LA CROSSE, Wis. – The 10-angler field is set for the Championship Round at the 2021 Tackle Warehouse TITLE Presented by Mercury.
Mississippi pro Mitch Crane finished on top of the field in Saturday’s Knockout Round on the Upper Mississippi River with 15 pounds, 15 ounces, the biggest bag of the week so far. Crane will be joined in Sunday’s Championship Round by Group A and B individual winners Miles Burghoff and Adrian Avena, along with the following seven anglers who also advance from the Knockout Round: Skeet Reese (14-15), Jimmy Washam (14-15), Bobby Lane (14-13), Josh Weaver (14-8), Zack Birge (12-15), Justin Lucas (12-9) and Jimmy Reese (12-4).
With such a stacked field on the final day, there’s no question it’ll be a shootout for the top spot, especially considering how good the bite seems to be getting. Whether it be from stabilizing water levels, pros getting more dialed, or a combination of both, it’ll likely take the biggest bag of the event on Sunday to claim the TITLE championship.
And when it comes to big bags on the Mighty Miss this week, one of the most consistent in the championship has been Crane. Locking up to Pool 7, Crane has quickly fallen in love with this place after a solid finish in last year’s Super Tournament event.
“I really enjoy this place and feel like I can read it real well,” Crane said. “I got a real good area and I’m just trying to baby it, trying to milk, trying to just get what I need and get out. I’m not trying to mash on ‘em. It was best-case scenario today. I’m happy with it, but I just hope I didn’t win the wrong day today.”
So, just how good is Crane’s spot in Pool 7? Even in weighing the biggest limit of the tournament, Crane still hasn’t touched the juice. Working a frog, Crane isn’t just throwing it at any piece or wild rice, lily pad, duckweed or wild rice. He has a ½-mile stretch with the right ingredients to hold quality fish.
“There’s some areas with a little deeper water in it and with the river coming down all the bass have sagged to these deeper stretches on that ½-mile area,” said Crane, who just wrapped up his second year on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Presented by Bad Boy Mowers. “I’ve been trying to pick one spot and stay on that. If the grass gets too choked out underneath the lily pads it’s not good. You want a good, open canopy and that’s been the key. Clear water, open canopy and lily pads, that’s been the key. And bait, but there’s bait everywhere on the Mississippi River.
“The spot I’ve been fishing the first two days is just the edge of the area I think the big ones live. I’ve just been pulling up to one little corner and catching them on the corner and leaving. But in practice I didn’t spend 5 minutes in this area and caught a good one and shook a giant off. I’m ready to dive off in there. I’m tired of looking at it, they may not be there, but they were in practice.”
Tomorrow, the weights zero and it’s anybody’s game, though, it sure seems like this may be the best opportunity of Crane’s young career to get his first major win.
“Oh, it would be unbelievable,” he said. “It’d be life-changing. I haven’t won a major tournament since 2016 since a BFL and I just talked about it two weeks ago. I said, ‘I’m ready to win again.’ I knew if I could just get [to the TITLE], I didn’t know if I could win, but I knew I could have a good finish.
“But it would mean everything to win. It would validate my early career, but I’m just ready to get out there and stick a few.”
As is usually the case in MLF format events, the field was split into two groups over the first four days of the event in the Qualifying Round. The winner of each group advanced to the Championship Round and pros who finished in second to 10th place in each group battled it out with zeroed weights in the Knockout Round. The top eight pros from the Knockout Round, plus the two group winners, fish with zeroed weights again on the sixth day of the event, which is the Championship Round.
There will be standard weigh-ins each day, and the competitors won’t have access to SCORETRACKER® to know how they stand during the day.
Tomorrow is when things get serious. Sunday’s Championship Round pits the best 10 pros from the river this week, where the biggest bag will be crowned TITLE Champion.
Additionally, the Fishing and Outdoor Expo runs Sunday, August 22 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. CT at Veterans Freedom Park, where fans can meet the pros and check out the latest in fishing and outdoor gear. The expo includes live music, great food, vendor booths from participating sponsors, activities for kids, giveaways and more.
You can catch all the action from the competition on the MLF NOW! live stream, starting at 7:30 a.m. CT.