Breaking News Bar
updated: 1/2/2013 2:43 PM

Satisfying close-to-home trips are always in the budget

Success - Article sent! close

Even though I have been to the wilds of Alaska, the Arctic, Manitoba and many other Canadian provinces, I still have closer-to-home angling opportunities to quench my thirst to fish.

Yes, the tarpon are wonderful fighters in Costa Rica, as are the bonefish in the Florida Keys, but when I need to satisfy my need at a cost of only a buck or two in gas money, I can always rely on local pond bass and jumbo bluegills.

If I can find a high-value long-range trip, I might be convinced to snap one of them up like a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies. And yet I have yearnings to return to southern Illinois lakes like Little Grassy, Crab Orchard, Devil's Kitchen and Rend.

I am trying to convince myself to rent an RV and camp on the pads at Shabbona Lake or try the same thing just over the state line at Lake Delavan near Geneva.

I've gotten to point where I want to get back into the swing of area angling because the possibilities are spectacular.

Take Shabbona Lake as one example.

Chris Kim of Elk Grove Village caught a state record muskie in the no-motor zone, near Area 3 in 1997. He had been crappie fishing and he also had a 4-inch sucker minnow on a bobber. The muskie almost pulled his fishing rod into the water, but Chris grabbed the rig and successfully landed the 37-pound toothy critter.

Lake Shelbyville is a another reservoir that holds the promise some hefty fish.

I was there bass fishing with photographer Mike Seeling when something hit the 10-inch plastic worm I had tossed into a field of deadfall, stick-up tree trunks.

I thought I had a new state record largemouth at the other end.

Because the water was crystal clear in the cove I could see it wasn't a bass. A 44-inch muskie had inhaled the worm and took off for the main lake. Twenty minutes later Seeling netted the fish and took some pictures. It was a thrill and a half.

The backwater areas of the Mississippi River hold some huge fish, as well as big numbers of them.

I used to fish the river in the late 1960s for walleye and sauger. My partner and I would break the thin ice on the surface in the later days of March. But it was the largemouth bass fishing that really lit the fuse.

It was a warmer-than-usual spring when our boat glided into a small, backwater cove. The spinning rod was setup with a pre-rigged plastic worm while the casting outfit was ready with a large minnow-imitating crankbait.

On cast number four, a fish hit the crankbait and took off for the submerged logs. This was a case in which the reel was spooled with 10-pound test super line. It was the perfect setup to haul that fish to the boat. And yes, the reel was spooled with 4-pound mono, just in case a school of crappies came calling.

My partner and I caught and released every one of the 24 bass we managed to dredge up. It was a banner afternoon.

Look, I am not telling anyone to stay home. In fact, The Chicago Outdoor Sports Show opens its doors Jan. 23, and you could very well saddle up to a Canadian lodge booth or a place like Pop's Resort in Crivitz, Wis., and explain your situation to those folks. Good deals are often made at a show like this.

What it all boils down to is that we truly love to be outdoors, fishing and exploring. But if the bucks are tight, you owe it to yourself to at least make the most of local waters.

And sure, if the stash box has a few extra dollars in it, maybe your overall mental health can be bolstered by an exotic fishing trip.

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

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.