Author: Troy Jackson

Top 5 Update

A good batch of bass comes our way courtesy of a couple doing some Illinois Capital City fishing.

Weight: 2-10
Angler: Patricia Kirkemo
Date: May 10
Weather: Partly cloudy evening, temperature 60s
Water Temperature: 60-65F
Location: Sangchris Lake State Park
Lure: Nightcrawler under a bobber
Angler Comments (provided by her spouse): Fish caught by casting a bobber and worm from boat toward shore. Fish was in water 3-4 feet deep.
Top 5 Weight: 2-10 (2-10)

Weight: 1-8
Angler: John Kirkemo
Date: May 10
Weather: Air and water temps 60s
Location: Sangchris Lake State Park
Lure: Chompers
Angler Comments: Not many signs of feeding fish. The fish was caught casting to structure from boat.

Weight: 1-14
Angler: John Kirkemo
Date: May 13
Weather: Air temperature 60s
Location: Farm pond, Sangamon County, IL
Lure: Wacky worm

Weight: 2-6
Angler: John Kirkemo
Date: May 13
Weather: Air temperature 60s
Location: Farm pond, Sangamon County, IL
Lure: Wacky worm

Weight: 2-8
Angler: John Kirkemo
Date: May 13
Weather: Air temperature 60s
Location: Farm pond, Sangamon County, IL
Lure: Wacky worm

Weight: 2-10
Angler: John Kirkemo
Date: May 13
Weather: Air temperature 60s
Location: Farm pond, Sangamon County, IL
Lure: Wacky worm
Angler Comments: These fish were caught during early evening in private water not visited by many fishermen. Feeding fish were evident. Fish were eager and large. Lost several that were probably as large or larger.
Top 5 Weight: 10-14 (2-10,2-8,2-6,1-14,1-8)

Thank you to the Kirkemos for their submissions as it looked like the Springfield area visit was fishing success. Here’s hoping for continued catching as the year progresses and I appreciate the contributions as the Top 5 needed a boost. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – May 7-17, 1991


Thirty years ago, I was happily employed at my first real job at a place called National Seal Company in Galesburg, Illinois. The work schedule consisted of four twelve-hour days followed up by four days off. It was like having a vacation every week. Pretty outstanding and definitely my favorite schedule in all the years of earning a paycheck.

So, what does a twenty-something guy do with a batch of perpetual four-day “weekends”?

Well, as exemplified by today’s post, there was some fishing involved. In this case, I hooked up with a couple fishing partners who were still attending Knox College, Mark Junk and Joe Lang. I’d known Mark since high school while Joe was a friend made while attending Knox. Both were also sports teammates along the way. Mark and I were Silver Streaks hoopsters (his career considerably more impressive) and later played a year of hardball together for Hi-Lo Grocery. Joe was a fellow Siwash as he covered the catching duties while I manned the hot corner 90’ away.

“Geek” at Emstrom’s Pond

As with many teammates over the years, there were often nicknames thrown around more than given names. These guys were referred to as “Geek” and “Clubber” for Mark and Joe, respectively. In turn, I was usually “TJ.” I haven’t crossed paths with these fellows for quite some time, but I suspect we would greet each other in the nickname fashion all these years later.

“Clubber”, sunrise lunker at Snakeden and I believe we had stayed up all night goofing off and thought, “Hey, let’s go fishing!”

The shots from May 7 were at an old pond we called “Emstrom’s”, just off the Highway 34 exit ramp onto Main Street near the Galesburg Drive-In. May 10 and May 17 were at Snakeden Hollow during only its second year of public access. Looking at the backdrops in the photos it is also fun to see how the scenery has changed all these years later.

Good times, good friends, and some good fishing holes. Talk to you later. Troy

A Lonely Morel

Me and morel mushrooms rarely see eye to eye or come face to face. While I dig a walk through the timber under the guise of hunting fungus, I haven’t done so for quite a few years. With limited outdoor time, I find myself on the water rather than in the woods when I get a chance to get some fresh air. However, on May Day I was able to incorporate a few minutes of mushroom hunting as I pond hopped on some strip mine ground.

You see, several years ago, as I stood on the bank of a deep strip mine cut, I observed a pair of anglers making their way down the opposite side. They were not particularly quiet so I couldn’t help but overhear one fellow holler at his buddy, “Hey, there’s mushrooms over here.” Well, I filed that info and general location away in the event that I would have a chance to take a peek for myself one of these years. This was the year and sure enough there was fungus (note: plural would be fungi). The lone morel I managed to spot is pictured above and it was left to hopefully produce a few more next year in the way that mushrooms do their thing.

Were there more in the vicinity? Probably, but I sure didn’t see them. I marvel at the posts of folks with picnic tables full and hauls registered in pounds as opposed to individual specimens. But I just don’t have the touch and have long wondered how many morels have seen me as I aimlessly wandered and scanned the terrain oblivious to their presence. There’s always next year though and perhaps my “luck” will change. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Stats

Somewhere between busy and lazy has resulted in a lack of Top 5 Stat updates in 2021. Throw in limited angler participation and, well, I just haven’t kept up as in past years. But have no fear, the first complete stat update has arrived.

2021 Totals
January = no submissions
February = 2 bass
March = 19 bass
April = 14 bass
May = 2 bass

Top 5 Weight by Month
January = no submissions
February = 7-3 (3-15,3-4)
March = 21-14 (5-5,4-3,4-2,4-2,4-2)
April = 21-6 (5-3,5-2,4-0,4-0,3-1)
May = 3-13 (2-2,1-11)

Boat vs. Bank
Boat = 0 bass
Bank = 37 bass

Boat vs. Bank Weight
Boat = no submissions
Bank = 23-15 (5-5,5-3,5-2,4-3,4-2)

Public vs. Private
Public = 37 bass
Private = no submissions

Public vs. Private Top 5 Weight
Public = 23-15 (5-5,5-3,5-2,4-3,4-2)
Private = no submissons

The Baits
Lipless Crankbait = 15 bass (Top Bass 4-3 Jim Junk)
Crankbait = 6 bass (Top Bass 4-0 Brent Jackson)
Spinnerbait = 6 bass (Top Bass 4-0 Brent Jackson)
Chatterbait = 5 bass (Top Bass 5-3 Jim Junk)
Plastic Worm = 2 bass (Top Bass 2-2 Brent Jackson)
Creature = 1 bass (Top Bass 5-5 Jim Junk)
Jig = 1 bass (Top Bass 1-1 Troy Jackson)
Stickbait = 1 bass (1-11 Troy Jackson)

Monthly Top Bass
No submissions
3-15 Jim Junk
5-5 Jim Junk
5-2 Jim Junk
2-2 Brent Jackson

Top 10 Bass
5-5 Jim Junk (3/26)
5-3 Jim Junk (4/8)
5-2 Jim Junk (4/6)
4-3 Jim Junk (3/30)
4-2Jim Junk (3/19)
4-2 Jim Junk (3/24)
4-2 Jim Junk (3/28)
4-1 Jim Junk (3/30)
4-0 Jim Junk (3/23)
4-0 Brent Jackson (4/2)
4-0 Brent Jackson (4/12)

Angler Weights
Jim Junk 23-15 (5-5,5-3,5-2,4-3,4-2)
Brent Jackson 14-8 (4-0,4-0,2-3,2-3,2-2)
Troy Jackson 9-13 (3-1,1-13,1-11,1-10,1-10)
Jayce Jackson 1-3 (1-3)

Kind of like a broken record there as Jim Junk has already had quite an impressive year and we are just over a week into May. Beyond those catches, it has just been a trio of Jackson boys adding to the list thus far. Here’s hoping a few other regulars have some catches on the horizon to join the fun. One other note on the Top 5 this year is that the submissions have come exclusively from public waters and from the bank. Kind of cool and old school although I certainly plan on checking out my private waters and getting off the shore as the year progresses.

As always, send your submissions to when you catch them. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – May 2, 2011

I always enjoy looking back at a place called “Emiquon.” This incredible fishery opened to public access in 2009 and the bass fishing was like nothing we’d ever seen or likely will ever see again. Below is an original post from May 5, 2011 detailing an outing from 10 years ago this week.

My brother, Brent, and I weren’t sure what to expect on our first Emiquon journey of 2011. The craziness of 2009 had ebbed somewhat in 2010 and this year’s wacky weather had me worried about whether he was wise to take a half day of vacation. However, it’s tough to not feel some extra excitement when taking on this unusual fishing hole. Here’s a bit of a different approach to my report from a bit of a different lake.

Date: May 2, 2011
Location: The Emiquon Preserve
Time: 12:30 pm-6:45 pm
Weather: Overcast/windy
Air Temp: 53-56F
Water Temp: 58F
Totals: 36 bass (Brent- 22, Troy- 14)
Lures: Tandem Spinnerbait (brown/orange) – 21 bass, Quad Shad Spinnerbait (white/shad) – 12 bass, 3” Yum Wooly Curtail (green pumpkin green) – 2 bass, ¼ oz Jig (black/chartreuse) with split double tail trailer (black) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 2-12 (Troy – Yum Wooly Curltail)
Top 5 Weight: 11-10 (2-12,2-5,2-5,2-3,2-1)

Chronology of the Catch

12:53 pm – I get us on the board with a 13” (1 lb 3 oz) fish on the Wooly Curtail worked around some flooded trees. The bass comes out of four feet of water in a narrow ditch that runs through an expansive one to three foot deep flat.

1:08 pm – Brent gets on the board with a 1-5 on his Emiquon Special, the same spinner bait that pushed him within two bass of the century mark back on October 7, 2009.

1:39 pm – Brent scores on a jig and plastic off a tree in a spot that is tailor made for the presentation as seen in the above photo.

2:37 pm – Brent lands another standard issue on the Emiquon Special prompting him to comment, “What’ve they got some kind of cloning program going on down here?”

4:00 pm – After three fishless and frustrating hours for me, I finally get another on the Wooly Curtail and the 2-12 will turn out to be our Top Bass for the day. At this point, Brent has a six to two lead since I’m running the trolling motor (he might also be a better angler most days). It’s been a rough start but Emiquon is about to show what it’s made of with a second half surge.

5:04 pm – Brent lands his heaviest fish of the day, a 2-5 on the Emiquon Special, of course. The lure is tough to beat as he winds up having me down 15 bass to 3 before I find a spinnerbait that will fool a few.

5:44 pm – Seconds after I hoist my 1-9 into the boat Brent nails a 2-1 for a “double” and a challenging photo opportunity.

5:55 pm – A 2-5 makes it a pair of two pounders in a row for us as I’m beginning to make up some ground.

6:03 pm – My 2-3 makes three consecutive two pounders but I’m still trailing 20 to 9.

6:24 pm – The above specimen wasn’t anything to brag about but I wanted a picture with a bass while the sun was shining. What were the odds of catching one during that approximately five-minute span?

6:44 pm – Brent lands a bass on his final cast as we set a departure time at 6:45 pm. I wanted a picture, but the bass was released before I got a chance as I was desperately trying to get bit before my watch turned to 6:46 pm.


Emiquon is now a mere shell of its former self as site management steered away from preserving the incredible fishery. While there’s plenty to debate regarding the decision, for today it’s all about what was rather than what is and what could have been. My, oh my, was it a blast while it lasted. Talk to you later. Troy

Strip Mine Report – May 1

Hard for me to believe that it is May already and what better way to kick off the month than with a hike around the strip mines. I was able to hit the water last Saturday morning where I was greeted with some cool temperatures and ugly winds. But you get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit as you can’t control the weather. Read on for the scoop.

8:38am – first bass and first swimbait catch

Date: May 1, 2021
Location: Knox County, IL public strip mines (6 lakes)
Time: 8:00am-12:35pm (4.00 hours fishing)
Weather: Sunny/very windy
Air Temp: 52-75F
Water Temp: not available
Totals: 11 bass
Lures: Bass Pro Shops Speed Shad (small mouth magic) with Berkley 3/0 weighted swimbait hook – 5 bass, Senko weighted wacky rig (pumpkin/black/green flake) – 2 bass, Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 2 bass, Zara Spook (natural frog) – 1 bass, Rapala Shad Rap (shad) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 1-11 Zara Spook
Top 5 Weight (only 4 at 12” or better): 5-2 (1-11,1-3,1-3,1-1)

9:02am – Top Bass 1-11 on a Zara Spook

Notes and Nonsense

Blow Away – The wind was crazy on this outing at 8:00am when I started casting and got stronger as the day progressed. Wind can be your friend in helping to position some fish, but that aspect wasn’t particularly pronounced on this outing. Wind can also be a challenge in hindering casting and maintaining a feel for some presentations. Like any day on the water, there are numerous variables to take into consideration and adapt accordingly. Fittingly, I also heard George Harrison’s 1979 Top 20 hit “Blow Away” on the drive to the fishing hole.

Taking my shot and joining the swimbait craze

New Trick – I struggled for about the first 40 minutes of casting with nary a bite, cycling through several solid, proven lures in the process. The chatterbait, Red Eye Shad lipless crankbait, a jig and craw and a Shad Rap had all failed to produce, so what to do next? Over the winter, I had picked up some Bass Pro Shops Speed Shads while visiting the business’ East Peoria, IL location. Despite being a challenging presentation in the high winds, I tied one on with a Berkley Fusion 19 3/0 hook and tried my luck. Several minutes later, I had my first bass of the day and first ever on such a lure.

The arsenal mixed new with old and older

Old Trick – In contrast, I later threw a Zara Spook, a lure that I first fished nearly 35 years ago. I had packed a couple along on this trip after reading many reports of a topwater bite while perusing several regional fishing groups on the internet. However, the strong winds weren’t exactly ideal for such a presentation. But stubbornness, faith in my lure and a bit of desperation at my lack of bites led to me giving it a shot. While I only caught one bass on the lure, it wound up being my Top Bass of the day. It was caught as a result of plenty of years of practice as I tried to fool a semi-interested bass. I spotted the fish on a shallow flat and it took a look at my first pass without committing. Therefore, I elected to increase the speed and commotion of my retrieve on the next cast in hopes of provoking a reaction bite as the faster moving lure doesn’t give the fish the luxury of a lengthier analysis. Right on cue, the bass struck the lure but missed getting hooked. Bingo, I knew the fish would bite and hoped another pass would result in better aim. The rapid, loud retrieve did the trick on cast number three and those 35 years of Zara Spook fishing paid off with a solid and rewarding catch.

10:38am – Top Bass Runner-Up 1-3 on swimbait

Same Old, Same Old – I ended my day on a spot that I call Maiden Lake as it is the first lake that I ever fished on this batch of strip mine waters. My largest bass on the lake was the first fish I ever caught there and came in just shy of two pounds. In the years since, all I have been able to manage during my occasional stops has been an endless parade of 8-11” bass. However, witnessing my brother, Brent, reel in a four-pounder last month sure got my attention. His catch proved that there was at least one quality fish that called it home and hopefully more as there is plenty of water. I spent close to an hour on a few stretches of windblown bank and guess what? Three bass between 8-11”, surprise, surprise. However, one of these less windy days with a bit of cloud cover, I’m going to put the old Zara Spook to work on Maiden Lake and see if that approach can weed out the little ones and get me some quality bites.

Interesting day with big sun and big wind as I made my way around a half dozen of my target lakes. Due to time constraints, I skipped over one other spot but overall was pleased with my gameplan and decision making during a morning where I had a time limit due to real life responsibilities. My brother later reported a near four-pounder on that spot but apparently in spawn mode as no interest in biting. Those bass are out there, just boils down to outsmarting them. Definitely an important aspect of what this fishing hobby is all about but always fun to get out there and take your shot no matter the results. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Last Saturday saw a tag team match of sorts on some strip mine stomping grounds that my brother and I fish. I was out in the morning and had texted him with an update only to find out that he had the same destination in mind for the afternoon. While we didn’t cross paths and physically tag off like a wrestling duo, we put up a good fight in the windy conditions to add a couple Top 5 catches.

Weight: 1-11
Angler: Troy Jackson
Date: May 1
Weather: Sunny/very windy
Location: Knox County, IL public strip pit
Lure: Zara Spook (natural frog)
Structure: Saddle/flat
Angler Comments: Spotted this fish and caught it on the third retrieve past its location. Tune back in for further details as the complete fishing report is coming your way later this week.
Top 5 Weight: 9-13 (3-1,1-13,1-11,1-10,1-10) culls a 1-1

Weight: 2-2
Angler: Brent Jackson
Date: May 1
Weather: Sunny/very windy
Location: Knox County, IL public strip pit
Lure: Senko wacky rig
Top 5 Weight: 14-8 (4-0,4-0,2-3,2-3,2-2) culls a 1-12

Hard to believe that it is May already but that bodes well for some fishing. The bluegill and crappie should be cooperative and for those who enjoy catching bass on topwaters and wacky rigs, those bites should be off and running. And it won’t be long before the area catfish move shallow to spawn on some moving waters. Truly a good time for multi-species anglers. Send ‘em my way when you catch ‘em. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback -April 27-28, 2006

April is a great time for a range of outdoor pursuits. Spring turkey season is on, morel mushrooms begin to appear, and the crappie bite kicks into full gear. Well, for today’s flashback, I guess two out of three ain’t bad as we head back 15 years with a couple special guests.

Both excerpts below come from an original post simply entitled “Outdoor Update” submitted on May 3, 2006.

April 27 – Dad called to say that he’d bagged his turkey this morning and wanted to show it off. I was more than happy to oblige although Helena wasn’t quite sure what to make of “the birdie.” I guess the real thing is a bit more intimidating than what she eats on a sandwich.

April 28 – I spent two hours mushroom hunting at Little John and found thirteen which is about normal as I must count individuals, not pounds. Julie and Helena came out for a picnic at suppertime, and we played on the swings and merry-go-round. One of us also got rather filthy in the sand. Of course, it was Helena as Julie’s not much on getting on the ground these days, as she might not be able to get back up being rather pregnant. As close as I got to playing in the sand was catching one of my two short bass off the beach at Club Lake.

Short and sweet today, just like that little girl on her way to the “terrible twos.” Luckily, that phase didn’t really materialize as best I recall and suddenly, she’s driving a car and approaching her final year of high school. Time indeed flies. Talk to you later. Troy

Strip Mine Report – April 24

Last weekend, things finally aligned to get some of the kids out for a fishing trip. Initially, the only taker was my older son, Jayce, when I inquired on Friday night. However, the following morning, my younger boy, Zac, surprised me with “When are we going fishing?” Turns out that his decision to join the crew likely made it a more successful outing as we fished and explored for nearly three hours. I believe that having a brother along made it more fun that just hanging out with Dad. And that’s just fine as I got a kick out of the pair wandering the bank with a GoPro in tow as I leisurely reeled in a batch of bluegill. Read on for the results and some observations.

Top Bass on a Senko wacky rig


Date: April 24, 2021
Location: Knox County, IL public strip mine
Time: 3:35pm-6:35pm
Weather: Partly cloudy/windy
Air Temp: 64F
Water Temp: not available
Totals: 42 bluegill, 3 bass, 1 crappie
Lures: Waxworms on a jighead hung from a slip bobber, Senko wacky rig
Top Bass: Jayce at 1-3

Bonus Stats
Drinks: 3 Mountain Dews, 2 Unsweetened Teas, 1 Dr. Pepper, 2 bottled waters
Grub: 2 Andy Capp Hot Fries, 2 orders of Buffalo Chicken strips, 2 orders of cheese curds, 1 shrimp basket, 1 order of onion rings, 1 pack of M&Ms


Notes and Nonsense

Antics and Chatter – Leading a pair of young boys on a fishing trip is, well, a trip. I observed a rendition of a portion of a Napoleon Dynamite dance as Zac apparently thought his boots were comparable to the movie character’s. I caught bits and pieces of a discussion on the outcome of a Spawn vs. Ghost Rider battle. We stumbled upon what were termed “polders”, a portmanteau of “pole” and “holders” that were actually crawdad holes. We dealt as best as we could with some funk in the cab of the truck as boots and shoes were ditched from achy feet. There were also a couple instances reminiscent of the Blazing Saddles campfire scene.

First known shot of a “polder”

We’ll Be Back – The boys had watched the original Terminator movie in the morning before we took off to the fishing hole. As a result, we were keeping our eyes open and evading the Schwarzenegger character on our adventure. First up, was a suspicious fellow on a motorcycle at the bait shop in Carbon Cliff. Various other cyclists crossed our path along with several fuel tankers and we also observed a pair of countryside fires that we suspected were his handiwork. Fortunately, we all came through unscathed. In reviewing the boys’ GoPro footage, I also became aware that Bigfoot was stalking us at some point. I guess what you don’t know can’t hurt you.


And the Winner is… – Zac was the bluegill champ and requested that I text Mom to “tell her that I caught two more bluegill than you.” Well, I eventually did convey that tidbit and now I share it with those who are reading along. A good boost of fishing confidence for the young fellow; bluegills are great for just such a thing.

Regardless of who caught the most fish, we were all winners on this trip. I was pleased with the boys’ effort in tackling a fifteen-minute walk to our fishing hole as well as their continued interest in getting some fresh air. In fact, they were all set to take another adventure lap around the lake before I informed them that it was best that we grab some supper and visit Grandma and Papa. Even fishing took a backseat to the latter prospect as the last year has been tough on all of us. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Another angler joins the quest with a bass from a weekend strip mine hike.

Weight: 1-3
Angler: Jayce Jackson
Date: April 24
Weather: Partly cloudy/windy
Location: Knox County, IL public strip pit
Lure: Senko wacky rig (white)
Angler Comments:
Top 5 Weight: 1-3 (1-3)

Since I was kind of playing fishing guide on this outing, I will look to post a full report soon. Talk to you later. Troy