Queen fished conservatively on Day 1, picking a few bass off each piece he sampled and leaving some stumps, rocks and bank areas for upgrades on Day 2. His bass ran a little larger the second day, but he was consistent from beginning to end in terms of getting fish to eat. “That’s often a key in very competitive tournaments,” he explains. “My Hobie PA14 with Mirage Drive and Kick-Up-Fins also gave me an edge because it has a real shallow draft. On this river, in particular, it helped get me into places some people couldn’t reach.”
At the end of Day 1, Queen was sitting in seventh place, while Milton held the eight spot. Like Queen, Milton focused on shallow bass, although he generally worked tight to shore throwing topwater lures in the hope of singling out larger bass in depths of two feet or less.
“Considering the experience of this field, I feel lucky to have finished second,” Milton reveals. “I was only able to squeeze in a few hours of practice, but I saw a couple of big bass in the shallows tight to the bank, so I went with that pattern the entire time. My hits were spaced pretty far apart, but the quality turned out to be quite good.”
Ball was fast out of the gate on Day 1, catching an early limit before a mud line moved in to cloud his hot spot and dull the bite. At 11:00 am on Day 2, he had only one fish on the board when he noticed the muddied water had pinched in toward shore. “I took that as a sign the river might be clearing up further downstream” he explains, “so I made a move. It didn’t take long to find a spot with better clarity and for the rest of the morning the bass hammered my shad-colored Z-man spinnerbait with willow leaf blades and a four-inch Z-Man Diesel trailer.”
Throughout the tournament, competitors used a wide variety of approaches and techniques to score with the Susquehanna’s famed bronzebacks. Chris Blair and Chris Schafer, who finished seven and eight, respectively, used Hobie’s I11S inflatable, lightweight combination SUP/kayak to maximize their time on the water. Fischer targeted big “loner” fish cruising the riverbanks by throwing a buzzbait and big Ribbit Frog around wood, stumps and grass to accomplish her rapid rise on Day 2. Orr took the opposite approach, blind-casting a Ned rig with a Z-Man shroom head and Z-Man green pumpkin 2.75-inch TRD. “I threw that rig with my St. Croix 6’10”, medium-light power, extra-fast action Mojo Bass spinning rod,” he reveals. “It’s super-sensitive, so I could feel the slightest bite, but it also has enough stiffness to pop my rig free whenever I feel it starting to snag.”
For his part, Iaconelli was impressed with both the quality of the field and how seamlessly the tournament was run. “Like everyone else, I came here to win,” the iconic bass angler states. “With such a high caliber of competition, anyone can rule the day if they get hot. This tournament was well thought out, perfectly executed, and a ton of fun. For me, it was a great experience and an awesome couple of days.”