Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 06/21/2012

Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Dave Rush and Matt Pangrac

La Crosse, WI - Florida’s Kyle Fox entered the sixth stop of the 2012 Elite Series season on the Mississippi River with mixed results through the first five tournaments of his young Elite Series career.   After recording a top 12 finish on Lake Okeechobee, Fox posted top 25 finishes at both Bull Shoals and Douglas Lake before finishing a disappointing 89th place at Toledo Bend. 

Kyle FoxAfter Thursday on the Mississippi River, the rookie is leading the pack after crossing the stage with a limit weighing 16-8 on a day when 95 Elite Series pros brought a five bass limit to the scales in La Crosse, Wisconsin. 

Fox said that he got off to a fast start on Thursday morning, boxing a limit within the first 20 minutes of competition.  “I think I just started in the right spot where there was a good school of fish,” he explained. 

Relying on one primary area for the duration of the day, Fox said that as his weight increased, he attempted to expand his water.  “I stayed in one area all day and I just kind of picked it apart.  When I started doing as well as I was doing, I started hitting different stuff in the area and was able to come up with some better ones,” he explained. 

Competing against a field full of veteran anglers with years of experience on a variety of different river systems, Fox said that this week on the Mississippi marks only the third different river system he has ever fished in his life.  “Really, this is a whole new place to me,” he admitted.  “I’ve never seen this place before and I’m kind of learning as I go along.”

It was this unfamiliarity with the Mississippi River that actually worked to his advantage.  “I stuck with what I knew, because it’s hard to learn a place like this in only two and a half days of practice,” said Fox, who estimated that he caught around 30 keepers on Thursday.  

On Friday, Fox said that he’s planning on sticking with the same game plan that vaulted him into the lead on Thursday.  “I think that the fish live in those backwater areas.  It’s all about using the right method to catch them.  I’m catching them all the same way.” 

2nd Place: Aaron Martens (16-5)
For the second time in the last three Elite Series tournaments, Alabama’s Aaron Martens has ended the first day of competition in either 1st or 2nd place.  After leading the first day of competition on Douglas Lake, Martens finds himself just one spot lower after Thursday on the Mississippi river, trailing rookie Kyle Fox by eight ounces. 

Like Fox, Martens said that he boxed a limit early in the morning on Thursday and culled through 30 or 40 keepers over the course of the day.  “I was happy at 7:00 this morning,” he said.  “I had five keepers pretty quickly.” 

Aaron Martens

Although he weighed-in a limit of largemouth, Martens said that he boated at least a half dozen smallmouth over the course of the day.  “I had one smallmouth that was almost three pounds that I culled at the end of the day,” he explained. 

Keying on a spot that he said “just about everybody else missed,” Martens said that he’s not sure if his primary area will hold up for the duration of the tournament.  “Even if I can have that spot to myself and nobody else messes with it, I might have to do something else to win,” he said.  “At least I have a little bit of cushion, so at least I feel a little bit better.” 

Martens said that Thursday’s limit was actually bigger than anything that he’d caught during practice.   “I’m surprised that an 18 pound bag didn’t cross the stage today,” he said.  “There are a ton of two and a half pound chunkers out there, but it’s hard to get one over that.”  

3rd Place: Grant Goldbeck (16-0)
The last time Grant Goldbeck was in the top three in an Elite Series tournament, he had just pulled off the most historic comeback in Elite Series history on the St. Johns River in 2010, jumping from 97th place on Thursday to 2nd place by Saturday. 

This week on the Mississippi River, Goldbeck has started at the top.  With a limit weighing an even 16 pounds, the Texas pro will enter the second day of competition in La Crosse, Wisconsin trailing leader Kyle Fox by just eight ounces. 

Grant Goldbeck

“This is an awesome fishery, and you can just feel (the fish) bumping into your line because there’s so many where I’m fishing,” said an exuberant Goldbeck.  “I’m excited about getting there tomorrow morning.  There are two other guys who are in there with me, and we are fishing completely differently than the rest of the field.  It’s not typical river fishing,” he divulged.

With river fishing history on the James River and Potomac River around his former home state of Maryland, Goldbeck said that while the Mississippi River in Wisconsin doesn’t have the tidal fluctuations like the coastal rivers, there are still similarities that he was able to take advantage of.  “It fishes differently than the tidal water, but there’s still flow and current.  When those fish are done spawning, they want to get out in that current to get that oxygen.  I’m just fishing where there’s current and some good cover.” 

Goldbeck said that he had a limit within the first five minutes of the morning and culled through 40 or 50 keepers on Thursday.  “You just have to weed through the little ones and every once in a while, you’ll get a good one out of the group.” 

4th Place: Billy McCaghren (15-11)
Currently in his fourth season on the Elite Series, it’s becoming apparent that Arkansas’ Billy McCaghren likes river fisheries.  Both of his top 10 finishes in Elite Series competition have come on rivers, with a career high 3rd place finish on the Mississippi River 250 miles south of La Crosse in Ft. Madison, Iowa in 2009. 

After bringing in a 15-11 limit on Thursday to land in 4th place, McCaghren is well on his way to recording yet another solid finish on a river fishery. 

Billy McCaghren

While the top three finishers all boxed a limit within the opening minutes of competition, McCaghren’s day on the Mississippi didn’t get off to a very fast start.  “I went over two hours without a bite this morning,” he admitted.  Finding his primary area covered with fellow competitors, the 2009 Rookie Of the Year said that when he was finally able to fish the area, he put a quick limit in the boat. 

“I finally got to it and fished it a little differently,” he said.  “I ended up running around and looking the rest of the day and managed to cull everything that I caught off of my starting spot.  “I went to one area late this afternoon and caught my big fish and another good one.  I really didn’t fish the area during practice, but I saw some bait in there and banked on it being good.  Luckily for me, it was.” 

Knowing that he most likely needs a victory to qualify for the 2013 Classic, McCaghren, who moved up to 68th in the TTAOY standings after Thursday, said that he has one goal in mind this week.  “My only shot in the Classic is to try and win this one,” he explained. 

5th Place: Greg Hackney (15-10)
After a 4th place finish two weeks ago on Toledo Bend, Greg Hackney is on a roll.  With a 15-10 limit on Thursday, the Louisiana pro moved into the top five by the conclusion of Thursday’s weigh-in.   

Greg HackneyThe action started quickly for Hackney, but it wasn’t the species that he was searching for.  “I probably had 20 pike bites before I caught a bass,”  he said with a chuckle. “The area that I was fishing had a big school of northern pike and a big school of bass, and the pike moved in and I couldn’t find the bass.  I killed about an hour and a half and never caught a bass.” 

Hackney said that the water level rose overnight, and it took him several hours to adjust.  “I had a backup deal, and that’s how I caught the bass that I caught,” he said. “My best deal didn’t work out today.  I probably hit 25 spots in one general area.”

With both a backwater spot and a main river spot producing quality keepers, Hackney said that he alternated between the two locations for the better part of the day.  “I probably caught 20 bass today, and I was really disappointed because I had been getting 50 to 60 bass bites a day in practice.” 

With a solid start, Hackney said that the rising water level is the only thing that has him nervous for the remainder of the week.  “A lot of areas started flushing a lot more current, and the fish started to reposition a little bit.  I had a good bag, but it wasn’t as good overall.” 

Rookie Of the Year Leader: Brandon Card (44th place: 13-3)
“At least this keeps me in the hunt.  If I can go out tomorrow and put all of my bites in the boat, then things could turn out really good.  Right now, I’m kind of frustrated with my execution.  I’m fishing grass that’s really slimy, and the fish just ball up in it. 

“When the fish get caught up in that stuff, they just stall and you can’t pull them out.  I guess I’ll go with the same game plan tomorrow, because there’s really nothing else that I can do.  Later on today, I really tried to position my boat so that when I hooked one, I’d have a little lane to reel them in through the grass. 

“Tomorrow, I’m going to try to keep the fish on top of the water and get them to the boat as quickly as possible.”

Toyota Tundra Angler Of the Year Points Leader: Brent Chapman (19th Place: 14-3)
“I knew that this tournament was going to be tight.  These are the ones where you want to come in with a good bag on the first day so that you can breathe easy.  I didn’t quite do that today, so I’m going to have to step it up tomorrow.

“The good thing is that I know I’m around a lot of fish and I’m not getting a lot of other fishing pressure.  I figured out some things as the day progressed today, and I think that I can capitalize on that tomorrow and put a few more quality fish in the boat. 

“I didn’t lose a fish today, but I just didn’t get any big bites.  I want to fish on Sunday here, because this is my type of fishing and I’m totally at home here.  When you can go out and catch 50 keepers a day, that’s why you do this job.  I probably spent 30 minutes to an hour today culling fish.  I spent a lot of the time today just sorting through fish.” 


Place PRO ANGLER Day 1
1 Kyle Fox 5 16- 8
2 Aaron Martens 5 16- 5
3 Grant Goldbeck 5 16- 0
4 Billy McCaghren 5 15-11
5 Greg Hackney 5 15-10
6 Terry Butcher 5 15- 5
6 Rick Clunn 5 15- 5
8 Todd Faircloth 5 15- 0
9 Terry Scroggins 5 14-15
10 Mark Menendez 5 14-14
11 Cliff Pace 5 14-12
12 Dean Rojas 5 14-12
13 Ott DeFoe 5 14-11
13 Casey Scanlon 5 14-11
15 Bernie Schultz 5 14-10
16 Takahiro Omori 5 14- 6
17 Brent Broderick 5 14- 5
18 Dustin Wilks 5 14- 4
19 Brent Chapman 5 14- 3
20 Brandon Palaniuk 5 14- 0
21 Jason Williamson 5 13-15
22 Matthew Herren 5 13-14
22 Bill Lowen 5 13-14
22 Nate Wellman 5 13-14
25 Davy Hite 5 13-13
25 Stephen Kennedy 5 13-13
27 Michael Iaconelli 5 13-12
28 Keith Combs 5 13-11
28 John Crews 5 13-11
28 Randy Howell 5 13-11
31 Cliff Prince 5 13-10
32 Casey Ashley 5 13- 9
32 Stephen Browning 5 13- 9
34 Gerald Swindle 5 13- 9
35 Timmy Horton 5 13- 8
35 Gary Klein 5 13- 8
35 Rick Morris 5 13- 8
38 Kevin VanDam 5 13- 7
39 Jamie Horton 5 13- 6
39 John Murray 5 13- 6
39 Greg Vinson 5 13- 6
42 Cliff Crochet 5 13- 5
43 Kotaro Kiriyama 5 13- 4
44 Brandon Card 5 13- 3
44 Alton Jones 5 13- 3
46 Matt Reed 5 13- 2
47 Bobby Lane 5 13- 0
48 J Todd Tucker 5 12-14
49 Jami Fralick 5 12-13
49 Jared Miller 5 12-13
49 Pete Ponds 5 12-13
49 Clark Reehm 5 12-13
49 Skeet Reese 5 12-13
54 Keith Poche 5 12-13
55 Russell Lane 5 12-12
55 Mike McClelland 5 12-12
55 David Smith 5 12-12
58 Mark Davis 5 12-11
58 Britt Myers 5 12-11
58 Jason Quinn 5 12-11
61 Andy Montgomery 5 12- 8
61 Brian Snowden 5 12- 8
63 Chris Lane 5 12- 6
63 Scott Rook 5 12- 6
63 Kevin Short 5 12- 6
63 Jonathon VanDam 5 12- 6
67 Shaw E Grigsby 5 12- 4
67 Charlie Hartley 5 12- 4
69 Matt Greenblatt 5 12- 3
69 Kelly Jordon 5 12- 3
69 Fred Roumbanis 5 12- 3
69 Fletcher Shryock 5 12- 3
73 Russell Parrish 5 12- 2
73 Marty Robinson 5 12- 2
75 Edwin Evers 5 12- 1
75 Ishama Monroe 5 12- 1
75 Bradley Roy 5 12- 1
78 Yusuke Miyazaki 5 12- 0
78 Michael Simonton 5 12- 0
80 Morizo Shimizu 5 11-13
81 Zell Rowland 5 11-11
82 Chris Zaldain 5 11- 9
83 Derek Remitz 5 11- 4
84 Boyd Duckett 5 11- 2
84 Jared Lintner 5 11- 2
86 Paul Elias 5 11- 0
86 Jeff Kriet 5 11- 0
88 David Walker 5 10-12
89 Denny Brauer 5 10-11
89 Byron Velvick 5 10-11
91 Travis Manson 5 10- 8
92 James Niggemeyer 5 10- 7
93 Kevin Ledoux 5 10- 6
94 Kenyon Hill 5 10- 1
95 Jeremy Starks 5 9-10
96 Chad Griffin 4 8- 7
97 Tommy Biffle 3 6-10
98 Scott Ashmore 1 2- 7