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Heartland Outdoors April 2017 cover


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Recent entries

Troy Jackson


Strip Mine Report 3/26

Thu, March 30, 2017

My initial 2017 outing back on March 4 produced only one bite but it was a good one to kick off the year and my Top 5 at just over six pounds.  Last Sunday I was able to work in a few more hours on the water despite being pretty sore from a family Spring Break finale trip to Dubuque’s Grand Harbor indoor water park.  Keeping pace with two little boys (ages 7 and 5) and one of their big sisters (age 10) was a workout.  Tromping around on concrete barefooted and dozens of trips on several waterslides over a couple days had this near 50-year old dad’s feet, calves, knees, back and neck all hollering.  We had a blast but when Julie asked at one point, “Are you having fun?” my reply was affirmative along with something about a chiropractor.  But when given the okay on a fishing trip for the next day I was feeling a bit spryer as chasing bass is good medicine.

Troy Bass
10:36 am First bass, Top 5 entry #2, 15.5” 1-12 Jig & pig (Note: you get the selfies for the fishing report as I used the “good” pics for this week’s Top 5 Update)

Date: March 26, 2017
Location: Little John Cons. Club/Snakeden Hollow
Time: 10:15am-1:15pm/2:15pm-3:45pm
Weather: Overcast/windy/occasional drizzle
Air Temp: 52F
Water Temp: 51-52F
Totals: 6 bass, 1 crappie
Lures: Jig & Pig (black/blue) with #11 pork frog (black/blue) – 4 bass, Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 1 bass, Ned Rig (electric shad) – 1 bass, 3/8 oz. Underspin (white) with 4” Keitech Swing Impact trailer (electric shad) – 1 crappie
Top Bass: 1-15 Strike King Red Eye Shad
Top 5 Weight: 7-7 (1-15,1-12,1-10,1-3,0-15)

Troy Bass
11:57am Top 5 entry #3 15.5” 1-10 Jig & pig

Troy Basss
12:10pm Top Bass, Top 5 entry #4 16” 1-15 Lipless Crankbait

Notes & Nonsense

Conditions – While the forecast looked halfway decent when checking the weather on Saturday night, it never quite lived up to the prediction.  Instead, it wound up cooler, windier and wetter than what was offered up by those in the know.  Fortunately, the drizzle never amounted to enough to actually get you wet, I packed an anchor to beat the wind and I never lost feeling in my fingers despite hauling that anchor up at least half a dozen times.  A handful of decent bass always make the weather better as well.

First Stop - Not surprisingly, I started my morning at the Little John lake where I landed my lunker to kick off 2017.  Interior road conditions were iffy and water clarity was more stained than usual so it seemed that the area had received a fair amount of rain.  Apparently the rain originally slated for my neighborhood wound up materializing more to the south, which is just fine, regardless of what it does to my fishing holes.  No heavyweights to report on this day but quite pleased with my haul of four solid bass to fill out my Top 5 as well as a bonus crappie as the first fish ever landed on an Underspin lure.

Troy Crappie
11:25am Bonus 11” crappie, first fish to fall to an Underspin lure

Troy Bass
12:31pm Top 5 complete 14” 1-3 Jig & pig

Second Stop – After a lap around my starting point I drove by a couple other Little John fishing holes and found the water clarity left a bit to be desired so I elected to head for a pair of early season Snakeden producers that are reliably clearer.  These spots that I refer to as The Craters were the sites for my first bass each year from 2012-2014, the latter of which was the last time I had paid a visit to these fishing holes.  These are walk-in spots with the upside that they do not lie far off the beaten path so just right for having about an hour and a half left of my fishing day.  The downside is there are only about half a dozen spots where an angler can get close enough to the water to cast and even then you’ve got to watch out for weeds and branches as you load up to cast, suits a spinning rig much better than a baitcaster in most spots. Anyway, two of my spots gave up a bass, both in pretty cool fashion as described in the final two notes to follow.

Troy Bass
3:21pm 12.5” 0-15 no boost to the Top 5 but a fun catch and about as close to sight fishing as I get as detailed below.  The surroundings also give a bit of a feel for the somewhat confined casting space on the bulk of the North Crater.

Consider, Commit, Caught – My first Snakeden catch came on the North Crater after I cast my jig and pig as best I could in the limited casting space out beyond some overhanging bushes.  I had worked the lure most of the way back when I spied a decent bass cruising just under the surface pretty much directly over my jig which remained out of view in deeper water.  Concealed by a barrier of cattails in front of me I gently gave the jig a few small twitches and saw the bass turn as if considering lunch.  Another light twitch brought my jig into view in about 4’ of water and the bass nosed down to take a look.  One more short drag of the jig talked the bass into committing as I watched my line and the fish move off to my left.  A hookset confirmed that the jig was also moving along with the fish and I wound up with a pretty cool catch.

Ned Rig
Ned Rig - 1/16 oz. Arkie DeD Stand-Up Finesse Head (green pumpkin) with the tail end of a beat up Senko for a body (electric shad).  A bit of contrast in the colors but the only damaged Senko I had and too cheap to rip up a new one.  It is a cool concept though to get some more mileage out of the Senkos as they typically rip in the middle leaving the end in good shape for this rig.  In addition, I purchased some cheaper knockoff wacky style worms for this purpose but accidentally forgot to pack them, maybe next time.

Meet Ned – I’ve been reading the magazines and viewing some internet videos that give high marks to an unassuming setup called the “Ned Rig” (named for the fellow who made it popular).  As shown above, Ned cracked the starting lineup today and came through as what I would call a follow-up bait, kind of like a pinch hitter or pinch runner, I suppose (Manny Mota or Herb Washington, perhaps).  So, I worked my jig along a laydown and had a bass follow up until the point that I was running out of water a couple feet shy of the bank.  The fish seemed to lose interest and disappeared back into deeper water out of sight.  However, I suspected that he was still around as a possible Ned candidate.  I left my jig in the water as is customary when not using in order to keep the pig moist and cast Ned well beyond where I estimated my target was looming.  Letting the rig settle to the bottom I slowly began to drag it back and right on cue got the bite where it was supposed to be.  Only an 11” bass (smallest of the day) but first on the Ned Rig and always a treat when the bass make you look like you know what you are doing. 

A good day on the water in my estimation and while no early season lunkers got fooled I was certainly happy to land some quality fish to complete my Top 5.  Of course, plenty of room for improvement with my second largest bass at 1-15, but that’s all part of the fun as the year progresses.  Think about it, who would want go out and catch a limit of five-pounders the first time out and then struggle the rest of the year to boost your weight?
Well, maybe…

Looks like the end of March fishing for me but hoping to get out on foot in April and need to start ticking off some of my resolutions as well.  One other note, don’t forget to get your new Illinois fishing license if you haven’t done so already, only a couple days left.  Best of luck and talk to you later.  Troy



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


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