Event 3 at Lake Mille Lacs was everything it was expected to be: lots of fish and big time drama, with new faces rocketing above the AOY (Angler of the Year) cutline.
But more on AOY later. As Event 4 of the Head2Head PWS (Pro Walleye Series) heads to Pool 2 of the Mississippi River, July 12-16, the 32 PWS anglers will be fishing their third river system of the season. What they will quickly discover however, is that the mighty Mississippi is in a class by itself when it comes to river walleye fishing.
Fluctuating water levels have always been a boom or bust for river anglers on “The Big Muddy”. Backwater channels loaded with fish one day can be completely inaccessible the next. Areas with fast current one day can be flat calm a day later. Clear water can become solid mud if a big rain event occurs. A spot or area can be loaded with fish one day and void the next.
As of this writing, Pool 2 is flirting with record low water levels for late June, as is most of the river from St. Louis north. Low water on any river means the system will fish “smaller” as walleyes will move from the shallow, receding backwater “lakes” into the deeper, main channel and current areas. It actually makes finding fish a lot easier and fishing more consistent as long as these conditions remain stable. That said, big storms dropping lots of rain could completely blow up the bite and leave the whole field scrambling to re-locate their fish.
Traditionally, big, loud, vibrating and colorful baits are used on most of the river and expect the PWS anglers to experiment what works best. Larger plastics with vibrating paddletails (winners of the first three events) will certainly come into play. Other bait likely bait options include big spinners tipped with Berkley Power Crawlers on 3-ways or bottom bouncers or slow death rigs with artificial leeches or willow cats. For the first time this year, trolling crankbaits could become a major player even though anglers are restricted to using one rod (Minnesota law). Blade baits and pulsating hair jigs will also put fish in the boat.
Although the pros are limited to only three days of pre-fishing on Pool 2, they will be able to fish any of the other pools on the river, thus extending their pre-fishing time for as long as they want. This could be a real game-changer for those who have little or no experience fishing through the various moods of the big river, especially since only a few have ever fished Pool 2 in the past.
With only two qualifying events remaining for the championship field, the race for the top-16 tightened up big time following Mille Lacs. Currently, 15 anglers are within 15 points of making or dropping below the cutline. In spite of the great catches by most of the field in Round 3, only two anglers (Josh Blosser,1st place and Robert Blosser, 3rd place) broke into the top 16, but 9 anglers dropped including 2 below the cut line while only 5 moved up.
Because only half of the 32 tournament field will make the championship in October, this “tournament within the tournament” is always exciting to watch and with the race as close at it is right now, a whole lot of shuffling is going to take place by the final day of the Pool 2 tournament. This one should be a real nail-biter. Be sure to tune in as Matt and I break it all down starting at 7:40 a.m. July 12th!