now you’ve got to be tossing it in the right places but once you identify such locations it’s basically cast it out, reel it in and get comfortable on the edge of your seat.

A few quick tips though before I let you go.

I find that a longer rod is a must to get the most effect and distance out of your casts (I use a 7’ Medium Heavy/Fast Action model). I want to throw it as far as I can around those fishy looking spots in order that it makes as much commotion for as long as it can on the way back to the boat or bank.

A high gear ratio reel helps to keep the bait moving and picks up slack in a hurry to begin the retrieve once the bait hits the water. I only use a 6.2:1 so could definitely step it up to ease the workout but it is what I’ve got and I make do just fine.

Final note, don’t set the hook when you see the strike but wait that split second to feel the fish. Easier said than done and takes some practice.

While we won’t be tossing buzzbaits anytime soon around here I thought this post provided a good opportunity to educate beyond the earlier vocabulary lesson. The education aspect is a feature that I hope to delve into a bit more as 2019 progresses.

Okay, four more of these Blog Banner posts to go along with the regular Friday Flashback. Looks like I just might complete this project after all. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – You Go Girl

“You just call on me brother (or sister) when you need a hand…”

Lean on Me – Bill Withers (1972)

Carly with a Henry County, IL pond catch that took an extra hand to hold – May 29, 2017

Anybody remember the Addams Family?

Well, that’s not Thing giving our youngest daughter, Carly, an assist with her bass but instead it’s her younger brother, Jayce. He’s much more in tune with handling the catch. In fact, he can hardly wait to get a hand on a fish no matter who is on the catching end.

When it comes to catching though, Carly will give that boy a run for his money as the most prolific fishing kid. A scan of the outdoor photo collection shows her with a bluegill on the end of a Mickey Mouse pole a month shy of turning two years old.

Carly also holds the unofficial kid species record with a collection of bluegill, crappie, bass, green sunfish and redear. She seems to have a knack for the latter of that bunch, prompting a previous blog entry for the original Blog Banner series entitled “Redear Queen” (click here).

I definitely give this pic a thumbs up just as Carly is doing with one of her two free hands. Hey, no harm in getting by with a little help from your friends (or a sibling). Heck, I used to fish with a Golden Gloves boxing champ in high school, toughest dude around, who either used a leather glove or had me unhook his fish. True story, and he was also afraid of worms. But those are tales for another day, if I ever decide to risk the reveal.

Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Take A Hike

“We’ll leave the TV and the radio behind, don’t you wonder what we’ll find.”

Steppin’ Out – Joe Jackson (1982)

Johnson-Sauk Trail State Recreation Area – August 5, 2017

How appealing does this picture from a summer day look to anyone else who is tired of a full blown Midwest winter?

Beyond the sign lies a wonderful world of discovery for our young crew and a reconnect for their folks. Back in the 90s and early 2000s, before Julie and I tied the knot and later found ourselves responsible for four kids, we used to spend a fair amount of time roaming the outdoors. Field guides in hand we prowled numerous Illinois state parks from the home base of a much smaller tent than what is required nowadays.

Johnson-Sauk Trail State Recreation Area near Kewanee, IL had made the cut back in the day making it even more fun to revisit and view through the eyes of our offspring.

As expected, the park did not disappoint with nature’s pallete of greens, yellows, reds, purples, and oranges all catching our attention. The plants bearing those colors included tulip tree, jewelweed, trumpet creeper, Joe Pye weed, tall bellflower, cup-plant and one of my favorites, bergamot, all of which we demonstrated identifying with our field guides in tow.

Now, winter’s been a rough one around here, but sooner or later those woods will spring to life yet again during another act of nature’s fascinating annual play.

Keep your eyes peeled for the stars of the show such as trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, mayapple, bloodroot, violets, phlox and more. And if your timing and eyesight are right, perhaps you’ll cross paths with a generally highly regarded springtime fungal treasure known as the morel.

So dust off those hiking boots or an old pair of tennis shoes and be ready to step out when nature calls (you know what I mean). Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Instant Feedback

“Words are weapons sharper than knives…”

Devil Inside – INXS (1988)

Texting our realtime results from the field – April 21, 2018

Ah yes, the wonderful world of technology and its effect on my hobby.

Plenty of things that we take for granted never even entered my mind back when I started chasing bass in the 1980s.

Blogging for instance, or even the internet for that matter. Heck, I had to wait for the October 1984 issue of Bassmaster to find out that Rick Clunn had captured his third Bassmaster Classic title in mid-August of that year . Nowadays, in a couple weeks I’ll be able to track near realtime catch and weight data, read up to the minute blogs and watch the live daily weigh-ins from the Bassmaster Classic on the computer in my living room.

Or better yet, on my phone, from anywhere.

Which brings me to today’s Blog Banner picture which is actually a screenshot.

So, my brother, Brent, and I are roaming around some Knox County strip mines last April doing a pretty good number on the bass. Well, as he lands a few good ones I fire away with the camera which is actually part of a phone these days. And it’s not good enough to simply store the pics on the phone which boasts a storage capacity that was unheard of on personal computers not too awfully long ago. Nope, you’ve also gotta boast a bit to the fans at home. Instant feedback via texting rather than having to take your film in for processing before it can find a home on the local baitshop counter or bragboard.

Instant feedback indeed in sending a note and picture from the middle of nowhere to Mom, Dad and Julie to keep them up to speed on our results. I’ve gotta say that while sometimes I have about all the tech I can take, the ability to send out on the spot fishing updates is still pretty cool.

For this outing, Brent’s 2-12 would stand as Top Bass, besting my best bass by exactly one pound. Looking back I have to laugh at Julie’s response of “Where’s yours?” as it confirmed that I was once again getting outfished by my younger brother. My reply of “Stay tuned” conveyed that I still had high hopes but in the end I couldn’t effectively provide her with a suitable text and pic reply.

Sometimes the whole instant feedback thing can be double edged sword. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – March 9, 2004

Original log entry from this outing

We revisit Emstrom’s Pond for the second Friday in a row and we’ll see it again before this whole Flashback project is over. Sooner than you think, really. But it was the kind of place that was worth visiting over and over again during the sixteen years that we had access to the fishing hole.

For today’s post we look at an early season lone bass outing on a perfect spot to take a shot at a challenging cold water bite. The pond was barely outside of the Galesburg, IL city limits which was just right for a quick evening hit for an hour or two to try our luck. Here’s the scoop from the original report posted in March of 2004.

Although the weather wasn’t exactly balmy, the results sure made it much easier to bear as we now have a new “Top Bass” for 2004. As I sat around home on Tuesday (3/9), I debated on whether or not to give Emstrom’s Pond a shot. Around 1:00 pm, I decided to phone Time & Temp for weather conditions. I told Julie that if it was 46 degrees or above I was going. Although my temperature limit was just off the top of my head, 46 degrees turned out to be the exact temperature when I called. Therefore, it was time to pack up and go. I anticipated fishing alone as Dad had some stuff going on. However, after about twenty minutes on the pond, Brent showed up. He’d just gotten off work and stopped by Mom and Dad’s to see if anyone was fishing.

About a half hour after he arrived we moved in for a closer shot at The Beaver Lodge since our efforts in deeper water hadn’t produced any bites. Not long after Brent dropped the anchor, I felt the old familiar tap through the rod blank. As I stated, “There’s a hit,” I rammed the hook home and was rewarded with a tug back in response. I wasn’t sure if I got a solid hookset, but after a few thrashes on the surface I boated my first bass of the year. My concerns on the hookset were unfounded as the jig was completely engulfed and firmly hooked in the top of the fish’s mouth. Brent guessed the weight at 4-6 while I went for 3-5. Seems both of us were a little rusty as the fish nearly split the difference, tipping the scale at 3-11. The fish fell to a jig (black/blue glitter) and pig (#23 kicker frog-black). It was our only hit in around an hour and a half on the water but well worth the trip. It was also convenient that Brent showed up to witness the catch. Not to mention he got anchor duty in the chilly water and served as photographer, hopefully producing better results than some of my self-portraits. I’m sure I’ll get to return the favor somewhere along the way. Anyway, a great fish for my first bass of the year.

A good start to another year of fishing

Fun to read that things got off to a solid start fifteen years ago, especially since we’re still in icefishing mode here in 2019. Quite a winter and definitely ready for it to subside but no such luck with negative low temps returning for the next couple days. Oh well, at least I have the home stretch of the Blog Banner series to provide an escape from the extended bout with Cabin Fever. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – The Last Bass

“Life, so they say, is but a game and we let it slip away.”

We May Never Pass This Way Again – Seals & Crofts (1973)

End of the line with a gaunt bass from a dying Knox County, IL public strip pit – July 30, 2017

Back in 2006 I wandered well of the beaten path at some public strip mines and found a few bass in a secluded lake partially surrounded by a grove of locust trees. Since it didn’t have a name on a map, I christened it Locust Lake.

For the next several years I made a handful of visits and even managed to portage a boat into the spot on a couple occasions. It was a decent fishing hole in terms of numbers and worth the effort to reach. However, I could never find any heavy bass that I suspected called it home. Closest I got was a big bite that busted off my Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait one afternoon but I never got a look at the fish. But I’ve done this long enough to know that not only was it a good fish but also that it could be as big as the story I chose to tell.

Fast forward to the summer of 2017 and I finally got my look at what might have been on my line, actually several examples. All floating on the surface as I crested the rise that effectively hides the lake. The collection of dead fish, including several bass in the four pound range, was an unfortunate explanation for the foul stench that permeated the air during my approach.

Having put forth the effort to haul in my little boat, I decided to give it a go for old time’s sake to see if I could find any survivors. The picture above from the Blog Banner was one of three bass that came aboard in a couple hours of rowing around the rotting fishing hole. It measured 17.5” and tipped the scales at a sickly weight of only 1-13. I was surprised it even had enough left in the tank to bite and I remember at the time thinking that I didn’t really even want to lip it as it looked almost infectious.

Truly a sad end to the remote body of water and even more disheartening when observing those quality floating bass on its surface. I guess at least it confirmed my suspicions of some decent fish. Sure wish they would have been on the end of my line instead of at the end of the line. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Say Cheese

“This is your big debut, it’s like a dream come true,

so won’t you smile for the camera.”

Peg –Steely Dan (1981)

Knox County, IL strip mine – April 25, 2017

While such catches just don’t show up for me every trip, 2017 was a pretty solid year. So this fish definitely deserved a spot in the Blog Banner as it was fooled during the time period designated for this collection of photos. And yes, I will admit that much of the purpose of the Blog Banner is to grab attention as that’s all part of the game for a website. Such a tactic is referred to as “clickbait”, a lure all in itself but not one that resides in a tacklebox. No deceit here though as my posts deliver what the pics represent and that’s what this whole Blog Banner series is laying down.

This fish is just another piece of that message as it is actually a big bass and not some sort of internet photoshop trick. I wouldn’t pull such a stunt as this blog shoots straight and reports weight (5-9 on this 22” bass). Catches of this size are also fun in the age of the selfie as they make you wonder if your arm is going to be long enough to capture the whole fish in the frame.

Another note on fishing pics is that if you elect to put your mug in the shot (and I think you should), don’t forget to put a smile on your face. Looking back over 50 years of family outdoor pics, I’m proud to say that most all of them have some happy looking outdoor folks in them.

Of course, if I luck into one this size that grin is kind of automatic. Pretty much lasts all day too. In fact, it brings a smile as I type up this blog entry nearly two years later and I imagine that it always will.

Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Taco Tuesday

“Not only good lookin’, the girl was so smart, can’t beat her cookin’…”

Use Ta Be My Girl – The O’Jays (1978)

(Note: Always dug this tune and those lines apply to my wife, Julie. Don’t be misled by the title though as she is still my girl.)

Camping fare fave, taco in a bag/bowl – July 14, 2017

What’s a guy look for in a wife?

I guess part of my checklist in terms of outdoor appeal went something like this:

Does she like to fish? Check

Can she set up a tent? Check

Is she okay sleeping in that tent? Check

Is she good with being the one to open gates on occasion? Check

Can she start a campfire? Check

Can she cook without a kitchen? Check

Yep, I got a good one in Julie, all icing on the cake after that stuff I suppose.

And beyond the goods for taco in a bowl/bag as shown above, she also sets us up with camping grub like breakfast in a bag, pizza pockets and omelet in a baggie. Sure beats my old school bachelor camping fare of hot dogs, sandwiches and little chocolate donuts.

We make a good team as her efforts allow me to take the lead on some of the other important camping stuff.

Fishing poles? Check

Tackleboxes? Check

Waxworms? Check

And so on…

Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Venit Vidit Vicit

“Whenever I see your smiling face, I have to smile myself.”

Your Smiling Face – James Taylor (1977)

Jayce scores on a Henry County, IL pond – May 29, 2017

Well, the smiling face of a kid with his catch pretty much says it all.

But I’m going to say some more anyway. I usually do.

Not only a smile in this photo of my boy, Jayce, but also a triumphant thumbs up on a job well done. All from a stout green sunfish which for pretty much all anglers does not rank particularly high on the gamefish roster. But that’s just right when introducing young anglers to the hobby. No need to be species specific. Target whatever you can get to bite with the most high percentage bait you’ve got. In the case of this local pothole of a pond that meant waxworms on a jighead hung from a slip bobber.

Jayce came, Jayce cast, Jayce caught.

And in the process caught more than just a quality green sunfish.

Also caught the fishing bug.

Mission accomplished (and got to put those years of Latin class to use for the second time in 2019).

Talk to you later. Troy