Fox River Deadfall
Fish the Fox
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October 30, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: My wife's brother was in town and wanted to go fishing. I warned that the bite had been good but the recent string of cold nights have made it much more difficult. He's a fisheries biologist, so he gets it. We figured we'd do a four-man 'guy trip' and use my two tandem kayaks. We invited the other brother-in-law (who is local) as well as their mutual friend from college way-back-when and his eight-year-old son.

The air temp wasn't too bad, in the low 50s. But it was very windy. We set out in the kayaks. I had the friend and his son in the front of mine. It was tight, but we made it work. The brother-in-laws (BILs) went in the other tandem. We quickly separated as the BILs graciously gave us the 'calmer' side of the river with some good structure. I brought my ultralight spinning gear with fresh 4lb test and a float-n-fly rigged up. The friend tried to assist his son, but put the rig in the trees a few times as the stiff wind caught it as he cast. When he did hit the right areas, the rig was amidst gobs of leaves floating downriver. Controlling position was also an issue, as the wind was at my back and constantly pushing me off the mark and upstream. Overall, it was frustrating. We needed to be 'on our game' but the adverse conditions kept us constantly adjusting. Finesse anything was out of the question.

We were in some awesome spots and I'm sure there were fish home. It was just one of those days when everything had to be presented right for success to happen. Finally I pulled out my baitcaster and flipped an Eric Bait alongside a bunch of rocks on the front face of an outside turn and got nailed by a 14" smallmouth. That was all the excitement in our kayak and the father and son were happy to at least see a fish!

We met up with my BILs and asked how they were doing. They were wind-blown, frustrated, and thus far, skunked. They said boat control in the main channel / full wind was nearly impossible. They could hardly make any progress when paddling downstream against the wind. We had been on the water about an hour and a half and all agreed to start working our way back. As we stopped to take a break from paddling, my BIL finally popped a foot-long smallmouth while working a hula grub deep.

The southern sky was growing ominously dark as we dug deep for the last 1/4-mile through the wind to the takeout. We got the eight-year-old out right away and into the car. He and his dad headed to a nearby restaurant for hot chocolates and my BILs and I loaded up the kayaks. We drove over to the restaurant and met them for lunch. It started to drizzle and by the time we finished lunch it was pouring rain. Even though the outing was tough we all felt lucky to have avoided getting soaked! The hot chocolates worked wonders for our attitudes. Think we could have had a successful trip if it weren't for the gusty wind. I suggested we hit it early- to mid-September next year.

Autumn on the Fox River


October 28, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: Got out to the river for a quick solo wade in the late afternoon and the air temp was at its peak -- a balmy 55.0 °F. The warm sun felt great and there was barely any breeze. I waded up to my spot and started off with topwater. I tossed a 3" Heddon Zara Puppy and walked the dog downstream past a rocky point with mild current. Conditions just seemed perfect and I couldn't wait for the little lure to get blasted by a bronze behemoth. Problem was, I was about a month late. But oh well, had to try it!

Tried a swim jig, jerkbait, and hula grub through the area and through some deeper pools. No action but bumped into a bunch of rough fish with the jerkbait. I waded to some shallower, slower areas and tossed the swim jig again. Got many bumps from short-strikers and finally connected with a few. Ended up with three smallies, each about a foot long. Had to call it quits and head home but it was nice to squeak out a few and feel the sun on a nice October day. Great to enjoy the autumn foliage from the water -- especially when lit up from the low late afternoon sun. USGS 11.24' / 659 CFS. Already have a fresh batch of float-n-flies ready for the cold weather.

Below is a lure I found along shore. Imagine using a deep-diver on the Fox! I wonder if it washed down from the Chain O' Lakes. Guessing it has been in the water for some time for the hooks to have rusted off. Or the angler was just being kind to the fish!

Lure found at the Fox River


October 27, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: Spent some hours on the Fox with my friend Jim wade fishing and spot hopping. The air temp barely climbed into the 50s and the wind added chill at times, but overall we felt lucky to be treated to a somewhat 'mild' day in late October. Got into the smallies right away with a fairly consistent bite throughout the day. Didn't land any big ones (biggest around 14") but ended up with a combined 22 fish comprised of 21 smallmouth and 1 largemouth. The hot bait was a Jonn Graham 'Warrior Jigs' 1/4-ounce white and silver swim jig with a 3" pearl paddle tail (same bait as pictured in my 10-26 report). 17 of the 22 fish were caught on it. Steady retrieve through knee- to -thigh-deep water with a rocky bottom or near chunk rock. I'd say that overall, the shallow bite was a bit better than the 'deep' bite. Or at least, that was the strike zone for the swim jig. Slow to mild current seemed favorable. Jim also tried a tube as well as a small suspending jerkbait and caught a few smallies on each presentation. Always fun to meet up and fish with Jim to see what he's throwing and how he's working it. A very patient and optimistic angler for sure! USGS 11.24' / 659 CFS

Autumn on the Fox River Fox River smallmouth bass


October 26, 2011

Dear Smallmouth: Any complaints should be directed at Jonn Graham of Warrior Jigs. He's the guy that makes the swim jigs that fooled you. You were so much fun to catch! I hope you heal up soon. See you again some day.

Fox River Fishing Report: All swim jig. Ended up with 8. Biggest 18" and 19" (pictured). Thanks to Jim for sending me the assortment of Jonn's awesome jigs! USGS 11.23' / 645 CFS

Another big smallmouth from the Fox River! Warrior Jigs Swim Jig + Big Hammer Tail Another big smallmouth from the Fox River!


October 25, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: Wade fished solo for a few hours mid-afternoon. Had to wait out a brief rain shower but fared OK. Tried a surface popper but couldn't draw any strikes. Switched to a big swim jig and caught 5 smallmouth while reeling fast downstream near rock and timber. Biggest was a chunky 16", beautiful bronze and barred. USGS 11.24' / 659 CFS. No takers in this vid but useful to see the size of the jig and the retrieve speed if you've never fished a swim jig. Not a slow-moving bait!

Fox River smallmouth bass fishing


October 24, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: My mom used to call me "the absent-minded professor" whenever I had a spell of forgetfulness growing up. I had one of those moments today. After a late night of work and only four hours of sleep, I was excited to ready my gear and hit the river. I loaded the usual items into the back hatch and began the drive. Exactly four miles into it I had a terrible thought. Where had I put my wallet? The last place I remember setting it was on the back bumper just prior to loading my fishing gear. A wave of panic swept over me as I turned into the nearest street and thought about it. I hopped out and checked the back bumper and incredibly, my wallet was still there! I had backed out of my driveway, made five turns, and drove 4.2 miles. The fastest I traveled was around 45 MPH -- and the wallet never fell off the bumper. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good!

I wade fished solo for a few hours in the late afternoon. Only brought Jonn's "Warrior Jigs" swim jig and a selection of Big Hammer Tails. I felt like a hawg hunt, and I hoped that two days of warmth and sun on the water would have the smallmouth active. I started out tossing a 3/8-ounce 'bull gill' pattern with a 4" blue/translucent Big Hammer Tail. It certainly looked like a big bait by smallmouth standards. Heck, even by my standards! I fan cast as I waded out to the main channel and felt a strike almost immediately as I reeled the lure through thigh-deep water with mild current.

The culprit looked to be around 11" and I chuckled that it had hit a lure half its size. I was going to take a quick photo of the swim jig in its mouth but received a flashing "No SD Card Inserted" icon on my camera. Oh brother. So this was how the afternoon was gonna go!

I knew the lack of an SD card meant I was in for a great afternoon of fishing. A 20" smallie would come to hand for sure! I tucked the camera away and forgot about it.

I continued to fish the swim jig and picked up a 15.5" smallmouth while wading to the next spot. I crept towards a rock pile and burned the swim jig downstream just beneath the surface. First cast drew a tremendous boil. A few casts later I had a hookup! The fish didn't feel that big at first but as it got downstream of me, it kept on going. It peeled out some line but eventually tired and I turned it back towards me. It was a brute and probably one of THE nicest smallmouth I've caught all year. Big-bellied and thick! I laid it down on top of the leaf litter in the shallow water and carefully measured it tip to tail. It taped a hair over 19.25". I admired the bronze beauty in the autumn afternoon sunlight as it swam away. I stood up and remembered about my wallet. Then I wondered where I had put my iPhone. It took a few seconds to realize that my iPhone was in my pocket!

Now that I had my iPhone I was ready to play one-armed videographer and get a few captures for YouTube. Now, for your viewing pleasure, I give you SWIM JIG FUN:

Fox River smallmouth bass fishing Fox River smallmouth bass fishing Fox River smallmouth bass fishing


October 23, 2011

Vermilion River Fishing Report: Wade fished with Jonn Graham in his neck of the woods. The day started out chilly with a tough bite but the beautiful autumn scenery made up for it. We went on quite a hike in search of productive water and picked off a few smallies here and there. Despite a summer-like warm up in the afternoon we never got into a hot bite. It was all white thumper spinnerbait for me. I ended up with 14 smallies and 1 rock bass. My biggest taped at 16" and 17". Jonn stuck a few here and there on the swim jig and on top. All in all a pleasant outing and a change of pace / change of scenery for me. Thanks for showing me around Jonn.

Vermilion River smallmouth hunt Vermilion River smallmouth hunt Vermilion River smallmouth hunt Vermilion River smallmouth hunt Vermilion River smallmouth hunt Vermilion River smallmouth hunt Vermilion River smallmouth hunt Vermilion River smallmouth hunt Vermilion River smallmouth hunt Vermilion River smallmouth hunt Vermilion River smallmouth hunt Vermilion River smallmouth hunt
Vermilion River smallmouth hunt Vermilion River smallmouth hunt Vermilion River smallmouth hunt


October 22, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: Met my buddy Kevin at the river mid-afternoon. He brought his new Jackson Kayak Coosa and I brought my tandem. We stayed near each other and fished a variety of baits. We had success on the hula grub, swim jig, and spinnerbait -- boating a combined 17 smallmouth. The hula grub hopped slow along the bottom accounted for the majority of the catches. Sunny afternoon with mild temps felt like a real gift for late October. Saw a few other kayakers and waders out taking advantage of the nice day.

Fox River smallmouth bass fishing


October 21, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: Shore fished for a few hours late afternoon 'till dark. Not a hot bite but found a few fish. Caught seven smallmouth: two on a jerkbait, three on a hula grub, and two on a swim jig. Two bass were photo-worthy. Nice night to be out but it sure got chilly when the sun sank low! The smoke from burning leaves hung in the air up and down the river. USGS 11.22' / 631 CFS

Fox River smallmouth bass Fox River sunset Fox River smallmouth bass


October 20, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: Waded and fished four spots. Found smallies at two, each alongside chunk rock. Caught one on the white swim jig and one on an Eric Bait (thanks Tim!). Highlight of the wade was first cast with a brand new Eric Bait at the top of an eddy. BOOM! Instantly hit and bit off. Think it was a northern pike. Might have to leader-up for that spot next time. Caught a super-dark smallie, almost seemed black at first. Lightened up as I posed it for a macro shot. Eyes and skin picked up the color of my hand a bit. USGS 11.28' / 716 CFS

Fox River smallmouth bass fishing Fox River smallmouth bass fishing Fox River smallmouth bass fishing Fox River smallmouth bass fishing


October 19, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: Wind. Rain. Meh! I'm going fishing. Wore the rain gear and did a thigh-buster power wade for a couple hours mid afternoon. Only brought the Warrior Jigs swim jig. Tossed a white 3/8-ounce with 3" pearl Big Hammer Tail. Worked alongside some chunk rock and picked up a 12" smallie within 10 casts. Snagged and had to wade through the spot to get the lure. Next spot saw a bass chasing baitfish and connected within a few casts. Fish swam at me and when I turned it I could see it was a big one! I'd guess 18"-19" class and wide! Started wading towards shore for a photo and the brute came unhooked. Need to slow down and land the fish first ... then deal with the pic! I rushed things and paid the price.

Spots 3, 4, and 5 were all a long wade away and none held fish. It was pouring rain and gusty winds coming down river. At least all the wading kept me warm. Actually water not too bad. Wore the breathables with jeans and fleece socks. Was just fine. Got back to shore ready to hit the car and jump locations. Tried a few casts with the rod tip high and a flutter by a big boulder. Spot is totally overfished but what the heck. Sure enough, connected with a fish. Thought it would be a walleye but it was a 15" smallie with a birth defect high back like that of a drum. Looked odd. Super wide fish! Drove to the next area and tried a few casts in a go-to fishy spot. No one home.

Car-hopped to the last spot. Maybe the ace in the hole??? Sure enough! Worked the swim jig through a long eddy and caught six smallmouth in about a dozen casts. 12"-16" range. Great action to end the rainy afternoon. Any day above freezing is a good day in my book! Plenty of catching left in '11. USGS 11.23' / 645 CFS


October 18, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: Got out for about an hour in the evening and waded and fished two spots. Tried the swim jig, hula grub, crawdad crank, and Sammy. Caught four smallmouth, 3 on the swim jig and 1 on the hula grub. Biggest was 15.25" on the swim jig (pictured). No hits on top but a few bumps / boils on the crank.

Almost gave up on one spot as I wasn't getting any bites but had a feeling there were fish home. Sure enough, I see some fierce surface activity. Turns out a big bluegill that was all beat up was washing downriver and struggling. It had the smallies all excited and they were chasing after it and smacking the heck out of it. They could not get it down.

Heard some great-horned owls hooting near dusk. That's always neat in October with all the colorful leaves and a little nip in the air. USGS 11.17' / 564 CFS

Fox River smallmouth bass


October 17, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: Got out after work for a 1.5 hour solo power wade. Hit five areas with a 3/8-ounce white swim jig + 3" pearl Big Hammer Tail. Fast retrieve downstream. Caught nine smallmouth, all pretty decent. The biggest taped at 16", 17" and a hair over 18" (pictured). Lots o' love on the swim jig tonight! Thanks to Jonn Graham for sending me the swim jigs and for Jim J. and Jonn teaching me how to use them. Nice to have the first-hand on the water experience and see how they do it. Awesome presentation. Nights are starting to get cold around Chicagoland. The bottom is dropping out of our mild October. Back to reality!USGS 11.22' / 631 CFS

Fox River smallmouth bass


October 16, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: Kayaked and fished with my good friend Kevin. He's my go-to fishing buddy and most weekends we hit a local river to hunt bronze. We met up mid-morning as the rain was subsiding. I left my D-SLR camera at home and we played around with a new GoPro HD Hero video camera. It's a neat little camera. He got a head strap and was wearing it, recording about the first two hours of the trip. He captured a beautiful 19" smallmouth that slammed his hula grub and gave him quite a battle. I can't wait to see the footage!

Kevin stuck with the hula grub most of the day. He gets 'in the zone' with that bait and it seems like every five minutes or so he's rearing back with a hookset. Needless to say he is deadly with the hula grub! I forced myself to stick with a Jonn Graham swim jig. I started out with a 3/8-ounce white + 4" Big Hammer Tail. I was murdering the smallies with it! The tail got so torn up I could no longer fish it and had to switch to a 3" pearl tail. It didn't have as much wobble/thump but after I got used to the lighter feel I continued to do well on the swim jig! I'm really liking that presentation. I just have to start carrying a hook file because I do set the hook into a rock now and then.

In certain areas I tossed a 1/4-ounce white buzzbait and also tried a mustard-brown 1/2-ounce Live Target sub surface crawfish crankbait. As you can see I up-sized the crank to target bigger fish in the fall. I caught some nice smallmouth on both the buzzbait and the crankbait. My largest of the outing taped at 18" and I had several 16" and 17" fish. At one point we boated a double of 18" smallies, me on the crank and Kevin on the hula grub. Doubles of big smallies are always special.

Kevin took top honors with a massive smallie that destroyed an orange-brown 1/2-ounce Live Target sub surface crawfish crankbait as he burned it downstream and tight to the tip of a fallen log. What a thrill! Think it's his biggest Fox River smallmouth to date. Taped very near 20". Not quite on the mark, but damn close!!! Since the battery on the GoPro HD cam had already died I used my trusty iPhone to take a quick picture of the muddy brute before he released her back in the river. Awesome outing with 26 smallmouth boated. USGS 11.27' / 701

Fox River smallmouth bass


October 14, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: Every October, during the end of guiding season, friend and fishing buddy Jonn Graham makes a trip north to kayak and fish a local river with me. We go in my tandem kayak and it's a nice chance for Jonn to get on some new spots and have the fish more/less to himself instead of worrying about clients. It's fun for me to share what I know with Jonn and help to pay him back for generously sending me his awesome hand-tied Warrior Jigs throughout the year. We've had some unforgettable trips in years past, so it's no wonder neither of us were able to sleep more than a few hours the night before this year's outing!

September 2011 was probably THE best month I've had catching smallmouth bass on the Fox River, ever. When I thought it couldn't get any better, October rolled around. We were blessed with a long, stable, unseasonably warm weather pattern right through the hunter's moon. The 'perfect storm' has been a smallmouth angler's dream come true.

Jonn and I met early morning and slipped the kayak into the river at first light. It didn't take him but three casts with an incredibly loud Honey Buzz buzzbait to crack a chunky Fox River smallmouth. That fish committed to the lure with a massive topwater explosion! It was really something. Talk about a shot of adrenaline for both of us!

We covered lots of water, fished areas over the span of four different towns, tried all sorts of lures and presentations, and had a fantastic day of fishing! Despite 20+ MPH wind gusts and lots of leaves in the water, we ended up with 36 smallmouth bass, many of which were in the 16" to 19" range. Jonn's biggest was 18.5" and I popped a 19" and 19.25". Successful lures were Jonn's 'Warrior Jig' swim jig with Big Hammer tail (caught the biggest fish), Honey Buzz buzzbait, Live Target sub-surface crawfish crankbait, Lucky Craft Sammy 100, 5" double-tail Yamamoto Hula Grub on 1/8-ounce Slider Head, and 3" pearl jig-n-twister. Lots of laughs, smiles, good conversation and catching. Another GREAT fishing trip on the books! USGS 11.40' / 900 CFS

Fox River smallmouth bass Fox River smallmouth bass Fox River smallmouth bass Fox River smallmouth bass Fox River smallmouth bass Fox River smallmouth bass Fox River smallmouth bass Fox River smallmouth bass Fox River smallmouth bass Fox River smallmouth bass


October 12, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: Found out that my friend Jim was going to be in my neck of the woods so offered to meet up and 'show him the rocks.' We hit the water around 9:30 AM under bright skies. I took him on a spot hop to a few of my big fish areas. Jim is past president of the Illinois Smallmouth Alliance. He is a great fisherman and quick study, so it didn't take long for him to have me 4-0 on the swim jig. He got into some nice ones with his biggest taping 18.75". I was at zip but didn't care, it was fun to see him get into those fish and take some photos. The laughs and smiles were priceless.

Finally Mother Nature had enough of watching me force-feed topwater on a sunny day, so she whipped up some wind and put a ton of leaves in the water. I had to tie on a hula grub and work a bit deeper, resulting in two nice smallies, the largest taping at 17.5". Great impromptu outing during the magical month of October. Was really fun to see Jim's confidence in the swim jig and connect with some brutes! USGS 11.19' / 590 CFS

Fox River smallmouth bass Fox River smallmouth bass Fox River smallmouth bass Fox River smallmouth bass and swim jig Fox River smallmouth bass Fox River smallmouth bass fishing


October 10, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: This morning was the stuff smallmouth anglers dream of. Sixty minutes on the water working a 4" gold shad Bass Pro Shops XPS Slim Dog (Sammy knock-off). Vicious topwater attacks on the bait. Missed the first five explosions, leaving my heart pounding. Changed cadence from a frenzied, tight x pattern to a drawn-out gliding x with the lure's momentum fading to pause after each twitch. Incredible feeding aggression from the bass as they'd blow up on the lure and if not hooked, chased and hit again and again. Landed four beauties, 18.25", 18", 19.25", 19". USGS 11.23' / 645 CFS

When you think about our current scenario, everything is in the smallmouth bass angler's favor: October is THE prime smallmouth bass month; long stretch of warm stable weather; cool nights but still unseasonably mild; river dropping and clearing day after day; close to the full moon (October 11). As good as it gets!

Bob Mehsikomer is one of my favorites to watch work a topwater. He's got an elegance to his cadence and makes it look so easy with big musky topwaters. Plus, he really knows how to read the water AND the fish and respond accordingly with the lure. If you get the chance to watch his "Simply Fishing" TV show, it's a good one. A few things a bass fisherman can take from him ... cadence, confidence and RETURN to areas of active fish and/or missed strikes. Can't tell you how many times I've hunted a big bass that I've missed and connected on it hours or days later. As long as the conditions are stable, there's no reason for bass to move far.

Evening Bite: Got out for an hour solo wade prior to the football game. There was no way I wasn't fishin' the night before a full October moon. Only worked topwater (pearl XPS Slim Dog) and found this little fatty (third photo below) in some shallow water with chunk rock.

Geneva dam Boils at the Geneva dam Geneva dam


October 9, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: Kayaked and fished through early morning river mist with my brother-in-law. Topwater was good with both of us catching smallmouth over 18". His struck a firetiger popper and mine blew up on a pearl LC Sammy 100. Missed a few more good fish on top but once the sun came up over the treeline that was all she wrote. Switched to hula grubs and worked slower and deeper. Ended up boating eight smallies before heading home. Beautiful October morning to be on the water. 11.23' / 645 CFS

Morning mist on the Fox River Joel with a Fox River smallmouth bass


October 8, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: Got my boys to the river late afternoon for some smallie fishin'. We sat on shore and worked a big swirling eddy with fathead minnows under a float. Nothing doing on the minnows despite smallies busting baitfish all around. The kids had fun catching grasshoppers and looking for crayfish beneath submerged rocks along shore. Took the minnows off and tried a hula grub as the sun was getting low and caught a nice bronzeback. Hooked a giant a few casts later that gave me quite a battle before coming off and sending the hula grub rocketing back at me. When I went to re-rig I noticed the fish had fought so hard it bent the hook on the premium slider head about 1/8". Now that was a BIG smallmouth. I hope to get another shot at it some day! Caught a couple smaller ones before calling it a night. Beautiful moonrise over the treetops to the east. USGS 11.23' / 645 CFS

Fox River smallmouth bass


October 6, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: Got on the water for a mid-afternoon scenic paddle with my better half. Had to butter her up with a stop at Harner's Bakery in North Aurora for coffee and some of their seasonal apple cider doughnuts. I gave her the "Tour de Batavia" with our final stop at Devil's Cave. If you've never paddled this stretch, it's a great spot to enjoy the fall foliage and think about what the Fox River valley area must have looked like hundreds of years ago when the Pottawattamie Indians called it home.

I plunked some lures here and there. Not much effort. Boated eight, largest taped at 18.75" and thumped a hula grub hopped near the front of a rock pile. Other winners were the crawfish crankbait and a 3/8-ounce white spinnerbait. The fish didn't seem to chase too much today. Maybe due to the water still being a bit murky, the bright sun, high pressure, or a combination of all three. If I got bumped or missed a strike I followed up with the hula grub worked more slowly and that did the trick. USGS 11.36' / 837 CFS

As we were coming up our street on this unseasonably warm October day, we spied another hatchling snapping turtle scurrying across the road. I kept it to show my kids after school and we released it in the nearby pond.

Devil's Cave, North Aurora Fox River smallmouth bass Paddling the Fox River Baby Gamara emerging from the radioactive turf


October 4, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: Late last week a little brown jet pack arrived in the mail from Jonn Graham of Warrior Jigs in Minonk, Illinois. It contained a half-dozen of Jonn's hand-tied swim jigs and selection of Big Hammer tails. Jonn had graciously made the jigs for me to try on the river smallmouth this autumn. The swim jigs have already been proven a dozen times over. Jonn is a master at the swim jig and so are several of the best smallmouth fisherman I know. Me, not so much. Let's just say my confidence level is low. I'm used to tossing high-disturbance lures like big spinnerbaits, rattling crankbaits, buzzbaits and other topwaters. To me, fishing a swim jig is like trying to listen to music with your fingers in your ears. Just doesn't feel right!

Jonn warned me via e-mail what to expect. It was like when the old man in Gremlins said, "Don't feed them after midnight." He told me in plain terms, "The swim jig finds BIG fish." That simple sentence has been on my mind since I received the jigs. Lord knows I've been through some incredibly fishy waters over the past week. But I have to admit, selfishly, perhaps foolishly, I always seemed to fall back on old habits.

After a long day at work, I broke for the river around rush hour. I started out from shore and tried a crawfish crankbait, rattling minnowbait, and even a jig and twister. Despite working through where I spotted surface feeding off the tip of a stream barb, my offerings went unnoticed. I walked back to the car and suited up. I saw Jonn's jigs sitting neatly in my trunk. F it! I tied on the 3/8-ounce crawfish pattern and tipped it with a rootbeer colored 3" Big Hammer tail. That was the only lure I brought. I was going to wade with the swim jig with no fall-back plan. That's how you force yourself to learn something new!

I began my wade and tried some short casts to get used to the weight and the action. When I saw the jig cutting through the murky water of the Fox River, I had second thoughts about my color selection. Would the fish even see it? Would the dark green and orange be mistaken for leaves or other debris washing downriver? Perhaps white would have been a better choice. But then I thought about it some more -- I know Jonn is only going to send me good stuff! That was the reassurance I needed!

So I kept casting. Upriver, clumsily bouncing the rod tip as I tried to get the feel of the lure. I snagged boulders, logs, and just about everything. I was ruining the spot in short order. No bumps or bites on the swim jig. I gotta be doing something wrong! Duh! It's a swim jig! Try swimming it with a straight retrieve and hold the rod tip a little higher. That was the ticket. I brought it alongside some boulders, straight retrieve, no extra action from me. I let the Big Hammer tail do the talking. Sure enough, BOOM! Big strike but the fish just grabbed the tail and turned, practically parting the water on its retreat. My heart was in my throat as I realized this is the kind of fish I've been looking for! Around three casts later the swim jig got clobbered and I had a hookup! The brute swam at me but I was ready for it, reeled quickly and kept an even pace. As it got downriver of me, I swung it towards shore and it tailwalked and thrashed as I reached for it. Those few seconds where you realize you've got a trophy but haven't secured it between your thumb and index finger seem like they drag on forever! Finally, success!

The bronze beauty taped at 19.75". Legs shaking, with one fish landed, I called it a night. There was an hour of daylight left on a warm October evening but there was no way I was going to surpass a fish like that. I got back to my car and called Jonn, thanking him for the jigs. Wish all outings could go that way! USGS 11.58' / 1,220 CFS

19.75" Fox River Smallmouth Bass Jonn Graham Warrior Jig

Above: 3/8-ounce crawfish pattern Warrior Jig with premium Owner hook + 3" Big Hammer tail. If you want to get some Warrior Jigs of your own, contact Jonn Graham at (309) 399-7055 or check him out at Heartland Outdoors.


October 3, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: Got out for a few hours for some fishing and photography. The bright sun lit up everything nicely but provided such harsh contrasts it had me testing different exposure settings to try and find a happy medium between my subject matter and the sky. The trees are progressing nicely but it's not quite 'autumn photography season' yet. Still, I'll take an October day in the mid 70s any time.

I traveled very light so I could remain on the move. Of course I brought my rod and reel, but stuck with a 1/8-ounce lead-head jig with 3" pearl twister. I carried a few backup twisters in my pocket to replace the grub as it got torn up or the tail bit off. Had some hemos, nail clipper, and retractable tape measure too. Just fluttered the jig-n-twister through eddies, current breaks and around structure. Ended up with 11 smallmouth, two largest at 14". USGS 11.70' / 1,450 CFS

Geneva dam Boils at the Geneva dam Geneva dam Rock near the Geneva dam Fox River creek Fox River creek


October 2, 2011

Fox River Fishing Report: Wade fished solo for a few hours early evening. Started out with a 1/2-ounce Terminator SS 'white thumper spinnerbait' and lost two nice smallmouth almost back to back as they hit near the current break on the downriver side of a stream barb. The first one looked to be around 16" and came unhooked right near shore. The second was a line-peeler with lots of bulldogging trying to swim deeper. I thought I had it tamed but it gave one last jump near shore, throwing the lure. That's smallmouth bass fishing ... exciting nonetheless! Did manage to land a feisty 14" smallie at the first spot before a fruitless thigh-burning wade to a few other areas. At least the scenic photos weren't getting away!

Car-hopped to a second spot and tossed a mustard brown sub-surface Live Target crawfish crankbait near a submerged rock bar. Put my reel on free spool and gently thumbed the line, letting the current carry the lure downstream, wobbling and rattling just beneath the surface. Sure enough, a smallie came up and nailed it. Finally brought catch #2 to hand. Tried several other lures through the same area and from various angles but could not get any more takers.

Lastly, tied on the Heddon Coors can. Why? Because it's totally different than anything the fish normally see. Maybe something of extreme difference will get noticed and they'll take a shot at it. I've done this several times over the last week and on two out of three nights thus far the Coors can has drawn a strike but no hookup. Tonight would be different. I worked it the same way as the aforementioned crawfish crankbait. The first time it got hit as it was wobbling sub-surface downstream. The smallie stuck and it was around 14". The second came after the rock bar as I was retrieving the lure quickly and it dove through some deeper water. It got hit hard! The culprit was a chunky smallmouth that ended up taping at 16" (see photo / video). It pays to be bold with your lure selection from time to time -- especially in areas where you strongly suspect the fish are home. USGS 11.77' / 1,600 CFS

Fox River scenery Fox River scenery Fox River scenery Fox River smallmouth bass on the Coors beer can lure Fox River smallmouth bass on the Coors beer can lure

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