Although many of the Elite pros have previous experience on this week's tournament water, Pool 19 of the Mississippi River near Fort Madison, Iowa, the Genuity River Rumble will mark the first time an Elite event has been staged here, as the 2008 tournament had to be cancelled due to river flooding.
This one won't begin to compare to what Bobby Lane and the field just experienced at Kentucky Lake or Guntersville, where 90- and 100-pound catches were made. Many of the pros won't catch half that amount in this tournament.
Nonetheless, some will find conditions here to their liking and a dark horse could steal a victory here, although I personally don't believe it will happen. Overall, the water is shallow and the shoreline contains plenty of casting targets like laydowns, brush and vegetation. That means spinnerbaits, jigs, small crankbaits, plastic worms and even floating frogs should dominate, and everybody in this crowd certainly knows how to use all of these lures.
There's plenty of water to fish, too. Pool 19 where the pros will launch (also known as Cooper Lake), contains about 30,000 acres and includes several backwater sloughs, which is where many anglers will fish. Overall, however, recent fishing has been slow for all species.
When I spoke to Tommy Biffle, who won a Bassmaster Top 100 event here 14 years ago, he told me he was hopeful the river would produce better than it did when he won with a four-day total of 48-8, but that it could just as easily be even less. There's quite a bit of water coming down the Mississippi now — and it has been for awhile — and a daily average of 15 pounds would be great.
My first choice to win this week is Skeet Reese. Skeet has not only been very consistent all year, he now seems to be picking up the pace. He won the Bassmaster Classic fishing a spinnerbait in a backwater on the Red River in less than ideal conditions, and he can do it here.
Others I will watch include:
Kevin VanDam — Who won't be watching Kevin? He does well on river systems, and when conditions get tough, he often does even better. If the spinnerbait/crankbait bite I predict holds true, he'll be tough. He wasn't overjoyed at finishing second at Kentucky Lake, but he was very happy with the points he gained in the AOY race.
Boyd Duckett — Boyd isn't having the best of seasons, but he's easily capable of a good finish here. He's accustomed to river fishing in Alabama, and he likes shallow water.
Michael Iaconelli — Ike is having a very good season, and each tournament adds to his momentum. The fishing is certainly going to be much slower than it was in the last two events, and Michael is one of the best at coaxing reaction strikes from non-aggressive bass.
Aaron Martens — Although he's better in deep water, Aaron knows what to do in shallow river systems, especially in less than ideal conditions. Instead of throwing a spinnerbait, he might use his Scrounger rig, and it could do well here. His win at Guntersville was no accident, even though it came with crankbaits.
Jami Fralick — I really like what Jami showed me on the Red River, and while he hasn't won on the Elite circuit, both his confidence and his experience are growing rapidly. I think it's only a matter of time until he gets the big check, and I'd like to see him take it home here. He could do it by swimming a jig like he did at the Classic.
Others to watch have to include Edwin Evers, who grew up fishing rivers and should be ready to break out of his slump; Denny Brauer, who should find plenty of flipping/pitching targets; Matt Herren, who likewise knows how to use the long rod/short line technique; and Bobby Lane, who can hold his own with anybody when it comes to flipping or spinnerbaiting, and who's on an obvious high after his stunning win at Kentucky Lake.