When great bass fishing destinations are discussed, the Prairie State is almost never mentioned. Texas and Florida get the bulk of the press, with California and Georgia following. That fact is just fine with me because Illinois has some amazing bass fishing, and lunker-size largemouth and smallmouth. We can keep this secret to ourselves.
From north to south, Illinois offers bass anglers outstanding bass fishing in more locations than you can imagine. I could spend the rest of this article just listing quality bass fishing spots in the state. I can make this a bit easier by telling you right now that Illinois State Parks and Fish and Wildlife Areas have a plethora of amazing bass fisheries.
From Apple River Canyon State Park and Shabbona Lake State Park in the north to Sanganois SWA and Newton Lake SWA in the central part of the state, to Rend Lake SWA and Pyramid State Park to the south, Illinois provides bass anglers with plenty of opportunities from which to choose. I will say that every Illinois fisherman lives within a 90-minute drive of excellent bass fishing.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the real hotspots in our 2012 Illinois bass forecast.
The massive rains of last spring followed by the drought conditions of last summer could have a dramatic effect on this years fishing. Many of the state’s southern lakes and reservoirs fell to their lowest water levels in history in 2011. There are both good and bad aspects of that drought when it comes to bass fishing. The bad news is that we will not see the full effect until we see how the winter precipitation and the subsequent spring thaw adds to the water levels.
If the melting snow does not fill the impoundments before the spring rains begin, then newly laid bass eggs may be under too much water to hatch. If we get a good melt and the impoundments fill back up before the spawn, we should be good.
One of the good things the drought and record-low water levels brought was the chance for anglers to actually see some of the structure that has been submerged for decades. I can personally attest to this as I spent most of the fall mapping places I have fished for years but have only seen on my electronics. Many bass fishermen will be much more effective in 2012.
Beginning in the north, let’s see what some professional bass fishing guides have to say about the 2012 season. Jimmy Templin, of Jimmy T’s Guide Service, says the extreme conditions of 2011 will have little if any effect on the Fox Chain of Lakes. “The water in the Chain is a river system, which means it flushes out and stabilizes much quicker than impoundments. Fluctuating water issues are short-lived,” Templin told me.
Templin also said that even with the ever-changing conditions of 2011, the bass fishing in northern Illinois was good. “The varying water levels caused the bass to move a bit and you just had to move with them to be successful.”
Templin thinks 2012 will be an even better season than last year. “If we can get good spring weather, northern Illinois’ Fox Chain should be much better than last year. The main food for both smallmouth and largemouth here is bluegill. However, there was an excellent amount of shad in 2011 and, if that trend continues, 2012 should be even better for big bass,” Templin said.
Templin is seeing many more smallmouth bass in the 4-pound range and the same with largemouth. According to Templin, smallmouth bass make up about 20 percent of the catch on the Fox Chain with largemouth accounting for the 80 percent balance. In the pre-spawn spring, Templin likes crankbaits and jerkbaits along weed edges. He says the southern lakes in the Chain are a bit muddy, therefore they warm somewhat earlier. He likes the southern lakes in the spring.
The summer pattern has bass spread out around the weeds. Senkos and topwater baits are best in warm weather. Because of the habitat created by this unique water system, frogs are very prevalent. “I like casting weedless frog-type baits in the summer,” Templin says. “I love the mid-summer topwater bite,” he added
In the fall both the bass and Templin are focused on submerged structure. “I can usually always find good bass in the fall in the Chain by running spinnerbaits in and around the laydowns. Bass are tucked into ambush points in the brush, feeding up for winter.”
The #1 tip Templin gave me for the Fox Chain of Lakes is that bass follow the best water. If the water level rises, the bass will go shallow looking for new places to feed. If the water goes way down, the bass will go deep to find their food. He also recommended both Loon Lake and Bangs Lake for great northern Illinois bass fishing. Both of these impoundments are located in Lake County. To contact Jimmy Templin, go to his Web site, www.jimmytsguideservice.com or call him at (847) 331-7537.
2012 Illinois Bass Forecast: Central region on page two…