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Bass too big for a selfie on season-ending soul sooth: Mazonia comes through


Dale Bowman enjoys his biggest largemouth bass of 2018, caught in the final days of fishing at Mazonia SFWA.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

There’s a special joy in realizing a fish is too big for a full selfie.

I let that sink in Thursday as I finagled a way to hold my biggest largemouth bass of the year for a photograph.

It was especially joyful because I would have been happy to catch a bluegill in the post-frontal conditions.

All I really wanted to do was get away for a few hours at my favorite disappearing spot, wandering around the 200-plus lakes at the north unit of Mazonia State Fish and Wildlife Area.

It’s where I go to be alone, to think my thoughts and to rummage through life.

Mazonia closes to fishing for the year Tuesday, except for Monster Lake at Mazonia South, which stays open for fishing year-round.

I didn’t take enough time at Mazonia this year. On Thursday, I made up for it.

I had a few hours between dropping our second son at work and picking up our daughter from college, so I drove to Mazonia, the collection of pits in southwestern Will County.

The reality is that I’m at a point where catching a fish isn’t a necessity anymore — unless I am fishing with my younger brother or a couple of friends, that is. Then I still have to catch one more than they do.

What I really wanted was the joy of isolation in being outside in a wild area.


A long view at Mazonia State Fish and Wildlife Area in the closing days of fishing in 2018.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

As it turned out, it was a fishing day, not a navel-staring, soul-searching day.

On my second cast, I caught a largemouth of 12 inches. At that point, I realized the day would be different than I anticipated. Forget sitting, listening, watching and eyeing the scenery of water and shoreline from the small wooden dock at one of my favorite lakes at Mazonia. Instead, I would be focused on fishing.

I had two spinning rods, my basic approach to general fishing. One rod had a spinner on 6-pound line. The other had a tungsten jig on 4-pound line.

To see if fish were active, I started with the spinner. The way the first fish hit, some were active. On my fourth cast, I hooked my biggest largemouth of the year and whispered a prayer as I reeled it in. I also should have whispered a prayer of thanksgiving when I did, but I forgot.

I eventually had cast every angle of the inlet I was fishing, and the bite had slowed. So I switched to the tungsten jig with a red wiggler. At first, I just tried to hook bait-stealing bluegills and green sunfish.

Then I began to catch some small largemouth and some decent crappie. The crappie made me wish I had stashed a float in my camo bag.

Three guys pulled up early in the afternoon and dumped a camouflaged boat in at the dirt ramp I was fishing by. As they did, I caught a decent carp.

They were going to work on a blind. One guy admitted they were cutting the time close. Those who draw a blind must have it in acceptable condition ahead of duck season or lose the blind.

It was time.

In an hour and a half of fishing, I went 8-for-10 on largemouth, 1-for-3 on crappie and 1-for-2 on carp. I didn’t count the bait-stealing panfish. It was a different day than expected, but it was soul-soothing all the same.


The full view of Dale Bowman enjoying his biggest largemouth bass of 2018, caught in the final days of fishing at Mazonia SFWA.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times