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Bassmaster Northern Tour
Lake Champlain
Plattsburgh , New York
August 17th thru 19th, 2006

 

After a long drive north, I was greeted by much cooler temperatures and very clear water.  Champlain closely resembles something youíd see on a Canadian vacation, with the Adirondack Mountains in the background.  The water is very rocky and fertile, and in most places you can see over ten feet down.  Champlain gets to over 400 feet deep as it winds over 80 miles, flowing north into Hudson Bay .  As I quickly found out, the lake was big enough to get very rough with only moderate winds.  Both largemouth and smallmouth live in the lake, and every angler must choose which species to target.  Prior to this event, awesome bags of largemouth had been coming to the scales, but the flooded cover that was producing these fish had been hit hard over the past few weekends.  After catching both species, I decided to concentrate on smallmouth in an area called the Horseshoe Shoals just north of the Plattsburgh ramp.  I had caught some huge smallies from this area, and knew it had the potential to produce some big bags.

Day 1
The first morning of the tournament dawned without a breath of wind.  The lake was a piece of glass, which is almost unheard of on Champlain.  I had not seen these conditions in practice, but was assured by more experienced anglers that the smallies would still bite.  After an easy run, my partner and I set up on our first spot, a long, narrow hump with scattered grass and steep sides.  The fish I had found had eaten a Jewel Eakinís jig in Texas Craw real well, but I had trouble keeping them on.  My girlfriend had suggested cutting off the jigís weedguard, which increased my catch rate tremendously.  However, anyone who has ever caught a smallmouth will tell you that they spend more time in the air after being hooked than in the water.  I was able to put four good fish in the boat, all at three pounds apiece.  Since my target was 15 pounds a day, I felt good about how the day was going.  The fish seemed to be a little finicky because of the lack of wind, but would still cooperate if you were patient.  I finally got my fifth bite, which felt heavy.  Smallies are built with a tail about twice the size of a largemouth, making them much more powerful in the water.  This fact was apparent as my fifth fish stripped drag, digging for the bottom.  Suddenly, the fish did an about-face and came like a rocket to the surface, clearing the water by about three feet.  As she did so, my jig came loose and went whizzing past my head.  The fish had looked to be around four pounds.  Discouraged, I continued to work the jig around the edge of the grass clumps.  I was able to catch another small fish and fill my limit, but on Champlain, you really have to catch them to do well.  I weighed 13-10, but placed in the 40s.  A 15-pound bag would have put me in the top 20.  Weights were tight, and I knew I needed a good bag on day two to stay near the top in the points race.

Day 2
The weather for day 2 was 180 degrees different from the day before, with clouds and wind.  The waves were over five feet tall near the ramp, making for a bumpy ride.  However, I run a Triton TR21X with a 225 Mercury OptiMax, which kept me comfortable and dry all day.  Trying to stay on top of the humps in Horseshoe was a chore, with waves keeping me off-balance as I ran the trolling motor.  My partner joked that it looked like I was break dancing on the front of the boat.  I could only smile, because not one other boat on that shoal was able to stay in position like I was, and it made a difference.  The wave action had the smallmouth in a much better mood, and I had my 15-pound bag in about three hours of work.  I then hit some of the shoals where I had caught some huge smallies in practice.  Finally, the old familiar thump came, and a beautiful four pound bronzeback was soon in the boat.  I allowed us 40 minutes for the eleven mile run back to the rampÖit ended up taking us a half hour.  Guys were talking about how tough it had been to stay in position, and weights were a little lighter.  That made my 16-04 bag jump me in the standings all the way to 21st going into the final day.  I was back on track, with a two-day total at just about 15 pounds per day.

Day 3
The conditions on the final day were much like those of day 2, with clouds and scattered rain coming down to the south of us.  There was also the wind, which was actually stronger than the day before.  The ride north was slow going, and staying on top of the fish was nearly impossible.  With my 36-volt, 105lb thrust MotorGuide turned on high, I was just able to hover.  Still, I put one fish in the three pound range in the boat, and another little guy that couldnít have been over a pound.  After that, the wind got to where fishing the shoals was impossible, and I had to begin scrambling.  I ran into a small bay where I had caught some largemouth in the reeds, and began flipping the Gambler Ugly Otter that I had used in Iowa .  I fished all the way through the area without a bite.  Unconvinced about the lack of fish, I swung around and made a second pass, this time deeper into the cover.  The move paid off by way of a good keeper near three pounds.  After some more hunting, I was only able to fill my limit with two more small fish.  The wind seemed to have settled down a bit, so we headed back to my smallmouth area.  It was a good move, as I boated two more decent fish.  The bite was slow, however.  It seemed that I had finally run out of fish.  I wasnít able to cull my last little guy, and went to the scales with 11-04.  I was very disappointed, thinking that I would drop back into the 40s and ruin a great string of finishes from the past three months.  To my surprise, the weights were much lower, mostly due to the high winds, and I only dropped to 27th. 

My goal for the Tour this year was a top 30 finish at each event, and so far Iím in good shape.  I dropped one spot in the points race (back to 4th), but everyone gets to drop their worst tournament.  Since the 27th here at Champlain was my lowest, the drop hurt me, moving me to 9th overall after three events.  Iíll have to stay consistent over the next two tournaments on Lake Erie and Smith Mountain if I want a berth in the 2007 Elite Series.  I hope that there are good things to report in my next entry!  Until then, rest assured that Iíll be working hard to figure out those little green (and brown) fish Ė God bless, and set the hook hard.

Scott Campbell
scottyc32@hotmail.com
(660) 641-3973