Month: February 2018

Blog Banner – Fishin’ Fools

Well, we made it, 28 days in a row for this thing and will finish with my favorite picture of the bunch, always brings a smile.

Just a couple fishin’ fools, all dressed up with somewhere to go.  From the looks of these guys, the fish don’t stand a chance.

This one comes from July 23, 2012 which was birthday #45 for me. Dad told me he would take me anywhere for my birthday, a meal, a movie, Bass Pro Shops, Vegas, whatever. He’s retired, had a free day, so up to me.

I chose the creek (remember, that rhymes with stick, right).

Okay, so that’s not really how it went down but the July 23 birthday thing is true. And for a lot of years, he and I have gotten together to chase some fish on or around that date. This time we chose a spot we call “Pat’s Creek” and armed with a couple containers of dew worms we were ready for whatever swims there. That’s the fun of wading the creek as you never know what will pull on the end of your line.

Dad (Terry), Brent and Bub Jackson

Dad (Terry) and Troy Jackson

Troy, Brent and Terry Jackson

Today’s picture and the additional samples serve to convey family fishing at its finest. A rod and reel (or some bankpoles), some livebait, whatever old clothes you don’t care about, a pair of “creek shoes” and getting right after the fish right where they live. Really don’t get much more basic than that and here’s how I summed up the July 23, 2012  trip in an excerpt from the original fishing report posted on July 24, 2012.

“A creek is always a wonderful hike and traipsing the same ground for thirty or forty years as we have gives you an intimate sense of just how dynamic such a habitat can be. We told the same stories again for the umpteenth time and they were just as good. We listened to catbirds, once again dusted off our old creek shoes, ate sandwiches with a touch of dew worm, fish slime and creek mud, traversed the maze (or maize) that is a mature cornfield, contended with nettles, poison ivy and hidden, underwater toe stubbers and said hello yet again to places like The Roots, The Culvert and The German Torpedo (tales for another day). I guess the only thing missing on our fishing trip was some decent fish. But, you know what, I achieved what I set out to accomplish, enjoying a slice of my birthday with a fishing pole and a longtime fishing partner.”

So, with the picture of these two goofballs, I’ll call it a wrap on the month long “Blog Banner” series. Today’s picture was one of those instances that just deserved to be preserved and I am grateful that a camera has been a steady companion over the years. I must say that the addition of a written memory to accompany the pictures has also provided quite a treat upon developing this writing habit back in 2002. Sure hope some fellow outdoor enthusiasts can find some common ground when they get a chance to stop by.

Since you now know the rest of the story on the 28 pics that greet you here on the website, they are gonna stick around for a while longer. But look for a new Blog Banner coming your way this spring. And also look for the first fishing report and the second Top 5 update of 2018 headed your way soon. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – The Pig

Did I ever tell you about a place called Emiquon?

Why, of course, I did.

In fact, a couple other Blog Banner pictures have featured fish and data from the interesting and productive fishing hole. I’ve got nothing firsthand to report from the last several years but reliable sources indicate that there’s still plenty of  bass down there.  Just a little tougher to find and fool.

Since this posting is headed towards a look at bass “guts”, here’s a different example of a stocky, well-fed Emiquon resident

Back in the days when I visited Emiquon (2009-2013) it produced an amazing combination of quantity and quality. The bass featured today was landed in July 2012 and came on a day when I had to work for the quantity aspect although a 23 bass day on most public waters is pretty solid in my book. Quality, however, never faltered on any of my outings down there and this day was no exception as 22 of the 23 bass measured 13” or better. That’s a 96% “keeper” rate with my definition of “keeper” being 12” or better (only a categorical label as all are released). Folks, that’s just crazy and the lone “short” fish came in at 11”.

But today’s featured fish was something else altogether. The picture does a good job of accentuating it’s build but in person it truly looked freakish, in a good way. This catch only measured 18” in length but tipped the scales at a whopping 4-11. By comparison, the weights of all other 18” bass in my database (37 bass) range from 2-3 to 3-8 with an average weight of 2-13, nearly two pounds lighter than this beast. The dozen bass in the database whose weights range from 4-9 to 4-13 measure from 20” to 22” (see comparison below).

August 11, 2003 at 4-13 and 21.5″ in length, Knox County, IL strip mine

Another shot of “The Pig” at 4-11 and only 18″ in length

In addition, the fish below was the runner-up on the day at 2-8. And it measured 17.5” in length. Yep, only a half inch shorter but over two pounds lighter. A solid fish in its own right but not even close, just plain weird.

Healthy runner up to “The Pig” at 17.5″ and 2-8 but really no comparison in build

So weird, in fact, that this is the only fish that I have ever caught that was given a nickname, hence the title of this posting referring to “The Pig.” Here’s an excerpt from the original fishing report that I submitted back on July 17, 2012 that describes the origin of the nickname.

“The fish pictured above (couldn’t help but use two pictures for this freak) grabbed my Red Eye Shad as it blazed along the outside of a ditch between some deeper tree tops and the shallower weed edge. My first glimpse of the football had me talking aloud in saying, ‘Man, that’s a good one.’ Just like my crankbait, the Boga Grip found its mark on a lip and I brought my trophy aboard still talking to myself stating, ‘Oh, that’s a pig’ in a sincere and excited complimentary fashion. In fact, I was so enthused that I even gave a fist pump as I put down my rod. I can’t imagine the feeling of fooling a good one ever getting old. Equally as fulfilling was watching it swim away after posing for a couple pictures with its biggest fan.”

And still a fan to this day. No doubt that it belonged when selecting pictures for the visual introduction to an outdoor website like no other. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Legendary Lure

Figured that the Blog Banner needed to include a fishing lure and tough to beat the classic black and blue jig and pig. In fact, it was included in a 10-part series that I posted back in February 2012 at a previous blogging gig. That series was entitled “Legendary Lures” and featured ten lures that had left a lasting impression over nearly 30 years of chasing fish up to that point.

Within these boxes are many “Legendary Lures”

For any angler, those lures and baits are the tools of the trade whether filling a photo album or a frying pan and the options just keep on growing. As has my tackle collection over the years via updating or expanding on old favorites or being unable to resist the urge to join the club when the latest “can’t miss” baits hit the market.

Boy, I could go on and on about lures.

And I have before with a 12 part series on the crazy world of lure color options…

And a batch of yearly lure result wrap-ups…

And Christmas lure wish lists…

And an exploration of information sharing concerning lures…

So, whether or not I qualify as a fishing writer, I no doubt have the chops when it comes to being a fisherman. I can ramble with the best of them.

And before I end this one, how about a few pics to reinforce my selection of the black and blue jig and pig as the Blog Banner representative for those favorite tools that call our tackleboxes home.

Folks, the above catches only scratch the surface of black and blue jig and pig success

One final note, now is prime time in our neck of the woods to put this one to work. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Nerves of Steel

April 12, 2014 4:58pm 4-6 Jig & pig, shout out to my lucky fishing hat as well as the bass

Okay, so I’ve only got four more Blog Banner pictures to cover. And if you are keeping score at home, you already know that it is exclusively a fishing finish. Almost like I planned it that way as Mother Nature typically produces some open water around here for us folks who don’t get too gung ho on the hard water fishing.

Today’s pic features one of a pair of four-pounders reeled in back in April of 2014 on some West Central Illinois walk-in strip mine ground while fishing with my brother, Brent.  It was an incredible day as noted by the following stats, pics and Top Bass details, originally reported on the Heartland Outdoors website on April 16, 2014 (see link).

Date: April 12, 2014
Location: Knox County strip mines
Time: 10:20am-6:05pm (5.75 hours fishing, the rest walking/driving)
Totals: 107 bass (9 different lakes)
Brent Totals: 51 bass
Troy Totals: 56 bass
Top Bass Brent: 3-8 Jig & Plastic
Top Bass Troy: 4-6 Jig & Pig (black & blue)
Top 5 Combined Weight: 17-2 (4-6,4-2,3-8,3-0,2-2 all pictured within this post)

“My Top Bass of 4-6 set a new site record besting a 4-3 I caught last fall. The fish came on a jig and pig (black and blue, of course) as I worked it up a dropoff near a shallow saddle between two fingers on a spot I call Twin Lake. The water is quite clear and I actually saw the dark shape of a bass taking a look at the jig as it came into view about six feet deep. When I saw the big boy go nose down and my line start to move sideways I knew I was in business. I hollered at Brent who was around the corner and pretty soon he was taking a snapshot of me and my 2014 best (so far). It’s tough to describe how cool it was to see that fish decide my jig was worth eating.”

Tough to describe, indeed, but I’m going to try anyway after a look at the rest of our Top 5 on the day.

11:44am 3-0 Spinnerbait

12:08pm 4-2 Jig & pig

1:37pm 2-2 Jig & pig

5:43pm 3-8 Jig & plastic

So, this spot featured very clear water and a steep drop into the main trough of the lake beginning just a couple yards out from my position on the bank. As my jig barely came into view when slowly hopped from the depths, a dark (and large) shape appeared a few feet behind the lure. Cue several nerve racking seconds when it seemed that time slowed down. While the bass was interested, it had yet to commit and if I could see it, it could see me as well. Therefore, I had to be as still as possible yet impart just the right action to the stationary lure lying on the bottom within a foot of the fish. With the slightest lift of the rod tip the jig scooted along the slope with the skirt momentarily flaring out and the pig trailer giving a slight wave to my target. Slowly, the bass went nose down and looked to take the lure but I was leery to jump the gun on a hookset for fear of pulling the bait away and blowing my chance. I shifted my focus from the fish to the spot where the line entered the surface and saw it begin to move slightly to the left meaning that it was go time. A firm hookset met with solid resistance indicating that I had played my cards right and all those years of practice had paid off for this veteran, unshakeable angler.

An angler whose hands were shaking as he lifted his catch from the water. I’ve had this bite hundreds of times, unseen on the end of a long cast or hidden by the depth or clarity of the water. Thus, it was very cool to watch it unfold at my feet. Man, I dig fishing. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Bird’s Eye View

Had to include a shot of some of my stomping grounds in the Blog Banner as strip mine fishing has provided many good memories over the years. And a lot of miles on terrain that isn’t near as friendly looking from the ground as it is from the sky. Looks like you can just hop right from one body of water to the next if the fish aren’t biting. Well, lakes that appear to be a couple casts away can wind up being a substantial walk. That whole closest distance between two points is a straight line adage looks good on paper but strip mine reality is a different ballgame.

But hey, that’s part of the fun right?

And on the positive side, it keeps the pressure down. Only a fool would venture to some of those remote spots.

Yep, a treat to find no other footprints and some uneducated bass.  You also know you are in the right place when you don’t see any trash. Always marveled at those who can haul in full sodas or beers yet can’t haul the weightless empties back out.

What’s also fun about remote collections of fishing holes is the fact that they don’t have a name. At least until I fool a bass in one of them. At that point I’ve got to log the catch which means I get to come up with my own and I will readily admit that this fishing fool is easily amused by himself.

Today’s photo only shows a portion of this overall location and some of the fishing holes here and the adjacent ground bear the following names.

Maiden Lake – first stop I ever made on the area.

Kentucky Lake (above catch by my brother, Brent) – shaped like The Bluegrass State when seen from the air

Cottonwood Lake (above catch on a Bagley Smoo) – home of the 2014 Misfit Lure series (another story, may revisit)

Beamon Lake – narrow enough to jump (go ahead, you can make it), named for Bob Beamon, old school long jump champ

2×4 Lake (above) – two four-pounders in one day, a third since then as shown in this pic

K9 Lake – named after a homemade lure that fooled some bass (see here)

Horseshoe Lake (above) – that shape and pretty good luck too

Molar Lake (above) – thought it looked about like the shape of a back tooth

Far Lake – can’t get any further from the truck than here, little bass, questionable decision

As with all of the pictures in the Blog Banner there are several reasons for inclusion. Good fishing, the goofy habit of christening fishing holes and the cool, technological ability to see your stomping grounds from above even when you are standing in a spot in that middle of nowhere. But don’t let that bird’s eye view fool you. For as the crow flies is one thing, a pair of Northerner boots and too much fishing gear is something completely different. Wander at your own risk. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Dad’s Best Friend

Over the years, my kids have asked, “Dad, who is your favorite kid?”

Well, depends on the day, I guess, and who says it has to be one of your kids.

Just kidding, of course, it’s a four-way tie for first place.

Today’s Blog Banner pic features kid number four to round out the crew. This is our youngest boy, Zac, during his turn in the boat on a 2016 camping and fishing trip. And his catch is what I am referencing in the title of today’s posting.

Yep, the good old, reliable bluegill is a dad’s best friend. Typically quite cooperative and a solid battle for anglers of Zac’s size with their circular runs and occasional dives at boatside putting a good bend in an ultralight rig. Setting up the kids with a slip bobber, a 1/16oz jighead tipped with a waxworm and perhaps a split shot to get the bobber upright does the trick. For my money, the slip bobber is the key to better and safer casting as opposed to several dangling feet of line flapping in the wind and looking to hook something besides a fish. I also vote for a spinning setup over a spincast rig once the kids can manage the technique as they are much friendlier with such a slip bobber approach as well.

But, as with most kids Zac’s age (and some grown up kids too) the fishing trip is about more than fishing. Why just last year he spent a fair amount of time trying to destroy my needlenose pliers by digging holes in the lane next to our fishing hole. Also ran through a fair amount of our waxworms by seeing how many he could impale on the trebles of a crankbait.

Always entertaining and good to know that when his attention turns back to a fishing pole on these outings that there will be some bluegill ready for action. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Computer Age

Broke down and got me a computer back in January of 1997.  Crazy to think that is over 20 years ago now.  Between being quite frugal and thinking why in the world would I need a computer, I was a hold out.  And now, here we are in 2018 and everybody in my house has some kind of device.

Once I unpacked that first system from multiple shipping boxes (big tower and big monitor) and got her up and running, a major project was putting some software to work in tracking my fishing results.  What you see in today’s Blog Banner photo is a result of some of that goofing around, the abnormal length distribution of a sample of the 460 bass I landed at Emiquon.  Of course, lots of factors come into play for these catches but the bottom line is that place just wasn’t right in those first several years.

Oh, but that only scratches the surface of the ways that everyday home and mobile technology has enhanced my enjoyment of this fishing hobby.  So here’s some good outdoor reasons to embrace The Computer Age from a guy whose childhood pre-dates home computers, cell phones and the internet.

Bassmaster tourney results in real time not in next month’s magazine issue.

Myriad fishing reports, although most not very good, secrecy still rules, I get it.

A plethora of fishing videos but think I’m getting too old for some of these crazy youngsters, I was born too early and have a tamer vocabulary I guess.

But hey, I can even make my own fishing videos, pretty fun but need some more practice and try to be less of a dork as I used “shoot”, “son of a gun” and “dangit” (3 times) in a matter of 9 seconds upon losing a November bass at boatside.


Satellite images of my fishing holes, 2D walk-in terrain looks better than the real deal.

We get do overs on fish pics with instant feedback on cameras and devices.

Can order fishing stuff from anywhere, anytime, kind of dangerous.

Can turn my display into the old baitshop counter stacked with Polaroids via a simple search such as “Emiquon Bass” (you should try that one, preview below).

I can share fish stories with other anglers in my living room and I’m the only one there.

I can send a pic of my latest catch to Mom (she shows Dad), Julie or my brother while sitting in an eight foot johnboat in the middle of nowhere, that’s cool.

And they’ll give anybody a blog these days whether he knows what he’s talking about or not.

Plenty more to add and just as many drawbacks to The Computer Age, I suppose.  But that comparison is a rough draft somewhere in a stack of folders for another time.  Yep, still actually use a pen and paper as part of this blogging adventure.  Talk to you later.  Troy

Blog Banner – The Doghouse

On the heels of yesterday’s posting about an unexpected fringe benefit of blogging, here comes another one. Funny how it worked out like that.

Today’s blog banner photo of me and our youngest, Zac, comes from 2012 at a place called “The Doghouse” during a weekend family getaway. Doesn’t get much better than sitting around a campfire with the family and getting kind of tough to remember what it was like when kids were this small.

At that time I was hooked up with another blogging gig and I had mentioned a desire to check out Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish & Wildlife Area in Cass County, IL. A fellow who occasionally commented on my blog entries reached out to offer up his family’s cabin, known as “The Doghouse”, located just a short drive from the park.

We took him up on the offer and would make several visits over the next couple years, using the spot as base camp for trips to Jim Edgar, Springfield and The Emiquon Preserve. A very generous offer that was greatly appreciated by me and Julie as our standard version of weekend trips involve a tent instead of a cabin. And with the little guy in tow that would mean two tents and a pack and play. Done it more than a few times but when offered alternate accommodations, well, we were all in.

A campfire definitely calls for some s’mores

Plenty of silliness is the norm for our bunch

The silliness continues

Even built a volcano for a school project, much better in a cabin than a tent 

The additional pictures from those days demonstrate that a good time was had by all, which is typically the case. But sure was a lot easier on the mind and body thanks to a generous gift of a home away from home. Thanks again to Mike if you happen to catch this post. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Blog Bonus Bass

I started writing fish stories on a whim close to sixteen years ago and this submission brings my “career” total to 1,166 postings. That’s a lot of words and pictures, and a lot of time. Especially considering it’s not a paying gig beyond a $50 check I received once upon a time for my contributions at another website. But I knew that going in and I’m good with that, just like to write about enjoying the outdoors with family and friends.

What I did not foresee were several instances of a bonus sort of windfall, one of which is hanging from the lip of the bass in today’s blog banner photo.

K9 Walker Stickbait

This bass came from some Knox County, IL public walk-in strip mine ground in September 2013 on a homemade topwater bait. The bait, called the K9 Walker, was fashioned by a fellow from East Central Illinois who followed my blog on another website. A cool gift that I initially put to use in the spring of 2013 fooling several bass as pictured below.

5/27/13 First K9 Walker bass from a formerly unnamed lake now called “K9 Lake”

6/7/13 A fun “double” on the K9 Walker as both fish came on one cast of the bait

The September fish that is the subject of today’s blog banner pic was the second of a pair of four-pound fish that I caught on the outing from a then nameless remote pothole in the span of fifteen minutes. Since the designation of “K9 Lake” had already been assigned as noted in one of the above pictures, I took to calling this spot “2×4 Lake” in honor of the four-pound pair (the first four-pound bass fell to a Smithwick Suspending Rogue jerkbait).

One other note on today’s pic is the fact that the pothole cranked out another four-pounder in 2014 on a jig and pig. However, it will continue to be referred to as 2×4 Lake in honor of the fish story resulting from the second big bite of that September day courtesy of the K9 Walker (thanks, Frank, if you’re out there reading).

Besides, “3×4 Lake” sounds weird. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Throwback & Tradition

Fancy boats, gaudy lures and exotic destinations beckon from the magazines, catalogs and websites of the major players in the fishing industry. Some pretty cool stuff, no doubt, enough to break the bank if you so choose. Yep, our hobby gets as intense and expensive as one wishes to make it.

And that’s what is part of the fun in this picture. A 2013 father-son outing on a farm pond in a borrowed johnboat to chase some panfish on waxworms hung from a bobber or twister tails on a jighead, perhaps adding a spinner if you want to get real high-tech. Basic stuff, a throwback to the days when things were much simpler with fewer choices and less temptations to empty the piggybank.

And here’s a little secret…that old, basic, inexpensive route is still just as fun and still gets the job done.

Okay, so had to take a shot at one of these along the way, figured that since I was fishing…

Another cool aspect is the inclusion of my youngest boy, Zac, the third generation in this picture. While he did not accompany us on this outing, his smile says that he thinks it’s a pretty cool scene.

And I do too.

You see, with a dose of imagination and a tinge of photoshopping to add a black and white filter, this shot could have been taken in 1970 instead of 2013. And that kid in the middle would be yours truly flanked by his Dad and his Papa instead. Not much of a stretch really.

You can’t stop time from marching on, but as it does, it’s important that you take time to pass it on when it comes to family traditions. Talk to you later. Troy