Fishing & Boating News

Bassmaster Elite Series Rolls into a Classic River Town

St. Croix pros offer perspectives on Mississippi River event

by: Dena Vick, Traditions Media

James Niggemeyer
Photo by Jason Duran
St. Croix Legend Elite
Photo by courtesy St. Croix
(Aug 29, 2016 - Park Falls, WI)  Soon, the cool winds of fall will begin to rumble down the Mississippi River valley at La Crosse, Wisconsin, decorating maple trees with crimson and yellow leaves, and trumpeting the arrival of the top bass anglers on the earth. Returning to a venue steeped in Midwestern river culture and an enduring competitive and recreational fishing tradition, The Bassmaster Elite circuit is set to pay a September visit to Old Man River from September 8-11.
St. Croix Rod pros and veteran tournament anglers James Niggemeyer and Brian Snowden will be competing at La Crosse, each in pursuit of four fat sacks of Mississippi River bass to carry them into the winner’s circle.
 Both St. Croix Rod pros have stretched lines in the flowing waters near La Crosse previously, including Bassmaster Elite events in 2013 and 2012. Three-time Bassmaster classic qualifier James Niggemeyer calls Pools 7, 8 and 9 of the Mississippi, where contestants will be chasing both largemouth and bronzebacks, “a great fishery. On paper, it is an ideal place for me to fish to my strengths.”
Jeremiah Burish, from the La Crosse County Convention and Visitors Bureau adds that, beyond bass, “there are almost 120 species of fish that occupy the waters of the Upper Mississippi River, so there is never a shortage of fish to catch.” Furthermore, Burish reminds us that, “the river is a great asset to locals and visitors alike, and the word is getting out that the Mississippi is one of the best bass fisheries in the country.”
Indeed, the La Crosse area is no stranger to competitive fishing events, where anglers can cast a line in frequent bass and walleye tournaments on the river, or even drop a jig in ice fishing jamborees on backwater areas and inland lakes during the winter months. While previous Elite series events have visited La Crosse in June, this year’s penultimate event on the Bassmaster schedule rolls into western Wisconsin in September.
Brian Snowden, six-time Bassmaster classic qualifier and one of the hosts of Bass Pro Shop’s award-winning TV series “The Bass Pros,” offers some time-tested perspective on an early fall river event. “Current will be a major factor in determining fish position. Locations close to the main river channel will be important locations to consider.” Furthermore, with recent rains in the watershed causing river stage and flow to rise to uncharacteristic levels for fall, Snowden anticipates, “lots of floating grass that has been dislodged by high water and cooling water temperatures.” James Niggemeyer is excited about autumn on the river, adding that, “fish will be in different places than they were in early summer, opening up new patterns that complement the ways we fished in previous events.”
Interestingly, these two St. Croix pros are focusing on two distinct ways to target fall bass on the Mississippi. Snowden is leaning towards a topwater approach with frogs and walk-the-dog baits fished around distinct current breaks an rip-rap shorelines and docks. For these presentations, Snowden relies on 7’4” St. Croix Avid X heavy power, fast action rod (AXC74HF), a rod with, “a quick tip but plenty of backbone for driving hooks home and moving fish rapidly away from cover.” In contrast, Niggemeyer plans to cast jigs and soft plastics around aquatic vegetation, which is found in abundance near La Crosse. For jig presentations, the 7’1” St. Croix Legend Elite medium-heavy power, extra fast action rod (EC71MHXF) provides Niggemeyer with, “crucial sensitivity for detecting and distinguishing cover and bottom types without sacrificing power, helping to maximize the number of fish I hook and land.”
While practice and competition days start early and end late, St. Croix Rod pros Niggemeyer and Snowden are anxious to steal a few moments’ relaxation and enjoy a touch of the good life in Wisconsin’s famous driftless region, an area left untouched by glaciers during the last ice age, and now home to one of Bassmaster magazine’s top fishing destinations.
You are cordially invited to attend any of the Bassmaster Elite events, with daily launches at the Clinton Street landing and weigh-ins at Veterans Freedom Park. While you’re in town, plan to stick around for the La Crosse Fish Hook Festival to enjoy live bands and sample the hospitality that has made the La Crosse area famous.
St. Croix Avid X
Photo by courtesy St. Croix
Photo by Bill Lindner