It's been a different sort of spring this year on the Mississippi river with water levels starting out high and never going below 3'-5' above normal pool levels. Because of the high water levels, the cooler than normal water temperature, and the consistent current, its been a struggle finding and patterning fish. However, it has been a decent spring for quality fish and with that being said, I'd like to take a brief moment to discuss some of the tackle I've been using this season, and what lures have been consistently taking fish.
I made a switch to fluorocarbon line in early May and have to say I am very pleased with the results. 15lb Vicious Flurocarbon has limited the stretch I was getting with monofilament and has also helped get the plastics I've been throwing down quickly. My main concern was how it would cast, and between my Pinnacle Inertia's and Abu Garcia Orra SX reels, it has been smooth and fluent.
It's hard to pick a single lure that has produced the best for me this season on the Mississippi river. My personal favorite and go to lure is the RC Tackle 4" black with red flake tube. I''ve fished this lure in every condition this season and it has almost always produced fish. Along with the tube, I've fished a jig made by a friend of mine who started River's Edge lures. This jig is a brown/orange/watermelon combination with a papi craw brown and tan trailer. There was a day in early May where I would estimate I fished this lure 90% of the day in many different situations, and couldn't keep the largemouth and smallmouth off. Another bait I was introduced to this season was the Reaction Innovation Sweet Beaver in watermelon and red. When weighted correctly for the conditions, this bait has produced fish in heavy, heavy current, which is almost everywhere given the river levels this spring. Personally, up until the last week or two, I haven't had any consistent luck on spinner baits and chatterbaits. I've caught fish, but nothing as consistent as a tube, a jig, or a beaver. However, the last 2 to 3 weeks have been a very hot spinner bait bite, and it took a butt kicking by my boating partners to change my perspective. I'd been throwing a larger profile spinner bait, and this was apparently my issue because once I was guilted into putting on a low profile spinnerbait, I began increasing my hook ups. Specifically this last weekend in which the majority of my fish came off a spinnerbait. I usually throw a Stanley Vibrashaft spinner bait in various color combinations, but this spring has shown me the profile of the bait can become as important as any other aspect of the lure.
As far a techniques and patterns go this season, it's been all about current. Deep water areas that usually hold pre-spawn staging fish have anywhere from 3' to an extra 6' of water on them with heavier than usual current. So getting the bait down to the fish has required a heavier weight for plastics, a heavier jig, or even a heavier chatterbait or spinner bait. Along with the consistently higher water this spring has been the junk floating at all levels of the water column. This has made crankbaits, rattle traps and even some top water lures hard to effectively fish. But when the water conditions have been right, I have taken a few fish on both rattle traps and crankbaits.
The really curious thing to me this spring has been the amount of good quality fish we've caught in stronger than normal current. I mean kill your trolling motor batteries in a few hours fast current. With this much high water and current all over the river, one would think the fish would like enjoy a break from swimming so hard. However, it almost appeared the opposite of that thought process this spring. I've fished in current I never would have considered previously, and found consistent concentrations of quality tournament fish. If I had to take one lesson away from the season thus far, it would be to never overlook an area because of the speed of the water. If the area has all the right factors, make sure you give the spot a chance. Chances are, the fish are their.