Mississippi River Pools 4 & 5, Wabasha, MN
Talk about a weekend to put behind me. I woke up real early on Friday morning to get down to Wabasha by 6 am and awoke to temps in the mid 30’s with sleet. I headed down to the mighty Mississippi and found it was mighty indeed. The waves were starting to pick up on Lake Pepin and the current was blazing on the main river. Historically this time of year I have never done that well on this stretch of the river. Knowing this I made sure to spend an ample amount of time trying to prepare for this event. The weeks before the tournament I spent my time everywhere from the backwater sloughs, the shoots on the main river, and the main river itself. All the while I was never able to put together a confident pattern. Water temps have been extremely cold (40’s and very low 50’s), so I spent most of my time working areas slow with tubes, jigs, and rattle trap style baits. I never caught many fish during practice and when I did there was no rhyme or reason to why I caught them. They were real scattered.
So once I arrived to Wabasha on Friday morning I decided since I wasn’t having any luck on the main river that I would spend the majority of the day fishing Pool 4, mainly Lake Pepin. After running lots of water, my tournament partner Ryan and I were able to put together the best pattern yet! We were concentrating on small points and underwater points, as well as marina’s and we were throwing jerkbaits with some nice success. I was throwing a Lucky Craft Pointer (chartreuse Shad) and Ryan was throwing a Husky Jerk, the biggest one I caught was just over four pounds. We decide instead of fishing and actually hooking the fish we would search for good looking water and waypoint our spots to my Lowrance units so we could more efficiently run our water during the actual tournament. After doing this we decided to check a couple of backup spots and get of the water so we could fill up the boat, register, and get our tackle ready for the next day. Our main plan was to attack Pepin in the morning, get our limit of smallmouth and then head to the river and look for a couple nice kicker fish in the afternoon, once the backwater warmed up a bit.
Little did we know we woke up Saturday morning to a horrible cold front, lots of rain and heavy winds. Being that we were both inexperienced on this body of water we decided to stick to our game plan. That would end up being our biggest mistake. Once we hit the mouth of Lake Pepin we were met with four foot rollers, not the most ideal conditions when we needed to get about twenty miles up lake. Lake Pepin is a monster in the fact that when the wind is howling there is no place to hide to get out of it. We arrived to our first and best area and saw that it was completely washed out. We attempted to fish it but only beat ourselves up in the process. The water was coming over the bow of the boat, and the trolling motor kept coming out of the water so we were mainly at the mercy of the waves. Luckily for us as I worked on just controlling the boat Ryan was able to catch a nice three pound smallmouth.
After wasting way to much time on the lake, with only one fish in the livewell we decided to head to the river. We hit one of our better spots we had in the river and Ryan flips a 4 pound largemouth into the boat! That was huge! With three hours to go all we have to do is get a few more bites and we should be doing real well. When it rains it pours. My trolling motor batteries started to die. After spending so much time on the lake dealing with those massive waves I hardly had any juice left. Which meant we had to get out of the current to insure we could continue to fish. We fished some marinas with no success and then decided to check some of the way backwater areas where the current should be minimal and the water temps should be rising. Getting to these backwater areas can be hazardous though. This time of year the river is in a flood stage and you never really know what’s safe and what’s not. A lot of times you just need to get up on plane and say a prayer. Well remember when I said it when it rains it pours? Well after getting all the way back there, not catching any keepers, we had to make it back to weigh in. With 15 minutes to go I was idling out from under a bridge and CRUNCH, I hit some rocks. Not good. Can this day be any better? After weighing in on day one we were at 7.16 pounds and way out of contention. It was either hit or miss for the rest of the field as well. Either you had a HUGE sack or you were in the bottom looking way up. After loading up my boat we checked out the damage, broke of a chunk of the skag, bent back to blades on the prop, and cracked some of the fiberglass on the bottom of the boat. Hopefully all is still in tact with my prop shaft and lower unit.
After the weigh in we attended the benefit dinner put on at Slippery’s bar and grill, and also listened to a benefit put on by the St. Jude organization. I can’t tell how touching it really was. I quickly realized how lucky I am to be able to do what I enjoy and there are kids out there that may never get that chance. It puts a guy in his place in a quick hurry and I remembered exactly why I was there. It was great to hear how our donations go out to help thousands of kids, so that God willing one day they will get the opportunity to case their dreams. Going to bed that night everything didn’t seem so bad. The boat will be fixed, hopefully the fishing will be better, but we were all fishing for a great cause and that’s all that really matters.
Ryan and I were able to raise over $1,900 dollars for the St. Jude’s Children Hospital, and together as a group the tournament brought in over $120,000 dollars. I would like to thank everyone who donated to such a wonderful cause! Check back soon as I will update our second day of the tournament.