FORT MADISON, Iowa — Anglers sitting at the docks prior to the launch of Day One of the Genuity River Rumble out of Fort Madison, Iowa, knew the last thing the muddy Mississippi needed was more rain.
"Today is going to be one of those rainy, dreary days," Edwin Evers said. "It's one of those tournaments where you need to make the most of every bite. If you miss a fish, you are falling in the standings."
Fred Roumbanis, currently sitting in 20th place in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, agreed with Evers as he sat and waited for the day's launch to begin. Roumbanis is normally comfortable fishing shallow-water, especially on rivers, but said that he has had one of the worst practices ever.
"This is not the Mississippi River I expected," Roumbanis said. "It's amazing what a flood will do. I didn't even catch a keeper in practice. This is a tournament where I could not catch a fish and fall from 20th, out of the Classic, or if I do well, move up to the top 12."
The biggest decision for Roumbanis on Day One was whether or not he should lock twice to get to less pressured water. His plan before leaving the dock, was to hit his first spots that he thinks hold fish one lock away, but if the boat traffic gets bad, to make the next lock.
Another angler struggling with the decision of where to fish was Kenyon Hill. Knowing that the field will likely be stacked up in small fishing holes, Hill considered locking, but found the barge traffic to be a big wildcard.
"The barge traffic is such that realistically, the scheduled locks are the only times you can go," Hill said. "If you should try to make it to one of the farther pools, it's not even a coin toss that you will make it back."
With unfavorable odds facing anglers who choose to run far, Hill plans to start the day closer and take his chances on boat traffic.
"There's about three to four spots that are bad crowded," Hill said. "One spot I have, I won't even go to because I am boat 83. By the time I get there, I don't even know that you could get me in with a shoehorn. In times like this more than any other, your confidence is your best lure in the box."
Many of the Elite anglers, including rookie Matt Herren, expressed uncertainty in their fishing areas, in the weights that would be brought in and in how the weather would affect their fishing. Herren is normally comfortable fishing rivers and shallow water, but found the Mississippi River to be a tougher nut to crack.
"Who knows?" Herren said. "With three days of practice, you don't really have time to figure anything out. I normally love rivers, but I hate this one. It's just a tough, tough bite."
For Herren, the prospect of a tough bite actually favors him because he said he helps him get in the right mindset to "grind out a few bites." Entering the tournament, Herren had slipped to 28th in the TTBAOY points and needs a good finish to move back into contention for Toyota Trucks Championship Week in September when the top 12 move on to the postseason.
The one angler that seemed undeterred by all the negative hype surrounding the Mississippi River this week was Dean Rojas. Favored by pundits to do well in the event using his signature frog Kermie, Rojas wanted to enter the day confidently, using the conditions thrust upon the anglers by Mother Nature.
"The rain will make them bite better," Rojas said. "We have fished in the rain before — it's not like it's something new. I really don't think there has been enough rain to make the river more muddy than it already is."
Rojas did agree that pressure has been the biggest adjustment anglers need to make, with everyone being bunched up in the best areas.
"The majority of the field will lock one way or the other to find new, cleaner water," Rojas said. "Everyone is trying to find that honey hole, but there isn't one."