July 18, 2014 by Dan Johnson
PLATTSBURGH, NY—In an afternoon marked by major leaderboard fluctuations among the 142 pros competing in the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event on Lake Champlain, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes pro Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pa., held tight to the pole position, bringing a five-bass limit weighing 19 pounds, 13 ounces for a two-day total of 41 pounds, 5 ounces.
Although he is happy to lead the field of 10 pros headed into the final round of the three-day event, sitting more than 3½ pounds ahead of his closest rival, Lefebre lamented not hooking the big bite on day two.
“It was a pretty good day; just no kicker,” he said seconds after being the first angler to cross the stage at scenic Dock Street Landing. “I just needed one of the big ones I got yesterday to really build a cushion.”
True enough, his catch did dip from a total of 21 pounds, 8 ounces on day one. But it was still a breakout performance considering that many anglers struggled to piece together limits in the midteens, let alone match their day-one catches.
As on day one, Lefebre took advantage of a calm morning to run south to target beefy largemouths that were still on the bite. “My first two fish were 4-pounders, and that took a lot of pressure off,” he grinned. He stuck to the program throughout the day, only turning his bow toward port when it was time to race for the timer boat. Having led the first flight out, he was due in at 2 p.m., sharp. As it turned out, afternoon breezes provided a bit rougher ride than Lefebre expected. “It was real bumpy coming back,” he said. “After coming in early yesterday, I cut it way too close today.”
Looking ahead, Lefebre foresees another southern sojourn on Saturday. “I know I’m headed back down regardless of the weather,” he said. While he knows hungry largemouths await, he tempers his optimism with the knowledge that plenty of company will be there as well. “The area has gotten a lot of pressure from anglers fishing a local tournament,” he said. “I have a following of spectator boats, and when I leave, they move in and fish the spot. When I come back, there are five or six boats on it.”
In fact, with a large event in the 100-boat class set for Saturday, tournament director Ron Lappin moved takeoff from 6 a.m. to safe light, 5:15, for the finals, to give the top-10 anglers a chance to find their fishing grounds ahead of the crowds.
“My biggest obstacle will not be getting thrown off my game if I have to move around,” Lefebre added. “I need to have no preconceived notions about starting here and going there, and keep an open mind. Fortunately, I’ve got a pattern going and haven’t fished half of my spots yet. I might weigh all my fish from a place I haven’t fished yet.”
As for his evening plans, he said, “I’m going to sleep like a baby, get up and go fishing.”
Lee Milks Morning Reactions
Jordan Lee of Auburn, Ala., was among the hard-charging contenders hot on Lefebre’s heels. Lee climbed from fifth place up to second on the wings of an 18-pound, 3-ounce limit that pushed his total to 37-12.
Lee tapped a blistering morning bite to make his move. “I have one spot the smallmouths are biting early,” he said. “I got them all before 8 o’clock and then it was over.”
His program included throwing strike-triggering reaction baits in depths of 10 feet or less. “I think the fish are holding deeper and moving up shallow to feed,” he said. “They’re spitting up big baitfish in my livewell.”
On day one, he credited his co-angler for sharing a red-hot bait that yielded numerous bites, and that presentation continued to produce. “I caught fish on a couple different baits, but the co-angler’s was still particularly good,” he said.
To extend the action later in the day, Lee hopes to rekindle a surface bite he discovered earlier in the week. “I was catching them on topwaters in the afternoons during practice, but haven’t caught them that way during the tournament,” he said. “If it gets really flat calm tomorrow I may try it again, though.”
Johnston’s Weed Game Yields 20 Pounds
In third place, Chris Johnston of Peterborough, Ont., was one of two pros to crack the 20-pound barrier on day two. He notched a 20-pound, 3-ounce limit of largemouths to claim third with 37-10, advancing 14 places from his day-one ranking of 17th.
“I ran 70 miles down south,” he said. “I caught most of my fish flipping jigs into weeds in about 4 to 5 feet of water.” Cryptically, he added that his success hinged on a tweak he’d rather not talk about until after the final weigh-in. “I was doing something a little bit different that got me more fish, and I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow,” he said.
Like Lefebre, Johnston was far from alone in the southern weedbeds. “There’s a lot of pressure down there,” he said. “I was just off the main stuff, and a lot of guys who are fishing a tournament tomorrow saw me catching fish, so that could hurt me.”
“I was a little shy on my weight today, but that’s only because I stopped fishing at 11:30 this morning to give myself time to get back,” he said.
Once again on the hunt for greener pastures rich in largemouths, Marini headed south to ply soft baits in the weeds. “I ran down to Ticonderoga again to fish worms in the milfoil,” he said. “I found the same school of fish, and they were still biting.”
Babineau’s Junk-Fishing Genius
Glenn Babineau of Mechanicville, N.Y., moved up from 14th place to round out the top five pros with 37 pounds, 7 ounces. His day-two largemouth limit weighing 19-1 actually marked an improvement from his 18-6 day-one limit.
“I was doing pretty much the same as yesterday—junk fishing,” he laughed. “I can’t really sit on one grass spot and get ‘em like some of the guys can. I wish I had something like that but I don’t. So I’m running around throwing a lot of baits at a lot of targets and getting quality bites.”
Babineau’s varied arsenal includes just about everything in the tackle box. “I caught fish on jigs, [Z-Man Original} ChatterBaits and crankbaits,” he said. “I’m mixing it up because I don’t have anything to go to.”
Babineau might call it junk fishing, but considering it fueled a critical leap up the leaderboard and opened the door to making the cut and competing on day three, many would call it genius.
Best of the Rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the Rayovac FLW Series Lake Champlain event:
6th: Derick Olson, Honey Brook, Pa., 37-5
7th: Cory Johnston, Peterborough, Ont., 36-3
8th: Mike Neilson, Markham, Ont., 35-13
9th: Mike McDonald, Randleman, N.C., 35-7
10th: Mark Daniels Jr., Fairfield, Calif., 35-1
For complete results, including the co-angler results, click here.
Day three of Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division action on Lake Champlain continues at Saturday’s takeoff, scheduled to take place at 5:15 a.m. ET at Dock Street Landing, located at 5 Dock Street in Plattsburgh, N.Y.