Thursday, March 02
My running total spreadsheet now shows that I have taken my shot at some fish on 137 different bodies of water over the last 20 years.
Sounds kind of impressive on the surface, could make you think, “Wow this guy must be some kind of world traveler or something.”
Not even close. In fact, all but three of those bodies of water are in my home state of Illinois. The latest outsider happens to be Lost Grove Lake in Scott County, Iowa and I just added that one to my list last year.
Nope, I’m pretty much a homebody with most all of my haunts barely over an hour drive from my current residence in the Quad Cities. Prior to moving up here from Galesburg a few years back, my fishing holes were even closer to home with most being only about 25 minutes on the road. While some may not find my stomping grounds very exotic, I consider myself quite fortunate to have so many “local” fishing holes at my disposal. If there is such a thing as a drawback to such access, it is simply having too many to choose from sometimes. A nice problem to have and many a day I have wound up kicking myself over a decision, lamenting, “Boy, I should have gone to (fill in the blank) instead.” Not a complaint, mind you, simply part of fishing in my world.
Got lots of stories about my haunts, of course, as each spot has provided adventures, revealed secrets and shared what I like to call “personality” but whatever intimate details I would be willing to provide will have to wait for another time. Today, we focus on the numbers and a little background on several fishing holes, so here we go.
Note: The First Bass noted on several fishing spots that follow simply represents my first bass from the last 20 years as several lakes have been targets going back to the 80’s. Last Bass for several locations is simply the last caught in 2016 while a few other spots are no longer accessible. Top Bass and Top 5 Weight includes those caught by myself and/or fishing partners from 1997 to present.
IRAP Knox County (2013-2016) – public access
Bass/hour: 10.6 (305 bass in 28.75 hours)
First Bass: 5/27/13 6:44pm 16.5” 1-14 Buzzbait
Last Bass: 9/18/16 6:10pm 11” Buzzbait
Top Bass: 4-6 (20”) Troy Jackson 4/12/14 4:58pm Jig
Top 5: 20-8(4-6,4-3,4-2,4-0,3-13) along with brother, Brent
Notes: Four years of casting at this walk-in only site has been quite productive flying solo or hiking with my brother and hauling bass out of 18 different lakes/potholes. But it takes some work and determination to brave the tall weeds, lack of trails, uneven terrain and hordes of mosquitoes in season. Limited access is also a factor with availability only April-September, Friday to Monday and a permit obtained online required for visitors. Looking forward to another adventure or two this year, likely early before the weeds and skeeters get out of control.
Lake Bracken (1997-2008) – private access
Bass/hour: 2.25 (724 bass in 321.75 hours)
First Bass: 4/28/97 6:44pm 13” Mepps
Last Bass: 6/16/08 10:59am 15” 1-13 Zoom Baby Brush Hog
Top Bass: 5-1 (22”) Troy Jackson 9/18/99 1:33pm Mann’s Baby 1- Crankbait
Top 5: 23-12 (5-1,5-0,4-10,4-9,4-8) with Dad
Notes: I actually first fished this location in the early 80’s but the focus for this batch of stats is the last 20 years. From 1994 through 2002, Lake Bracken was actually my backyard although I probably didn’t take full advantage of such easy access, a different time. Gave up access in 2003 and Dad ceded his membership in 2008. A lot of good fish stories from the location over the years and pretty cool what you learn when you live on a lake. Low pressure was also a treat as more days than not I had the 170 acre lake all to myself.
Lake Storey (1997-2016) – public access
Bass/hour: 0.89 (202 bass in 227.5 hours)
First Bass: 9/18/97 8:01am 13.5” 1-4 Zara Spook
Last Bass: 9/19/16 12:15pm 9” Strike King Squarebill Crankbait
Top Bass: 4-8 (20.5”) Troy Jackson 9/30/07 Zoom Baby Brush Hog
Top 5: 21-0 (4-8,4-7,4-6,4-0,3-11) with Dad, Brent
Notes: Me and Lake Storey go back a lot farther than the 20 years represented here and it can be a tough lake to crack, which to me is a big part of the fun (and so are toothy mistakes from the quality muskie and walleye population). Always a challenge and I suppose the lake has the upper hand over the years but I still feel a sense of accomplishment each time I land another of its wary bass. Tough to pick my favorite fishing hole of all-time but having gotten to know this spot quite well it would certainly be a front runner. It was always a treat to hear some locals gripe that “there’s no fish in Lake Storey” as I’ve come to know better, just takes some work.
Little John Conservation Club (1997-2016) – private access
Bass/hour: 2.42 (972 bass in 401 hours)
First Bass: 3/21/97 5:04pm 11” Spinnerbait
Last Bass: 11/11/16 2:19pm 11” Senko wacky rig
Top Bass: 8-4 Tim Townsend (former brother in law) 4/4/00 Jig
Top 5: 30-8 (8-4,5-13,5-10,5-9,5-4) with Tim
Notes: This site includes catches from 13 different lakes and access dates back to 1987 when Dad first gained membership. Sometime in the early to mid-90’s I was selected in a blind draw for membership via a recommendation from Dad and to this day we continue to learn more secrets and parlay them into some more solid catches. The former strip mine area features a wide range of structure ranging from prototype V cuts to fingers, humps, points and chutes and is rarely inhabited by other anglers.
Snakeden Hollow (1997-2016) – public access
Bass/hour: 2.28 (564 bass in 247.75 hours)
First Bass: 6/1/97 4:22pm 11.5” Buzzbait
Last Bass: 10/9/16 3:48pm 8.5” Lipless Crankbait
Top Bass: 4-15 Brent Jackson 4/12/15 Jig
Top 5: 19-14 (4-15,4-1,3-15,3-9,3-6) with Brent
Notes: This former strip mine area opened to the public in 1990 and I was actually working a temp job at the site at the time and wet a line a few times at work as sort of a research project I guess you’d say. Brent and I had actually fished the site in 1987 with a friend who had some connections and just killed the bass, a real eye opener for a couple teenagers just beginning to expand our bass fishing horizons and tackleboxes. 32 different lakes/potholes have contributed to this collection of bass and there’s still other’s that I haven’t fished even after all of these years. Another site that takes some work and ingenuity as only Lake McMaster has a ramp, the rest are walk-in but the exercise has sure paid off over the years.
Emiquon Preserve (2009-2013) – public access
Bass/hour: 4.29 (460 bass in 107.25 hours)
First Bass: 9/2/09 2:15pm 12.5” 1-1 Crankbait
Last Bass: 7/25/13 8:58am 16” 1-10 Creature bait
Top Bass: 7-3 (23.5”) Troy Jackson 9/2/09 Crankbait
Top 5: 21-15 (7-3,4-11,3-8,3-5,3-4)
Notes: This place opened up in April 2009 and the bass fishing was just insane. I made 18 trips to the spot and most days it was what I call “laugh out loud” fishing as we literally laughed aloud at the crazy bass bite. Several doubles on one lure, three fish in the boat between two anglers, freakish guts on some odd looking bass, my personal best of all-time, 100+ fish days between myself and Dad or Brent. I actually quit fishing one evening just to watch Brent and see if he could hit the century mark. We set a time limit to allow us to get back to the boat ramp before dark and he called it quits as we’d decided while sitting on 98 bass, probably the coolest fishing exhibition I have ever witnessed. It still brings a smile recalling him kicking himself for taking time to eat a sandwich that evening. Out of the 460 bass I landed over those five seasons, an incredible 404 were 12” or better. Folks, that’s 88% of a pretty substantial sample size that were what I call “keepers” or “quality fish”, just incredible. Sure sounds like fish stories and it certainly made for plenty to blog about as I posted 35 entries about that wild fishing hole during its heyday.
I don’t know about anybody else but a trip down Memory Lane when it comes to your stomping grounds just makes me feel good. Of course, even a somewhat longwinded blog entry barely scratches the surface when it comes to the last 20 years on the water. Just can’t beat fish stories, regardless of who’s catching ‘em or how well they’re biting. Back for one more installment with a look inside The Record Book up for tomorrow. Talk to you later. Troy
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