LA CROSSE, Wis. – Mother Nature continued to test the field on day two of the Rayovac FLW Series Central Division event on the Mississippi River. Not only did anglers face another drop in water level, but they also had to deal with howling south winds (15 to 20 miles per hour) blowing against the current. Despite bringing almost half of his day-one weight to the stage, local Jimmy Johnson held tight to his lead with an 11-pound, 6-ounce limit to give him a 2 ½-pound lead for the final day and 31-10 overall.
Johnson had a feeling yesterday that it would be tough to duplicate his success even without a stiff south wind blowing up river. When he got to the ramp this morning he thought he might as well give his primary place a try.
“I returned to where I had caught my big fish yesterday,” said Johnson. “That south wind was blowing right in on everything. When you get a wind that blows that hard against the current it turns the river over and those big fish don’t like that. I’ve had too much experience with that.”
It’s easy for an angler to get spun out in a situation like that no matter how much experience they have on a body of water and Johnson was no exception.
“I caught three small fish this morning and I was having a mental breakdown,” said the La Crosse, Wis., resident. “I actually took a 20 minute boat ride to clear my head. After that I picked up my confidence bait, a Yamamoto lizard. I just went fishing for some 2-pounders. It was pretty much plan z at that moment. That decision really saved the day for me.”
It still took Johnson until about 2:25 p.m. to catch his limit. He worked several areas of “junk” in Pool 8 that he knew about and has caught 2-pounders from in the past.
Johnson isn’t sure what to do about tomorrow. His vast amount of local knowledge will certainly play a role, but when the river refuses to give up an easy limit nothing is certain.
“The wind really took everything out of play for me today. I have plenty of spots up in Pool 7 or down in Pool 9 it just depends on what the wind does. As long as the wind isn’t from the south tomorrow I’ll be happy.”
2nd place – Terry Fitzpatrick – 29 pounds, 2 ounces
Like Johnson, Terry Fitzpatrick was equally as frustrated with the conditions on day two. However, thanks to some adjustments he sacked up 13 pounds, 5 ounces to bring his total weight to 29-2 and climb from fifth to second.
Fitzpatrick had planned on targeting smallmouth. But in practice he did get on a secondary largemouth pattern and lucky for him it panned out today.
“You know, with the water dropping again and the current slacking off it was tough,” said Fitzpatrick. “But add in the 20 mph winds and it was really tough. I tried starting for smallmouth early but I knew I would have to switch to my largemouth pattern.”
Fitzpatrick’s largemouth pattern involves covering a bunch of water and hitting certain pieces of cover – much like his smallmouth pattern. It produced more fish today – he caught 10 keepers – but the size just wasn’t there from the bucketmouths.
“All week I had been hoping for about 12 pounds a day,” continued the Waukon, Iowa, resident. “So I feel pretty good with how things are going.”
After stopping on his last spot of the day and making a cull Fitzpatrick went to fire up his engine and it bogged down – something he says never happens. Luckily, he was close to the check-in boat and made it over in time. While he was idling to the ramp his engine shut down. He’s hopeful to get it fixed tonight and feels fortunate that it happened when it did and not while he was on the river.
“I have an hour drive up here in the morning and that is usually when I decide what I’m going to do for the day. That is what I love about tournament fishing. It’s a chess match and you have to decide if you are going to make the right or wrong move every day.”
3rd place – Mark Tucker – 28 pounds, 10 ounces
Tucker was on a solid pattern during practice but quickly realized he was in trouble as the water was being pulled off of his fishing grounds. The seasoned veteran made a key adjustment today that kept him in the hunt for his second Rayovac FLW Series title.
“I knew yesterday that I might not be able to make it back to my into some of the places I was fishing,” explained Tucker. “The water was so low on my starting spot that I knew the fish wouldn’t move far so I just started idling. I drove around looking for the deepest water I could find for about an hour and when I found it they were loaded.
“I must have caught fish every cast for an hour but there just wasn’t any size to them. Eventually the wind was whipping so hard through the area I couldn’t hold the boat and I left.”
Tucker had been targeting both largemouth and smallmouth this week. His main spot that had been holding the biggest smallmouth was too blown out to fish yet the Missouri pro feels confident they are still there.
“If the wind lays down tomorrow I can go catch a limit of largemouth early I think. I know those smallmouth are still there I just need the wind to die off. I caught three fish over 3 pounds in three casts off it on the first day. But I’m also excited to expand on the deeper spot I found today because I didn’t even get to fish it right due to the wind.”
4th place – Kent Priel – 28 pounds, 2 ounces
Kent Priel of North Platte, Neb., sat in 17th place after day one with a weight of 12 pounds, 5 ounces. He was one of the only top-10 anglers to improve on day two with his limit weighing 15-13 to give him a total weight of 28-2.
Priel spent nine days practicing for this tournament. Three of those were devoted to learning how to run the shallow flats down near Stoddard, Wis. With the water dropping on day one he figured that area would be out of the question and elected to stop on a shallow point he found in practice. Because of the falling water he worked a deeper point in close proximity with a drop-shot and football jig.
“Today I went right back to that same point,” said Priel. “I sat there the entire day and leaned on those fish pretty hard. I was just throwing a Gene Larew Biffle Hardhead with a Owner Yuki Bug. It’s not a very big spot – maybe two boat lengths long with rock on it. But the fish were pretty loaded on it. I hope it replenishes for tomorrow and I did leave them biting.”
If his point doesn’t fire tomorrow Priel says he has a few areas by Stoddard that he could hit. However, his rocky point seems to be his best option.
5th place – Gary Yamamoto – 28 pounds
After catching 16 pounds on day one Gary Yamamoto felt confident he was around good quality fish. He had no trouble catching fish on day two but the size wasn’t there. His 12-pound limit on day two was enough to keep him in the top of the leaderboard with a two-day total weight of 28 pounds.
Yamamoto realized on day one that his bite turned on late in the day after catching his two biggest fish in the final hour. He tossed around the idea of locking up to Pool 7 today, but after talking with good friend Tom Monsoor – who informed him there were timing issues with locking back – he opted against it.
The legendary bait maker has been working the backwaters near the takeoff area. His main focus is on docks, which he stuck with today. Yamamoto noted that catching fish wasn’t an issue today, but he lacked the quality bites he needed.
Yamamoto has been catching his fish on a Neko Rig this week and plans to continue fishing docks with it on the final day.
Rest of the best
6th place – Mike Brueggen – 27-11
7th place – Jeff Ritter – 27-10
8th place – Jeff Benson – 25-11
9th place – Jerry Robackouski – 25-5
10th place – Joe Pollak – 24-12
Big Bass Award
Chad Grigsby – 5 pounds – $252
For complete results click here.
Holsapple retains co-angler lead
Terry Holsapple of Greenup, Ill., managed another limit worth 10 pounds, 9 ounces to bring his total weight for the tournament up to 23-13. That gives Holsapple a 1-11 lead to start the final day of competition with.
Holsapple noted that he fished the same baits he did yesterday to produce his limit. He caught roughly 10 fish throughout the day. The biggest key for him today was catching his biggest fish in the final 30 minutes to provide a vital upgrade.
Kevin Mahlke of Valley Park, Mo., started his week with four fish that weighed 9 pounds, 6 ounces. Today, Mahlke caught the day’s best limit of 12-12 to rally him into second with 22-2 overall.
Lajos Draviczki of Plainfield, Ill., added 11 pounds, 9 ounces to his day-one catch of 9-13 to put him at 21-6 for the week. That’s enough to lock him in third place heading into the final day.
Carl Gillespie of Old Hickory, Tenn., takes the cake for most consistent co-angler with catches of 10-8 and 10-7 from days one and two, respectively. That puts Gillespie at 20-15 for the week and earns him the fourth spot on the leaderboard.
Craig Fanning of Elwood, Ill., improved on his day-one catch of 9-3 with 11-10 today. Fanning now holds a two-day weight of 20-13 which is enough to put him in fifth place.
Rest of the best
6th place – Bob Bryne – 19-14
7th place – Ronnie Shephard Jr. – 17-7
8th place – Michael Ratz – 17-5
9th place – Jason Swanson – 17-1
10th place – Troy Lowery – 17-0
Big Bass Award
Bob Bryne – 4 pounds, 2 ounces – $168
Complete co-angler results can be found here.
Anglers will take off from Clinton Street Landing West located at Clinton Street Bridge in La Crosse, Wis., at 7 a.m. on Saturday. Weigh-in will be held at the landing beginning at 3 p.m. Takeoff and weigh-in are free and open to the public.