Anglers will have to figure out falling water this week at Central Open

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James Overstreet

LA CROSSE, Wis. — Jeremiah Shaver was on the water at daylight Monday morning, practicing for this week’s Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open on the Mississippi River.

He had caught a few fish, and he was having fun.
 
But with the way the fishery is currently evolving, he honestly wasn’t sure he could learn anything that will help him once the tournament begins.
 
“The water level is supposed to drop about 3 feet here before Thursday,” said Shaver, president of the Wisconsin B.A.S.S. Nation and a competitor in this week’s Open. “Anything that you find today in practice, you could have 3 feet less water on it by the time the tournament starts.”
 
Competition days will be Thursday through Saturday, with daily takeoffs from Veterans Freedom Park at 6 a.m. CT and weigh-ins back at the park at 2 p.m. each day. A field of more than 200 boaters and 200 nonboaters will participate on Days 1 and 2, with only the Top 12 on each side advancing to Saturday’s championship round.
 
The water level on the Mississippi River in that part of the country had been high — above 10 feet — for more than three months. Then just as it was beginning to drop in mid-July, 7 inches of rain fell on the region pushing it back to more than 11 1/2 feet.
 
Now with the water dropping steadily each day, forecasts say the river will be around 7 1/2 feet by the time the tournament begins and possibly below 7 feet by Saturday.
 
After that kind of fluctuation, it’ll also be heavily stained.
 
“There’s a lot of mud left from the rains and a lot of mud left from the high water,” Shaver said. “Then there’s gonna be a lot of mud pulled off the bank as the water recedes.”
 
“Finding clear water is going to be critical — and then just adjusting to the water dropping every day.”
 
What has been raging current on the Mississippi River is also likely to subside quite a bit as the water drops. Shaver said that could reposition the fish, bringing the main channel into play.
 
“La Crosse is known for frogging, but the frog bite really hasn’t been what it should be because of the high water and the changing conditions,” he said. “The weeds go up, they go back down. It’s matty, it’s dirty. You’ll get some frog fish, but I would anticipate a lot of different patterns.
 
“Smallmouth will come into play quite a bit, especially as the water drops and they pull back out on the rock in the main channel.”
 
As Shaver pointed out, there’s a lot of water between Pools 7, 8 and 9 where the tournament will take place — and each pool reacts differently as they drop water. Grass also changes the complexion of the fishery, sometimes making it possible to fish clear water on one side of the boat and muddy water off the other.
 
Shaver, who had 10 rods on his deck for Monday’s practice, said that diversity will bring many techniques into play, including topwater, swim jigs, flipping crankbait and drop shotting.
 
“I think you’ll see someone crack maybe a 17- or an 18-pound bag,” he said. “But to do that over two or three days will be tough. I think if someone can average 15 pounds over three days, they’ll definitely be in the running.
 
 “This tournament is going to be won by whoever can adjust to the conditions. I don’t think anyone will have a spot that stays loaded all week.”
 
The local host for the event is explorelacrosse.com.