This past Saturday to Saturday was nothing but bass fishing and more bass fishing mixed with a little tackle prep and driving. Four 12 hour practice days and four 8-9 hour tournament days. It started at 4:30am on Saturday September 1st with a 2.5 hour drive to La Crosse, WI to begin my practice period for the TBF Nothern Divisional on the Mississippi River.
I spent all four of my practice days in Pool 8 of the Mississippi River, being this was a draw format tournament, I did not want to have time wasted locking and running during my potential four hours. For the most part my practice was pretty productive, each day eliminated a ton of water and found a few areas or stretches that I felt pretty good about. I definitely spent quite a bit of time in the huge lake area around and north of Stoddard looking for the mother load of grass fish, but they eluded me.
Practice partner Eric Sanft w/ Wing Dam smallie that didn’t bite during tournament
Day 1 of the tournament, I drew Brian Dull from Ohio and he had some fish in the Black that he wanted to spend time on, so I decided to stick close and fish my fish on the upper end of the pool. I ran to a rock bar in the Black where I had two 3lb smallies in practice, it only yielded one short. Next stop was a sand/rock drop that I fished with a Ima Square Bill, I caught several shorts and one keeper. That burnt up about an hour and they we headed to top of French Lake. I worked it hard with a jerkbait only to catch several shorts, the same jerkbait that put an easy 13lb limit in the boat 2 days prior. I then hit one of the better sand points with my Square Bill and picked up a nice 3lb smallmouth. I then worked that point a Game Hawg on a Carolina rig and got another keeper on the first cast. I caught many more shorts on the C-rig in the area and on other points. After hitting other points and getting shorts, i came back to first point and caught my 4th keeper on a Lethal Weapon Drag Queen Football jig. We worked the area a bit more, but then started heading back to the Black River. On the way out, I made a quick stop on a small rock point that eyed up on the way there. One cast with a Baby Brush Hog and keeper #5 was in the boat. We ran a few areas of my partners in the Black, many short and a few missed opportunities for him. After that we returned to an area that I had. I caught a nice fish flipping a beaver house to get rid of a small 14 incher. We then pulled up where i caught my first keeper, I noticed a bit of bait, so I cranked my Hydrowave on full Shad Frenzy, the bass started pushing bait, I caught a keeper I could not use on the Ima Square Bill and my partner got his 4th fish, we made it to check-in with 20 seconds to spare. I weighed 11-05, middle of the pack and 4th on the Minnesota team.
Day 2, my partner Joe Mazzuca had only 1 fish on first day, so he let me pretty much run the show. We hit a few closing and wing dams at top of the pool, couple shorts, Joe lost a smallie at the boat and a big drum for me. We hit two more wing dams on the way down to Stoddard area. My closing dam fish did not cooperate, Joe got a swim jig fish and I caught a nice 3.5lb largie on a Ribbit and missed a few other nice fish on frogs/toads. From there I went to a flipping area where I got another keeper on a Beaver. I decided I needed show these fish a little more finesse, so I went back through the prime area with a Leech Fleck Kompak Craw and boated a 4-04 Largemouth. I was starting to get against the clock, so I ran to some cut banks further up the pool. I caught a few shorts and a 15″ smallmouth on the Kompak craw. We then headed for the Black, we only had about 20 minutes to fish, neither of us could fill our limit. Disappointed with my 4 fish effort, but they weighed well at 11-07, that 5th fish would have been huge. Thank goodness for the big fish that the Kompak craw produced. I slipped to 5th on my team, but move up a little in the standings.
Day 3, I knew I needed a bigger bag, so I ran straight down to my flipping area that yielded the 4lb bite the day before. It was a little slow, I once again got a small keeper starting around with the Beaver, but then switched to the Kompak craw and caught 3 more keepers including a 3lb fish. From there, I hit up the closing dam area, finished up my limit, but could not get the frog fish to bite. I hit another flipping hole near the box and got a decent cull on the Kompak craw. With about 2 hours to go, I hit some of my good wing dams from practice, could not get any good smallies, but plenty of big drum on a football jig. We finished up in French, but the fish would not go in the short window we had. I ended up with 10-15 on the final day. It was good weight for our team to stay in 4th place and get a decent check. I ended up 25th overall, but learned plenty about the late summer to early fall transition on the Mississippi River.
Right after the weigh-in and team picture, I had to head from La Crosse to Walker, MN to fish a NABC tournament on Leech Lake. The drive was a bit over 6 hours and Leech is massive at 120,000 acres. I had not been here in about 5 years, but it for the most part is a shallow fishery, fish what you can see is normally the deal. We were greeted with moderate winds in the morning that grew to 25mph that caused 7 foot waves on the main lake and washed out other shallow fish. I fished this event by myself, as my partner Josh was down at Fort Gibson Central Open. We needed to fish them all to make championship. With no practice under tough conditions, I only managed two decent fish for 5lbs, but we made the Championship and the Basscat held up well in the big water.
I will be on break for a couple weekend before I start practicing hard for the NABC Championship out of Red Wing.