Savanna, Ill. — The competitors of the Cabela’s B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Northern Divisional took off this morning on a shrunken Mississippi River affected by the Midwestern summer drought.
“The river is down probably about 3 or 4 feet from where it usually is this time of year,” said Frank Labanowski, Illinois Federation Nation president. “Barge traffic has been real light because the water is so low, but fishing has been great. We had a state open tournament here a few weeks ago and everybody came in with a limit except one guy who had four. Pool 13 is a phenomenal pool.”
The area north of Savanna received about 2 inches of rain last weekend, which Labanowski believes will help the situation, but the competitors could still run into some navigation problems due to the low water. “With the water being down, if they want to run hard, they better stay in between the (river channel) buoys,” said Labanowski. “If they go outside the buoys, they better shut it down and put down the trolling motor.” The state president said the backwaters are accessible but the contestants are “throwing a little mud” to get into those spots.
Illinois team member Curtis Samo should be a favorite in this event since he won a state qualifying tournament on this section of the river in the spring. “That’s when the fishing is really good but in the summer it gets tough here,” said Samo. “I think the weights will be down considerably from what we had at the state qualifier where I had 17 to 18 pounds a day. A lot of tournaments can be won here in the spring with over 20 pounds.”
While prefishing, Samo caught some 4-pounders and estimated he had 16 to 17 pounds a day. “Two weeks ago, I was thinking 15 pounds a day would be good because we were catching a lot of fish, but this pool got a lot of fishing pressure over the past two or three weeks,” he said. “It has just been pounded. So I am kind of lowering my estimate. If a guy gets 13 pounds a day he will win it. If I get that, I’ll be happy.”
Iowa team member JJ Patton has fished the river for about 20 years and knows there is a lull in the bass fishing in August. However, he still thinks the contenders need to shoot for 15 pounds a day. “There are good fish out there to catch,” he said. “There will probably be a couple of 18-pound bags weighed but I don’t know if they can back that up with another one or not.”
Since the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has a special regulation to reduce mortality by prohibiting tournament anglers from fishing Iowa waters after 1 p.m., the Northern Divisional weigh-in will start at 1:15 p.m. at Savanna Marina. Contenders fishing in later flights must leave Iowa waters by 1 p.m. and fish on the Illinois side of the river until they have to check in.