LACROSSE, Wis. – Tommy Biffle is normally one of the most reserved guys on the Bassmaster Elite Series. He goes about his business quietly and has had one heck of a professional career playing the game that way.
So on Saturday evening, when Biffle opined that he felt quite confident in his ability to walk away with the Diet Mountain Dew Mississippi River Rumble presented by Power-Pole, it turned more than a few heads.
“I think I’ve got a real good chance,” the long time pro from Waggoner, Oklahoma offered. “I think it’s loaded.”
Turns out, that he was right, and he backed it up with a victory in the sixth stop of the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series. Biffle finished with a four-day total of 64 pounds, 2 ounces. Aaron Martens followed in second place with a 61-11 total.
Biffle’s surge to victory wasn’t easy, however. He trailed Day 3 leader Martens by seven ounces before Sunday’s action began and Biffle’s early bite wasn’t exactly strong. He boated three fish near the Goose Lake area, about a 10-mile run down river from the Clinton Street boat launch where the 99 anglers who entered this tournament began each day.
But those three fish only totaled in the seven-pound range, so Biffle admittedly began to scramble a bit on the water. He picked up and dropped his Power-Poles at least a dozen times, working methodically along the eastern shoreline of the Mississippi. But he “got nervous,” he said, and decided to make the run all the way back north of the launch to target largemouth bites.
And then, with a limit in hand, albeit one that only pushed 12 pounds or so, he chose to run all the way back to Goose Lake.
That was a wise choice on his point. Within moments of checking back in to that area down river, Biffle bagged two fish that each weighed about four pounds. Those were the anchors to his bag that he so desperately needed to walk away from this tournament $100,000 richer.
“I started on that (Goose Lake) spot the first day of the tournament and when I got there, I caught 18 pounds in 10 minutes,” Biffle said. “So I thought, well, that’s the place to be. I caught a limit there on Thursday and because I didn’t want anybody to see me on that spot, I came (back up river,) and wound up culling. I was flipping there and culled all of them but one.
“On the second day, the first throw in the same spot up river was a three or four-pounder and the second throw was a four-pounder…Today, I was torn to see where I wanted to go. The safe thing may have been to go up river and flip. But I made the choice to go down river. And they weren’t right there right away, not the three or four-pounders I needed. But that last move did it today.”
But it was an angst-filled series of moves on Sunday for Biffle.
“I was fishing to save second (place) for a while,” he said. “I just got tired of it earlier. I couldn’t sit there all day. They weren’t biting. But I knew if I stayed there all day (or came back,) I’d catch the big ones eventually. It was an afternoon spot for me on three of the days here.”
Biffle said he was throwing a Biffle Bug and a hardhead when he landed the two kickers to push his bag into a championship position on Sunday.
“That’s what I caught them on all day. It was about two and a half feet. There was a little dropoff and they were busting through there.”
Biffle had to weed through quite a few fish to catch the keepers he sought. At least, he threw back 20 undersized fish on Sunday, before he was able to start culling for bigger bass.
“I bet you on Saturday, I caught 50 or 60,” he said. “But down there, it wasn’t so much like that the first couple days.”
By the time he began moving back to the Clinton Street launch on Sunday at 2:30 p.m., he was showing his emotion on the water. He pumped his fist and shouted aloud when he boated the first of his biggest fish at about 1:45 p.m.
“I really felt like I could catch 18 pounds in there again,” he said. “Even after having to wait them out, I still thought I could catch 18 or 20 pounds. I got a little frustrated and you could feel it slip away. That’s when I thought it was time to make a move. But it paid off. When I got the first big one, that’s when you really hope you can make five casts and they’re all going to be like that.”