Month: February 2022

Friday Flashback – February 26, 2012

About this time annually, I begin to ponder the first catch of the year. Not being much of an icefisherman, that means open water and that aspect can vary by about a month from year to year. In the case of today’s flashback, I was able to get my first casts in a few days prior to my typical March goal. Below is the original post for the outing as related while blogging on the Heartland Outdoors website. Relying on old blog posts sometimes feels like cheating but it’s hard to beat the fresh, original version of the fish story.

Originally posted 2-28-2012

Early season, clear, frigid water and limited time to fish make for what I generally refer to as a “one bite outing.” Essentially, I’m looking for one bite, hoping it’s a solid hit and counting on being able to execute on my end of the line. I’m certainly not opposed to multiple opportunities but looking at it realistically, other bites would simply be icing on the cake. As pictured below, my one (and only) bite worked out.

Original log entry from February 26, 2012

Date: February 26, 2012
Location: Snakeden Hollow – various lakes (see below)
Time: 2:10pm-5:30pm (1.75 hours fishing, the rest walking/driving)
Weather: Sunny/very windy
Air Temp: 55F
Water Temp: 44F
Totals: 1 bass
Lures: Yum Wooly Curltail (green pumpkin) – 1 bass (12.5”)
Top Bass: 0-12

Notes and Nonsense

Four Targets – Snakeden presents a wide array of options when exploring on foot. So, during the twenty-five-minute drive I usually change my mind several times before arriving at some sort of a gameplan. For this trip I narrowed it down to four rather specific targets.

Target One (2:25pm-2:55pm) – My memory did not serve me too well as a downed tree in West Turkey Lake had deteriorated and was a bit too shallow even for me on February 26. After a handful of casts with the trusty old jig & pig (black & blue) in the deeper water nearby I chalked up my eighteen-minute walk to a waste of time.

Target Two (3:15pm-3:45pm) – A nameless, narrow 100-yard cut that I’ve named Pepper Lake (another story) features one stretch of deeper water where I hoped all of the 12-16” residents would be stacked. I’ve seen bass up to two pounds here, but I was just looking for any bite while hoping to put the jig & pig in front of a taker. The “shooting fish in a barrel” concept didn’t produce either.

Target Three (4:45pm-5:00pm) – A spot I call the South Crater is a depression about the size of a baseball infield and features a small, sunken fir tree that is partially visible in one corner. Despite being a regular early season producer, it also let me down on the jig & pig.

Target Four (5:00pm-5:30pm) – A downed tree in the North Crater (similar setup to its southern companion) was my last chance and a Yum Wooly Curltail (pictured below) broke up the shutout (described below).

Yum Wooly Curltail, a great cold water bait

Sight Fishing – As I crawled my grub around the downed tree a bass came into view in about six feet of water in front of me. Shortly it was joined by four others, so I gently cast beyond the school, dropped the grub amongst them and then proceeded to shake it in place on the bottom. My initial attempt didn’t produce but on my second shot, one of the fish went nose down, picked up the bait and got a surprise (and a photo). Fortunately, I was in a protected area as the windy conditions would have made it impossible to see these fish elsewhere even in the typically clear strip pit waters.

2012 First Bass

“Still the Same” (Different Body Part) – Hearkening back to a blog entry from last year (2011) where I lamented the occasional failings of a forty something body, here we go again. Last August it was a bum knee that prompted me to use the Bob Seger classic “Like A Rock” to contemplate the changes between eighteen and forty-four. Well, the rock legend gives me a hand yet again as I’m “Still The Same” at forty-four only this time around my roadwork/treadmill runs have produced a bad heel that was less than enthused about strip mine terrain fit for a mountain goat.

I always get a kick out of being able to work in some song titles or lyrics in a fishing report, so it is fun for me to revisit these old posts. And speaking of old, the above post is ten years old meaning that by this summer I am going to have to work in a tune that references “55”. And yes, I already have one in mind. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – February 18, 2002

Original log entry from 2/18/2002, short and sweet and just short of a lifetime fishing goal

A six-pound bass is a big deal, and I spent a long time looking for one. At the time of today’s 2002 flashback, I had roughly eighteen years of sporadic bass fishing experience under my belt with a pair of five and a half pounders as my Top Bass. I’d also been fishing Emstrom’s Pond for fourteen years and knew that it had potential as it produced a 6-15 for my brother, Brent, in 1991.

So, when I hooked into the Emstrom’s bass below and saw it surface, I knew that I was going to be close to my six-pound goal. As it turned out, you couldn’t get much closer as the bass came in one ounce shy of six pounds. Sure, I wished that I could have mustered that one more ounce but putting the bass on the scale a pair of times it locked in at 5-15. Not a six, but it still established my new Top Bass mark.

Date: February 18, 2002 (4:00pm)
Location: Emstrom’s Pond, Knox County, IL
Weather: Overcast/windy
Weight: 5-15 (22”)
Lure: ¼ oz. jig (black/blue) with pork trailer (purple)
Structure: Beaver lodge

It would be quite a few more years before I found my six-pounder. And by that time, I already had a new Top Bass as I found one that skipped right over the six-pound range. Details on those catches to come in a Friday Flashback post next month. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – The Final Year

Time flies when you’re telling fish stories so here we go with the final round of the series that kicked off in 2018

I kicked off the Friday Flashback series on March 16, 2018, with the goal of being able to ride it out for a five-year stretch. You see, I figured that by focusing the flashbacks on five-year increments from the current year, I could provide weekly Friday content through 2022.

Well, believe it or not, we’re here.

But much has changed since the inception of Friday Flashback, especially over the last two years. And this year, the major disruption knocked me down for a couple weeks and put a damper on just about everything, including blogging. I just didn’t have the energy for it, and I am still trying to play catch up. Due to the combination of that bump in the road, the annual bout of Cabin Fever and my common practice of avoiding winter, blogging has been sparse. In fact, I recently realized that I had failed to kick off my Friday posts last week as intended.

Therefore, we’re going to go with an intro on Monday and the start of the series on a Tuesday before getting back on the Friday track.

So, whether you’ve missed the blog or not, it’s back. Of course, the events and catches for the 2022 fishing year have yet to unfold. However, count on a final run of Friday Flashback for a weekly read from now through the end of November. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 All-Time Stats

While a bit late, I am excited to present the annual Top 5 all-time record book update.

For 2021, we added ninety-two bass from a group of eight anglers. Our eight years of fish stories have brought a grand total of 868 bass submissions to the Top 5.

2021 also marked the fourth year of a Top 5 expansion to include species beyond bass. However, only one fish joined to the “Other Species” portion of the record book, but it was quite a fish that showed up in the final Top 5 update of the year. Jim Junk’s muskie was certainly a highlight and we’ll kick things off with a look at that “Other Species” portion of the record book before moving on to the bass breakdown.

Other Species All-Time Records

1-8 Teagan Mills 6/2/19 Private Pond

Channel Catfish
13-0 Teagan Mills (2019)
13-0 Teagan Mills (2018)
8-2 (25”) Chris Schwarz (2018)
6-9 Chris Schwarz (2019)
34-35” Chris Schwarz (2019)
3-7 Troy Jackson (2020)

Common Carp
10-5 Jim Junk (2020)

1-2 Troy Jackson (2020)

Green Sunfish
0-13 Jayce Jackson (2017)

Muskie (* = new entry)
*17-10 (43”) Jim Junk (2021)
131” Jake Bresson (47”,31”,29”24” – 2017)
70+” John Kirkemo (40”, 30+” – 2018)
12-12 (36”) Troy Jackson (2020)
29” Troy Jackson (2017)
6-4 Chris Schwarz (2019)

Northern Pike
167.25” Jake Bresson (37.0”,35.25”,33.5”,32.0”,29.5” – 2017)

Rainbow Trout
22” John Kirkemo (11”,11” – 2018)

118” Jake Bresson (26.5”,26.0”,25.5”,20”,20” – 2017) on Rapala X-Rap or jig & minnow

Moving on to the bass, let’s look at how our fish stack up with respect to the calendar, conditions, lures and more. Eight years, thirty-nine different anglers and 868 bass (nearly all from Illinois waters) make up the all-time record book.

Group Totals = 868 bass
2014 = 154
2015 = 106
2016 = 136
2017 = 79
2018 = 116
2019 = 95
2020 = 90
2021 = 92

Submissions by month (2014-2021)
183 April (43/33/31/11/12/14/25/14)
149 May (27/23/19/13/24/12/18/13)
115 June (34/14/15/1/10/14/17/10)
99 March (13/11/34/10/0/8/4/19)
89 July (18/11/8/11/8/11/10/12)
63 September (6/4/6/6/16/9/6/10)
58 October (4/5/4/8/24/8/2/3)
33 November (6/0/4/0/8/9/4/2)
31 February (2/2/7/13/5/0/0/2)
27 August (1/3/1/4/4/7/3/4)
13 December (0/0/7/1/0/2/3)
8 January (0/0/0/1/5/1/1/0)

Top 10 Top 5 Monthly Weights (group total)
37-9 May 2014
29-8 June 2014
29-7 March 2016
29-2 April 2014
28-9 October 2018
28-7 December 2016
27-14 April 2015
27-12 March 2015
27-11 July 2014
27-10 April 2016

Top 5 Weights per Month (group total)
January (2018) = 13-5 (3-15, 2-7, 2-6, 2-6, 2-3)
February (2016) = 22-9 (6-7,4-15,4-10,4-1,2-8)
March (2016) = 29-7 (6-5,6-1,5-14,5-10,5-9)
April (2014) = 29-2 (8-0, 5-11, 5-10, 4-15. 4-14)
May (2014) = 37-9 (9-4, 8-10, 8-8, 6-1, 5-2)
June (2014) = 29-8 (6-11, 6-4, 5-10, 5-8, 5-7)
July (2014) = 27-11 (6-6, 6-0, 5-5, 5-0, 5-0)
August (2019) = 19-4 (4-14,4-10,4-6,2-14,2-8)
September (2019) = 24-5 (5-3,5-0,5-0,4-12,4-6)
October (2018) = 28-9 (6-3,5-14,5-10,5-10,5-4)
November (2018) = 26-1 (7-2,6-12,4-3,4-0,4-0)
December (2016) = 28-7 (7-7,6-5,5-13,4-11,4-3)

Monthly Top Bass
3-15 Mark Balbinot 1/27/18 Crankbait
6-7 Mike Overturf 2/27/16 Plastic Worm
7-0 Randy Sampson Sr. 3/22/15 Jig
8-0 Kamryn Kaesebier 4/13/14 Crankbait
9-4 Jake Bresson 5/23/14 Jig
6-11 Ty Hartlipp 6/11/14 Topwater Frog
6-6 Jake Bresson 7/11/14 Plastic Worm
6-8 Gary Le 8/16/14 Swimbait
6-0 Austin Chapman 9/19/15 Jig
7-4 Mark Balbinot 10/29/17 Jig
7-2 Mark Balbinot 11/23/18 Underspin
7-7 Mark Balbinot 12/11/16 Underspin

Public vs. Private Water (2014-2021)
Public = 586 bass (92/52/95/42/92/68/63/82)
Public Top 5 Weight = 32-2,31-7,30-5,27-7,24-5,25-4,25-13,26-4(2021)
Private = 260 bass (53/48/39/37/24/27/27/5)
Private Top 5 Weight = 38-10,30-0,32-13,33-14,31-9,24-3,30-5,13-3(2021)
Undisclosed = 17 bass (9/6/2/0/0/0/0/0)

Boat vs. Bank (2014-2021)
Boat = 462 bass (90/63/103/68/55/33/26/24)
Boat Top 5 Weight = 30-7,31-7,32-13,33-14,31-9,25-4,21-4.18-6(2021)
Bank = 395 bass (64/43/27/11/61/62/64/63)
Bank Top 5 Weight = 40-14,27-6,27-12,20-14,24-2,25-7,30-6,26-4(2021)
Undisclosed = 6 bass

The Baits (44 undisclosed)
237 Plastic Worms (Top Bass 6-8 Mark Balbinot 11/20/16)
93 Spinnerbaits (6-14 Chris Schwarz 3/25/20)
80 Crankbaits (8-0 Kamryn Kaesebier 4/13/14)
61 Jigs (9-4 Jake Bresson 5/23/14)
81 Lipless Crankbaits (6-3 Mark Balbinot 10/20/18) – moved up
56 Chatterbaits (5-15 Jim Junk 6/22/20)
30 Swimbaits (8-10 Gary Le 5/4/14)
29 Swim Jigs (6-13 Jake Bresson 4/9/15)
30 Creature Baits (6-15 Mark Balbinot 5/13/17) -moved u
28 Buzzbaits (5-9 Troy Jackson 4/25/17)
27 Jerkbaits (5-10 Ty Hartlipp 6/5/14)
13 Underspins (Top Bass 7-7 Mark Balbinot 12/11/16)
12 Topwater Frog (6-11 Ty Hartlipp 6/11/14)
12 Tubes (Top Bass 5-0 Jake Bresson 4/28/15)
8 Livebait (5-14 Jim Junk 7/4/14)
6 Stickbaits (6-6 Mark Balbinot 8/27/17)
5 Ultralights (3-1 Paul Kessler 10/12/17)
4 Grubs (Top Bass 7-0 Chris Schwarz 11/28/20)
3 Propbaits (6-2 Jake Bresson 5/1/15)
2 Inline Spinners (5-2 Jake Bresson 9/17/17)
1 Blade Bait (5-3 Mark Balbinot 11/16/19)
1 Popper (3-1 Troy Jackson 9/25/01)

The 20-Pound Club * = 2021 entry
33-14 Mark Balbinot 2017 (7-4,6-15,6-13,6-8,6-6)
32-13 Jake Bresson 2014 (9-4, 8-8, 6-6, 4-10, 4-1)
32-13 Mark Balbinot 2016 (7-7,6-8,6-5,6-5,6-4)
32-0 Gary Le 2014 (8-10,6-8,5-12,5-10, 5-8)
31-9 Mark Balbinot 2018 (7-2,6-12,6-3,5-14,5-10)
30-5 Chris Schwarz (7-0,6-14,5-12,5-7,5-4)
29-7 Austin Chapman 2015 (6-4,6-2,6-0,5-14,5-3)
27-12 Jake Bresson 2015 (6-13,6-2,5-5,5-0,4-8)
27-6 Randy Sampson Sr 2015 (7-0,6-1,4-13,4-12,4-12)
27-6 Jake Bresson 2016 (6-3,5-13,5-4,5-2,5-0)
26-13 Troy Jackson 2017 (6-2,5-11,5-9,5-0,4-7)
26-4 Austin Chapman 2016 (5-14,5-10,5-2,4-14,4-12)
26-1 Brice Wangler 2014 (5-11, 5-5, 5-2, 5-0, 4-15)
*26-0 Jim Junk (6-0,5-5,5-3,5-2,4-6)
25-13 Jim Junk (5-15,5-5,4-15,4-14,4-12)
25-8 Brice Wangler 2015 (5-7,5-4,5-2,4-14,4-13)
25-4 Mark Balbinot 2019 (5-5,5-3,5-1,4-14,4-13)
24-14 Ty Hartlipp 2014 (6-11, 5-10, 5-5, 4-0, 3-4)
24-14 Jim Junk 2019 (5-3,5-1,5-0,4-14,4-12)
24-9 Terry Isbell 2014 (5-8,5-4,5-2,4-8,4-3)
23-12 Jake Bresson 2017 (5-4,5-2,5-2,4-3,4-1)
23-11 Randy Sampson Sr. 2017 (6-0,4-14,4-12,4-11,3-6)
23-8 Jim Junk 2018 (5-4,5-2,4-9,4-5,4-4)
22-15 Adam Bean 2015 (5-13,4-9,4-6,4-2,4-1)
22-13 Mike Mooney 2014 (6-4, 5-7, 4-3, 3-9, 3-6)
22-12 Troy Jackson 2015 (5-13,4-13,4-10,3-12,3-12)
21-8 Randy Sampson Sr. 2016 (5-12,5-8,4-11,3-1,2-8)
21-7 Brice Wangler 2016 (4-8,4-7,4-4,4-2,4-2)
21-3 Troy Jackson 2016 (5-9,5-4,3-9,3-7,3-6)
20-15 Chris Schwarz 2018 (4-11,4-11,4-8,4-0,3-1)
20-14 Troy Jackson 2014 (4-13, 4-6, 4-2, 4-1, 3-8)
20-12 Chris Schwarz 2019 (5-3,5-0,3-11,3-10,3-4)
20-9 Austin Chapman 2014 (4-15, 4-4,4-0,3-13,3-9)
20-1 Bruce Zilkowski 2014 (4-11,4-3,4-0,3-12,3-7)
*20-0 Troy Jackson (4-10,4-4,4-3,3-9,3-6)

Top 10 Top 5 Bass
9-4 Jake Bresson 5/23/14 Jig
8-10 Gary Le 5/4/14 Swimbait
8-8 Jake Bresson 5/23/14 Jig
8-0 Kamryn Kaesebier 4/13/14 Crankbait
7-7 Mark Balbinot 12/11/16 Underspin
7-4 Mark Balbinot 10/29/17 Jig
7-2 Mark Balbinot 11/23/18 Underspin
7-0 Randy Sampson Sr. 3/22/15 Jig
*7-0 Chris Schwarz 11/28/20 Grub
6-15 Mark Balbinot 5/13/17 Creature Bait

And just for fun…

All-Time Weights (30-pound minimum “career” mark)
(Note: not all anglers have participated each year)
160-3 Troy Jackson (20-14,22-12,21-3,26-13,15-9,14-4,18-12,20-0)
141-6 Jim Junk (11-7,16-5,13-7,23-8,24-14,25-13,26-0)
123-8 Mark Balbinot (33-14,32-13,31-9,25-4)
112-12 Brent Jackson (18-7,6-10,13-2,10-2,19-2,13-7,13-3,18-11)
111-11 Jake Bresson (32-13,27-12,27-6,23-12)
76-4 Austin Chapman (20-9,29-7,26-4)
73-0 Brice Wangler (26-1,25-8,21-7)
72-15 Bruce Zilkowski (20-1,17-0,17-14,18-0)
72-10 Randy Sampson, Sr. (27-6,21-8,23-12)
72-0 Chris Schwarz (20-15,20-12,30-5)
66-12 Paul Kessler (18-6,17-6,16-6,14-10)
45-11 Mike Mooney (22-13,4-9,18-5)
37-4 John Kirkemo (10-8,6-14,8-0,11-14)

A fair amount to digest, but I love my stats. Talk to you later. Troy

2021 Fishing Recap – Partners

What’s a year of fishing without some partners to share the adventure and make some memories?

Primarily, those partners were family. The year started with my brother, Brent, and I hiking into Snakeden Hollow just like we’ve done for over 30 years. As spring rolled on, I got my boys, Jayce and Zac, dialed in to some strip mine fish. We later joined forces with Papa and some waxworms to fool a batch of Lake Storey bluegill. During the summer, it was good to get Dad back out in the big boat for some bass fishing al Lake Storey and Little John, spots we’ve fished together forever. Brent and I also prowled the strip mines on several occasions and Jayce and I joined up with Jim Junk for a morning adventure as well. Fall found me on Lake Storey with Brent and crossing paths with my friend, John Kirkemo, whom I have corresponded with on and off the water for several years. John and I also swapped fish stories and more on a couple occasions including an entertaining night around the campfire with my family.


Plenty of highlights but I must say the trips with my boys are a trip. Somehow, we wind up with a focus on sustenance both before and after we focus on the fish. The menu included Oreo Bites, Takis, Hot Fries, beef jerky, sodas, chocolate milk and a Culver’s drive thru. Long ago, I learned that’s what dads do as part of the outdoor adventure. However, when I was kid, the closest thing to a convenience store was The Trading Post in Monmouth which was always good for a soda pop and a bag of Sterzing’s potato chips. Of course, there’s also some bloopers, some trash talk and some entertaining conversation ranging from Fortnite (a video game) to Mr. Beast (a YouTuber) to superheroes to flatulence and more.

Lots of fun as we created a new batch of memories and fish stories.

In closing I would like to give a shout out to an old fishing friend who unexpectedly passed away last August.

RIP to my old friend, Larry Smith (1949-2021). I’ve known Larry and shared fish stories with him since the 1980s. He was the guide for me and my brother, Brent, in July 1987 when we first set eyes on an unnamed and off-limits lake that would later become Snakeden Hollow’s Lake McMaster. For the last dozen years, Larry and I have swapped fish stories via email and crossed paths on an old favorite fishing hole, Lake Storey. We could have easily written a book with the hundreds of longwinded, rambling emails over the years. Just a few days before he passed, I received an email and text about his latest catch on his favorite bait, a Gulp Minnow.

“Two days ago, caught a musky at Lake Storey to complete my catching every species of fish that swims there on a Gulp minnow.”

A good man and a talented fisherman, I sure do miss his fish stories.

Talk to you later. Troy