Pools 7, 8 and 9 on the Mississippi River have not disappointed this week during the FLW Tour presented by Evinrude on the Mississippi River, and following a day three that saw cold, steady rainfall, two of the best river wizards on Tour are locked in battle atop the leaderboard.
Bryan Schmitt of Deale, Md., snatched the tournament lead away from Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., on Friday by bringing in five bass weighing 15 pounds, 12 ounces, for a three-day total of 46-12. Schmitt will have a scant 12-ounce lead over Morgan going into the final day.
In what has been an impressive trading of river wits on the Mighty Mississippi, Schmitt and Morgan have both served up some of their best river-reading skills this week. What makes this duo’s duel so interesting is that Schmitt is using river knowledge garnered from the Potomac River, while Morgan is battling with some good old-fashioned Tennessee River skills.
The Potomac is Schmitt’s home waters, and he’s found a slice of the Potomac in a large grass bed in Pool 8. Within his primary area is a large, shallow bedding flat where river bass flocked to during the warm up before the tournament started. However, it’s not the bedding flat that has caught Schmitt’s eye. Instead, it’s a large depression just below the honeymoon suite where he believes prespawn bass are staging up for the next warm-up.
“This place is set up just like some of my better staging places on the Potomac,” Schmitt says. “There’s a big, shallow bedding flat in the area, but I’ve found some deeper water with more scattered, clumpier grass out away from it and I really believe the ones I’m catching are prespawn – they’re just a little heavier, which is the difference between a 13-pound bag and a 15-pound here.”
Schmitt is seining the grass with one of his Potomac confidence lures: a swim jig.
While he’s made his 15-pound-per-day average look easy, Schmitt says there is one thing that seriously threatens his first FLW Tour win: rising water.
“The one variable that might ruin it for me is that high water,” he says. “In my opinion, the water is already too muddy to even be catching them – I’m stunned they’re still biting in there. But worse than that, the high water has now covered the grass and I can’t read it like I need to make the right presentations. For much of the day I had to kind of fish blind, and I’m just not as efficient fishing that way.”
Right now, Schmitt is simply treating the rising water like an abnormally high tide on the Potomac, hoping that fish are conditioned to the heavier flows, higher ceiling and darker waters.
“Just when I thought it had gotten to the point of no return this afternoon, I had a late-day rally where I caught 7 or 8 in row,” he says. “It was like the tide had turned or something and they went on a feeding spree. I wish I knew what triggered that flurry. When that happens on the Potomac, I know what causes it – usually tides – but here I have no idea why they turned on like that.”
“I need that water to stop rising, but this all-day rain is not helping my cause one bit,” he adds. “I’m just hoping I can get one more day out of them.”
Top 10 pros
1. Bryan Schmitt – Deale, Md. – 46-12 (15)
2. Andy Morgan – Dayton, Tenn. – 46-0 (15)
3. Austin Felix – Eden Prairie, Minn. – 44-10 (15)
4. Matt Stefan – Junction City, Wis. – 44-3 (15)
5. Joshua Weaver – Macon, Ga. – 44-3 (15)
6. Todd Auten – Lake Wylie, S.C. – 43-14 (15)
7. Wesley Strader – Spring City, Tenn. – 43-3 (15)
8. Larry Nixon – Bee Branch, Ark. – 42-12 (15)
9. David Dudley – Lynchburg, Va. – 41-12 (15)
10. Justin Atkins – Florence, Ala. – 41-10 (15)