Didn't really know where to put this, there's no specific area to post the Mazon, but it flows into the Kank or Illinois I'm pretty sure, so I'll put it here!!
Well the morning started out beautifully for my brother, dad, and me. We arrived to the Mazon at roughly 5:10am right before the sun rose. By the time we were dressed and ready to fish the sun had just come up. I had tied on a jerkbait the night before having a feeling that this would be the hot ticket for this morning. It's my typical go-to lure for river smallies for the past year or so, and I hadn't used it yet, because of my recent success with shallow cranks. Turns out I was 100% correct!!! Within our first hour I had landed 7 smallies. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
The fishing started out decent with a nice lil' chunker within my first half dozen casts in the area.
The very next cast produced a big-time hit. I knew this would be a nice fish. I had him about 8 feet from me when he did some acrobatics and a full somersault before crashing back into the water. He was still hooked at this point, but shortly thereafter he got loose in the fast current. I estimate him at roughly 3-4lbs.
Within another dozen casts I produced another lil' guy that I didn't get a pic of.
My very next cast was another giant hit and after a short battle and some beautiful acrobatics I landed this 3-4lber.
Shortly after that came this 3-4lber.
I caught another dink or two here and there in the next 15 minutes or so, but didn't take pics. Right after releasing a small one I planted a perfect cast just where I wanted it and ripped the jerkbait hard as soon as it landed. As soon as the bait started suspending after the rip I get a MONSTER of a hit that jars my teeth and almost rips the rod from my hands. I'm glad I had 15lb braid on my river rod (due to the rocks and snags that go along with river fishing), and the fish was an absolute blast to fight on my medium action rod and shimano spinning outfit. The fish came out of the water and did two full somersaults before nose-diving back into the heavy current, and I got my first real glimpse at this pig. After a drag-screaming battle of 5-7 minutes pulling the fish in and having him rip drag back out into the current I slowly started to back up towards the shallow gravel bed behind me. I got my first real close-up view of this beautiful fish then, and knew I had hooked into the fish of a lifetime for any Illinois river, and many, many other smallmouth fisheries as well. I got her shallow enough and lipped her with the adrenaline pumping and yelled out so loud they probably heard me 5 miles up-river. I'll let the pictures do the talking, but she measured out at 21 inches or better based on the measurement of my rod next to the fish when I got home, and based on the height of the fish from top to bottom and the massive girth that it was very easily around 6lbs and probably close to the state record. If I had caught her prior to the spawn she might have been the record. My first thought was MAYBE, just MAYBE I had it, but I knew either way that this fish was NOT going to be killed as it's probably around 15 years old or better. I didn't even have a scale, so my brother and I snapped 3 or 4 pictures and she was released back to become the state record for me next year
I felt lucky just to have landed her. When I took the hook out of her mouth it was almost bent straight and it was the only point on the two trebels that had her hooked. The pics will do most the talking!
The measurement against my rod when I got home puts her somewhere around 21 inches or better, and she was HEAVY and as wide as a freight train! I would post that pic, because I have it, but for the protection of the fish from trophy-hunters and record-seekers I do not want to give away specific details in the background of the picture that would easily give the location of the fish. As many of you know I'm not typically like this, but many smallmouth in rivers will live in the same pool year after year after year, and this fish is not one to be taken out just to stick on the wall!
We moved on after the bite died at this spot, explored a bit, and found another area where we picked up a few more smaller ones and ended the morning about 11am. I got 10 smallies and we caught about 25 between the three of us. All-in-all my VERY best day fishing a river in Illinois and even though I was already hooked I don't think I'll ever give up on the absolute amazing potential of Illinois' rivers. Good luck all!! The record is out there and it will be broken soon!!