Anglers who have fished the Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa portions of the Mississippi River will tell you that the so-called “postspawn funk” is a very real thing.
The bass in that section of the mighty waterway are voracious as they prepare for the spawn during late winter and early spring. Then they work tirelessly building and protecting their beds while the spawn is underway.
When it’s over, they need a moment to catch their breath - and they seem to have caught it just in time for the Bassmaster Elite at Mississippi River presented by Go RVing.
The tournament is Thursday though Sunday, with takeoffs at 6 a.m. each day from Veterans Freedom Park on French Island. The weigh-ins the first two days will be held at the park at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday weigh-ins are also at 3 p.m., but near the JC Penney parking lot at Valley View Mall, the same venue for the fourth annual Rotary Rock-N-Ribs event.
With the late-spring doldrums over, the weights could be impressive. However, recent heavy rainfall, especially in northern areas above La Crosse, are sending local rivers to predicted flood stage by this weekend.
Ott DeFoe, a four-time B.A.S.S. winner who won the last time the Elite Series visited the Mississippi River in 2016, said numerous patterns could work well and fans should expect to see both largemouth and smallmouth brought to the scales.
“When I won in 2016, I think I only weighed in one smallmouth out of the 20 bass I brought in,” said DeFoe, who also had a 15th place finish in La Crosse in 2013 and a 27th place showing in 2012. “But Seth Feider finished in second place in 2016, and the majority of the fish he weighed in were smallmouth. “I think both species are definitely going to play.”
DeFoe expects it will take 65-67 pounds to win the event. In 2016, DeFoe had a 6-pound, 1-ounce largemouth that earned Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors as the largest of the tournament.
Competitors are allowed to fish both sides of the river, as usual, but this time they won’t have to worry about differing restrictions on the practice of culling, or releasing a small bass in their creel and replacing it with a heavier one. In 2013 Elite Series angler Brandon Palaniuk had a commanding lead in an Elite event on the river when he inadvertently culled a bass while just inside Minnesota waters. His catch was disqualified, and Palaniuk fell from first to 77th.
“Minnesota changed their regulations regarding culling last year so that tournaments permitted in Minnesota or in Wisconsin now have the same rules on the pools of the Mississippi River that these two states share,” said B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland. “This levels the playing field for our anglers and removes confusion and uncertainty. Thanks go to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for recognizing the need to be responsive to their anglers and remove troublesome and unnecessary regulations.”
A field of 108 anglers is vying for the $100,000 first-place prize and valuable points in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.After five of nine regular-season Elite events, Kansas angler Brent Chapman currently leads the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race with 456 points, followed by Bradley Roy of Kentucky with 427 and Louisiana angler Greg Hackney with 422.
The Bassmaster Elite Series Outdoors Expo is also being held in conjunction with the tournament. The first two days are at Freedom Park and then it moves to Valley View Mall on Saturday and Sunday beginning at noon. The event features boat demo rides, an aquarium, free prizes and the latest fishing products on the market. The Rock-N-Ribs Festival will also be happening at Valley View Mall along with concerts, food and the barbecue competition. All activities are free and open to the public. For more information, visit Bassmaster.com.