Lures of the Top 12 at Mississippi River Posted on September 15, 2016 Photo: Seigo Saito - Seven Bassmaster Classic winners on Championship Sunday. A couple of young guns that challenged them all, winner included, down to the last cast. The challengers, Seth Feider and Jordan Lee, spotlighted the skills of the tourâs next generation of hot sticks. The dramatic comeback of Ott DeFoe, boosted by a tip and pep talk from Gerald Swindle, added to the drama. Photo: Ronnie Moore - So did the weather, including a strong line of storms and heavy rain on Day 2 that signaled the coming of post-front conditions and tougher fishing. Through it all the anglers found success using a variety of lures, proving the upper Mississippi River as a top bass fishing destination in the Midwest. Photo: James Overstreet - Ott DeFoe Champion Ott DeFoe caught 15 of his 20 keepers during the tournament below the Onalaska Spillway. âThe spot is no secret, Iâve fished it before and itâs basically the local community hole,â he said. âNone of that bothered me because I was fishing it different than everyone else.â So different, in fact, that DeFoe caught bass behind other contestants. Photo: James Overstreet - âMost guys were fishing below the fish,â he noted. DeFoe used a 6-inch translucent shad color swim bait rigged weightless, a very important key that kept the lure in higher in the water column. Another important detail was the rigging method used to reduce short strikes by the feeding bass. DeFoe used pop rivet shafts inserted at each end of the swim bait to secure a piece of line used to tie a No. 1 treble hook. âThe rivets made the soft plastic bait last longer and the treble gave me more hooking power,â he added. Photo: Garrick Dixon - Alternatively, along a 100-yard grass flat he punched matted vegetation with a black and blue 4 1/2-inch creature bait. He rigged that to a 4/0 VMC heavy duty flipping hook and 1 1/2-ounce tungsten flipping weight. âThat spot had a unique mix of aquatic vegetation, mainly stiff lily pad stems, that held the duckweed and coontail into place,â he explained. âThat was key with the strong current and later the wind, because I needed the vegetation for punching the mat.â Another detail was the Snell knot used to secure the hook to line. The knot creates a fulcrum of sorts that kicks the hook out on the set to expose it more and stick harder in the fishâs mouth. Photo: James Overstreet - Finally, and just as important as the lures in his tacklebox, was a vital feature on his boat. DeFoe constantly used Spot Lock on his Minn Kota Ultrex trolling motor to maintain boat position in the swift current below the spillway. âI could catch a fish, activate Spot Lock and the boat stayed in position until I unhooked the fish, weighed it and got set up to make another cast,â he said. Spot Lock is an electronic GPS anchor that keeps the trolling motor running. Without it DeFoeâs boat would have drifted far below the spillway, forcing him to waste precious time trolling the boat back into position. Photo: Thomas Allen - Seth Feider Seth Feider came to La Crosse with the aim of qualifying for the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship at Mille Lacs Lake, practically his home water. Mission accomplished and then some with a second place finish on the Mississippi River. By Championship Sunday the Minnesotan and Elite Series sophomore emerged as a favorite to win. Photo: Thomas Allen - Smallmouth were the reason why. No other angler in the tournament targeted smallmouth exclusively and as successfully as Feider. He fished a dozen spots, all of those normally sand dunes on dry ground. The series of flooded sand bars with isolated rock created current breaks, all favored by the smallmouth for ambushing bait, created his pattern. Secondary areas were more current breaks below wing dams on the main river channel. Photo: Thomas Allen - âEarly in the week the bass were really shallow, less than 1 foot,â he noted. âAfter the front came through they moved off into deeper water, but still on the bars,â he continued. âThe sloughs draining into the river were full of baitfish and those attracted the smallmouth.â Photo: Garrick Dixon - Feiderâs key bait was a Storm Rattlinâ Chug Bug, silver/blue shad. Take a close look at his bait and you see it bore the battle scars of three previous days of annihilation by the smallmouth. For slower bites and covering water behind the sand bars and wing dams he slowed up the presentation with a swimbait. That choice was a 1/4-ounce Outkast Tackle Pro Swim Jig with white skirt. Photo: Steve Bowman - Alton Jones Alton Jones, who fished consistently all week, targeted bass ambushing baitfish from behind the calm water of a rockpile along an inundated jetty, all of it covered in aquatic vegetation. âIt was the only hard cover in the area, and with all that current the bass needed something to hide behind,â said the 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion. Photo: Garrick Dixon - To give the bass a fresh look he rotated through three baits. âThe key for me was switching up baits every 15 minutes or so to keep the bite going,â he said. The choices were a 6-inch Texas-rigged YUM Dinger and the brandâs Christie Critter creature bait. He chose a 3/0 hook, 3/16-ounce weight and green pumpkin color for both baits. In the same color he used a 1/2-ounce BOOYAH Jig with 3.75-inch YUM Craw Chunk trailer. Photo: Ronnie Moore - Jordan Lee Jordan Lee fished his sixth Championship Sunday of 2016 based on the strength of a pair of lures and technique he finds great success with on Lake Guntersville, his home lake. Previously, Lee used the rotation of two lures fishing similar cover on the Potomac River, where he scored a ninth-place finish last month. On the upper Mississippi River he added a fourth-place finish to wind up the regular season. Photo: Garrick Dixon - On the upper Mississippi River, Lee punched mats with a soft plastic creature rig and scooted a plastic frog across the surface. His choices were a green pumpkin Strike King KVD Sexy Frog, and a black and blue or green pumpkin Strike King Rage Bug. He rigged that on a 2/0 straight shank worm hook with a 3/8-ounce sinker. He also trimmed the skirt back about one inch to prevent short strikes. Photo: Garrick Dixon - Skeet Reese Skeet Reese enjoyed a phenomenal final day on Championship Sunday. âI caught somewhere between 50 and 80 bass,â he said. âIt was pretty much that way all week.â The 2009 Bassmaster Classic winner used a 1/4-ounce swim jig, white skirt and head, with a paddle-tail swimbait trailer. For finding concentrations of bass he used a Carolina-rigged creature bait. Reese targeted backwater areas off the main river channel. Photo: Garrick Dixon - Edwin Evers Edwin Evers hustled every day to find success, and he did so using a variety of lures. âIt was something different every day,â said the reigning world champion who finished sixth. A key lure for catching quality largemouth from matted grass was a 1/2-ounce, Megabass PopMax. Alternatively, he used a vibrating jig to cover water during inactive periods. For mat punching he used this paddle-tailed worm with a heavy worm weight. Photo: Garrick Dixon - Takahiro Omori âI caught my fish on just about everything,â said seventh place finisher Takahiro Omori. He spent time near the main river channel fishing a series of expansive flats covered in a mixture of aquatic vegetation. That ranged from fields of lily pads to mats of duckweed and coontail. Omori started each day with a topwater lure fished along the outside edge of the vegetation. Later in the day he switched to a jig as the bass moved inside the grass. To find concentrations of bass the 2004 Bassmaster Classic champion covered water with a Carolina rig and this crankbait. Photo: Garrick Dixon - Mark Davis The 1995 Bassmaster Classic champion found success using a tandem selection of baits to finish 8th place. For smallmouth he fished behind the current breaks created by wing dams with a Strike King 5-inch KVD Ocho, Candy Craw. He Texas rigged it with a 4/0 offset worm hook. For largemouth he used a 4-inch Strike King Rage Bug, California Craw. Davis made a Texas rig using a 3/0 offset worm hook. The edges of thick vegetation were lure targets. For both rigs he used a 3/16-ounce Strike King Tour Grade Tungsten Weight. Photo: Garrick Dixon - Jared Lintner California pro Jared Lintner had a blast catching up to 40 bass on some days to finish ninth place on the upper Mississippi River. He used a hollow body plastic topwater frog, yellow in color, fished over heavily matted vegetation near the river channel. Alternatively, Lintner gave the bass a new look with a lure just introduced and designed by him for Jackall. The choice was a 4-inch black/blue/silver flake Archelon, a creature bait he designed for punching heavy vegetation. He rigged the lure to a 5/0 Eagle Claw TroKar hook, 1-ounce Eco Pro Tungsten weight, and G Money Punch Skirt for strike appeal. âWhen the fish missed the frog Iâd punch the spot with the Archelon,â he explained. Photo: Garrick Dixon - Casey Ashley Casey Ashley finished 10th place after leading on Day 1. âI had a good area but with all the rain there was eventually too much current,â said the 2015 Bassmaster Classic champion. Initially, he caught bass behind the current breaks of sandy points used by the bass to ambush baitfish in open water. His lure choice was a blue/chartreuse Livingston Lures Howeller Dream Master SQ, a square-billed crankbait. When the action slowed in the post-frontal conditions he switched to a Zoom Bait Co. Z-Craw Jr., alternating between Black Light and Black Sapphire colors. He Texas-rigged the bait to a 3/0 Mustad UltraPoint Flippinâ Hook with 3/8-ounce worm weight. Edges of mixed aquatic vegetation were lure targets in water up to 2 feet deep. Photo: Garrick Dixon - Randy Howell Randy Howell fished his way to 11th place with two lures fished in heavy vegetation. After locking into Pool 9 he punched dense mats of duckweed with a Gary Yamamoto Custom Lures 4.5-inch Flappinâ Hog, watermelon black with red flakes. He rigged it to a 4/0 Daiichi hook and 1-ounce Bass Pro Shops XPS Tungsten Worm Weight. Earlier in the week he used a popping frog fished over the mats. âAfter the front passed the water temperature dropped several degrees and the fish got sluggish,â said the 2014 Bassmaster Classic champion. Photo: Bassmaster Marshal - Howell didnât want to risk getting locked out on the return trip. He bought time after locking through early by working a crankbait around current breaks. He choice was a Guntersville Ghost colored Livingston Lures Howeller Dream Master Classic. Photo: Garrick Dixon - Gerald Swindle Gerald Swindle fished his sixth Championship Sunday of the season using this dynamic duo of reaction and finesse lures. He chose a War Eagle Mike McClelland Finessee Spinnerbait, Blue Herring, 5/16-ounce weight with tandem gold Colorado and silver Indiana blades. He covered water with the lure, casting to docks and other hard cover. For heavy-duty mat punching, the choice was a Zoom Bait Co. Z-Craw. Swindle kept two such rigs at the ready, one with a 1 1/4-ounce weight and the other with a 7/16-ounce weight. For both rigs he used a 3/0 Gamakatsu Super Heavy Cover Flippinâ Hook.