Month: July 2020

Friday Flashback – August 8, 2015


Perhaps a bit lengthy for today’s flashback but too tough to trim down this pair of original posts from August 2015.

Originally posted August 26, 2015

Well, me and the bass have not crossed paths for 66 days during a busy summer. However, I did get an opportunity to play fishing guide recently as a couple of my kids wanted to go for a boat ride and chase some bluegills on a recent camping trip.

Actually, I had planned to go on a solo bass trip that particular morning while the rest of the crew slept off a late night of tacos in a bag and s’mores around the campfire. But at 5:30am, as I rolled around out of the tent, I was met by Julie and our youngest daughter, Carly, who was interested in accompanying Dad on the water.

What do you say to that?

I was admittedly a little shocked to see a youngster up that early to fish but she had been a pretty dedicated bluegill chaser the previous evening so I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised. And I will also admit a tinge of selfish disappointment at rearranging my bass pursuit in favor of panfish but I quickly and properly got over it. In fact, Carly’s enthusiasm left no doubt concerning what I already knew was the right thing to do.

Carly is a talker and she lived up to that billing as we drove through Little John Conservation Club from campsite to fishing hole peppering me with a barrage of questions and observations. While a nine year old girl and her forty eight year old dad’s interests are sometimes separated by the traditional generation gap, during those few hours in the wild we were right in tune. An “experienced” outdoorsman, an eager pupil and the natural backdrop were a perfect combination.

A few minutes after launching the little johnboat Carly hooked into her first fish off a point that is a consistent winner and apparently more than just a bass haunt all of these years. Later in the trip she posted her first (and second) redear on her way to a decent bunch of fish in maybe an hour and a half of casting before we decided to head back to see what the rest of the crew was doing.

I was quite impressed with Carly’s casting precision from boat to bank as she was right on target and demonstrated a touch that usually isn’t necessary when prowling the bank. The bite was fair and many were missed as some of our quarry may not have been large enough to adequately take even a 1/16 ounce jighead hung from a slip bobber. Carly’s success solidified her opinion that waxworms rule as her Gulp minnows just didn’t do the trick. It was also cool to hear the pride as she discussed her catch, even when she pointed out the fact that I had not caught a single fish. I did pitch a Senko around briefly and tried to talk a bass into taking a buzzbait to show Carly the exciting and explosive strike but neither presentation produced. I also tossed a Gulp minnow to no avail but was quite content with my tasks of rowing, baiting up waxworms, releasing the occasional catch, snapping pics and shooting the breeze.

An enjoyable morning spent with our family’s most dedicated fisherkid who’d also posted a handful of bluegill the previous evening. Those fish came with a healthy dose of fishing advice from her Papa, the same guy who taught this blogger a thing or two about fishing back when I was a nine year old kid.

Originally posted August 28, 2015 

A few hours later I was back on the water with a boy of my own as our six year old, Jayce, was itching to try his luck from the boat as well. While Jayce has been out on boat rides in his Papa’s Bass Tracker, this marked his first time in what we’ve long called “the little boat.” Me and Jayce’s Papa and Uncle Brent have covered many miles over the 30 plus years we’ve rowed that thing around West Central Illinois. Dozens of other anglers have also tagged along over the years, making me think it would’ve been fun to have had each of them add some graffiti on their trip (likely would’ve weathered away anyhow).

Anyway, Jayce was fired up from the moment we left the bank. It started with standing up as his initial stab at pushing the limits. And, “No, buddy, you’ve gotta sit down” was my response (all half dozen times or more).

Next was “Can I put my hand in the water?” No problem as I wrapped a couple fingers in a strap on his life jacket.

“How about my feet?” Nope, sorry buddy, too tough in an eight foot johnboat with six year old legs.

“Can I row the boat?” That was gonna be a winner and a valuable skill to be put to use in future years as his dad keeps getting a little older. However, he shortly added, “with my flip flop?” Cool, whatever floats your boat little man.

And yes, we fished, although the roles were somewhat reversed from my trip earlier in the morning with Carly. In this instance, I cast and caught the fish while Jayce was in charge of tending to the bluegill once they reached the boat. I asked him several times if he wanted to cast, hook and reel them in but he was more interested in surveying and organizing our catch in the bottom of the boat. That was probably for the best anyway as our catches were so small that it was a very limited hooking percentage on the bites, potentially frustrating for a young angler.

We had a good time fishing our way around a smallish body of water over the course of maybe an hour before heading across the road to our campsite. It was our first camping trip of the year to Little John and I’d kind of lost touch with the adventure of a family outing in the wild. In terms of the fishing portion I also found it fun that camping afforded the cool aspect of my boy crawling out of bed and then climbing into a boat without even bothering to change out of his pajamas. Gotta love the outdoors.

Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

The fish keep on coming as this week’s Top 5 Update features a new angler, a new leader and a new species for 2020.

Weight: 1-0
Angler: Nicolas Ojeda
Date: June 8
Location: Knox County private strip mine
Lure: Senko wacky rig

Weight: 0-15
Angler: Nicolas Ojeda
Date: June 8
Location: Knox County private strip mine
Lure: Senko wacky rig
Top 5 Weight: 1-15 (1-0,0-15)

Weight: 4-6
Angler: Chris Schwarz
Date: July 22
Location: Warren County private pond
Lure: Chatterbait with swimbait trailer
Angler Comments: This bass took a swipe at my frog, then bit off my chatterbait trailer. After I rigged a new one, she came back a 3rd time!
Top 5 Weight: 26-11 (6-14,5-7,5-4,4-12,4-6)

Weight: 3-7
Angler: Troy Jackson
Date: July 24
Weather: Sunny/calm
Location: Ferne Clyffe Lake – Johnson County, IL
Lure: Senko wacky rig (white)
Structure: Riprap
Angler Comments: Spotted this fish rooting in the riprap and had it pick up a Havoc Pit Boss twice without getting hooked. Gave it a rest, came back with a Senko and wound up with an unusual catch while bass fishing.
Top 5 Weight: 3-7

Welcome aboard, Nicolas, and way to go, Chris.

It looks like the heatwave that hit our region last week is going to break a bit this week. At the very least it may give anglers some more comfortable conditions to get in some casting. If you are among those who do some catching with your casting, send those fish my way at Make sure to include a photo and a weight/length and whatever other details you are willing to provide. The more info the better but entirely up to you. Talk to you later. Troy

Snakeden at 30 – Three Bs

The latest look back at Snakeden Hollow explores several aspects of the customary workload at the site back in 1990. I break it down into something I call the “Three Bs.”

Boulders – The original landscape of the site was a batch of unkempt grasses and weeds that hid a rather remarkable collection of large rocks. Such large rocks were a danger to the blades beneath the mowing deck as our crew took the initial steps towards maintaining the terrain. As low man on the totem pole I got to spend a few hours scouting in front of the tractor in search of boulders to avoid. Currently, there are a few boulder piles onsite that I suspect we first found just over 30 years ago.

Beavers – The weirs, overflows and tubes on the numerous water holes onsite were constantly being plugged by these busy rodents. As a result, there was a constant battle to dismantle the elaborate constructions of the industrious inhabitants. It took some work to undo the intertwined collections of logs and sticks that were sealed up with a clever coating of mud and muck. I have to admit that it was kind of fun to tear up the blockages and found it quite rewarding to see the water begin to flow as we achieved our goal. And I suppose that it was a good thing that I didn’t mind the task as a couple days later, the beavers, and the crew, were at odds once again.

Boundaries – I also found the task of identifying the specific site boundaries to be rather enjoyable. It was kind of like a treasure hunt as we were armed with some sort of plat map that guided us to the survey pins, most of which were quite remote. Several survey pins were marked with a plastic tag while others were simply a thin metal pin pounded into the ground “forty feet due east” of whatever landmark was noted on the plat. There was a sense of satisfaction when you were the guy with the “Eureka moment” as a result of stumbling upon the survey pin. Once the boundary point was established it was not quite as entertaining to manually pound a fencepost and affix the old Department of Conservation sign. I wonder if the remote ones have been replaced with Illinois Department of Natural Resources upgrades. If not, I suspect that there are many places at Snakeden where no one else has set foot for over 30 years.

Perhaps rather mundane tasks but ones that were necessary in the formative months of Snakeden. No matter how many more years I may continue to hike through the site I will always have an appreciation for its boulders, beavers and boundaries. Talk to you later. Troy

Thoughts at 53

Starting back in 2011 at age 44 while blogging for a now defunct outdoor website, I started doing a “Thoughts” thing on my birthday. Well, with a weeklong work trip to Georgia, I did not have an opportunity to post this year’s edition on my birthday. However, the lengthy drive did provide ample time to ponder and surf the radio dial so belated is perhaps better than nothing?

The voice of Pat Hughes was music to my ears as Cubs baseball graced the airwaves on my ride home. I listened to the broadcast from start to finish. From “And away we go…” through “Time to fasten those seat belts…” to a “Cubs win!” finale.

I mentally collect unique song lyrics and words. Among those on my trip were “All day long wearing a mask of false bravado” and “It’s spurs and latigo.” Name those tunes?

Boy, have I been missing my MLB boxscores and the stories that they tell. How about Kyle Hendricks on Opening Day?

There’s more than one way to rig a Senko and I need to step beyond wacky.

The Cubs are sending foul balls to the season ticket holder whose seat is nearest where the ball lands. Do you think it would be a magnanimous gesture or an insult to hire Steve Bartman to collect the fouls? Poor guy, wasn’t his fault that Cubs came up short all those years ago.

Saw my first Illinois armadillo this week in Southern Illinois.

Being a radio broadcast baseball fan, there really isn’t much difference. The Cubs are pumping in a little crowd noise and the rest, as always, transpires in my age old baseball imagination.

For summer fishing, a dam is a darn good place to start.

37 years ago yesterday was the George Brett “Pine Tar Incident.” Still one of my favorite baseball highlight clips. Brett played the game with a passion that is on full display and no better instigator than a character by the name of Billy Martin. Great stuff and worth a look at the clip and entire story.

There is no such thing as a bad Steely Dan song.

Radio is a wonderful way to take in a ballgame. I have no idea what most of the players even look like and it doesn’t matter.

Dorothy Gale vs. Motley Crue – As I pulled into the driveway after four long days on the road I wavered between “There’s no place like home” vs. “Home Sweet Home.”

Tough call. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – July 13, 2005

Today’s flashback revisits a project that I first launched back in 2003. The concept was to document and photograph every bass along with compiling on the water notes as we made our way through the day. This outing took place on Lake Bracken in Knox County, Illinois and here’s how it went via most of the original posting.

Originally posted 8-10-05

In our fourth “Day on the Lake” installment we once again spend a “Day on the Lake with the Dads” as Dad and I selected Lake Bracken for some bass fishing. We hadn’t fished the lake since an outing on 6/1/05 so we hoped the bass had forgotten who we were and turned dumb again. Though we didn’t meet any of our previous DOTL totals, we were rewarded with a respectable creel of uneducated fish. Here’s a look at our day.

Date: July 13, 2005
Location: Lake Bracken
Weather: Overcast/breezy
Air Temp: 75F-85F
H20 Temp: 79F
Time: 5:35am-1:05pm

5:35am-6:00am – We pound Ramp Road, which is usually good for several bites but not today. A barrage of lures including a Mann’s 4- crankbait, a Texas rigged lizard, a buzzbait, a spinnerbait and a Rebel Ghost Minnow jerkbait produces only one hookup on a small bass that throws the lure on the way to the boat.

6:10am-6:30am – West Bay results in a pair of bass that weigh 0-13 and 1-1 respectively. Dad’s falls to a Texas rigged lizard (red) while mine hits a 5” Yamasenko wacky rig (black). Both fish come off of the Beaver Lodge and we each miss a pair of other strikes.

6:35am-7:00am – After catching my first bass on the Senko, the rest of my poles remain on the floor of the boat. Two short bass during this stretch reinforce my lure selection and it’s not long before the guy in the back of the boat is occasionally tossing an identical bait. Every bass we land for the rest of the day has a Senko hanging from its mouth.

7:10am-10:15am – One bass apiece causes our confidence in the Senko to waver but only momentarily. Dad nets a nice 2-7 off of Island Lane Point that has my Senko firmly hooked in its jaw. A good fish does wonders for your confidence and recharges your faith in what’s tied on the end of your line.

10:15am-11:15am – The Wild Side (Lake Bracken’s uninhabited south shore) gives up four bass in an hour as we work our way back to West Bay. Dad accounts for three of the fish with one coming in right at the twelve-inch “keeper” mark.

11:30am-1:05pm – The home stretch includes Oak Cove and Ramp Road and results in ten bass. This doubles our total from the previous six hours on the water. While I got out front catching five of our first seven bass, Dad comes on strong at the finish to outfish me eleven to nine.

Total Bass 20
Dad’s Bass 11
Troy’s Bass 9
Streaks-Dad 3 consecutive bass (10:22am-11:15am & 11:41am-11:57am)
Streaks-Troy 3 consecutive bass (6:43am-8:18am)
Droughts-Dad 3:27 (6:27am-9:54am)
Droughts-Troy 1:59 (8:18am-10:17am)
Plastic worms (Senko) 19
Plastic lizard 1
7.5-10” bass 6
10.5-11.5” bass 8
12” and over 6
Total 5 Weight: 5-14



Species Title – Dad claims the title as he adds two green sunfish to his bass total. These aggressive little guys will try to eat lures way bigger than they have any business attempting to swallow. Lake Bracken has a substantial population of this species that typically lurk in the shallows, particularly around riprap shorelines. Often incorrectly called “Rock Bass” (by myself as well as others), these fish are quite colorful with a wide variety of color shades including greens, yellows, oranges and black. Julie could probably paint a much better picture describing specific color names but I’m more in tune with something in the lines of the Crayola sixteen pack.

Tackle – Once again, we came fully armed with ten poles and in excess of 30 pounds of tackle. After the first 45 minutes on the water, I used one rod and reel and went through a couple Senkos. Dad held out a little longer as he waited close to four hours before putting all else aside and switching exclusively to the Senko wacky rig. However, you never know what will happen on the water and you need to come prepared. It wasn’t too long ago that I either left my Senko’s at home or on the floor of the boat tucked away somewhere in a tacklebox.

Lake Patrol – Mr. Purl and his dog, Goldie, run the lake patrol and usually show up between 8:30 am and 10:00 am to check anglers. For several years, Mr. Purl was my neighbor when I lived on the lake and we would generally have a lengthy chat about once a week as we crossed paths. One benefit of such conversations was being given a break on the $3.00 guest-fishing fee on a number of occasions. We weren’t so lucky during our DOTL but on a later trip Dad and I were granted a free day. Mr. Purl said he enjoyed the conversation so much as we floated in the middle of the lake that he would give us a break. Brent and I weren’t so lucky recently but we have learned to keep talking and not reach for the wallet right away just in case.

Not our largest batch of bass but I find it fun to set out with the goal of chronicling the day on the water and then just letting the chips fall where they may. The current version of this project is something that I call “Lake Lowdown.” Somehow, I managed to forget this project last year but look to make up for it with a 2020 version before we call it a year. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Slight delay on the latest Top 5 report but better late than never on a solid batch of bass. Interestingly, this week’s update consists of five bass caught last week. The catches come courtesy of our Top 5 leader, Jim Junk, and the report comes via a slideshow below rather than my standard format.


Weights: 3-14,3-12,3-11,3-1,3-1
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: July 13 & 14
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Fluke
Top 5 Weight: 24-3 (5-15,4-14,4-12,4-6,4-4)

Way to go, Jim, who added on July 11 that he was interested to see if the new presentation “becomes a real confidence lure or if it was just a ‘fluke.’” After a follow-up outing on July 14 he noted, “Maybe not a fluke.” Here’s hoping that the success continues. Talk to you later. Troy

Snakeden at 30 – Beginnings

Contestant: “I’ll take Snakeden Hollow for 1,000, Alex.”

Alex: “Name the four original Snakeden Hollow workers.”

And the answer, from 1990, is…coming your way after a brief interlude.

By the time Snakeden Hollow opened for public access on July 1, 1990, the site had one truck, a tractor with a mowing deck and four employees. The only structure on the site was a pair of pit toilets at the parking lot on “the big lake.” That lake was generically referred to as Snakeden Hollow Lake and would not sport an official name until nearly a decade later.

Snakeden Headquarters Version 1.0

Snakeden Headquarters Version 2.0

Headquarters began in an abandoned building adjacent to the property just off of Route 167 east of Victoria, Illinois. Shortly thereafter it moved to a couple garage stalls in building in town. However, most of the heavy decision making in those formative months was done over a cinnamon roll or a donut at Victoria’s old Hospitality House diner.

More than a few plans were formulated at the old Hospitality House

Much of the early work involved mowing amidst the ungroomed, boulder strewn landscape along with driving fence posts and posting boundary signs. There was also a daily battle between man and rodent as weirs and overflows steadily needed unclogging on the heels of some busy beavers. And on a couple occasions, there was a fishing pole or two employed in order to get educated on what the site would have to offer to the public.

Those few months in the spring and summer of 1990 left quite an impression that remains just over 30 years later. I was fortunate to have had a front row seat in those formative days and have come to appreciate the unique perspective gained. The site has come a long way over the years with many upgrades yet still retains a great deal of the old off the beaten path fishing appeal.

Headquarters 2020

Contestant: “Who are…

Jim Lewis – original Site Superintendent

Rick Knisely – later became Site Superintendent

Mike Phillips – still working at Snakeden

Troy Jackson – six month temporary employee

Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – July 9, 2005

Anybody ever told you to “Go jump in a lake”?

Well, although the figurative meaning may carry a bit of a negative connotation, it’s not altogether a bad idea during a summer heatwave. However, I would much prefer to go jump in a creek.

And that’s just what me and Dad did fifteen years ago this week as told in the original report and a slideshow from the fishing photo album.

Originally posted 7-31-05

7/9/05 – Pat’s Creek was the destination for Dad and me as I hit the water for the first time in over a month. We were not disappointed as our two dozen dew worms resulted in just over a dozen fish covering five species and four new entries into the record book. Dad caught the bulk of the fish including a Grand Slam Plus with five species (carp, channel catfish, smallmouth bass, white bass and creek chub).


So, there you go. Find a public stream or get some private permission, grab a pair of creek shoes, a couple dozen dew worms and go jump in a creek (actually probably slide in). Oh yeah, and if you are able, bring along your dad or a kid. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Stats

A little bit later than usual this time around but here are the latest tallies for the 2020 Top 5.

2020 Totals
January = 1 bass
February = no submissions
March = 4 bass
April = 25 bass
May = 20 bass
June = 13 bass
July = 3 bass

Top 5 Weight by Month
January = 1-4 (one bass)
February = no submissions
March = 15-8 (6-14,4-1,3-4,1-5)
April = 16-11 (4-12,3-2,3-1,3-0,2-12)
May 23-0 (5-7,5-4,4-12,4-1,3-8)
June = 23-8 (5-15,4-14,4-6,4-4,4-1)
July = 12-7 (4-12,4-0,3-11)

Boat vs. Bank
Boat = 18 bass
Bank = 48 bass

Boat vs. Bank Weight
Boat = 20-3 (5-15,4-1,4-0,3-11,2-8)
Bank = 27-3 (6-14,5-7,5-4,4-14,4-12)

Public vs. Private
Public = 46 bass
Private = 20 bass

Public vs. Private Top 5 Weight
Public = 24-11 (5-15,4-14,4-12,4-12,4-6)
Private = 25-6 (6-14,5-7,5-4,4-12,3-1)

The Baits (* = new record)
Plastic Worm = 27 bass (Top Bass 4-12 Jim Junk)
Chatterbait = 15 bass (Top Bass 5-15 Jim Junk) – tops 4-10 Mark Balbinot
*Spinnerbait = 7 bass (Top Bass 6-14 Chris Schwarz) – tops 5-14 Mark Balbinot
Lipless Crankbait = 5 bass (Top Bass 3-4 Jim Junk)
Buzzbait = 3 bass (Top Bass 4-0 Troy Jackson)
Crankbait = 2 bass (Top Bass 1-10 Brent Jackson)
Creature = 2 bass (Top Bass 3-8 Jim Junk)
Jig = 2 bass (Top Bass 4-12 Troy Jackson)
Livebait = 2 bass (Top Bass 3-1 Teagan Mills)
Grub = 1 bass (Top Bass 1-4 Jim Junk)

Monthly Top Bass
1-4 Jim Junk
No submissions
6-14 Chris Schwarz
4-12 Troy Jackson
5-7 Chris Schwarz
5-15 Jim Junk
4-12 Jim Junk

Top 10 Bass (* = new Top 10 all-time)
*6-14 Chris Schwarz (3/25) – new #10 all-time
5-15 Jim Junk (6/22)
5-7 Chris Schwarz (5/3)
5-4 Chris Schwarz (5/3)
4-14 Jim Junk (6/22)
4-12 Troy Jackson (4/26)
4-12 Chris Schwarz (5/3)
4-12 Jim Junk (7/5)
4-6 Jim Junk (6/24)
4-4 Jim Junk (6/19)

Angler Weights
Jim Junk 24-3 (5-15,4-14,4-12,4-6,4-4)
Chris Schwarz 22-5 (6-14,5-7,5-4,4-12)
Troy Jackson 17-6 (4-12,4-0,3-11,2-8,2-7)
Brent Jackson 13-3 (3-2,2-13,2-12,2-5,2-3)
John Kirkemo 7-10 (1-15,1-13,1-6,1-6,1-2)
Teagan Mills 6-1 (3-1,3-0)
Kennedy Jackson 5-12 (1-13,1-11,1-5,0-15)
Brady Jackson 4-8 (1-5,1-2,1-1,1-0)
Carly Jackson 0-14 (0-14)

Other Species
Common Carp

10-5 Jim Junk


1-2 Troy Jackson

Muskie/Tiger Muskie

12-12 (36”) Troy Jackson

Certainly summer out there in the area so stay cool, treat those fish with care and keep the reports coming when you get a chance to get out. Talk to you later. Troy

Snakeden at 30 – Sneak Peek

“The Big State Lake” (now Lake McMaster) looking southwest from parking lot

Well, one could start at the beginning with this series of Snakeden posts by going back to the July 1, 1990 “Grand Opening” of the site to public access. However, I was fortunate to get a sneak peek at the waters prior to that date. In fact, my first look at what is now named Lake McMaster was nearly three years prior.

You see, back in the summer of 1987 I was working for the Galesburg Park Department as a summer job. My boss at the Park was a guy named Bob who had also hired a guy named Larry who had known my Dad and my uncle for quite a few years. Larry also knew a guy named Ken who had access to the property. Larry also knew that I knew a guy named Brent who was just as into fishing as I was. This Brent guy also happens to be my younger brother, so Larry invited us as a package deal to fish what was simply known then as “The Big State Lake.”

Page one of the original July 1, 1987 log entry

Of course, “Big” is a relative term but for two teenagers used to fishing ponds or small strip mines out of an eight foot johnboat, the lake was plenty big and full of fishy looking structure. Not only that, but it was absolutely crystal clear, almost in an eerie way. I had never seen anything like it before and never have since.

But those details are for another post.

On July 1, 1987 around 5:00pm, Larry launched his johnboat from the crude ramp for what would be a real eye-opener for the two teenagers in tow. From the log entry it looks like the initial bite was slow for me and I am pretty certain it was due to a lack of knowledge on how to fish such incredibly clear water. My standard loud and gaudy presentations that were successful on farm ponds and stained water likely only served to scare the heck out of those Big State Lake bass.

33 years later, this fishing lure hoarder still has the lures that worked on this outing

Once I got with the program in following Larry’s lead and toning down my presentation to a 3” Squirmin’ Grub, the bass tally began to rack up in a hurry. From about 7:00pm until our 8:30pm quitting time, those bass were coming aboard with regularity, including nearly every cast after about 8:00pm. When it was all said and done, our three man crew caught and released close to 150 bass in roughly three and a half hours (with Larry leading the way and likely Brent outfishing me as normal).

When it takes a second page to log your catch you know it was a good day

No photos exist from our “undercover” fishing mission and we landed no trophies as you can see from the log entry. And sure, that logging habit might be seen as a waste of time by some and certainly cost me more fish in the boat. But it did preserve some specific details from that old fishing trip which I find rewarding. Larry and I still correspond with fish stories old and new via email on a regular basis but this one remains one of my favorites.

More Snakeden stuff to come as three years after this fishing trip I actually had a job at what had come to be known as Snakeden Hollow. Talk to you later. Troy