LA CROSSE, Wis. — Richard Lindgren missed being a member of the Minnesota State B.A.S.S. Nation team by 2 ounces. But his 11th-place finish during qualifying earned him the first alternate spot, and Lindgren said he stayed prepared all year in case someone on the team was unable to participate in the 2021 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Northern Regional on the Upper Mississippi River.
Right before the rosters were to be finalized, the call came for Lindgren to step up and take a spot on the team. He’s already made the most of his opportunity, landing 15 pounds, 9 ounces to lead the 90-boat field after Day 1.
The Lakeville, Minn., angler, who represented his state at the 2020 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship at Pickwick Lake with a 13th-place finish, holds an 11-ounce lead over Jason Hewitt from Iowa.
“I was excited to come back and get a chance to go back to Nationals after last year,” Lindgren said. “Even though I had a tough practice, I’m happy to have a good start.”
The bite has been tough for many anglers during the week on Pools 7, 8 and 9 on the Mississippi River, including Lindgren, who said he had a difficult practice.
“It was pretty rough and honestly, today, none of the spots where I had seen keeper fish [in practice] did I catch fish on today,” he said. “I ran new water and reacted to what the river was giving up. I don’t think I had a fish until 9 or 10 o’clock.”
Lindgren started on a spot he said wasn't exactly right, but he thought it could produce due to the rising water levels. His hunch paid off with a smallmouth that weighed over 3 pounds. Another move a little later produced a 3-pound largemouth.
Lindgren said he has fished about 10 tournaments on this section of the Mississippi River and that history helped him narrow down his areas.
“I ran some old history and filled my limit,” he said. “I went in the slop late and got a couple of key culls. It was kind of a hodgepodge. I mixed it up and did a lot of different things to catch five good ones. I think I caught seven keepers all day.”
The increase in current was also a factor for Lindgren, who has seen some of his areas dirty up and others get cleaner.
Hewitt, meanwhile, calls the Mississippi River home and used his home-field advantage to catch 14-14 of primarily smallmouth.
“I fish the river quite a bit, primarily Pool 10 and Pool 9,” he said. “I was excited to see this one on the schedule. I was expecting there to be a little better bite going on. All this rain we got screwed up the water. I was hoping it would be a little lower and cooler nights would have made the bite better.”
The Norway, Iowa, native said he locked into Pool 9 and began the day by catching smaller bass on a topwater bait.
“I switched it up and was able to cull my way up,” he said. “Today ended up being a little better than what I had in practice. It was a little more of a grind than I thought it would be, but the size was better.”
Hewitt said he practiced on both Pool 8 and Pool 9, but found areas with more clean water on the latter and spent most of his tournament day there. However, some of the areas he found with that cleaner water had since muddied up.
“You have to have that clean water,” Hewitt said. “I’ve been finding schools in the cleaner water and just one here, one there if it is a little dirty. That is definitely a key.”
Minnesota angler Connor Leagjeld and Michigan angler Greg Sochocki are tied for third with 14-12. Sochocki also landed the Big Bass of the day, a 4-8 largemouth.
Leagjeld’s day got off to a hot start.
“Within 45 minutes, it was just every cast,” Leagjeld said. “They were just choking it. I caught close to 20 keepers today. I missed a couple of key fish, but I didn’t hook them, they just kind of came up rolled on it. They will still be in the area, I just hope I can go back and get them.”
After a rough practice, Sochocki drew a co-angler from Wisconsin who was familiar with the river and Sochocki fished the areas his partner recommended in Pool 9.
“We went to some backwater slop and fished frogs all morning,” he said. “The first fish of the morning was that big one. He came up and eyed my bait and we thought it was a carp at first. I threw back over there and I had a wake coming right at it and it exploded. We started working around and I caught another big one.”
After he and his nonboater both caught three fish by midday, Sochocki filled his limit in Pool 8.
Redford, Mich., angler Hunter Frederickson took the lead on the co-angler side with a three-fish limit weighing 8-12. Ohio angler Michael O'Rourke, who is also competing for Team Michigan, is second with 7-15 and La Crosse native Brett Stanek is third with 7-11.
The Iowa state team caught 54 bass for 127-0 to take the lead in the team competition, while Minnesota claimed second with 45 bass that weighed 110-12. Wisconsin also cracked the 100-pound mark and is third with 106-14.
The full field will launch from Veterans Freedom Park starting at 6:15 a.m. CT for Day 2 and return for weigh-in at 2:15 p.m. The field will be cut to 18 boaters and 18 nonboaters after Day 2, plus the top two boaters and Nonboater from each state if they are not already in the top 18.
The top boaters and co-anglers from each state after the final day will punch their tickets to the 2021 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship scheduled for Nov. 3-5 on the Ouachita River in Monroe, La., to compete for one of three berths in the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.