Month: November 2018

Strip Mine Report 11/24/18

9:55am and looking for that final bass of 2018

I’ve mentioned more than a few times that one of my annual goals is to land a November bass before calling it quits on the fishing year. And for 2018 I had pretty much conceded that it wasn’t going to happen. I was okay with that as responsibilities, work, weather and some vehicle trouble had conspired against going fishing as we reached the last week of the month. But things worked out after all and I took my shot last Saturday on one of my regular haunts.

10:45am no giant but got what I was after, a November bass courtesy of a Rapala Shad Rap

Date: November 24, 2018
Location: Knox County, IL strip mine – private
Time: 9:55am-2:40pm
Weather: Sunny/windy
Air Temp: 43-53F
Water Temp: no gauge
Totals: 5 bass
Strike King Rattlin’ Pro Model 3/8 oz jig (green pumpkin) with Bass Pro Shops Triple Ripple Craw trailer (pepper frog hot orange) – 3 bass
Rapala Shad Rap (blue) – 2 bass
Top Bass: 1-15 Jig & Plastic
Top 5 Weight (only 3 at 12” or better): 5-2 (1-15,1-12,1-7)

11:09am  14″ and 1-7 on jig and plastic

12:25pm Top Bass for the day 16″ and 1-15 on jig and plastic

Notes and Nonsense

Fishing Factors – Several items got me an unplanned day on the water. First up was the confirmation of open water as observed during a Thursday trip to Galesburg which led to the next item. Thanksgiving Friday off of work then allowed me to get my end of year yard work done on Friday instead of Saturday. A forecast of a Saturday temperature pushing 50F and the job of returning a nephew to Galesburg after an overnight stay were the final straws in the makings of a getaway.

All In – I picked one of my best spots in terms of potential quality bites and past cold water success when it came time to choose a destination. While I normally max out at two or three hours on visits to this lake before hopping to another fishing hole, for this outing I committed to investing all my time and working it over thoroughly. I hit all of my regular areas two or even three times as I picked apart the lake and managed what I felt was a solid creel.

1:58pm and likely last bass of 2018 at 15.5″ and 1-12 on jig and plastic

Mission Accomplished – I lost my first bite at boatside as the anti-reverse on my reel gave out causing a batch of slack to spin out as I took my hand off the handle to reach for my catch. Fortunately, I only had to wait about 15 more minutes for another bite to get me on the board. While I’d also hoped to get a boost for my Top 5 it wasn’t meant to be as I could not find anything to boot those two-pounders from the bottom of my list. As a result, it looks like I will fall short of the coveted 20-pound mark for the first time since kicking off the Top 5 project back in 2014.

The lures that got it done – Rapala Shad Rap and a bit of a changeup from my standard jig and pig offering

Benching the Black and Blue – I’m pretty much a one trick pony when it comes to fishing a jig and pig being a longtime proponent of black and blue. Well, on this day, I stepped out of my comfort zone for a couple reasons. For one, the last time I fished the spot I saw a fellow nail a 5-9 bass on a green pumpkin colored jig and plastic trailer. In addition, I wanted to bulk up and really didn’t have any decent option to replace my normal #11 blue pork rind trailer. The intent of bulking up was that I was hoping that whatever decided to eat it would be bulked up as well. Turned out to be the right decision in terms of bites as it fooled three bass. And while none turned out to be as bulky as I’d hoped, no complaint from me on the successful results.

2:40pm and likely the end of the line for another fun year of fishing

I’ll close with a final outdoor observation as a shout out to Dad. On the way down to the fishing hole the early morning skies were gray and the wind was pushing blustery. The leaf covered ground was wet from a series of showers the previous day and nearly all of the farm fields were devoid of crops. I must admit that it felt a little odd taking in the scenery with a johnboat and a load of fishing gear along for the ride. For that voice inside my head repeated a phrase frequently uttered by Dad this time of the year as it “sure felt like a trapping morning.” Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Open water is disappearing in my neighborhood and with it go my hopes of hitting my annual goal of a November bass. However, another of our Top 5 anglers continues his impressive run with a couple more submissions. It takes some work these days to get it done so here’s a tip of the stocking cap to Jim Junk for keeping us going.


Weight: 3-11 and 4-0
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: November 16
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Chatterbait
Angler Comments: Didn’t have very high expectations when the place I wanted to fish was ice covered and the past two times out had been limited to one small bass. Found some open water though and these two, 3-11 and 4-0, both on a chatterbait.
Top 5 Weight: 23-8 (5-4,5-2,4-9,4-5,4-4)

In corresponding with Jim last week he also noted that he’d applied a bit of Reel Magic to the rod guides to keep them from freezing up his line. Good tip, I’ll have to keep that one in mind. Also got a grin upon noticing a glove in one of the pics. Now, that’s some dedication in searching for “one more bass” before calling it a year. Talk to you later. Troy

2018 Friday Flashback Finale

Not only am I a stat guy, but I guess I’d have to say that I’m a wrap-up guy as well. I suppose my lifelong baseball fandom may shoulder much of the blame for these habits.

And similar to the world of America’s Pastime, we started this journey in March and are putting a wrap on it in November.

Therefore, it’s time for the recap and some stats, which in the world of blogging allows me to compile another post on a particular topic or series. In the process it also helps me to figure out what it all was supposed to mean, if anything at all.

The initial run of Friday Flashback began with a post on March 16. That submission offered up the premise of the series as looking back on outdoor adventures in increments of five years. Thus, you would get Friday posts that reminisced about events from 1988, 1993, 1998 and so on up until 2013. I’m actually kind of proud of the concept and the fact that I was able to fill up every Friday through November 9 with some “fish stories” and more.

All told, the series spanned 35 consecutive Fridays and featured over 175 photos to accompany my rambles. We managed to hit each of the five year marks along the way stretching all the way back to 1988 (5 posts). Chronologically we also visited 1993 (1 post), 1998 (3 posts), 2003 (13 posts), 2008 (6 posts) and 2013 (7 posts).

Here’s a look at some more of the final stats with some help from the pics below, all of which appeared in a 2018 Friday Flashback post.

Not just fish

Lots of lures

More than a dozen guest star appearances

Over two dozen fishing holes visited

Nearly 400 bass landed along with many other species

Now, I’ve done a bit of prowling on the internet over the years in search of fish stories and such and for better or worse there’s nothing out there that’s quite like what you get here. Lots of content, local flavor and an average Joe approach that hopefully more than a few fellow outdoor folks can relate to.

And coming your way in 2019…

And here’s the kicker, I’ve got four more years’ worth of this flashback stuff. We’ll kick it all off again in March 2019 as we look back in another batch of five year increments running from 1984 to 2014. Hope you’ll tune in for that long walk down Memory Lane and in the meantime stop back by as I’ve got plenty of other stuff to fill the fishing “off season.” Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

The weather in West Central Illinois has taken a dip in the cold direction and even featured a measurable snowfall last week. But a couple anglers have still managed to get out there and fool some fish, including the first pair that add another entry to our “Other Species” category (meaning something that’s not a bass).

Rainbow Trout
Length: Both 11”
Angler: John Kirkemo
Date: November 5
Location: Lake Argyle – McDonough County, IL
Air Temp: mid 40sF
Water Temp: 53F
Lure: #2 Roy Self Spoon trolled behind ¼ oz. bead chain keel sinker
Structure: Open water 20’ deep
Angler Comments: Murky water, strong at time south wind, overcast with occasional very light rain
Trip Tune: “The Way It Is” – Bruce Hornsby & The Range
Top 5 Length: 22”

Weight: 3-10
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: November 5
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Lipless Crankbait
Angler Comments: Ended up with two bass on a lipless crank, big one was 3-10

Weight: 4-0
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: November 7
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Lipless Crankbait

Weight: 4-3
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: November 7
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Lipless Crankbait
Structure: Weeds
Angler Comments: Six more bass with a pair of 4-pounders. All on lipless crank. Pulling it through weeds, pretty classic, hits came right after pulling it through a weed.
Top 5 Weight: 23-8 (5-4,5-2,4-9,4-5,4-4)

Kudos for continuing to get out there and get it done. I’ll keep on posting them as long as you can keep catching and sending them. Thanks also to all for the late season contributions which have made for a strong finish to our 2018 Top 5. Been a fun year, will be interesting to see if we’re done quite yet. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – November 1, 2008

The Friday Flashback post possibilities get a little lean as we head into the next to last month of the year. But if the weather cooperates in a reasonable fashion and I can find time to get away, the annual goal is to put a November bass on the board. Ten years ago I was able to do just that. Below is the original post that was sent to a group of family and friends as my fishing finale from 2008.

11:01am – took an hour and a half of trying but got my November bass which also turned out to be Top Bass of the day at 17″ and 2-8 on a Zoom Baby Brush Hog

November Bassin’ – Always wanting to push the fishing year as late as possible, I’d held out hope that I could work in a November trip. Fate was on my side and I was able to spend one more day on Lake Storey. Just over six hours produced nine bass with a 2-8 taking Top Bass honors via a Zoom Baby Brush Hog. Two others gained entry into the record book at 1-13 and 1-10 with both falling to a Quad Blade spinnerbait (white). This bait was easily my top producer as it fooled seven bass and a Rapala DT6 (parrot) was responsible for one fish. While this trip failed to add any “accidents”, a nice muskie did take a couple swipes at the spinnerbait but failed to get hooked. It was likely in the mid 30 inch range and really got the adrenaline pumping with a near surface strike roughly ten feet from the boat.

Original log entry from this outing

1:16pm – 14.5″ and 1-10 on a spinnerbait

Date: November 1, 2008
Location: Lake Storey – Knox County, IL
Time: 9:30am-4:00pm
Weather: Sunny/breezy
Air Temp: 55F
Water Temp: Forgot to check
Totals: 9 bass
Quad Shad Spinnerbait (white) – 7 bass
Rapala DT 6 (parrot) – 1 bass
Zoom Baby Brush Hog (green pumpkin green) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 2-8 Brush Hog
Top 5 Weight: 7-13 (2-8,1-13,1-10,0-15,0-15)

1:23pm – 15″ and 1-13 on a spinnerbait and did a little better with the lighting on at least one pic

One more Friday Flashback post to go for 2018 to wrap up of the series which kicked off back on March 16 and had a run of 35 consecutive weeks. In the meantime, the Top 5 Update streak continues on Monday with a multispecies flavor (a new species at that). Hope you’ll tune in and talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Stats

Ten months down for 2018 means it’s time for another stat update. Without further ado, here you go.

2018 Totals (* = new record)
*January = 5 bass (old record 1 in 2017)
February = 5 bass
March = 0 bass
April = 12 bass
May = 24 bass
June = 10 bass
July = 8 bass
August = 4 bass
*September = 16 bass (old record 6 in 2014,2015,2017)
*October = 22 bass (old record 8 in 2017)
November = 1 bass

Top 5 Weight by Month (* = new record)
*January = 13-5 (3-15, 2-7, 2-6, 2-6, 2-3) previous record 2-11 in 2017
February = 7-3 (2-6,1-7,1-5,1-2,0-15)
March = no submissions
April = 14-15 (4-0,3-0,2-12,2-10,2-9)
May = 19-5 (4-11,4-8,3-10,3-7,3-1)
June = 18-10 (4-5,4-1,3-9,3-7,3-4)
July = 18-13 (4-0,3-14,3-13,3-11,3-7)
August 11-6 (3-15,3-10,2-12,1-1)
*September = 23-8 (5-2,5-1,4-9,4-8,4-4) previous record 22-3 in 2014
*October = 27-15 (6-3,5-14,5-10,5-4,5-0) previous record 26-11 in 2017
November = 3-13 (3-13)

Boat vs. Bank
Boat = 51 bass
Bank = 56 bass

Boat vs. Bank Weight (* = new record)
Boat = 27-12 (6-3,5-14,5-10,5-1,5-0)
Bank = 24-2 (5-4,5-2,4-11,4-9,4-8)

Public vs. Private
Public = 87 bass
Private = 20 bass

Public vs. Private Top 5 Weight
Public = 24-5 (5-4,5-2,4-11,4-11,4-9)
Private = 27-12 (6-3,5-14,5-10,5-1,5-0)

The Baits (* = new record)
Plastic Worms = 56 bass (Top Bass 5-2 Jim Junk)
*Spinnerbaits = 16 bass (Top Bass 5-14 Mark Balbinot) beats 5-4 Terry Isbell 2014
Crankbaits = 14 bass (Top Bass 3-15 Mark Balbinot)
*Chatterbait = 5 bass (Top Bass 4-11 Chris Schwarz) beats 4-10 Mark Balbinot 2016
*Lipless Crankbaits = 5 bass (Top Bass 6-3 Mark Balbinot) beats 5-13 Troy Jackson 2015
Buzzbait = 3 bass (Top Bass 4-8 Troy Jackson)
Creature Baits = 3 bass (Top Bass 3-9 Paul Kessler)
Jigs = 2 bass (Top Bass 2-12 Brent Jackson)
Jerkbait = 1 bass (Top Bass 1-6 John Kirkemo)
Topwater Frog = 1 bass (Top Bass 3-7 Nick Tiska)
Undisclosed = 1 bass

Monthly Top Bass (* = new record)
3-15 Mark Balbinot (old record 2-11 Mark Balbinot 2016)
2-6 Troy Jackson
No submissions
4-0 Chris Schwarz
4-11 Chris Schwarz
4-5 Jim Junk
4-0 Jim Junk
3-15 Jim Junk
5-2 Jim Junk
6-3 Mark Balbinot
3-1 Jim Junk

Top 10 Bass (* = new Top 10 all-time)
6-3 Mark Balbinot 10/20
5-14 Mark Balbinot 10/20
5-10 Mark Balbinot 10/20
5-4 Jim Junk 10/26
5-2 Jim Junk 9/8
5-1 Brent Jackson 9/23
5-0 Mark Balbinot 10/20
4-14 Mark Balbinot 10/20
4-11 Chris Schwarz 5/26
4-11 Brent Jackson 10/19
4-11 Chris Schwarz 10/21

Angler Weights (* = new Top 5 record, old mark 32-13)
Mark Balbinot 27-9 (6-3,5-14,5-10,5-0,4-14)
Jim Junk 23-8 (5-4,5-2,4-9,4-5,4-4)
Chris Schwarz 20-15 (4-11,4-11,4-8,4-0,3-1)
Brent Jackson 19-2 (5-1,4-11,3-8,3-7,2-7)
Troy Jackson 15-9 (4-8,3-2,3-0,2-9,2-6)
Paul Kessler 14-10 (3-10,3-9,2-12,2-10,2-1)
John Kirkemo 10-8 (2-7,2-3,2-0,2-0,1-14)
Jayce Jackson 7-8 (2-5,1-13,1-5,1-4,0-13)
Nick Tiska 3-7 (3-7)
Patricia Kirkemo 2-15 (2-15)
Landon Hannam 1-5 (1-5)
Riley Danner 1-5 (1-5)
Teagan Mills 1-2 (1-2)

Other Species

Muskie Length Totals
70+” John Kirkemo (40”, 30+”)

Channel Catfish Totals
13-0 Teagan Mills
8-2 (25”) Chris Schwarz

Friday Flashback series continues later this week and yes, we do have a couple interesting additions to the Top 5 ready to go for Monday. Anybody else willing to brave the elements around West Central Illinois to add to the collection?

I dare you…

Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Monday updates live for another week as a couple anglers keep on casting as the days get shorter for 2018. Great to hear that these guys are still getting out there looking for one more bite, gives me something to write about that pretty much writes itself.

Weight: 2-10
Angler: Paul Kessler
Date: October 25
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Spinnerbait with dual blades (white)
Top 5 Weight: 14-10 (3-10-3-9,2-12,2-10,2-1)

Weight: 3-13
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: November 2
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Spinnerbait
Angler Comments: On the board with five solid November bass including big bass of 3-13.
Top 5 Weight: 23-8 (5-4,5-2,4-9,4-5,4-4)

Hard to believe that there are only 56 days (8 Mondays) remaining before we turn the page to 2019. I guess time flies when you are reeling in those fish. And thus far, our crew has reeled in 111 of them for the 2018 Top 5 Project. Well done, and time will tell if we add anymore to that total as it looks like it’s going to take some effort and dedication as the weather is forecast to take a turn in a colder direction. As we wait to see about any new additions, a new month means time for a Top 5 Stat Update later this week. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – October 29, 2013

We don’t travel too far back in time this week with a look at a 2013 visit to Eureka Lake in Woodford County, Illinois. I’d always wanted to give the 30-acre fishing hole a look but just couldn’t pull the trigger despite reading some high praise and seeing some solid fish pics over the years (including a double-digit bass). Well, leave it to a fall drawdown to push me to finally get it done as the secrets revealed when the fisheries managers pull the plug are too much to resist.

Here’s an excerpt from the original post submitted on my former blogging gig almost exactly five years ago today (11-1-13).

During my regular fishing related wandering around the internet a couple weeks ago I learned that Woodford County’s Eureka Lake was in the process of a fall drawdown. A report of a lowered lake is music to my ears and I started checking the calendar and the weather forecast for a chance to introduce myself to some bass I’ve never met. Earlier this week things worked out allowing me to meet a handful of the inhabitants and learn a few of Eureka’s normally hidden secrets.

Original log entry from the trip

Date: October 29, 2013
Location: Eureka Lake
Time: Noon-3:00pm
Weather: Overcast/windy (from southeast)
Air Temp: 45-57F
Water Temp: 48F
Totals: 3 bass
Lures: Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 2 bass, Yum Crawdad Texas rigged – 1 bass
Top Bass: 1-3 tie (one on each of above lures)
Weight (2 bass at 12” or better): 2-6 (1-3, 1-3)

12:02pm – instant feedback but wouldn’t pan out to be a real hot bite on this cool day

Notes & Nonsense

The Launch – The lake has been lowered in order to facilitate ramp renovations so getting a boat launched required an alternate plan. I’d picnicked at the lake with Julie and whatever kids we had at the time several years ago but I really couldn’t recall what would work best for dragging in my eight foot johnboat. I wound up finding a spot near the dam that was suitable in terms of solid footing on the exposed lake bottom but it involved a 50-60 yard drag down and up a decent hill. It took three trips each way but I was able to haul in the boat, oars, a battery, trolling motor, anchor, too much tackle, life jacket, boat cushion, five rods, a tripod and a bottle of Gatorade. As I write this, my back still twinges when I bend a certain way but other than that it wasn’t too bad. I was the only boat on the lake which made me feel extra tough as well.

1:00pm – Top Bass (tie) at 13″ and 1-3 on a Yum Crawdad

The Plan – I like to fish fast if I can get away with it and knowing I only had three hours to explore the 30 acre lake had me hoping I could find some active bass in the 48 degree water.  Two minutes into casting I had some feedback on a Red Eye Shad and I was pretty much committed for the day, for better or worse.  I did slow down around some wood in a number of spots but it was largely a lipless crankbait, spinnerbait and crankbait attack.  If I had another shot and more time to invest on the water I would probably slow down more.  But I likely won’t get a revisit this year and for this trip I really couldn’t intricately pick apart pieces of the lake and still see all that I wanted to see.

Tough day when you have to post a pic of a dead one but sure would have liked to have found it during its better days (1/4 oz Red Eye Shad for comparison)

Ones That Got Away – About midway into the trip something real heavy stopped my Red Eye Shad dead and plowed towards deeper water. Several seconds later it just let go and left me kind of bummed thinking that I‘d missed my shot at a real good bass. However, twenty minutes later I was battling a similar strike that had me all around the boat before surfacing to reveal that it was a big old carp (maybe 12-14 pounds) that was snagged in the back. I had no dipnet and no idea how I would get the thing landed and really was just hoping that it wouldn’t bust my 12 pound test and take my lure. After a good battle the lure safely dislodged and I wasn’t particularly disappointed as it was great fight while it lasted and I still had my Red Eye Shad. A fellow was walking his dog on the shoreline and we had a laugh as he said he thought that fish was going to wind up pulling me all around the lake in that little boat. I had another similar brief lure stopping encounter later that I chalked up to the same species and it left me feeling a whole lot better about that first lost fish, thinking it wasn’t a lunker bass after all. I did lose a bass at boatside on the Yum Crawdad that would have been my Top Bass although at best it may have pushed two pounds.

Interestingly, Eureka Lake is in the midst of another drawdown five years later. This time around it is to deal with the overpopulation of those carp that I snagged into and also features a complete rehabilitation of the fishery. In layman’s terms that means a total fish kill or a do over as Illinois Department of Natural Resources knocked out the remaining fish population once the lake was drawn down to more of a puddle. It sounds like the plan is to reintroduce various species in 2019 followed by a catch and release phase before establishing size and creel limits. If you are in the neighborhood I would certainly recommend taking a peek at the exposed structure revealed by the substantial drawdown as that sort of thing doesn’t happen very often. There are some killer stumps out there that could pay dividends for you down the road. Send me some pics as I don’t figure that I’ll get down that way for a look of my own. Talk to you later. Troy