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Angler Profile

This article made possible by:

By: Dave Norton


Here’s a chance for you to get an inside look at one of the Upper Mississippi River’s top tournament anglers…JEFF RITTER! Although Jeff is currently busy on the water because of our mild 2006 winter, I was finally able to track him down and squeeze in an interview between some beaver trapping and fishing.

Photo FLW Outdoors

Jeff’s started bass fishing at the early age of 4 which means he now has been doing this for over 35 years! Jeff’s dad (Sam Ritter) is a fishing fanatic but never wants to panfish. Jeff recalls many times as a kid wanting to float bobbers but his dad would say, “Nope, we need to keep casting these Mepps spinners”.

It is no secret that Jeff’s profession helps him stay one of the best tournament anglers on the Upper Mississippi . Jeff is a commercial fisherman near the Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin area. He spends almost every single day on the Mississippi River running his nets, hauling gear, and checking his traps. When he is not on the river he is at his fish market cleaning fish. And when he is not netting or cleaning, you can bet he’s fishing a tournament.

When it comes to tournament results, well, I will just let the numbers speak for themselves (Just the bigger tournaments are listed):

  • 1st Place Stren Series (2004)

  • 1st Place BFL (2001)

  • 1st Place BFL (2003)

  • 1st Place BFL (2006)

  • 1st Place BFL (2006)

  • 14 Top 10 BFL/ Stren Finishes

  • 1st Place Team Supreme (multiple)

  • Angler of the Year (Team Supreme)

  • Angler of the Year (BWS)

 Question and Answer…

I know there are many ways to answer this Jeff, but what would be the top thing you contribute most of your tournament success and consistency to?

Photo FLW Outdoors

Definitely time on the water, There is no substitute. I believe when someone spends their whole life on the water they develop like a 6th sense. It’s hard to explain. I just know that there are times when I make changes throughout a tournament day based off of instincts that can only come from years of fishing. Sometimes I don’t even realize I made a change until after I’ve already done it.

I also think that once someone gets to the top and does well in a tournament they slowly grow a stronger instinct and feel more comfortable with their choices. Lets say you pick up from your number one spot in a tournament and go to your number three spot just because you think you have a better chance to get a bite, you learn to live with your choices and fish them out. I have seen many new guys get frustrated and end up running all around second guessing themselves.

Do you use the internet as a tool to help your tournament fishing?

Believe it or not, I probably use the internet more than most. I am constantly checking water levels online. Water levels are very important to me not only for tournaments, but for my commercial fishing too. I need to know water levels and current flow for when I’m setting gear so I don’t get caught up in too much current and lose gear, or not enough current, etc… I also pay a lot of attention to major lakes when I’m tournament fishing –like Lake Erie and Kentucky Lake .  

What is your preferred style of fishing?

Without a doubt it’s power fishing! I like to cover lots of water with a buzzbait and a jig.

What is your least favorite style of fishing?

Finesse fishing…it’s slow! I’m just not one to chuck a senko up to the bank and let it fall down nice and easy. Even though I have done it, I can recall fishing like that up on the Niagara River while in contention for a top 10, I had trouble slowing myself down enough and ended up messing myself up bad.

Photo FLW Outdoors

What is your favorite body of water?

Most definitely the Mississippi River ! I’d be a fool not to say that. I haven’t been to all the big tournament lakes but I’ve been to a good chunck and I don’t know of any place that fishes like the river. You can catch fish in all the seasons about any way you want to catch them. That place just has fish!

Do you typically target largemouth or smallmouth on the river?

I have won big tournaments with smallmouth and use to weigh in a lot of them. My dad and I also have won tournaments with smallies. Lately though, it seems as if the smallies are hiding out. However, a lot of the schools of fish I go after are still a mixed bag.

You won the 2004 Mississippi River Stren Series on a home made swimming jig, is there something extra to your jig which separates it from anything else you can get off the shelf?

Yes. The swimming jig is a really simple item, but there are definitely key things I do different that make it work well, at least for me. However, the jig still has to swim in front of some fish to get a bite. Some people are looking for this magic lure and it’s just not there.

Jeff’s sponsors include: American Marine, Nitro Boats, Team Supreme Tackle

Thanks for your time Jeff!

Interviewers NoteI had the opportunity to fish with Jeff on the final day of the 2004 Stren Series tournament that he won. Watching him in action during the biggest tournament day of his life was a huge learning experience for me. It was amazing to see someone so calm and focused, yet fishing for over $60,000. When you’re scrolling through the 2007 tournament results this season you can be sure you won’t have to scroll very far (if at all) before you see Jeff’s name.