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What a difference a year makes - The ISA Experience

Dan Draz

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I joined ISA in April of 07, having moved from the West Coast and not knowing much about what goes on around here. For job and travel reasons, I didn't have much free time available to fish or get involved. And what free time I did have to fish was spent down at the local pond in Naperville and various Forest Preserve locations drowning worms with my 10 year old son Quinn for panfish. Not that there's anything wrong with it... but I can't tell you how many times I sat there bored to tears thinking to myself, there HAS to be more to fishing in the Midwest than this!


My renewal came due April of 08 and I automatically sent it in with a determined resolution to meet some new people, fish in some different locations, take my son to some new places, learn more about smallie fishing and try to unlock what truly goes on around here from an angling standpoint. I immediately immersed myself in the fishing scene, volunteered to take on a project for ISA, met a few members and started learning more about the ways of the Bronzeback.


And its amazing what one can do in a year. We've caught Steelhead in Western Michigan to 9 pounds, catfish on the Illinois River, Walleye, Muskie and Pike in Wisconsin. Various ISA members have been kind enough to show me the river ropes here. I purchased quite a bit of new tackle (despite having about a billion dollars worth like everyone else in my garage!) bought waders and boots for my son and have been not only fishing smallies in the DuPage, but LM's in various local ponds which is what I did growing up in SoCal. I caught my first smallie on the DuPage, my son caught his first smallie on the DuPage, caught his first pond LM's, been interviewed on the radio three times, been in Outdoor Notebook 4 times, (he got the inside cover in this months edition which I am really proud of) and I have been asked to write a few columns for Outdoor Notebook and several other fishing publications about our experiences and what we've learned about fishing in the Midwest. I've also been fortunate enough to talk to quite a few national companies about supporting ISA and the response has been fabulous, reaffirming that we have something special going on here.


The last year has been an amazing ride and while thinking about it yesterday I came to the following conclusion: Had I not become an ISA member, I wouldn't have had any of these great experiences, I'd still be drowning worms down the street and would still be pondering my miserable IL fishing existence. I am truly grateful to everyone within ISA who have given me this opportunity and assisted Quinn and I with our quest to learn more about fishing here and hope I get a chance to fish with many more of you over the upcoming years. It's definitely true: You get out of an organization what you put into it and I am living proof of that. Our organization will only ever be as good as the member volunteers so take some time and get involved in ISA activities.

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Dan, No truer words have ever been spoken. I can't even remember when it was I joined now but it was one of the best things I ever did. I met more people and learned more about fishing the rivers of Illinois for Smallmouths and later became the Chicagoland Regional Coordinator. I loved my role as coordinator and immersed myself in it creating outings and getting people involved. I started the Wednesday Night Smallie Hunters. This turned into the weekend Smallie Hunters when it got to dark to fish the Fox river in the evening. It also evolved into a breakfast gathering for stories and fellowship. These were times for new members to meet and talk with other members and become acquainted and make new friendships. Don Rego keeps these events going and has been very successful in promoting the ISA and what it has to offer. The ISA has much to offer the local angler and environmentalist as is a major force in the development of policies regarding Smallmouths in the rivers and streams of Illinois. The ISA has some immensely talented people that claim membership and provide a tremendous amount of knowledge about stream Smallmouth fishing. I am proud to be a member and will most likely be a member for life even though I no longer live in Illinois. I do come back for visits and meet with the friends that I have made as a member. Perhaps in August I will get the opportunity to meet you and your son at the Kankakee River outing. As it stands now I will be attending that outing and am looking forward to seeing old friends and catching some river smallies.

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