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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

Illinois hunting and fishing

Crappie and bass were biting

March 17, 2009 at 09:19 PM

As I left the computer today and my wife gave me that look that said, “Don’t complain to me tonight about all the work you have to do when it’s time to put the kids to bed,” I told her, “If I don’t go fishing today, the Journal Star should fire me.”

“They might fire you anyway,” she said.

Gotta love wives.

She was wrong, of course. At least I hope so. More importantly, the fish bit. Crappie. Bass. Even some bluegill. Despite gusting winds that made casting tough, Gordon Inskeep (pictured above with the best bass of our outing) and I enjoyed a fine day of fishing from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Not a long trip, but a great start to 2009. First we fished a deep, clear Peoria County strip mine lake that is typically very slow to warm.

We walked the bank at the far north end of the lake, the end where the wind had been pushing to all day. Fish were obviously very aware of the wind, because they were stacked on the north end in the big lake and also in a shallower pothole we fished.

I started things off with some crappie caught on my favorite: a black and chartreuse tube on a very light jig head. A heavier jig head would have been a good option, but I left them at home. (Note to self: Get organized, soon). Before long I caught three 11- to 13-inch bass. I caught a few more bass throughout the day on one of Paul Clay’s Mad Willow chatterbaits (crawfish custom pattern). Gordon missed a few fish.

Illinois hunting and fishing

But before I could feel guilty, Gordon nailed a nice bass on a black and blue jig with a big Strike King trailer.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Then we moved on to the pothole, where I caught crappie (largest was 12 inches, smallest 9 inches and all were full of eggs) and he caught bass. Nearly all the fish we caught were on the north end on tube jigs. The lakes are very high right now and there was a line of cattails submerged on the north end. The fish were in those cattails thick, waiting for food to float their way. When it did, they hit. Gordon caught several bass on tube jigs. I caught four crappie and could have had more with heavier jigs. As it was, the bow in my line made it hard to feel a bite. When the wind stopped, I caught fish. When it whistled, I didn’t.

But I’m not complaining. It was a great way to start 2009—even before we walked out and Gordon hooked into a nice 20-inch bass on a tube jig (the one pictured at the top of this entry). If this is a sign of things to come, this fishing season is going to be a great one.




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