LA CROSSE, Wis. — With the help of two kicker smallmouth bass, Minnesota angler Richard Lindgren caught a mixed bag weighing 16 pounds, 8 ounces to increase his lead over the field at the 2021 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Northern Regional on the Upper Mississippi River.
His two-day total of 32-1 gives him just under a 2-pound advantage over Minnesota teammate Connor Leagjeld and more than a 3-pound lead over third-place angler Adam Hamann.
“I’m superexcited. The main goal is for the team to win and to fish Nationals,” Lindgren said. “It’s going to be a shoot-out. (Leagjeld) has good fish. I’ve found some good fish. I’m stoked. I’d rather be leading than not leading, and I opened up the lead a little bit. It’s not insurmountable by any means, but I’d rather be up a couple of pounds than down a couple pounds for sure.”
After not catching a fish the first three hours on Day 1, Lindgren got off to a much better start Thursday, filling his limit within the first hour. From there, he was able to make several important culls and secure the biggest bag of the tournament so far.
“I ran the same rotation a little quicker this morning. There were a couple of things I skipped, but I caught fish in similar areas,” Lindgren said. “I mixed it up with both largemouth and smallmouth. I have a two-pronged approach which makes me feel better. Hopefully one of them maintains even if something changes on the river with the water level and the rain, wind and cooler temperatures tomorrow.”
Fluctuating water levels throughout the event have played a role for Lindgren — and on Thursday, the water dropped in some of the sloughs he fished which helped him achieve that early limit.
While he wasn’t surprised by the better largemouth bites, Lindgren said he hadn’t seen the big smallmouth bite until Thursday. His bag for the day included three largemouth, one smallmouth that weighed over 4 pounds and another smallmouth that he estimated to be 3 1/2.
“The two big smallies were a little bit of a surprise,” he said. “I hadn’t seen that at all and obviously this place has them. I was fishing in an area that I was hoping to just get a couple of nice fish [at] and ended up catching two big ones.”
Lindgren finished the day in a painful predicament.
“I put a hook in my hand landing my last big smallmouth. I went to belly him and put him against my chest, and I sunk an EWG hook in my hand. I had a 3 1/2-pound smallie hanging from my hand by a hook at the end of the day. It made for an exciting end to the day.”
With rain, wind and cooler temperatures entering the area Friday, Lindgren said he won’t be afraid to adjust.
Leagjeld improved on his Day 1 performance and landed five largemouth for 15-8 to jump from third to second with a two-day total of 30-4. In his first trip to the Upper Mississippi, he has found success fishing differently than he is used to at home.
“I had a lot of help from a lot of friends before I got down here,” Leagjeld said. “It feels very rewarding to take some hints and clues and then go figure it out for yourself and break down a pattern and stay on it. This is 100% different from what I’m used to. I’m not used to as many current-driven fish.”
With the water temperature down about four or five degrees in his primary area, the Pequot Lakes, Minn., native’s morning got off to a much slower start than it did on Day 1. With the slower start, Leagjeld slowed down his approach and ground out two earlier morning bites before the sun came out.
“Once that sun sort of popped up, the fish started moving and we got on one little pod of them and we put the burners to them. We caught 20 fish in two hours and every one of them was a keeper, and we slowly bumped our way up. My co-angler caught two nice fish, which I’m glad about. I hope I didn’t burn out my area too badly. Today I leaned on it a little harder.”
After landing in eighth on Day 1 with 13-12, Hamann caught a mixed bag weighing 15-3 on Day 2 to jump into the Top 3 with 28-15. The Prairie Du Chien, Iowa, native has spent hours on this section of the river.
“We had a limit early and slowly upgraded all day,” Hamann said. “We had a lot of consistent, solid fish. I have a good school of fish in the 2-6, 2-7 range, but finding the few fish over 3 pounds is the key.”
With about 15 rods on the deck, Hamann jumped around to several locations and caught each of his five keepers on Day 2 on five different baits. He added that the water is clearing up in his section of the river and he has seen the bite improve.
“I have a few key spots that I knew would load up as it got colder and the water has been clearing up,” he said. “With the clean water and the cold temperatures, they are definitely moving in as we go. My spot is a heavy reload spot. It is a fall migration spot so the colder it gets the better it gets.”
Greg Sochocki from Michigan continues to hold the Big Bass of the tournament lead with a 4-8 largemouth he caught on Day 1.
Dustin Drath from Coon Valley, Wis., took the nonboater lead, catching 8-14 on Day 2 to increase his two-day total to 15-12.
With five boaters in the Top 18 and four nonboaters in the Top 18, Iowa took home the team championship title with 100 total fishing weighing 236-2 and earned $5,625 from Ranger/Mercury. Wisconsin jumped into second place with 217-10 and took home $3,375, while Minnesota finished in third with 196-12 and received $2,250.
The Top 18 boaters and 18 nonboaters overall, as well as the Top 2 boaters and nonboaters from each state who weren’t already in the Top 18, will launch from Veterans Freedom Park starting at 6:15 a.m. CT for Championship Friday and return for weigh-in at 2:15 p.m.
The top boater and nonboater 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.
The tournament is being hosted by Explore La Crosse.