Mississippi River Pools 4 & 5, Wabasha, MN
This past weekend marks the second time I competed in the annual St. Jude Bass Tournament held on the Mississippi River in Wabasha, MN. An annual fundraiser tournament that in my opinion, is one of the most prestigious tournaments in Minnesota, mainly because it’s for a great cause, but also because a lot of Minnesota and Wisconsin’s best come out to compete.
Two years ago I left this event with my tail between my legs. If in any given tournament I don’t finish as well as I would like to, I at least take some satisfaction in that I learned something that will make me a better angler and help me to cash more checks down the road. The first time I competed in the St. Jude I left not learning a thing except I knew nothing about the river this time of year and not only did I weigh only a few fish in both days of competition, other anglers whacked them! I was so humbled, I didn’t know what to do. In fact, the next year when it was time to sign up again, I was still licking my wounds that instead I passed and headed to Iowa for the Okoboji Open. I wanted nothing to do with Ole’ Miss that time of year, I was clueless.
This year was different, I had taken 2nd last year in the Okoboji Open my very first time fishing the lake and felt that I would best challenge myself by heading back to the river. I’m a competitor and I want to always be fishing against the best, it’s what will make me better. After fishing the entire Bassmaster Weekend Series last year on the river, I felt I had a better grip on the water and when a good buddy of mine Connor Summers needed a partner, I was all in.
Practice was slow though I was covering water. Unlike two years ago, I was putting my self in better areas and was able to catch limits each day. I knew I wasn’t on winners but was getting closer. There’s just so much water to cover and understanding the current plays so much this time of year. Current plays a role all year on the river but it’s much easier for me to pattern them in the summer when they’re active and have food on their mind. This time of year is all based around the spawn and the bass are more worried about putting themselves around spawning areas and this is where my lack of experience really turns to a disadvantage.
Connor and I felt we had put together a pretty solid game plan and was pretty confident that if we could just get a couple big bites each day we would have a real good shot at cashing a check. We knew the big ones where on the move and hoped they would be moving right to us.
Of course we drew last, boat 70 and at take off decided to run down river to a spot where in practice I was able to catch a nice 4 pound smallie. I was only able to boat a small 14 incher and we decided to run to one of Connor’s proven spots to try our luck on some largemouth. Unfortunately, we arrived and our areas where being worked over by a few other boats, with really no option we decided to fish some of the stuff that had already been worked. I was able to quickly boat a 16″ largemouth on a Super K Swim Jig, but after going another hour or so without a bite we got out of there.
Fishing continued to stay slow and with only a couple hours left to go, Connor catches a 15″ largemouth on a spinnerbait on a weed flat, but also dropped a nice 3 pounder. With only 3 in the box and an hour or so to go, we knew something had to happen and decided to run out of there and fish a cut that was loaded with wood. It was popping back there and even though Connor and I both dropped a couple 3 pounders, we still where able to catch a quick limit. We caught all our fish off wood on spinnerbaits, I was throwing a Biovex 3/8 oz. Stangun Spinnerbait (Baby Bass).
After a tough day fishing we still managed to put 6 in the box! We knew we weren’t in the top 10 but knew we had a chance for tomorrow. In a two day tournament you can’t win it on day one but you can surely loose it. At this point, we where just happy to be in contention. We weighed in our 6 for 13.39 pounds.
Day two, we started in the same cut and the fishing was just as good, though we weren’t finding the quality we needed. Again I was throwing a Biovex Stangun Spinnerbait but the better keepers came off a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver with a pegged 1/4 oz. Tru Tungsten sinker, largely because the fish weren’t as active as they where the day before where the spinnerbait banged off the wood would initiate a strike every time.
We ran a few spots on pool 4, knowing we needed a couple big kickers. I did spook a nice smallmouth off a bed, but after waiting for 20 minutes, she never came back. We ended up rounding out our limit in the same cut and just never got our big bites, unlike yesterday when we dropped 3 good ones that could have helped huge and gotten us into the money. We weighed day two at 12.82 pounds and finished in a disappointing 36th place. Not what I had in mind, but WAY better than the last time I fished the Jude. I can happily say that progress is being made and I can’t wait for this event again next year.
I want to congratulate Aaron LaRocque and Joe Hall for there outstanding first place finish, these guys spend a lot of time down on the river and really deserve the win. Also to Matt Larson, the defending champ and his partner Pat Schlapper and Jim Johnson and Eric Ronningen as these guys rounded out the top three! Not only did they whack them but combined they raised over 8 grand for the St. Jude Children’s Hospital! Hats off gentleman!