Catch us on the
following networks: Comcast Sports Net
Chicago / UPN14 Madison
1. East Fork Lake
While we have fished East Fork
many times, it’s hard to pass up this great Illinois lake.
This time, we were pushing the calendar a little.
Temperatures in the 20s, a little snow, and a lot of wind
couldn’t stop us from catching a few bass. Whenever you take
a chance on an early season fishing trip, you run the risk
of getting there on the wrong day. A few days earlier or
later could make all the difference.
2. Lake Jacksonville
This is my favorite show for
many reasons. First, and most importantly, I was joined by
my favorite fishing partner in the world, my nephew, Dan. I
was with him when he made his first cast, caught his first
fish, and won his first junior tournament. I’ve always
wanted to film with him, and, we finally got the chance on
the best lake in the state. Again, it was cold, windy, and a
much better day for sleeping in, but both of us caught quite
a few bass. This was a trip that I will never forget.
3. Big Green Lake
We previously filmed one time
on Big Green and got blown off the lake. It was just as
windy this time, but a lot warmer. We fished with my friend,
Tom, and got a lifetime of info on the lake in just one day.
But as luck would have it, we ended up catching most of our
fish in a spot that he had never fished. Adjusting to the
weather conditions forces you to try new things. Both Tom
and I learned a few new tricks this day. I’ll be back to
Big Green soon.
4. IHSA Busse Lake
This show was filmed last year
as one of the first Illinois High School Bass Fishing
Regional Tournaments. There were kids of all skill levels
fishing near a busy metropolitan area and catching fish. The
excitement level was unbelievable. While some of the kids
were making their first casts this day, there were others
that we will see on the tournament trails someday. I can’t
wait to do it again this year.
5. Yahara River 1
This show started out to be a
completely different show. The morning began on Lake
Wisconsin in the midst of a late season cold front. I
managed to catch a few small bass on Wisconsin, but it was
easy to see that we weren’t going to get a full show. I
tried to think of another body of water in the area that was
wind protected and that might give us a chance to catch a
few fish. After a 30 minute drive, I launched my boat on
the Madison Chain and made a short idle into the Yahara
River. We started catching them immediately. It was so
successful, we stayed a second day.
6. Yahara River 2
Continuing with what we found
the day before on the Yahara, we had a great time. Fishing
mostly soft, plastic jerkbaits, we caught several species of
fish. This is not a place to catch a giant bass, but a big
pike or walleye are not out of the question. As many times
as I’ve fished this body of water, I’m still amazed that you
can be this close to a major city and be all alone.
7. Southern Wisconsin Cold
was filmed with my friend, John, on a small southern
Wisconsin Lake. We fished the shallows all day using
different baits. John used a buzzbait most of the time made
by Lavalle Trophy Tackle. Two of the fish he caught were
pushing five pounds. The bites weren’t fast and furious,
but, at the end of the day we were very successful.
8. Lake Michigan Salmon
Every once and a while it’s
nice to sit in the back of the boat and see how the other
guys do it. Every spring, Shimano sponsors a Lake Michigan
salmon trip to check out the latest trolling gear. It’s
always interesting to me to see the skill of anglers that
concentrate on a totally different way to fish. I’ve been
lucky for the last two years to go out with Best Chance
Charters. These guys are as dialed in as it gets on the big
lake. When you watch them work, it looks easy, but its taken
years to learn what they have learned. I can’t wait until
next year’s trip.
9. Browns Lake
From the beginning, we tried
to highlight great fishing spots in the Midwest. Here’s
another one for the list. Browns Lake looks just like all of
the other lakes in the area, but it is not. Browns Lake has
a lot of big fish for someone willing to put in the time.
Because of its relatively small size, you can get a pretty
good idea of the structure on your first day. When planning
your 2010 fishing trip locations, save a day for Browns.
10. Lake Sangchris
I fished Sangchris two days in
my life and both times came away with a show. That’s a great
record with almost no time spent there. Each time, I was
lucky enough to put together patterns that worked and the
fish were in very specific areas. There are probably
thousands of places that hold fish on Sangchris, and, I only
found a handful of them. I need to get back there soon.
11. Center Lake
Center is another sleeper lake
located in southern Wisconsin. This trip was at the end of
the spawning season. The bass were cruising in the
shallows. It took a little while to figure them out, but I
did. This show was fun for many reasons. I will never forget
one bass. We stared each other down for a bit, but I was
able to trick her into biting. If you like fishing gin clear
water with finesse baits, you’ll like this one.
12. Mississippi River Pool
We have filmed Pool 13 a few
times before and had good success. This trip was a tough
one. We were there in early fall and the bite was not fast
and furious. We ended up catching almost all of our fish in
Millers Lake. This show isn’t filled with giants, but we did
put a plan together that got us a limit of fish. Some days a
limit is a victory.
13. Southern Wisconsin
There are days when the
fishing technique is the story. Anyone that has watched this
show knows that my favorite way to fish is using small
finesse baits in gin clear water. I love being able to see
the fish I’m trying to catch. In this show, my skipping
technique was working and we caught a bunch of nice fish
from a small lake.
14. Golden Lake
Another small lake located in
Southern Wisconsin is Golden Lake. At first glance, Golden
doesn’t look much different than other lakes in the area. We
were there on perfect late summer day, overcast, just a
little rain, and a tiny bit of wind. I was able to catch
some really nice fish on a lipless crankbait. Usually I use
these baits in the spring, but it was the perfect bait for
this late summer show.
15. Lake Coffene
Our first trip of the year was
to Coffene. We never filmed Coffene before. In fact, I never
seen the lake until that day. Coffene is another of the
central Illinois power plant lakes that has a 25hp motor
restriction. If you want some great early season bass
action, Coffene is for you. We started fishing right near
the boat launch and in the next five or so hours caught a
bunch of nice fish. I’ve now had one day on Coffene but I
promise that it won’t be the last.
16. Lake Michigan Smallies
We are now in our fifth
season. Some have been hard and others have been easy. This
season, filming was a lot of fun. I’m not sure if I could
pick a favorite show, but if I had to, this one would be one
of the finalists. We fished with a friend which always makes
it fun. Capt. Ralph Steiger spent the day showing us how and
where he likes to catch big, early season smallies on Lake
Michigan. I’ve been able to fish for smallies all over the
Great Lakes and this trip was right at the top for quality
of fish. I can’t wait to go again next year.
17. Lake Sangchris
Not far from Coffene, where we
filmed our first show of the year, is Sangchris Lake.
Sangchris, like Coffene, is another 25hp restricted central
Illinois power plant lake. Like Coffene, the first time I
saw Sangchris was the morning we filmed this show. I
expected the two lakes to look the same, but they did not.
Coffene looks a lot like Newton, mud banks, scattered wood,
and an occasional weed bed. Sangchris has a lot of shoreline
structure. It’s hard to even reach the bank because of the
brush in the water. There is also more vegetation. Lily pad
stems played a part in this show. Like Coffene, I’ll be back
18. Lake Maxincukee
I was introduced to
Maxinkuckee quite a few years ago by my friend, Mick. We
went for an early season attempt at some smallmouth and
largemouth action. Maxinkuckee is located in Culver,
Indiana, and, for the Chicago area guys, if you took Lake
Geneva and put it in Indiana, you would have Maxinkuckee.
Our trip was early season and pre-spawn. Our previous trip
consisted of throwing jerk baits over deep water in the main
lake. The water temperatures were only in the 50s and I hit
a few boat channels to find active largemouths. About half
way through the day, I discovered a pretty interesting
pattern. You never know how you’re going to catch them.
19. Lake Delavan
Our first four shows were on
lakes that we had never filmed. We were going to try five
for five and do a show on Lake Como, in southern Wisconsin.
However, weather and water temps weren’t cooperating, so we
put the boat on the trailer and made the short trip to Lake
Delavan. Delavan is a fish factory and this trip wasn’t any
different. We caught a bunch of easy fish close to the
launch. Sometimes, it just should be easy!
20. Crystal Lake
Getting back to our new lake
theme, we headed to Crystal Lake in south central Wisconsin.
I had heard about Crystal from a friend, but when we got
there, Crystal was not at all what I expected. Crystal is a
lake that just doesn’t fit the area it’s located in. Most
southern Wisconsin lakes are deep, clear predictable bodies
of water. Crystal is shallow, stained, and full of wood. I
decided to fish it more like a southern reservoir than a
Wisconsin lake and it paid off. This lake differs from any
other in the area, but it is well worth the trip.
21. Lake Ripley
For many years, I have
traveled Rt. 12 in Wisconsin to Geneva, Delavan, Whitewater,
and Madison. Almost every time, my eyes were drawn to the
little sign that said, Lake Ripley. I knew that Lake Ripley
was the lake that produced the Wisconsin state record bass
many years ago, but I always drove right by. This year we
stopped. Lake Ripley is great little lake. The weather
conditions were horrible, but, somehow, we caught a few.
Ripley and the weather didn’t give us a fair chance, I’ll be
22. Lake Shangri-La
This was another return trip.
I fished Shang many times in different seasons. You can
usually find a few predictable ways to catch them. Buzz
baits, Chatterbaits, Chug Bugs and Senkos all work great on
this lake. This time, we were presented with a different
opportunity. It’s fun to catch bass on a frog and, this
show, the frog was the right bait. It’s interesting to me
to be able to go onto a lake that you have fished many
times, and learn something new.
23. Maxincuckee Smallies
Earlier this season, we aired
a show on Maxincuckee largemouth. This time, we were after
the smallies. If there is a better jerkbait than a Rapala
X-Rap, it’s a secret to me. I used an X-Rap to search for
both large and smallmouth all over the country. It’s always
fun to have a one-bait day and to put all of the other rods
away, and know that the one you are using will get the job
done. The X-rap was both a search bait and fish catcher. We
had fun on Maxincuckee.
24. Lake Geneva
We filmed on Geneva many
times. This time, we met Phil Piscatello for a deep water,
drop shot trip. As far as the drop shot goes, Phil kicked my
butt. I finally got him to go in and fish some docks, and,
while I caught some nice ones, I pretty much got my butt
kicked there too. Anyone that fishes a lot has a day like
this one. I’m not too broken up about it, though, Phil is a
great fisherman and a good guy. I’ll just chalk this one up
and take another shot at Phil next year.
25. Whitewater Lake
Whitewater has always been a
favorite of mine. It can be tough at times, but I know that
there are plenty of good bass that live there. This show was
easy. I caught the heck out of them on a wacky rigged
Senko. I wish that I had found these fish back in my
tournament days. The fish that I caught during this show
would have won a few bucks.
26. Lake Jacksonville
Illinois has many great bass
lakes. There are lakes where you have a chance at catching
a giant, and there are other lakes that produce great
numbers of fish. Jacksonville does both. Use any formula
that you want, but, in my opinion, Lake Jacksonville is the
best bass lake in the state. We filmed this show with Tom
Vogelsang. Tom won the trip as part of a contest we ran at
Riverview Marine in Spring Valley, Illinois. We caught
several bass that day and had a lot of fun. I wish that all
of our shows were this easy.