FORT MADISON, Iowa — After slugfests on Guntersville and Kentucky Lake, the Genuity River Rumble on the Mississippi River out of Fort Madison, Iowa, promises to be a good dose of reality for the Elite Series anglers.
Noted river fisherman Greg Hackney said an influx of muddy water courtesy of recent heavy rain puts a premium on fishable areas. Although the fish are aggressive, finding them has been a chore for the field of anglers who take to the water on Thursday.
"I think these fish just get shocked because of all the mud," Hackney said. "The fish just are not used to that and so it is easy to fish over them. I like these kind of tournaments though. This group does need a good test and this will be it."
Weights are predicted to be the lowest all year and anglers will have to contend with high amounts of pressure in productive areas. For Hackney, adjusting on the fly to changing conditions will be the biggest wild card and his experience on river systems will help him there.
"It makes it simple in a way because the fish are shallow," Hackney said. "A lot depends on how much rain we continue to get. If the rain stops, a lot of places that haven't been good will be fishable. This tournament will be all about adjusting during the week."
Hackney said that it will take 15 to 20 pounds to lead the tournament after Day One because there are some good fish out there, but weights will drop off, with 10 pounds a day being good.
On the other end of the spectrum was Derek Remitz, who found the fishing more difficult and suggested four to five pounds a day as the magic number to get into the top 50 and make a check.
"Where they live, everyone's fishing it," Remitz said. "It will be a merry-go-round where they live. There's 100 guys and they all know where the juice is, so it all gets split up between us."
Remitz fared well at Fort Madison the last time BASS visited the location, during an Open event in 2006 where he was sixth. Darrin Schwenkbeck went on to win that event with a three-day total of 42 pounds, 12 ounces.
Major flooding that occurred in 2008 has changed the fishing, and Remitz found the overall population of bass to be smaller.
"It's going to be a whole different tournament this go-round," Remitz said. "A lot of the population of fish that we saw in 2006 are gone. In that Open, it was nothing to catch 30 to 40 fish a day, with half of them keepers. I'd say 12 pounds will be leading after the first day, but I really don't even know what to guess — we've been talking about that all week."
Jeff Kriet agreed with Remitz on the shrinking population of bass, noticing that fish were aggressive, but few and far between.
"When you do get a bite, it commits suicide on it," Kriet said. "You don't get a lot of bites though, which tells me that there aren't a lot of fish here."
The fish that are still around have been stacked up in key areas, which is why finding isolated spots devoid of other boat traffic will be an important aspect of success this week. South Dakota pro Jami Fralick doesn't believe that many of those places exist on the available pools.
"There's going to be a lot of people in certain little places," Fralick said. "It's going to fish small, but there will be fish caught. It's no Guntersville or Kentucky Lake, but fish will be caught. Unfortunately, the good stuff has all been found, so you need to get on your best spot and put your head down."
Fralick employed a similar strategy at the Classic on the Red River, fishing a small area to take the lead after Day Two and eventually finishing the event in eighth place. His prediction for the event was that it would take 14 pounds to lead Day One and 6 to 7 pounds a day to make the top 50 cut.
Britt Myers was more generous with his assessment of the fishery, pointing to 16 pounds to lead after the first day and 9 pounds a day to make the cut.
"There's a couple good areas, but a lot of other anglers have found them," Myers said. "If you had those areas to yourself, you can win a tournament on them. If someone can get in the right area without much pressure, it only takes two or three hours to really catch them. You can't just fish an area and find them."
Find out which anglers found the magic spots Thursday at the 5 p.m. ET weigh-in at Riverview Marina in Fort Madison.