UPCOMING EVENT: Walmart Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Okeechobee

Belinda wins in the wind

Tom Belinda reacts to the confirmation of his victory.

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. - Tom Belinda started the day with only a procedural lead and ended just two ounces ahead of his closest competitor. Nevertheless, when the smoke cleared, the goateed angler from Hollidaysburg, Penn., reveled in a hard-fought victory at the American Fishing Series Northern Division event on Lake Champlain. Belinda, who tallied a winning total of 55 pounds, 8 ounces, placed 27th on day one with 17 pounds, 8 ounces. But he made a big showing on day two with 20-11 and took over the top spot with 38-3. Bill Spence, who finished second to Belinda with 55-6, also had 38-3 at the end of day two. Tournament rules break ties by the heaviest single-day weight thus Belinda's day-two weight gave him the edge. All three days saw Belinda making the long run to the lake's southern end, where he fished in and aroundTop pro Tom Belinda put his faith in a jig patterned to resemble local forage. the fertile grass of Ticonderoga. Champlain's unique abundance of quality largemouth and smallmouth bass creates seasonal opportunities for winning sacks throughout the lake. And while largemouth are also caught well into the northern end, the area known as "Ti" is hard to beat when the summer explosion of hydrilla, milfoil and coontail congregates largemouth with natural forage such as yellow perch, bluegill and crayfish. Day one offered easy travel, as only light breezes swept across a sun-drenched lake. Day two looked like a different venue, with dense cloud cover, occasional thunderstorms and a stiff southwest wind churning the lake. Many of the competitors that fished Ti on day one opted to forego the rough run for a second day. Sunny skies returned on day three, but the wind intensified, occasionally puffing as hard as 20 mph. With the fierce wind coming out of the southwest, Belinda was able to hug the coast and utilize the land's natural wind break to stay in manageable water most of the time. Allowing for lengthy travel certainly played a significant role in his game plan, but Belinda said he woke up this morning with zero hesitation about his mission. "It takes a lot driving all that way," Belinda said. "But I just said to myself today `There's no way I'm going to win this thing unless I go down there. Even if it takes me 3 1/2 hours (to get there), I'll fish for two hours, but I've gotta go.'" Belinda fished an area that he found about 15 years ago. An underwater point covered with vegetation created a natural gathering spot rich in quality and quantity. "I checked the spot about a week ago and the fish were there. I should have weighed in 20 to 22 pounds on day one, but I lost a 5-pounder at the boat." A Strike King Rage Craw trailer dressed up the jig that Tom Belinda used to win on Lake Champlain. All of Belinda's weigh fish came by slow rolling a 5/16-ounce Dirty Jigs swim jig in 6 to 7 feet of water. He fitted his jig with a green pumpkin Strike King Rage Craw trailer, but the key feature was a hint of blue in the green pumpkin skirt. This accent mimicked a natural forage source. "Every time I'd throw into the weeds I'd see a million sunnies," Belinda said. "Those sunnies would follow my jig back to the boat and I noticed that every one of those sunnies had a blue tail. So I figured, if they're following the jig, the bass are probably following it too, so I went to (the skirt with blue accents)." Belinda said he was pleasantly surprised with the day's outcome. "My scale always weighs a little light so I thought I had about 15 to 16 pounds. I didn't think I had 17-5. When (Tournament Director Ron Lappin) took his hand off the scale, me and (Spence) were both looking and I said `Holy mackerel - by two ounces!'" For his efforts, Belinda won $23,526 and a 198VX Ranger boat with a 200-horsepower Evinrude or Yamaha outboard motor. Spence finishes a close second Staying near his Vermont home waters, second place pro Bill Spence finished just two ounces behind the winner.Early in the tournament, Spence developed a productive pattern near his home waters of St. Albans, Vt. There, he targeted a mix of hydrilla and milfoil in 4 feet of water and targeted largemouth with a green pumpkin ChatterBait trailed by a Berkley Chigger Craw. His day-three bag of 17-3, combined with 19-10 and 18-9 from the first two days gave him 55-6. "I could have had one rod on my deck all week and it would have had that ChatterBait on it," Spence said. "I threw that bait a lot and all of my co-anglers were rolling their eyes but all the fish I weighed came off of that bait." Similar to Belinda's strategy, Spence also found that a particular accent color proved essential to his bait's success. "The key, I think, was an orange belly. The largemouth are eating perch and bluegill. Both of them have orange bellies, so that's what I used." Eichmann's sweet spot delivers third Pat Eichmann of Nancy, Ky., entered the final round in fifth with 37-5, but catching the day's biggest sackDragging a Carolina rig produced the third place weight for Pat Eichmann. pulled him up two notches to third. Eichmann's day-three weight of 17-13, combined with 19-12 and 17-9 from the first two days gave him a 55-2 total. Eichman caught a sack full of plump smallmouth, all of which came on a Carolina rig with a Speed Craw. He also caught a few largemouths on a jig, but his weight came from brown fish. Eichmann spent his entire tournament in one area. "I fished one little spot and the fish just kept reloading and kept reloading," he said. "There's no telling how many fish are on the spot I fished. I took 19 pounds the first day, 17 pounds the second day and another 17 today - plus, my co-anglers took (limits). We released 50 keepers on that spot." Wolak winds up fourth North Carolina pro David Wolak said the key to success on Champlain is knowing how to choose which bass species to target.After day one, North Carolina pro Dave Wolak sat in the bottom split of a three-way tie for third with 19-15. He added 17-7 on day two and moved into fourth. Adding 15-12 in the final round kept him fourth with 53-2. Wolak fished the Ticonderoga largemouths on day one, switched his focus to north end green fish on day two and returned to the upper end on day three. He employed a variety of reaction baits, but ended up doing best with jigs. Wolak had the big fish of day one and that 6-pound, 1-ounce largemouth confirmed his decision to go all green. "A big part of your plan when you come to Champlain is determining which species you're going to target," he said. "The other thing is learning how to navigate in the wind." Early leader Pugh ends in fifth Cullman, Ala., pro Greg Pugh grabbed the early lead on day one with the event's heaviest bag - a 21-2 limitDay one leader Greg Pugh fished Ticonderoga all three days and finished fifth. He added 16-10 on day two for third place and wound up fifth after his final round weight of 14-2 yielded a total of 51-14. Comparing the Ticonderoga fishery to his home state's heralded reservoir, Lake Guntersville, Pugh focused solely on largemouth and fished jigs and Texas-rigged plastics. Best of the rest Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the American Fishing Series Lake Champlain event: 6th: Matt Greenblatt of Tequesta, Fla., 50-13 7th: Jason Knapp of Uniontown, Penn., 50-7 8th: Dana Perrotte of Colchester, Vt., 50-2 9th: John Voyles of Petersburg, In., 49-10 10th: Joe Lucarelli of Center Harbor, N.H., 46-4

Tags: headline-story 


Devere Takes BFL Wild Card Win

The decision of what to fish come tournament time can be difficult for most. For others – like Mike Devere – relying on a single bait that you have confidence in is all you need. Devere’s one bait, one rod method was strong enough to carry him to victory by nearly 2 pounds in the BFL Wild Card held on Lake Hartwell. READ MORE »


Hanselmania 4.0

Saturday, in Paducah, Ky., on the shores of the Ohio River, Ray Hanselman rewrote history for the second time this season. After winning all three 2015 Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division events, which had never been done before, Hanselman came to Kentucky and won the Rayovac FLW Series Championship. READ MORE »


Rayovac Championship Day 3 Coverage

The final day of the Rayovac FLW Series Championship on the Ohio River will largely be fished on the Tennessee River, as all but two anglers rolled up it to chase smallmouths. READ MORE »


Hanselman on the Verge of Four-Peat

Day two of the Rayovac FLW Series Championship on the Ohio River was fished primarily on the nearby Tennessee River and resulted in a major shuffling of the leaderboard. In the end, Ray Hanselman rose from second to first and will lead the top 10 into the final day with 30 pounds, 14 ounces. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from the Ohio River Day 2

After two days of competition, Ray Hanselman leads the Rayovac FLW Series Championship on the Ohio River, but as the leaderboard has reflected, the river’s hefty smallmouths are certainly capable of producing some fireworks and providing some surprises. READ MORE »


Rayovac Championship Day 2 Coverage

Down at Paducah, the start of day two of the Rayovac FLW Series Championship was just about perfect – a light wind, temps in the low 40s and no fog. That’s not the case elsewhere. READ MORE »


Barnes Blasts 21 on the Ohio

On day one of the Rayovac FLW Series Championship on the Ohio River David Barnes Sr. of China, Maine, hauled exactly 21 pounds of smallmouth across the stage to take the lead on a day that was tough for many. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from the Ohio River Day 1

Shortly after David Barnes electrified the Rayovac FLW Series Championship weigh-in with his leading weight of 21 pounds of smallmouths, Ray Hanselman followed suit with an all-smallmouth limit weighing 19 pounds. READ MORE »


Rayovac Championship Day 1 Coverage

Updates from day one of the Rayovac FLW Series Championship on the Ohio River. READ MORE »


McCaig Wins Neely Henry Regional

There are times that a little local knowledge helps you in a bass tournament, and then there are times it does not. And sometimes, it pays to ignore past experiences altogether, as Mark McCaig figured out en route to winning the Oct. 22-24, 2015 Walmart Bass Fishing League Regional presented by Ranger Boats on Lake Neely Henry out of Gadsden, Ala. By disregarding what his local experience might have suggested he do and approaching the tournament a little differently, the Oxford, Ala., boater posted a three-day total weight of 45 pounds, 7 ounces to take home the $20,000 winner’s purse as well as a 2015 Ranger Z518C with 200-hp outboard. READ MORE »


Goodwin Wins at Lake of the Ozarks

Day-two leader Shonn Goodwin of Moore, Okla., held on to win the Walmart Bass Fishing League Regional presented by Mercury at Lake of the Ozarks Oct. 22-24 by bringing four bass to the scale on the third and final day. Those fish weighed 8 pounds, 11 ounces. His three-day total of 14 bass weighed 43-13. For the win, Goodwin earned $20,000 and a new Ranger bass boat. READ MORE »


Walters Wins Wateree BFL Regional

Todd Walters relied on a combo pattern to win the Walmart Bass Fishing League Regional on Lake Wateree. The North Carolina boater fished rocky cover upstream and brush piles in the lake's clear lower end. The two-part program produced a three-day winning weight of 47 pounds, 4 ounces, which was 11 pounds better than second place. READ MORE »


Uribe By An Ounce

After Jody Jordan brought 24 pounds, 5 ounces to push his total past 66 pounds on the final day the crowd waited with bated breath for day two leader Joe Uribe Jr. to bring his fish to the scale. As Uribe transferred his third bass from the bag to the scale, he shook his head and whispered back “you’ve got it,” to the watching Jordan. READ MORE »


Anderson Wins KY Lake Regional

You might say there weren’t any surprises at the 2015 Walmart Bass Fishing League Regional presented by Lowrance on Kentucky Lake Oct. 15-17. The techniques of the top 12 pros who fished the final day were typical of the Tennessee River in fall: surface fishing with frogs and Zara Spooks and winding Rat-L-Traps and ChatterBaits. The winners weren’t surprising either: Ryan Sykes of Hamilton, Ohio, won the co-angler division for the second consecutive year, and Tennessee pro Brent Anderson earned his sixth win on the Kentucky/Barkley system since 2009. READ MORE »


Grover Takes Co-angler Title on Clear Lake

Rick Grover of Trabuco Canyon, Calif., pulled in 55 pounds, 5 ounces of bass for the Rayovac FLW Series co-angler win on Clear Lake. All told, it was worth a new Ranger Z117 with a 90-horsepower outboard and $5,000. READ MORE »


Clear Lake Midday Update Day 3



Uribe Takes Lead and AOY at Clear Lake

Joe Uribe Jr. jumped into the lead going into the final day of the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Evinrude on Clear Lake. Uribe caught 20 pounds, 13 ounces on day two for a total of 44 pounds, 8 ounces and was the only pro to weigh more than 20 pounds both days. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from Clear Lake Day 2

When the scales had closed after the second day of the Rayovac FLW Series Western Division tournament presented by Evinrude on Clear Lake, no doubt more than a few anglers breathed a sigh of relief that they were still in contention. READ MORE »


Clear Lake Midday Update Day 2

Day two of the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Evinrude on Clear Lake has been a little slower than day one. READ MORE »


Crutcher Cracks 29-9

Midway through a weigh-in that was noticeably lacking in super-sized bags, Mark Crutcher of Lakeport, Calif., lit up the leaderboard with 29 pounds, 9 ounces of Clear Lake goodness. READ MORE »