Bassmaster Northern Tour
thru 19th, 2006
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
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
. 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
ramp. I had caught some
huge smallies from this area, and knew it had the potential to produce
some big bags.
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.
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
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
. 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.
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
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