One of the most prestigious bass fisheries in the U.S.A. has an elite field of kayak bass anglers fired-up and ready for battle.
OCEANSIDE, Calif. (August 23, 2021) – The next stop on the Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.) Anchored By Power-Pole® is the mighty Mississippi River in La Crosse, WI. Recognized as one of the premier stretches of bass water in the entire country, Old Man River seems to always be on its game. That has a super-competitive field of elite kayak bassers chomping at the bit to get their lines in the water and in front of the chunky mix of largemouths and bronzebacks for which these waters are renowned. “We had a great tourney here last year, and we’re expecting another action-packed event this year on pools 7, 8 and 9,” says Hobie B.O.S. Tournament Director, A.J. McWhorter. “In 2020 our competitors submitted nearly 1,000 bass during the two-day catch, photo and release (C.P.R.) contest, and things got pretty exciting down the stretch with a ton of fish in the 15- to 17-inch class helping keep the top of the leader board nice and tight. I expect this year will see more of the same with the ultimate winner finding a way to squeeze a few 18-inch or larger bass into the mix. The potential for exciting surface action here adds to the fun as the many weedy stretches are ideal for frogging while the open waters can see bass explode on walk-the-dog style retrieves.”
That’s exactly how Rus Snyders, 39, of Nashville, Tennessee, conquered the field last year. The top tier kayak basser included four bigmouths topping 18 inches in his 174.50-inch two-day tally with a top entry of 19.75 inches. “The water may be running a little lower this year,” said Snyders, “but there is so much man-made and natural structure, vegetation and areas of significant current on these waters that I’m not going to worry about water depth all that much. I’m just going to fish to my strengths like I usually do.”
That sounds like a solid game plan when you consider Snyders, currently fifth and looking to move up in Hobie’s Angler of the Year (A.O.Y.) presented by FarWide standings, has won two tournaments in two tries in the La Crosse area. At the Hobie B.O.S. La Crosse event last year, most of his fish were caught flipping the outside edges of grassy patches in the early morning using a ½-ounce jig and occasionally mixing in a weedless frog or buzz bait. “I’m really excited to get back to these waters,” said Snyders, who agrees with McWhorter that the water may be lower than usual but says that shouldn’t put a hurt on the fishing. “Conditions seem to be stabilizing so I’m expecting the action will be pretty good. I plan to do a little extra pre-fishing to explore some parts of the river I haven’t tried before, mix things up a bit, and try to focus more on the smallmouths. I think with the water a bit low some of my favorite backwater shallow spots might not be as much in play as usual, so it might be easier to find the smallies in deeper pocket water or areas of current on the main river.”
Snyders noted that with plenty of available structure like barges, wing dams and lily edges harboring both bigmouths and smallmouths, anglers should be able to score using a variety of techniques so competitors should simply fish to their strengths. “I’ll be trying to match that structure up with areas of noticeable current,” he added. “To that end, my Hobie PA12 360 should provide a nice edge as it’s so agile and easy to maneuver while fishing hands-free, and it really handles the current well. I can’t wait for this tourney to get started.”
Meanwhile, local favorite Jeremiah Burish, 31 is also ready to go. An experienced kayak tournament angler, and Director of Sports Sales & Events for Explore La Crosse, he knows these waters intimately and foresees some fast action once the fishing gets underway. That said, he also believes the river will fish differently than last year. “There’s no doubt we have a ton of bass in the 15- to 19-inch class that will slam a wide variety of lures and respond to an array of techniques,” he said, “but the river is at historic lows which is going to make it important to spend some time finding the fish.”
When the water is higher, explained Burish, river bass can be pretty spread out. This year, however, expects them to be bunched-up tightly in areas of current, especially around deeper pools. That, he believes, will bring the main river into play more than the shallow flats. Like Snyders, Burish recommends anglers new to these waters bring a variety of lures and be prepared to change on the fly. “I’m sure frogs will generate some strikes, but maybe not as many as usual, so be ready to work the current and around open water structure like barges and laydowns,” he advised. “Even with the river running low, there’s plenty of productive water here but you may have to dig a little deeper to find it this year. I have an electronics package that is a huge help because the river is so unique in that small drops often hold a lot of fish. It’s super accurate, reads very well on these waters, and the side-imaging feature allows me to find small contour changes other anglers miss. It really can be a difference-maker when conditions are tough.”
Shallow water or not, McWhorter expects this year’s La Crosse event to be an exciting one, noting there’s more on the line than just the tourney championship. “We’ll have significant payouts to the top 10% of the field as always,” he said, “and the top three non-qualified anglers will punch their tickets to the Hobie Tournament of Champions (T.O.C) at Lake Eufaula, Alabama, November 12 – 14. All-important points toward Angler of the Year (A.O.Y.) presented by FarWide, the Outdoor Access App, will be distributed to the top 100 competitors, and the largest bass of the two-day tournament will earn a $400 check for the Bassin’Big Bass Award. Also up for grabs is the Dakota Lithium Power Move award, which recognizes the angler with the greatest leap up the leader board from Day 1 to Day 2. That prize is a Dakota Power Box with a 10-amp lithium battery. As always at these tournaments, anglers are going to have to work really hard to finish in the top ten spots – but we’ll make sure all that effort pays off.”