Bryan Schmitt knew instantly that he was going to like the Mississippi River.
The Mississippi reminded the professional angler of the waters in his hometown of Deale, Md., so he was accustomed to rising currents and muddy waters the river produced this weekend.
That familiarity helped make Schmitt $125,000 richer on Sunday. Schmitt was able to hold off upstart newcomer Josh Weaver and FLW Tour legend Andy Morgan to win the four-day FLW event on the Mississippi River thanks to a final-day catch of five bass weighing a combined 14 pounds and 10 ounces, pushing his four-day total to 61-6.
“I fell in love with it (the Mississippi) the first morning I was here,” Schmitt said. “This fishery hits my strengths. I just clicked with it and ran with it. It was just one of those weeks where everything came together.”
Schmitt entered the day just 12 ounces ahead of Morgan, but Morgan struggled Sunday — he pulled in five fish weighing a combined 12-10.
Schmitt was able to find his spot in pool 8 to have the second biggest bag of Sunday’s 10-angler competition. The final 10 came from a group of 160 that had been culled throughout the weekend. Schmitt fished primarily the same spot throughout the tournament despite the tricky weather conditions.
“I tried to look at everything in pool 8 and that spot, they showed themselves to me and it was pretty quick. It was just a magic place that I was lucky to find,” Schmitt said.
Schmitt’s haul came despite overcast and damp conditions, as the high temperature Sunday was in the low 50s.
“This place is a phenomenal fishery but we had the worst conditions you could have. The water just coming up. A lot of rain, a lot of things got muddy. You had to adjust with it,” Schmitt said. “Luckily I had an area where I could just learn that area and how they (the fish) would move with the water change.”
Local anglers Austin Felix (Eden Prairie, Minn.) and Matthew Stefan (Junction City, Wis.) fell back after being tied for fourth and sixth, respectively, entering the day.
Despite not landing the size of fish he wanted, Stefan was thrilled to be able to fish in Wisconsin again.
“After seven years on tour, I am really just happy that we had a tournament in Wisconsin,” said Stefan, who bagged 11-7 Sunday to finish with a total of 55-10. “I feel like I have to go to everyone else’s home lake. I have some experience on (the Mississippi) and it was just great being here. I live two hours away and have lots of friends and family who drove up. It was just nice not having to sleep in a hotel, but instead a family member’s house.”
Weaver, a second-year FLW pro, was able to make the biggest jump up the leaderboard, going from a tie with Felix for fourth to leap-frogging Morgan for second place with a five-bass catch of 14-8. He finished the weekend at 58-11, about 3 pounds behind Schmitt, who won his first FLW tour title.
“It was a good week,” Schmitt said. “I really like this fishery, I hope we come back. There is good people out here, good food, and everybody is real nice and it was a good week.”