My first tournament of the year was held on the Mississippi River on Pool 4. We launched out of Wabasha, MN which is a great location with fertile backwaters close by and also great main river channel fishing just north in Lake Pepin. This first event was with my Bassmasters club, Lakes Area Bassmasters, and we always have fun, competitive tournaments. One of our goals as a club is to learn from each other, so we typically discuss our patterns and lures after we are finished weighing our fish. I have learned a lot from these guys and I always look forward to fishing in our club tournaments.
I was fortunate to head down to Pool 4 the day before to prefish the area with my dad, who is also a member of Lakes Area Bassmasters. Prior to the tournament, the water levels have been extremely low for this time of year, so I made up my mind that I was going to stay out of the backwaters and focus my energy on Lake Pepin. The last thing we wanted to do in our first tournament of the year is risk hurting our lower unit. I know the phrase “no guts, no glory” fits right about here, but I know the main river can produce excellent bass and I was determined to find them.
During practice, we found and locked into a great pattern that was able to be repeated for several miles along the river. We were fishing crankbaits along the shoreline and were getting bit in areas that had a very specific size chunk rock on the shore. Most of the fish were extremely shallow and we needed to cast inches from the shore and drive our baits into the rocks on our retrieve. If the lure wasn’t banging on the rocks, we seldom got bit. We were catching both largemouth and smallmouth bass, with our biggest largemouth close to 4 pounds. Also, we caught a ton of northern pike, probably 50-60 pounds in total. Thankfully, I didn’t lose one lure to those toothy beasts.
On tournament day, we ran north out of Wabasha and headed to our first spot. I caught two keepers and my dad caught one. At our second spot, I filled my limit by 7:30 am and I was overjoyed that my pattern and practice paid off. After that, our fishing was really slow and we struggled to catch fish on our spots. One thing that made a huge difference was that the wind was coming out of the complete opposite direction than the day before. This led to our areas being pounded by the wind and the bite had slowed considerably. As the day went on, we headed to another area that I missed a smallmouth the day before along a rip rap bank. I ended up catching a 4.2 pound smallmouth to anchor my bag and make a very nice cull. After I caught this fish, I looked down and I was right on top of my GPS coordinate. I am going to believe that it was the same fish I missed the day before, just because it makes for a nice story!
Our day concluded by fishing the last 15 minutes near the Wabasha Bridge. I hooked into a nice smallmouth with 7 minutes to go in the tournament. My dad went to net the fish and the fish jumped and my bait got hooked on the net and pulled out of his mouth. We lost that one which would have added at least a pound and a half to my bag with cull. Oh well!
In the end, I finished in second place with 12 pounds and I won big fish honors. My most productive baits were a KVD Strike King 1.5 crankbait in Sexy Shad color and a chrome and blue Spro rattle bait. Both of them are marred from banging the rocks all day, a sign of working hard and thankfully catching fish. I was using my new Powell 7’5” glass/composite crankbait rod paired with a Quantum Energy 5:3:1 gear ratio and 12 lbs Seaguar Invizx fluorocarbon line for casting my Strike King crankbait. For my Spro rattle bait, I was using 6:4:1 Quantum Accurist reel, 7’ rod, and 30lbs Suffix Performance braid. I like to use braid in this application because I feel the rigidity of the line increases the vibration. Also, I really didn’t want to lose this bait to a pike and I thought braid might help. The Spro did catch my big bass towards the end of day two, so I think I made a good decision on my set up.
At weigh in, I placed 2nd in my club and took home big fish honors for the tournament. There were only 3 limits caught, and I think the wind shift overnight really had a major effect on some of the fishing. 1st place was won in the backwaters fishing a spinnerbait around wood. Apparently, the angler had to run on plane over inches of water to his spot. He found the way back there the week before and noticed a bunch of boats were getting beached trying to get in the same area.
It was a great start to my season and a nice little fishing trip with my dad. To say we don’t have adventures on some of our outings is an understatement. To keep a long story short, please remember to re-tighten your lug nuts after working on your trailer hub and bearings. You don’t want to watch the wheel cruise past the truck at 40 miles an hour and end up 300 yards away! Thankfully no one was hurt, the trailer had virtually no damage if you can believe it, and we were up and running after the help from one of our club members. Thanks Dan!
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