With just two events left in the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit season, it’s time to turn attention to the northern part of the country. Presented by OPTIMA Batteries, the Pro Circuit Super Tournament on the Mississippi River out of Stoddard, Wis., will not only crown a winner with a $125,000 payday but also shape the Angler of the Year race.
Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament
Mississippi River (Pools 7, 8 and 9)
How the fishery sets up
The Mississippi River is the second-longest river in the US, and certainly first when it comes to fame. While bass can be found throughout the 2,300 miles the Mighty Miss spans, the tournament waters for this competition consist of Pools 7, 8 and 9, with takeoff occurring in Pool 8. These three impoundments of the second-largest drainage system in North America provide a lot of cover for bass to live in. Vast swaths of vegetation, wing dams, rock jetties, backwater pools and shallow laydowns can be found throughout the river.
Straddling the border between Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, the river supports healthy populations of largemouth and smallmouth bass. Anglers shouldn’t struggle to catch limits of 2- to 3-pound largemouths. However, it’s the bigger bass in the 5-pound class that cash checks. While smallmouths may not receive as much attention due to the fact that they can be tougher to target than their green cousins, they’re just as much a player and shouldn’t be overlooked.
What to expect
Things will look a little different this time around than they did last time the Pro Circuit hit the Mississippi River. Back in May of 2017, torrential rains caused the river to rise substantially throughout the tournament. There were fish on bed, while others were still feeding up to prepare to spawn, but despite tough conditions the river still kicked out plenty of fish.
For this event, the river is finally stabilizing after fluctuating a lot in the spring and the fish are beginning to set up in their summer haunts. So, things will certainly look a lot different for this event, but there will still be no shortage of fish caught.
Pro Circuit pro Matt Stefan, who hails from Junction City, Wis., has spent years fishing the Mississippi and knows how feast or famine it can be and how paying attention to the conditions can make all the difference on the river.
“This tournament is a great equalizer in that yes, you can find a spot and do well, but if conditions change a little bit the anglers are going to have to change with it,” says Stefan. “That’s the thing I really like about the Mississippi.
“There’s this perception that you can go out and catch 100 fish a day on the river, and it can be that way, but it can also be a fishery where if you’re coming from out of town you can be completely lost. It’s not necessarily an easy fishery, but when you find the fish they are pretty willing to bite.”
Water level is always a major factor on a river system, and it won’t be any different for this tournament. As of now, things look like they may stay around summer pool, which could be good for fishing, but not good from a navigational standpoint.
“I say summer pool on the river is about 7 or 6 ½ feet, which is about where we are now and falling, and that’s pretty low,” Stefan notes. “It’s at a level right now where guys are going to get stuck left and right.”
Navigating the miles of backwater channels may be a bit tricky this time around and it can really factor in to how an angler spends their three days of official practice. With three pools to choose from in this tournament, Stefan feels that no single pool is markedly better than the others.
“I think it makes the most sense for an angler to pick a pool and spend their three days there,” Stefan says. “They all fish pretty similar. The top ends are river sections, the middle parts are delta-ish with lots of chutes and the lower end is more wide, flat and lake-like type of fishing and they all have similar caliber fish. Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see one pool turn on and several of the top 10 come from it.
“The nice thing about fishing the river in the summer verses in the spring is that you can catch fish almost anywhere. It’s gonna spread guys out because in the summer you can catch fish from the main channel to as far back in the backwaters as you want to go.”
The other decision to make on the river is whether to chase largemouths, smallmouths or both. Stefan feels like a bit of both may be the winning recipe.
“I normally feel like smallmouths will get you the biggest bags on the river, but during the summer their weight isn’t as good as the largemouths,” says Stefan. “So, the smallmouths won’t dominate the event, but they’ll play. Personally, I think the winner of the event will have a mixed bag. I think it’ll be more of a largemouth bag, but if you can work in one big smallmouth a day I think that will really help. I think it’ll take 14 [pounds] or little over that a day to win.”
Baits and techniques
The Mississippi River has a reputation for being a frog haven in the summer and that certainly will be the case in this event.
“It’s going to be a power-fishing event,” Stefan says. “Frogs will be a huge factor. If I had to go out on a limb and predict how tournament won, I’d say someone will find a group of weed fish and catch them on a frog. If you look back at other tournament results, that’s a pretty common way to win out there. There’s going to be some good frog action.”
Frogs won’t be the only topwater catching fish though. Buzzbaits, walking topwaters and poppers should also account for some decent fish catches. Other popular offerings are likely to be swim jigs, pitching and flipping Texas rigs and jigs, cranking, swinging football jigs and even a Carolina rig.