Very few places can be as feast or famine as the Mississippi River, and anglers had mixed feelings about it as they headed out to face Lake Pepin and Pool four early Friday morning.
A beautiful sunrise over the bluffs and a light southwest breeze greeted the 47 boats as they prepared to fish the north half of the pool in the first half, as decided by coin flip the night prior.
Connor O’Connor led the boats out, some making their way all the way up to Red Wing, others staying on the lake to fish the endless stretches of rock, points, and train bridges. It did not take long for anglers to find the fish, as 23 anglers had recorded a bass in the Reel LiveWell App by 7:30 a.m.
John Figi and Matt Peters, both former Champions Tour Anglers of the Year distanced themselves from the pack. Both finding active schools of fish feeding on shad the two traded blows catching fish on nearly every single cast.
Figi found grass on an extended rock point doing most of his damage on a small crankbait, but also picking off a few dragging a Carolina-rig when his schooling bite would slow.
Peters tracked the seagulls on a large sand flat with an influx of current, taking cues from the birds on when and where to look for groups of shad the fish were feasting on. He wanted the best hookup ratio possible so stayed with single hook baits, siting he lost too many fish in practice when they shook treble hooks. A Jackhammer, swim jig, and tube were his weapons of choice, all in white and chartreuse colors to match shad and increase visibility in the stained water conditions.
John Figi came to the break with the lead, never moving spots in the first half and landing 38 bass for over 77 pounds. But he had little breathing room as Peters managed to keep pace just behind him.
As the second half started, anglers went south and were met with more wind, more waves, and more pleasure boating activity which meant that their long runs would become even longer, and their time management would become crucial. Nearly half the field left the lake and ventured past the Wabasha past bridge, a risk that could come with great reward if the backwaters started producing.
However, all eyes remained on Matt Peters who began to run up his weight and leave the rest of the field in the dust. As time ticked by not only was Peters eyeing a victory, but also the Champions Tour weight record of 131 lb 7 oz, set on Lake Minnetonka.
Chad Grigsby made a run at John Figi in second place, getting to within just six pounds of Figi by throwing a Rapala crankbait around secondary grass points for smallmouth. As time ticked off it was clear no one could catch Matt Peters, but the real question was could he catch the all-time weight record?
Fish landing penalties and a couple break offs left him just shy as he tallied 53 fish for an incredible 126 pounds and 5 ounces of Mississippi River bass and secured an over 36-pound margin of victory. Peters more than doubled the weight of Shane Raveling who rounded out the top five and more than tripled the weight of Thor Swanson who rounded out the top ten. The final check spot went to Dave Larson in 14th who recorded 16 bass for 29 lb 6 oz.
Five Champions Tour rookies notched their first ever payday in the event and 671 total fish were recorded. Chad Grigsby earned the YETI Big Bass award with a 4-pound 5 ounce largemouth, and Shane Raveling was awarded the Wenzel’s Farm Major Mover award for his impressive second half performance.
With two of three tour events for the season in the books, Kyle Schutta holds the Angler of the Year lead, followed closely by Jacob Novak. Everything comes to a head in Grand Rapids on Thursday, September 3rd. The final stop of the Champions Tour where anglers will battle it out on Lake Pokegama to be one of 24 who will compete the following day on an unknown body of water for a chance at a brand new, fully rigged, Skeeter Boat.
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