Now the real fun begins, for me at least. The tour moves north to the Upper Mississippi River at La Crosse, Wis. The last time we were there the frog bite was off the hook, and that always makes for fun fishing.
Official tournament waters are spread over three separate pools and many of the competitors will likely exercise the option to lock through. Although each pool offers a somewhat different look, all fish basically the same.
Besides a healthy frog bite, largemouth can be caught numerous other ways — including flipping and shallow cranking. Add a healthy population of smallmouth to the mix and things could get interesting.
Clearly, the Upper Mississippi plays to the strengths of the shallow-water set. And I like that.
One month later, it's the St. Lawrence River Showdown at Waddington, N.Y. While I like the fact that we're in Upstate New York, this one comes with a hitch; Ogdensburg is nearly 60 miles from Lake Ontario, and that's where most of the contenders would prefer to fish.
For those trying to reach the lake, fuel consumption and time management will be of major concern. And that's if the weather cooperates. Stiff breezes are almost a certainty. If it blows strong enough against the river current, waves will stack to the ceiling, making long runs out of the question.
Although the tournament will likely be won on smallmouth, having the launch site so far from the lake will definitely bring largemouth into play. And to catch either species could require a multitude of lures and tactics. Look for everything from topwaters to bottom-bouncing lures in this event.
Last, but not least, is the Lake St. Clair Championship in Detroit, Mich. Although part of the Great Lakes system, St. Clair is much smaller and fishes differently than the big lakes. Curiously, it's shaped much like Lake Okeechobee — shallow with the same gradual contours. There are even stands of flat reeds and bulrushes and other aquatic greenery to support a healthy population of largemouth. But don’t be fooled! Lake St. Clair is all about the smallmouth — big ones, and lots of them.
Everything from topwaters to drop shots could prevail here. And so long as the wind cooperates, weights will be stout. I love this body of water and believe it's a great choice for the finale. Detroit draws huge crowds, and with so much riding on the final event of the regular season, the drama should be intense.
All in all, this eight tournament series should prove to be one of the toughest schedules ever presented by B.A.S.S. The fisheries are so spread out geographically and their habitats so radically different, this season is guaranteed to test the best.
And that's precisely why they call them the Elites!