LA CROSSE, Wis. — No one was happier to see the Mississippi River Rumble on the Bassmaster Elite Series schedule than Kevin Short.
"I get excited any time I see the word 'river' on the schedule," said Short. "Most of these other guys are like, 'Oh, no,' but I'm just the opposite. I wish there were a couple more on there."
Short desperately needs a change a scenery – especially the view he's had from just outside the top 50 cut at the last four Elite Series events, all of which were on lakes, by the way.
"I'm three pounds away from $40,000," Short said. "I'm sick of fifties. I'm missing the cut by ounces."
Ounces – not pounds – figure to be the story for all 99 Elite Series anglers when the four-day Mississippi River Rumble begins Thursday.
"Most of the places we go in the north, ounces make big dollars," Short said. "It's because there are so many fish, and they're all the same size. This is going to be no exception. There's going to be a wad of guys between with between 12 and 14 pounds a day. It will be really hard to separate yourself with 15 or 16 pounds, and do it consistently for four days."
The consistency in Short's season has been maddening:
- 54th at Florida's Lake Okeechobee – 1 pound, 7 ounces outside the top 50 cut;
- 52nd at Arkansas' Bull Shoals Lake – 2 ounces outside the cut;
- 53rd at Tennessee's Douglas Lake – 6 ounces outside the cut;
- 57th at Toledo Bend Reservoir – 1 pound, 3 ounces outside the cut.
The total of Short's misery index: 3 pounds, 2 ounces. It's the difference between collecting a check for $10,000 at each of those events or getting nothing more than a pat on the back and a "better luck next time" on your way out of town Friday.
Short, who is from Mayflower, Ark., grew up fishing the Arkansas River. His first of two Elite Series victories was on June 14, 2009, on the Mississippi River at Fort Madison, Ia. He's hoping that mid-June date and a return to the Mississippi River can snap his hard-luck streak.
Success won't come easily to anyone here this week. The river is muddy and rising.
"It's about to get worse," Short said. "It has been raining in Minneapolis (Minn.) every single day. I'm talking inches, every single day. It takes two or three days to get here. The river will rise slowly the next two days. The big bump will be Sunday."
Short thinks swift, stained water in the main river channel will eliminate smallmouth bass from a successful pattern this week. The backwaters have an abundance of largemouth bass, but most of them weigh between 2 and 2 1/2 pounds. Short said a 5-pounder, or something close, will probably take big bass honors each day.
As far as how fish will be caught, that's a matter simply of personal preference.
"You can catch them about any way you want to catch them," Short said. "You can catch them on a (topwater) frog, you can catch them swimming a jig, you can throw a spinnerbait."
It was that last method that caused Short to pause and think for a moment. Spinnerbaits are about as basic as plastic worms in the bass fishing world. But Short couldn't recall the last Bassmaster Elite Series event when spinnerbaits were the dominant lure.
"This could be it," he said. "This could be an old-fashioned blade beat-down. There are perfect conditions. You can cover a lot of water. Put on the right blade combination, put the trolling motor down, put some 20-pound (test) line on and just chunk, baby.
"Chunk and wind. Sling some blades. I've got a couple tied on right now. They're going to hit the water tomorrow, I promise you."
Daily launches begin at 6:15 a.m. (Central Time) and weigh-ins start at 3:15 p.m. Both will be held at La Crosse's Veterans Freedom Park. There is no admission fee.