This year's northern swing


Bassmaster Marshal

Usually, when the Bassmaster Elite schedule shifts to the northern swing, I make a pretty substantial swap in tackle. I’ll take out most of my shallow water largemouth bass stuff that I’ve been using for southern fisheries and replace it with those deep, clear water baits.

But this week’s event on the upper Mississippi River is different. Leaving the Sabine River, I figured I was heading to another shallow water deal, so I kept the same rods, the same reels, the same line and the same tackle in the boat. 

Obviously, there weren’t any smallmouth at the Sabine, so I added some baits for this. I threw some jerkbaits, swimbaits and dropshots at the Sabine — the same stuff you catch smallmouth on, but I packed a little more for this trip since those baits will probably play an even bigger role this week at La Crosse.

Overall, I think the fishing will be similar to what I did on the Sabine, but the fish will probably be bigger and more abundant. I’m looking forward to this, because one of the things about a tough fishery is putting the puzzle together. That’s difficult when you’re not getting many pieces.

If you’re on a fishery where you can get a lot of bites in practice, it’s a lot more fun putting that puzzle together. It seems like on those tough fisheries, all you’re doing is eliminating water; while on the more abundant fisheries, you’re trying to identify the best water and the best baits.

I believe the key factor for this week’s event will be weather. The fish should be done spawning and if we get some stable weather, the fishing should be pretty good.

The last time we were here, we spent two or three hours taking cover from a storm. One day, takeoff was delayed by storms. I think we’re supposed to get some rainy weather this week, but hopefully we don’t get any storms.

In my past visits to La Crosse, I’d say my performance was not great — not terrible, but not great. The last time we were here, I finished in the 30’s but that was kind of a good finish for me, considering that I didn’t find the winning fish in practice.

On the previous trip, I missed the check cut by ounces because I fished in Minnesota and that year, we could not cull in that state’s waters. I was catching fish and letting them go because I didn’t feel like they were the ones I needed to keep.

I ended up going to the scales on the first day with only four fish. What was frustrating was that I probably caught 10 keepers that day, but I just kept thinking I’d catch a 4-pounder. After lunch I never got another bite and I missed the check cut because I should have kept one of the fish I let go.

The good think about this week’s event is that the no-culling rule will not be in effect, so we won’t face that decision of letting keepers go. I think the river will fish a lot bigger because a guy can fish wherever he wants and not have to worry about what keepers he puts in his live well.

As long as the weather holds up, I’m expecting a good event.

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