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Jeff Lampe
Jeff Lampe

Jeff Lampe has been outdoor writer at the Journal Star in Peoria for 12 duck seasons. He lives in Elmwood with his wife Monica, sons Henry, Victor and Walter, and Llewellin setter Hawkeye. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he is an avid fan of the Bills and still has mental scars from four consecutive Super Bowl losses. Outside of hunting and fishing, Lampe's main passion in Illinois was Class A boys basketball (which sadly no longer exists). Former publisher of the Class A Weekly newsletter, Lampe is a co-author of "100 Years of Madness" and "Classical Madness," both books focusing on prep basketball in Illinois.

Illinois Outdoors


A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Almost a fabulous day of fishing

October 07, 2008 at 03:56 PM

You’ve all heard the story about the one that got away.

Stop reading if you’re not willing to hear another.

Suffice to say, I lost a huge walleye at the side of the boat today and fishing partner Gordon Inskeep lost a big bass at the side of the boat. That we also caught numerous fish (including another 18-inch bass and several 12-15 inchers) made the day a memorable one.

And it certainly made up for a dismal showing in a tournament at the same lake 10 days earlier. While Inskeep caught fish that night, I was blanked.

But today, the conditions were perfect for this lake—if not for much else. The Peoria County strip mine we fished is clear and deep and notoriously tough to fish. The best trips I’ve had on the lake have come on cloudy, windy, rainy days. Well, today had two of the three elements as it rained on us all morning.

But when the fish bite, a little rain doesn’t matter much. And the fish did bite.

Inskeep did best on the bass, catching most on a Texas-rigged Chompers’ trick worm. For the first few hours I alternated between trying for bass half-heartedly and trying hard to catch some crappie and bluegill for dinner.

The big one Gordon lost looked to be a thick 19- to 20-incher. Shame, would have made a nice picture what with the trees changing and all.

Any sympathy I felt for Gordon swam off into the lake a few hours later, though. At about 11:45 a.m., while fishing a new Sebile Koolie Minnow crankbait, I hooked into a huge fish. At first I thought it was a big bass. But it was too long. Then Gordon yelled, “Northern.”

And it was long enough to be a northern. But it was too thick. “Walleye,” I yelled, perplexed.

I say perplexed because nobody catches walleye in this lake. Last they were stocked was 1991 according to owner Harold Jehle, who said he did catch a 19-incher last spring.

My fish was bigger than that. And it felt great as I cranked it around to the side of the boat. The water was clear enough that I could see the fish well—beautiful speckling with some golden color. I’ve been along for the ride when biologists netted some huge walleye at Snakeden Hollow (like the one held at right by Ken Clodelter, which was more gold than the one I lost),Illinois hunting and fishing one we figured was 9 pounds. I’ve seen pictures of some 7-pounders. This fish was all of that. But we had no net. And I got in a hurry. Instead of relaxing and let Gordon grapple with the toothy walleye, I tried to horse it into the boat. Just like that, the line broke.

The fabulous, spotted fish was gone—with my nifty crankbait.

Later, Chef Todd gave me the old, I-told-you-so speech: “Dude, didn’t I tell you to change line. Didn’t I say that fall was a big fish time and that after all summer you had to change your line. I bet you had abrasion on that line. Told you dude.”

Moments later I caught an 18-inch bass on a larger Sebile Koolie Minnow. Nice fish, but it was no monster walleye. “You want to take a picture,” Inskeep asked? Nah.

He understood.

“I bet that walleye was 29 inches long,” Inskeep said.

Maybe. We’ll never know for sure.

I’ll tell you this, though, when I close my eyes to sleep tonight that fish will be staring at me.


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