Road Trip: Rock Falls, Illinois, Flathead Country

07/07/2016 10:05 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

Fish, Food and Friendly People

Are you looking for clean air, active communities, rich traditions, Hennepin Canal, gorgeous Illinois country-sides and flathead fishing on the stunning Rock River?  Rock Falls, IL may be the place for you.

The Rock River twists and turns its way through 155 miles of northwestern Illinois. It is a main tributary to the Mississippi River. The Rock provides the state with a diverse fishery with more than 80 species of fish in the Rock River Basin. The most sought after of the sport fish are catfish. Both channel catfish and flatheads are abundant and of trophy size in the Rock River.

As far as the fishing goes, both major catfish tournaments visit the Rock Falls area for catfish competitions. Their visits are strong evidence of a good fishery and a community that caters to anglers. The Rock River is growing in popularity as a catfish destination.

The Bass Pro Shops Big Cat Quest just finished a two-day competition on the Rock River where 47 boats and 105 anglers competed for braggin’ rights, cash, and prizes. The community came out in numbers to support the tournament and the catfish anglers.

“The boat route to weigh in was guided by volunteers,” reported Rock Falls Director of Tourism & Events, Janell Loos. “There was ample boat parking for fellow anglers and spectators to watch the weigh-in. Fisherman could explore the Rock Falls Riverfront. The local community welcomed the fishermen with food and drink, discount deals, live music and amazing hotel rates. The crowd was spectacular. At the weigh-in on Saturday we drew a large crowd and doubled the crowd size on Sunday. I can't wait for next year!”

It was only a few weeks earlier that Cabela’s King Kat tour visited the area. Their home base was a few miles north in the Dixon, IL area, but still fishing the Rock River. The King Kat event had 90 top catfish anglers from several states huntin’ down flatheads and channel cats. Similar crowds and interested town folks showed up to support the tourney.

Both events showed large numbers of families, both fishing and spectating. Loos was pleased with the event in Rock Falls. “The BCQ event went without a hitch,” she said. “The fishermen were happy with what Bass Pro Shops provides all their entrants. The fish caught were of good size as demonstrated by crowd comments like ‘wow that's one big fish!’ I was pleased to see so many families participate too. One team was a family of three and two teams were twin brothers competing against each other.”

“We had a 3 event weekend along the Rock Falls Riverfront,” explained Loos. “Bass Pro Shops Big Cat Quest, Rock Falls River Chase and Summer Splash. Summer Splash, a community event, was right next door to the fishing tournament and River Chase boat races were down the block. On Saturday evening, Rock Falls Tourism provided fireworks along the riverfront.”

Obviously there is more to the area than fishing. All the non-fishers can enjoy a host of other things to do. The Whiteside County Barn Tour is one good example. While many historians lament the disappearance of barns from the countryside, this tour identifies and displays the beauty of these old structures.

One portion of our country’s first responders are not forgotten in Rock Falls. More information on times gone by can be found at the Fire Museum in Rock Falls. Kids and adults alike can learn the history of firefighting in the Rock Falls area. The museum is located in an old fire station where vintage firefighting equipment is displayed along with children’s educational activities. Visitors can even take a fire truck ride. Admission is free.  Donations are accepted.

Rock Falls has much more to offer than fishing. The way the town turned out for the recent tournament demonstrated the spirit of community in what I consider to be a real American part of the country. After all, it is the land of Lincoln. Small towns, good food, good fishing and good people. What else could you ask for
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