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Bassmaster Northern Tour
Mississippi River Pool 19
Fort Madison, Iowa
July 20th thru 22nd, 2006

 

Having never fished on the Mississippi prior to this event, I have to admit that I expected muddy water, with only wood and rock cover.  It was a pleasant surprise to talk to local fishermen and hear about grass, weeds, and pads.  When I arrived and began practicing, I was blown away by the quality of the fishery.  While not large, the largemouth in Pool 19 are certainly numerous.  In three days of practice, I’m sure I caught over 60 keepers – which was the norm for many of my competitors as well!  The fish were eating a number of baits, including worms, jigs, frogs, flukes, etc.  If you got your lure close to a fish, your odds of catching him were good.  This river doesn’t get the heavy daily pressure that more notable reservoirs receive, making the fish much easier to catch.  However, the river fishes fairly small, and after a hard practice the fish were beat up and well-educated.  For me, success revolved around being able to catch fish that others had missed, or that weren’t as aggressive.  I found two small areas that had been overlooked by my competition, and was able to put limits in the boat every day because of them.

Day 1
On the first morning of the tournament, a small front was just pushing its way out of the area, and a stiff 25+ mph wind was still howling, making the water outside the marina break walls look uninviting at best.  I had a long list of productive areas, and decided to start under the nearby bridge on some riprap.  The wind was creating some serious current, which had some fish set up in an eddy on the lee side of the bridge.  I worked through the area with a Gambler Ugly Otter in Florida Five-O, a bait that I had found to very closely resemble the river’s bluegill.  My partner and I both picked up our first keepers of the day, then headed south with most of the field.  The southern section of Pool 19 contains the majority of the area’s vegetation, and I was convinced it held more fish.  As we ran downriver, I noticed that most of the areas that I had found fish were absolutely covered with boats.  A small rock pile that I had found had at least nine boats on it!  Amazingly, the section of pads in Chaney creek that I pulled in on had no boats on it.  Smiling, I went to work flipping the Otter into small holes between the pads.  The front finally passed, giving way to clear skies and light winds.  Even though the temperature was rising towards 100, the bright sun was what I needed to put the fish under the pads.  I ground out a small limit after a few hours, and then decided to start heading back north.  I had a few areas that I wanted to hit on the way back.  One included the Catfish Bend Casino, an interesting riverboat that had been left alone by much of the field.  The stop turned out to be worthwhile, as I culled a few times, moving my weight up by half a pound or so.  The day ended with my bag weighing 10-05, placing me almost squarely in the middle of the field.  Big bites were hard to come by for most guys…but limits were not!

Day 2
The weather for day 2 was much better – it rained all day and never got out of the 70s.  The cloud cover prompted me to start in an area that I had saved, hoping that it would not be fished on day 1.  The area was about 500 yards back behind one of the pool’s giant pad mats.  The mat ended about ten yards from the bank, in about a foot of water.  I could just barely idle along the edge of the pads without scraping bottom.  It took a solid ten minutes to get back there, but it was worth it.  The water dropped off into about three feet, forming a depression that I later found out was the key to success for some top finishers.  The fish in my area were still fairly small, but they were in the mood for a black Booyah buzzbait.  I limited quickly, but decided to stay and try to upgrade.  Another ten-pound limit wasn’t going to do me any good!  My patience paid off as a stocky fish in the three pound range sucked the buzzbait down.  When you only have a nine pound limit, a three really helps!  I would guess that I caught around 20 keepers from this area on the buzzbait before making the long idle back out.  The casino paid off once again with a ninth-inning cull, and I ended up in 30th after two days with a limit weighing close to 12 pounds.

Day 3
The conditions on the final day were much like those of day 1, with high skies and post-frontal conditions.  I started back in my hidden area and struggled to put three keepers in the boat over three hours of work.  The fish were tight to the pads, and the thrashing that I gave them the day before was apparent.  I figured that the bite would be tough, and soon left for a few small areas that I thought might still hold a fish or two.  One was a small culvert along a giant stretch of do-nothing bank.  A smoke/red flake tube got me the rest of my limit, but couldn’t help me cull.   After striking out at a few areas, the casino came through yet again.  Tourists on the walkway from the riverboat to Fort Madison stopped to watch the guy in the yellow bass boat who was sticking fish right below them.  I think that there are about 30 curious gamblers in Iowa right now that know everything there is to know about tournament bass fishing, because the questions headed my way were nonstop while I was there.  Quite a crowd had gathered as I caught four fish in the final half hour, culling up another half pound before weigh-in.  The 10-07 limit was enough to move me up to finish 26th overall in the second Northern Tour stop.

This solid finish moves me up one slot to 3rd place in the points race on the Tour.  They take the top three to the ’07 Classic, but it’s too early to think about that right now!  Next month I’m headed to Champlain in New York for our third event, and I couldn’t be more excited.  The lake has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best bass fishing locations in the US, and I can’t wait to get my share of the action.  You’ll be the first to hear about how I make out up north.  Until then, thanks for reading, God bless, and set the hook hard!

Scott Campbell
scottyc32@hotmail.com
(660) 641-3973