LA CROSSE, Wis. – Bass fishing tournaments held in the Upper Midwest are typically close affairs with most of the field bringing limits to the scale. Getting bites is rarely a problem, but bass over 3 pounds are rare. While the consistent action is a blast for the anglers, the tight leaderboards make for some dramatic finishes. This week on the Mississippi River, the standings promise to be even tighter as the state of Wisconsin imposes a three-fish limit.
Bringing in a limit won’t be much to brag about this year, and having only three fish to work with makes separation that much more difficult and further magnifies the need for 4-pound kickers.
Winnebago, Ill., pro Bill Baker expects an extremely tight leaderboard and said unfortunately, luck will play a greater role in determining the outcome of the event.
“This river is absolutely chock full with 2s and 2 1/2s,” he said. “The fishing is fun; there’s no doubt about it, but the 4-pound bites have been few and far between for me. A guy who lucks into one or two will really have an advantage.”
After a wet May and early June, the weather has been abnormally hot and dry in the region. According to Baker, the water level is back down to normal pool and the vegetation is thick and healthy. That cover means topwaters and flipping will be the main presentations used. The swim jig typically plays on the Mississippi, but that pattern tends to be more effective earlier in the season.
“I’m shooting for a little over 9 pounds today,” Baker added. “Most guys are doing the usual thing for largemouths, but a kicker smallmouth might go a long ways.”
Baker’s co-angler, Mike Parve, said his goal is 7 1/2 or 8 pounds per day.
“I think the cut on the pro side will be right at 18 pounds, or maybe a shade over,” said Baker.
This week’s event, which takes place on Pools 7, 8 and 9, represents the first La Crosse area tournament for the EverStart Series since 2006, when Dan Morehead and Stacey King tied (Morehead ultimately won due to the heaviest opening-round tiebreaker). Since that 2006 event, Wisconsin has lifted its no-cull restriction. The field is launching out of Pool 8 and Pool 7 upstream is commonly known as Lake Onalaska.
A brief round of overnight showers and thunderstorms has mercifully tempered the suffocating heat. After a reported high of 99 degrees yesterday, today’s forecast is calling for a high of 86 degrees with falling dew points.
Anglers will take off from Copeland Park Landing located on Clinton Street in La Crosse, Wis., at 5:30 a.m. daily. Weigh-ins will be at Copeland Park on Thursday and Friday beginning at 1:30 p.m. and final weigh-in on Saturday will begin at 2 p.m. Takeoff and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.
Pros will fish for a top award of $35,000 plus a Ranger Z518 with a 200-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard if Ranger Cup guidelines are met. Co-anglers will cast for a top award consisting of a Ranger 177TR with 90-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard and $5,000 if Ranger Cup guidelines are met.
The EverStart Series consists of five divisions – Central, Northern, Southeast, Texas and Western. Each division consists of four tournaments and competitors will be vying for valuable points in each division that could earn them the Strike King Angler of the Year title along with $5,000 for the pro and $2,000 for the co-angler. The top 40 pros and co-anglers from each respective division will qualify for the EverStart Series Championship that will be held on the Ouachita River in Monroe, La., Nov. 1-4.
Sunrise: 5:48 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 72 degrees
Expected high temperature: 86 degrees
Water temperature: 80-82 degrees
Wind: NW at 12 mph
Humidity: 60 percent
Day’s outlook: mostly sunny