Gibbons finds magic spot to take lead in Bassmaster Kayak Series event on Mississippi River

LA CROSSE, Wis. — The upper Mississippi River watershed is a vast expanse, but Zach Gibbons focused on one spot to grab the Day 1 lead in the Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series powered by TourneyX on Saturday.

Gibbons, a 38-year-old from Princeton, Minn., caught five bass measuring 89.25 inches, placing him atop the 129-angler field competing in this two-day tournament.

“It was one little spot, a patch of eelgrass, and it had some current running through it,” Gibbons said. “I fished there for about two hours and I caught them on just about every cast. I probably had about 50 bites all day.”

Gibbons’ five best bass were all largemouth, and his primary lure was a bluegill-colored swim jigwith a swimbait trailer. He also threw a 1/2-ounce, chartreuse spinnerbait later in the day when he fished over a sandy drop-off, and awhite Spro frog around lily pads in the afternoon.

“I actually made a couple of upgrades in the lily pads, but I’ll definitely start in the same spot of eelgrass tomorrow,” Gibbons said. “It’s a sneaky spot offshore. It’s in the middle of the channel, so it’s not obvious. I found it in practice and on my first three casts, I caught an 18 1/2 and two 16-inch fish.

“I knew right then to leave it alone and hope they were in there again today. And they were.”

Anglers can fish in Pools 7, 8 and 9 of the river. Each features a variety of dense aquatic vegetation and plentiful hard cover, such as riprap, laydowns and wing dams.

Gibbons fished Pool 9, as did Lance Burris, who is only a quarter-inch behind the leader with five bass measuring 89 inches. 

Burris, who lives on Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks, also caught a limit of largemouth.

“I had a consistent bite today, probably 50 or 60 in all,” he said. “It happened pretty fast for me, so I left my spot after I felt comfortable enough with what I had heading into tomorrow.”

Burris, 35, said he’s power fishing in eelgrass and lily pads with a series of bladed jigs and frogs.

“I shared the space with a few other people today, including a few bass boats that came in,” he said. “There’s a lot of water to cover if you want, but this spot had the bites.”

Rounding out the Top 5 anglers after Day 1 are third, Illinois’ Todd Martens, 88.50; fourth, Iowa’s Tyler Cole, 88.25; and fifth, Tennessee’s Rus Snyders, 87.75.

The upper Mississippi was productive across the board on Day 1, with 105 of the 129 anglers catching a limit. That could make for an interesting finale on Sunday, as 33 anglers finished within 10 inches of Gibbons’ lead.

Four anglers caught a 19.25-inch fish Saturday to tie for the Big Bass Award lead. Burris’ second-best bass (18.50) gives him the tiebreak edge in that race for $500, which will be awarded Sunday.

Overall, the tournament boasts a $25,800 cash purse, including $7,846 going to the winner.

The derby on the upper Mississippi River is the fourth of five regular-season kayak tournaments on the tour in 2023. The final event is scheduled for the Susquehanna River in Lewisburg, Penn.,in October with previous tournaments taking place on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville, South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell and Texas’ Possum Kingdom Lake. 

Anglers are vying for points in the 2023 Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Kayak Series Angler of the Year race as well as for spots in the 2024 Championship, which will be held at a location not yet disclosed.

The full field on the upper Mississippi competesagain Sunday, with awards presented at 4 p.m. CT on the Bassmaster YouTube channel

Explore La Crosse is hosting this weekend’s event.