Report from the Mississippi


Michele Fanfani

Mercury Stop 6 Mississippi River

Tackle Warehouse Invitationals

La Crosse, WI

Jul 25 – 27, 2023


Jacopo had a good feeling when he arrived for the last stop of the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals 2023. It was because he had finished well in previous seasons and also because the great Mississippi River gave him confidence. The pieces signalling a good event were in place.

Even before the official start of practice, Jacopo made a choice: he would only fish in Pool 8, which is the middle section of the tournament field between pool 7 (which is more highland) and pool 9 (which is more valley). He did so to avoid the difficulty he might face when waiting to pass through the locks, where precedent is afforded to the big commercial barges that navigate the Mississippi River.

In retrospect, it was the wrong choice: the tournament was won in pool 7.


On the first day of practice, Jacopo devoted time to figuring out water conditions and the best techniques for it. For example, despite the seasonal moment that favored fishing the river’s  immense grass beds, Jacopo discarded frog fishing because the river was low and the grass too thick, making it difficult to catch quality fish.

While researching other patterns, Jacopo came across an underwater rockpile that ran like a point at an angle to the river. A healthy school of Smallmouth Bass was on the point, and he left it alone for the tournament.

As the day progressed, he found and tried fishing a variety of areas, landing a limit of around 11 pounds. It wasn’t bad for having fished around a bit. At the same time, Jacopo figured it would take 13 or more pounds to do well on tournament day, and around 16 pounds to win.

Jacopo repeated his previous approach on the second day of practice, as he circled and searched. He found situations that offered promise but also few quality bites. The day ended once more with a limit of 11 pounds.

On the third and final day of practice, Jacopo has to conclude his research and decide on a tournament strategy. He had located the Smallies on that point and also found a “speedway” – a channel of moving water that holds some good fish (but the area is also difficult to reach). There were also two others areas of interest – a grass bed near the launch and a shoreline with docks.

At the end of the first period of the third day of practice, Jacopo already had a limit of 12 pounds. It was good but not great. He decided to forge ahead and look for bigger fish. He ultimately finds them, and a few very good ones, even up to 4 pounds and several others over 3 pounds in weight. His limit is roughly 17 pounds – it would be an excellent way to start the touranment!


An early launch number would have been favorable, but instead Jacopo’s boat is consigned to the 110th departure spot. What to do?

He decides to start at the rocky point, but there are two badly positioned boats on it when he arrives. Jacopo finds a place between them and drops anchor in order to remain positioned correctly.

He starts landing fish immeditaely, using a small, soft plastic swimbait. While the others nearby don’t catch anything, Jacopo lands a limit of around 10 pounds, and also a large number of bites (around 20, even if many were small). The bite slows down, as one would magine, and the larger baitfish also stop moving. Jacopo decides to move to the “speedway.”

After one and one-half  hours in the new area, Jacopo only manages to land one fish that only slightly improves his limit weight. It is on to fish the docks near the launch site….

Fishing “Gallelli style” – that is, making precise casts to impossible holes – Jacopo manages to bring his limit to around 12 pounds. But the bite slows down at the docks, too. He returns to the point, but does not land any good fish.

Day one ends with Jacopo bringing a limit of twelve and one-half pound sto the scales, good for 49th place. Day two will decide if he remains in the top 50 who advance to fish on day three.

What, then, will the strategy be to improve his limit size?

Jacopo decides to fish the best spots from day one early in the day, in order to save the wild card spots for the end.

He starts fishing on the rocky point, but without luck. The school of Smallies has left. He moves deeper to find a similar bite.  Fishing with a small lipless crankbait on a spinning rod, he manages to quickly land a limit that weighs over 10 pounds.

When the Smallmouth assault begins to slacken, he ventures into a small branch of the river that he had marked in the past. With a small, soft plastic swimbait he improves his limit by about two and one-half pounds. Unfortunately, he loses his best fish of the day, a fish of about four pounds.

Having finished his trip along that branch, he returns to the rocky point hoping to find the active school of Smallies. And in fact, he does, and they are biting – but they have moved several dozen yards from their original location. Still casting the lipless crankbait, he lands several good fish to cull even more. When the bite slows down, he changes back to the soft plastic swimbait. It’s the right choice , as he improves his limit to more than 14 pounds.

At this point, Jacopo decide sto return for the weigh-in, giving himself some extra time, because he feels like his limit will qualify him to make the cut.

It was a good thing he left early, because he reached the weigh-in with only two minutes to spare. This was due to his motor acting up, and by going into protective mode it would not exceed  speeds above 30 mph.

After placing his motor in the care of mechanics, Jacopo nonetheless enjoys advancing to the tournament’s third day. He has a chance, if not to win (the dsitance bteween him and the leaders is too great) then to place in the top ten (for which he would need a limit of 16-17 pounds). At the least, he can try for a finish in the top 30. Motor problems aside, he feels good after having climbed from 49th place after day one to 28th place after day two.

On day three, Jacopo begins by returning to the spots that gave him the best fish. He doesn’t get any bites on the rocky point or its surroundings. He moves to the lateral branch he fished on day two, and here, where the current runs against a rocky wall, he finds a school of active Smallmouth Bass.

He catches a few keepers on the soft plastic swimbait, but then switches technique and changes over to a wacky rigged worm.

In a short while, Jacopo has a limit of around 9 pounds. Two of the fish are keepers, while the others are barely of legal size. He isn’t there yet…..

He returns to the rocky point and improves his limit weight by one pound after landing a decent fish. At this point, he has to try everything in order to bring some better fish to the boat, using all of his skill in making precision casts.

The docks on the shoreline that he fished on day one offer the perfect opportunity. With great exactitude, Jacopo casts his Neko rig into the gaps in the docks themselves, the wires of the anchor points and a thousand other obstacles that present themselves to this style of bass fishing.

It would have been great if a cameraman had been on board to film Jacopo making perfect casts to those impossible spots. I witnessed it with my own eyes years ago on Lake Garda.

In the end, Jacopo lands a limit of around twelve pounds. He ends in 26th place, a finish that earns him a check for $10,000.

Satisfaction, mixed with some regret, accompany Jacopo to the next tournament – on the Saint Lawrence River. We will be there with him in spirit.

Gallelli’s Gear

Neko rig

13 FISHING ENVY BLACK III spinning rod, 6’10”, and rated for 3/8oz. with Fast Action.

Spinning reel laoded with Sufix X8 braid (15 lb test), with a 14 lb Fluorocarbon Sufix Advance leader.

BKK Predator hook W.G. #1 tipped witha 5” Sligo Molix (green pumpkin).


Soft Swimmbait

13 FISHING ENVY baitcaster, 7’6” and rated 1- ¼ oz. Medium Heavy/ Extra-Fast action.

CONCEPT C2 casting reel. Gear ratio 7:5:1 , loaded with Fluorocarbon Sufix Advance (14 lb test).

BKK Titan 1.0 hook tipped with a 3” swimmbait.

Lipless Crankbait

Jacopo used a spinning rod for his lipless crankbaits, given the lure’s lighter weight. He used a Rapala Rip’n Rap in a natural color, tied to Sufix X8 braided line (15 lb. test) with a Fluorocarbon Sufix Advance leader (10 lb. test on his reel.

We extend with great pleasure Jacopo’s salutation to his friend Tom Monsoor, who at the venerable age of seventy-three years took third place on the podium after fishing a masterful tournament, and moving anglers far younger and more athletic than he from the top spots.

Bravo, Tom!

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Michele Fanfani
Michele, 60 years old, Florentine like Jacopo, followed him during all phases of his sporting career in Italy and accompanied him to America at the start of his professional career. He achived several successes fishing along with Jacopo but above all he conceived and created the Italian magazine “Bassfishing” and the publication “The Secrets of Bassfishing”. He currently follows Jacopo along his career and is the creator and administrator of the “Curva Gallelli” Fans Club.