Lessons Learned: The Mississippi River

This was a really exciting event for me. I love to fish rivers and I love to fish up north. We were fishing both. There were two bites. One was a flipping bite in the main river where there was some current. The other was in the backwater shallow where there was little or only a slight current. The numbers were better in the main river but the size was better in the shallows.

I decided to fish the shallows. The thing I didn’t realize until Day Three was that my shallow bite didn’t start until almost Noon. Here’s what was going on:

As soon as the sun got up, the fish started feeding under duckweed mats. For those of you who don’t know, duckweed looks a lot like snowflakes, and it gets thick over time. A small bird could have walked across the ones I was fishing.

I decided to go with a black, Ish’s Phat Frog made by Snag Proof. Different brands of frogs have a slightly different action to them. The Phat Frog tends to push down on the mat. That’s what I needed in this scenario. The fish couldn’t see the frog so I had to help them find it with their lateral lines and by the commotion I was making above them.

I’d throw the frog on top of the mat and then jerk it down several times as it crossed the mat. When I got to the edge of the vegetation I’d twitched it a time or two and then let it sit for a second with its legs stretched out. The bigger bass killed it when I did that.

But here’s where I made my mistake. I fished the first two days back in the shallow starting in the morning. I wasted several hours each day waiting for the bite to turn on. The main river bite was good all the time. Even though the fish were small I could have caught a few early each day and then gone to the shallows.

I did that on Day Three and things worked out better for me. I had fish in the livewell — actually I had one that was a pretty good one — before I ever started fishing the bigger bass under the duckweed mats. If I’d done that all three days I’d have had more weight.

My backwater tackle was fairly straightforward. I used a 7-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy action Abu Garcia Veritas rod, a high-speed Abu Garcia Revo Premier reel and 65-pound-test Spiderwire Stealth. The longer rod helped me make long casts in the shallow water while the high-speed reel let me get my fish out of the slop quickly. Stealth line floats which helps the frog ride high, and it’s tough as nails.

The lesson here is that it isn’t enough just to find the winning fish. You have to know what they’re doing and then adjust your strategy accordingly. If I’d done that earlier I’d have had a much better event. I might have fished on Sunday.

Mike Iaconelli's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com.

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