I have never fished on the Illinois river so at the start of pre-fish we focused on driving around the river and marking fish and seeing where people were fishing. I had a bunch of jig rods rigged up and 3-way rigs with small bladed (size 0) spinner rigs with Randy’s Rigs hooks that I have had a lot of success with on the Mississippi river. It was obvious very early that jigging was not producing fish as fast as 3-ways and trolling; probably due to the water getting dirtier and the days being very dark and cloudy. I focused a lot on trolling lead core from then on since I could cover water a lot quicker and also 3-waying smaller areas that were holding fish. Brian Bashore my traveling partner focused on 3-way rigging with crankbaits and I focused more on my live bait rigs. Early on the live bait rigs were doing well but throughout the week the crankbaits kept getting better. The weather was very cold, windy, and dark, one day getting as far down as -8 degree windchill which I decided not to fish that day. I think the weather really hurt for a good bite and instead made for a tough grinding type bite.
We were consistently catching sauger fishing where everybody else was fishing. The female sauger were pre-spawn and full of eggs so obviously, we tried targeting them. The bigger sauger weighed around 3 pounds and the average sauger weighed around a pound. There were 3 main areas that most of the field were targeting which were the starved rock area by the dam, “The Flats” between spring valley, IL and Peru IL, and by Hennepin IL.
On day one I decided to start near Hennepin because we were catching more females during pre-fish and because we knew the starved rock area was probably going to be a zoo with a lot of people. Right away I started 3-way rigging but didn’t catch anything. I switched to trolling Leadcore and right away caught 3 fish in one pass. I fished until the afternoon there without another fish. I then went to “the flats” area and finally filled my limit right before we had to go to weigh-in. I weighed in 6-12 which had me in 48th going into the second day. My traveling partner weighed 11-4 which put him in 5th. On the second day, I decided to go to the flats to try and pick up my 5 fish quickly and also give Brian more room at Hennepin. I caught 5 fish quickly and ran around the rest of the day looking for bigger fish but never catching another fish. I weighed 6-09 which put me in 51st place. Congrats to my traveling partner Brian Bashore for placing 9th.
With small number 0 spinners tipped with a fat head
Original Rapalas in bright colors like orange or fire tiger
A lot of guys were using this technique for the tournament.
Very bright colored jointed #5 Rapala shad raps and #5 jointed Flicker shads.
Anywhere from 10 to 21 feet of water
We mostly focused on the 10 to 12-foot.