Month: February 2020

2019 Fishing Recap – Lures Part I

Well, you shouldn’t have a fishing recap without a reveal of the fish fooling lures that got it done on the water. 2019 saw me get a little bit more varied in my offerings as a total of ten different lure types came into play in landing 262 bass. And any blogger worth his (or her) salt, knows that a list of ten items is just too good to pass up. Thus, we kick off the 2019 lure recap with the first half of a Top 10 list that works its way to the eventual Top Lure reveal in tomorrow’s post. (Note: lure types are ranked by number of bass caught)

10. Topwater Frogs
Booyah Pad Crasher (cricket frog) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 11” June 11 Knox County, IL private strip pit
Comments: Inspiration for my first frog catch since 2014 came via an email from Top 5 angler, John Kirkemo, as he noted a catch by young Top 5 angler, Landon Hannam. Fun to put the advice to use and always exciting to get one on a frog.

9. Jerkbaits
Bomber Pro 15A (red/yellow) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 10” September 15 Lake Storey
Comments: Me and jerkbaits have had an odd, on again, off again relationship going back to 1997. Lately it has been the “off again” cycle as the lone 2019 catch represents only the third bass on the lure type since 2013. Prior to that, there are nearly 500 bass in the database from 1997 to 2013. Anyway, a stretch of riprap on Lake Storey looked like a winning spot and two casts later, I had a bass in the boat. Not a trophy but always cool when intuition calls for a cast and it works out.

8. Jigs
Strike King Rattlin’ Jig (green pumpkin) w/ craw trailer – 10 bass
Top Bass: 16.5” 2-10 April 6 Knox County, IL public strip pit
Comments: I ditched my old favorite black and blue color scheme in favor of green pumpkin to fool this batch of bass during a pair of spring trips to some area public strip pits.

7. Creature Baits
Zoom Baby Brush Hog (watermelon) – 11 bass
Top Bass: 17.5” 2-9 October 14 Knox County, IL private strip pit
Comments: When I slow down…actually, I don’t really slow down very much. It’s not that I don’t like bouncing a creature bait around some cover, it’s more like I stubbornly try to find bass that want something fast.

6. Chatterbaits
Z Man Chatterbait (typically darker hues with Zako trailer) – 15 bass
Top Bass: 17” 2-3 April 1 Knox County, IL public strip pit
Comments: I’ve just never been able to get this type of bait dialed in although I know they are successful. Various area reports, including some from spots I fish, definitely show their value while I struggle or shift gears to other baits. My 2019 haul was the most on this lure since 2007 (21 bass) and the 2-3 represented a new personal chatterbait Top Bass. Certainly room for a boost, maybe 2020?

Five lure types down and five to go as tomorrow’s post features a batch of the classic heavy hitters in the bass fishing world. Tune in tomorrow and talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – February 21, 1995

As February nears its end, another year of “Friday Flashback” begins. 2020 marks the third year of revisiting some old outdoor adventures. Since kicking off the series back on March 16, 2018, its 80 posts and counting as I do some reminiscing. The concept is to go back 5, 10, 15, 20…35 years or more with a pic from the archives and tell the tale with words, additional pics and/or assorted memorabilia (even had a new wrinkle with a guest blogger last year).

So, here we go again…

Date: February 21, 1995
Weight: 3-14
Angler: Brent Jackson
Location: Emstrom’s Pond
Lure: Jig & Pig
Structure: Beaver Lodge

Not the Emstrom’s Beaver Lodge but a similar setup from the strip mines

The flashbacks for 2020 kick off with a step back in time to 25 years ago and my brother, Brent, with a catch from a spot we called “Emstrom’s Pond.” Both the angler and the pond have been featured here before and will be again. So, I’ll just sum up those aspects by saying that both the fisherman and the fishing hole are top notch and leave further details on each for another time.

“Another time” also pertains to this catch in the fact that we were not long into our efforts to take advantage of some early season, ice out, cold water angling. Most years through the 80s and into the 90s we didn’t get the poles out until April. One could have categorized us as “fair weather fishermen” although factors such as school and baseball also played a role during that time period.

In the years since this catch, we have learned to get the gear out early in the year and keep on casting until open water disappears late in the year. Looks good on paper but other factors such as responsibilities can still make us fair weather fishermen these days despite our best intentions.


Today’s catch is a thumbs up for the jig & pig in late winter/early spring

Today’s fish would be the first entry into the record book for 1995 and would wind up as our fifth largest bass of that year. Of course, those other bass are tales for another “Friday Flashback” post, as is the bass pictured below. It was caught in 1992 by the same guy on nearly the same day on the same pond with the same lure while sporting the same (but less faded) hat. I guess you’ll have to wait for the 2022 version of the series for the scoop on that catch.

Talk to you later. Troy

2019 Fishing Recap – Locations

262 bass in 2019 represented an increase from 216 in 2018. Nearly all came from the regular regional haunts with the exception of a pair that took a nine hour drive to hook. Today’s post takes a general look at where those fish call home. Lots of potholes that lie off the beaten path are involved so I don’t mind revealing that many bass were caught in places like 2×4 Lake, Bearclaw Lake, Hopper Lake, Dark Lake or Turkey Lake. A couple of those are public knowledge, another pair I named myself and one is on private ground. More power to you if you can recognize them, find them or even get to them. Indeed, a little mystery is all part of the fun of fishing.

Grand Totals
Bass = 262
Bodies of water = 30
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 mine waters, 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 quite 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) = 92 bass
Little Boat Bass (near 40 year old 8’ johnboat) = 113 bass
Big Boat Bass (1987 Bass Tracker Pro 17) = 57 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. 2019 was no exception although I took advantage of the “big boat” for several outings. Hauling the little boat off the beaten path boosted the boat totals but both approaches were quite successful. 

The Waters (from least to most caught)

Lake George – a scenic shutout

Lake George – Rock Island County (1 visit on 8/4)
0 bass
1.50 hours
Comments: I’d fished Lake George back in 1997 and 2000, making the roughly one hour drive from my then residence in Galesburg, IL. Nowadays, in the Quad Cities I can cover the route in about half the time so I decided to check it out again. The brief visit resulted in a dog day shutout but looked appealing. If I elect to try it again, I will likely borrow Dad’s boat for better maneuverability and a depthfinder.

Lost Grove lone catch

Lost Grove Lake – Scott County, IA (1 visit on 6/2)
1 bass
2.25 hours
0.44 bass/hour

Top 5 Weight: no qualifying bass at 12” or better
Comments: A regular stomping ground over the river fell by the wayside this year. Too much rain in the spring really muddied things up in the area that I target, making it not worth my while. I did venture to a clearer area but like Lake George, a bigger boat with a depthfinder would be the ticket.

Sunflower State Bass

Sedgwick County Park – Wichita, KS (2 visits, 2 lakes, 11/19 & 11/21)
2 bass
2.50 hours
0.80 bass/hour
Top Bass: 1-9 (15”) Spinnerbait
Top 5 Weight (only 2 at 12” or >): 2-11 (1-9,1-2)
Comments: A couple work trip bonus bass allowed me to achieve the annual goal of a November catch after I’d abandoned the local pursuit due to weather and schedule conflicts. Felt pretty proud of myself in landing a pair of decent bass with only internet research used to select a destination.

First cast pond bass

Henry County Private Pond (1 visit on 4/19)
5 bass
1.25 hours
4.00 bass/hour
Top Bass: 0-14 (12.5”) Chatterbait
Top 5 Weight (only 2 at 12” or >): 1-10 (0-14,0-12)
Comments: Desperate to get in some casts with a limited April evening window I turned to a nearby pothole and got my fix. Nothing big here but hits the spot for an annual spring visit when pressed for time.

Lake Storey catch

Lake Storey – Knox County, IL (5 visits – 7/26 through 10/19)
32 bass
24.00 hours
1.33 bass/hour
Top Bass: 2-2 (16.5”) Zoom Baby Brush Hog
Top 5 Weight: 9-0 (2-2,1-3,1-12,1-11,1-10)
Comments: Still enjoy getting on my “home’ water especially since I’m no longer a local. I can’t just hop out there for a visit, takes a little more time and work. Five visits with three different partners and got outfished by my brother and one of my boys along the way. Overall, a good bass/hour rate for me on a tough lake and while no trophies, those bass continue to be fit and feisty.

Little John Conservation Club catch

Knox County, IL Private Strip Mines (9 visits, 5 lakes, 1/5 through 10/14)
85 bass
33.75 hours
2.52 bass/hour
Top Bass: 3-14 (20”) Senko wacky rig
Top 5 Weight: 13-9 (3-14,2-11,2-9,2-4,2-3)
Comments: Several old fishing holes continue to produce bites and one of them gave up my Top Bass for the year. However, other quality bites just never materialized. Still exciting to fish these spots over 30 years after making my first casts as the big fish potential remains. Just couldn’t get any of them to make a mistake in 2019.

Knox County, IL public strip pit bass

Knox County, IL Public Strip Mines (7 visits, 19 lakes, 4/1 through 10/14)
137 bass
27.75 hours
4.94 bass/hour
Top Bass: 2-10 (16.5”) Jig
Top 5 Weight: 11-10 (2-10,2-8,2-4,2-3,2-0)
Comments: While I admit that my walk-in strip mine areas do wear me out a bit more these days, I’m not ready to give up quite yet. Sounds like a broken record as I couldn’t fool anything real big did witness my brother nabbing a good one. I know that they are there and I am looking forward to tromping around again in 2020 to try and find them.

Knowing where to find some bass is only part of the equation. It is also necessary to find out what can fool ‘em. That aspect comes up in the next post. Talk to you later. Troy

2019 Fishing Recap – Numbers

Now I know that I need to be careful in what I say here, but winter is moving along towards spring at a pretty favorable pace. Overall, not too ugly cold this time around and beyond a few icy days, the precipitation hasn’t been real bad either. Enough to get the shovel and the sleds going several times but can’t really complain.

As such, it is time for the overdue annual recap of my fishing stats, pics and videos from last year. Leading it off today is a look at the overall numbers. More specific breakdowns are headed your way delving into locations, lures, partners and some video highlights.

And away we go…

1/5/19 Early start to the year, crazy temps, half frozen lake and zero bites 

Grand Totals (bass fishing only)
25 outings (19 outings in 2018)
93.00 hours fishing (78.00 in 2018)
262 bass (216 bass in 2018)
2.82 bass/hour (2.77 bass/hour in 2018)
Comments: Fishing comes in a ways down the priority list for a husband, father and co-breadwinner. So any year that I can land over 200 bass and approach 100 hours on the water is a real winner. Quality bass for 2019 were elusive, however. More on that in a bit.

3/23/19 First bass (details below)

First Bass/Last Bass
March 23 – Private strip mine 3:18pm 12” 0-13 Booyah Spinnerbait
November 19 – Sedgwick County, KS 5:37pm 15” 1-9 Booyah Spinnerbait
Comments: It was entertaining to get out on a balmy January day to kick off 2019 although I could not entice a bite. I also got a bonus extension on the season with a November work trip to Wichita, Kansas where I was able to get away for a couple hours and fool a pair of bass. Pretty cool to have a span of 322 days between my first and last casts of 2019 although a February freeze up did not allow for time on the water. Certainly an uptick from 270 days between first and last casts in 2018.

11/19/19 Last bass – drove all the way to Kansas to get it (as noted above)

Monthly Breakdown
March – 1 trip, 1 bass, Top Weight (3/23 1 bass) = 0-13
April – 3 trips, 37 bass, Top Day Weight (4/1) = 9-9
May – 1 trip, 9 bass, Top Day Weight (5/27 – 2 bass) = 3-5
June – 4 trips, 53 bass, Top Day Weight (6/21) = 6-3
July – 3 trips, 25 bass, Top Day Weight (7/27) = 8-12
August – 3 trips, 31 bass, Top Day Weight (8/31) = 10-1
September – 4 trips, 75 bass, Top Day Weight (9/22) = 7-12
October – 2 trips, 29 bass, Top Day Weight (10/14) = 8-8
November – 2 trips, 2 bass, Top Day Weight (11/19 – 2 bass) = 2-11
Comments: Despite getting in some January casts, it took me until April Fools Day to fill my initial Top 5 limit. June through September proved to be the most opportune time to get on the water and I took advantage. Doing the math, the  period between June 2 and September 22 accounted for 70% of my catches (184 of 262 bass).

7/27/19 Top Bass at 3-14 from private strip mine on a Senko wacky rig

Top 5 Weight
14-4 (3-14,2-11,2-10,2-9,2-8)
Comments: The downward trend in weight continues from 15-9 in 2018 to an even slimmer batch of “big” bass in 2019. The inability to fool many quality bass would be the one downside of my 2019 results. 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 this year though…

Folks, we’ve only scratched the surface as I dig indulging in my penchant for stats. Coming your way next is a look at location. Talk to you later. Troy

West Lake – Mailbag

Well, the highly successful “West Lake” series has not only drawn rave reviews amongst the outdoor blogging community it has also drummed up some reader correspondence. Okay, more than a little creative license in that intro sentence as I look to wrap up the 2019 observations with a last look at Lake of the Hills.

C.J. from Around the Way in the QCA says:

Well, C.J., as the slides show below it did appear that there were some vehicle parts in the lakebed beyond the intentionally placed collections of tires. As far as a mattress, what I observed looked to possibly be the remnants of the seat of a car, but only a guess. And the final couple pics in the clip do show a couple vehicle finds, just on a smaller scale.


QC Crypto writes:

Nothing jumped out at me beyond an odd footprint on the lake bottom, a few weird markings around the spillway and a beverage that we used to call “The Beast.” Interesting question, however, as I am not aware of such local lore, may have to do some research as you’ve got my interest.


Scorned Reader asks:

Indeed, I did find a camp chair out there, Scorned. Also what looked to be a boat seat along a bend in the creek channel. And perhaps a few of the last item below possibly led to the unfortunate incident? Just speculation…


Big J asks:

Well, Big J, I know your Papa and his picnic table tales are absolutely true. In fact, I witnessed the catches firsthand. And since his tales have been confirmed here on, there is a 99.99% likelihood that they are possibly true.


Julia on the block writes:

Well, here we go…


And we’ll wrap up the series with a bit from arguably the oddest thing spotted out there on the lake bottom last year.


I intend to be back this year, too. Talk to you later. Troy

West Lake – Structure Revealed

Last December I submitted a post entitled “West Lake Complex – Secrets” that took a look at some of the structure that I had observed through late November. Those observations had primarily taken place from a distance as I had not come prepared to hike the muddy lake bottom. However, during a pair of December visits on the heels of the “Secrets”, I came ready to get down and dirty in an effort to get some up close insights on the scenery. I was sure glad that I did wander nearly the entire lake bottom as today’s post and the upcoming series finale will detail.

Structure is a key component in the fish finding equation as it can hold fish and provide a highway for fish movement. Some folks delineate “cover” from “structure” but I’m keeping it less complicated. Essentially, a combination of some of the components to follow is typically better than a lone item. For example, a roadbed or a point has potential but combine those bottom contours with a brushpile or a group of tires and it heightens the appeal.

Bass Fishing 101 continues via video with a closer look at some of the stuff revealed in the draining of Lake of the Hills. Below is a series of clips exploring several general types of structure (Note: not all examples are included in videos and some items could fit a couple categories).

Contours (points, channels, roads, humps…)


Wood (stumps, laydowns, standing timber, brushpiles, beaver lodges…)


Rock (riprap, gravel, rockpiles…)


Manmade (tires, docks, pallets, artificial fish attractors…)


Of course, weeds also play a key role as structure (or cover) in a lake but as a seasonal aspect those are out of the picture at present. In addition, it may be a while until the lake is allowed to fill again and promote the return of aquatic vegetation. I suspect that pending structure additions and restorations will result in the valve being left open for the foreseeable future. Time will tell and your dedicated West Lake Restoration reporter will be on the case as 2020 moves forward.

One final post to get caught up on the 2019 visits comes your way next. Talk to you later. Troy

West Lake – Fauna

The West Lake posts continue as I run the risk of the old “beating a dead horse” saying. But, hey, you’ve got to admit there’s been some pretty cool stuff and some unique scenery filling the blog lately. Right?

While I did not actually find any trace of a horse, dead or alive, I did discover the remnants of a fair sampling of local wildlife. Some leaving tracks on the newly exposed terrain and others dead in their tracks as their aquatic habitat disappeared.

Short and sweet on the intro today as we go direct to video.


Okay, a couple more posts until we give the West Lake Project a break. But have no fear, plenty of other stuff waiting in the wings. Talk to you later. Troy

West Lake – Tackle Trove

Whenever I pay a visit to a fishing hole, you get a fishing report, complete with most all of the details. Right down to the lures that fooled the fish.

Well, my visits to West Lake Park were more than a little different. After all, I was taking a trip to a handful of lakes that no longer had any fish in them at all. In fact, several of them didn’t even have any water.

You know, now that I think about it, is that still a lake?

But, I digress.

Even though there was no fish catching to report, there was plenty to pass along in regards to lures. Just take a look at the clips below detailing a batch of lost tackle treasures.



Certainly nothing salvageable in the collection as I was a little late to the scavenger hunt, but fun nevertheless. Quite entertaining in wandering around the lakebed mentally writing blog posts only to have a flash of metal or a colorful clue catch my eye. The finds also brought a grin from this fisherman who has “donated” a few lures to a number of local fishing holes. Perhaps some dedicated Lake of the Hills anglers also got a kick out of finally discovering just what mysterious object had been the end of the line for what was on the end of their line.

Oh yes, we’re not done with the West Lake stuff quite yet so come on back again. Talk to you later. Troy

West Lake – Creekbed

“I know, nobody knows, where it comes and where it goes.” – Dream On, Aerosmith (1973)

Contour maps provide good, limited info but you just can’t beat walking along the actual creekbed

Many lakes like West Lake Park’s Lake of the Hills were created by constructing a dam to impede the flow of an existing stream. The water then pools to fill the surrounding terrain until it reaches the level of an overflow such as a spillway. As the lake fills, the original creekbed is left hidden deep below the surface, gradually collecting sediment over the years. What was once a pronounced channel is often altered as time and nature do what they do.

So how does Blackhawk Creek weave its way through the lakes from west to east? Read on…

Since about 1970, this aging process has been hidden from view on Lake of the Hills. As you can see by the arrows on the map above, Blackhawk Creek runs through the site. It flows from the west entering Blue Grass Lake and eventually exits via the Lake of the Hills spillway, flowing underneath Interstate 280. Until last fall, where it meandered in between those spots was a mystery to those who did not possess either an old plat map or a new-fangled depthfinder.

Clip number one below covers Railroad Lake and the western half of Lake of the Hills


Clip number two covers the eastern half of Lake of the Hills


I found it quite interesting to see Blackhawk Creek and associated tributaries once again flow freely to the outlet valve that formerly lay beneath roughly 16 feet of water. Only a short reprieve, however, as Mother Nature will again be allowed to fill the lake basin once restoration work has been completed.

I’ve said it several times in my video clips but indeed a once in a lifetime experience for this interested angler. A cool glimpse back in time and still more to come from my wanderings. Talk to you later. Troy

West Lake – Attire and A Tire, or Two…

The bottom of West Lake Park’s Lake of the Hills produced an interesting collection of stuff during my 2019 lakebed wanderings. Some of the discoveries were placed there intentionally while others, I assume, were more of the accidental sort.

Today’s pics and video take a look at both varieties beginning with some clothing and accessories. Pretty much everything you need beyond a nice pair of slacks. Oh yeah, no shoes in the clip below but trust me, I’ve got those covered in just a bit…


Next up is some of the West Lake Park tire collection. Sinking such items has long been practiced to add fish holding structure to a body of water. While opinions and regulations vary, Lake of the Hills and neighboring Railroad Lake certainly contain quite a batch of these durable discards.


The final items for today also feature tread. But unlike the tires, I suspect that most were not intended to finish their days at the bottom of a lake. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the “West Lake Top 10 Shoes.”


Certainly some diverse footwear to be found. And while I may be a bit biased, I find that the proper way to end such a list is with the boots of a dedicated observer/explorer/blogger.

Hope you enjoyed today’s featured finds. While some are a bit unusual, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Plenty more secrets to come, both standard and strange. Talk to you later. Troy