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Illinois hunting and fishing

An angler returns to the boat ramp at the conclusion of a Thursday night tournament on Lake Springfield last summer. Photos by Chris Young.

Anglers get a head start on fishing season

February 17, 2012 at 07:40 AM

The Associated Press

During normal years, March 1 is considered to be the unofficial starting date for spring fishing.

But with this year’s mild winter, there was hardly an off-season at all.

Crappie anglers, in particular, have been busy.

“We caught crappie all winter long,” says Jerry Jallas of the Springfield Crappie Club. “Fishing was excellent at Shelbyville. It took longer to drive over from Springfield — one hour and 20 minutes — than to catch your two-man limit of 30 fish.”

Jallas said parking lots near boat ramps were busy, even during the winter months.

“It was nothing to see 30 boats in the parking lot,” he says. “I’ve talked to guys who say they’ve never seen anything like this. The bite was just amazing.”

Not everyone got to fish all winter long.

A knee problem kept Lou Ochs of the Lake Springfield Open Buddy Catfish Tournament Series sidelined this winter.

“I am dying to get out there,” he says. “I’m so tired of sitting around, it’s unbelievable.”

Ochs says predicted warm temperatures this weekend could draw more anglers out of hibernation: “They’ll be out in force this weekend.”


Steve Parker, who coordinates bass tournaments on Lake Springfield, says low water levels are the only thing holding back bass fishermen.

“There have been a lot of guys going out here and there when the weather is nice, but with the lake being low there hasn’t been much action going on,” he says.

Bass fishermen have been consumed by discussions about the Alabama Rig, a lure with five wires and up to five hooks. The rig is popular, but controversial. So far, it is not allowed on lakes with a two-pole limit, such as Lake Springfield.

To adapt the rig, anglers must remove three of the five lures and replace them with blades or dummy lures.

Dan Stephenson of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources said a position on the Alabama Rig is being formulated. But even if a rule change is in the offing, it could not take effect until 2013.

Parker says he’ll use one only if he has to.

“It takes a lot more skill to use one bait rather than to use five at one time,” he says. “I don’t think it is good for tournament fishing, but for fun fishing, I think it is OK.

“I’ll have one because if I fish a tournament where they are legal I’ll be behind the eight-ball if I don’t.”

Tournament schedules

Here are some of the central Illinois fishing tournament schedules available so far. If you have a fishing tournament schedule for a central Illinois lake, email it to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Springfield Crappie Club

The club holds open tournaments open to anyone, and club tournaments restricted to members. To learn more, visit

Open tournaments:

March 31 — open buddy tournament at Lake Sangchris. Take off from the East Boat Ramp. Entry fee: $50 per boat.
May 5 — open buddy tournament at Lake Shelbyville. Take off from Eagle Creek. Entry fee: $50 per boat.
Three club tournaments:
April 14 at Lake Springfield
May 19 – 20 at Mark Twain Lake in Missouri
June 16 at Shelbyville

Lake Springfield Open Buddy Catfish Tournament Series

All tournaments launch from the Lindsay Bridge Boat Ramp. Entry fee: $60 per two-person team plus optional $10 big fish pot.

March 31 — 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
April 21 — 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
May 19 — 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
June 9 — 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
July 21 — 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Aug. 18 — 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Sept. 15 — 3 to 11 p.m.
Classic, Oct. 6-7 — 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

2012 Lake Springfield bass tournaments

Summer Trail: April 28, June 16, July 21, Aug. 11, Sept. 8, Sept. 29 (Classic)
Megabux Bass Tournament: April 21-22
Thursday Night Bass Tournaments: Thursdays from April 26 to Sept. 6.
Thursday Night Classic: Sept. 30
Illinois Air National Guard Family Support Group Bass Tournament: June 24
Firecracker Open Bass Tournament: July 4
Also, the third annual Illinois Air National Guard Family Support Group Bass Tournament occurs Aug. 26 at Lake Jacksonville.

Illinois hunting and fishing
Steve Parker holds up a big bass brought for weigh-in at the Air National Guard Family Support Bass Tournament held at Lake Jacksonville last summer.

For more information, contact Steve Parker at 741-4255 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528.

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