LA CROSSE, Wis. — Iowa’s Adam Hamann played it safe the first two days of the 2021 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Northern Regional on the Upper Mississippi River, leaving his primary area after filling his limit and saving the fish he thought were still there for later.
On Championship Friday, the Prairie Du Chien native proved he had saved the best for last, landing an 18-pound, 7-ounce bag to claim the victory with a three-day total of 47-6, earning a $5,000 check from Ranger and a berth in the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship scheduled for Nov. 3-5 on the Ouachita River in Monroe, La.
“I’d like to say I think it is because I saved some fish,” Hamann said. “The first two days I really saved them and I cracked on them today. We stayed in our starting spot for a long time today.
“Me and my co-angler let 15 fish over 3 pounds go today. It was a magical day. With the overcast sky and the water getting cleaner every day, it just kept getting better and better.”
Hamann is a Mississippi River native and mostly fishes Pool 10 around his hometown, but does not have as much experience in the La Crosse section of the river. Even still, he was worried that his knowledge of the river would hurt him more than it would help.
“I’m a Mississippi River guy through and through,” Hamann said. “It’s huge. I talked about it all year with my buddies, the local curse is usually a thing. That kind of scared me the whole time. Trying to compete on your home water can really hurt you a lot. It didn’t this time and it worked out in my favor.”
With 13-12 on Day 1, Hamann landed in eighth before jumping to third on the second day with 15-3. After two days of sunny, mild conditions, a cold front brought clouds, rain and wind to the area on Friday, which ended up helping Hamann’s bite.
“They were just cruising on a flat and they never came off the flat because of the colder weather,” he said. “They stayed up there and were feeding all day and there was no reason for them to go back to deeper water.”
Throughout the week, Hamann said he made the longest run of anyone in the field and targeted a fall migration area that he believed other anglers wouldn’t find. Using Humminbird 360 technology, he located submerged weed beds as well as longer points.
“I focused on stuff I knew other anglers wouldn’t get. Stuff you can’t see without Humminbird 360,” he said. “Today we had all solid fish. We didn’t have one fish over 4 pounds. As the year goes on, they will get bigger.”
Hamann caught both smallmouth and largemouth during the first two days of the event. But on Friday, he weighed all largemouth. As the water cleared up in his area, the bite improved.
A ChatterBait did the majority of the damage on the final day, but Hamann had as many as 16 rods on his deck each day of the tournament and believes he caught a bass on each rod throughout the week.
After leading the first two days of the tournament, Minnesota native Richard Lindgren fell to second place with a three-day total of 42-3. He landed just three fish for 10-2 on the final day.
Originally an alternate for the Minnesota team, Lindgren said he is happy to be making his third trip to the Nation Championship.
“I got my stuff together in 24 hours' notice and made it down here. Put in three superlong days of practice and I wasn’t on a lot, but I saw just enough,” the Lakeville, Minn., native said. “The Minnesota team works together and the clues I got in the meeting along with what I saw in practice, I was able to unlock it in the tournament.”
Throughout the week, Lindgren had caught both smallmouth and largemouth, starting each day on some backwater sand drops and current-oriented structure with topwater lures. From there he rotated to a closing dam that produced several smallmouth bites on a Carolina rig before frogging for largemouth.
On the final day, Lindgren’s only bites — all of which were largemouth — came from one grass mat that he circled for over an hour.
“The first two days I weighed three largemouth and two smallmouth,” he said. “Today I had three largemouth and no smallmouth. The clouds and the rain shut down my smallmouth bite. I couldn’t get them to go.
“I just didn’t have enough largemouth spots to get five largemouth. I just needed two more bites. I was on the quality. I was one mat away from not catching a fish today.”
Wisconsin angler Jim Barczak finished third with 41-0, catching 14-2 on Day 1 and 13-8 on Day 2. Using mostly a topwater walking bait, Barczak targeted smallmouth that were setup on current seams, wing dams and hard edges.
“The fishing for this tournament was pretty tough for me, but I grinded it out and had backup after backup,” Barczak said. “Thankfully I got five fish in the boat every day. I found some good largemouth during pre-fishing and tried to find them again for four hours the first day and three hours the second day, but I never did connect. So, after that, I went smallie fishing and made the best of it.”
Hamann’s magical day also lifted his nonboater Chizta Xiong to the nonboater title. With a three-bass limit weighing 9-10, the Minnesota angler increased his three-day total to 22-13.
Being in the back of the boat, Xiong expected this tournament to be particularly tough for him. After landing just over 4 pounds on Day 1, he rebounded with 8-13 on Day 2 to put himself back in contention before his epic day with Hamann on Championship Friday.
“This is the best bag I’ve ever caught down here. Just the amount of fish we culled, I’m super excited,” Xiong said. “There were moments where we were doubled-up with 3 pounders and were just laughing because we didn’t even need them.”
Nebraska’s Brock Belik landed a 4-10 bass on the final day to earn the Big Bass of the Tournament award, earning $500. Fellow Nebraska angler Leray Anderson II won $250 for the same title on the nonboater side with a 4-11.
The top boater and nonboater from each state qualified for the Nation Championship to compete for one of three berths into the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.
This week’s tournament was hosted by Explore La Crosse.