2021 Top 5 Final Stats

Congratulations to our 2021 Top 5 Champ, Jim Junk. Not only did he have a stellar year of bass fishing, but he also submitted our only other species entry with an impressive December muskie. Jim kicked of the 2021 Top 5 with our first bass submission on February 2 and then posted our final bass submission on December 9. For his bass dominance, Jim receives the big check for 2021. Read on for all the numbers from our eighth year of the Top 5 challenge as nine anglers added ninety-two bass and a muskie to the ledger.

First Bass – Jim Junk February 2

2021 Totals
January = no submissions
February = 2 bass
March = 19 bass
April = 14 bass
May = 13 bass
June = 10 bass
July = 12 bass
August = 4 bass
September = 11 bass
October = 2 bass
November = 2 bass
December = 3 bass
Comments: No surprises in the monthly breakdown as quite similar to other years. Springtime sees substantial numbers as we fill out our Top 5 limits and then the numbers decline as we try to knock out the lower weights and boost our total.

Top 5 Weight by Month
January = no submissions
February = 7-3 (3-15,3-4)
March = 21-14 (5-5,4-3,4-2,4-2,4-2)
April = 21-6 (5-3,5-2,4-0,4-0,3-1)
May = 14-14 (4-6,2-12,2-10,2-10,2-8)
June = 15-8 (4-3,3-9,2-14,2-8,2-6)
July = 22-7 (6-0,4-10,4-4,3-13,3-12)
August = 7-2 (3-4,2-3,0-14,0-13)
September = 18-2 (4-7,3-13,3-8,3-5,3-1)
October = 5-9 (4-4,1-5)
November = 3-0 (1-8,1-8)
December = 9-11 (3-14.3-7,2-6)
Comments: While no new monthly records were established, any time we can post a group weight of twenty pounds is a winner. Among those, I would say that the July weight of 22-7 was an impressive surprise.

John Kirkemo – July 7

Boat vs. Bank
Boat = 29 bass
Bank = 63 bass
Comment: The 2021 crew featured a collection of anglers who spend the bulk of their time prowling the banks rather than launching their boats. Having spent a lot of time hiking and biking for my bass, I find this to be a cool stat. After all, the bank is accessible for any of us when looking to make a few casts and likely where most of us got our start.

Boat vs. Bank Weight
Boat = 18-6 (4-4,4-3,3-9,3-8,2-14)
Bank = 26-4 (6-0,5-5,5-3,5-2,4-10)
Comments: Even when we took the opportunity to get out in a boat, the bass that we fooled could not compare to those fooled from the bank. Of course, the bank bass more than doubled the boat bass. Still an impressive weight difference when you figure that a boat gives you access to the entirety of a body of water while bank anglers can be restricted by shoreline cover and terrain.

Public vs. Private
Public = 85 bass
Private = 7 bass
Comments: Public water catches dominated our submissions which I also found cool. While I do have access to the private waters of Little John Conservation Club and most any angler knows the value of having permission to fish a private honey hole, it’s rewarding to fool fish where everybody else can fish. Our catches are a testament to the quality of fish out there in our public waters, primarily in West Central and Central Illinois but it does take some work to get to them and fool them.

Public vs. Private Top 5 Weight
Public = 26-4 (6-0,5-5,5-3,5-2,4-10)
Private = 13-3 (3-13,2-10,2-8,2-6,1-14)
Comments: An impressive haul from public waters featured four bass from our Top 5 Champ, Jim Junk, and an unexpected catch from New York. As far as private water, we just squeaked in with a Top 5 as there were only seven bass submitted as noted previously.

Wacky Rigged Senko

The Baits
Plastic Worm = 41 bass (Top Bass 6-0 Jim Junk)
Lipless Crankbait = 20 bass (Top Bass 4-3 Jim Junk, Troy Jackson)
Spinnerbait = 9 bass (Top Bass 4-10 Troy Jackson)
Crankbait = 7 bass (Top Bass 4-0 Brent Jackson)
Chatterbait = 5 bass (Top Bass 5-3 Jim Junk)
Jerkbait = 2 bass (Top Bass 1-8 John Kirkemo)
Jig = 2 bass (Top Bass 1-8 John Kirkemo)
Buzzbait = 1 bass (Top Bass 4-4 Troy Jackson)
Creature = 1 bass (Top Bass 5-5 Jim Junk)
Livebait = 1 bass (Top Bass Patricia Kirkemo 2-10)
Popper = 1 bass (Top Bass Troy Jackson 3-1)
Stickbait = 1 bass (1-11 Troy Jackson)
Swimbait = 1 bass (1-13 Troy Jackson)
Comments: The good, old plastic worm leads the way again and in our case the lure was exclusively a Senko, fished either wacky rigged or Texas rigged. It accounted for just over 40% of our catches and caught our Top Bass of the year. Lipless crankbaits also made a strong showing with 20% of our catches. Beyond those top two lures, the remaining results were scattered among a batch of standard offerings with a Popper, a Stickbait and a Swimbait joining the list after being absent in 2020.

Top September Bass – Brent Jackson

Monthly Top Bass
January
No submissions
February
3-15 Jim Junk
March
5-5 Jim Junk
April
5-2 Jim Junk
May
4-6 Jim Junk
June
4-3 Troy Jackson
July
6-0 Jim Junk
August
3-4 Troy Jackson
September
4-7 Brent Jackson
October
4-4 Troy Jackson
November
1-8 John Kirkemo
December
3-14 Jim Junk
Comments: Our Top 5 champ dominated the calendar with near identical bookends and several other top monthly bass in between. It was cool that four or our nine anglers were able to claim a monthly Top Bass along the way.

2021 Top Bass – Jim Junk

Top 10 Bass
6-0 Jim Junk (7/4)
5-5 Jim Junk (3/26)
5-3 Jim Junk (4/8)
5-2 Jim Junk (4/6)
4-10 Troy Jackson (7/11)
4-7 Brent Jackson (9/3)
4-6 Jim Junk (5/25)
4-4 Jim Junk (7/6)
4-4 Troy Jackson (10/10)
4-3 Jim Junk (3/30)
4-3 Troy Jackson (6/19)
Comments: Jim darn near claimed the Top 5 for our Top 10 Bass, missing out by only a few ounces. Overall, a successful year for our crew when our Top 10 catches all came in above the four-pound mark.

Angler Weights
Jim Junk 26-0 (6-0,5-5,5-3,5-2,4-6)
Troy Jackson 20-0 (4-10,4-4,4-3,3-9,3-6)
Brent Jackson 18-11 (4-7,4-0,4-0,3-8,2-12)
John Kirkemo 11-14 (2-10,2-8,2-8,2-6,1-14)
Jayce Jackson 5-4 (1-13,1-3,1-3,1-1)
Terry Jackson 4-7 (1-2,0-14,0-14,0-13,0-12)
Emerson Hannam 3-13 (3-13)
Landon Hannam 2-12 (2-12)
Patricia Kirkemo 2-10 (2-10)
Comments: Jim’s impressive limit comes in as the fourteenth heaviest weight in the eight-year history of the Top 5. I was able to squeak in with a 20-pound creel that marked the thirty-fifth limit to hit the 20-pound mark in Top 5 history.

Jim Junk – December 9

Other Species
Muskellunge – Jim Junk 17-10 (43”) – Decmeber 9
Comments: The Top 5 expanded to include species besides bass in 2017. Submissions have been few and far between over the years but always fun to see something different. And what a fish for our lone bonus species in 2021 with Jim’s quality toothy catch.

 

Many thanks to those who took the time to share your fish and fish stories. We had a great mix of young and not as young anglers, guys and gals, frequent fishers, and their partners. I appreciate all and hope that you will consider joining up again in 2022. It’s always a treat to see a new fish story in the Inbox or texts. Here’s to a productive ninth year of Top 5 angling and stay tuned for a look at the Top 5 record book covering 2014 through 2021. Talk to you later. Troy

Sledding Highlight Video

As I’m not much of an icefisherman, blogging takes the place of my fishing fix during the hard water phase of the year. In terms of true outdoor activity, mine primarily consists of shoveling the driveway. However, this weekend my ten-year old boy convinced me that we should take advantage of the recent snow and visit the neighborhood sledding hill. We had a good time and came through unscathed despite a few wipeouts (some intentional, I believe). We packed along the GoPro to shoot some footage and wound up with the highlight reel below.

 

Next up, we crown the 2021 Top 5 Champ with a look at the final stats. A follow-up post will also look at the all-time Top 5 Stats covering eight years of fellow anglers sharing fish stories. Talk to you later. Troy

2021 Fishing Recap – Locations

Back with another portion of the 2021 recap as we look at the locations that produced a combined total of over 300 bass.

Grand Totals
Bass = 313
Bodies of water = 38
Outings = 40 (ranging from 1.50 hour to 9.50 hour trips)
Bass Fishing Hours = 130.50
Bass/hour = 2.40
Comments: With a total of 40 bodies of water fished, you’d think that I was some sort of world traveler. Truth is, 23 of the lakes were contained in a few thousand acres of West Central Illinois strip mine ground. Although, in 2021 I did also travel over 700 miles to find a few bass. In addition, I added the historic Hennepin Canal to my life list of fishing logs.

Access
Bank Bass (Northerner boots, biking and hiking) = 167 bass
Little Boat Bass (over 40-year-old 8’ johnboat) = 100 bass
Big Boat Bass (1987 Bass Tracker Pro 17) = 46 bass
Comments: I continue to put more miles on a pair of boots, a bicycle, and a set of oars than I have ever racked up on trolling motors or outboards. Nothing like killing two birds with one stone as I get a bit of a workout while pursuing my hobby. 2021 featured plenty of exercise although I was spoiled on half a dozen outings in the “big boat.”

Public vs. Private
Public Water Bass = 297 bass
Top Public Water Bass = 4-10 (Sprague Brook Park, NY)
Top 5 Public Weight = 20-0 (4-10,4-4,4-3.3-9,3-6)
Private Water Bass = 16 bass
Top Private Water Bass = 2-7 (Little John Conservation Club)
Top 5 Private Weight = 8-14 (2-13,2-7,1-12,0-15,0-15)
Comments: While I have access to a batch of quality private fishing holes at Little John Conservation Club, I sure didn’t get my dues worth in 2021. Instead, I invested the bulk of my time on public strip mine waters and finally committed to exploring the Hennepin Canal. As an added bonus, I was able to fish some new water when hauling along fishing gear on work assignments.

The Waters (from least to most caught)

Homer Lake, Champaign County, IL (1 visit – 10/8)
2 bass
1.50 hours
1.33 bass/hour
Top Bass: 10.5”
Top 5 Weight: None at or better than 12”
Comments: On the way back home from a roundtrip work drive to Rocky Mount, NC, I decided to visit a fishing hole a short distance from Interstate 74. I’d hauled my fishing gear over 1600 miles before getting in a cast for a couple reasons. First up, the October evenings in North Carolina left little time to fish after full days on the job. Secondly, I was too cheap to buy an out of state license for any of the states that I passed through (Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, or North Carolina). An hour and a half before dark on this lake situated between Danville and Champaign, Illinois gave up two small bass but always satisfying to meet the challenge of fooling a fish on unseen water when you’re up against the clock.

New York Waters – Buffalo area (4 lakes – 7/11 to 7/14)
7 bass
6.25 hours
1.12 bass/hour
Top Bass: 4-10 Spinnerbait on 7/11
Top 5 Weight (only 3 at 12″ or better): 6-15 (4-10,1-7,0-14)
Comments: As noted above, it’s cool to fool a few on water that you’ve only seen on the internet when scouting destinations for an hour or two of after work casting. And when the second fish you fool turns out to be your Top Bass of the year, well, that’s extra cool. During the four days that I was in New York, I was able to visit a new spot each evening for an hour or so. When it was all said and done, I had to give myself a bit of a pat on the back for getting it done in crunch time and avoiding a shutout every night.

Mautino State F&WA – Bureau County, IL (1 visit, 2 lakes – 7/3)
9 bass
2.25 hours
Top Bass: 0-14 (13.5”) Buzzbait
Top 5 Weight (only one at 12” or better): 0-14
Comments: Prolonged interior road construction on this site had kept me away for five years. So, I was enthused when I spied an update on the internet indicating that the work was completed granting drive in access to all waters. Unfortunately, the fish weren’t as enthused, and I struggled to find any quality bites like several from 2015 and 2016.

Knox County, IL Private Strip Mines (3 visits, 4 lakes – 8/1 through 11/17)
16 bass
9.75 hours
1.64 bass/hour
Top Bass: 2-13 (17”) War Eagle Spinnerbait on September 10
Top 5 Weight: 8-14 (2-13,2-7,1-12,0-15,0-15)
Comments: I have fished Little John for nearly 35 years, and I can’t recall the last time that I spent as little time on the site as I did in 2021. I don’t know if the bass have suddenly become wise to my offerings, but quality bites have eluded me for the last several years. Then again, perhaps I just need to invest more time on these old, familiar fishing holes. Too many choices among my area destinations are indeed a good problem to have and success on the Hennepin Canal much closer to home also played a role in 2021.

Lake Storey – Knox County, IL (5 visits – 6/12 through 10/14)
35 bass
37.75 hours
0.93 bass/hour
Top Bass: 2-14 (18”) Berkely Havoc Pit Boss on September 27
Top 5 Weight: 12-2 (2-14,2-9,2-8,2-3,2-0)
Comments: I enjoy fishing Lake Storey as much as anywhere and make it a point to get down there several times a year. Sure, I can catch more and bigger bass at many other spots but that is part of the appeal. Bass don’t come easy on this heavily pressured lake, so I find it rewarding to outsmart its wily residents. I also had the good fortune of sharing a boat with my dad, one of my brothers and my two boys over the course of my 2021 visits.

Hennepin Canal – several counties (17 visits – 6/5 through 10/31)
61 bass
31.00 hours
1.97 bass/hour
Top Bass: 3-6 (20”) Senko wacky rig on 7/21
Top 5 Weight: 15-6 (3-6,3-4,3-1,2-14,2-13)
Comments: While my family has lived in the Quad City Area since 2014, I had yet to wet a line in the Hennepin Canal until this past spring. During a family camping weekend in June, I took a brief shot and was rewarded with a couple bass. On a hike the following day, I spotted several quality fish cruising its waters and was convinced that I should do some further exploring. Over the next several months, I made sixteen short visits and was pleasantly surprised with solid Top 5 fooled from Wyanet to Colona. All my fish were caught from the bank which can be hit or miss on accessibility along the corridor. Glad I gave it a go and plan to be back for more in 2022, perhaps with a boat in tow.

Knox County, IL Public Strip Mines (12 visits, 23 lakes – 3/20 through 10/10)
183 bass
42.00 hours
4.36 bass/hour
Top Bass: 4-4 (20”) Booyah Buzzbait on 10/10
Top 5 Weight: 17-9 (4-4,4-3,3-9,3-1,2-8)
Comments: My old strip mine stomping grounds were a gold mine for my 2022 fishing. Not particularly surprising but still full of surprises even after hiking some of the areas for over 30 years. In fact, I managed to set a couple new family and friend lake records along the way. Plenty of good water down that way but you’ve got to be willing to put in a little work in terms of exploring and trial and error. It’s fun to continue to learn about spots that I first fished in my 20s. Now, as I hit the mid-50s I wonder how much longer I want to keep putting forth the effort. Well, I’m all in again for 2022 and have been hitting the treadmill in preparation.

2021 provided a great mix of old and new fishing holes and the vast majority are on the list again in 2022. As always, every outing will get a fishing report here on the blog. In addition, I am contemplating some new challenges on many of those old lakes. But in the meantime, there are still some 2021 details to wrap up along with the final stats and 2021 Top 5 champion reveal. Stay tuned and talk to you later. Troy

2021 Fishing Recap – Lures Part II

Part II of the lure recap moves on to the most productive choices from 2021.

Creatures
Berkley Havoc Pit Boss, Yum Crawdad (green pumpkin) – 8 bass
Top Bass: 18” 2-14 September 27 Lake Storey
Comments: Unless the bass force me to slow down, I don’t. Thus, there are not a whole lot of catches on these slower moving, structure bumping, tight cover lures. The eight catches on these lures came during early fall on either Lake Storey (4 bass) or a pair of Snakeden lakes (4 bass). Each of the bass were caught while jigging the Texas rigged lure through shoreline wood cover. I enjoy catching fish in this fashion but relied more on faster moving baits for nearly all my 2021 bass.

Chatterbaits
Z Man Chatterbait (bluegill or white with various Zako trailers) – 17 bass
Top Bass: 16” 1-12 October 10 Snakeden Hollow
Comments: After a high-water mark of 43 bass on chatterbaits in 2020, the totals dipped again in 2021. The decrease was largely because I rarely threw the lure. In fact, 16 of these 17 catches came during an October 10 hike to a Snakeden lake where the bass just eat this thing up (unfortunately, only one was decent size). The chatterbait has never really took hold in my arsenal although I am aware that other anglers swear by the lure. There were several days in 2021 that I had one tied on to start the day and it never even got wet as other presentations got the job done.

Spinnerbaits
War Eagle WEG02RKTW38 (white/chartreuse) – 31 bass
Top Bass: 17” 2-7 May 4 Knox County, IL private strip mine
Comments: I am about as old school and stubborn as they come in my lure selection and my lone spinnerbait choice bears this out. The fact that I regularly use a spinnerbait is also a bit of a throwback as the lure isn’t as popular as it was when I dove into this bass fishing thing back in the 1980s. However, my spinnerbait arsenal has changed considerably with a new batch of hand-crafted spinnerbaits just received from an old friend and baseball teammate. Stay tuned.

Lipless Crankbaits
Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad or orange craw) and Xcalibur Real Series XR50 (chicken pox) – 45 bass
Top Bass: 20” 4-3 June 19 Snakeden Hollow
Comments: It doesn’t get much faster than a basic lipless crank retrieve and that’s just my speed when I can get away with it. And while you may need to tone it down a bit in colder water, these lures get the job done throughout the entire open water calendar. The 45 bass represent a fifty-percent decline from the 89 bass caught on the lure type in 2020. Much of this has to do with my time spent on the Hennepin Canal as most of the areas that I fish on the corridor do not set up well for such a presentation. In contrast, several strip mines and Lake Storey contain some prime lipless crankbait structure in the form of flats, points, and ledges.

Plastic Worms
Senko wacky rig (various colors) – 82 bass
Top Bass: 20” 3-6 July 21 Hennepin Canal
Comments: Plastic worm exclusively means the wacky rigged 5” Yamasenko (Senko for short) in my arsenal. After a down year of 39 bass in 2020, the Senko wacky rig bounced back by more than doubling the catches of the previous year. What more can I say than it is a winner, catching bass everywhere that I fished from May Day to Halloween. In addition, my new stomping grounds along the Hennepin Canal set up well for this presentation and the Senko got the job done. It currently holds the spot for Top Canal Bass and landed a pair of three-pounders on my prowls.

Crankbaits
Various (see above picture) – 104 bass
Top Bass: 18” 3-1 April 2 Knox County Strip Mines
Comments: A variety of crankbaits pushed this category into triple digits and made it the top producing lure type for the second straight year (100 bass in 2020). From shallow (Mann’s Baby 1-) to mid-depth (Shad Rap, Bomber Flat A and Strike King Squarebill) to deep (Strike King Pro Model), this collection of crankbaits found a lot of fish. These lures are in my wheelhouse as they allow me to fish at a fairly rapid pace, cover lots of water and bang into as much stuff as I can on the way back to the boat. And from the results, it is apparent that these tools work well when employed in the right spots at the right time with the right presentation, that’s fishing.

And with that, we wrap up the recap of the usual set of tools that were used to fool the bass in 2021. On the water, the focus is on finding the right tool at the right time, so I always enjoy the year-end analysis to see how it all shook out in terms of totals. I was pleased with the results and execution even though I did not step to far out of my comfort zone in terms of lure selection. However, in the next chapter of the 2021 recaps, I did take a stab at uncharted waters and was pleasantly surprised. Read all about it as coming up next, we explore “Locations.” Talk to you later. Troy

2021 Fishing Recap – Lures Part I

As the 2021 recap continues, we look at every single lure or bait that fooled my bass. Staring from the fewest catches and working our way up to the top producers we look at the numbers and notes from last year. Scroll on for the first of a pair of lure posts.

Jigs
Googan Gridiron Jig (PB&J) w/ craw trailer – 1 bass
Top Bass: 13.5” 1-1 March 20 Snakeden Hollow
Comments: Landing a lone bass on a jig was a strange find upon reviewing my 2021 results as this cold-water winner posted 33 bass in 2020. The lone catch of 2021 was my third bass of the year and was logged on my first outing. I did employ it again to end the year on my November outing, but it failed to produce another bite. Overall, an odd year for this lure as I typically lean on it to get an early and late bass bite.

Livebait
Waxworm on a 1/64 oz jighead hung from a slip bobber – 1 bass
Top Bass: none at 12” or better
Comments: Not much to say about this incidental catch while out with my boys prowling the strip pits in search of whatever would bite a waxworm. Which is just about anything if you use them enough.

Propbaits
Whopper Plopper (I Know It) – 3 bass
Top Bass: 13” 1-0 July 18 Hennepin Canal
Comments: Like the Rebel Pop R (see below), this lure causes a commotion and can hover in the bass’ face if needed. The Whopper Plopper’s lone day of glory came on The Canal when catching a trio of bass on a July evening. In my prowling of the internet, I have seen a fellow angler who has much success with this bait at a different location on The Canal, but I have not given it much use beyond that July evening. Part of the reason would be old habits and part of the reason is that several of my spots on The Canal make presentation difficult due to casting from an elevated platform.

Stickbaits
Zara Spook (black shore minnow or natural frog) – 3 bass
Top Bass: 15.5” 1-11 May 1 Knox County, IL public strip pit
Comments: Me and my Zara Spook were tight back in the 80s and 90s but these days it doesn’t get wet very often. I employed it in three specific situations this year and found a trio of takers. The most rewarding of the bunch was the Top Bass on the lure. I had spotted it cruising sub-surface vegetation and needed a lure that would hopefully irritate it and trigger a reaction strike. It took a couple retrieves and one missed strike, but the plan worked as the classic lure did its job.

Poppers
Rebel Pro Pop R Zell Rowland Model (two colors) – 4 bass
Top Bass: 17.5” 3-1 September 25 Hennepin Canal
Comments: I ran into a spot on The Canal where aquatic vegetation hindered many presentations and the bass were not responding to my regular topwater offerings (buzzbaits, stickbaits, frogs). I felt that what I needed was a lure that would make a racket yet stay in their face for as long as I wished to pause. My choice was the old Pop R that is pushing antique status, having resided in my tackle for close to 30 years. The lure and one of its top proponents, tournament angler Zell Rowland, make for an interesting tale but that is for another time. For 2021, the bait was the right tool in a pair of specific situations and came through as intended. Nearly six pounds of bass (3-1 and 2-11) on the first two casts on a fall sunrise canal prowl makes a guy feel like he knows what he is doing after all these years.

Buzzbaits
Booyah Buzz (white or black) – 6 bass
Top Bass: 20.5” 4-4 October 10 Snakeden Hollow
Comments: 2021 saw the lowest total buzzbait catches since 2012 when there was not a single buzzbait bass posted. From 2012 through 2020, I fooled a total of 363 bass on a buzzbait with 2015 being the lowest total (18 bass) and 2017 being the highest total (138 bass). Now, I dig throwing buzzbaits and I have been known to try and force feed these baits to the bass. However, a fundamental tenet of fishing is that the fish will tell you what they want. In the case of 2021, the bass often told me that they weren’t interested in a buzzbait, and in this rare instance, I listened.

Swimbaits
Bass Pro Shops 3” Speed Shad (smallmouth magic) – 8 bass
Top Bass: 16” 1-13 May 23 Knox County public strip pit
Comments: Being a creature of habit, I’ve never really gotten into the swimbait swing of things. But a couple trips with a tough bite can get the wheels turning and even convince me to try something different. While shifting gears did not produce anything brag worthy, it was cool to get rewarded with a few bites when my normal offerings were getting snubbed. The presentation featured a 3/8-ounce belly weighted hook and a moderate retrieve to keep the bait moving over a collection of subsurface vegetation.

Part I in the books and Part II headed your way later this week. Talk to you later. Troy

2021 Fishing Recap – Intro

It was a tall order to top 2020 as it was my BYOB (Best Year of Bass) on record with 418 bass logged. But the annual goal isn’t focused on how many bass I can catch as there are other factors that are just as important. Time on the water, co-anglers, Top 5 weight, destinations, presentations, and “records” all come into play. The posts headed your way in this year’s recap series will delve into each of these aspects.

Grand Totals (bass fishing only)
41 outings (29 outings in 2020)
136.75 hours fishing (107.75 in 2020)
313 bass (418 bass in 2020)
2.40 bass/hour (3.88 bass/hour in 2020)
Comments: The uptick in outings were a direct result of adding a group of new locations along the Hennepin Canal to my fishing destinations. Seventeen of the forty-one trips this year were at various spots along the historic corridor which proved to be a worthwhile destination (details to come in the location portion of the recap). And while I don’t really have a goal for the number of bass catches, anytime I can exceed three hundred bass, I consider it a rousing success.

March 20, 2021 – First Bass

First Bass/Last Bass
March 20 – Snakeden Hollow 3:50pm 15” 1-10 Shad Rap
November 17 – Little John CC 1:42pm 16” 2-7 Spinnerbait
Comments: Annual mission accomplished with a March bass to start my year and a November bass to end it. For the second straight year, the Shad Rap came through with the first catch. Interestingly, a bass weighing 2-7 was the final catch for the second straight year although they came from spots that were 803 miles apart (2020 – Lake Fork, TX and 2021 Little John Conservation Club near Victoria, IL).

November 17, 2021 – Last Bass

Monthly Breakdown
March – 1 trip, 3 bass, Top Weight (3/17 2 bass) = 2-11
April – 3 trips, 50 bass, Top Day Weight (4/2) = 12-4
May – 3 trips, 28 bass, Top Day Weight (5/23) = 8-4
June – 4 trips, 41 bass, Top Day Weight (6/19) = 11-7
July – 11 trips, 41 bass, Top Day Weight (7/21) = 9-4
August – 4 trip, 51 bass, Top Day Weight (8/15) = 7-4
September – 7 trips, 50 bass, Top Day Weight (9/26) = 9-13
October – 7 trips, 46 bass, Top Day Weight (10/10) = 9-15
November – 1 trip, 3 bass, Top Day Weight (11/17 – 2 bass) = 3-6
Comments: As noted previously, I strive to start with a bass in March and end with a bass in November and was able to do so with lone outings in each month. In between, I took what I could get with summer comprising the bulk of my trips as weekends are freed up from school activities and weeknight sunsets are later. Fall was again reserved for the investment of a few days to cover the Lake Storey drawdown and closing time for much of my strip mine waters as they shift to waterfowl ground. Not a great deal of fluctuation on my Top Weights between the bookend trips of March and November. Several good days as any time I can push or exceed the ten-pound mark, I am pleased with the bite.

 

Top 5 Weight
20-0 (4-10,4-4,4-3,3-9,3-6)
Comments: After three straight years of falling short of my goal of a twenty-pound limit, I made it…barely. Heading towards the middle of October, I needed a 4-4 bass to knock out the lightest member of my Top 5 and reach my goal. Believe it or not, a buzzbait cast on a rain soaked morning at Snakeden found just the bite I needed, right at 4-4. You can’t make this stuff up, and I wouldn’t, anyway. Over a handful of trips to close the year, I couldn’t find any more bass that would boost my weight, ending 2021 right on the money.

 

The recap has just begun as I have several more breakdown posts in the works. Next up, will be a look at the lures that got the job done. Talk to you later. Troy

2021 Recap Slideshow

As the 2021 outdoor year becomes water under the bridge, it’s time for the annual recaps to fend off Cabin Fever. Stay tuned as we kick off 2022 by looking back at the 2021 fishing stats, lures, locations, partners, and highlights. We will also crown our 2021 Top 5 champ along with catching up on some 2021 adventures that got lost in the shuffle. And looking forward to 2022, there are some fishing projects and challenges in the works.

 

Simply a short slideshow today for reminiscing but plenty to come in the New Year. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Thanks again to Jim Junk as the hits keep coming for the 2021 Top 5. And boy, what a hit with one of his submissions. Read on for a classic fish story that will certainly be told again and again by several on the scene.

Weight: 3-14
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: December 9
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Lipless Crankbait
Angler Comments: A few casts later got this 3-14. (Note: see next entry for the preceding catch)
Top 5 Weight: 26-0 (6-0,5-5,5-3,5-2,4-6)

Weight: 17-10 (43”)
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: December 9
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Lipless Crankbait
Angler Comments: Decided to go to Banner when they opened at 1:00pm. Fished some regular spots for a couple of hours and didn’t even get a bite. Was going to go home and lick my wounds but pulled into another spot (to answer Nature’s Call) where I had never put in much effort and saw a couple guys crappie fishing from the bank. Watched one guy catch a small bass on a minnow and caught my interest. A friend pulled up and said he was going to fish in the area, so I pulled out my trusty lipless crankbait and started making some casts. Within the first dozen casts I had a strong hit. Very cool fight, stripping line and fighting good. One of the guys that was crappie fishing saw the fight and offered a net and my friend heard the commotion and came to assist too. My friend was in the water and landed the fish by hand before the net got there. Besides the pictures, we kept the fish in the net, and water, for length, weight, and release.
Top 5 Weight: 17-10 (17-10)

Folks, that is a fish story. Such tales can be categorized under many headings and this one is no exception. I’ll call this one a “what the heck, I’ll make a few more casts” fish story. Of course, contributing factors such as a bladder, a buddy and a bass certainly came into play as well. Ain’t fishing great.

 

Congrats, Jim, on an impressive catch and let’s not forget that is a darn good December bass as well. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

A shout out this week to our Top 5 leader, Jim Junk, as he’s still out there catching. His outing last Thursday to his regular stomping grounds produced a handful of solid fish with the two submissions below being the largest.

Weight: 3-7
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: December 2
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Lipless Crankbait

Weight: 2-6
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: December 2
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Lipless Crankbait
Angler Comments: Not much to report recently but did get out to Banner on Thursday from 1:00pm to about 4:30pm. 3-7 and 2-6 and two smaller ones. Also missed what I think was a pretty good one.
Top 5 Weight: 26-0 (6-0,5-5,5-3,5-2,4-6)

Well done, and if these are our final submissions for 2021, they provide a solid bookend to a productive year on the water for our anglers. Looking back, Jim kicked us off with a bass on February 2 and he’s still reeling them in ten months later. Final stats to come after the first of the year when all is officially said and done. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – December 2001

With a final post, this year’s Friday Flashback draws to a close. The string of thirty-nine straight scheduled weekly posts hit the blog without a hitch beginning on March 12 and continued through today. A couple Friday posts were delayed until Saturday for important reasons like birthdays or Mothman but I kept up my end of the bargain to relive some fishing memories.

And here we go for one more week, at where else, Emstrom’s Pond.

December 1, 2001 at 2:47pm and weighing 2-1 on a black and blue jig and pig

It is not often that I have fished all the way into December. Several factors come into play beginning with weather. In the case of the catches in today’s post, some reasonably warm weather pushing into the 50s prompted me to take a shot.

Factor number two is time and responsibilities. Since starting a family back in 2004, I am grateful for the substantial time I get on the water. Thus, once I reach my goal of a November bass, I am content to put away the gear and invest the “free time” as family time. I have never been much of an ice fisherman either. Both factors come into play in accepting that I usually have just over a hundred days between last and first bass.

A third factor is proximity. Emstrom’s Pond was an ideal destination as I could be on the water in a matter of minutes when I resided in Galesburg. This late in the year, that is a definite plus as the daylight fades in a hurry and my aim is usually to make a quick hit on the water. In and out in maybe 90 minutes in the afternoon which is typically the warmest part of the day (just as important for the fisherman as the fish).

A final factor is having some good water with the proximity noted above. We were fortunate to have a prime fishing hole with a prime fishing spot in what we called “The Beaver Lodge.” It’s been discussed before, and you couldn’t ask for a better spot to take your chances and wet a line.

The formula for a December visit was pretty simple. Unload the boat from the bed, drag it down “The Ramp”, row about 50 yards to the northwest, drop anchor and cast a black and blue jig and pig around “The Beaver Lodge” for an hour or so. The formula was also pretty effective.

December 7, 2001 at 1:32pm and weighing 2-6 on a black and blue jig and pig

So long from the Friday Flashback for year number four. The plan was to comb the logs and photo albums for fish stories in any five year increment from the current year. For 2021, those tales covered 40 years from 1976 through 2016. This approach would allow me to run the Friday feature for five years. Hard to believe that the final year is on the horizon as we head towards 2022. The spreadsheet is already completed with just over 40 weeks’ worth of fish stories, hope you’ll continue to tune in. Talk to you later. Troy