LA CROSSE, Wis. – Just a few short weeks after hosting the 2023 MLF High School Fishing National Championship, La Crosse, Wisconsin, and the Mississippi River are gearing up for another major bass fishing event.
Major League Fishing, the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, is set to return to La Crosse, next week, July 25-27, for the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals Mercury Stop 6 at the Mississippi River in La Crosse. The three-day Invitational tournament will feature a roster of 150 professional anglers competing for a top prize of up to $115,000, and an invitation to compete at REDCREST 2024 – the Bass Pro Tour championship – for the chance to win up to $300,000.
Hosted by Explore La Crosse, the tournament marks the sixth and final MLF Invitational event of 2023, offering competitors a total season purse of more than $3.9 million. In addition to the tournament’s top payout of $115,000, the field is also competing for valuable points to win the coveted Invitationals Angler of the Year (AOY) title. The top eight pros in the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals AOY standings after this event will receive an invitation to compete at the sport’s top level on the Bass Pro Tour in 2024.
“The Explore La Crosse team and the entire La Crosse region are thrilled to be hosting the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals on pools 7, 8, and 9 of the Mississippi River,” said A.J. Frels, Executive Director of Explore La Crosse. “With its wing dams, backwaters, and heavy vegetation, the scenic Upper Mississippi offers some of the best habitat in the country for largemouth and smallmouth bass. It is the ideal setting for incredible fishing and non-stop action. I cannot think of a more outstanding stage for the last stop of the season.”
The Mississippi River is a very familiar destination for MLF as the fishery has played host to countless major bass-fishing tournaments over the years, including six prior MLF professional-level events. The last MLF professional-level event on the river was the Tackle Warehouse TITLE championship in 2021, when pro Jimmy Washam targeted bass set up in shallow water on a rock ridge on the final day with a topwater bait and a Neko rig to earn the victory.
Junction City, Wisconsin, pro Matt Stefan will be among the 150 competitors in the event next week. Stefan is an expert at mining the flowages of the upper Midwest and is always a favorite in La Crosse.
“We had extremely low water last year, the whole second half of the year,” Stefan said. “That’s allowed a lot of the grass and rice to grow in new areas. So, I think you’re going to see some differences in vegetation growth. Areas have definitely grown thicker, which could prevent some of us from getting to fish in some areas. And it could help some anglers find things that are overlooked.”
Still, outside of new vegetation, Stefan predicts things won’t be far from the norm.
“This time of year you’re going to have a frog bite,” he said. “You’re gonna have a main-channel wing dam and sand drop bite, cut banks, a topwater bite. Some guys fishing in the Black River more offshore, it’s going to be typical Mississippi River, you’re going to need to find that better pod of fish.”
Stefan said the fish will have moved to their summer haunts pretty solidly and won’t be thinking about a fall migration.
“They’re set up pretty good in their summer patterns,” the Wisconsin pro said. “It’s going to be primarily current-related stuff, the backwaters will not have many fish. The largemouth will move out to the big grass flats and sand flats in the lower ends of the pools, and they’ll start setting up on eddies and wing dams in front of the spawning areas.”
With Stefan figuring on largemouth or a mixed bag to win, he expects some of the locals to have more than a puncher’s chance.
“Mike Brueggen will have 50 pounds,” Stefan said. “Or Tom Monsoor, the last couple years he’s really been on them on the river. I think right around 50 pounds will win for sure, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s 45.”
In Tackle Warehouse Invitationals competition, the full field of 150 anglers compete in the two-day opening round on Tuesday and Wednesday in a five-fish, weigh-in format. Only the Top 50 pros, based on their two-day cumulative weight, will advance to the final round on Championship Thursday, where they will compete for the grand prize of up to $115,000, including the lucrative $35,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus for qualified anglers.
The winner of Tackle Warehouse Invitationals Mercury Stop 6 at the Mississippi River in La Crosse will be determined by the heaviest three-day cumulative weight and will receive an invitation to compete at REDCREST 2024. In addition, the season-long Invitational AOY will also earn a berth into REDCREST 2024.
Anglers will launch each day at 6:30 a.m. CT, Tuesday through Thursday, from Veterans Freedom Park, located at 1 Clinton St. in La Crosse. Weigh-ins will also be held at the park daily beginning at 2:30 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend the event or follow the live on-the-water action all three days of competition online on MLFNOW! beginning at 7 a.m. CT at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Tackle Warehouse Invitationals Mercury Stop 6 at the Mississippi River in La Crosse will feature live on-the-water coverage and a two-hour action-packed television show that will premiere on the CBS Sports Network on Saturday, Nov. 14.
Proud sponsors of the 2023 MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitationals include: 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, Black Rifle Coffee, E3, Epic Baits, Favorite Fishing, Fox Rent a Car, General Tire, Grundéns, Lew’s, Lowrance, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Mystik Lubricants, Onyx, Phoenix Boats, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Wiley X and YETI.
For complete details and updated information visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals on the MLF5 social media outlets at Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.