Well this write up is well overdue but I have very little fishing to report on. I took a vacation to try and get my house wrapped up and have nearly reached that goal! I’m about to finish up on a cedar deck that wound up being much bigger than I had originally planned. This heat is taking its toll on me with the 12 hour work days and I never thought I’d be able to say I’m ready to get back to the post office for a bit. Between buying lumber, fishing supplies, and dropping a little coin on a couple of dates I’m just about tapped again. I have a back to back rend weekend series involving 2 tournament trails and am finally looking forward to them as I’ve not had my head in the game the last couple of small events. I have a friend (my age) who’s currently fighting for his life out in Phoenix as I type. He was diagnosed with a form of lung cancer that is tough to beat. He had a major scare 2 nights ago as he was taken in with pneumonia and hospice was called in. He’s fighting with all he has and I can only hope that he pulls through. The guy seemed as healthy as could be and he never smoked which makes the case very peculiar to even the doctors. You just NEVER know. Also family came in for a visit which is always nice!
I fished the Tuesday nighter on Benton lake by myself as I got a call from Hef 15 minutes before we were supposed to head out that he had to go to the E.R. because a family member had gotten sick. All is ok though so we will be back to yelling at each other next week. I ended up taking my dog Toby since I haven’t had him out on the lake in a couple of months and you could tell that he was very grateful. Dogs are amazing to watch, they ALWAYS live in the present. Not the past or the future. They are always in the moment and are just happy to be with you. You can’t ask for more than that. The fish didn’t cooperate for me as I only snagged one keeper along with a few shorts but I’m very happy to say that my usual partner (Ryan) and his boy Mace took first place for his son’s first win! Awesome!
The next night Ryan and I went up to Rend the fish the Wednesday nighters they hold up there during the summer months. The lake had dropped almost 16 inches since I’d last been up there which can be interesting. We went flying to places to fish that were completely out of the water. With an hour and a half to go we finally made it into Gun Creek. Our first few spots came up dry but one that always produces for us came through only the fish was an inch short. With our last hour we were able to catch back to back fish on a rock island, first being me with one that would go 13 inches on a 10inch worm, then Ryan caught one on a shaky head that was just shy of 4lbs. After circling the island we went toward another rock bank which Ryan pulled another keeper off of and then a short. Right before dark I was able to get a small fish to take my buzz bait but it wasn’t enough as I had zeroed for the night.
When we got to the weigh in I had high hopes that our fish would be big bass and we might even catch a 3rd place finish. Our big fish went 3.71lbs and our total was around 6lbs. Several people came to the scales empty handed so we were correct in thinking it was a tough night not just for us. Unfortunately for us though we had the lead and big bass with only 6 bags left to weigh. 5 of the 6 bags had us beat and the very last to weigh in had a fish that went 3.80lbs 🙁 (that’ll take the wind out of the sails pretty quick). Overall the only regret I have of this tournament was not coming up the prior day to check the water level and see what structure would best suit us but other than that we came awful close to another money finish!
6th place 5.95lbs
2 Tuesdays ago we had a fish off at the West Frankfort City lake and I was unable to find a partner. Hef and Ryan were in Florida with their families, another was in Michigan, and the other was working a fire shift. Being by myself I decided to use a primary strategy of trolling motor on constant crankbaiting so that I could pick up any aggressive fish with a secondary pattern of flipping visible structure when I came to it. My final approach would be throwing a very large spook hoping to get a big bite when the sun went down. Around my 5th or 6th cast with my crankbait I tried to do a barrel roll style cast under a hanging limb along some riprap when my bait skimmed the surface of the water causing a day ending backlash and limiting me to my secondary strategy which I honestly needed a 2nd person in the boat to help. I depended on a 10″ worm and only was able to get 2 bites in the first 2 hours of which I only buttoned up with one small keeper. While flipping I spotted what looked like a bass that had busted the top so I immediately casted to it with the top water bait. At the very end of the cast my braid line snapped running my spool to near nothing so I was back to using only one pattern. I immediately fired up the motor to fish a favorite spot and ran through a speedboats wake when I took one wave like a rookie shooting my front seat straight up and down on to my flipping stick that I’ve had for over 10 years snapping it instantly. With 0 poles left to fish with I decided it was time to go.
The following Sunday Ryan and I got back to my favorite lake on Earth (Rend) with a solid game plan of attack 2 days prior to a large cold front. To my surprise the fish were not active whatsoever at dawn. We covered a ton of water in the first hour only landing one small fish that Ryan swung in behind my top water so we decided to slow down and go to the bottom. My weapon of choice was the 10″ powerworm and I began getting bit on it really well but as with the week before with Jeremy the fish were not hanging on to the bait. I’d either swing and miss on very solid bites or the fish would just thump it and drop. We made our way to one of my favorite points in Gun Creek and on the backside I flipped up against a downed willow limb. My line ran off and I was able to hook up with keeper number 1. He just barely made the 14″ limit and I knew we would have to cull him out later. Keeper # 2 didn’t come for another hour as we ran down to the Gun Creek bridge and Ryan hooked up with another 14″ coming off a shaky style bait. I knew that a limit could be caught off the bridges and looking back we should’ve stayed on them taking advantage of the post spawn females traveling through to rest and catch a meal but the one thing we mutually love is to flip bushes. We headed back up toward interstate 57 when I told Ryan we should head over to a bank that has been incredibly consistent at producing at least one keeper. It took only 5 or 6 casts before my worm ran off again, I swung, and landed our 3rd keeper but once again it was just another small male that had finished guarding fry. We got down to the very end of the stretch when Ryan loaded up on a keeper fish but wrapped it into a bush. The fish was completely out of the water so we could see it looked like a 15″ but I was unable to troll us over in time to collect it and it fell off. We weren’t too worried because we were certain we could get a limit and knew we needed bigger fish than that anyways so we proceeded to some deeper water with laydowns to see if some post spawn females had moved out to them. We had plenty of bites including 3 in a row that I missed, I had had enough and went to my Jig which I rarely miss on. After boating a couple more small fish I saw an isolated floating lay down that I flipped on the back side of. My first raise of the rod tip told me a fish was on there but I felt him drop it. I raised the jig back up just under the surface and saw the bass come back off the limb and inhale my bait. This is always the best scenario as there is no way it can feel you until you stick him. He went just barely over 14″ as well so we are sitting with 4 fish and around 5lbs…Pathetic. We decided in the last hour we were going to abandon Gun Creek and make a long run up to the very north end of the lake up by Waltonville to a stretch of bushes that has always produced for us and more times than not a better quality fish. It didn’t take long after flipping into a bush on a point in the wind when I felt that perfect “thump” this fish turned out to be our kicker but unfortunately it was just around 3lbs. We fished hard up until the end but couldn’t come up with anymore keepers so we had to come back to the scales with a light load. If I was to do it over again I would’ve stuck to the bridges but hindsight is brutal. 5 fish 8.25lbs 11th place
Last Tuesday I reunited with the Hef and we chose to fish lake Hamilton as opposed to our other option of Benton. Hamilton receives less pressure and seems to have bigger fish but locating them is always a challenge. We started off with Hef throwing top water and me throwing a Jigs,then a spinnerbait, then a crankbait, then a buzzbait, then a swimbait, then a pogo shad, then a swimjig…everything I could think of and neither one of us could buy a bite. I can honestly say I’ve never fished one of these without getting a bass bite but Murphy’s law decided it was time. The only entertainment came in the very last hour. We spotted Richard Baker and his Uncle in a cove less than 50 yards away from us. Richard was showing off the guns with his shirt off so Hef said “If he’s going shirtless than I can too”. He peeled that off and I’m sure that someone will claim they spotted Big Foot out at lake Hamilton. I told him “Why don’t you just take your pants off while your at it?” If you know Hef at all you’re aware that he’s the last to back out of something so this was no problem. He lays his pole down strips down to his skin tight blues and roles them up like a thong and goes back to fishing. So there is Hef fishing with just a hat, thong, and flip flops. Baker hadn’t heard or seen us so I yelled over to him if they had caught any fish. He turns around and mid sentence spots Hef and begins rolling laughing to the point I think he’s going to fall out of the boat. He ended up flipping one fish over his boat due to concentration. I have a funny feeling the fish lost their appetite for the next several days.
It was great to finally get to fish another tournament on Rend which I consider my home lake. With Hef and Ryan being in Florida for the week I was able to get Jeremy Richardson to fish the Lunker Buster event. I was really excited (too excited perhaps) to fish and I didn’t get but a couple hours of sleep which can be bad for the concentration required in this sport, and it was, but thank God Jeremy brought his game.
We blasted off to Gun Creek where we determined we would spend the entire event. After running down a stretch of rocks fishing top water and only landing one small fish we opted to see if fish had gathered in the bushes. A large charity tournament had taken place the day before so the fish were already used to trolling motor props buzzing by their heads making it a bit difficult to coax them into biting. Once we got into the bushes everything fell completely apart. I flipped into the back of a tree when my line went heavy. I set the hook only to have my line snap right back at me. I’m still puzzled on how this even happened since it was brand new line just spooled on and I always tie good knots. When that gets in the back of your mind things tend to snowball. I spotted a very small stick standing up next to the boat, flipped in and immediately set the hook. This time the line held but I pulled the fish into the root of the brush causing it to tangle. It felt very heavy and we tried to get down to it but once again my line shot back at me leaving nothing but a big boil from where a fish had out foxed me. We would go onto catch a few small fish when I said that it was time to run to another stretch of bushes. We get there and a few flips in my line darts off so quickly I can barely catch up. This time I button up with it and drag it toward the boat. I can see it’s just shy of 3 lbs. telling Jeremy to get the net but it was all for not as it pulled off right at the trolling motor. If this isn’t enough less than 5 minutes later Jeremy throws into a buck brush sets the hook and brings a 4 lbs. bass to the top only to watch it spit out his jig as he only had it by the trailer.
I live by the belief that if you lose one or two fish on Rend it’s going to be next to impossible to limit out. You’d have to get pretty damn lucky but like I said Jeremy brought his game. We decide to leave the bush bite alone for a little bit as the wind had picked up blowing down a stretch of rocks. After 10 minutes or so of fishing I feel the weight shift in the back of the boat and hear Jeremy set the hook and all I hear is “NET”!!! I look back to see a bend in his rod that you just don’t see around here so my first thought is it has to be a catfish or possibly a drum, but no it was a pig of a bass! Jeremy played it text book perfect and brought her right to the net for me to scoop her up. I guessed the fish at 7 and a half pounds while his guess was 8. From there on we got the ball rolling. He caught another a short time later but it was just shy of 2 lbs. and then I was able to finally contribute when I caught one roughly the same size. We stayed in the area another 30 minutes before we decided it was time to go try something else. We shot off under the Interstate 57 bridge and headed towards one of my better spots. We didn’t even sit the trolling motor in the water as it was a pitch and go kind of spot. I threw in and the line flickered on me, I set and into the boat comes a 3 lbs. bass! it’s only around 11:00 a.m. with 3 hours to go so we felt really good about our chances to win. We caught a few small fish and wasn’t able to finally catch our 5th and final fish right outside sailboat harbor until Jeremy did at 1:40 giving us another close call.
At the weigh-in our kicker weighed in at 7.62 lbs. which was the largest bass I’d ever seen come from this lake. With the 4 added on it gave us a total weight of 15.97lbs good enough for first place and big bass. I’m not really sure what to think about the tournament even as I sit here and type this. On one hand we made every blunder possible in the early going all but taking us out of the tournament but in a flash one lucky bite saves the day and helps us put it together. I enjoyed fishing with Jeremy as his strengths off-set my weaknesses when it comes to rock fishing so the other hand says that we would be competitive regardless and it helps to have that lucky kicker fish. But as the saying goes… I’d rather be lucky than good any day!
15.97 lbs Big bass (7.62lbs.) First Place
First I apologize for not posting on here recently. To my surprise (albeit delightful) I’ve actually had a few people comment about the blog being updated. I am able to track and see if people are reading it and the numbers show that at least somebody is reading, Hi Mom! I launched this site knowing full well that I was still trying to finish up building my house and taking this business around to other small businesses to promote so my time has been severely limited. The house should be done in July and I’m ecstatic about that! It’s been going on for 4 years and I’m ready to invite some people over and prepare a home cooked meal for them. This business is purposely being built slowly as I transition from my very secure job to one of complete uncertainty and high risk. I only fished 2 tournaments in the past week but was very pleased with the results even though they didn’t produce checks, I’m certain over the long haul they will pay off.
Hef and I fished our 2nd Lunker Buster on Crab Orchard lake which is one I’m completely unfamiliar with. We managed to get a practice day in on Memorial Day and actually were able to locate a cove that held fish and replenished. The size was the only thing but we caught several fish around the 14-16 inch area. On tournament day we blasted off and started in that area. 30 minutes in we had caught a few 14 to 15 inch fish but on Crab the limit is 16 inches. About 45 minutes in I flipped a jig into a laydown and on my first pull I felt my line being drug under the tree. I slammed the fish and told Hef to get the net and we boated the 16 incher. The next hour consisted of a lot of fish being caught but none really close to what we were needing. I should also mention that before the tournament it was announced that there would only be a 3 fish limit as opposed to the regular 5. We circled back around and I picked up one of my favorite spinnerbaits brand new and slung it along a log running straight at the boat with a perfect amount of wind on it. As I reeled in I saw a 4lbs bass come up to the bait and attack the back side of it but miss, then come right back at it and try again but missed. My heart sank. I brought the bait up and looked at it and it’s when I noticed two rookie mistakes I had made. One I hadn’t used a trailer hook to take advantage of short strikes (which this wasn’t). Two I hadn’t trimmed the skirt on my spinnerbait back as it was the first time I had thrown it. Often times when you have a custom made spinnerbait the person making it will leave the skirt extra long so that you can adjust the bait to your liking. This particular skirt hung back at least 2 inches from my hook revealing why I was unable to hook up with the fish. Hef and I decided to run back to grassy bay which was one of the few places I knew on the lake. We caught a few more short fish swimming jigs over grass mats that were located just off of the bank. After getting into the corner of grassy we found a little pocket which looked incredible especially with a nice ripple moving into the bottleneck. First cast with a jig a bass attacked it as soon as it hit the top of the water as if I’d thrown a buzzbait on top of its head. This fish had a ton of fight in it and I knew it had to be a good one because Hef was tripping over the net trying to find it again. After boating it I guessed the fish to be 3lbs plus and said to open the lievwell, when it was pointed out to me that the fish didn’t look like it would bump. I laughed and said “ya right” but after putting it up against the bump board I was shocked to see that the chunk only came in at 15 1/4 inches making it not even close!!! I’ve never seen a fish of this size be so short in my life and was completely bummed. If that wasn’t bad enough, Hef had started throwing my spinnerbait and just a couple of casts in buried the hook into a VERY big fish. The line snapped almost immediately and I looked back to see if the fish would try to come up to shake out the bait but instead I saw what looked to be a catfish come up and go back down. Hef still swears it was a bass and if he’s correct than it was a 7 pounder.
The rest of the day went on with little more excitement and we came to the weigh in to see an 11lbs bag weigh in for first. I wasn’t upset at all since I knew we had put ourselves in the best position possible to win and we were able to pick up the pattern almost immediately. This should go as a huge reminder… Always check your gear, and if you even think you have a line frey RETIE!!!!!!!!
Our 2nd tournament was a “Tuesday Nighter” at Benton/Hamilton lakes just North of Benton Illinois. These run from 5:00 to 8:30 and are a great time with a bunch of laid back anglers but just about all are sticks. We chose to fish the smaller lake of the two (Hamilton) and decided that topwater would be the best approach. I threw a buzzbait and popper while the Hef threw a spook. Now mind you the Crab tournament I caught 10 plus bass to Hef’s 1 and he was feeling the burn. His redemption came this night as he caught the first 5 or 6 fish of the evening before I was able to boat one. We put the trolling motor on high and covered as much water as possible and caught a lot of fish having a blast but only came to the scales with 2 fish. The keeper Hef caught was actually a nice one but wouldn’t take big bass. We talked to 3 different boats all of which said they couldn’t even get small bites but since we’d picked up the pattern early I have to estimate that we caught 11 or 12 fish but once again came up just short in size. I have to admit that Hef is picking up bass fishing at an incredible pace and he really seems to enjoy it.
Our next tournament will be another Tuesday Night at the West Frankfort Old Lake. I really don’t have high expectations for that place as it goes dormant in the summer and very few keeper size bass are brought in but as a very common saying is at any bass tournament… “Somebody’s got em”
Ryan and I fished a circuit event today on the big nasty hoping to extend a winning streak but Rend had other ideas. The lake had been fished hard the previous day with another popular tournament trail, and one of the largest trails was launching the same time out of Sailboat Harbor. With 70 boats on the water at a minimum bass fishing and the fish population on Rend being down we knew it would be a mentally and physically tough tournament. I actually prefer these over the big feeds where anyone can pull up to the bank and catch fish dragging anything and everything.
Our plan was pretty basic for the time of year. We would use transition locations for spawning females with deeper water connected to pockets and after fishing them, we’d troll up into the pockets looking for males guarding fry. This was the same plan used to get a win the weekend before and is a proven method until the fish begin their summer patterns.
Ryan and I launched out of Golf Course neck as boat number 3 and we headed down to North Marcum to fish a long rock point with a small ledge running parallel with it which wraps into a popular spawning cove. We fished back and forth from shallow to deep with nothing but a small bump probably from a bluegill. We ran into South Marcum trying to do the same thing without getting a whiff of a bite. Our 3rd spot was the “west end dam” boat launch and after going back and forth we were able to catch 2 small dinks giving us a small amount of confidence that the day would heat up.
Our next run was a big one as we went into Gun Creek and fished some rocks that we tend to catch fish off of but once again only came out with 2 more dinks. After flipping a few bushes in one of my favorite necks we headed off for some more rocks and 15 minutes in I get a perfect thump and run. I set the hook and the rod loaded up but as quickly as the excitement came it disappeared when the line started rolling over multiple times as it was a sure sign of a catfish. The channel weighed approximately 5lbs. Up to this point we hadn’t lost any confidence because our fish hadn’t been biting until noon or after and we were saving our best spot for last. We make our way into one of the back areas of Gun Creek and catch 5 fish in approximately 20 minutes but none were able to bump. Over the next 2 hours we caught a few more but had the same outcome. Realizing the tournament was most likely lost we made our last move back down to the main channel rocks in Gun Creek. With 15 minutes to go and in 12 feet of water I was able to button up with a small fish short of 2lbs but had the length to weigh him in to get points for the season.
My hats off to the gentlemen who won the tournament with 11lbs as they won the previous circuit event a few weeks earlier. Never met them but they are obviously good fisherman. To win 2 times in a row on Rend is a great accomplishment. Hats off also to a good buddy of mine Tony Skobel for grabbing a check with 9lbs. You may be a better fisherman those that done with Maidsalamode.com than me but I can still fold pizza boxes better than you! I’ll be in Indiana next week trying to promote this website and will be back in 2 weeks to take on the big bad Crab Orchard with the Hef. I’ve only fished there 5 times but have caught some giants, should be a lot of fun!
1 fish , 1.80lbs Didn’t place.
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