Competition in the Illini Division of the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine will kick off at Lake Shelbyville on June 20. With some prespawn, spawn and postspawn fish to be found across the lake, local BFL standout Michael Black believes this should be a solid derby.
Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Illini Division
How the fishery sets up
Formed back in 1970 by the damming of the Kaskaskia and West Okaw rivers, Shelbyville is one of the more popular bass fisheries in Illinois.
The lake’s 11,000 acres is relatively pristine since the majority of the lake is surrounded by the Shelbyville State Fish and Wildlife Area. Because of that, there isn’t much for docks to be found on the lake and with no vegetation to speak of the majority of bass structure consists of hard cover – like rocks, laydowns and timber.
The forage base offers almost everything a bass could want. Bluegills, crawfish and shad can be found in good numbers and help keep the largemouths in the lake happy and healthy.
What to expect
Recent storms have left the lake a few feet high at the moment, but Black, who has four BFL wins on Shelbyville, believes the lake should be back to normal by the start of the tournament.
“I look for a good turnout both in anglers and in weight for this tournament,” says Black. “It’s going to be a good tournament and the lake should be drawn back to normal pool by then.
“The spawn will be going on and they’ll be some be some fish that are done. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are still some fish prespawn, too. That flooded water always messes things up, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we have fish in all three phases of the spawn even towards the end of June.”
Shelbyville isn’t generally a heavy-weight lake and Black thinks it’ll take somewhere in the low teens to win the event.
“I’ve always said that if you have somewhere between 12 and 14 pounds you can win on Shelbyville. That’s what it generally takes in years past and I don’t think it will be any different this time.”
Baits and techniques
Because Shelbyville is void of grass and features stained water, there likely won’t be a lot of sight-fishing going on. Texas rigs and jigs pitched to likely spawning areas along the bank will produce, much like they have in years past on Shelbyville.
A crankbait, spinnerbait and Carolina rig will also be popular options for anglers looking to cover a bit more water.
But if you ask Black, the jig is king.
“This is the spawning season and jigs are the best because those fish don’t like chasing down their meal. They are big, fat and slow, so it makes sense for them to pick up a crawfish imitation that slowly crawls by.”