On my first trip to La Crosse, Wis., for the sixth stop of the FLW Tour on the Mississippi River I had hopes of sight-fishing, skipping under flooded trees, and triggering bites along the shallow, grassy shorelines. I’ve heard so much about how awesome the fishing was up there and couldn’t wait to get started. Unfortunately, like most of the year, we had some tough conditions to face both during practice and in the tournament.
Practice was tough and I didn’t develop much of a pattern for the event. I figured my plan might as well be to go catch some fish and just see what happens. Sometimes just going fishing and trusting your instincts can be the best approach when practice didn’t go well.
Come tournament time, my day started a bit slow – just like my practice – as the overcast weather kept fish closer to the deeper river water and as a sight-fisherman, this didn’t help me much. I covered most of Pool 8 with little success – only to find out later that the bites were much better in Pools 7 and 9.
Although I stopped at a few spots of dead water in Pool 8, my day changed drastically once the weather did. When the sun came out, I felt more at home and confident.
I decided to run up and check out some beds I had marked by the dam. With the sun shining, it helped pull the fish up shallow and I caught some really good fish there to put myself in a much better position.
Unlike my home waters in Florida, I had to adapt to fishing the Mississippi River and learn how to trigger bites from fish who barely moved. Rather than fishing lures fast like I would for bass roaming the shallows in Florida, I found more success with a slow, steady retrieve, which consistently triggered bites from staging bass.
Using my rod with a ¼-ounce swim jig and that slow retrieve, I caught a few keepers from the grass before moving on. Next, I took out the frog and trusted my rod to skip it under the trees to land a couple more big bites.
Both methods helped me seal a finish in the money to keep my performance and pace at a high level as we ease closer to the Forrest Wood Cup.
Adjusting on the water is a huge part of professional bass fishing and I feel like it’s one of the areas of my performance that I’m still polishing. It’s all about learning to fish new places and then returning to capitalize off those experiences, so I think I met my goals on my first trip to the Mississippi River in Wisconsin.
Now it is time to prepare for the last Tour event of the season on another river, though it isn’t your average waterway.
Despite sharing some normal river traits, the Potomac River is different from the Mississippi and many of the rivers in Florida because of its tidal waters. This is my fourth time fishing the Potomac and I still haven’t figured out a dependable pattern.
Last time, I really hit the tides perfect and consistently found fish in the same grass areas. Working with the tides is difficult though, and I know it will be tough to find the perfect mix to catch limits each day.
But with that said, I feel good about the time of year and the practice days I have had to determine whether camping out or running tides will work out better. I guess we’ll see.
All I can say is I’m going to fish my best as I gear up for the Cup and just hope these Potomac tides turn my way.