Michael Neal and the other 29 REDCREST competitors will have plenty of good-looking water to fish on the Upper Mississippi River. Photo by Joel Shangle

LA CROSSE, Wis. – In a few short days, the bass fishing world will direct its attention to the Upper Mississippi River out of La Crosse, Wisconsin, the site of the inaugural REDCREST Presented by Venmo. As the Top 30 finishers from the 2019 Bass Pro Tour continue practice for a battle that will award $300,000 and the inaugural REDCREST trophy to the winner, the big river is setting up to produce an all-out slugfest.

The field will fish the first four days on Pool 8 (Aug. 21-24), and the Top 10 will fish the Championship Round on Pool 7 (Aug. 25).

MLF pros Ish Monroe and Gerald Swindle – along with local legend and FLW Tour pro Tom Monsoor – shared their thoughts on fishing La Crosse, and who might take home the first REDCREST trophy.

REDCREST Ribbit, Ribbit

Swindle is fresh off a Bass Pro Shops Open on the Upper Mississippi and expects a frog to be a strong player at REDCREST.

“I think it’s going to be a full-on frog-fishing bonanza,” Swindle said. “The frog bite wasn’t really on when I was fishing the last tournament there, but I think for REDCREST, the stars are lining up for these guys to get blasted in the face with a frog-fishing frenzy.”

Monsoor also believes that the frog bite will play an important role in adding poundage to SCORETRACKER®.

“A lot of people think of this area as a frog fishing spot, and it is,” said Monsoor. “Frogs also produce bigger bites. Not as many fish, but usually bigger ones.”

Monroe – a recognized frog expert who won an Elite Series event on the Upper Mississippi in 2018 on a frog – also foresees the frog bite playing a factor, but with one caution: “Yes, I think they’re going to do a lot of damage with frogs, but it can be a tough bite, too. You have to find larger concentrations of quality bass.”

Todd Faircloth works his way through some of the prototypically froggy-looking water of the Upper Mississippi River. Photo by Joel Shangle

Other Baits in Play

In addition to frogs, Monsoor expects a handful of other baits to be strong options.

“Everything is behind schedule this year on the river,” Monsoor said. “We had Mayflies hatching in August. The water is coming down and the fishing is improving, so I think there’s a chance the anglers may set new weight records. I know frog fishing is popular, but it’s not the only technique. I just fished in a local event and my partner and 1 boated 150 bass fishing with swim jigs. That’s 150 bass at a pound or heavier. These MLF anglers are so good that I believe if you have a favorite shallow-water technique, it will likely be productive. Even the deeper-water bite could be on.”

That means that everything from crankbaits, spinnerbaits, topwaters, swim jigs and more might work. However, location will become the key to unlocking success.

“It was a totally different Mississippi River than I’d ever seen when I was there,” Swindle said of his experience at the Open in early August. “There was eelgrass as far as you could see and so much grass above water that you could hardly fish it. I was fishing on Pool 8 by Stoddard and didn’t see another boat fishing there. Also, the rocky cover didn’t play out due to water conditions, but I do believe that will play a big part in REDCREST. Guys throwing squarebills, jigs, walking baits or a popper on that stuff might get healthy real quick.”

Covering the Cover

Swindle also discovered an interesting bit of cover that he feels could be a big factor come REDCREST week.

“Hard clay undercut banks,” Swindle said. “I stumbled into that late in the tournament, but that cover produced my two biggest largemouth. It was a ripping current, a little deeper, in the 4- to 8-foot range. The bass were in there feeding on crawfish. Not on the main river, but in the shoots on the backsides of places like Goose Island.”

Monsoor believes that rocky structure on both Pools 7 and 8 will be important for success. 

“Right now the shad are small,” says Monsoor. “They group up in schools by the rocky structure like the wing dams and points. The smallmouth group up there, too, and feed on them. If you find the right group, you can catch an awful lot of bass off the rocks.”

Monroe is a bigger fan of seeking out largemouth in the grass for the first four days of competition, then rocks and sandbars in Pool 7 for the Championship Round.

“Grass or grass with current flow,” Monroe lists. “Pool 8 is where I think you’ll find the most scoreable bass. I think it’s a better location. There are so many bass released in that pool from tournaments. Plus, the water tends to be cleaner. It’s really good. The toughest thing is finding a group of fish in the grass. It’s vast fields of the stuff, so pinpointing smaller areas is key to finding them.

“Pool 7 fishes more like a lake. Again, finding the bass in the grass is important. Pockets and points with current will hold the fish, but here I believe rock cover and sandbars will be a bigger factor. A guy could tear them up using a spook or a popper fishing that cover.”

Brent Ehrler and the REDCREST field will be looking at multiple kinds of cover to find smallmouth like this one from Pool 5. Photo by Joel Shangle

How Big is Big?

So what’s considered a big bass in Pools 7 and 8 of the Mississippi? Monsoor sheds light on bass size after decades of raming and fishing these waters.

“There are a lot of bass that will score for MLF anglers,” he says. “But this isn’t a little fish fishery. There are a lot of 2-pounders out there. Bass weighing 3 pounds will keep you in the game. Anything over 4 pounds is a good one, and a big fish is anything over 5 pounds. This is going to be a fun tournament to watch for sure.”

Fearless Predictions

Monroe, Monsoor, and Swindle have their opinions on which anglers could show up big time on the Upper Mississippi.

“I think Andy Morgan, Jacob Wheeler, and Mark Daniels, Jr., are the ones to watch,” Monroe said. “La Crosse fits Morgan’s style, Wheeler is just plain on fire, and MDJ is the real deal.”

Swindle is sticking with known shallow-water slingers: “I think Wesley Strader and Andy Morgan have a real good shot at winning. The way the river is setting up just fits their styles.”

Monsoor takes a more diplomatic approach in his choices.

“It’s tough to pick a winner,” Monsoor said. “All of these guys are so good. I think Takahiro Omori or Todd Faircloth are good picks. Brandon Palaniuk would be, too. If the deeper bite is on, Mark Rose could be tough to beat. Seriously, they’re all so good, anyone of them could win. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch, and it might just set new records for total weight at an MLF event.”