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Summer Bassin’….on the mighty Miss.
By:  Glenn Walker

Living in Wisconsin we are very fortunate to have an abundance of water to fish, from the smallest pond to the Great Lakes. One of the mightiest bodies of water that we have in our state is the Mississippi River. The Mississippi river has claimed its fame as a great walleye fishery, but over the last ten years this river has turned into a nationally recognized bass fishery.

With the summer heat and dog days of summer, brings forth some amazing bass fishing on this winding water way that separates Wisconsin from Minnesota and Iowa. Many bass fishermen develop numerous patterns for catching bass on the river, but one that is utilized most frequently and puts you the angler in the position to load the boat is by fishing areas with current.

Focusing on areas with current on the Mississippi may seem like a daunting task, since the entire main channel has current. But understanding how the bass position themselves in this current will allow you to eliminate water quickly. Depending on the water level and the flow that each pool is at, will greatly depend on where the bass are located. The main factor that determines where the bass will be is if there is cover for them to live in and if there is baitfish present.

Cover on the river that will hold bass, can range from the traditional tree and rock, to the non-traditional barge tied up. Regardless of what the piece of cover is, the bass are using that cover to protect themselves from the current. While the bass is holding just out of the current, they are watching carefully for an insect or baitfish to float by for an easy meal. If there is current flowing by a piece of cover, chances are good that there will be a bass on it. The three types of cover, that are most commonly present on the river are, rock, wood and grass.

To protect the river banks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers put rock on the shore. This rip-rap as it is called can hold a good amount of bass. Bass will tuck in behind larger rocks or hold tight to the rocks to try and catch an easy meal. Eliminating unproductive sections of rip-rap takes a good deal of time on the water, but by looking for points that may be big or small or determining if there is a depth change near the rock will allow you to quickly find the most productive section of rock to fish.

My favorite lure choice for fishing rip-rap is a medium diving crankbait. A bait that dives between 3 and 6 foot is the ideal depth range you want your bait to hit. As for as color selection goes, three choices that I would recommend are shad imitations, crawfish imitations, and finally chartreuse colored crankbaits. A rod with a soft tip is necessary because these bass will hit quick and hard and if your rod doesn’t give, the fish will pull off very quickly.

A large portion of big bass that come off of the river, come from areas that have current and wood. These areas either are primarily located in side cuts off of the main channel that have deeper water than other sloughs and the current is on them. Bass will hold on different sections of the tree depending on how fast the current is and if they are feeding or not. Determining this when you first hit the water is done by fishing a piece of wood from all angles and hitting all the spots where a bass can be hiding behind that tree. Once you have an idea of where the bass are located on the wood, you can replicate that pattern up and down the river.

When I am fishing wood with current on it, I like to flip a Texas-rigged RC Tackle tube in either black neon or green pumpkin on an Eagle Claw HP tube hook and a ¼ oz. weight. I suggest moving upstream, so you can flip your bait into the current and let the current wash it down into the wood and bank where the bass are holding. This way you have a natural looking presentation that the bass will just hammer when it goes by their nose. A sensitive, but strong line is needed for this situation, which is why a fluorocarbon line is beneficial. Seaguar Abraz X in 15 lb. test gives you the best of both worlds, you can feel the most subtle bites, but when that big bass runs for heavy cover you have enough strength to turn her around and get the bass in the boat.

There is a wide variety of vegetation that grows in the Mississippi River, several kinds that an angler can key in on where there is current is eel grass, deer tongue and lily pads. What I like to look for is a grass line that starts shallow and works deeper to where the weeds meet the current. This allows the bass to move up shallow further away from the current or they can hold directly on the weed line in the deeper water where the current is present. Weedlines that are in relation to other physical characteristics such as points, rock or sand can make a big difference in catching bass and catching big bass.

When fishing vegetation with current on it there are two lures that I like to throw. The first, again being the Texas-rigged tube bait and the other being a swimming jig. There are numerous swim jigs on the market and I suggest trying as many as you can until you find one that you like. Swimming a jig is very productive in these situations because you can fish it higher up in the water column if the bass are shallow and then when it comes to the deeper weed edge, you can let your jig free fall. The popular size for swimming a jig is ¼ oz., but using a heavier 3/8 oz. is usefully where the current is stronger or the bass are deeper. Jig and grub colors are numerous, but I prefer to keep them in the colors that imitate shad or bluegill. Making long casts is vital to keeping a low profile to these that can be spooked easily. That is why using a fluorocarbon line, like the Seaguar Inviz X is beneficial. It is sensitive to detect sometimes a light bite, and also it can be cast a long distance.

Spending time on the water and learning new sections of the river is a great way to spend a day or an afternoon. With the information I provided you with, you too can explore the Mississippi River and find some hawg bass holding in the current.