Believe me, it's not about size but rather substance and the experience.
I admit to having been a braggart when it came to my experiences of catching huge smallmouth bass, stout stream trout and gargantuan northern pike.
I got caught up in the machismo contest of inches and weight.
On the other hand, it's extremely rewarding for me to hear about someone who goes out and has a great time, just for the sake of being out there. I also enjoy when once in a while a reader and or a listener to my outdoor radio talk show does well afield.
The latest example comes from George Johnson. Here's what he wrote in an e-mail:
"I had things to do around the house on a recent Sunday morning, you know -- priorities. I still wanted to go fishing before the dreaded obligatory Monday morning back to work. I drove out to Shabbona from Orland Park and arrived by 4:15 pm. I didn't want to drag my boat out there so I decided the quick trip was for shore fishing. I went into the bait shop, bought 2 dozen large leeches, said hello to owner Denny Sands and headed up to the north end (always a good spot).
"I started at Somonauk point right at the no-motor buoys, rigged a leech on a small Thill slip float and set my bead-stop at 26-28 inches deep. Then I cast out 15 feet, let the rig drop and settle. It was no more than a minute and just like that I had a striped bass. It was 13 inches long and hit the leech like a freight train.
"After the photo and release, I grabbed another leech, checked my line and cast again. Fish on!
"Made yet another cast again, and fish on another time. All this action told me I definitely hit the middle of a school of very aggressive stripers all in the 12 to 14 inch range. It wasn't the weight or size of the fish but rather the ferocity of the strikes! After all of that the count was 17.
"Knowing that the action wasn't going to go on forever I walked over to Earthen Pier No. 1. Same setup again, slip float / leech rig, adjusted to depths of 1½-4 feet, dictated by the depth of where I was casting at that moment.
Just south of the tip of the pier there's a shallow area with some vegetation. This the spot where I concentrated my efforts for largemouth.
"There I repeatedly hooked young males 11½ to 15 inches long with slender bodies. No big stuff in this bunch, but like with the stripers, the action was hot and heavy. The pier and shallow areas produced 19 fish. I finally left around 8:50 p.m. because it started getting dark.
"Thirty-six fish in 4 hours, 35 minutes. I'd call it a great time outdoors. Shabbona Lake fishing, Sunday evening -- hot! Mike, like you have said on your show and in your columns, you don't have to run the boat out to the middle of a lake for hot action."
I have often wondered if during a tournament any of the professional bass anglers ever bothered to grovel a mere couple yards away from the launch area to see if any big bass were gorging themselves on baitfish.
I've managed to discover post-spawn bass and crappie in the shallows, right near piers and public fishing areas. Believe me when I tell you checking those area is worth some investment of your time.
• Contact Mike Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM.