A couple of weeks ago on the spur of the moment, I had the opportunity to journey to LaCrosse, Wis., which is on the banks of the upper Mississippi River. My eldest son needed a driver to share the time behind the wheel on the sixth stop of the Bassmaster Elite Series professional bass circuit. Growing up on the river, I have many fond memories of fishing trips in my youth, so I jumped at the chance and quickly packed a bag.
Traveling halfway across our country to the northern tier of states with one of your sons and visions of catching walleyes, is hard to beat. After a night of driving, sipping my third 20-ounce coffee, the dawn gave way to a much greener and flat landscape of western Kansas. The hot and humid conditions during the day produced billowing thunderheads for the rest of the trip through the Midwest. We had our eyes to the sky waiting for one of those all too familiar funnel clouds to be formed.
Finally, in central Minnesota, a swirling cloud showed its power by creating a tornado, which caught every driver’s attention on the I-90. That particular thunderhead actually produced a second tornado that we viewed from a safe distance as we continued the trip to LaCrosse. Cross-country driving has its advantages — I haven’t seen a twister since my youth while living in Iowa.
Another point of interest was the numerous deer crossing warning signs that appeared every couple of miles on the road. There certainly must be a lot of whitetail deer in the heartland states because I quit counting carcasses along the road when I reached 50. These states must have very healthy deer herds with generous season limits despite the car-animal collisions that seem to be frequent. As the sun was setting, we arrived at our destination 25-1/2 hours later needing a good night’s rest.
The next morning, I met Dick Wateski, a lifelong resident of the area, who owned a bass boat and welcomed an Arizonan who wanted to catch fish. He also happened to be a commercial fisherman that netted carp to be sold in the big cities of the East. I quickly asked if he knew any of the personalities on the weekly reality show called “Bottom Feeders” on the Outdoor Channel. He laughed and said, “I am one of the characters.” Of course, I then asked another bevy of questions about the rest of the cast and if there were really that many arguments. He said yes to all of the above.
Dick really knew the river, with all its spots that would hold fish and what baits to use. It wasn’t long before he tied on a white jig with a minnow trailer and the action was on. Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, walleyes, drum, and even catfish created the flurry of action for four hours. I never knew what to expect on the line, but all of these species provided a great fight on medium bait casting action rods. He invited me to spend the next three days of fishing the river and its backwaters until 2 p.m. each afternoon — that is when his wife got off of work and got in the boat to go fishing. Audrey enjoyed fishing to wind down after a day dealing with computers and people!
The folks of LaCrosse certainly enjoy all the water sports with the water’s edge being the hub of activities every day. The main city park, which is on the water, was the venue for the four days of the Bassmaster Elite Tournament. I could tell there was going to be a crowd with the excitement in the air as people started congregating an hour prior to weigh-ins. The crowd grew daily and by the fourth day more than 5,000 people filled the park waiting for the drama of the final day of competition.
The leaders of the small city of LaCrosse, Wis. understand the economic impact and value of a major body of water like the Mississippi. All facets of the fishing industry and water sports bring thousands of visitors weekly during the summer months to this bustling community on the water’s edge. The motels are filled, restaurants have a waiting line and small businesses thrive during their summer months. I purchased an annual out-of-state fishing license with the aspirations of returning to a fantastic fishery.
Take a family member or friend fishing in the Arizona high country, God’s creation.