The second-ever Tackle Warehouse TITLE is the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit championship, and only the top 48 pros, plus the 2020 TITLE champ and Angler of the Year will be there. This year, it’s headed back to Wisconsin, albeit a little more west and to a very different fishery. Instead of a smallmouth beatdown on Lake Michigan, the Mississippi River is primed to deliver numbers of both smallmouth and largemouth and plenty of power fishing action.
La Crosse, Wisconsin
August 17-22, 2021
Hosted by Explore La Crosse
Presented by Mercury
In 2020, the TITLE was a catch, weigh, release event, and huge numbers of smallmouths were caught. This year, it’s going back to the traditional five-fish limit with weigh-ins, but the format is going to be a bit different than usual.
As is usually the case in Major League Fishing format events, the field will be split into groups over the first four days of the event in the Qualifying Round. Then, the winner of each group will advance to the Championship Round and pros who finish in second to 10th place in each group will battle it out with zeroed weights in the Knockout Round. Then, the top eight pros from the Knockout Round, plus the two group leaders, will fish with zeroed weights again on the sixth day of the event, which is the Championship Round.
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.
Just last year, the Pro Circuit visited the Mississippi in late July. In that event, Tom Monsoor won, fishing mostly in the Black River near downtown La Crosse. Maybe the most famous Mississippi River angler alive, Monsoor fished a swimmin’ jig in all the myriad ways he does to get the win.
This time around, river expert Matt Stefan expects the fishing to be better than it was in 2020, as the fish will be fully into summer patterns and more grouped up.
“Prior to the middle of July, the fish really are scattered everywhere,” says Stefan. “Once you get into August, they really get into a true summer feeding mode and are more grouped up. In August, it’s not uncommon to find spots where you can pull up on a current break and catch 40 fish on 50 casts.”
Stefan thinks that though the classic Mississippi River frog bite may not be as good as it can be, there will be a lot more fish caught and the weights will be higher.
“I think there will be a lot of people that find groups of fish they can catch 30 or 40 fish out of,” says Stefan. “The key, as always, is going to be catching 3-pounders. The Mississippi is a game of keepers, the more you catch, the better your chance of catching one of those 3-pounders.”
The Mississippi River has a reputation for being a frog haven in the summer and that will play, but there are likely to be a lot of other options on the table. Buzzbaits, walking topwaters and poppers should also account for some decent fish catches. Other popular offerings are likely to be swim jigs, swimbaits, pitching and flipping Texas rigs and jigs, cranking, swinging football jigs and even a Carolina rig.
With $200,000 on the line and so few anglers on the water, the fishing should be pretty good and the Mississippi is an incredible setting for a championship event.
This year, the TITLE is packed with interesting pros who have plenty of experience on the Mississippi or perfect skillsets for the scenario. Top of the list from a local perspective is obviously Stefan, but he’s not the only angler primed for success. Newer faces like Cole Floyd and Clabion Johns are perfectly suited for the style of fishing the Mississippi rewards, and pros like Ron Nelson, Zack Birge, Adrian Avena and Bobby Lane will be swinging big.
The format itself is also worth watching, as there’s now quite a bit of strategy involved. Considering that the weights will be zeroed twice in the event, racking up a big lead early may not be worth much. Additionally, because the event is held over six days, the everchanging nature of the Mississippi might put some patterns totally out of play between takeoff on Day 1 and the Championship Round.
One thing is for sure, with six days of fishing on almost unlimited water on the Mississippi, we’ll get to see some pretty fantastic things.