Month: May 2020

Top 5 Update

Several nice bass from the region for the update despite some challenging conditions. The past week included a cold front, abundant gnats, excessive aquatic vegetation and the bass spawn kicking into gear on the waters below.

Weight: 1-15
Angler: John Kirkemo
Date: May 26
Weather: Bright sun, breezy
Water Temp: 71-72F
Location: Lake Storey
Lure: Senko wacky style

Weight: 1-6
Angler: John Kirkemo
Date: May 26
Weather: Bright sun, breezy
Water Temp: 71-72F
Location: Lake Storey
Lure: Senko wacky style
Angler Comments: Fish were in shallow water close to shore.
Top 5 Weight: 3-5 (1-15,1-6)

Weight: 3-7
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: May 29
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Texas rigged Senko
Angler Comments: Managed this 3-7 throwing over the weeds and twitching back.
Top 5 Weight: 17-0 (4-1,3-8,3-7,3-4,2-12) culls 2-4

Weight: 2-5
Angler: Brent Jackson
Date: May 30
Location: Snakeden Hollow
Lure: Buzzbait
Top 5 Weight: 9-13 (3-2,2-12,2-5,1-10)

Well done by the group of anglers and happy to see that some recently opened waters showed up in the update. It appears that the bass have missed us anglers over the last couple months. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – May 23, 2015

Five years ago this week I spent a full day roaming and rowing some of my strip mine stomping grounds. The combination of many public and private fishing holes produced a sizeable quantity of bass including several in the two pound range. Below are the stats and a couple notes from the original three-part fishing report posted May 27-29, 2015.

Top Bass of the day at 2-13 on a Senko wacky rig

Date: May 23, 2015
Location: Knox County strip pits (2 sites – 9 lakes)
Time: 6:55am-8:00pm (8.75 hours fishing, the rest walking/relocating)
Weather: Sunny/windy
Air Temp: 55-75F
Water Temp: 70F
Totals: 58 bass
Lures: Senko weighted wacky rig (various colors) – 35 bass, Strike King Red Eye (sexy shad) – 9 bass, Booyah Buzz Buzzbait (salt & pepper) – 8 bass, K9 Walker (Madd Shadd) – 4 bass, Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait (copper shad) – 1 bass, Rebel Zell Rowland Pop’R – 1 bass
Top Bass: 2-13 (Senko)
Top 5 Weight: 10-0 (2-13,2-1,1-15,1-11,1-8)

An old Zell Rowland signature Rebel Pop’R, probably older than some folks reading this post

Notes & Nonsense

Topwater Tactics – With the weed choked waters I did a fair amount of topwater casting by throwing a buzzbait, stickbait and popper as far as I could into open water. I’d then work it back to the edge and give a big yank to send it flying back in my direction and then reel it up out of the grass on the bank nearby. It was cool to nab a few on a K9 Walker stickbait made by reader, Frank Harvey. In addition, I caught one on a Zell Rowland Pop’R autograph model that is probably over 20 years old and likely hadn’t caught a bass for nearly as long. Gotta do what you gotta do when dealt some tough conditions.

K9 Walker, a homemade topwater bait received from a blog reader many years ago

Unlucky Bass – The 2-1 pictured below had a bad day upon making a decision to try a Senko for brunch. For starters, my equipment is a bit less than new and would not be mistaken for top dollar as my money goes elsewhere. So anyway, the bail on my spinning reel flipped open on the hookset leading me to originally think I’d busted the line. I quickly realized that wasn’t the case, found that the tough luck fish was still attached and finished battling the nice bass to the boat. Then I discovered that the fish was hooked deep and debated just clipping my jighead but was able to extract it without any noticeable damage. Upon release I placed the bass in tail first and let go only to watch the fish make a tail walking jump right into the Red Eye Shad I had hanging over the side of the boat (yes, I should know better). Well, if bass have a chin that’s where it wound up double hooked the second time. So, I snatched my rod before it went overboard, unhooked my bass again with no visible damage and re-released it (only recorded it in the log once though as that would be greedy and unethical to count it twice). I did apologize to the fish as it was the right thing to do and it swam away in a hurry, minus the leap. For its sake I actually hope it does not find my bait in the future no matter how big it grows as I feel kind of bad for its ordeal.

My apologies to this unfortunate “sorta twice caught” bass

The Shirt – This marked the final day for one of my favorite fishing shirts.  For me, fishing is rife with favorites whether it be a hat, a lure or a productive spot on the water.  Well, me and this shirt go back a ways but it now must join the collection of other “good luck” shirts that have worn thin over the years.  Perhaps someday I will pursue writing more on the specific shirt and the general topic but for now just want to say “Thanks” to the holey tatter that Julie said that she wouldn’t wash again should it show up in the laundry.  

Rain or shine the old “lucky shirt” was a winner

Five years later, I’m getting around to the “Lucky Shirt” thing with a yearlong project. It’s also time for topwater baits and a Senko wacky rig presentation as the weeds take over some waters. Hard to believe May is about to come to a close. Stay tuned for June as we’ve got a couple fish already in for next week’s Top 5 Update and I hope to include a fishing report or two in the near future. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Memorial Day weekend found a father-daughter duo prowling the banks of a local fishing hole looking to fool a few bass. Weed choked shallows and the bass spawn can make for a challenge but this angling pair managed to find a couple bass for our latest update.

Weight: 1-11
Angler: Kennedy Jackson
Date: May 24
Location: Lake Storey
Lure: Senko wacky rig
Top 5 Weight: 5-12 (1-13,1-11,1-5,0-15)

Weight: 2-12
Angler: Brent Jackson (his fishing guide holding his catch for a pic)
Date: May 24
Location: Lake Storey
Lure: Senko wacky rig
Angler Comments: They must have been ready to spawn. They were right up by the bank. Dropped the Senko in front of them and they grabbed it.
Top 5 Weight: 7-8 (3-2,2-12,1-10)

Well done, and fun to see that the younger of these family members is within one good bite of catching her dad in Top 5 weight. Hang in there, kiddo, I can relate. Your dad has had the upper hand on his older brother for most of the last 35 years. No matter, it’s all good regardless of who is catching them when it comes to family fishing. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – May 22, 2005

Today’s flashback covers a fishing trip with Dad to Lake Bracken exactly 15 years ago today. According to the original fishing report, our outing was quite successful (see original log entry and original report below).

May 22, 2005 – Following our success on 5/21, Dad and I decided to hit Lake Bracken again this morning even though I had to work second shift later in the day. We were on the water at 5:40 am and fished until 10:40 am as I had plans for a nap that never actually materialized. Our focus was on bass fishing and the largemouth did not disappoint. We combined for 39 bass including a pair that eclipsed the Top Bass for the year. My 2-5 on a plastic worm held the title for about an hour and a half. Dad then bested my fish by a pound as he nailed a 3-5 to reclaim the title. A great finish to a successful weekend of fishing that saw us catch 72 bass in our 12 hours of bass fishing. We each found our own secret weapons to catch bass and post records today but we’re remaining tight-lipped for the time being.

Dad with a couple quality bass caught on his “Secret Weapon” (read on for reveal)

All of these years later, here is the rest of the story regarding those “secret weapons.” Dad was wielding a tube, a lure that had its heyday back in the late 90s but never caught on in our family. On this outing, however, Dad used the tube to fool his three best fish totaling just shy of six and a half pounds. You see, Dad is a bit more willing to change it up than his oldest boy who gets a little stubborn and set in his ways.

Dad with our Top Bass of the outing at 3-5 on a tube

After a tough start on this outing though, I cast the stubborn streak aside in favor of trying something new. That something new was a highly regarded presentation generally known as the Senko wacky rig. These days I simply refer to the setup as a “Senko” although many other manufacturers besides Gary Yamamoto make such baits and they can be fished in many ways beyond wacky. My first ever Senko bass came fifteen years ago today at 7:38am off of a drop on the southeast edge of Snake Island and weighed 2-5, my Top Bass of the day. Currently, the log shows that I am sitting at 962 Senko bass and counting. Perhaps I’ll have a celebratory post honoring Senko Bass #1,000 which I suspect will show up in the next month or two.

A historic bass, my first ever Senko catch at 2-5

Another Senko Friday Flashback tale coming your way next month but plenty more stuff in the meantime. Talk to you later. Troy

Strip Mine Report – May 15

After some odd and unseasonably cool weather, a warming trend for this outing was sure welcome. As far as wishes go though, I wish it would have been the second day of the trend as opposed to the lead-in. Gotta go when you get to go and I was certainly glad to get another day on the water when I was supposed to be at work.

Date: May 15, 2020
Location: Knox County, IL strip mines (7 lakes)
Time: 7:20am-3:15pm (5.75 hours fishing)
Weather: Overcast to partly cloudy/windy
Air Temp: 61-75F
Water Temp: not available
Totals: 19 bass
Lures: Booyah Buzzbait (bleeding shad) – 7 bass, Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 4 bass, Zara Spook (frog) – 3 bass, Mann’s Baby 1- Crankbait (red craw) – 2 bass, Jig (green pumpkin) with craw trailer (pumpkinseed) – 1 bass, Senko weighted wacky rig (strawberry cream) – 1 bass, Chatterbait (bluegill) with Zako trailer (smoke) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 2-8 (Red Eye Shad)
Top 5 Weight: 9-10 (2-8,2-3,2-1,1-7,1-7)


Trip Lyric
“I’ve paid my dues, time after time.”
We Are The Champions – Queen (1977)
I continue to struggle to find quality bites on this batch of walk-in strip mines, a trend going back several years. I encountered a fellow on this trip and he informed me that “all the good bass have been hauled out of here.” Sounded good but later got a text and pic from my friend, Jim Junk, with a 3-8 bass. Perhaps it’s the fisherman and not the fishing holes.

Notes and Nonsense

Sporadic Bite – It was a weird day on the water as it was tough to get a lasting bite on any one lure. During one 20 minute period I fooled six bass on a buzzbait (all quite small bass by the way) and then nothing on the lake for the next 40 minutes. My final stop lasted two hours but I caught all four of my bass on a Red Eye Shad within the span of 33 minutes. Before that it was 50 minutes without a bite and after the flurry it was nearly 40 minutes without a strike. Those two windows accounted for 10 of my 19 bass in less than an hour while the remaining 5 hours resulted in 9 bass.

Took quite a variety of offerings to find some interested bass on this outing

Lucky Number 7 – In trying to find something to consistently interest the bass, I went through a batch of lures. When all was said and done, seven different lures fooled at least one bass when covering the water column top to bottom and moving fast to slow. The only lure that I threw without fooling a bass was my Shad Rap and it was only employed for a handful of casts.

Don’t leave home without your lure retriever

Close Call – At one point, I got my Blue Glimmer spinnerbait hung in a submerged tree limb in about seven feet of water. Fortunately, it occurred during the boat portion of my day so I was able to employ my trusty lure retriever to save the legendary bait. It took quite a few bumps with the weighted tool and had me worried but the old lure retriever came through yet again. That thing has saved me many dollars over the years. And perhaps a swim or two as may have been the case with the Blue Glimmer.

Another trip, another lucky shirt, another story, another time…

May has been an interesting month on the water as I have managed to get out much more often than usual. Typically I may have had one or two shots the entire month but this trip marked my sixth outing for May either solo or with the family. And let’s just say, the month ain’t over yet…Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Well, 2020 continues to be quite a mess. While I will leave the Covid conversation for other forums, I will gripe a bit about the weather. It seems like spring just can’t hit its stride and put together a stretch of pleasant days. This past week featured a substantial amount of rain, steady winds and a near 20-degree drop in daily high temperature as we headed into the weekend. Nevertheless, some of us still got out there and a few more bass joined the ranks.

Weight: 2-4
Angler: Troy Jackson
Date: May 11
Weather: 52F and partly cloudy/windy
Location: Knox County, IL strip pit
Lure: Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad)
Structure: Weed edge
Angler Comments: After two and a half hours of a cold front shutout on my first stops I sure was happy to get this one in hand. Simply a bonus that it bumped my Top 5 weight up by a couple ounces.

Weight: 2-8
Angler: Troy Jackson
Date: May 15
Weather: 75F and partly cloudy/breezy
Location: Knox County, IL strip pit
Lure: Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad)
Structure: Point
Angler Comments: Strange, full day on the water with my four best bites coming in the span of about 30 minutes of a near six hour day. This bass was the last and largest of the four that averaged right around two pounds.
Top 5 Weight: 14-5 (4-12,2-8,2-7,2-6,2-4) culls 2-3 and 2-2

Weight: 3-8
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: May 16
Location: Knox County, IL strip pit
Lure: Creature bait
Top 5 Weight: 15-13 (4-1,3-8,3-4,2-12,2-4) culls 2-4

It appears that the weather in the area will take a turn for the better at mid-week and into the weekend. Here’s hoping that you have a fishing hole and an opportunity to get on the water and take advantage. Send them my way when you catch them. Talk to you later. Troy

Strip Mine Report – May 11

For obvious reasons, 2020 is indeed a strange year. Beyond the disruption of regular life, the weather around here hasn’t been worth a darn either. Colder than normal and when it does warm up and turn nice it can’t last for more than a day or two. And that day or two isn’t on a weekend. Boy, you just can’t win. But, you’ve got to go fishing when you can and that’s just what I did on this not so pleasant afternoon.

Tough start to the day with only a green sunfish to show after 2.5 hours of casting

Date: May 11, 2020
Location: Knox County, IL strip mines (6 lakes)
Time: 12:15m-5:25pm (3.75 hours fishing)
Weather: Partly cloudy/very windy
Air Temp: 48-52F
Water Temp: not available
Totals: 3 bass, 1 green sunfish
Lures: Stanley Vibra Shaft spinnerbait (blue glimmer) with twin tail trailer (pumpkinseed) – 2 bass, Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 2-4 (Red Eye Shad)
Top 5 Weight: 5-12 (2-4,1-14,1-10)


Trip Lyric
“Snot running down his nose.”
Aqualung – Jethro Tull (1971)
Well, it was cold and windy and if you’ve spent much time running around outdoors in such conditions you just go about your business. This lyric was happening, I just let it happen and the line gave me a smile in the less than appealing conditions.

Notes and Nonsense

Windchill – Is there such a thing as “windchill” in May when the mercury dips to 48 degrees Fahrenheit? Well, if not, there should be as I was wearing gloves for a while on this trip.
(Note: I just found this on the internet – “Windchill Temperature is only defined for temperatures at or below 50 degrees F and wind speeds above 3 mph.”)

One catch sported a Floy tag, will have to look into any research that is in effect at this fishing hole.

Third Time Lucky – I started on a series of small potholes figuring I could at least find a bite or two but no luck. Next up I gambled on some spots where I have limited experience but know there is a solid bass population but shutout there as well. My last shot was some private water that had produced several decent bass for a friend in April. Three bass in an hour saved the day and the embarrassment of a May shutout.
(Note: if you are not familiar with the tune “Third Time Lucky” it is worth a search to expand your Foghat catalog beyond “Slow Ride”)

Once upon a time…and 34 years later the jersey still fits. More to come in the “Lucky Shirt” series.

Lucky Shirt – Speaking of “lucky” and sticking with my 2020 theme, another lucky shirt was donned for this fishing trip. In this case, it was in celebration of the Knox College Siwash baseball team claiming the Midwest Conference title back on May 10, 1986, almost exactly 34 years ago to the day. Believe it or not, there is actually a method to the madness in this whole fishing attire project.

Not a shed guy but a cool find as I wandered in the middle of nowhere.

A last ditch stop saves the day in the midst of a significant cold front where the temps were nearly 20 degrees below the previous day. As I drove home from the trip I had 107.7FM out of Erie, IL dialed in on the radio. One of the entertaining DJs, Uncle Tim, noted that it was “40 days until the first day of summer.” Nearly a week closer now and I’m still wondering where is a “regular” spring. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – May 25, 2000

I don’t know about you but when I fish an area frequently I begin to come up my own names for spots on the body of water. Such was indeed the case for Knox County, Illinois’ Lake Bracken. I first fished it with some Little League teammates around 1978 or 1979, enjoyed our family’s membership through the 80s and then owned a house with the lake as my backyard from 1994-2003.

5/25/2000 Lake Bracken 17.5″ 2-9 Mann’s Baby 1- Crankbait from Shed Cove

Many memories and many fish including those in today’s flashback which takes me back to a time with far less responsibilities. Not only had we not started a family yet but I didn’t even have a job in May 2000. The latter aspect was about to change but I still had a few days to goof around.

And part of that goofing around was fishing.

5/25/2000 Mark Junk 5-11 Carp on a doughball at The Spillway

From the log entry above, it looks like I made a day out of it. I spent the afternoon bass fishing on the lake and then headed to The Spillway to chase some carp for the evening with my buddy, Mark “Geek” Junk. And then it was back up to the lake to try our hand at some catfishing at The Clubhouse. Results appeared to be decent with Geek’s nice carp and one fair sized bass for my contribution.

5/25/2000 Mark Junk 13-15 Carp at The Spillway on a doughball

But the real reward is being able to look back at the pics and the log entry and reminisce. There’s no place quite like The Spillway and The Clubhouse was no longer a “clubhouse” as the building had burnt down many years prior. And all of these years later, I could still take you right to Patterson’s Cove, Idlewild, Sandy Bank and Shabena Cove. Bet I could even find a bass or two along the way. Talk to you later. Troy

Strip Mine Report – May The Fourth

After an appealing 70 degrees and 27 bass the previous day (including several on topwater), I suspected that this follow-up might not be as kind. A nearly 20 degree drop in temps and an easterly wind sure had me thinking “I got a bad feeling about this.” But a day off of work and the prospect of working in another fishing shirt on May the Fourth meant that I had to get back on the water.

Date: May 4, 2020
Location: Knox County, IL strip mines (3 lakes)
Time: 11:00am-5:15pm (5.00 hours fishing)
Weather: Overcast/windy
Air Temp: 55F
Water Temp: not available
Totals: 17 bass
Lures: Stanley Vibra Shaft Spinnerbait (blue glimmer) – 10 bass, Senko weighted wacky rig (smoke) – 4 bass, Booyah Buzzbait (salt and pepper) – 1 bass, Xcalibur XR50 lipless crankbait (chicken pox) – 1 bass, Jig & Pig (black/blue) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 2-7 (Spinnerbait)
Top 5 Weight: 11-1 (2-7,2-6,2-3,2-2,1-15)


Trip Lyric
“Don’t stop believin.”
Don’t Stop Believin’, Journey (1981)
There’s some truth to this lyric as my first four hours of running around were a struggle. A couple quality bites can turn your attitude around and this was the tune that was running through my head once I got them. I’d like to say that I did not stop believin’, but in reality, the cold front had both me and the bass in somewhat surly moods.

Lucky shirt for the May the Fourth outing

Notes and Nonsense

10 – For me this is the number of movies in the Star Wars series after the original 1977 release “Episode IV: A New Hope.” My list consist of Episodes I-III, V-IX along with Solo and Rogue One. Debatable, sure, a few duds, yeah. But as a 10-year old kid in a Galesburg, IL theater, that first one sure left a mark that still endures over 40 years later. May the Fourth was my chance to give a shout out via my Star Wars lucky fishing shirt.

The Blue Glimmer (upper left) ruled the day

20 “Hokey baits and newfangled presentations are no match for the Blue Glimmer at your side, kid” – Han Solo (sort of)
Nothing like reeling in the years by reeling in some bass on a twenty plus year old spinnerbait. The Blue Glimmer was a hit in the 90s and still rocking it in 2020. On this day it was definitely the MVP (Most Valuable Presentation). It landed my final nine bass during the last hour and a half of the outing and caught my entire Top 5.

30 “A long time ago…” – Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
Over 30 years have passed since I first fished this area back in 1987. In fact, the lake where the bass caught fire to end my day wasn’t even a fishing hole back in those days. Nope, it was just a strange depression of funky colored, swampy ground and scattered weedy vegetation. Fun to reminisce and even more fun to pull some nice bass out of that former “wretched hive of scum and villainy” (all bass released as always).

A glimpse inside my Millenium Falcon

40“She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts.” – Han Solo
My deluxe watercraft dates back over 40 years and still floats once it is pulled out of the truckbed and drug to the water. Believe it or not, Dad and a friend found this thing washed up in a logjam on a Henderson County, IL creek all those years ago. The rest is history that deserves a closer look someday.

50“Your powers are weak old man.” – Darth Vader
These days that old boat is propelled via a 50-something “trolling motor.” I hesitate to think how many hours or miles that motor has racked up over the years. Still going strong though and on the third set of oars if I am not mistaken. I believe I could still give some of these childhood heroes a run for their money.

May the force be with you and talk to you later. Troy

Strip Mine Report – May 3

It was exciting to get back on the water again on the heels of a 38 bass day two days prior. Warm, stable weather remained and had my hopes high for a repeat performance and hopefully some larger bass. Here’s how it turned out.

Date: May 3, 2020
Location: Knox County, IL strip mines (8 lakes)
Time: 10:10am-3:40pm (4.25 hours fishing)
Weather: Partly cloudy to sunny/windy
Air Temp: 66-70F
Water Temp: not available
Totals: 27 bass, 1 crappie, 1 green sunfish
Lures: Rapala Shad Rap (blue) – 11 bass, Senko weighted wacky rig (smoke or green pumpkin) – 9 bass, Zara Spook (black shore minnow) – 4 bass, Xcalibur XR50 lipless crankbait (chicken pox) – 2 bass, Jig & Pig (black/blue) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 1-11 (Senko)
Top 5 Weight: 6-6 (1-11,1-9,1-3,1-1,0-14)


Trip Lyric
“Take me out to the ballgame, take me out to the crowd.”
Take Me Out to the Ballgame – Harry Caray rendition (circa 1984)
My Sunday spring drives to and from the fishing hole used to feature something called a baseball game. I sure do miss Pat and Ron covering my Cubs and bringing some laughs, smiles and informative insights no matter the performance of our team.

Yes, I had a lucky fishing shirt, have to play catch-up on that project one of these days

Notes and Nonsense

Cottonwood Lake

For Old Time’s Sake – There’s a spot I call Cottonwood Lake in reference to a large cottonwood tree that used to tower over the water’s edge. It now lies at water’s edge and into the lake. It used to be chock full of little bass and was the site of a September 2013 project regarding “Misfit Lures.” The challenge was to see if those bass were so dumb that they would bite a batch of less than successful lures that I’d amassed over the years. The bass were completely clueless as they bit with reckless abandon. Fast forward to 2020 and the population still isn’t too bright and still quite small..

Entertainingly named Chicken Pox pattern (by the manufacturer, not me)

Ill Lure – While the current situation is nothing to take too lightly, at this point of the pandemic I can certainly do with a little humor. So to amuse myself, I ditched my regular Strike King Red Eye Shad lipless crankbait in favor or an XR50 model from Xcalibur. The sole reason being that the XR50 color pattern is something called “Chicken Pox.” And what do you know, it even caught me a couple bass. Perhaps this summer I’ll dig out my topwater frog in the “Measles” pattern.

A couple “accidents” reeled in along the way

Topwater Time – Several decent weather days in a row, a shallow lake and some cloud cover prompted me to break out a Zara Spook. I don’t throw this thing like I used to back in the 80s and 90s but my “Lure Lunacy” project earlier this year got me feeling a bit nostalgic. Turns out it still gets the job done which really didn’t come as much of a surprise. Maybe it will get a bit more of a workout as the year progresses if I can put down the buzzbait for a while. Video below of one of the Zara Spook catches.


Lake Record – My strip mine fishing features a vast collection of waters and being a data guy, each one has a “lake record.” Now some records are more impressive than others but all still represent the largest bass to come out of the fishing hole. On this outing, the Cedar Lake record of 1-4 fell to a bass that I had seen cruising some open areas in the weedy, remote body of water. I don’t suspect that the bass in such spots see many lures so a Senko tossed out in the vicinity got the attention of the fish which tipped the scales at 1-11. See video of the catch below.


Another successful day of strip mine trekking featuring catches from some spots that don’t normally show up on my standard hiking route. A couple spots I may visit again in 2020 while others were simply a stop to say “Hello” for old time’s sake. Either way, they all proved worthy of a few casts. Talk to you later. Troy