Mississippi River Pools 4 & 5, Wabasha, MN
I have been anxiously awaiting the start of the Minnesota B.A.S.S. Federation T.O.C. since I saw that it was picked to take place at the Mississippi River, over a year ago. I don’t have a lot of experience on this stretch of river, but unlike Spring, I tend to do pretty well this time of year. I made a point to cover a lot of water in the few days we had of practice and be sure to have good stuff in both pools. I was able to find new water that harbored both smallies and largemouths and also found that a lot of the water I had done well on in the past was also still holding good fish. I was real confident heading into the first day and I really felt I had a better than not shot at making the top twelve and qualifying for the Divisional team. This tournament brought a bit of a twist to the table in the fact that it was a no cull style tournament. The state law in Wisconsin states that you may never cull a smaller fish with a larger one and once you establish a fish as a keeper by placing them in your livewell, it has to be weighed in. Since this stretch of river shares water with both Wisconsin and Minnesota that law has to be enforced. Because of that this event was made to be a five fish limit but only the best four would be weighed. That way you could still be able to insure a limit and play a gamble on the fifth fish. Once all five are in the box, there is to be no more fishing. This made things a little tougher but I thought with the size fish I had going in practice that it may actually play out in my favor.
This was a draw style tournament, where partners were randomly selected. All 150 participants were fishing for the same goal, making the top twelve and moving on to Divisional’s, and getting a shot at competing in the BASSMASTER Classic. Each person is allowed four hours on the trolling motor to run their water. This was one reason why I made sure to cover a lot of water in practice, so no matter where I was fishing, I would have an idea of what would work in that area.
Day one I drew Nate, from Range Bassmasters, and we both agreed to take my boat for day one. We drew boat number 39 and was first boat out in the third flight. Right at take off we headed straight for the dam and was greeted with a barge. Knowing this would take a while we ran some water that was close, killed some time and after a good hour headed back to the dam. After locking threw, I noticed my boat wasn’t spitting any water and my heat gauge was quickly rising. As I began to take off to head to my honey hole, my boat instantly started beeping that it was way to hot and my gauge was going through the roof. Not the start I was looking for. For the next two hours we sat there trying to get the boat to work and was completely unsuccessful. We got on the phone with the tournament director and he sent a car down to pick up my partner so he could go back and get my truck and trailer, so we could tow it back and get into Nate’s boat and try to fish for a miracle. After wasting hours and hours we were finally back on the water with a very limited time to catch some fish. With not enough time to head back to my water we fished some stuff that was close by. We both caught some short fish going a bout 13 or so inches, not big enough to cross the 14″ line and also managed to miss a couple. Way to quickly time ran out and we both put up a big zero for day one. I was very disappointed to say the least. Back at weigh in, I was made aware by the boys at Mobile Marine Pros that my engine was fixed. They drove all the way down from the Cities to fix my boat to make sure I was on the water the next day. The reason for the break down was a broken impeller key, that would not allow the impeller to spin and pull water through the engine, resulting in overheating. Tough break but all part of the game.
Going into day two, I knew I had no real shot at making the top twelve, instead I put my focus on helping my team, the Gopher Bassmasters and going for the big fish pot, and I also have to admit that I still held out little hope of a Tiger like comeback. I drew Steve from Zumbro Valley Bassmasters and after not having a great first day he agreed to go with me to my water that I was unable to fish the day before. At launch we were held up more than three hours because of fog. Right before we were about to finally take of, I received a call from my wife Bri, that our four year old rottweiller, Kairo, had just took a major turn for the worse. Kairo was diagnosed with Lymphoma cancer about a month prior and wasn’t expected to be around much longer. Hearing news like this shattered me. Kairo is much more than just a dog to me, he’s my best friend and a son. I knew I had to fish and Bri told me that I just had to go out there, give it my best, and hurry home so I could be with him and the family.
Finally at about 10:15, we took off and I headed straight for the lock, and again was forced to wait for another barge locking through. After about an hour and a half we were through the lock and had arrived in my best area. I didn’t take long and I caught a 16″ largemouth on a texas rigged Berkley Chigger Craw (black neon) and a 1/2 oz. pegged Tru Tungsten Flippin’ Weight (black). After a minute of contemplating, I decided to throw the fish back. I figured I had absolutely nothing to loose. I was working some deep emerged vegetation (pads, arrowhead, elephant ear, and cane). I power fished a Scum Frog (Black) and then would slow it down with the Chigger Craw. I managed to miss a couple good bites and also let a couple bush me in the thick weeds. Then I got one of my best bites yet, and set into a nice fish going all of four pounds, and some how managed to snap my G Loomis GLX in half and eventually lost the fish. Man, let me tell you……..ahh never mind, I’ll keep this blog clean!
After brushing that one off, Steve and I finally started boating some bass. This time I played more for the team and my sanity and started putting all eligible bass in the livewell. I caught a couple 14.5 inchers and another 16 inch. Then I caught a good 3 pounder. With about five minutes to go before we had to leave for our long ride back to weigh in, I hooked up with another good one about 17 inches but a bit skinny. We luckily made it through the dam without a hitch and had a good ten minutes to make it back to weigh in, when wouldn’t you guess, I blew the powerhead in my engine. Are you serious? Some how, Steve and I made it back to the weigh in with only seconds to spare. Steve weighed in at an impressive four fish for 8.06 pounds, and I with 8.63 pounds. Not bad for only getting two or so hours to fish. It was one of the stronger bags brought in that day, but with a zero the first day, I finished with a very disappointing 79th place. I really felt I had a chance to not only qualify for Divisional’s but maybe even win the whole thing. I know boat issues are part of the game, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
As soon as my boat is back in action, I will be right back at it, looking for some revenge at the BASSMASTER Weekend Series two day event on Lake Minnetonka.