Illinois Outdoors at PrairiestateOutdoors.com
RulesIllinois Outdoors at PrairiestateOutdoors.com
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
 

Scattershooting

A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Scattershooting at porcupines and doves

August 26, 2010 at 11:04 PM

Rambling through the outdoors hoping cold rains fall on Wisconsin and Minnesota soon.

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Why hope for rain? Wet, cold weather up north could chase doves our way prior to Wednesday’s season opener. Otherwise things look fairly grim. We’ll have a complete report Sunday, but most dove-watchers in central Illinois say numbers are well below average. ... Then again, in southern Illinois, prospects look much better. Guide Jason Johns noted a recent influx of grey ghosts around Rend Lake. Similar reports are trickling in from elsewhere down south. ... Speaking of migrants, Matt Winks of El Paso spotted numerous warblers at Bloomington’s Ewing Park on Thursday. Shorebirds have also been squeaking down the Illinois River Valley in big numbers. ... One shorebird hotspot was the Wilder Tract of Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge. But a long-delayed wetland improvement started Monday and displaced many birds. Due to construction, the Wilder Tract is also closed during early Canada goose and teal seasons. Hunting will be allowed in the oxbow lakes and on the south end of Forgotten Road. Work should be done by the regular duck season.

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Did anybody else see a porcupine in Peoria County? Journal Star carrier Josh Rudd, 19, swears he saw a porcupine east of Glasford while running his route a few weeks ago. That would be a bigger shock than a cougar sighting behind the Journal Star. Aside from prehistoric remains, there are no historic records of porcupines in Illinois according to Donald Hoffmeister’s book “Mammals of Illinois.” ... The Department of Natural Resources has a new Website called “Living with White-tailed Deer in Illinois.” Visit web.extension.illinois.edu/deer for a comprehensive look at Prairie State deer. ... Rudd’s porcupine sighting came to mind Tuesday when a shaggy brown critter shambled out of a Peoria County ditch. Well, it turned out to be a goat ... a grumpy goat that hustled into the timber after a few pictures. Visit Scattershooting at prairiestateoutdoors.com to see that goat and four months worth of other Pictures of the Day dating to April 5.

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The arrival of cooler weather always makes me think of my old black lab, Buck. As fall approached he got crazier and crazier until he finally got his mouth around the first duck, goose or pheasant of the year. Maddening as that dog was, I miss him. Duck season just isn’t the same. ... Teal? Anybody seeing teal?... Cooler weather has improved the crappie bite. Fish shallow early and then move deeper as the day wears on. Muskie are also much more active of late. Nick Johnson caught and released a 40-incher this week at McMaster Lake in Snakeden Hollow and reported follows by several larger fish. ... Friends of Rice Lake is hoping to bankroll a goose hunting pit or two for Double T this fall. But we need more members or a few major donations to make that happen. Visit friendsofricelake.org for a membership application.

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Duck, goose and upland game hunters are reminded to go online to apply for permits to hunt state ground. Free upland permit applications (dnr.state.il.us/uplandgame) are due by Tuesday. Wednesday is deadline for the first drawing for waterfowl permits (dnr.state.il.us/duck or /goose). ... Chef Todd will cook venison and beef burgers, shark, smoked pig and grilled bananas today at Hooked on Fishing Park in East Peoria from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Suggested donation is $10. All proceeds benefit the youth fishing park located next to Dixon’s Fisheries.  ... Size apparently matters to female red-eyed tree frogs. Studies detailed in the journal Herpetologica show larger male tree frogs more readily find mates. Large size apparently proves a frog’s ability to survive and outcompete other males. Needless to say, hefty fellows like Chef Todd and I might enjoy coming back as red-eyed tree frogs should we be granted additional lives.

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The National Sporting Goods Association says participation by female hunters has increased by 75 percent in the past five years. The organization estimates 3 million women now hunt and 5 million shoot regularly. ... Duck details: Mark Werner of Pekin was among the first to sign up for Illinois’ new Ducks Unlimited license plates. While the new plates are not yet listed on the Secretary of State’s Website, Werner said anyone interested can send a request to: Secretary of State; 501 S. Second St., Third Floor, Att.: Carla; Springfield, IL 62756. Plates can only be issued after 1,500 requests. ... Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady will pull a few triggers Sunday at Oak Ridge Sportsman’s Club near Mackinaw for a fund-raising sporting clays shoot. Cost is $125. Register from 8-9 a.m. or call (309) 925-5077 or 538-4550. ... Parting shot: Good news for bird hunters in Knox County is just a few weeks away. Stay tuned.

Story and comments

Scattershooting at doves, Al and carp

August 05, 2010 at 09:36 PM

Rambling through the outdoors hoping to see evidence of Al Gore’s inconvenient truth between now and Sept. 1.

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Let crybabies in Michigan file lawsuits about Asian carp. Illinoisans are too busy making the most of the high-flying pests to line the pockets of lawyers. This weekend is proof positive, as Bath’s Boat Tavern holds the sixth annual Redneck Fishing Tournament and Time on the Water Marina in Spring Valley debuts Carpalooza. ... Redneck anglers can fish today from 5-7 p.m. or Saturday from 9-11 a.m., 1-3 p.m. or 5-7 p.m. The goal is to collect as many Asian carp as possible using dipnets or by enticing them to jump into your boat. Needless to say, there will be plenty of beer served, along with music, food and other fun. ... Carpalooza includes two bowfishing tournaments and an open house at Time on the Water from Saturday at 9 a.m. to Sunday at 6 p.m. Time on the Water owner Frank Hyla has really transformed the old Riverview Marine business. Stop by to check out the new archery range or visit with more than 40 archery manufacturer representatives expected.

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A customer recently told Outdoor Hall of Famer Al Hayden, “The Spoon River looks like a porcupine.” Galesburg bait guru Hayden was momentarily confused until the customer explained he was referring to all the bankpoles lining Spoony. After a summer of high water, frustrated bankpolers are finally hooking into some chunky channel cats. ... Speaking of hungry bottom dwellers, water boiling into the 90s and above has not cooked blue cats at Powerton or LaSalle lakes. “Their metabolism is through the roof and they are feeding and hitting hard,” said guide Matt Jones. “They are absolutely slamming baits.” ... Pining for similarly juicy fishing tips from Minister Morris? He returns in late August after a summer of sleeping late and relaxing. Preachers have all the luck. ... The Department of Natural Resources has officially granted state record status to Washington angler Pat Crumrine’s 0.64-pound pumpkinseed out of the Emiquon Preserve and Jack Bailey’s 69-pound Kaskaskia River bighead carp.

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While Tiger Woods may not supplant Jack Nicklaus as best golfer ever, there’s no similar intrigue in pro bass fishing. Kevin VanDam, 42, recently won his third straight Bassmaster Angler of the Year title and has 19 BASS wins against stiffer competition than ex-best Roland Martin, who also has 19 wins. Even at that, 20-year veteran Van Dam’s career earnings are just $4.5 million — less than journeyman golfer Bubba Watson banked the past three years on the PGA Tour while winning once. ... Showtime: Hunting, fishing and outdoor living vendors gather Saturday (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Sunday (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) at Lowderman Auction Center west of Macomb. The Outdoors Expo also features seminars by Tim Wells, Les Davenport and Dan Vinovich, a pop-up archery shoot Saturday (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), duck and goose calling contests and more. Admission is $5 or free for ages 13 and under. Meanwhile, outdoor collectibles are the focus Sunday at Celebrations 150 Hall in Utica from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. ... The Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations is online and should be available soon through license vendors.

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Disturbing? Or no big deal? In recent days I’ve seen doves bunched in flocks as large as 50 birds. That seems early to me and to former wildlife biologist Norm Emerick, who is fretting over similar sightings in Knox County. Think the gray ghosts will migrate before Sept. 1 yet again? Here’s hoping July’s warm temperatures (average of 77.7 degrees compared to 70.2 last year) continue until the dove opener. After back-to-back slow seasons, dove hunters deserve a little global warming this August. ... Speaking of doves, the Illinois Conservation Foundation has a free youth hunt (for ages 10-17) at a swanky property near Pecatonica on Sept. 4 from sunrise to 2 p.m. The same dove-filled spot will play host to a fund-raiser hunt on opening day for $250, including lunch. “Last year everyone there had their limit in an hour and a half. And last year wasn’t particularly good,” said Mark Spangler, the new ICF honcho. For details call (217) 720-4389. ... Incidentally, the Iroquois County Conservation Area topped Illinois public areas last year with 9.84 doves per hunter.

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There’s still time to join the Friends of Rice Lake. So far we’ve raised more than $5,000, but memberships have slowed to a trickle. While we’d sure like to bankroll goose pits for Double T or gravel for Banner Marsh, we need your help. Learn more at friendsofricelake.org or just send a check ($25 for a basic membership; $50 gets you a hat or t-shirt) to: P.O. Box 4004, Bartonville, IL 61607. ...  As if bowhunters weren’t antsy enough, resident archery deer permits went on sale Tuesday. There are also 11,348 non-resident combination permits left from an original allocation of 25,000. ... Target time: Archers seeking to hone their eye can fire away at 3-D shoots held this weekend by the Pekin Archers Saturday and Sunday (7 a.m. to noon) or the Deer Creek Legion, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days. ... The state stocked 25,000 largemouth bass in Canton Lake to supplement the population there, which is otherwise low in number and high in quality. ... Parting shot: The only worthwhile reality show on television is Benelli’s Duck Commander program.

Story and comments

Scattershooting at bass, blackberries and more

July 09, 2010 at 04:45 AM

Rambling through the outdoors wondering if the good old days of Emiquon bass fishing are past us already.

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Despite dire budget news in Illinois, there’s no final number for cuts in the Department of Natural Resources. “We do have to make cuts. Where and how much I don’t know yet,” Director Marc Miller said. “Every state agency is going to have to do something. But there is an understanding of what this agency has done in the past and I think that’s being taken into account.” Miller said money raised through this year’s license fee increases can’t be used for purposes other than fish and wildlife restoration or management. Even so, my hunch is that the already strapped lands division will see cuts once DNR’s share of general revenue dollars shrinks. ... Given that, starting the Friends of Rice Lake (FORL) is even more timely. “We need more groups like this,” Miller said. FORL meets again Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Presley’s Outdoors to prepare for the July 25 duck-blind drawing. Plans are to register members and sell hats, shirts and chances at Butch Louck’s hand-carved mallard decoy. Worth noting is that the group is working on behalf of all properties in the Rice Lake Complex, including Banner Marsh and Double T.

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If you haven’t had your fill of nature’s bounty, now’s a good time to be picking blackberries. Steve Purchase of Elmwood reported a good haul of ripe berries Thursday in Peoria County. Blackberry lovers predict this wet summer should provide a bumper crop. ... The moist summer has not been so kind to most sunflower fields. “Last year I thought was bad, but this year is the worse sunflowers I’ve ever seen,” said Rick Knisely, site manager at Snakeden Hollow State Fish and Wildlife Area. “All these rain-dependent weeds are having a blast.” Flowers are also poor at Banner Marsh but better at Double T and at Jim Edgar-Panther Creek. ... Did you know: Illinois’ state amphibian is the Eastern tiger salamander. ... Did you know Part 2: I have never seen an Eastern tiger salamander in 22 years of living in The Prairie State.

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Don’t fret yet about Emiquon’s bass population. Yes, fishing is tougher this summer than last. But it can still be outstanding. And for every angler who bemoans tough fishing there’s another tight-lipped chap with a sore thumb from landing so many largemouths. “I’m not sure it’s really a matter of finding them, but maybe more of being there when they want to feed,” said Doug Blodgett of The Nature Conservancy, who had a recent evening trip that went from slow to great. “We’d been at a spot 10-15 minutes and were ready to continue our tour when within a five-minute period they started hitting like old times. We were in a ditch fishing the edge of the vegetation along it. We probably had 20 fish on in 30 minutes.” ... The DNR expects a verdict soon on the South Zone waterfowl opener. Director Miller said 66 percent of hunters surveyed favored a Nov. 27 opener vs. 29 percent in favor of an earlier Nov. 13 start. To help end this debate, Miller has asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a fourth zone. “If the goals of the Fish and Wildlife Service are to improve hunter satisfaction and help with hunter recruitment, a fourth zone is part of that,” he said.

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Brief panic crossed my mind after reading an Associated Press story that said Wisconsin and Illinois reached a “memorandum of understanding” regarding chronic wasting disease in deer. For my money, Wisconsin has made too much out of CWD and killed too many deer while Illinois has taken a more prudent approach. So I was relieved to learn both state’s will maintain whitetail management autonomy. Deer biologist Paul Shelton said all this “memorandum” really means is that the states will do a better job of sharing information and discussing goals. ... Speaking of deer, firearm permits are arriving in the mail for hunters who were drawn in the first lottery. If you haven’t applied, yet, there’s still time. The second lottery deadline is Aug. 16. ... Parting shot: Now is a good time to take home a fat monarch butterfly caterpillar on a milkweed leaf. Feed the caterpillar fresh leaves for a few days and then sit back and enjoy. Watching the ravenous green-and-yellow caterpillar turn to an emerald green chrysalis and then emerge as a monarch never gets old.

Story and comments

Scattershooting at tornados and raspberries

June 10, 2010 at 11:46 PM

Rambling through the outdoors pondering how many critter casualties a tornado causes.

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Shortly after 8 p.m. last Saturday, while surveying downed trees and a crushed truck topper and boarding up a window, it occurred to me that June is the best month to leave Elmwood for vacation. Sure that means missing the Strawberry Festival, a few hundred baseball games and Coach Valla’s hoops camp. But on the flip side ... Terrible June storms in two consecutive years? Come on. Odds are better the Buffalo Bills will win a Super Bowl or North Korea will claim the World Cup. ... Among the many wild tornado tales is one from Dan Kelch of Kickapoo, who found a canoe in his lake along Illinois Route 8 after the storm. Turns out the tornado transported the canoe more than a mile before dropping the boat to float as if launched by a paddler. There’s no truth to rumors Kelch raffled off the canoe to raise funds for the Independent Sports Club. ... One welcome sight was seeing so many people willing to help others. As much as a tornado stuns with its cruel power, the aftermath can be a wonderful reminder of mankind’s goodness.

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Free fishing days are here through Monday, meaning anglers can wet a line in Illinois without a license, trout stamp or salmon stamp. If you’ve been meaning to take the kids fishing, now’s the time. ... What’s biting? Minister Morris sayeth catfish and bluegill are best bets. Then, as is his wont, he rambled on about “fishers of men” or some such preacher talk. Once we restored his focus to what really matters, he noted dipbait is the ticket for whiskered bottom dwellers. ... This week our free-roaming feline caught a fledgling robin in the yard and had every bird around squawking. Even a squirrel joined in the ruckus. While the robin was rescued, my offer stands: Anybody want a barn cat? Being a cat-hating hypocrite hurts. ... Speaking of young worm eaters, Bob and Ramona Fisher have a white robin in their yard in the Wee-ma-Tuk subdivision. “He flies well but his momma still brings him worms,” Ramona said. Apparently white or partially white robins are not uncommon. But they are easier for predators to spot, which may explain why they don’t last for long.

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Good news out of Springfield is that the Department of Natural Resources finally hired a replacement for turkey biologist Jerry Garver, who retired in 2002. The new biologist starts Wednesday, capping the longest hiring processes in DNR history. Hopefully the new Gobbler Guru will allocate more spring hunting permits and add new counties to the fall hunting list. ... Bob Platt returned from Lake Erie on Sunday with enough walleye filets to feed his hometown of Sparland for a week. Fishing out of Port Clinton, Ohio, for 10 days, Platt and his crew had limits every day and averaged 20-25 walleye per outing. Their largest was a 28.5-incher and most measured 19-24 inches. ... No crowing: As Iowa’s acreage enrolled in the conservation reserve program has declined, so has its pheasant hunting. Last year 74,000 hunters in the Hawkeye State shot a record-low 271,000 roosters — down 29 percent from last year’s worst-ever harvest. Sadly that downward trend will likely continue after a harsh winter and wet spring. As recently as 2005 Iowa was at or near 1 million roosters per season.

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While there have been no recent bear sightings in Bureau County, at least one biologist thinks bears could eventually colonize parts of Illinois. “I think southern Illinois could have a bear population if people allowed it,” said Eric Hellgren, a wildlife ecologist in the Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory at Southern Illinois University. “There’s plenty of bear habitat in the Shawnee National Forest.” In January Hellgren and associates start a research project focusing on the return of large carnivores to Illinois. Word is this may be a precursor to affording some protection for bears, wolves and cougars in the Illinois Wildlife Code. ... We’ve heard two unconfirmed reports of a wolf supposedly photographed near Sheffield last weekend. So far no picture has surfaced. We have seen odd photos of dead rodents hanging high up in a tree near Joe Aspan’s East Peoria home. That one has me scratching my head. ... Parting shot: Mulberries are ripe and black raspberries should be pickable this weekend. Get ready for cobbler and ice cream to cap a meal of bluegill filets.

Story and comments

Scattershooting at blue cats, morels and more

May 13, 2010 at 03:49 PM

Rambling through the outdoors wondering why I didn’t shoot that dumb jake.

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Fate smiled on Dewey Banks Tuesday at Powerton Lake. As he was fishing, an Asian carp leaped onto the rocky shore near Banks, who was fishing along the hot-water discharge. Banks grabbed the carp, cut it up for bait and a few minutes later landed a 55-pound blue catfish, largest documented at Powerton since they were stocked in the fall of 1999. Just don’t plan on fishing at Powerton from May 25-27 — the lake will be closed for levee repair. ... Youngsters get a chance to wet a line in several fishing derbies this weekend. First up is the Clyde West Fishing Derby on Saturday at Glen Oak Lagoon in Peoria. Youngsters 9 and under fish from 9-11 a.m., ages 10-13 wet lines from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and seniors and disabled anglers can cast from 1-3 p.m. Rods bait and supplies are provided for those who need them. On Sunday the scene shifts to Lincoln Park Lagoon at Lake Storey in Galesburg. Registration starts at noon and youngsters can fish from 1-3 p.m. for redear and channel catfish. Prizes are awarded.

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How will this morel mushroom season rank? “It was the worst season anybody has seen in southern Illinois,” said Joe McFarland, a writer for the Department of Natural Resources who also authored the book “Edible Wild Mushrooms of Illinois and Surrounding States.” The same was true in much of central Illinois. Problem was there wasn’t much eating going on for most Illinois morel hunters. “It’s no coincidence this was the warmest April on record,” McFarland said. ... The weird spring weather worried some hummingbird watchers like Mary Samuelson of Peoria, whose fast-moving little friends have been late to show. Many report hummers are 10 days to two weeks later than usual in arriving — though a few had birds show up early during those seemingly long-ago warm days of April. ... If you want more birds around your house, consider attending a backyard habitat and garden tour Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at Forest Park Nature Center and then Luthy Botanical Garden.

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Another turkey season has ended with me gobbler-less. The aforementioned jake (which means young male turkey) came to my decoys three times on my second outing. I let him walk, hoping for a mature gobbler with a long bard. Of course I never had as good a shot in six more days of hunting. ... What seemingly innocent question can start fistfights among bowhunters? Fixed blade or mechanical? ... Arrow flingers looking to improve their aim have a chance to shoot the 3-D course Saturday and Sunday at the Chillicothe Sportsmen’s Club, with registration starting at 7 a.m. each day. ... The wickets are down again at Peoria Lock and Dam and the Illinois River will be flooding backwaters soon. Fortunately, waterfowl refuges have not yet been planted at Rice Lake, Banner Marsh or Anderson Lake. But sunflowers are in at Banner and Double T, which is good news. ... Speaking of Rice Lake, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is busy taking core samples and doing preliminary work related to the long-awaited rehabilitation project there and at Duck Island. So we may yet see the project started this century.

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Smaller fish should be the highlight of this coming week, with bluegill expected to spawn in force once weather stabilizes. When the gills hit the beds, make sure to bring crickets for bait. Those wiggly legs must look like candy to a bluegill. ... Need a public bluegill hotspot? On the west side of the Illinois River try the many lakes of Snakeden Hollow (my favorite for trophy gills is Turkey Lake) or the Fulton County Recreation Area near St. Davis. On the east side head to Dawson Lake in Moraine View State Park or Lake Bloomington. ... Spent Tuesday fishing Prairie Lake at Jim Edgar-Panther Creek near Chandlerville and left very impressed at the size of bass and the abundant flooded timber in that 210-acre lake. Even so, it was painful to drive past Emiquon to go fish for bass somewhere else. ... Word of my dilemma prompted Minister Morris to start a sermon about not coveting thy neighbor’s bass. ... The other impressive thing at Prairie Lake was the various birds we saw flitting through the flooded trees. Woodpeckers, warblers, swallows and even orioles made the day pass faster.

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Among the most memorable moments at last weekend’s Illinois High School Association bass fishing finals was when little Dalton Wesley of Edwardsville hoisted a pair of 4-pounders he caught on Carlyle Lake. Seeing an 80-pound freshman grinning from ear to ear as he held those lunkers was a great reminder why the IHSA event is the best bass tourney going. In what other event could a kid of Wesley’s stature have a chance to take center stage?  ... Want to learn how to kayak? Evergreen Lake has a paddling clinic Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon in Comlara Park for $15. Call (309) 726-2022, Ext. 221. ... Illinois deer hunters are reminded to get online and apply for firearm permits. We are now in the second lottery period. ... Parting shot: Consider this a second to the motion made by reader Jim Miller that Dave Gannaway of the IHSA should be nominated for the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame. He has laid a solid foundation for the IHSA bass tourney.

 

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