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Heartland Outdoors February 2017 Cover


March 2017
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Recent entries

Troy Jackson


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


Strip Mine Report 3/4

Wed, March 08, 2017

Let’s just say that this whole first bass thing has gotten a little ridiculous the last couple years.  Quality fish to kick off the year in 2015 (first bass 5-13) and 2016 (second bass 5-9) both wound up being my Top Bass for those respective years, pretty wild stuff.  Those fortunate catches still sound like fish stories even now as I type this up and perhaps I too would struggle to believe some goofy blogger.  That is, if I weren’t the guy with the front row seat. 

So, how did 2017 get started?

Well, just for fun, I’m gonna keep you in suspense for several paragraphs before the reveal (no peeking ahead, okay).


Date: March 4, 2017
Location: Little John Conservation Club
Time: 2:30pm-5:30pm
Weather: Sunny/windy
Air Temp: 48F
Water Temp: 44F
Totals: 1 bass
Lures: Jig & Pig (black/blue) with #11 pork frog (black/blue) – 1 bass
Top Bass: the only bass landed
Weight: stay tuned below

Notes & Nonsense

Company – As I pushed my boat into the lake, another pair of anglers arrived and I had a decision to make when faced with sharing water.  The location lends itself to a couple options that I’ll just call a right turn or a left turn.  Both directions have been productive over the years so it was not necessarily an easy decision on which portions of the lake to give up.  I chose to take the figurative left and fate was on my side, winding up with no regrets or second guesses at the end of the day.

Jig and pig
The black and blue jig and pig, an old cold water companion.

Old Faithful – Now the “Old’ part of Old Faithful is certainly apt when it comes to the pork trailer on my trusty black and blue jig and pig setup.  I have no idea how old this piece of pig really is or how many bass it has fooled but it has been through the wringer as I am about as frugal as it gets when it comes to fishing stuff.  The above photo shows the rig from above where it looks pretty normal.  However, the photo below shows the pig portion flipped over to reveal how much it is chewed up and faded.  I’m sure some of those Bassmaster sorts would cringe or shake their heads at my unsophisticated presentation but it fooled another fish and yes, I put it back in the old weathered jar for next time once I decided to call it a day.

Jig and pig
Add another fish story to this battered bait.

Perseverance – On these early season days I go out with the mindset of getting one bite knowing that the conditions are such that it is unlikely I will be greeted by a steady stream of bass coming into the boat.  A week long batch of cold weather, southeast wind, 44 degree water temps and a warm-up not forecast until the overnight meant it could be a challenging day but I was definitely glad to finally get on the water.  I made my first stop at a productive area which allowed fancasting to a number of spots that have cooperated in the past.  I spent 20 minutes anchored where I chose to start and fired away with the jig and pig, slow rolled spinnerbait, squarebilled crankbait, Shad Rap and underspin with a swimbait trailer all without so much as a bite.  Finally, the jig and pig paid off with a bump and a slight sideways movement of the line prompting me to shake the winter rust and set the hook.  Initially, I felt I had a decent fish but a dive near the boat left me wondering just how decent this fish was truly going to be.  When it surfaced, rolled and shook its head, it was obvious that I had something pretty special. 

Troy Bass
2:57 pm 2017 First Bass 22.5” 6-2 Jig and pig (black/blue)

Details – At 6-2, this fish was my first ever in the six-pound range and my second largest bass ever landed.  As such it pretty much broke every personal record with the exception of largest crankbait bass.  In addition, it got my 2017 Top 5 off to a pretty good start, doubt I’ll be culling this one when it’s all said and done.

Unsung Hero
Gotta include a pic of the day’s unsung hero, without this there’s no chance to properly work over a spot in windy conditions while looking for that one bite.

Aftermath – During one of my recent “20 Years of Stats” postings I included some comments about the elusive six-pounder and one fish that “might have been.”  Fortune was smiling on me five days later on the first outing of 2017 as I had now caught and released the bass that I’d chased after for a long time.  After a brief weigh-in, photo session and texts to Julie, Brent and Mom and Dad I just sat for several minutes letting it sink in.  Maybe a little over the top, sappy or cheesy but those three ounces better than the 5-15 bass on my ledger from February 2002 sure meant a lot to this angler.  Sure, many reading this posting have bigger personal bests, and I do too, but the six-pound monkey is now off my back. 

After my catch I really didn’t care how the rest of the day panned out.  Good thing too, as I never got another bite.  Talk to you later.  Troy



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