Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 06/20/2012

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

La Crosse, WI – After current Toyota Tundra Angler Of the Year leader, Brent Chapman, bested the field in a deep water duel less than two weeks ago on famed Toledo Bend Reservoir, the Elite Series moves over 1000 miles north to the Mississippi River for the sixth stop of the 2012 regular season. 

This week marks the first time that the Elite Series has visited Wisconsin, and it has been exactly seven years since Kevin VanDam claimed an Elite 50 victory on Lake Wissota in the dairy capital of the United States. 

It is not, however, the first time that the Elite Series has fished the mighty Mississippi. In 2009, Ft. Madison, Iowa hosted the River Rumble on the Mississippi River approximately 250 miles south of La Crosse. In that June tournament, Kevin Short earned his first of two career Elite Series victories.   

On the first two full days of practice, the Elite Series pros practicing pools seven, eight, and nine, were met with an abundance of water – both on the main river and in the maze of backwater areas.  “The one thing that gets me about this place is the size,” said Louisiana’s Cliff Crochet, who grew up fishing the Atchafalaya Basin.  “Here, there’s 10 miles of backwater cuts, pockets, and points.  It’s really set up a lot differently than I’m accustomed to.”

With heavy rains causing the main river to run muddier than normal, the majority of the anglers that The BASS ZONE spoke with said that cleaner and calmer backwater areas are most likely going to produce the winning stringer.   However, main river current breaks and structure could still play a factor. 

There’s a healthy population of smallmouth on this stretch of the Mississippi, and mixed bags of both largemouth and smallmouth will cross the scales throughout the week.  Most anglers believe that while a bonus smallmouth will be a welcomed gift, largemouth will get the job done. “I’m targeting largemouth, so I’m not planning on having any smallmouth in my bag, but I’m not saying that it won’t happen. I’ll fish for the smallmouth next week,” said Terry Scroggins, who currently sits in 10th place in the TTAOY standings. 

After stifling heat blanketed the area for the first two days of practice, the 99 Elite Series anglers will get some reprieve from the warm temperatures for the rest of the week, as temperatures are expected to top out at 80 degrees under mostly sunny skies with a slight chance of rain on Saturday. 

Here’s what some of the anglers had to say after two full days of practice on the Mississippi River:

Derek Remitz
“I used to live like four hours away from here, so it’s not like I have fished it a lot.  I’ve probably fished a total of eight or 10 BFL’s down here about 10 years ago when I still lived in the area.  A lot of that has been forgotten, and I don’t think that I knew as much as I know now when I fished those tournaments. 

Derek Remitz“Some of the water is familiar, but so much stuff has changed because rivers pretty much change daily.  The river looks like it’s about normal, but it’s a pretty swift current.  The main river channel is pretty dirty, and I think that has affected the fishing.  I think that if the main channel was a little bit more stable, it would open up a lot more areas for fishing. 

“I remember that you used to be able to catch a lot of fish going down the main channel fishing current breaks.  I think that you’d see a lot more smallmouth weighed-in if the water was a little bit cleaner.  I’ve tried to catch some, but I really haven’t caught that many.  Somebody will have some smallmouth, but I think that it’ll mostly be largemouth. 

“There are just little areas that the fish are holding in, and so much of the stuff looks the same.  I’ve found one or two areas that seem to have a concentration of fish.  You can go a long time without getting a bite, but when you do, there seems to be a group of fish in the area.  There will be a lot of limits and a lot of decent bags this week. 

“You can really win the tournament on any of the pools on this stretch of river.  Each pool is good enough where some of the guys will stay in this pool and some of the guys will go one pool up.  A handful of guys will probably go down to the next pool.  All of the pools kind if fish the same way.”

Jonathon VanDam
“The nice thing about this area of the country is that there’s always a ton of fish.  It’s just a lot of fun to practice here.  This river is different from a lot of other rivers, because there are a lot of wide open areas that are almost like lakes.  Especially with the wind direction that we had today out of the south, it really stacks the waves up.  It was kind of hard to get around today and a lot of areas aren’t even fishable.  I had to tuck into some backwaters to get out of the wind a little bit. 

Jonathon VanDam“The biggest thing is getting around, because there are a ton of backwater areas that you can get into.  The water is high, so I think that everyone will be keying on the banks.

“Anytime you come up north, you don’t see the big bags like you do down south.  There’s definitely the possibility for a 20 pound stringer, but 13 to 16 pounds a day will be pretty good.  I think that it will probably take 11 or 12 pounds a day to make the top 50 cut.  There are a lot of two to three pounders, but it’s hard to come by a four or five pounder.

“I’ve fished in every pool, but the deal is that there are only so much fishable areas.  That really cuts it down quite a bit.  You’ll see some smallmouth, but from what I’ve seen, it’s going to be tough to specifically target them for the entire tournament.” 

Brandon Card
“I came up here and pre-practiced after the Douglas Lake tournament for two days.  I fished a little bit, but I also spent a lot of time just riding around.  The wind during practice has really affected the way that I was planning on fishing this tournament.  I wanted to fish main river open flats, and they’re just getting pounded by the waves - It’s just all muddied up. 

Brandon Card“I think that a lot of the muddy water is coming from up north, because Minnesota had a lot of rain.  I think that half of it is because of the high winds, and half of it is because of the flooding up north. 

“When I was here a month ago, Pool 9 was actually a foot and a half higher than what it is now.  Pool 8, which is where we are launching out of, is about a foot higher than when I was here. 

“My comfort zone is fishing shallow, and I love flipping, throwing a frog, and swimming a jig.  As far as just being comfortable, this is my type of fishing.  I’d definitely say that my confidence level is a lot higher here that it would be at a place like Green Bay where it’s all open water. 

“I think that around 17 pounds a day will win this tournament, and I think that it will take maybe a total weight of 25 pound to get a check.  To make the final day cut, I think that it’ll take a little over 14 pounds a day.  The field is going to be really closely packed together.  I think that it’ll be just like Bull Shoals where ounces separate 10 places.”

Terry Scroggins
“It’s a lot of fun and you get a lot of bites, but it just doesn’t seem like the quality is there.  I feel like it’s going to take around 13 pound a day to get a check and probably 17 to 19 pounds a day to do really well. 

“At this tournament, my game plan is to play it safe and stay close to the take-off.  The Mississippi has a lot of barge traffic, and I know that we have scheduled lock times, but the barges have priority.  I’m going to try to stay in this pool and take the locking out of the equation. 

Terry Scroggins

“It’s been extremely windy the last two days.  When you get in the backwater deals it’s easy to fish, but as far as moving around seeing what you want to see, it’s a little tough. 

“It’s pretty much all post-spawn stuff, but I’ve seen a few bream beds here and there.  There are a lot of bass that are getting on the main river.  It’s pretty spread out – you can go out and catch them in the current, or you can stay shallow and catch a few as well. 

“They guys who get a few key bites in the boat will really excel in this event.  There are going to be a lot of guys with mixed bags.  I’m targeting largemouth, so I’m not planning on having any smallmouth in my bag, but I’m not saying that it won’t happen. I’ll fish for the smallmouth next week.”

Cliff Crochet
“I got a few decent bites on Monday, but it was a struggle.  Tuesday was really a struggle.  The high water isn’t a problem, but the wind makes it tough to fish and position the boat.  There’s a lot of water that’s been muddied up, but it’s still fishable.

“The one thing that gets me about this place is the size.  On a place like the Red River, you have the main river with a backwater pocket off of the river.  Here, there’s 10 miles of backwater cuts, pockets, and points.  It’s really set up a lot differently than I’m accustomed to. 

Cliff Crochet“For the most part, you’ll have quite a few guys piled up.  Then there will be guys who fish this entire tournament and not see another tournament boat, just because there are so many little pockets and cuts. 

“I’m committed to power fishing.  That being said, there will be a lot of fish caught cranking as well.  For the most part, I think that this will be a bank-fest.  There are probably some guys fishing river swings and rock piles, but I’m committed to the bank. 

“I fished the local pool today and I went south on Monday.  This is the largest river that’s used for commercial use, so I’m going to really key on this pool here so I don’t have to deal with the locks.  If I can’t find anything, I’ll go ahead and make a run.  I’d say that 12 pounds will set the bar here and make the cut.”