Cold fronts. Rain. Rising water. Muddy water. Unfamiliar territory. These challenges have become the norm on the FLW Tour the last few months, and the FLW Tour presented by Evinrude on the Mississipi River is continuing that trend.
A warm spell during the practice period drove water temperatures into the low 70s and ushered in a wave of spawning bass. But copious amounts of rain on Wednesday changed things drastically as muddy water poured through the pools Thursday and dropped water temperatures.
Those atop the scoreboard, like day one leader Matt Stefan, were able to pick a few leftover spawners off beds. Others in the top five used that strategy as well. Here’s a look at how the top five is shaping up on the Mighty Mississippi.
2. Matt Arey – Shelby, N.C. – 17-14
Matt Arey got off to a fast start Thursday morning, bagging an almost 18-pound limit before 8:30. Like Stefan, Arey used bedding smallmouths to get out of the gates quick. He bagged five smallmouths, but then culled one smallmouth for a largemouth – the only weigh fish in his creel that didn’t come off beds.
“Most of the ones I weighed today I had marked from practice,” Arey says. “I used a moving bait to get them to show themselves and then I marked the beds. The smallmouths bed in small clusters, so if I can get one to show me where a bedding area is, I can usually find a few more around it. And I had a couple of hot spots like that I started on this morning.”
“Anytime you get off to a good start like that, it just makes the rest of the day go so much better,” he adds.
3. Todd Auten (tied) – Lake Wylie, S.C. – 16-11
Todd Auten hauled in five bass for 16 pounds, 11 ounces on day one to put himself in a tie for third place with Andy Morgan.
Despite years of fishing professional circuits and tours, Auten says he has never been to this portion of the Mississippi River. But that didn’t stop him from finding some quality on day one.
“I’m sure some of the fish I’m catching are spawning, I just can’t see them,” Auten says. “The hardest part about fishing a place for the first time is it’s so hard to duplicate a pattern because you just don’t know where to find more of the stuff that fits the pattern.
“I got a little something going on certain pieces of cover on certain types of banks, but I’ve got to look and fish for a while before I find that combination. I know there is more of it in this river, but I just can’t run around and find it. I have to fish to find it and that takes so much time.”
3. Andy Morgan (tied), Dayton, Tenn. – 16-11
Morgan has never been to this part of the Mississippi River either, but it’s no coincidence that he shares the third-place spot with fellow river rat Todd Auten.
Morgan’s limit was made up of two smallmouths and three largemouths caught across two different pools.
“In practice, I got some smallmouth bites that I figured were spawning fish,” Morgan says. “Those smallmouths spawn in little groups – usually if you find one on bed, there is another one spawning nearby. I actually figured I was going to catch a few more smallmouths after the practice I had. But when I went back to those smallmouth places today, I only could catch two – those jokers left me high and dry – like smallmouths typically do. So I had to start scrambling through some largemouth water to catch something to go with my two big smallmouths. And as it turned out, two of those largemouths were pretty decent.”
5. Matt Greenblatt – Port St. Lucie, Fla. – 16-1
Matt Greenblatt got into the top five by weighing in an all-largemouth limit of 16 pounds, 1 ounce.
Similar to the other leaders, Greenblatt had several decent fish marked from practice that got him off to a fast start.
“Most of the ones I found, I couldn’t see because the muddy water sort of infiltrated into my area,” Greenblatt says. “So thanks to the super accurate GPS of my Lowrance, I could pitch right to the beds where I made the waypoints and they were still there. I caught most of what I weighed by 8 o’clock this morning and culled up a few times after that.”