Jim O’Neil’s world of fishing at Tinley Expo; and spring wild things

Jim O’Neil, with a career arc from high school bass fishing to a career in the outdoors, will speak on swimbaits at the Tinley Park Fishing, Travel & Outdoor Expo; plus early spring signs in Wild Things.

SHARE Jim O’Neil’s world of fishing at Tinley Expo; and spring wild things
Jim O’Neil with his biggest catch bass, caught Saturday on a Duby Swimbait.

Jim O’Neil with his biggest catch bass, caught Saturday on a Duby Swimbait.

Provided

For a few minutes in 2011, Jim O’Neil held the record for the heaviest bass weighed at the Illinois High School Association’s state finals for bass fishing.

‘‘For, like, six minutes,’’ O’Neil said. ‘‘You were interviewing me, and he weighed in a 6½[-pounder].’’

The former Marist angler has a good memory. Even 12 years later, O’Neil had the weight of his bass right at 5 pounds, 11 ounces and that of Highland’s Taylor Wieser’s correct at 6-8.

Jim O’Neil holds the largemouth bass he caught in June of 2011 for Marist at the IHSA state championship for bass fishing; the bass briefly was the heaviest weighed at the state finals. Credit: Dale Bowman

Jim O’Neil holds the largemouth bass he caught in June of 2011 for Marist at the IHSA state championship for bass fishing; the bass briefly was the heaviest weighed at the state finals.

Dale Bowman

O’Neil will share his knowledge when he conducts a seminar on swimbaits at 11:30 a.m. Sunday at the Tinley Park Fishing, Travel & Outdoor Expo. The new show runs Friday through Sunday at the Tinley Park Convention Center.

‘‘It is in the backyard,’’ O’Neil said. ‘‘As an outdoorsman, besides social media, it is the best way to show off. Those smiles are authentic in those pictures. People I’ve grown up with will be there. Some friends not in the outdoors industry or not outdoorsmen will be there, and that brings them to an outdoors event.’’

I asked him about the topic of his talk.

‘‘Swimbait fishing is one of the biggest crazes in the bass world,’’ O’Neil said. ‘‘I will be educating the public on why some people will throw baits that make your shoulder hurt and look like muskie baits and why some go for up to $1,000. It is a niche that fascinates.’’

I caught O’Neil hustling to make a plane at Midway on his way to fish in Florida.

‘‘We will be fishing five states and two countries over the next six weeks,’’ said O’Neil, who now writes for and hosts TV shows for MidWest Outdoors.

It will be O’Neil’s first show seminar, but he won’t be overwhelmed.

‘‘I sang in front of thousands,’’ he said. ‘‘Singing was my first love, even before fishing.’’

O’Neil, a natural tenor, sang in choirs and competitively. When living in Alabama, he was in a band. Now back, he’s working with a band doing ‘‘some old country, some radio, some folk country.’’

In terms of life choices, he lived in Alabama, where he honed his fishing skills on Lake Eufaula, Lake Martin and the renowned spotted-bass fishery on the Coosa River. While there, O’Neil — now the coach at Marist — coached at Auburn High School. Before he returned to the south suburbs, he won two of five tournaments he entered.

‘‘I started learning spotted bass and started learning to follow schooling bass and how to follow bait,’’ he said.

He fits with the other speakers: Robert Bobich, Keith Cortopassi, Capt. Pat Harrison, Jim Kopjo, Capt. Bill Kutka, Ken ‘‘Husker’’ O’Malley, Steve Silic, Capt. Chris Taurisano and Johnny Wilkins.

For more information, go to tinleyfishexpo.com.

Wild things

I saw my first night crawler in the rain Thursday, the earliest I recall. . . . Tom Jurich reported sandhill cranes headed north Sunday over Munster, Indiana. Others reported sandhills moving, too. . . . Christian Howe had daffodils up an inch by Sunday and saw an early red-winged blackbird. . . . The Great Backyard Bird Count (birdcount.org) runs Friday through Monday.

Illinois hunting

Remember that windshield cards must be in by today, Feb. 15.

Stray cast

Ed Mullady waited 10 years for his induction to the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame, and Devin Hester and Warren Zevon remain outside their respective halls.

Musician Warren Zevon performs on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol in this May 14, 2001, file photo.

Musician Warren Zevon performs on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol in this May 14, 2001, file photo.

David Zalubowski/AP

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