LA CROSSE, Wis. — Don’t expect Todd Faircloth to take it easy when the Bassmaster Elite Series returns next week to the Mississippi River out of La Crosse, Wis.
Sure, he was the 2012 champion there and could rest on those laurels. And, yes, he’s already earned a 2014 Bassmaster Classic berth by winning this season’s first event on the Sabine River in Orange, Texas.
But the Elite Series pro from Jasper, Texas, is far from complacent going into the June 20-23 Diet Mountain Dew Mississippi River Rumble presented by Power-Pole, which offers a $100,000 first prize in addition to a 2014 Bassmaster Classic berth.
“It’s great not having that weight on your shoulders to have to fish for a Classic spot, but I’m a competitor, and I want to do well in each and every event,” he said. “It’s my goal to win one of the three remaining events this season.”
Faircloth said he also has his eye on earning more points in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. More points would help him move up from 15th place to qualify for the Toyota All-Star Week postseason in September.
The Texas pro couldn’t stand down if he tried. He mastered the Mississippi last year by taking 62 pounds and 4 ounces of largemouth out of river backwaters, and now he is ready to go again.
As is Jamie Horton of Centreville, Ala. He finished in fourth place at last year’s Rumble. The event’s largest bag of 18 pounds, 4 ounces helped him into his second Top 12 finish of the 2012 season.
“I’m definitely excited about going there again,” said Horton, who found Mississippi success by flipping frogs in the river’s backwaters. “I know it’s a tournament you can fish shallow and do well, and I like shallow. I expect most of the leaders will be fishing shallow again.”
But the 2013 Rumble won’t play like a rerun. Wind, water level, the largemouth spawn, extent of vegetation growth and the smallmouth bite are all factors that could change the Rumble this year compared to last year, said Faircloth and Horton.
If the largemouth spawn is on, anglers will need more weight to win, Faircloth said, because big females would be more accessible to anglers.
“And as far as grass goes, the spring seems later this year everywhere, so I don’t expect as much vegetation,” he said.
Horton said smallmouth could be more of a factor this time around if the wind sits down and the water clarity is better.
“It’s a possibility. Nice smallmouth live there,” Horton said.
Horton predicted that the big numbers of bass in the tournament waters — Mississippi River Pool 7, Pool 8 and Pool 9 — will make the weight spread tight again this year. Even Horton in fourth place, for example, finished only 2 pounds, 10 ounces behind champion Faircloth.
Faircloth was squeezed, no question. He led by just 12 ounces after Day 2 over Cliff Pace, and by only 7 ounces over Aaron Martens going into the final day. A 3 1/2-pounder in the final minutes of play sealed the win for Faircloth — he bested Pace by 1-4.
A good kicker or two will be essential next week, too, both pros said.
“A 4-pounder moves you up so many places,” Horton said. “There are so many 2- and 3-pounders in those waters, most everyone will get them.”
Fans are invited to watch the Diet Mountain Dew Mississippi River Rumble presented by Power-Pole. The pros will launch at 6:20 a.m. CT at Veterans Freedom Park in La Crosse. The weigh-ins, at the same location, will begin at 3:15 p.m. CT.
While the anglers are on the water, fans can enjoy the Bassmaster Elite Series Expo. Opening at noon Saturday and Sunday (June 22-23), the Expo features products of Elite Series sponsors, activities for kids and much more. Details are available now at Bassmaster.com.
Bassmaster.com will provide extensive online coverage, including Saturday and Sunday live broadcasts of Hooked Up! with hosts Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona on the Toyota Hooked Up! stage.
Coverage of the Rumble will air on ESPN2 on June 30, 8-9 a.m. ET, on The Bassmasters TV show.
The event’s local host is the La Crosse Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.ExploreLaCrosse.com.