Posted by Z3 MEDIA TEAM on 06/23/2013

Story by Matt Pangrac and Dave Rush – Photos by Dave Rush

La Crosse, WI – All week on the Mississippi River, Oklahoma’s Tommy Biffle flew under the radar.

The headlines on the first two days of the Bassmaster Elite Series’ sixth stop of the season in La Crosse, Wisconsin were dominated by Brandon Palaniuk, who jumped out to a commanding 6 pound lead on Friday before having his day two weight disqualified due to an inadvertent cull in Minnesota waters.  

The attention then turned to Aaron Martens, who finished in 5th place last year on the Mississippi River.  Fishing the same area where he tasted success in 2012, the Alabama pro finished Saturday at the top of the leaderboard with Biffle nipping at his heels just seven ounces behind. 

Entering championship Sunday, Martens and Biffle had separated themselves from the rest of the field by over 4 pounds.    

Tommy BiffleOn Sunday, Martens’ kicker largemouth never fired, and Biffle took advantage of a late day flurry to overtake Martens and hoist the blue trophy.  With a final day limit weighing 16-13, Biffle, who weighed-in mostly smallmouth during the week, pushed his final weight to 64-2 and earned the fourth Elite Series title of his career.  

Aaron Martens finished in 2nd place with 61-11 after bringing his lightest effort of the week weighing 13-15 to the scales on Sunday.  The runner up finish is Martens’ twelfth 2nd place finish of his career with B.A.S.S.   

John Crews maintained his position in 3rd place, weighing-in 16-6 on Sunday to finish with 59-4, and Oklahoma’s Fred Roumbanis jumped up to 4th with a total weight of 56-8.  Brandon Card rounded out the top five with 56-2. 

In the Toyota Angler Of the Year race, Edwin Evers continued his push towards the first TAOY title of his career, finishing the tournament in 10th place and opening up a 44 point lead over Skeet Reese in the TAOY standings.   With two regular season tournaments left on the schedule, just three other anglers (Reese, VanDam, and Martens) are within 50 points of Evers.  

The 5 Final Day Facts from the Mississippi River:    
Tournament: Bassmaster Elite Series (June 20-23)
Location:  Mississippi River – La Crosse, Wisconsin   
Winner: Tommy Biffle (14-0, 16-0, 17-5, 16-13: 64-2)
2nd place: Aaron Martens (14-4, 17-3, 16-5, 13-15: 61-11)
Total weight separating 1st place from 12th place: 12-14

1st Place: Tommy Biffle (14-0, 16-0, 17-5, 16-13: 64-2)
What was your primary pattern throughout the week on the Mississippi Rive? 
“I had two primary patterns this week.  One was fishing for largemouth early in the day, and the other was fishing for smallmouth.

“My largemouth spot was up in the Black River.  There were several other guys doing the same thing, but a lot of them were either just flipping bushes or just fishing willow trees.  Instead of just keying on bushes or willows, I fished everything.  I caught fish off all kinds of hardwood trees in the water, sticks, or whatever was in front of me. 

“After I had a good limit of largemouth each of the first three mornings, I’d run down to my smallmouth spot and catch a few 3 pounders.  The smallmouth gave me a really good sack each day.  The smallmouth area was a sandbar that had current running around it with a little ditch in it.  Most of the water depth in the area was two to three feet, but the ditch was in three to four feet of water.”

What were your primary baits and tactics?
“When I was fishing for largemouth, I flipped a Gene Larew Biffle Bug in green pumpkin and I colored the tip orange.  On the first day, I also used a Smoke Silver colored Biffle Bug. I Texas-rigged the bug with a pegged 5/16-ounce tungsten weight and a 4/0 Paycheck Baits Punch Hook. I flipped with 25-pound-test Sunline Shooter and used a Quantum EXO reel with a Quantum Tommy Biffle rod that I designed.

“For the smallmouth, I used the same Biffle Bug in green pumpkin and orange, but I rigged it on a 7/16-ounce Gene Larew Biffle Hardhead.”  

What was the overall key to your success on the Mississippi River this week?
“The key was throwing my Biffle Bug in the right color and matching my bait to the crawdads that were in the river.  I figured it out on the second day when there were crawdads in my livewell that were green pumpkin and orange in color. 

“James Elam was parked right next to me after one of the first days and he drug a bunch of crawdads out of the bottom of his livewell that the bass had spit up and they were all green pumpkin and orange, too. 

“On the first day, I caught all my fish on a silver Bug.  I caught two or three of them on the second morning on the silver Bug, but I kept thinking about those green pumpkin and orange colored crawdads.  I sat down and got out a green pumpkin Biffle Bug and marked the tips with an orange marker. It didn't really show up on the bait, but the orange really popped once it was in the water.  I had just finished flipping a bush with the silver Bug without a bite, but when I flipped the same bush with a green pumpkin and orange Bug, I caught one.  From then on, I realized that the color was the key. 

"This week I caught walleye, catfish, drum, pike, grinnell, and bass on that color Bug.  Once I figured out the key color, it was on.”      

How would you assess your decision making and execution on the water?
“My decision making this week was excellent.  I thought that I made the wrong decision today because I started on my good smallmouth spot.  I figured that if I stayed all day, I would catch them.  They just weren’t there good and I caught a 3 pounder, lost a 3 pounder, and caught a bunch of little ones.   At 9:00, I decided to come back up closer to the launch ramp and I caught a pretty good largemouth at around noon. 

"I decided to run back down to my smallmouth water and stay there the rest of the day.  I pulled up and caught a 3 pounder and some others and then they quit.  With 45 minutes left to go, I ran down the river to an island where I’d caught some fish.  The muddy water coming out of the river had muddied it up, but there was a little spot that I’d fished in practice and the mud hadn’t gotten to it yet. 

"I caught 4 pounders on my first two throws, and then I just kept catching them until I had to come in.  I was slinging them in the boat and culling them as fast as I could. The current was pulling me down the river so each time I had to pull back up to the spot to make another cast.  I got pretty excited.” 

2nd Place:  Aaron Martens (14-4, 17-3, 16-5, 13-15: 61-11)
What was the biggest key to success this week?
“When the weather got nasty, the fish bit really well. The wind and the rain didn’t bother me a bit and actually helped. It also kept the bugs away, so that was a bonus.  I was definitely concerned going into today about being able to catch a 15 or 16 pound bag. 

“I broke one fish off today, but I think that it may have been a drum.  Other than that, I didn’t lose another fish that may have helped me.  I missed a few bites, but I never had a fish jump off all week.  Out of the 100 fish that I hooked this week that were worth anything, I probably caught over 90 of them.  That’s pretty good in my opinion.”

What was your primary pattern throughout the week?
“I primarily fished from the bridge (near the ramp) up in the (Black) River.  I hit a lot of spots over the tournament and keyed on points, hard shell bottom areas, rock piles, and stuff like that.  I fished anywhere from five feet to close to 20 feet deep.  I also flipped the bank a lot.

“The fish were also on rip-rap really well, and I swam an Arkie style Davis jig along the riprap and caught quite a few.  I also caught fish off docks and dock pilings this week.   The fish on the points were holding on the flat parts of the points, but if there was a nice little drop off, the fish were really grouped up.” 

What were your primary baits and tactics?   
“I wacky-rigged a 4” Roboworm FAT Worm in Aaron’s Magic color that I fished on a dropshot with a #1 Gamakatsu Drop/Split shot hook.  I fished the dropshot on 7-pound-test Sunline Sniper and used a new (Megabass) Orochi dropshot series rod, which is really cool. 

“I also Texas-rigged a 6” Roboworm FAT Worm in Aaron’s Magic color.  I fished the Texas-rig on 8-pound-test Sunline Sniper with a 4/0 Gamakatsu O’Shaughnessy hook.  I caught quite a few fish this week on a Davis Bait Company ¾-ounce football head jig with a green pumpkin twin-tail and a Davis Baits Arkie style jig with a Paca Chunk.” 

3rd Place: John Crews (15-7, 13-1, 14-6, 16-6: 59-4)
What was the biggest key to success this week?
“The biggest key for me was definitely finding an area that was holding bigger fish.  Any fish over 3 pounds really separated you from the pack this week, and I was able to find an area that produced six or seven fish over 3 pounds and a few over 4 pounds."  

What was your primary pattern throughout the week?
“I was fishing one primary area that had a lot of duckweed and some sort of blade grass that looked like hay growing out of the water.  Those two types of cover together was really good.  Sometimes, the fish would be on little points, sometimes they’d be way back in it, and sometimes they’d be on straight banks.  You just had to cover water and find out where they were.  Each day, the fish repositioned.

“I had one little big fish area within the area where I caught a good one each of the four days.  The thing is that I never caught a big one in the same place in the area.  You would think that there would be a sweet spot, but I just couldn’t find one. I just had to catch one when it was looking towards the bank or waiting to ambush bait.”  

What were your primary baits and tactics?   
“I caught pretty much everything that I weighed-in on a SPRO frog and a Missile Baits D Bomb in Super Bug color Texas-rigged with a 5/16-ounce weight and a 5/0 Gamakatsu Heavy Cover worm hook.   I fished the D Bomb on 20-pound-test Vicious Fluorocarbon and a Pinnacle flipping stick and Pinnacle Optimus LTE reel.  I primarily used a black SPRO frog all week simply because it was overcast most of the week.  I also used the Killer Gill color some this week, and I fished the frog on 65-pound-test Vicious braid.” 

4th Place: Fred Roumbanis (14-4, 13-6, 13-15, 14-15: 56-8)
What was the biggest key to success this week?
“The biggest key was probably finding and fishing clean water.  Finding the clean water and the grass was the biggest deal.  My areas started out really massive, but they got smaller and smaller as the tournament went on. Today, the water color and the conditions put the fish one spot where I caught fish every single cast. 

What was your primary pattern throughout the week?
“I was keying in on good grass, and duckweed was my number one thing. The thing is that it kept disappearing as the tournament went on.  With all the strong wind that we had, the duckweed was sticking to the heavy mats and the fish had a hard time blowing through it and getting the bait. 

“My best spots were areas that had two heavy mats with an empty space between the two mats that was covered in duckweed.  The fish would sit in those alleys and ambush the bait.  Going into the tournament, it wasn’t the best frog bite in the world.  I was just able to get keyed in on the right cover to fish.

“I ran a lot of shallow spots, but the bigger fish all came out of four to five feet of water.” 

What were your primary baits and tactics?   
“I had a different frog tied on for every situation. Today, I started out with an Optimum Furbit Frog in black.  I only had two left, and a pike stole one and the other one got tore up to pieces.  I also caught some fish this week on a Picasso Shad Walker.

“One of my best baits this week was probably one of Bobby’s Perfect Frogs from Snag Proof.  It’s really a buzz frog, but I took the buzzbait part off of the bait and fished the frog body with the kicker legs.  I could really zip that bait through the duckweed and get a reaction bite.  I also caught fish on a regular Snag Proof Bobby’s Perfect Frog and also a SPRO frog.  Today, the SPRO frog was really good in that shallow, skinny water because the fish didn’t want the bait walking very much.”  

5th Place: Brandon Card (14-9, 13-9, 14-6, 13-10: 56-2)
What was the biggest key to success this week?
“Basically, it all came down to finding the right area.  There were other areas that looked similar, but they just didn’t have quite the number of fish that my area had.  I had huge flats on either side of the rock wall that I was fishing, and I think that the fish just kept coming to the rock because it was the only thing out there.” 

What was your primary pattern throughout the week?
“On the first three days, I targeted where the rock and the grass met.  There was a little seam there that was anywhere between two and 10 feet wide.  I targeted the edges, because that’s where the bass seemed to be positioned.  Sometimes the fish would be on the rocks and other times they would be hanging out under the canopy created by the grass. 

“Today, that area turned to chocolate milk and I only caught a few frog fish.  Most of my fish today came on a swimjig off of a point that was adjacent to my primary area.  There was a little bit of clear water there for some reason, and I just stayed there and wacked them all day.  I probably caught 30 fish off that single point.” 

What were your primary baits and tactics?
“I caught the majority of my fish on a hollow-bodied frog. I started out with solid white in the morning and switched to a more natural color once the sun came out.  I also threw a 3/8-ounce swimjig with a 3” swimbait trailer.  I also weighed-in one or two fish that I caught flipping.” 

6th Place: Todd Faircloth (14-5, 13-15, 12-14, 14-13: 55-15)
What was the biggest key to success this week?
"Having an understanding of grass and how to fish it was the key for me.  Just knowing what to look for within the grass, and being able to figure out what the fish were relating to was really important this week."

What was your primary pattern throughout the week?
"I was fishing the same general area as I did last year, but not fishing the same spots.  That wind on the second day really hurt me because it blew out the spot where I thought may have had the potential to win the tournament.  Throughout the week I just targeted the different types of grass in whichever area I was fishing.  In some areas, I would swim a jig, and I’d flip in other areas. - it just depended on what was in front of me. I was concentrating on places where the cleaner water met the dirtier water."

What were your primary baits and tactics?
1/4oz Strike King Tour Grade Swim Jig, Strike King Twin Tail Menace Grub, Strike King KVD Rodent
7th Place: Bobby Lane (14-5, 11-9, 15-4, 14-11: 55-13)
What was the biggest key to success this week?
"Sticking with my game plan was really key for me here.  I had a really bad practice, probably one of my worst of the year.  I think everything is way behind this year, so it was crucial for me to be patient and wait on the fish to move up later in the day."

What was your primary pattern throughout the week?
"I was flipping all week long.  Normally I would have chased the frog bite, but I chose to flip instead of froggin.  I was targeting bushes, but specifically willow trees.  If you could find a willow tree on a point you could basically call your shot.  It was a great week for me and I had a blast just catching all these fish up here."

What were your primary baits and tactics?
Berkley Havoc Pit Boss, Berkley Havoc Craw Fatty, unnamed punch skirt, 3/8oz and 1/2oz tungsten weight.

8th Place: Cliff Pirch (14-11, 11-12, 14-11, 14-9: 55-11)
What was the biggest key to success this week?
"The key was figuring out just how much this place had to offer.  Once I figured that out, I just went and fished my strengths and did what I liked to do.  Being able to change based on what the fish were telling me was also huge."

What was your primary pattern throughout the week?
"I did several different things here this week from skipping docks, to fishing a jig, to frogging. I knew that if I was going to do well here it was going to be on a jig and a drop shot.  Catching them on the frog is fun, but I just had more confidence in fishing my strengths."

What were your primary baits and tactics?
6" straight tail Roboworm, Clifford Pirch Outdoors flipping jig (3/8oz, 1/2oz), Clifford Pirch Outdoors craw trailer

9th Place: Takahiro Omori (14-3, 12-9, 14-12, 13-15: 55-7)
What was the biggest key to success this week?
"Finding one special spot in practice was the biggest key to my success here this week.  It was a big rock jetty that I think the fish move out on after they spawn, and it just held a lot of fish.  Also it didn't get muddy until today, so I was really happy with my week."
What was your primary pattern throughout the week?
"I was just shallow cranking along a rock jetty in the main river.  The jetty had a lot of current flowing around, and those fish would just feed around it.  Today it got too muddy around my main stuff and I never got a bite, so I just had to go fishing."

What were your primary baits and tactics?
Lucky Craft 2.5 crankbait, unnamed hollow- bodied frog.

10th Place: Randy Howell (13-14 , 13-8, 13-8, 12-7: 53-5)
What was the biggest key to success this week?
"One of the keys was being able to find cleaner water.  With all the rain we had during the week a lot of areas were getting muddy pretty quick.  I was having to move around every day to find new areas that were still clean."

What was your primary pattern throughout the week?
"I was targeting clean water areas with grass.  Some of my fish were around the thick matted stuff, and others were around the scattered stuff. Most of my areas were really small, but they were just loaded up with fish.  It's amazing how many fish live in these little small places in this river.  But again the big deal was finding the clean water, if it was muddy you couldn't catch them. "

What were your primary baits and tactics?
Gary Yamamoto Senko, PayCheck Baits The Transporter, Hawg Caller spinnerbait, Livingston Lures crankbait.

11th Place: Edwin Evers (13 -5, 12 -6 , 15-3, 10-10: 51-8 )
What was the biggest key to success this week?
"Fishing new water every day was key for me.  I had one area that I would fish a little while for the first three days, but after that I would just go fish all new stuff.  Also deciding not to lock up ended up being the right decision.  I had some fish that I found up there, but they probably would have gotten blown out with all of the rain we ended up getting."

What was your primary pattern throughout the week?
"Basically I was just targeting the grass and covering as much water as possible.  I really just spent my entire tournament in one big area but it is so big I was able to hit new stuff every day.  It wasn't anything special I was doing here this week, I was just fishing hard and was fortunate to do as well as I did and get some key bites."

What were your primary baits and tactics?
Zoom Z Hog Jr., unnamed swim jig, War Eagle buzzbait.

12th Place: Cliff Crochet (13-12, 13-0, 14-2, 10-6: 51-4 )
What was the biggest key to success this week?
"The biggest key to my week was finding the steeper banks.  All of the banks look the same, but once you got close to them you could find the ones that had a little more depth.  I was fortunate enough to find a few areas that set up like that in practice so I didn't have to rely on one area for the whole tournament."

What was your pattern throughout the week?
"I was concentrating on banks that had a foot and a half to two feet of water on them.  The banks had to have flow on them, but not real hard current.  I concentrated on a few key areas, so I was able to rotate through them and let them rest during the tournament.  I was concentrating on any little thing that was along the banks that would provide a place for those fish to set up."

What were your primary baits and tactics?
Unnamed black hollow-bodied frog, Humdinger Lures swimjig (1/4oz), Hunny Bunny Baits craw worm, Falcon Cara rods, Sufix 832 Advanced Braided Superline.


Place Name Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4 Total Fish Total Weight
1 Tommy Biffle 5 14- 0 5 16- 0 5 17- 5 5 16-13 20 64- 2
2 Aaron Martens 5 14- 4 5 17- 3 5 16- 5 5 13-15 20 61-11
3 John Crews 5 15- 7 5 13- 1 5 14- 6 5 16- 6 20 59- 4
4 Fred Roumbanis 5 14- 4 5 13- 6 5 13-15 5 14-15 20 56- 8
5 Brandon Card 5 14- 9 5 13- 9 5 14- 6 5 13-10 20 56- 2
6 Todd Faircloth 5 14- 5 5 13-15 5 12-14 5 14-13 20 55-15
7 Bobby Lane 5 14- 5 5 11- 9 5 15- 4 5 14-11 20 55-13
8 Cliff Pirch 5 14-11 5 11-12 5 14-11 5 14- 9 20 55-11
9 Takahiro Omori 5 14- 3 5 12- 9 5 14-12 5 13-15 20 55- 7
10 Randy Howell 5 13-14 5 13- 8 5 13- 8 5 12- 7 20 53- 5
11 Edwin Evers 5 13- 5 5 12- 6 5 15- 3 5 10-10 20 51- 8
12 Cliff Crochet 5 13-12 5 13- 0 5 14- 2 5 10- 6 20 51- 4