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Heartland Outdoors February 2017 Cover


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Recent entries

Troy Jackson


Top 5 Update

Mon, March 27, 2017

Although the conditions this past weekend left a bit to be desired in West Central Illinois, a couple of us got out there and put in some work on the Top 5. 

Randy Bass

Weight: 4-11
Angler: Randy Sampson Sr.
Date: March 25
Location: West Central IL public water
Lure: Jig (crawdad) with pbj trailer
Angler Comments: You don’t often get a second chance on a fish like this.  Fishing a windblown shore I felt weight so I set the hook. I could tell it was a nice fish since it didn’t move. I saw a wide white flash and he was gone. Feeling I lost my best chance of the day I threw back in there. He picked the bait up again this time I hit him hard he bent my pole double at the boat.

Top 5 Weight: 16-3 (4-14,4-11,3-6,3-4)

Troy Bass

Weight: 1-12 (15.5”)
Angler: Troy Jackson
Date: March 26
Location: Little John Conservation Club
Lure: Jig (black/blue) with #11 pork frog (black/blue)
Structure: Point
Angler Comments: My first fish of the day came about 40 feet from where I fooled a six pounder three weeks ago.  Guess what was going through my mind in the split second between seeing the line move and setting the hook?

Troy Bass

Weight: 1-10 (15.5”)
Angler: Troy Jackson
Date: March 26
Location: Little John Conservation Club
Lure: Jig (black/blue) with #11 pork frog (black/blue)
Structure: Finger
Angler Comments: After two bumps in this spot I was figuring I might have a crappie messing with my jig but the third time was a charm and proved me wrong.

Troy Bass

Weight: 1-15 (16”)
Angler: Troy Jackson
Date: March 26
Location: Little John Conservation Club
Lure: Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad)
Structure: Overhanging bushes
Angler Comments: No takers on the jig after a couple casts parallel to a section of overhanging bushes so I figured what the heck and upped the speed of the presentation to find a winner.

Troy Bass

Weight: 1-3 (14”)
Angler: Troy Jackson
Date: March 26
Location: Little John Conservation Club
Lure: Jig (black/blue) with #11 pork frog (black/blue)
Structure: Laydown
Angler Comments: Textbook spot hopping the jig parallel to a laydown extending out from the bank into about 8’ of water, hit halfway back to the boat just like it was supposed to.

Top 5 Weight: 12-10 (6-2,1-15,1-12,1-10,1-3)
Note: Hope you’ll tune in for the fishing report from this outing later this week.

Twenty two bass submitted at present but only eight March fish to date.  Been a strange year though as February was pretty much the nicest month so far.  Long ways to go so keep ‘em coming and look to have a stat update hopefully next week.  Talk to you later.  Troy


Top 5 Update

Mon, March 13, 2017

So, nine days ago I took the sandbags out of the truck bed to make room for the little boat for my first fishing trip of the year with temps forecast to hit the low 50’s.  Then, one week ago tonight as the temps climbed into the 60’s, me, Julie and the four kids had an impromptu slumber party in the basement after being roused by the weather siren and tornado warnings about 10:00pm.  Yesterday the sandbags went back in the truck while anticipating 3-5” worth of snow.  Midwest spring weather at its finest.  But at least when the conditions were reasonable several of us managed to fool some bass.

Mark Bass

Weight: 3-0
Angler: Mark Balbinot
Date: March 4
Location: Fulton Co. Camping and Rec. Area – Little Sister Lake
Lure: Bill Norman Minnow Jerkbait (chartreuse with black back)
Water Temp: 48F
Structure: Stump in about 4’ of water

Top 5 Weight: 17-11 (5-2, 3-0, 4-2, 2-12, 2-11) culls 2-7

Link to Mark’s video of outing (cool as usual with an added bit of nostalgia):

Randy Bass

Weight: 3-6
Angler: Randy Sampson Sr.
Date: March 4
Location: West Central IL public water
Lure: Jig (crawdad) with pbj trailer
Angler Comments: Very windy colder than I thought it would be only caught 3 bass.

Top 5 Weight: 11-8 (4-14,3-6,3-4)

Troy Bass

Weight: 6-2 (22.5”)
Angler: Troy Jackson
Date: March 4
Location: Little John Conservation Club
Conditions: Air temp 48F, H2O temp 44F, sunny/windy
Lure: 3/8 oz. Jig (black/blue) with #11 pork trailer (black/blue)
Structure: Dropoff in a pocket with about 7’ of water
Angler Comments: About 25 minutes into my first outing of the year I got my first and only bite to date (details in last week’s fishing report).  All downhill from here I suppose…
Top 5 Weight: 6-2

Well it looks like a nasty week around here again before things take a turn for the better with some more favorable weather.  Even so, here’s hoping some can get out there and reel in some more additions.  Talk to you later.  Troy


Starting Lineup

Fri, March 10, 2017

With Spring Training in full swing, MLB clubs (including the World Champion Cubs) are working towards solidifying their starting lineups with Opening Day only a few weeks away.  Some spots are no brainers while others are up for grabs and will make for some tough decisions.
Such is the night before a fishing trip as well when I rummage around in the tacklebag to select the lures to tie on for the best shot at a winning outing.  And just like considering righty vs. lefty matchups, a hot bat or a successful track record against a particular hurler, more than a few variables come into play when choosing the winning tool to fool some bass.  Among the factors influencing the choices are season, weather, destination, history, confidence, recommendations from fellow anglers and yes, even some bad habits. 

So, just for fun and some more fishing stuff to write about I thought it would be cool to take a look at the “starting lineups” for some of this year’s trips.  Initially, I envisioned throwing out the posting featuring the lures prior to the outing and then having a follow-up on the results either in the subsequent fishing report or separate submission.  However, if you tuned in to the first report for 2017 posted earlier this week you already know the meager results in terms of quantity.  As always, this blog thing is pretty much a work in progress so this time around you get it all at once.

Date: Saturday March 4, 2017
Conditions: Sunny/windy (SE) with 48F air temp and 44F water temp at Little John Conservation Club with stained water (roughly 2.5’ visibility), first day of a forecasted warming trend that wound up pushed back a day and would eventually hit the mid 60’s on Sunday and Monday when I wasn’t able to fish.

Here’s the starting lineup for Opening Day 2017 where I managed seven poles in an eight-foot boat.


Strike King KVD 2.5 Rattling Squarebill Crankbait (pumpkinseed) – this largish squarebill may be a little much to start the year but I was basically hoping that a big fish would be tempted to grab a big meal but no such luck.
0 for 3 hours
Baseball comparison: John Kruk – stout in stature, steady in performance and one of the things I dig about baseball is you can look like a little rough around the edges and still be able to just plain get the job done.

Shad Rap

Rapala Shad Rap SR5 (silver) – actually went out and bought a couple new models of this bait after some early season success by Top 5 angler, Bruce Zilkowski, down on Newton Lake.
0 for 3
Baseball comparison: Paul Molitor – been around a long time, frequently flies under the radar or plays second fiddle but you looked up one day to find 3,319 hits.

Shadow Rap

Rapala Shadow Rap (moss back shiner) – sleek with flash, productive at speeds on both ends of the spectrum but I can never force myself to slow it down and get my money’s worth in cold water conditions.
0 for 3 (actually never made a cast with this bait)
Baseball comparison: Mickey Rivers – I swear this dude operated in slow motion looking like he could barely walk when nothing was happening on the field but once it was time to kick it into gear to run down one in the gap or steal a base the man could fly.

Jig and Pig

3/8 oz. Strike King Rattling Pro Model Jig (black/blue) with Uncle Josh #11 pork frog (black/blue) – my go to bait in cold water and sticky situations (beaver lodges, laydowns, brushpiles) comes through in the clutch yet again producing my only bite of the day.
1 for 3
Baseball comparison: George Brett – on the short list of guys who I would want at the plate when the chips are down, willing to get dirty and seemed to always come through, quite memorably in a sticky situation as well. 

Red Eye Shad

Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – another cold water favorite that can also hold its own throughout the year tangling with bass of all sizes, an ingenious mix of attention grabbing flash and noise that works quite well with what I call a “brainless’ retrieve; cast it out and crank it in.
0 for 3
Baseball comparison: Billy Martin – slight frame, plenty of commotion, “Red Eye” lifestyle and ready (no, eager) to take on anybody (see George Brett above as well as Reggie Jackson, Bert Campaneris…); brash and noisy, ingenious and brainless at the drop of a hat.


3/8 oz. Booyah Blade Spinnerbait (white/chartreuse) with twin tail trailer (salt & pepper) – bought this one prior to the trip as I was looking for a little more thump than my standard double willow leaf presentations provide when retrieved at a slow roll this early in the year.
0 for 3
Baseball comparison: George Scott – the bulk of this spinnerbait combined with the added thump of the blade combo just got me to thinking of the fellow they called “Boomer.”


3/8 oz. Fish Head Underspin (white) with 4” Keitech Swing Impact (electric shad) – this brand new bait comes on board courtesy of the outstanding success related by Top 5 angler Mark Balbinot. 
0 for 3
Baseball comparison: Ichiro Suzuki or Joe Charboneau – time will tell if this first year bait can parlay its potential into Legendary Lure status like the 2001 AL Rookie of the Year and future Hall of Famer Suzuki or will fade into oblivion like Charboneau who claimed the award in 1980.

So the bass tossed a one hitter against my formidable lineup but tough to decide who won in the end.  I’d have to say that the one hit was definitely a home run (or “tater” as George Scott used to say), perhaps even a Grand Slam.  Not sure what the equivalent of a hit by pitch, base on balls or booted grounder would be in fishing terms to load the bases but certainly a rewarding Opening Day on the water.  Here’s to the rest of a successful season and some more Starting Lineups along the way.  Talk to you later.  Troy


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