Month: December 2018

Trip Tune Stats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Fishing Recap – Partners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Fishing Recap -Lures

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

Hands down, 2018 wasn’t it.

A project for another time, perhaps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Fishing Recap – Location

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

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

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

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

The Waters (from least to most caught)

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Fishing Recap – Numbers

Well, with less than a week to go in 2018 and a number of factors (primarily work) not working in my favor, I think it’s safe to go ahead a kick off my annual fishing recap. Over the years I have taken to spreading the recap out over several posts and so it is with the 2018 version.

Leading it off today is a look at the overall numbers. More specific breakdowns are headed your way over the next several days delving into locations, lures and partners.

How it all began, February 27, 2018 with ice visible at top of the photo 

Grand Totals (bass fishing only)
19 outings (37 outings in 2017)
78.00 hours fishing (135.50 in 2017)
216 bass (416 bass in 2017)
2.77 bass/hour (3.08 bass/hour in 2017)
Comments: After posting a personal best of 416 bass last year I was pretty certain that 2018 would show a considerable decrease. In 2017, the first year of having my own blog, the aim was to hit the water pretty hard and I did. This year, on the other hand, was quite busy with the real stuff that I do like being a husband, father and co-breadwinner. Any time that I can get out to the fishing holes is a winner and I was quite pleased with the amount that I was able to get away. In addition, I was happy with the quantity of bass that entered the log during those hours on the water. Quality bass were elusive, however. More on that in a bit.

2/27/18 at 10:06am First bass of the year

First Bass/Last Bass
February 27 – Private strip mine 10:06am 15” 1-7 Rapala Shad Rap
November 24 – Private strip mine 1:58pm 15.5” 1-12 Jig & Craw
Comments: Couldn’t duplicate the 2017 bookends as I led off last year with a crazy 6-2 bass and wrapped it up in solid fashion with a 2-4. A 270 day season for 2018 was pretty cool though as the February open water start was quite out of the ordinary. It did fall just a few days short of the 273 day span enjoyed in 2017 but I just couldn’t extend it even though there was still some open water this week.

11/24/18 at 1:58pm Last bass of the year

Monthly Breakdown
February – 1 trip, 7 bass, Top Day Weight (2/27) = 7-3
March – 1 trip, 3 bass, none 12” or better
April – 3 trips, 82 bass, Top Day Weight (4/13) = 10-4
May – 3 trips (1 bass trip), 3 bass, Top Day Weight (5/28 – 1 bass) = 1-5
June – 2 trips, 27 bass, Top Day Weight (6/17) = 6-8
July – 4 trips, 15 bass, Top Day Weight (7/28 – 3 bass) = 3-5
August – no outings
September – 2 trips, 44 bass, Top Day Weight (9/23) = 12-7
October – 4 trips, 30 bass, Top Day Weight (10/18) = 6-2
November – 1 trip, 5 bass, Top Day Weight (11/24 – 3 bass) = 5-2
Comments: I was pretty hyped after open water in February allowed me to fool enough decent bass to fill my Top 5 limit on the first outing of the year. Pretty slim pickens after that with the exception of some solid batches of walk-in strip mine bass in April and September. October was also a good time with a pair of visits to Lake Storey and some really good fish from a fishing partner. Those highlights to come as recap week continues.

9/23/18 Top Bass 4-8 Knox County public strip pit

Top 5 Weight
15-9 (4-8,3-2,3-0,2-9,2-6)
Comments: If I had to pick one downside of my 2018 results it would have to be my inability to fool many quality bass. My struggle in finding those big bites resulted in my consecutive 20-pound Top 5 string coming to an end. Since the inception of our Top 5 project back in 2014 I had been able to fool at least 20 pounds each year. Just one of those things that wasn’t meant to be as I fished hard, chased ‘em where some quality fish swim and fished clean in not losing any good fish that I had on the line. Wait ‘til next year though…

Folks, we’ve only scratched the surface as I dig indulging in my penchant for stats. Back tomorrow with a look at location. Talk to you later. Troy

Twelfth Day of Christmas

Twelve pounds of Trilene,
eleven months of bassing,
ten miles of walking,
nine holes of fishing,
eight nights of camping,
seven hours of sleeping,
six months of burning,
five pounds of bass,
four kids all fishing,
three weeks of winter,
two Northerner boots,
and one transistor radio.

Life is full of choices.

And when it comes to consumer goods these days, there are way too many for a guy who grew up with one kind of Coca-Cola. I also remember a time when you ordered an “iced tea” and it didn’t take an entire conversation. You just got a glass of tea (no sugar, no lemon, no raspberry, no peach, no green…).

So, anytime I can keep it simple, I’m all in.

That’s why, when it comes to fishing line, I’m a monofilament man. After all, it mirrors my lifestyle; old school, cheap and a creature of habit.

Sure, the myriad collection of braids, fluorocarbons and superlines that span the aisles of department store fishing sections or grace the pages of catalogs or advertise on websites all have their merits. I don’t doubt their effectiveness and have dabbled in their likes over the years but it’s just all too much. Too much decision and too much cash.

For my money, good old Trilene mono in 12-pound test does the job (also use 10-pound on spinning reels). I’ve been doing this for a long time and generally speaking, when you lose a fish it has more to do with the person holding the reel than the line the reel is holding. My Trilene is always up to the task and I’ll take the heat for the ones that get away.

Reels wind up lacking on line by the end of the year so time to ask Santa to restock my stocking.

There you have it, the finale of my latest, mostly outdoor version of the 12 Days of Christmas. May try to squeeze in a few more posts before the year ends and then move on to a batch of wrap-up posts in the New Year.

Happy Holidays to all and talk to you later. Troy

Eleventh Day of Christmas

…eleven months of bassing
ten miles of walking
nine holes of fishing
eight nights of camping,
seven hours of sleeping,
six months of burning,
five pounds of bass,
four kids all fishing,
three weeks of winter,
two Northerner boots,
and one transistor radio.


2019 calendar featuring a few potentially important dates in a new fishing year…stay tuned

I have often mentioned my annual bass fishing goal of a March catch to kick off the year and a November catch to end it. Traditional bookends to another year of fishing no matter the results in between.

Got it done in 2018 and then some with a bonus bass before the shortest month of the year gave way to the much anticipated month that harbors the official beginning of spring. Yep, I managed to sneak in a February 27 trip to post my first bass and called it a year right about nine months later with my final catches coming on November 24. I did miss out on an August trip so in the interest of accuracy and honesty I really only caught a bass in nine months of the year.

For 2019 I’m looking to correct that and if the weather cooperates kick it up one more notch with a December bass to end the year. Time and Mother Nature will tell if I can get it done as you never know what the weather holds in store around West Central Illinois. In fact, this year we’d already had over a foot of snow before we even hit this final month.

Of course, there’s also January as a possibility though I am not much for icefishing. However, I do have a youngster, Jayce, who has expressed interest in that potentially frigid pursuit. We even went out and got the needed gear this past February but an earlier than normal thaw left it all sitting in the garage.

We’ll see how it all shakes out as the next year progresses. But first we’ve still got another week of 2018 to go and one more day of Christmas to put a wrap on this series. Talk to you later. Troy

Tenth Day of Christmas

…ten miles of walking
nine holes of fishing
eight nights of camping,
seven hours of sleeping,
six months of burning,
five pounds of bass,
four kids all fishing,
three weeks of winter,
two Northerner boots,
and one transistor radio.

A rundown of some of the 2018 walk arounds at the good old strip mines

We’re staying in the same locale as yesterday’s “nine holes of fishing” and just like walking a golf course, the walk-in strip mines will give you a little exercise as you pursue your hobby. A look at a couple of the local links shows the walking distance around the neatly manicured courses at right around 6,000 yards. A little conversion work translates that yardage into about 3.4 miles. A nice little workout if you’re walking the course along the well-trimmed fairways, paved cart paths and maybe adding a few more yards to the total as you wander the rough in search wayward shots.

In contrast, there is nothing that resembles manicured when you venture out into strip mine habitat to get to the “good spots.” Granted there are a few interior roads that connect the peripheral parking areas but once you stray from those one lane pathways, it all qualifies as rough. And we’re not talking “first cut” type rough to borrow a golfing term. Nope, we’re talking flat out “uncut.”

Note: In the above video I am about a half mile walk from my truck through this same sort of jungle

But it can sure be worth the effort and that’s why I am once again committed to giving it another go in 2019 and racking up a few more miles. Whether the ten miles are registered all at once remains to be seen. However, I am considering a handful of what I have referred to as “stupid stunts” that have been racing around in my brain for more than a few years so time will tell.

Of course, it’s easy to talk tough while pecking away on a keyboard and lurking behind a monitor in the comfort of home on a December night. It’s a whole different ballgame when you decide to walk the walk, stepping off the beaten path into Mother Nature’s version of fescue on steroids. And don’t forget that just like golf, once you walk “out”, you’ve got to walk back “in.”

Time to hit the treadmill.

Talk to you later. Troy

Ninth Day of Christmas

…nine holes of fishing
eight nights of camping,
seven hours of sleeping,
six months of burning,
five pounds of bass,
four kids all fishing,
three weeks of winter,
two Northerner boots,
and one transistor radio.

Kinda looks like a golf course layout but those are fishing holes not fairways

Once upon a time, I used to golf, even lived down the hill and just across the lake from the Lake Bracken course. Took the show on the road many times as well, hitting a couple dozen courses in the region in my “younger” years. Several of those road trips were 36-hole days to make the most of the getaway. A Lick Creek/Quail Meadows combo one day, Indian Bluff/Maple Bluff another day, Baker Park/Arrowhead Country Club another as well as Bunker Links, Laurel Greens, Gibson Woods, Weaver Ridge and so on through the 80s, 90s and early 2000s.

Since then, I’ve picked up my clubs twice in the last 15 years or so. It was fun while it lasted but honestly I’d much rather pack up my fishing gear these days when I get a chance to get away and goof off.

And today’s posting kind of fits the golf theme as the aerial pic of some of my West Central Illinois strip mine stomping grounds kind of resembles a golf course. Quite similar too, in the fact that each fishing hole in the pic has its own personality and set of challenges.

For a number of years, I have also pondered the challenge of seeing how many different fishing holes I can nab a bass from in the course of a day. Well, nine sounded like a solid number for this day of Christmas but there is definitely potential out there for a full round of eighteen. Throw in some other fishing holes in the area and perhaps one of those old 36-hole double headers is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Stay tuned to see if this project actually tees off in 2019.

But first, the tenth day coming at you tomorrow. Talk to you later. Troy

Eighth Day of Christmas

…eight days of camping,
seven hours of sleeping,
six months of burning,
five pounds of bass,
four kids all fishing,
three weeks of winter,
two Northerner boots,
and one transistor radio.

Eight campers camping…six kids in tow is the current record for me and Julie

On the heels of zero days of camping in 2018, it’s time to shoot for a decent batch of outdoor overnights.

Now for the hard part.


Weekends are getting progressively busier as the kids get bigger and weekdays are obviously out during the school year. Throw in that I am foolishly frugal with using my vacation days and well, it takes some work to get away.

Our standard crew grubbing outside one of the two tents it takes these days

Looking back on the year, we did have a couple weekends with good intentions that got foiled. Once it was weather, as tent camping through a series of thunderstorms just isn’t all that much fun. A second false start involved a kid under the weather along with a bumper crop of summertime mosquitoes (had to take my radio inside during many a Cubs game once dusk rolled in).

Maybe we’re simply getting soft and hopefully not just getting old. Whatever the case, I feel a renewed commitment as I sit indoors engaged in the annual battle with Cabin Fever.

Once upon a time, this was camping…

Of course, I’ll be sure to write up a recap of our adventures in the great outdoors as it usually gets a little wild. Talk to you later. Troy