LA CROSSE, Wis. — A very exciting 2016 season will come to a close for many of the anglers at La Crosse, but the Top 50 in Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points will advance to the AOY Championship on Minnesota’s famed Mille Lacs Lake Sept. 15-18.
Elite anglers sitting within several spots either side of 50th place know that making good decisions and catching the right size bass will make or break how and when their season ends. For those anglers looking to move up in the rankings and earn an invitation to the AOY Championship, this is their last chance.
The other race heating up is at the top of the AOY leaderboard. Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala., currently holds a 37-point lead on Texas pro Keith Combs. But anything can happen in this sport, and nothing is official until the Angler of the Year is crowned.
Pools 7, 8 and 9 of the Upper Mississippi River are in play and will kick out a good number of fish. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the entire field weigh a five-fish limit of bass on the first two days of competition.
Regional pro angler and outdoor writer Glenn Walker has been bass fishing this stretch of river for many years, and he said there will be plenty of both largemouth and smallmouth bass caught and weighed at this event.
“The sheer number of 2- and 3-pounders is amazing,” Walker said. “The fishery is in excellent health, and I expect the Elite Series anglers to really put on a show. This is a numbers fishery, but you won’t likely see many fish over 6 pounds. If you do see one, it will likely be a smallmouth.”
Walker explained that it has been a very wet summer, and the river water levels are high when compared to what is normal this time of year.
“The forecast isn’t calling for much rain between now and when the event is scheduled to begin, so the water levels and conditions should stabilize,” the Minn Kota/Humminbird pro explained. “I expect Pool 7 to produce the bigger fish, and Pool 8 to be best for good numbers of keeper bass. Based on my time bass fishing the river, I think it’ll take 18 to 19 pounds per day to win, but I think we’ll see a couple of limits pushing the 20-pound mark.”
The Elite Series pros will also have access to Pool 9, which is the farthest south of the three, and it is known for producing winning limits of bass in the 18- to 20-pound range.
Iowa game warden and local tournament angler Jeremy King has won bass tournaments on Pool 9 before, and he thinks it will be a major player in this week’s event.
“With the water levels being reduced each day, the bass will be easy to pattern and willing to bite,” King said. “Anything adjacent to main channels and back channels that have current will regularly reload with bass, and the anglers who find a multiple locations like that will find a competitive limit of bass — possibly even some big ones.”
King believes that most of the anglers will fish pools 7 and 8, reducing pressure on 9.
“Pool 9 is much like Pool 8 with an abundance of backwaters,” he explained. “The anglers willing to risk a 45-minute to 1-hour run, including locking down and up, will find some very productive fishing. Is it better than 7 or 8? That’s to be determined, but perhaps a reduced amount of fishing pressure will increase the odds of catching more and larger bass.”
Daily takeoffs are scheduled for 6:15 a.m. at Veterans Freedom Park in La Crosse, Wis., and weigh-ins will be held at the same location at 3:15 p.m.
A total purse of $638,000 will be paid to the Top 50 anglers at La Crosse.
Anglers fortunate enough to finish in the Top 50 will head immediately to Mille Lacs Lake for the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year championship and potential qualification for the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.