July 17, 2014 by Dan Johnson
PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes pro Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pa., sacked a five-largemouth limit weighing an impressive 21 pounds, 8 ounces to top the leaderboard among the 142 pros competing on day one of the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event on Lake Champlain.
Although Lefebre is a decorated pro with a prodigious pedigree of top finishes, he let the wind - or lack thereof - be his guide in deciding where to fish.
“When it’s this calm, you have to run south on Champlain,” he said.
The move paid off immediately, as the first five fish gracing his livewell pushed 18 pounds. Judicious upgrades boosted his basket until fears of heavy seas hampering his run back to the check-in boat forced him to pull up stakes ahead of schedule.
“It was really windy in the area I was fishing, so I ran back north an hour early,” he said, noting that he passed the time until check-in by sampling Champlain’s world-class smallmouth action. “I caught about 30 smallies, so I’m surprised that overall the weights are down a little bit at the tournament, because the smallmouths are definitely biting.”
After finishing second in the 2013 Rayovac FLW Series event on Champlain, Lefebre’s strong start made a statement that he’s in it to win it this time around.
“This is revenge,” he said with a grin.
Olson Plays Numbers Game
Derick Olson of Honey Brook, Pa., was the only other angler to break the 20-pound barrier, bringing a 20-pound, 2-ounce limit to the stage, much to the delight of weigh-in fans gathered at scenic Dock St. Landing.
“It was a good day; we caught a lot of fish,” said Olson. “We had to weed through numbers of smaller bass in the 2- to 3-pound range to get the big fish, but we got 'em.”
Like Lefebre, Olson leaned on the largemouth bite. While Lefebre declined to talk tactical details until later in the game, Olson freely admitted to plying soft baits in the salad.
“We were fishing soft plastics in the weeds, running south and covering water,” he said.
Strong Finish for Auten
Todd Auten of Lake Wylie, S.C., rode a 19-pound, 12-ounce stringer to third place, but that doesn’t mean he rocketed out of the starting blocks.
“It was a real slow day for me early,” he said. “But at about 12 o’clock they really started biting. After that it was like clockwork - everywhere we went we caught some good ones.”
In the end, his limit included four smallmouths and one largemouth.
Wood Working Hard
Joseph Wood of Westport, Mass., left port determined to sack smallmouths. His game plan held water early in the day, when he reeled in a limit of respectable bronze beauties. But when kickers played hard-to-catch, he shifted gears to bag a 19-pound, 10-ounce total that lifted him to fourth place.
“The day went fantastic,” he said. “Although, it turned out that I wasted my time on smallmouths. I caught about a 15-pound bag of smallies first thing in the morning, but when I tried to cull up to 16 or 17, it just didn’t happen.”
Undaunted, Wood looked to largemouths to save the day.
“When I ran to my green-fish spot, they were on fire,” he said. “I upgraded all my fish in the last hour of the day. I should have gone to them right away.”
Lee Learns a Lesson
Auburn, Ala., pro Jordan Lee rounded out the top five with a beefy 19-pound, 9-ounce limit. But rather than bask in the success, he was quick to give his co-angler plenty of credit for a stellar day-one finish.
“My co actually got me started on a pretty special program,” Lee said. “I knew I was around fish, but when he started catching them and I didn’t, he gave me a few of his baits. We ended up having a great day, and I owe a lot to him.”
Once Lee got into a rhythm, he promptly deposited five bass in the livewell and began the process of upgrading. Smallmouths dominated the catch until a late largemouth joined his keepers.
“In all, I caught 25 smallmouths and 10 or 15 largemouths,” he noted.
Overall, anglers in all stages of the standings reported catching bass with a variety of tactics, from frogging shoreline weeds to dragging Carolina and drop-shot rigs on deeper structure.
While a late flurry of big limits lifted the day’s total weight in the pro ranks to 1,867 pounds, 15 ounces, limits running 9 to 14 pounds were far more common. Still, the 673 keepers were proof of Champlain’s potential, and left little doubt that changes in the leaderboard are likely on day two as the field battles to make the cut and advance to day three’s finals.
Best of the Rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the Rayovac FLW Series Lake Champlain event:
6th: Mike Neilson, Markham, Ont., 19-6
7th: Mark Daniels Jr., Fairfield, Calif., 19-3
8th: Bud Cipoletti, West Islip, N.Y., 19-2
9th: Michael Marini, Slingerlands, N.Y., 19-1
10th: Cory Johnston, Peterborough, Ont., 18-15
Steve Brinster of Vernon, N.J., brought in an 18-pound, 2-ounce limit to top the co-anglers. Ryan Bauman of Fleetwood, Pa., was close behind in second with 17-8. For complete co-angler results, click here.
Day two of Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division action on Lake Champlain continues at Friday’s takeoff, scheduled to take place at 6 a.m. ET at Dock Street Landing, located at 5 Dock Street in Plattsburgh, N.Y.