Springfield — For nearly two decades, Illinois fisheries biologists have predicted that the state record for a striped bass would not only be broken, it would be shattered.
But the current record, a 31- pound, 7 ounce striper caught out of Sangchris Lake by Eric Shivers in May of 1994, still holds today.
A recent record-breaking striper caught in neighboring Missouri reminds Illinois anglers just how big a striped bass can get.
A night fishermen set up below the Powersite Dam near Forsythe, Mo., northwest of Bull Shoals Lake, landed a striper weighing 65 pounds, 2 ounces.
Yes, more than twice the size of the Illinois state record.
Lawrence Dillman told reporters that he only had one bite during the early morning hours of May 21. Fishing at 2 a.m. from shore Dillman said he was asleep when the monster fish hit.
“It hit real hard and the noise from my big Penn reel woke me up,” Dillman told The Associated Press. “That fish took off and the reel was singing.”
The monster was 49¾ inches long and had a girth of 36 inches. According to Dillman, he was using 20-pound test line and a live 6-inch chub minnow as bait.
The striper broke the previous pole and line Missouri state-record striped bass of 60 pounds, 9 ounces caught on Bull Shoals Lake in 2011.
“It took me 45 minutes to get it up to shore, and when I got it up to the bank I had to wrap my arms around that fish like a bear hug,” Dillman said. “I got a good hold on it and rolled over with it onto the shore.”
Weighing the fish was no simple task.
“It [Dillman’s fish] went all the way up to 64 pounds, then my scale broke and went into a thousand pieces,” he said.
Dillman eventually had the fish weighed on certified scales.
He has fished for stripers before and most recently caught a 38-pounder also full of eggs. And he said it’s not his first brush with a gigantic striper from Bull Shoals Lake.
“I caught one a little bigger than this one during the flood of 2011 that weighed 67 pounds, but I never had it officially weighed,” he said. “I didn’t think it was a record so I ate it.”
The International Game Fish Association lists the all-time striped bass record at 81 pounds, 14 ounces, caught in the ocean off Westbrook, Connecticut, in 2011. The fresh water striped bass record is a 69-pound, 9-ounce fish caught in Alabama in 2013.
Experienced anglers say catching big stripers in Illinois requires some preparation. A strong reel capable of holding a minimum of 150 yards of line is a good idea, because stripers can make long runs. A rod that is at least 6 feet long, and 17- to 20-pound test line is recommended.
Some of the best waters to catch stripers or hybrid stripers in the state include Heidecke Lake. Regular anglers report that the best fishing is on the north side of the center dyke, which anglers call “striper alley.” The stripers follow shad, and anglers trolling shallow-running lures make nice catches.
Clinton Lake has a combination of pure and hybrid stripers, and there is a vast range in size.
Jacksonville Lake has a great population of hybrid stripers.
Sangchris Lake, home of the state record, was stocked with pure stripers in the early 1980s and established a reputation for big stripers soon thereafter. DNR has reported that there isn’t an abundance of fish larger than 20 pounds in Sangchris currently, but there are some, and several get taken each year.
Best places at Sangchris seem to be the east boat ramp and the west arm of the lake.