I wanted to do a quick report on a small catch photo release tournament I fished in early October on the Mississippi River. Dirty and rising water was much of the story and caused a lot of teams to change up their tactics and made it a tough bite for most of the competitors. Our pre-fish led us to believe that most of the walleyes were not relating to the channel but were located more in the backwater and lateral rip rap you could find off the main channel. We fished a variety of wingdams during our practice with not much to show for it. Water clarity and increasing flow were our biggest battles next to much of the bait being located in the backwaters still. We put together 3-4 spots that were holding quality fish in our pre-fish. A few of those spots we knew we’d be competing for during the tournament so we knew we’d have to make our decisions wisely.
Our starting spot had a boat on it when we got to it but we were able to anchor on the outer tip of the dam and fire off some casts getting a nice sweep of our jigs for about 10’ right at the base of the dam on the outer tip where there are some large boulders. Within a couple minutes my Swimshad got cracked by a 26.5” eye that ended up winning Big Fish of the tournament. We were able to re-anchor and catch 2 more smaller fish on that dam a 21.25” on a crankbait and 16” on a thump grub. The wind was giving us a bad bow and we weren’t able to fish the dam effectively so we pulled anchor and raced to our second spot. Within a few minutes Chad was hooked up with a nice fish. We lost that fish just before we were able to see it. Things didn’t seem to be going our way. We knew with all of the bait around there were more big fish and we ground that spot out hard. A few casts after losing that fish Chad again hooked up with a 26.25” eye. That gave us the confidence we needed to stay in that area the rest of the tournament. It was a backwater pool loaded with bait. The seagulls were crashing it hard and the graphs had a lot of life. We caught a few more small fish in that same area and with an hour left to go and feeling like we needed one more upgrade to be competitive my 3.5” Essential Series Paddletail got thumped. That fish was a 25.25” eye that we felt was what we needed. Our only fear was our 5th fish on our card (19.25”) was going to hurt us and we were correct. Our 118.5” was good enough for 2nd place. The “Griz” Dick Grzywinski, a local river legend and Fishing Hall of Famer, took the win with 120”
We found both during our pre-fish and during the tournament that our best baits were those that made a lot of noise/thump and were bright in color. Big Profile baits in green, chartreuse and orange were our best baits. ½ - 3/4 ounce teardrops in blaze orange were our jigs of choice with Mustad 32746's in them. The fish seemed to want the baits swimming and not so much jigged or worked back slowly on bottom. They seemed to be tracking the thump and noise in the dirty water. One interesting note was the way the fish had the 3.5” Essential Series Paddletail engulfed in their throat when you would get a bite. We didn’t see this with any other bait we threw at them. The Swimshad accounted for the majority of the big fish we caught in practice but would always be hooked near the mouth while the paddletail was always back in their throats.
Overall a great tournament and it's always fun to get out on the Mississippi.
Looking forward to getting some river fishing in sometime at the beginning of November.