Black Oak Bayou
SR 10, three miles west of US 41, then one mile north to Area 3-A parking lot at LaSalle FWA.
Fair shoreline fishing.
This gem is within surprising proximity of the industry and smog of northwest Indiana. But come here and you'll forget you're in the back yard of the third-largest metropolitan area in the country. Black Oak Bayou is inside LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area (FWA), which has 3,797 acres of woods and waters.
That's what makes this the favorite spot of Chalmers, a tournament bass angler. It helps that he caught a 9-pound bass here. But he also caught another bass pushing 8 pounds recently.
"I believe the state record could be swimming around in there," Chalmers said.
Black Oak Bayou is a manmade impoundment across a levy next to the Kankakee River. Both bodies of water are inside LaSalle's boundaries, which end at the Illinois border.
The bayou is full of sunken, fallen and standing trees and lots of weeds. It's home to great numbers of waterfowl. You may even catch a glimpse of a sandhill crane or heron.
Regardless, all the thick cover can be daunting at first glance.
"It looks like a swamp," said Chalmers, who advises using only an electric trolling motor. "There are so many stumps. I've seen guys take their bass boats out there and just tear up their outboard."
The bayou is mostly shallow. The water temperature heats up here quicker than other deeper lakes in the area. The bayou isn't much deeper than 6 feet, unless heavy rains come and that usually brings it up only a couple of feet.
The nice thing about the bayou is that boaters and bank-anglers alike can have at it. The entire shoreline can be walked.
Also, take note. There are toothy northern pike in these waters (light line users, beware) and a few smallmouth bass as well.
Sunken, fallen and standing trees and lots of weeds.
Chalmers makes sure to bring his polarized glasses and an array of spinnerbaits, his bait of choice here. He mostly fishes in 2 to 3 feet of water, but he said, if you can find dropoffs, you'd likely have some luck. "They're chasing bait into the shallows," Chalmers said. "You'll see lots of bluegills. You'll see thousands of them and the bass right behind them."
Chalmers focuses lots of his effort on last year's lily pads. The decayed stems can still be seen.