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

The Cover of the…

RIP, Ray Sawyer, the eye-patched co-lead singer of Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show who passed away earlier this week.

Sawyer’s vocals are featured on the iconic hit, “The Cover of the Rolling Stone”, a satirical romp on making it big. If you’ve never checked out this crew doing their thing on this cut, it’s worth a search and brings a smile. It also leaves you wondering just what these guys were up to and to what degree their performances reflect a bit of chemically influenced reality versus an entertaining batch of leg pulling. At any rate, they sure looked like they enjoyed their craft.

A tongue in cheek assessment of the pinnacle of rock stardom was offered up in the following bit of the Shel Silverstein penned lyrics:

“Wanna see my smilin’ face on the cover of the Rollin’ Stone.”

Well, they made it once upon a time, in caricature. Mission accomplished by this wild crew who produced plenty of smiling faces on those who with an ear on their craft and an eye on their antics.

And being that this is an “outdoor” website, I do have a tie in to the world of fishing and one of its publications. While Illinois Game & Fish may not pack the star powered punch of Rolling Stone, it is kind of cool to see your smilin’ face looking back at you from the cover.

Don’t know what fraction of Andy Warhol’s “fifteen minutes” the 2010 appearance might rate but still fun nonetheless. Got a larger shot and a shout out in the accompanying article as well but that is a tale for another day, perhaps this spring.

Talk to you later. Troy

2018 Lyric of the Month – Part II

Much appreciated if you are back for more as we take a look at the second half of the lines from 2018.

“Everyone’s feeling pretty, it’s hotter than July.”
Master Blaster (Jammin’)
Stevie Wonder (1980)
Several months ago, a Facebook group that I follow posed the question of who is the greatest singer or musician of all-time. I narrowed it down to those I have seen or heard in my lifetime and sure think it would be tough to beat this fella.

“I feel it in the air, the summer’s out of reach.”
The Boys of Summer – Don Henley (1984)
I chose this one as once August rolls around these days I always feel that the summer is done since school starts so much earlier than when I was a kid. I always dug some of the imagery that Henley’s lyrics conjured up and as a 17 year-old kid “I can see you, your brown skin shining in the sun” was quite fascinating.

“Hey, I heard you missed us, we’re back.”
Hot for Teacher
Van Halen (1984)
Just like the song above, here’s another one from the start of my senior year of high school. And if you have enjoyed that phase of life, are familiar with this tune and lived in the early days of MTV, well, you know where I’m coming from. If you have yet to hit to hit that age, enjoy it, and know that if we could trade places for a few days…

“We could exist on the stars, it’d be so easy.”
Miracles – Jefferson Starship (1975)
Hey, what do you know? Another love song and this one is a winner. Marty Balin croons it from the heart with nearly seven entertaining minutes of rambling without rhyme that just hits the spot. Sadly, my reason for selecting this cut was Balin’s passing on September 27, 2018.

“When the days get shorter and the nights get long.”
She’s So Cold – Rolling Stones (1980)
Proving that there is a method to my madness, this one was chosen to coincide with the onset of Daylight Savings Time and the coming Winter Solstice. I’m a science guy at heart and dedicated music buff so it’s kind of fun when it all of that potentially useless knowledge upstairs all comes together.

“It snowed today, its cold here for November.
If Hollywood Don’t Need You (Honey I Still Do) – Don Williams (1982)
Lots of stuff going on here. Always a treat to hear the “Gentle Giant” who passed away in September 2017. And his reference in this classic tune to Burt Reynolds was also timely as “The Bandit/Gator/Paul Crewe” had died in September 2018. Finally, a near 14” Thanksgiving weekend snowstorm deserved a shout out.

Okay, thanks to those of you who have hung in there for the musical interlude of this outdoor website. We now sort of resume our regular programming with a music/fishing tribute piece up next before moving on to some 2018 and all-time Top 5 stats. Actually have some fish up next week as well with the earliest start ever to our Top 5 project. In fact, the first catch of 2019 will never be beaten only equaled. Talk to you later. Troy

2018 Lyric of the Month – Part I

As you may or may not know, each new month features a new lyric tucked away at the bottom of the webpage as an added feature. All for fun and gives me an excuse to share my passion for tunes alongside some fish, family, fellow anglers, nature and whatever else crosses my mind as those wheels are always turning.

Right on schedule, there’s a new lyric down there but since it’s also the beginning of the New Year, I’ve also got a bunch of lyrics up here too. For the “outdoor” posts of the next two days it’s a look back at the dozen batches of lines, titles, artists and years that graced the footer as “Lyric of the Month” in 2018. Of course, I add a little two cents as well in this recap as I enjoy talking tunes as much as tackle.

“It’ll be just like starting over, starting over.”
(Just Like) Starting Over, John Lennon (1980)
Such a shame that Lennon’s new start after an extended absence from the music business was senselessly ended only six weeks after this song was released as a single.

“But February made me shiver…”
American Pie, Don McLean (1971)
One of my earliest memories from the AM dial. Didn’t understand it then, sort of do a bit more now but simply epic, nostalgic, and tragic and that good, old “drove my Chevy to the levee” line is still a favorite piece of lyrical artistry pushing 50 years later.

“I’m your vehicle, baby, I’ll take you anywhere you wanna go.”
Vehicle, Ides of March (1970)
While a little creepy as “I’m a friendly stranger in a black sedan won’t you hop inside my car” and so on, this one jams with some soul and a horn section. Kind of fun that the songwriter and Ides’ leader, Jim Peterik, would find future stardom with his band, Survivor.

“The thoughts of a fool’s kind of careless, I’m just a fool waiting on the wrong block.”
Fool in the Rain, Led Zeppelin (1979)
The best songs are love songs, no matter the presentation, fast, slow or samba. And when you can’t suppress a smile or resist the urge to sing along to the tale of a soggy, broken hearted fool who doesn’t know it or won’t admit it, that’s musical magic. Six minutes later, I’m happy when I should feel bad for the guy.

“If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now, it’s just a spring clean for the May queen.”
Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin (1971)
Oft cited as one of the greatest rock cuts of all-time and I would have to agree, it simply doesn’t get old. It’s always fun too, when you get more than one song wrapped into one song (see also “Band on the Run”).

“Man, it’s a hot one, like seven inches from the midnight sun.”
Smooth, Santana featuring Rob Thomas (1999)
Hard to believe this one is going to turn 20 years old, time flies. This one was fitting for a late spring heatwave and was just fun proof that a lifetime of listening has left me with a lyric (or two or three or…) for every occasion. Drives my kids (and sometimes Julie) nuts but amuses myself.

And tomorrow gives me another occasion to ramble with the second batch. Talk to you later. Troy

Trip Tune Stats

A New Year’s Eve highlight while growing up was something called “The Big 89 Countdown” featured on Chicago’s WLS 890 AM radio. The annual rundown of each year’s hits ran from 1967 through 1986 with my listening heyday being the mid-70s into the 80s. The countdown would kick off in the evening and run you right up to the midnight reveal of the year’s top tune. Awesome stuff for a young radio buff, stat kid and fan of countdowns/lists. Call me a goof, but I actually used to get out the notebook paper and make my own list as the disc jockeys spun the way to number one.

Oh, what a countdown, late December back in 1976…the rest of the archives can be found by clicking here

Here on the blog I have managed to find a way to work in some of those old tunes under the guise of outdoor stuff with a feature that I call “Top 10 Trip Tunes.” For those not familiar with the concept, I compile a list of the Top 10 songs that grace the airwaves during the round trip to the fishing hole (typically an hour or so each way). Thus far, these blog postings have racked up a total of 115 tunes (a shorter outing featured only a Top 5) going back to the first go round from a September 2, 2017 outing.

So, what the heck, it’s time for some stats as we bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new.

Top 10 Trip Tunes – Top Artists (by appearance)
4 – Led Zeppelin
3 – Blondie
The Cars
Jackson Browne
Jefferson Starship

Top 10 Trip Tunes – Top Decades
1970s – 77 tunes
1980s – 28 tunes
1960s – 6 tunes
1990s – 2 tunes
2000s – 1 tune
2010s – 1 tune

Top 10 Trip Tunes – Top 10 Years (including my Top Hit)
1978 – 19 tunes (Right Down the Line – Gerry Rafferty)
1975 – 12 tunes (Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd)
1979 – 11 tunes (Fool in the Rain – Led Zeppelin)
1976 – 9 tunes (The Boys are Back in Town – Thin Lizzy)
1981 – 8 tunes (Watching the Wheels – John Lennon)
1980 – 7 tunes (Stomp – The Brothers Johnson)
1973 – 6 tunes (Reelin’ in the Years – Steely Dan)
1977 – 6 tunes (Lido Shuffle – Boz Scaggs)
1970 – 4 tunes (Your Song – Elton John)
1972 – 4 tunes (Doctor My Eyes – Jackson Browne)
1974 – 4 tunes (Killer Queen – Queen)

Okay, I won’t keep you any longer as I’ve fed my music fix for the time being. Kind of fun for me and up for interpretation as to whether it says more about the listener or the formats of my favorite presets on the truck radio dial. Plenty more hits were included along those rides and I suspect that there will be several more batches as the 2019 fishing season unfolds.

For tonight, I suggest that you find some of your favorite tunes, old or new, and crank ‘em up as you count down the final hours of 2018. Happy New Year to all and talk to you later. Troy

2018 Fishing Recap – Partners

Another important piece of the 2018 recap takes a look at the folks who joined me in the boat or on the bank as we enjoyed a common hobby. I’ve spent a lot of time flying solo on the water in recent years, thus kind of getting used to the solitude. But it’s always refreshing to share time on the water with fishing buddies for many reasons.

It’s fun to shoot the breeze and swap fish stories new and old while creating another batch.

You can also teach those who are a bit less experienced or who are up for a new trick.

On the flipside, you can always learn something from observing a different approach or mindset as no two anglers are exactly alike and no one knows it all.

Two lures in the water looking to fool some fish are always better than one.

You’ve also got an assist in carrying/launching the boat and lugging gear.

I’ll leave it at that and let the video below of some 2018 catches cover the rest of today’s post.

Up tomorrow is what I consider a fitting year-end countdown. Then, as we enter the New Year, I am looking to put a wrap on the 2018 Top 5 project with a look at the final stats as well as the cumulative numbers from 2014-2018. From there who knows as I’ve got plenty of ideas but not always plenty of time. Talk to you later. Troy

2018 Fishing Recap -Lures

I always thought it would be interesting to look back through my fishing logs to see what my personal record is for “Most Different Lures That Fooled a Bass in One Year.”

Hands down, 2018 wasn’t it.

A project for another time, perhaps.

Instead, for today’s 2018 recap we take a look at the relatively meager collection of baits that boated 216 bass.

Yum Wooly Curltail (green pumpkin) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 9.5” September 23 Knox County, IL public strip mine
Comments: I do like this lure but in hindsight I’m not sure of my reason for throwing it this fall other than possibly just to say I did because I had it tied on to one of my poles. A solid cold water bait which is effective when crawled slowly along the bottom…like I said, not really sure but glad to see a less than glamorous lure make an appearance.

Zara Spook (black shore minnow) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 15” 1-11 September 30 Knox County, IL public strip mine
Comments: I’d worn out my welcome on one of my favorite walk-in spots as the bass were less than interested in my spinnerbait offerings in spite of some pretty good conditions. Looking for a big bite that the fishing hole has been known to produce I went old school. Didn’t fool a lunker but good to get bit. In addition, I had talked Spook fishing with my buddy, Jim Junk, a few days prior so it stoked the fire to revisit an offering that was a 80s favorite and not surprisingly still fools ‘em.

Strike King Rattlin’ Jig (green pumpkin) w/ craw trailer – 3 bass
Top Bass: 16” 1-15 November 24 Knox County, IL private strip pit
Comments: When an unanticipated trip materialized and provided a shot a November bass, I was all in with two baits. This was one of them and I stepped out of my normal black/blue jig & pig comfort zone with a different color scheme and a plastic trailer. Seeing a guy catch a 5-9 on the lake the previous month with a similar setup was all the evidence I needed.

Lipless Crankbaits
Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 26 bass
Top Bass: 14.5” 1-13 April 13 Knox County, IL public strip pit
Comments: A solid cool water bait, the lipless crank got it done again, early and late. With the exception of a lone July bass, the rest were near bookends on the year. The first batch came from February through April while the last half dozen came from mid to late October. A true favorite for what I reluctantly refer to as “brainless” bassing. Nothing too fancy here as I used only one color this year when casting it out, cranking it back, covering some water and catching some fish.

Booyah Buzz (snow white shad, bleeding shad, sexy shad) – 27 bass
Top Bass: 20” 4-8 September 23 Knox County, IL private strip pit
Comments: I probably invest more time in tossing buzzbaits than I should but they are not only a solid big fish producer, they’re fun and addictive. For big fish proof, my 2018 Top Bass came on a buzzbait. However, that was the only Top 5 fish among those fooled on the buzzer, just kind of a weird year on the water.

Plastic Worms
Senko wacky rig (pumpkin black flake, green pumpkin black flake) – 46 bass
Top Bass: 17” 1-14 Knox County, IL private strip pit
Comments: The Senko wacky rig would probably rank number one among the presentations in my repertoire. And while it sounds like a broken record at this point, I just couldn’t put it in front of any big fish and get them to commit. Don’t for a minute think that those results will discourage this wacky worm devotee though. 2018 was just one of those years.

Booyah Blade (white/chartreuse) – 52 bass
Top Bass: 16” 2-3 April 13 Knox County, IL public strip mine
Comments: My 2017 lure wrap-up piece mentioned that the good old spinnerbait, a mainstay from my formative bassing years in the 80s, was still mired in a bit of a disappearing act. Fortunately, while I still have subscriptions to those who have relegated this lure to the second string, I don’t subscribe to that school of thought. These baits are still a winner in my book and I highly encourage all six of you who read this to pass it on and see if we can bring about a spinnerbait resurgence in 2019.

Strike King Rattling Squarebill, Mann’s Baby 1-, Rapala Shad Rap/Fat Rap – 60 bass
Top Bass: 18” 3-2 September 23 Knox County, IL public strip pit
Comments: Yet another batch of baits that typically allow me to fish fast and cover a lot of water. The exception in the group would be the Rapala Shad Rap which I have put to good use the last couple years in fooling some cold water bass. Another highlight was landing a bass on a Rapala Fat Rap for the first time in nearly 20 years as part of a tribute to former Major Leaguer, Rusty Staub, who passed away on March 29, 2018 (click here for post).

And there you have it, all of the lures that landed a bass in 2018. You see, who needs a tackle bag stuffed with a hundred lures when about a dozen will take you all the way through the year?

Actually, I do, even if it can be a back breaker lugging that arsenal around the strip mines. Because you just never know when you’re going to need that one lure that your gut tells you is just right. And you’re gonna kick yourself when you realize that its home in the garage. Talk to you later. Troy

2018 Fishing Recap – Location

This year, I found out where 216 bass lived. More than a few came from some regular stomping grounds so perhaps I’d already met some of them over the years. Today we take a general look at where those fish call home. While they came from spots like Freak’s Point, 2X4 Lake, Silo Bend and The Moose Hump I won’t get quite that specific as fishing is a pursuit that lends itself to a little mystery and more than a few secrets.

All the spots reside inside with a bit of a peek below

Grand Totals
Bass = 216
Bodies of water = 23
Comments: Once again, a big batch of little waters produced the vast majority of my bass. Those small waters consisted of the standard collection of public and private Knox County strip mines, many that I have been fishing since the 1980s. The largest lake I fished was Lost Grove Lake in Scott County, Iowa which comes in at about 400 acres and I also put in a few hours on good old Lake Storey just north of Galesburg, Illinois which comes in at 133 acres.

Bank Bass (Northerner boots, biking and hiking) = 107 bass
Little Boat Bass (near 40 year old 8’ johnboat) = 74 bass
Big Boat Bass (1987 Bass Tracker Pro 17) = 35 bass
Comments: I have put far more miles on pairs of boots and sets of oars than I have ever racked up on trolling motors or outboards. 2018 was no exception as the only times I took advantage of the “big boat” was a June strip mine jaunt and a pair of October outings on Lake Storey. It was a near 50/50 split between bank and boat catches this year and while it takes some work, my fishing on foot locales can sure fill up a few pages of the log during a day hike.

The Waters (from least to most caught)

Lost Grove Lake – Scott County, IA (3 visits 5/28, 7/18, 7/25)
7 bass
5.50 hours
1.27 bass/hour
Top Bass: 1-6 (13.5”) Senko wacky rig
Top 5 Weight (only 4 at 12” or better): 4-13 (1-6,1-5,1-2,1-0)
Comments: After landing some quality bass on this relatively young lake in 2017, I took a step backwards in 2018 as I really struggled to find some bites. Abundant, scattered and somewhat random surface vegetation still make this developing fishery a challenge as the weather warms. Need to make a note to see what it has to offer earlier in the year in 2019, ideally before the weeds take hold.

Lake Storey – Knox County, IL (2 visits – 10/18 and 10/19)
20 bass
12.00 hours
1.67 bass/hour
Top Bass: 1-9 (14.5”) Strike King Rattling Squarebill crankbait
Top 5 Weight: 7-1 (1-9,1-8,1-7,1-6,1-3)
Comments: Always a treat when I get on this old favorite as its bass population can be a challenging bunch. I was pleased with the catch rate on my two visits and the bass were just flat out healthy though none for me in the trophy category. Did witness a few quality catches by my fishing partner, more on that later this week. One suspected toothy encounter with a surface thrash at boatside as I absentmindedly lifted my spinnerbait from the water oblivious to that whole Figure 8 thing.

Knox County, IL Private Strip Mines (11 visits, 3 lakes, 2/27 through 11/24)
82 bass
43.00 hours
1.91 bass/hour
Top Bass: 4-8 (20”) Booyah Buzzbait
Top 5 Weight: 13-11 (4-8,3-0,2-6,1-15,1-14)
Comments: What a difference a year makes as my Top 5 from these old fishing holes for 2018 was barely half of the 26-13 I somehow fooled in 2017. Pretty tough to top though considering that was my best haul ever. I must admit I was pretty excited to fill out my Top 5 with 7-3 during a February visit but never made many more big leaps the rest of the way. Fished my productive spots and worked them over good but just couldn’t find many big bites.

Knox County, IL Public Strip Mines (5 visits, 18 lakes, 4/13 through 9/30)
107 bass
17.50 hours
6.11 bass/hour
Top Bass: 3-2 (18”) Strike King Rattling Squarebill Crankbait
Top 5 Weight: 11-13 (3-2,2-9,2-3,2-0,1-13)
Comments: A controlled burn on some of my public walk-in strip mine ground really produced a big batch of April bass as the access was incredibly easy. It allowed for an increase in pond hopping and permitted me to hit most of my favorites each outing. In contrast, my July and September visits were marked by much tougher walking which limited the spots I could hit over the course of the day. As a result, April produced 78 of the 107 bass that these areas gave up for the year. And it only took about 20 miles of hiking and/or biking.

That’s the “where” part of the recap and coming tomorrow is the “what” as we take a look at the lures that got the job done. Talk to you later. Troy