Back story on record yellow/white hybrid

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I knew there had to be a back story to the yellow bass/white bass hybrid caught by Jon Adam Zettler, then 18, from Rend Lake on Nov. 3, 2008.


In January, it became the first Illinois record for that category.

The tale involves guide Nick Shafer, the adult, in the photo below with Zettler. Jon’s father Bob clued me in Monday, and sent the photos.


My initial question was: How the hell did you know it was a yellow bass/white bass hybrid?

“We didn’t know,” Bob said. “That’s what is so great about it.”

With that, settle back and enjoy the improbable journey, twisting and turning, to a record fish, the fourth Illinois record caught by a teen in 2008.

“[Nick and I] started hunting together a year ago,” Bob said.

He is hunter more than a fisherman, but he took a fishing invite of Nick.

“I hadn’t crappie fished for years,” Bob said. “It was my birthday in August. He said, `Want to go crappie fishing?’ We went fishing at Kinkaid. We caught nearly 100 fish. Christ, no wonder he won so many damm tournaments.

Then came the fall, and duck season.

“It was rotten for me in central zone,” Bob said.

Nick called again, saying they were “slaying the crappie” on Rend.

Water temperature had changed a bit by the time they got down on Nov. 3, and they weren’t expecting much. They joined six or seven other boats working the pilings near Gun Creek. They began jigging.

“[Nick] has more equipment than Carter has liver pills,” Bob said. “The first or second fish Jon caught was a yellow bass. Nick kept saying, `That is a damm big yellow bass.’ ”

They put it in the live well and took some pictures.

“We decided to go out for dinner,” Bob said. “He called a few friends to check the Internet. They said the state record is 2 pounds. I said, `Yeah, yeah.” We just had a super time. We didn’t get home until 10.

“The next day was election day. I had it weighed at Country Market in Chatham, at the meat counter. It had sat out for 24 hours. But it wavered, 2.07, 2.08. I was just shocked. We settled on 2.06. Probably much more than that when caught.”

They started calling the IDNR the next day. Biologist Dan Stephenson drove over from Havana to look at it.

“He kinda wasn’t quite sure if it is yellow bass,” Bob said. “About the only think he could think of, it was a hybrid between a white and yellow. There was no category for that.

Stephenson took a clipping from the one side and a little inside strip of meat for DNA testing by the Illinois Natural History Survey.

Finally, in January, the results came back. And Jon had a record, for the new category of hybrid yellow bass/white bass.

“We were just blown away, we were just glad found something to do together,” Bob said. “Just a special moment, it really was.”

That thought had been echoed by Jon, who told Stephenson: “I was blown away and sure glad I went with my dad and his friend that morning. We don’t spend as much time together as we used to and catching this fish sure made the day that more special.”

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