McHenry County attorney Herb Franks is a powerful man. He is well known for his work in both banking and worker’s compensation law. He helped establish a number of area banks, each of which spawned a number of branches. If he had his way, though, Herb Franks would probably trade it all in to be a famous professional fisherman.
Franks lives on a farm just outside of Marengo with his wife, Eileen. They’ll celebrate 56 years of wedded bliss next month. In fact, it was Eileen who encouraged Herb to take up fishing.
“She was the fisherman, not me,” Franks said.” She’s from Tallahassee, Florida. She encouraged me to take up fishing because she always wanted to be fishing. I figured that if I ever wanted to spend time with her, I’d better take it up and go fishing with her.”
Herb and Eileen raised three sons, one of which is State Rep. Jack Franks. All of the boys grew up to be fisherman and accompany the parents on the water whenever they can.
“I’m proud of the fact that Jack will always protect the rights of the sportsmen and protect our woods and waters as long as he holds public office," Franks said. "It’s a good thing that fishermen have a friend serving in the House.”
With Eileen’s encouragement, Herb Franks took up fishing with a passion. His name began to get around when after winning a tournament, radio fishing show host Art Mercier interviewed him and asked him to take a trip with him to Canada’s Great Bear Lake. They became friends and Mercier hosted him on his show regularly.
Franks was then asked to be a field tester for Garcia rods and reels. The venture ended abruptly.
“I just quit,” said Franks. "They had me fishing tournaments and wanted to film everything. I was just focusing on the camera and not concentrating on fishing. I couldn’t catch fish. I told them to just forget it.”
Franks wanted to get into walleye tournaments but couldn’t give up the weeks of time it took to be a professional, so he entered many PWT events as a co-angler.
“What a great experience. For a couple hundred bucks you get a chance to fish each day with some of the greatest fishermen in the world,” Franks said. “I got to fish with all of them, “Mister Walleye” Gary Roach, Ron Seelhoff and Mike Gofron.
"All those guys know me because I am such a colorful character. We had fun and I did pretty well. Tommy Skarlis, one of the best, always had his amateur partner bake homemade cookies for him. These guys put food on their tables by winning money and I finally realized I was holding them back. They could have a better partner, so I stopped doing it.”
Franks loves to travel to various locations in Canada to chase big fish. His bus trips with Secretary of State Jesse White, other well-known state politicos and radio wildman “Mancow” Muller are annual events.
He once hooked up with noted pro angler Mike Norris for a trip to Tazin Lake in the farthest corner of Saskatchewan. Pressed for time, Franks was able to arrange transportation on a private luxury Lear jet, which was better than a 14-hour bus ride.
“Herbie is a good friend and a serious fisherman,” Norris said. “I always have a good time out on the water with Herb Franks.”
When asked which trip is his favorite, Franks had no hesitation in making the decision.
“My favorite fishing trip is the next one I’ll be taking!” he said.
Herb Franks is 79 and not slowing down. He’ll keep spending his days in the courtroom and his free time on the water.