Live now : TOYOTA SERIES 2020 Pickwick

Previewing Champlain

Previewing Champlain
Lake Champlain can get a little crowded on the south end.

Year in, year out, Lake Champlain presents a challenge that is almost totally unique. When the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division competition gets under way on Champlain later this week, competitors will have about 100 miles of water to choose from. The win could come from anywhere, and limits will be plentiful. The event, which is presented by Plano, is likely to be an exciting one to follow.

 

The Layout

Lake Champlain

For the uninitiated, Champlain is daunting to break down and likely hard to understand. Basically, the 100-mile-long glacial lake flows south to north between the Adirondacks in New York and the Green Mountains in Vermont.

The south end of the lake (around Ticonderoga) is narrow and mostly shallow. The water is dirtier, and there are big grass beds nearly everywhere. Most of the grass is Eurasian milfoil, but there is a variety of species present. Though some big smallmouths live in the south end, they are almost never caught in the summertime. It’s largemouth territory.

The midsection of the lake is deep and clear with some grass. It’s primarily rock and is almost exclusively home to smallmouths and coldwater species that live in the main basin (the lake is more than 400 feet deep in some parts in the middle). The main lake is heavily influenced by wind and usually only factors into tournaments in the spring, when the smallmouths are spawning.

The north end of the lake is broad, clear, and has a healthy mix of weed, rock, and smallmouths and largemouths. The Missisquoi River flows into the lake in the northeast corner, and the area around it is dirtier and grassier than the rest of the region. Unlike the south end, where largemouths are the sole target, winning limits of both species can be found within minutes of each other. Thus, a common strategy is to catch a limit of healthy smallmouths and then hunt for some kicker largemouths around grass or other shallow cover.

 

Conditions

Lake Champlain

Champlain started 2015 exceptionally low, but early summer rains raised the lake past typical levels for the season. The water level is now rapidly dropping to more normal levels, but it’s not there yet.

“The water is up,” echoes Joe Holland, who is qualified to fish the Walmart FLW Tour in 2016. “It’s about a foot higher than last year, or normal levels, and it has come down a foot in the past week or so. Down south, the high water has spread out the fish. It thins the grass and makes them a little harder to locate. The weedbeds on the south end don't look as thick as usual, and there are very few mats. The grass is high enough to make it tough to throw moving baits such as ChatterBaits and spinnerbaits, but not so thick that you need to punch.”

Matt Stasiak confirmed Holland’s impression of the water level and the grass by Ticonderoga (often referred to as “Ti”) and offered some insight on the water conditions. 

“It’s typical water clarity, just a little off-color, but it clears up a bunch in the grass,” says Stasiak, of Pennsylvania. “The water is in the upper 70s, maybe 80s in some areas, depending on how shallow you get.”

Per reports, though the water is a little high up at the north end, clarity, water temperature and other conditions are basically normal.

 

North or South, Brown or Green

Lake Champlain

Depending on the time of year, the tournament can skew toward largemouths or smallmouths. Though smallmouths rarely win summertime events alone, they often play a big role for anglers who can mix in some largemouths as well.

“Ti is not what it has been in past years, but there’s no doubt it can put out winning bags,” says Chris Adams, a local with extensive experience on the lake who often jumps into the fray. “In 2012, about 75 percent of the field fished out of the south. This year I think the top 10 could be five-and-five or lean toward the north end. I think for the few guys who figure it out, Ti could do really well, but things have changed from a few years ago.”

According to Adams, the north end of the lake could be ready to show out.

“The Rouses Point area [in the northwest corner of the lake] hasn’t gone wide open, so that could be ready to go soon,” he says. “I think the Inland Sea [in the northeast arm] will put out consistent bags, but I think you’re looking at largemouths or a mixed bag to win.”

“My prediction is that it will be won on a mixed bag,” says Holland, “primarily smallies with a couple kicker largies each day. I foresee a couple big bags coming from Ti and some good fish and bags coming from down there, but I am not sure a guy can do it three days in a row. There are a billion 3-pound smallies in Champlain. If a guy figures out how to catch the fatter ones, the 3 3/4-pounders, and can throw in a couple kicker largies, he would be tough to beat in this one”

 

Expected Patterns

Lake Champlain

Chasing the largemouths down south is a fairly well-established endeavor, but it will be a little different this year due to the water levels.

“I never really found any schools in the grass by Ti,” reveals Stasiak. “There are no big grass mats down there. The deeper grass beds in like 8 feet of water are few and far between too. But, it’s typical Ticonderoga fishing. You just can’t let the lack of grass mats throw you off.”

Even without mats, Stasiak says that the typical combination of jigs and soft plastics is producing well. If there is any bait to bet on down south, it would be a Yamamoto Senko, but most usual grass baits can be exceptionally successful.

“I am finding 3 3/4-pound smallies gathered up, not grouped in the main lake and Inland Sea,” explains Holland. “I would say they are more like wolf packs of 4 to 9 fish that will come up in a pod or school. It’s not the mega schools of 10 to 25 fish that come up, but if you get one group with another nearby there are usually enough for a couple limits.

“I am catching most of my smallies on drop-shot rigs and tubes,” he adds. “If the weather holds for topwater, I think a smallmouth guy will pop over 20 pounds.”

In addition to drop-shots, tubes and topwaters, jerkbaits and swimbaits will also produce smallmouths up north. The northern largemouths are typically found around grass or shallow hard cover such as wood and docks, and they can be caught on the usual shallow staples as well as finesse options.

 

Tournament Details

Competition days: July 30–Aug. 1

Takeoff: Dock Street Landing, 6 a.m.

Weigh-in: Dock Street Landing, 2 p.m.

The event is presented by Plano and hosted by the City of Plattsburgh and the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau.

 

Details

Tags: lake-champlian    jody-white  pre-tournament  2015-07-30-lake-champlain 

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