Top 5 Update

A little late with the first Top 5 Update of 2021 as today’s featured fisherman sent me these pics nearly two weeks ago. Kind of cool as this year’s lead off catches are of the hard water variety, a rarity over the storied history of the Top 5.

Weight: 3-15
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: February 2
Water Temp: Ice fishing
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Lipless crankbait (bluegill)

Weight: 3-4
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: February 2
Water Temp: Ice fishing
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Lipless crankbait (bluegill)
Angler Comments: I actually went ice fishing today. Only my third time ever. Have two to start off the Top 5 this year. Also had one break off that was at the very least 3 or 4 pounds.
Top 5 Weight: 7-3 (3-15,3-4)

Thanks, Jim, fish stories and pics are a welcome and needed escape these days. Here’s to plenty more for 2021, our eighth year of Top 5 catches. To anyone out there interested in participating, send your pics and details to Good luck and talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 All-Time Stats

While a bit late, I am excited to present the annual Top 5 all-time record book update. Eight years of fish stories have brought us to a grand total of 776 bass submissions to the Top 5. The 2020 featured 90 bass from a group of eleven anglers. These entries bring the all-time total to 776 bass submitted.

2020 also marked the third year of a Top 5 expansion to include species beyond bass. However, only four fish were added to the “Other Species” portion of the record book (a catfish, a crappie, a carp and a muskie). We’ll kick things off with a look at that portion of the record book before moving on to the bass breakdown.

Other Species All-Time Records

1-8 Teagan Mills 6/2/19 Private pond

Channel Catfish
13-0 Teagan Mills (2019)
13-0 Teagan Mills (2018)
8-2 (25”) Chris Schwarz (2018)
6-9 Chris Schwarz (2019)
34-35” Chris Schwarz (2019)
3-7 Troy Jackson (2020)

Common Carp
10-5 Jim Junk (2020)

1-2 Troy Jackson (2020)

Green Sunfish
0-13 Jayce Jackson (2017)

131” Jake Bresson (47”,31”,29”24” – 2017)
*70+” John Kirkemo (40”, 30+” – 2018)
12-12 (36”) Troy Jackson (2020)
29” Troy Jackson (2017)
6-4 Chris Schwarz (2019)

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

Rainbow Trout
22” John Kirkemo (11”,11” – 2018)

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

Comments: Bass are obviously my favorite species to pursue but it is cool to see those other species show up in my email (or on the end of my line). So, if you are a multi-species angler or just luck into an unexpected catch, feel free to send them my way for a little added variety.

Moving on to the bass, let’s take a look at how our fish stack up with respect to the calendar. Eight years, 38 different anglers and 776 bass (nearly all from Illinois waters) make up the all-time record book. Here we go.

Group Totals = 776 bass
2014 = 154
2015 = 106
2016 = 136
2017 = 79
2018 = 116
2019 = 95
2020 = 90

Submissions by month (2014-2020)
169 April (43/33/31/11/12/14/25)
136 May (27/23/19/13/24/12/18)
105 June (34/14/15/1/10/14/17)
80 March (13/11/34/10/0/8/4)
77 July (18/11/8/11/8/11/10)
55 October (4/5/4/8/24/8/2)
53 September (6/4/6/6/16/9/6)
31 November (6/0/4/0/8/9/4)
29 February (2/2/7/13/5/0/0)
23 August (1/3/1/4/4/7/3)
10 December (0/0/7/1/0/2)
8 January (0/0/0/1/5/1/1)

Comments: Spring once again ruled the day in terms of submissions. While July saw a double digit haul, the rest of the months after June were rather lean. Several factors do come into play, including some anglers setting the bar so high during the early season that it is tough to boost their total as the year progresses.

Top 10 Top 5 Monthly Weights (group total)
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: Nothing new from 2020 in the above breakdown as it now takes nearly 28 pounds of combined weight from our anglers to crack the Top 10. That is a pretty tall order as we head into our eighth year.

Top 5 Weights per Month (group total)
January (2018) = 13-5 (3-15, 2-7, 2-6, 2-6, 2-3)
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 (2019) = 19-4 (4-14,4-10,4-6,2-14,2-8)
September (2019) = 24-5 (5-3,5-0,5-0,4-12,4-6)
October (2018) = 28-9 (6-3,5-14,5-10,5-10,5-4)
November (2018) = 26-1 (7-2,6-12,4-3,4-0,4-0)
December (2016) = 28-7 (7-7,6-5,5-13,4-11,4-3)

Comments: Nothing new here from 2020 either and again, it will take a significant batch of group catches to establish a new record. January has already passed up by but the dog day target of an August record could be a goal for this year. Doesn’t hurt to dream, I guess, especially when it is below zero as I put this post together.

Monthly Top Bass
3-15 Mark Balbinot 1/27/18 Crankbait
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 Bresson 5/23/14 Jig
6-11 Ty Hartlipp 6/11/14 Topwater Frog
6-6 Jake Bresson 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
7-7 Mark Balbinot 12/11/16 Underspin

Comments: It’s going to take quite a catch for an angler to unseat one of our current monthly Top Bass. Good luck on that quest as such a catch could likely be the bass of a lifetime for most of us.

Public vs. Private Water (2014-2020)
Public = 504 bass (92/52/95/42/92/68/63)
Public Top 5 Weight = 32-2, 31-7, 30-5, 27-7, 24-5, 25-4, 25-13(2020)
Private = 255 bass (53/48/39/37/24/27/27)
Private Top 5 Weight = 38-10, 30-0, 32-13, 33-14, 31-9, 24-3, 30-5(2020)
Undisclosed = 17 bass (9/6/2/0/0/0/0)

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 (2014-2020)
Boat = 438 bass (90/63/103/68/55/33/26)
Boat Top 5 Weight = 30-7, 31-7, 32-13, 33-14, 31-9, 25-4, 21-4 (2020)
Bank = 332 bass (64/43/27/11/61/62/64)
Bank Top 5 Weight = 40-14, 27-6, 27-12, 20-14, 24-2, 25-7, 30-6 (2020)
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)
200 Plastic Worms (Top Bass 6-8 Mark Balbinot 11/20/16)
84 Spinnerbaits (6-14 Chris Schwarz 3/25/20 tops 5-14 Mark Balbinot 10/20/18)
74 Crankbaits (8-0 Kamryn Kaesebier 4/13/14)
59 Jigs (9-4 Jake Bresson 5/23/14)
61 Lipless Crankbaits (6-3 Mark Balbinot 10/20/18)
51 Chatterbaits (5-15 Jim Junk 6/22/20 tops 4-10 Mark Balbinot 2/20/16)
29 Swimbaits (8-10 Gary Le 5/4/14)
29 Swim Jigs (6-13 Jake Bresson 4/9/15)
29 Creature Baits (6-15 Mark Balbinot 5/13/17)
27 Buzzbaits (5-9 Troy Jackson 4/25/17)
25 Jerkbaits (5-10 Ty Hartlipp 6/5/14)
13 Underspins (Top Bass 7-7 Mark Balbinot 12/11/16)
12 Topwater Frog (6-11 Ty Hartlipp 6/11/14)
12 Tubes (Top Bass 5-0 Jake Bresson 4/28/15)
7 Livebait (5-14 Jim Junk 7/4/14)
5 Stickbaits (6-6 Mark Balbinot 8/27/17)
5 Ultralights (3-1 Paul Kessler 10/12/17)
4 Grubs (Top Bass 7-0 Chris Schwarz 11/28/20)
3 Propbaits (6-2 Jake Bresson 5/1/15)
2 Inline Spinners (5-2 Jake Bresson 9/17/17)
1 Blade Bait (5-3 Mark Balbinot 11/16/19)

Comments: The Grubs category joined the list and included a couple bass fooled by the interesting and unassuming Ned Rig (note: one was a seven-pounder). Chatterbaits contributed 18 bass for the second consecutive year as they climbed within reach of a Top 5 spot on the list. All told, a dozen different lure types contributed to our haul. The only bait beyond chatterbaits to hit double figures was the good old plastic worm with 35 bass. The Senko style worms continue to dominate in either wacky or Texas rigged presentations.

The 20-Pound Club * = 2020 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)
*30-5 Chris Schwarz (7-0,6-14,5-12,5-7,5-4)
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)
*25-13 Jim Junk (5-15,5-5,4-15,4-14,4-12)
25-8 Brice Wangler 2015 (5-7,5-4,5-2,4-14,4-13)
25-4 Mark Balbinot 2019 (5-5,5-3,5-1,4-14,4-13)
24-14 Ty Hartlipp 2014 (6-11, 5-10, 5-5, 4-0, 3-4)
24-14 Jim Junk 2019 (5-3,5-1,5-0,4-14,4-12)
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)
20-12 Chris Schwarz 2019 (5-3,5-0,3-11,3-10,3-4)
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: Two more entries joined the coveted 20-pound club in 2020. In fact, both Chris Schwarz and Jim Junk shattered the 20-pound mark with 30-5 and 25-13 weights, respectively. For both anglers, the weights establish new personal Top 5 bests and mark three consecutive years of topping the 20-pound mark. Well done by both anglers and looking forward to their 2021 contributions (stay tuned for the first 2021 Top 5 Update tomorrow).

Top 10 Top 5 Bass (* = 2020 entry)
9-4 Jake Bresson 5/23/14 Jig
8-10 Gary Le 5/4/14 Swimbait
8-8 Jake Bresson 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
*7-0 Chris Schwarz 11/28/20 Grub
6-15 Mark Balbinot 5/13/17 Creature Bait

Comments: It truly takes a trophy to crack this list and Chris Schwarz found one of them in 2020 with a seven-pounder. Congratulations on an outstanding fish and it makes it official that it takes a seven to crack the Top 10.

And just for fun…

All-Time Weights (40-pound minimum “career” mark)
(Note: not all anglers have participated each year)
140-3 Troy Jackson (20-14,22-12,21-3,26-13,15-9,14-4,18-12)
123-8 Mark Balbinot (33-14,32-13,31-9,25-4)
115-6 Jim Junk (11-7,16-5,13-7,23-8,24-14,25-13)
111-11 Jake Bresson (32-13,27-12,27-6,23-12)
94-1 Brent Jackson (18-7,6-10,13-2,10-2,19-2,13-7,13-3)
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)
72-0 Chris Schwarz (20-15,20-12,30-5)
66-12 Paul Kessler (18-6,17-6,16-6,14-10)
45-11 Mike Mooney (22-13,4-9,18-5)

Comments: With one of our anglers sitting out 2020, the guy who runs this project hops into first place in the All-Time Weight category. Of course, having participated for each of the seven years gives me a considerable advantage over those who have missed a few years. Looking forward, we should have another angler join the Century Club as my brother, Brent, is one good bass from the mark.

Year seven is in the books, year eight is off and running in 2021 and you’re all invited whether you are reeling in or tuning in. Once again, we’ll take all species this year if you chase after or happen upon something other than bass. Here’s hoping to push the submissions back over the 100 bass mark for the first time since 2018.

Tune in tomorrow to see the first two bass of 2021 as the Top 5 is back in action. Talk to you later. Troy

2020 Top 5 Final Stats

Congratulations to Chris Schwarz who claims the 2020 Top 5 title with an impressive winning weight topping the 30-pound mark. His efforts have earned him the customary big check; don’t spend it all in one place.

Here’s how it all shook out with the 2020 Top 5 final stats covering 90 bass and 4 additional submissions (4 other species) from a group of 11 anglers.

Angler Weights
Chris Schwarz 30-5 (7-0,6-14,5-12,5-7,5-4)
Jim Junk 25-13 (5-15,5-5,4-15,4-14,4-12)
Troy Jackson 18-12 (4-12,4-0,3-11,3-9,2-12)
Brent Jackson 13-3 (3-2,2-13,2-12,2-5,2-3)
John Kirkemo 8-0 (1-15,1-13,1-8,1-6,1-6)
Teagan Mills 6-1 (3-1,3-0)
Kennedy Jackson 5-12 (1-13,1-11,1-5,0-15)
Brady Jackson 4-8 (1-5,1-2,1-1,1-0)
Landon Hannam 2-4 (2-4)
Nicolas Ojeda 1-15 (1-0,0-15)
Carly Jackson 0-14 (0-14)


2020 Totals
January = 1 bass
February = no submissions
March = 4 bass
April = 25 bass
May = 18 bass
June = 17 bass
July = 10 bass
August = 3 bass
September = 6 bass
October = 2 bass
November =4 bass
December = no submissions

Top 5 Weight by Month
January = 1-4 (one bass)
February = no submissions
March = 15-8 (6-14,4-1,3-4,1-5)
April = 16-11 (4-12,3-2,3-1,3-0,2-12)
May 23-0 (5-7,5-4,4-12,4-1,3-8)
June = 23-8 (5-15,4-14,4-6,4-4,4-1)
July = 20-12 (4-12,4-6,4-0,3-14,3-12)
August = 8-12 (5-5,2-4,1-3)
September = 7-15 (2-12,1-8.1-4,1-4,1-3)
October = 8-13 (5-4,3-9)
November = 22-6 (7-0,5-12,4-15,4-11)
December = no bass

Boat vs. Bank
Boat = 26 bass
Bank = 64 bass

Boat vs. Bank Weight
Boat = 21-4 (5-15,4-1,4-0,3-11,3-9)
Bank = 30-6 (7-0,6-14,5-12,5-7,5-5)

Public vs. Private
Public = 63 bass
Private = 27 bass

Public vs. Private Top 5 Weight
Public = 25-13 (5-15,5-5,4-15,4-14,4-12)
Private = 30-5 (7-0,6-14,5-12,5-7,5-4)

The Baits (* = new record)
Plastic Worm = 35 bass (Top Bass 5-5 Jim Junk)
*Chatterbait = 18 bass (Top Bass 5-15 Jim Junk) – tops 4-10 Mark Balbinot
*Spinnerbait = 8 bass (Top Bass 6-14 Chris Schwarz) – tops 5-14 Mark Balbinot
Lipless Crankbait = 6 bass (Top Bass 4-15 Jim Junk)
Jerkbait = 5 bass (Top Bass 3-14 Jim Junk)
Grub = 4 bass (Top Bass 7-0 Chris Schwarz)
Jig = 4 bass (Top Bass 5-4 Chris Schwarz)
Buzzbait = 3 bass (Top Bass 4-0 Troy Jackson)
Crankbait = 3 bass (Top Bass 3-9 Troy Jackson)
Creature = 2 bass (Top Bass 3-8 Jim Junk)
Livebait = 2 bass (Top Bass 3-1 Teagan Mills)

Monthly Top Bass
1-4 Jim Junk
No submissions
6-14 Chris Schwarz
4-12 Troy Jackson
5-7 Chris Schwarz
5-15 Jim Junk
4-12 Jim Junk
5-5 Jim Junk
2-12 Jim Junk
5-4 Chris Schwarz
7-0 Chris Schwarz
No bass

Top 10 Bass
7-0 Chris Schwarz (11/28) – new #8 all-time (tie)
6-14 Chris Schwarz (3/25)
5-15 Jim Junk (6/22)
5-12 Chris Schwarz (11/3)
5-7 Chris Schwarz (5/3)
5-5 Jim Junk (8/7)
5-4 Chris Schwarz (5/3)
5-4 Chris Schwarz (10/22)
4-15 Jim Junk (11/29)
4-14 Jim Junk (6/22)

Other Species

Channel Catfish

3-7 Troy Jackson

Common Carp

10-5 Jim Junk


1-2 Troy Jackson

Muskie/Tiger Muskie

12-12 (36”) Troy Jackson

Well done, anglers, and many thanks for helping to contribute something positive to the web and social media. Sure needed it in 2020 more than ever. Here’s to some more fish stories in 2021 as we are doing it again for year number eight. Good luck and send ‘em my way at when you catch ‘em. Fingers crossed that I can muster the time and energy to get back on track with the blog with some 2020 recap posts. All is well, just tired and busy mixed in with the regular bout of Cabin Fever (call me a fair weather fisherman but not much of an icefishing guy). Talk to you later. Troy

Texas Trip Tunes

Tired, busy and the winter doldrums have put a damper on my rambles, both outdoor and blogging. Lots to catch up on in terms of a 2020 recap with 2021 off and running and halfway to February. First up, is an overdue “Trip Tunes” post.

A round trip work drive to south central Texas as 2020 drew to a close provided more than a little time to tune in to the radio dial. And since I took along some fishing gear and even caught a bass, well, it qualifies for the final “Trip Tunes” feature from 2020. I actually only heard one of the following on the radio but years of listening brought several other apt tunes to mind.

And the Top 5 goes a little something like this…

5. Little Rock – Colin Raye (1994)
“I think I’m on a roll here in Little Rock.”
Several of the tunes on the list weren’t actually heard on the radio but rather in my head as I trekked south out of the Midwest via some previously unseen roadways. In fact, I’d never been to Arkansas; close on Table Rock Lake, Missouri but no cigar. Two passes through the state’s capital city had me wavering between this cut and the 1986 Reba McEntire hit of the same name. In the end, Colin Raye’s lyrics were more on the mark as I did a lot of rolling to the tune of 2500 miles behind the wheel.

4. Texas Women – Hank Williams, Jr. (1981)
“They may be from Waco or out in Lampasas but one thing about it they all come from Texas.”
Me and this tune go back to the 80s when my buddies and I used to listen to a decent dose of Bocephus. This cut came to mind as I passed a highway sign for Lampasas and crossed the Lampasas River. For all these years, I had no clue where Hank was singing about so it was a fun kind of light bulb moment as I made my way through The Lone Star State. While I still find the rhyme a bit of a stretch, I can now indulge in a little mental cartography and get his drift.

3. It Came Out of the Sky – Credence Clearwater Revival (1970)
“Whoa, it came out of the sky, landed just a little south of Moline”
This is the lone tune on the list that I actually heard on the radio. The CCR hit catalog provides ample cuts for classic rock/oldies stations but this one was breath of fresh air. A cool, deep cut out of nowhere gracing the airwaves in the dark of night somewhere near the Arkansas/Texas border. It’s always kind of fun to hear a lyric with a local flavor and even more so when you are about eleven hours away from your home a little east of Moline. UFOs were a hot topic back when I was a kid and the fascination has been rekindled with recent talk of “classified government documents” possibly being revealed.

2. East Bound and Down – Jerry Reed (1977)
“The boys are thirsty in Atlanta and there’s beer in Texarkana.”
Well, 1977 was quite a year at the movie theater with the likes of “Star Wars”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, “Oh God!”, “Saturday Night Fever” and “Slapshot”, to name a few. And then there was “Bandit” and “Snowman” looking to deliver a load of beer on an interstate adventure with Buford T. Justice in hot pursuit. Jerry Reed (aka Cletus “Snowman” Snow) did the honors in co-writing and performing this cut from the highway hit comedy “Smokey and the Bandit.” Although I was south bound, this tune was playing on the soundtrack in my head as I crossed the Arkansas-Texas border at Texarkana.

1. Guitar Town – Steve Earle (1986)
“I’m just out of Austin, bound for San Antone with the radio blasting and the bird dog on.”
As I found myself in the geographical position noted above, I couldn’t help but think back to wearing out the cassette of Steve Earle’s debut. This title tune served as the lead track and there wasn’t a bad cut on the album, start to finish. A great listen made even better in the middle of nowhere in the 80s at a place called Green Oaks with my buddies. A campfire turned bonfire, just a couple beers and a boom box with Guitar Town at high volume was just the ticket for some Knox College Siwash students. Oh yeah, a picnic table and a little air guitar were also right on the money as the beers and the nights rolled on.

I sure dig my tunes but plenty of 2020 fishing recap stuff is in the works. It’s just a struggle to find the time and the energy to get it done. But, open water fishing will be here before you know it (a little wishful thinking), so I’d better get on the ball. Stay tuned and talk to you later. Troy

Texas Trip

November 29 at 8:30am leaving the Quad Cities, IL

Well, I haven’t done much of anything here on the blog for a while. Just busy these days and actually think that I am still recovering from this Texas trip which started the month. I have never been much of a traveler and I have certainly not gotten any better with age. Enough about reality, let’s take an overdue escape. An overdue trip tunes to come but first up is a Texas blurb and slideshow below.

My work detail consisted of a stop in north central Arkansas to install some IT gear before proceeding to south central Texas for round two of the same. Having to haul a fair amount of equipment meant driving rather than flying, which is just fine for a guy who prefers to be closer to the ground. Such a mode of travel also allows for packing along some fishing gear in the event that I have the time to wet a line.

Several waters were on my radar as I planned my route. Greers Ferry Lake was only minutes from my first stop in Arkansas but a long work day and short daylight kept me from a visit.

Grapevine, TX too early and too big of a hurry, just saw the outside

I overnighted in Grapevine, Texas, a Dallas suburb, right next door to a Bass Pro Shops. The store sat on the banks of Lake Ray Hubbard which was being beaten by gale force winds. Beyond the wind, I still had a five hour morning “commute” to work and no permit so casting did not materialize on this water, either.

Next choice was the Guadalupe River near Seguin, TX and only minutes from my work destination. I took a peek one evening finding the access decent and deserted but I had yet to obtain my permit. After getting two days’ worth of non-resident permits I hit the spot again only to find it packed with anglers leaving me no room. Instead, I headed 30 minutes north to New Braunfels, TX where the water on the river was too shallow. I spent my half hour before sunset just walking the bank in a local park and enjoying some fresh air.

Guadalupe River, New Braufels, TX – scenic but shallow

I had considered Grand Lake o’ The Cherokees in northeast Oklahoma on my ride home. I thought it would be cool to chase a bass on the site of the 2013 and 2016 Bassmaster Classics. However, a late start on the road, short days, cold weather and a desire to take the shortest route home eliminated this destination.


In the end, I selected Lake Fork which lies just east of Dallas. Ideally, a half day of work to finish my week would put me on the road in time to explore Lake Fork for a couple hours. In reality, the combination of a late start after work and some difficulty finding lake access only left me about 45 minutes to cast. My first intent was to fish the dam but I could not find access as I cruised the road below the structure. Next, I found a couple private fishing resorts and a lone pay ramp that featured very little decent bank access. As a last ditch effort, I selected a nearby causeway and hoped the map app would do its thing. It did and I reached a public ramp area with ample access for the short amount of remaining daylight that I had to cast.

Lake Fork, TX looking for a bass with daylight fading 

The rest is history as described in the Lake Fork, TX fishing report (click here). Such trips late in the year make it tough to enjoy much fresh air after a day of work. Sunsets just after 5:00pm really limit the option to travel very far in search of a bite before darkness falls. Thus, it was tough to manage some outdoor time while earning a living.

December 4, 2020 at 8:00pm, back home 2500 miles, two plants, one bass and five days later

All of that time behind the wheel gave me ample fodder for a final “Trip Tunes” post of 2020. Stay tuned for that Top 5 later this week. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Another update just goes to show that skill and perseverance can add a few more bass to the log as ice begins to form on our area fishing holes. It may not be easy or comfortable and you may not catch a bunch but there are still some bites to be had out there. And some good ones in today’s update along with an entertaining fish story.

Weight: 4-15
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: November 29
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Lipless crankbait
Top 5 Weight: 25-13 (5-15,5-5,4-15,4-14,4-12) culls a 4-11

In addition, Jim just sent me the pics and details below as he has added a couple December bass to his ledger. I’m always up for a fish story and this one brought a smile. Would have been fun to have been an observer for this stunt.

“I’m on the board with a couple December bass yesterday (12/5). Both came on a white chatterbait. They were 3-12 and 3-9. Had to go through the ice for one and the water is pretty chilly. There was about 10’ of rather slim ice before open water. Hooked up and actually got the fish up on the ice but he flopped off and was on the ice just out of reach. Put one foot on the ice and was able to reach but broke through before getting back on the bank.”

As I mentioned in the intro, skill and perseverance go a long ways in landing such late season bass. Also noted that it may not be easy or comfortable and there you go with a prime example from Jim in getting it done. Kudos for the effort and thanks for the contributions to keep the Top 5 Updates rolling on. Talk to you later. Troy

Lake Fork, TX Report – December 3

This week’s work duties found me making a round trip drive with stops in north central Arkansas and south central Texas. Such an itinerary gave me the opportunity to take a drive by a legendary northeast Texas fishing hole named Lake Fork. I packed a few poles and some tackle just in case I could swing a pit stop on my way home. After a final half day of work and a five hour drive, I made it to the lake with about 45 minutes of daylight remaining. Texas weather wasn’t as nice as I’d hoped but there I was on the bank of a spot that I’d dreamed about for over thirty years.



Date: December 3, 2020
Location: Lake Fork – northwest of Quitman, Texas
Time: 4:53pm-5:18pm
Weather: Overcast/windy
Air Temp: 45F
Water Temp: felt warmer than the air
Totals: 1 bass
Lures: Chatterbait (bluegill) with Zako trailer (green pumpkinseed with white) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 2-7

5:18pm – Mission accomplished as daylight faded

Notes and Nonsense

Search for a Spot – After a five hour drive from Seguin, Texas it was time to find an area with decent bank access. In such cases, I always look to start with the dam (rocky bank with proximity to deep water). However, I could not find any dam access roads and only a pay ramp area with shallow water and rather barren bank access. A gas station stop for some dam advice proved fruitless so it was back to Google where I spied a causeway crossing an arm of the lake. All in all, I wasted the better part of an hour of daylight just trying to find somewhere to cast.

Technology makes it cool to see exactly where I found my Lake Fork bass

Riprap Really Rocks – The causeway that I selected happened to have parking for a public launch ramp and bank access to the water beneath the causeway. Plenty of large rock, known as riprap, lined several stretches of bank, just the kind of spot I look for when chasing bass from the bank on a new lake. Typically, these riprap stretches have a batch of rock that extends out into the lakebed and provides several appealing factors. For starters, the breakline/transition between rock and lake bottom provides a classic “edge” where bass like to hang out. In addition, there are countless nooks and crannies in those underwater rocks that hold forage such as baitfish and crawdads. In terms of presentation, these areas are custom made for a parallel retrieve from the bank. This keeps your lure in the strike zone for the entire cast and also allows you to bump the structure along the way. Finally, from a financial standpoint as a frugal fisherman, I can often get a hung lure freed by walking to the bait to give it some slack or a pull from the opposite direction.

A look back at the stretch of structure that this bass called home

Plan B – After 15 minutes of casting along the causeway riprap without a bite, I headed to the ramp area for crunch time as daylight faded. I tried a spinnerbait on riprap stretches on each side and along the ramp but found no bites. As a result, I decided to switch to a chatterbait and work the ramp area again with the new presentation. A few casts later, I had a solid strike jar me out of my mindset that things were not going to work out for a Texas bass. Very cool and some important fishing lessons reinforced by the catch. If you think you have some good water but aren’t finding a bite, a change in lure, retrieve speed or angle can be the key to fooling a fish. And while this outing was very limited in terms of time, it is well worth hitting a good looking spot a couple times in order to cross paths with an interested bass.

$37 Bass – A non-resident one day permit in Texas comes in at $16 and there is also a $5 transaction fee. I opted for a pair of one day passes but things did not work out on the previous day as I ran into access issues and fading daylight but that’s another story. At any rate, that Lake Fork bass wound up with a price tag of $37. I suppose if I was to calculate the hourly cost of fishing it would be $74/hour as I only cast for about 30 minutes on my two days’ worth of permits.

Seen a lot of pics and vids of Lake Fork over the last 30 years, fun to join the club

All good in the end as I was actually there for work after all, the fishing was just icing on the cake. I’ll tell you what though, it sure made my day. The combination of six days away from my family, a thousand miles from home, hotel beds, restaurant food, too much beef jerky and M&Ms and poor radio reception for most of the journey just wore me out. Therefore, it was good to find something to recharge my batteries. Fishing on a renowned bass lake that I never dreamt I would see and taking a picture with one of its inhabitants was a winner. Still smiling as I type. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Happy to have another update with this post coming in a day earlier than the normal Monday submission for various reasons. I just got this report yesterday evening as one of our anglers took advantage of a fifty degree Saturday afternoon. As you can see below, his efforts were rewarded in a big way.

Weight: 7-0
Angler: Chris Schwarz
Date: November 28
Location: Warren County private pond
Lure: Ned rig TRD Stickbait (green pumpkin)
Angler Comments: Caught in 5’ of water with a setup of 10 lb. braid tied to a 20’ fluorocarbon leader, 8 lb. test.
Top 5 Weight: 30-5 (7-0,6-14,5-12,5-7,5-4) culls a 5-4

Way to go, Chris, an outstanding catch that pushes your creel into the rare air of the 30-pound club. Only 32 more days for the 2020 Top 5 project with the area weather headed for a more normal range. But you just never know what can happen if you get out there for a few casts. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – November 2010

Once upon a time, we were trappers.

For nearly a century, members of the Jackson family roamed the creeks, fields and timbers of West Central Illinois in pursuit of furbearers. Dating back to my grandpa George to my uncle, Richard, to my dad, Terry, to my brothers and sister and our offspring, the tradition spanned from the 1920s to just a few years ago. Boy, did we have some times and there are plenty of stories that never grow old no matter how many times they are revisited.

Today’s flashback is one of those stories as November of 2010 featured the introduction of a new trapper to the family tradition. My boy, Jayce, tagged along on this outing to Henderson County, following in the footsteps of his Papa and Dad. Footsteps that had been planted in areas like The Big Timber and Pat’s Creek for close to fifty years. A pretty cool adventure for a kid who was not even a year and a half old at the time.

We saw tractors, hedgeballs, corn cobs and deer. We had a fast food breakfast, drove the truck, rode on the tailgate, told stories and threw stuff. You know, all the normal things us trappers observed and did out there on the trapline. Oh yeah, we also caught a few coons but that was just icing on the cake.

Nowadays, trapping has gone by the wayside but the memories last a lifetime. For many years, I have pondered a formidable trapping retrospective here on the blog. At present though, the project consists of a lengthy list of ideas, a healthy batch of photos and a collection of rough drafts. Perhaps trapping season next year would be a worthy time to kick off such a series. That gives me slightly less than a year to put it all together which is still a tall order when thinking back over all those tales and adventures.

And speaking of thinking back on adventures, this will wrap up the weekly Friday Flashbacks for 2020. As always, I get a kick out of the strolls down Memory Lane with a fair collection of fish, family and friends. I hope that some were able to make the weekly stop and find a brief escape along the way. Of course, plenty more other stuff to come here on the blog before we say so long to this year. And Friday Flashback will resume after the first of the New Year as I have already begun constructing my outline of weekly posts. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Another boost for one of our anglers as the November weather continues to be reasonable if you can handle some wind. Today’s catch comes from the bank which has its own batch of variables to contend with in the gusty conditions. But, as you can see, you can still fool ‘em if you can get to ‘em.

Weight: 4-11
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: November 12
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Single Colorado blade spinnerbait
Top 5 Weight: 25-9 (5-15,5-5,4-14,4-12,4-11) culls a 4-6

Well done, Jim, and good to hear that you are still finding some success down there. Looks like there may still be a handful of comfortable days on the horizon so here’s hoping someone out there continues to get bit. Talk to you later. Troy