Mississippi River Pools 9 & 10, Prairie Du Chien, WI
What a tournament. Literally from the beginning of practice this was a grind it out type of event. The venue was the Mississippi River Pools 9 and 10, which borders both central Wisconsin and central Iowa. I have never been to this stretch of the Mighty Miss before and wasn’t sure what to expect. I had a very hectic week before with sponsor meetings and guide trips and was only able to allow myself two full days of practice. Being that I don’t know the water at all and have limited time to prepare, I decided to cut out pool 9 all together and concentrate on only pool 10. I figured since the tournament blast off was on 10, it made more sense for me to stay there and not waste valuable fishing time locking threw. Plus from the internet research that I did, it didn’t sound like any one pool was much better than the other.
I got on the water early Friday morning and quickly starting running south figuring I would slowly make my way back north as the day wore on. Six miles down river and all of a sudden my run came to a quick stop when I spun the hub in my prop. Surely there is worse things that can happen, but annoying and a waste of time none the less. As I crawled my way back to the boat ramp fighting current and going no more than 5 miles an hour, I was able to get a hold of a traveling partner and fellow competitor Brian Brown. Luckily for me he was only about 7 miles from me and was happy enough to come down and lend me a hand. After about an hour or so I was back in business and on my way. Fishing though was slower than expected and finding keepers was next to impossible. I found areas that I knew had to hold fish but couldn’t get bit to save my life. This was discouraging because I knew the conditions where perfect for catching fish. It was mildly hot and we where dodging thunderstorms all day. Literally the bass should have been jumping in the boat and from what I was told from other competitors they where having awesome days on other stretches of the river. Finally around 5 o’clock I was forced off the water when all hell broke loose and a mother of a storm was headed straight at me packing baseball sized hail, lighting and flood producing rain.
The next morning I found out that local highways where closed due to mudslides and knew for certain that this would drastically effect the river’s water clarit, making finding clear water a challenge. When I launched, I instantly noticed the main river channel was already getting muddied up. Despite all this my last day of practice was a huge success. I was able to find a nice area that offered deep water and had some great laydowns and the key was it maintained clear water. I flipped a Tru Tungsten Jig (black and blue) to the timber and and on the first flip caught a chunky three pounder. Two flips later to a different piece of brush and out came a 2 1/2. I continued a ways pulling on what had to be around 15 to 20 nice bites.
I decided this would be a great place to start and then headed out to find a secondary spot. I figured since the conditions where going to set up right that I should look for some slop areas that I could finish my day on. It didn’t take long at all and I found a few key areas and also as equally important when river fishing, I found my routes in and out of these areas. By about 4:30 it was time to get off and head over to registration where I again got a bad boat draw and was in the third flight, boat number 55. The good thing was that I knew I was fishing two solid areas both having the potential to produce winners.
After take off I arrived at my first spot and was disgusted to see the water had turned to chocolate milk. I knew this would effect the bite but wasn’t sure how bad. After three hours of fishing lets just say it was horrible and I finally called the areas quits leaving with one 14″ largemouth. Leaving this area and heading to my back up area I was a bit discouraged but knew I still had about five hours of fishing and knew I wasn’t out of this at all.
My second area started no better for me and after a couple hours I was yet to catch a keeper sized bass. I was mainly throwing a 1/4 oz. Super K Swim Jig, a Sumo Frog (black) and flippin’ almost everything. I must have tried 15 different plastics trying to get bit. A few other guys where saying how the bite in this area really died down and that it was much better earlier in the morning. This was discouraging to hear, but as long as bass are in an area I’m determined to catch them. Finally after about and hour or two I caught my second keeper, a descent 16″ largemouth on the rat.
With only about a half hour remaining before I had to check in, I was really starting to get anxious. I had only about 20 minutes of actual fishing time because of the 10 minute boat ride back to weigh in. Finally the slop exploded and within seconds I had boated my third keeper. Feeling I had an outside chance now to get a much needed limit I called an audible and shot to one last small area that I knew could have two keepers on it. The area was a nice little point that was surrounded by pads and duckweed. After a few casts with the rat a nice bass came flying out the water missing my frog all together. After a few more throw backs with the frog and a Sweet Beaver, I decided to move on, I only had a minute or two before I absolutely had to get back. A few more casts and I whacked another keeper! That made 4. Now extremely determined to catch a limit I swung back around and made a few more casts at that nice one that had blew up on my frog and wouldn’t you know it, on literally my final cast it inhaled my frog and I put my fifth in the boat, a nice largemouth going about three pounds.
I raced back to barely make it in on time and weighed in at 10.78 lbs, good enough for 21st place. I generally would be disappointed with this kind of finish. I fish these events to cash checks, but I couldn’t help but happy with the outcome. EVERY tournament angler will have bad days, days they will not come in with a limit. Leaving I felt this should have been one of those days, however I impressed myself by staying focused and using every available second I had to put a limit in the boat. Probably the biggest part of being a successful tournament fisherman is to develop mental toughness and today I feel I took a step in the right direction.
Congratulations to my boy Brian Brown for his outstanding first place finish and big bass honors. Since he plans on buying a house down in Kentucky in the next couple weeks I’m sure that 10K payday will come in real handy for him and his wife. Congrats Buddy!!