B.A.S.S. Nation Regional Championship


LA CROSSE, Wis. — September is one of the best times of the year to fish the Upper Mississippi River, according to Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bob Downey of Hudson, Wis. So, when qualified anglers arrive for the 2021 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Northern Regional Sept. 1-3, Downey expects plenty of bass to hit the scales.

“It is one of my favorite times of the year to be on the river,” Downey said. “I expect it to be a good tournament. You need to shoot for a 3-pound average or better.”

La Crosse has played host to plenty of major tournaments over the past decade, including Elite Series events in 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2018 and a Basspro.com Bassmaster Open in 2019. The Elite Series will also return to La Crosse for the Bassmaster Elite at Mississippi River Aug. 26-29, 2022. For this event, B.A.S.S. Nation anglers will have access to Pools 7, 8 and 9 during the event, which brings together teams from nine states.

So far in 2021, the Mississippi River has been as low as Downey has seen in years. Late summer rains could flip the script, but water levels and current flow will determine where the fish will set up.

“It is extremely low right now and it has been all year,” he said. “With it being really low, you’ll see largemouth closer to the main channel at times and smallmouth will move out towards the main channel.”

Both largemouth and smallmouth are plentiful throughout these three pools of the Mississippi River, and Downey said he would expect both species to play in this event.

“This time of year, it could be won with both,” he said. “Smallmouth on the river will generally win tournaments in the spring and fall. That’s not to say you can’t win one in the summer with them, but generally they are heaviest in the spring and then starting in late August through September and October.”

Downey said the smallmouth like to set up on the various wing dams in the system as well as sand drops and other current-related structures like islands. Topwater walking baits, poppers and Carolina rigs have historically produced around these areas. To win with smallmouth only, Downey said anglers will need to have a strong pattern.

“They move around. I call them ghost fish because every time I seem to find them in practice they aren’t there in the tournament,” Downey said. “That time of year, they become a little more consistent to the point where you can rely on them more.”

Meanwhile, the largemouth can be found in the abundant grass fields throughout the three eligible pools. Six different types of grass can be found in the fishery, including milfoil, eelgrass, lily pads and duckweed, making it a perfect situation for frogging, punching and possibly a swim jig.

“It is a phenomenal time of year for largemouth. The grass is as good as it is going to get all year,” Downey said.

Cut banks are also great areas to find both largemouth and smallmouth.

Anglers will launch from Veterans Freedom Park starting at 6:15 a.m. CT every day and return for weigh-in at 2:15. The field will be cut to 20 boaters and 20 nonboaters after Day 2. The top two boaters and co-anglers from each state will punch their ticket to the 2021 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship scheduled for Nov. 3-5 on the Ouachita River in Monroe, La., to compete for one of three berths into the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.

The tournament is being hosted by Explore La Crosse.

2021 B.A.S.S. Nation Title Sponsor: TNT Fireworks

2021 B.A.S.S. Nation Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2021 B.A.S.S. Nation Premier Sponsors: Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Ranger Boats, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha

2021 B.A.S.S. Nation Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Marathon, Rapala