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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 Outdoors

Larry Waughop weighs a bass at the annual Lake Harold Invitational while Bill Hudnall of Pekin (far right) looks on.

Shut out at Lake Harold

September 30, 2008 at 06:19 AM

So much for thinking.

Since moving to Elmwood, I’ve tried to fish the twice-a-year Lake Harold Invitational tournament whenever possible. It’s a bragging-rights event put on by Harold Jehle at his 20-acre strip-mine lake. The event is set up kind of like golf, in that each of the 10 or 11 boats in the tourney gets to spend 25-30 minutes fishing a marked location and then must move on to another stretch of bank when a horn sounds.

Most years my preparation consists of getting together plenty of Yamamoto Senkos. Lake Harold is one of those clear, tough-to-fish strip mine lakes that requires some finesse fishing. It’s the perfect place for Senkos.

Thanks to that combination, I have been able to fare pretty well in years past. My partners and I have never won, but we’ve always been able to weigh fish and be competitive.

But this year, partner Gordon Inskeep and I decided to pre-fish two days before the event. And for the first time, I turned on the depth finder for the entire time we fished. Lo and behold, I saw tons of fish stacked anywhere humps or structure touched 16 feet of water. And I caught several of those fish, all of which were 12 inches or better—most of which were closer to 14 inches. We’ve always suspected the better fish might be deep, and this seemed to prove that hunch.

So I changed my whole approach, shifting to deep-diving crankbaits, salt craws with heavy weights and jigs. Gordon even tried drop-shotting. But guess what? I never boated a legal fish. And while Gordon landed three legal bass that weighed a hair over 2 pounds, we were well back in the pack.

Bill Hudnall of Pekin and Chad Snyder of Dunfermline won with just over 7 pounds for five fish, including one that topped 3 pounds. All those fish were shallow. And that’s pretty much what everyone else said: They caught fish shallow, many using Senkos. Ouch.

I had plenty of Yamamoto Senkos in my box. But because of my thinking (and that darned depth finder), I didn’t rely on my go-to bait. Had those deep fish bit, I could have been a genius. But they didn’t. And the opposite of a genius in this case is a loser.


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