There’s just one regular-season event remaining this season — the Mississippi River. Not only will this event determine the Top-50 anglers who qualify for this year’s Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Minnesota’s famed Mille Lacs, but it will also get anglers one tournament closer to qualifying for the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro in Houston, Texas.
The Mississippi River is a fun place to fish (one of my all-time favorites) because there’s plenty of shallow visible cover, like vegetation, rock, and wood, holding abundant hungry large- and smallmouth bass.
Power fishing techniques will likely catch the heaviest limits and determine the Champion on Sunday, but don’t completely ignore anglers who specialize in finesse tactics. The drop shot rig could prove to be as effective on the Mississippi as it did on the Potomac. I know Justin Lucas’ win will be fresh in everyone’s mind.
I’m picking anglers who have performed well on the Mississippi in past Elite events and who are experienced river anglers — those who are good at fishing shallow cover. I’m also choosing anglers who fish well under pressure with the AOY championship qualification at stake.
BUCKET A: MARTENS
The only angler to finish in the Top-5 in both previous Elite events (‘12 and ‘13) on the Mississippi is Aaron Martens. I’m not one to pick an angler solely based on previous finishes, but Martens’ ability to both power and finesse fish combined with his impressive history on the River makes him hard to ignore. I feel confident choosing Martens in this bucket and so should you.
Seriously considered: Gerald Swindle
The current AOY leader is fishing out of his mind having cashed a check in every single event so far this year, including five Top-5 finishes. Swindle is on a mission to claim the AOY title and is fishing confidently — likely more so than any other angler in the field.
BUCKET B: FAIRCLOTH
Todd Faircloth, like Martens, has a stout River resume. He won in ‘12 and finished sixth in ‘13. It’s no secret Faircloth is one of the most talented grass anglers in the field, and with this years event scheduled for September rather than June there should be even more grass available to fish than in years past.
Look for Faricloth to use his previous experience and grass fishing confidence for another impressive finish on the River. He’s going to be the Fantasy Fishing favorite in Bucket B.
Seriously considered: Clifford Pirch
Pirch is coming off a Top-12 finish on the Potomac, and also logged an eighth place finish on the Mississippi River in ‘13. He relied on a drop shot rig in both events and I feel the proven technique will again be effective on the River, especially with the fish further along in a late summer and early fall pattern.
BUCKET C: CREWS
John Crews is well versed on northern waters and has both experience and success on the Mississippi River. Crew’s placed 17th in ’12 and third in ‘13 primarily fishing a frog. Rather than focusing on the vast open water mats many of the other anglers keyed on he fished smaller isolated mats along the River’s back channels.
Crews is currently in 49th place in the AOY race and will need a solid tournament to ensure he qualifies for the AOY Championship on Mille Lacs. He’s a poised and confident angler who thrives in pressure situations, so I’m confident he’ll get the job done.
Seriously considered: Brandon Card
Card is on the outside looking in on the AOY Championship. He’s currently in 65th place and needs to make up considerable ground to close the 33 points between him and 50th place. I feel he’s capable of having another strong event on the River (he placed fifth in ‘13) to not only compete against the talented anglers in Bucket C, but to qualify for the AOY Championship.
BUCKET D: CLAUSEN
I picked Luke Clausen last event on the Potomac, and it looked to be the right choice until day three when he fell out of the Top-12. But I feel he’s the smart pick in this bucket. Sure, there are plenty of capable anglers to choose from, but his overall success, experience and shallow-water fishing ability are too much to pass up.
Clausen may not be in contention for the AOY Championship or the Classic, but he’s still fishing for the win in this event.
Seriously considered: Brandon Lester
This will be Lester’s first Elite event on the Mississippi River, but there’s no denying he loves to throw a frog, and pitch and flip Texas-rigged creature baits. Lester has the ability to perform well on shallow rivers, so look for Lester to be in both his comfort and confident zone on the Mississippi.
BUCKET E: SCROGGINS
Terry Scroggins hasn’t fished well this year despite getting off to a strong start at the St. Johns River, but his ability to break down a vegetation filled river and overall experience compared to many of the other anglers in Bucket E make him the wise pick in my opinion.
Seriously considered: Matt Lee
Lee has gained lot of experience fishing shallow vegetation, especially since relocating to Lake Guntersville a few years ago. I remember when I fished the River during the ‘13 Elite event and was immediately was reminded of Lake Guntersville. Lee’s experience and attitude will give him an opportunity to fish well on River.