LA CROSSE, Wis. — For the second time in three seasons, the Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series powered by TourneyX heads north to fish the Upper Mississippi River, and Bassmaster Kayak Series angler Benjamin Wagner of Calmar, Iowa, believes there will be plenty of options for anglers to capitalize on both smallmouth and largemouth.
Competition days are scheduled for July 8-9 on Pools 7, 8 and 9 of the Mississippi River. The live leaderboard can be found on Bassmaster.com throughout the tournament, with the awards ceremony streaming live on the Bassmaster YouTube channel July 9 at 4 p.m. CT.
This section of river has witnessed several exciting moments in Bassmaster history. Just last year, Bryan Schmitt won an Elite Series event with 63 pounds, 4 ounces.
In the first Bassmaster Kayak Series event on the river in 2021, an event held in September, Jim Davis won the one-day tournament with 85.5 inches.
So far this year, the Upper Mississippi River has experienced rainy and stormy weather. At the beginning of May, the water was 7 feet over normal. Wagner anticipates the water should be back close to normal by the time anglers arrive for practice barring another significant rain event.
“With it starting high this spring, I’m not exactly sure how it will play or if it will get down to normal,” Wagner said. “Last year was the first full year we’ve had a normal year on these pools for about eight years. Most other years the water is higher than what they consider normal. Last year, everyone kept commenting on how low the water was, but it was right at normal.”
The three pools of the Upper Mississippi River in play for this event feature an abundance of shallow grass, milfoil, eelgrass and duckweed for the most part, as well as hard cover like riprap, laydowns and wing dams.
Both smallmouth and largemouth call the river home, and Wagner believes anglers who target either species will have a chance at the victory. Largemouth tend to weigh more than smallmouth, but smallmouth tend to be long and skinny, which helps in a tournament judged by total inches of bass.
Both species will be in their summer patterns.
“The one cool thing about the Mississippi River is (that) last year during a tournament one guy was drop shotting in 15 feet of water for smallmouth and another guy was catching largemouth in 2 feet of water on a Carolina rig. They can be about anywhere, and any technique can play,” Wagner said.
The smallmouth will mostly stick to the main-river areas around hard cover like wing dams and rock. Crankbaits, drop shots, topwaters and jigs tend to be the best-producing baits.
“Below the dams you will have current, and other places on the main channel you will have plenty of current, deep water and breaks,” he said.
The largemouth, meanwhile, will gravitate to the grass, and anglers will be able to catch them on a frog, swim jig, ChatterBait or flipping bait.
“I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Wagner said.
With 727 points after three regular-season events, Nick Dyer is leading the Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Kayak Series Angler of the Year standings by just nine points over 2022 Bassmaster Kayak Series national champion Eric Siddiqi. Joshua Diehl, who took home a kayak series trophy in 2021, sits third in the standings with 697 points.
Explore La Crosse is hosting the event.
2023 Bassmaster Kayak Series Title Sponsor: Yamaha Rightwaters
2023 Bassmaster Kayak Series Partner: MotorGuide
2023 Bassmaster Kayak Series Angler of the Year Sponsor: Dakota Lithium