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 

/news/2015-05-21-enfinger-leads-on-seminole

Enfinger Leads On Seminole

Enfinger said he got off to a “fast start” this morning, sacking a limit by 10 a.m., but he only upgraded twice after that, catching about eight keepers on the day. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-21-top-5-patterns-from-seminole-day-1

Top 5 Patterns From Seminole Day 1

Bradley Enfinger took the day-one lead at the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Evinrude on Lake Seminole fishing suspended bass in timber. Others in the top-5 fished both wood and grass on day one. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-21-lake-seminole-midday-update

Lake Seminole Midday Update

Lake Seminole is known to be more of a quality lake than a quantity lake and that trait showed on the morning of day one as anglers who were catching fish were not necessarily getting many bites, but 3-pound pluses seemed to be the norm for the ones hauled in over the gunnel. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-19-ledges-lift-wilson-to-top

Ledges Lift Wilson to Top

Tim Wilson of Gas City, Indiana, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 29 pounds, 10 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Choo Choo Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Guntersville. For his victory, Wilson earned $5,584. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-19-two-in-a-row-for-fox

Two in a Row for Fox

Dwight Fox of Gainesboro, Tennessee, weighed four bass totaling 16 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday to win the third Walmart Bass Fishing League Mountain Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Cumberland. For his victory, Fox earned $4,463. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-19-bluff-walls-carry-meredith

Bluff Walls Carry Meredith

GROVE, Okla. – Mitch Meredith of Hulbert, Oklahoma, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 18 pounds, 4 ounces Saturday to win the third Walmart Bass Fishing League Okie Division tournament of 2015 on Grand Lake. For his victory, Meredith earned $7,165. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-19-tidwell-slows-down-for-title

Tidwell Slows Down for Title

MCCORMICK, S.C. – Brian Tidwell of Seneca, South Carolina, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 17 pounds, 11 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League South Carolina Division tournament of 2015 on Clarks Hill Lake. For his victory, Tidwell earned $3,021. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-19-ginter-gets-the-win

Ginter Gets the Win

CELINA, Ohio – Gary Ginter of Maplewood, Ohio, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 13 pounds, 4 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Buckeye Division tournament of 2015 on Grand Lake. For his victory, Ginter earned $3,963. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-19-jig-does-the-trick-for-roselle

Jig Does the Trick for Roselle

MARBURY, Md. – Mike Roselle of La Plata, Maryland, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 16 pounds, 13 ounces Saturday to win the third Walmart Bass Fishing League Shenandoah Division tournament of 2015 on Potomac River. For his victory, Roselle earned $6,235. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-17-thrift-by-3

Thrift by 3

The “numbers game.” It’s a term that Bryan Thrift used to describe his fishing on Lake Eufaula back in 2013 when he finished runner-up to Randy Haynes in a Walmart FLW Tour event. The method to his numbers madness was to hit as many solitary objects – stumps, brush piles, rocks, logs – on the bottom of Lake Eufaula as humanly possible in an eight-hour tournament day. When Thrift saw that Lake Eufaula was back on the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour schedule for May of this year, he grinned that patented Bryan Thrift grin because he already knew how to crunch the numbers at Eufaula. And Thrift is still grinning. After sacking up a final-day catch of 15 pounds, 5 ounces to top off 69-14 for the week, Thrift made the numbers work for his fourth FLW Tour win. He added another $125,000 to his bank account. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-17-lake-eufaula-day-4-coverage

Lake Eufaula Day 4 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Eufaula presented by Quaker State. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-16-morrow-thrift-neck-and-neck

Morrow, Thrift Neck and Neck

Georgia pro Troy Morrow brought in 15 pounds, 4 ounces on the third day of competition at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State on Lake Eufaula to increase his tournament total to 54-13. Morrow maintains his lead for the second consecutive day, but he won’t sleep comfortably tonight with North Carolina hammer Bryan Thrift just 4 ounces off the lead with 54-09. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-16-top-5-patterns-from-lake-eufaula-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Lake Eufaula Day 3

Troy Morrow is leading the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State on Lake Eufaula. However, with one day left to fish, he has a big problem going into the last day: Bryan Thrift. The Shelby, N.C., pro is just 4 ounces behind Morrow. Here’s how Thrift and the rest of the top five caught their fish. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-16-lake-eufaula-day-3-coverage

Lake Eufaula Day 3 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Eufaula presented by Quaker State. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-15-morrow-marches-ahead

Morrow Marches Ahead

Day two at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State at Lake Eufaula challenged anglers with tougher conditions as clouds and wind hindered much of the offshore bite. But while some of the top 10 struggled to duplicate their success from day one, Troy Morrow moved from second up into the driver's seat with a day-two catch of 18 pounds, 1 ounce. His total for the event stands at 39-09, giving him a 1-04 lead over day-one leader Clent Davis. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-15-top-5-patterns-from-lake-eufaula-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Lake Eufaula Day 2

Troy Morrow took over the lead on the second day of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State on Lake Eufaula. Morrow did most of his damage late in the day once other pros in earlier flights had checked in. He’s working a milk run of brush piles, as are many of the top pros, but the continued fishing pressure is starting to really affect the bite. Here’s how the rest of the top five is dealing with the pressure. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-15-lake-eufaula-day-2-coverage

Lake Eufaula Day 2 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Eufaula presented by Quaker State. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-14-top-5-patterns-from-lake-eufaula-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Lake Eufaula Day 1

Clent Davis, the day-one leader of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State on Lake Eufaula, described his fishing methodology as being a “numbers game.” He’s hitting as many isolated pieces of offshore cover as possible in a single day. Some of the other leaders behind him used similar terminology to describe their fishing. Here’s how the rest of the top five got it done today. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-14-davis-leads-stacked-top-10

Davis Leads Stacked Top 10

Ordinarily, when four professional bass anglers catch more than 20 pounds on the first day of a major tournament on Lake Eufaula in early summer, no one is surprised. This week, however, Eufaula is a bit off its game due to a cocktail of challenging conditions. Pros expected this to be a low-weight event. It won’t be, if the day-one weights are any indication. Clent Davis of Montevallo, Ala., weighed in a five-bass limit that registered 22 pounds, 9 ounces to take the lead by 1-01 over Georgia pro Troy Morrow. Adrian Avena and Ramie Colson Jr. are tied for third with 20-10, while the next five in the standings all topped 18 pounds. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-14-lake-eufaula-day-1-coverage

Lake Eufaula Day 1 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Eufaula presented by Quaker State. READ MORE »