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Jet Boating to the Smallmouth Promised Land: The Kankakee River

Bobby Bergren


This story begins with a late night phone call from the kankakee river expert smallmouth angler, Kyle Danhuasen. Im at my finishing up doing some work on my boat when I get a phone call from Kyle at 9PM. (I know when I get a call at this hour, Its go time to go fishing). Kyle says ”Bobby the conditions are right on the kankakee and you need to be here at 5, are you in? I'm there man.

This was an a fishing adventure of a life time. I'm used to fishing on Lake Michigan for smallmouth bass but Kankakee river smallmouth are just another beast. I also have never been on a jet boat before, which changed my whole perspective on boating.

We launch the jet boat and start cruising down the river. the scenery was absolutely gorgeous with the over hanging ledges and green scenery (scenery not a “Region Angler” is not familiar with.)

We pull up to pull up to the first spot and immediately start catching fish. Before we stated fishing Kyle pulled out his handy dandy fish clicker and says, “I believe we are going to shatter my personal record of around 40+ Smallmouth bass. We started the day off throwing some good ol' fashioned spinnerbaits. As soon as we started casting it was Game on! Those river smallies felt like they were going to rip my arm off, the way they crushed that spinnerbait.


We tried a few different baits that day but the the smallies loved the spinnerbait. As we moved down the river and we fished different spots the number on the clicker keep moving up higher and higher.


I wasn't to sure on whats going on at new bodies of water and like to learn as much as I can when I'm fishing with someone new on the boat. What I learned on this day was something that has really helped out when it comes to targeting fish and keying in on therein forage. I asked Kyle,’’What are these smallmouth feeding on out here?” and this was something that a lot of experienced anglers can spot out, Kyle said, “Smell that fish in your hand, what does it smell like?” I normally didn't think of smelling the fish but I stuck it right up to my nose and it had a descent scent to it that reeked like crayfish!

Kyle Danhausen Kankakee River.jpg

At one point in the day I asked Kyle, Do you ever get the smallies packing up with multiple fish following your bait? Kyle said "Not really here, because of the water visibility". About an hour later Kyle was reeling in a fish he had caught on spinnerbait and in the dark tinge of the water I could see another smallmouth trying to attack the spinnerbait in the other fishes mouth. I acted quickly on this one and did the infamous musky technique, the figure 8 and duped the attacking small into hammering the spinnerbait. It devoured my bait right by the boat side. Kyle looked at me in awe when he saw I was not joking around when I had a fish on and said “I have never seen that before”. That is a vivid fishing memory that I will never forget.


Not only did we catch smallmouth bass but we had a handful of walleyes and a few bonus kitty cats. We ended the day in the late afternoon and took a look at our clicker and new it was time to give these fish a break. It was a fantastic day, we ended the day with 63 smallmouth all on spinnerbaits. Besides looking at the clicker, we could tell it was a fishing trip over a life time by the sore arms and tore up thumbs.


Truly a fishing trip that I will hold in the highest regards as my best day fishing in the midwest.

Kyle Danhausen, is your local Shimano rep for the Midwest and has been fishing the Kankakee River since his mom would drop him off to fish there everyday after school. After this day, Kyle has been officially dubbed by me as “The King Kong of the Kankakee”.


Rods: Gloomis Spinnerbait Rod, SBR813 (MY GO TO SPINNERBAIT ROD)

Kyle used a G Loomis NRX 7’1” Medium Heavy (NRX853C)

Reels: Shimano Metanium MET101XG

Shimano Curado I 201HG

Shimano Chronarch CI4+

Check these quality proucts out at &


I hoped you enjoyed my story and is you have any questions or comments feel free to comment below or send me a message! Thank you for reading!


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