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updated: 7/20/2011 6:27 PM

Yes, you really can clean up in the slop

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By Mike Jackson

I suspect the drought and excessive heat has taken its toll on many of you. I also believe that a peaceful day on the water or on the bank of a cool stream has been tempered a bit by the elements.

I have invested a couple tanks of gas so as to explore area lakes and ponds. I am always on the lookout for a pond, in particular, that is covered with heavy weed growth and algae. This condition is generally prevalent during drought conditions coupled to high humidity days.

I had penned almost a dozen columns in the past about fishing lakes and ponds with heavy surface cover. Many anglers I've spoken with became easily discouraged when they encounter these conditions because no one ever taught them how to easily present weedless lures to game fish and subsequently catch them. Because too many lack this education, far too many become non-believers wind up missing some tremendous fishing.

July and August are sometimes known as "excuse months," in that some fishermen would rather make excuses during these hot periods as to why they're not catching fish. And when I ran into a group of six anglers in an area tackle shop, all they wanted to do was complain that I fabricate stories about the bass I catch from the heavily weeded ponds.

So I took these skeptics to one of my "secret" ponds and let the good times roll.

This particular pond is in western Cook County. It's got a decent population of largemouth bass running 2-5 pounds, along with some jumbo bluegills. I rigged a 7-foot medium action casting rod with a reel spooled with 15-pound test super braid. I went to a section of the pond with the heaviest surface cover.

The lure was one of those floating frogs with the hooks placed close to the frog's body, only they are aimed upward and away from the weeds.

I sent the frog to a section a good 30 feet away and made a lot of surface noise as I made my retrieve. It took a dozen casts before I was able to bring an interested party right up to the lure. A big bass grabbed the frog and started heading for the bottom.

One of the guys in the group yelled for me to set the hook. I ignored him and allowed the bass to make off with the frog. The same guy went nuts pleading for me to set the hook. I wasn't ready.

In another 20 seconds or so I finally took up the slack in the line and set the hooks in a major way. That fish went 4 pounds, and the entire group couldn't believe their eyes.

I caught three more smaller bass and after that I then offered to show the skeptics how to fish these types of lures.

The trick is to let the fish run with the frog for a while until it shuts its mouth while trying to swallow the bait. Even though I never see the mouth-closing stage, I know the fish is shutting its trap in a grand way. That's the perfect time to set the hooks and bring it in.

The entire group left me and ran back to the tackle store to buy some weedless baits and then to try out their newfound knowledge.

All it took was a little demonstration and a couple cooperating fish during these very hot days for another group of "converts" to appreciate slop conditions.

Fishing report:

The only problem with area angling is there just aren't enough fishermen out on the water. There is always an excuse, especially with the broiling sun doing a number on us. But those who take to the lakes and tough it out are managing to find fish.

Fox Chain: Best bet here is the night bite for largemouth bass on Bluff Lake. Surface lures and poppers seem to be working well for Lake Catherine muskies.

Fox River: Evening hours good periods for smallies at South Elgin.

Bangs Lake: Excellent largemouth action in shallow, weedy areas. Use weedless baits and large shiner minnows.

Y Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM.