UPCOMING EVENT: YETI College Fishing - 2019 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir


A few hours on Champlain with Dudley

David Dudley

David Dudley has seen success nearly everywhere, but one of his sweet spots is Lake Champlain. The big northern lake fishes well shallow nearly all the time, and that’s how he likes it. This year, the Walmart FLW Tour is finishing the regular season on Champlain and David Dudley is in an unusual position – on the bubble for the Forrest Wood Cup. As such, we hopped in the boat with him on the second day of practice for a look at how he was getting ready for the tournament.


David Dudley

After putting in a 17-hour day on Sunday (made possible by the long summer days up north), Dudley took the first part of the morning to take care of a few mechanical issues and get a bit of sleep. When he meets me at the ramp, the sun is already up and the parking lot is full. After dialing in a little tackle (Dudley is surprisingly perfectly organized and says he’d put his organization up against anyone), we put into the water and drop the trolling motor right away.

For the second day of practice, Dudley elects to fish around Missisquoi Bay, which is a large bay on the north end of the lake that also contains the delta from the Missisquoi River. While there are smallmouth to be had in the bay, it’s most notable for the population of largemouths, and that’s what the Lynchburg, Va., pro is after this morning.


David Dudley

David Dudley

Starting off in a flat with scattered grass and rock, he swaps back and forth between a swim jig and a vibrating jig depending on how thick the grass is to get a feel for the area. Right off the bat, a small keeper inhales his swim jig to break the ice.

“This almost looks like speed worm territory,” says Dudley as he moves further along the flat.

Though he doesn’t tie one up, he remains super observant of his surroundings. Most pros do take in every detail, from extra rocks to bedding rock bass (warmouth to Dudley), but he’s more vocal about it than most. So, beside his observations that relate to fishing, he’ll occasionally translate what a nearby bullfrog is croaking or go off on some other tangent.


David Dudley

David Dudley

Further on, Dudley comes to his first section of docks. Rigging up a wacky rig, he effortlessly skips it up under the first one and readies himself for the bite, declaring this a “get the net” spot. Alas, it’s a no-go for a bass, but plenty good for a rock bass. He says that the lower-than-usual water level on Champlain has the fish backed off the docks a little more than normal. That may be true, but he still spent a decent amount of time skipping around up shallow whenever a dock crosses his path. When he won on Champlain in 2012, almost half of his weight came off docks, so it obviously isn’t a pattern he’ll discard easily.


David Dudley

Further along, moving back out into the grass and past a rocky point, Dudley explains his philosophy for the day, or at least for the part of the day I’m in the boat with a camera.

“I pretty much already know where I want to fish and what I want to do up here,” says Dudley. “I just want to try and build on that now. When you’re on these venues so many times, that happens.”

Not that he wouldn’t check on the juice, but for Dudley, this part of practice was all about looking for a needle in a haystack that could be worth $125,000.


David Dudley

On of the realities of fishing up north is dealing with pike. They’re slimy, toothy and can destroy a jig, but they pull real hard and hit with plenty of gusto. Pike can for sure be an annoyance in a tournament, but Dudley is proudly pro-pike.

“I think those guys that whack them with a ruler and kill them are punks,” says Dudley as he pulls out a pair of pliers from his Cuda arsenal. “They’ll make your heart throb and they're a smile for a kid someday.”


David Dudley

Case in point is the next fish we see. Dudley spots what looks a lot like a small muskie sunning up in the shallows and immediately tried to catch it. But not for long, a half dozen precise casts with the swim jig fail to tempt it and then it’s time to move along. There’s work to be done.

As Dudley works further out into the grass he finally adds in a speed worm and almost instantly catches one. So far, nothing big has shown itself, but he’s already nearly caught a small limit of bass. It’s not uncommon to catch 50+ bass in a day on Champlain, especially on the north end of the lake – the trick is finding the big ones.


David Dudley

David Dudley

Working farther out off the bank, still flipping around with a wacky rig or running a vibrating jig through the grass, Dudley picks up the phone when a reporter from the Plattsburgh Press Republican calls. After spinning a few tales of Champlain’s glory and telling him that he’s trying to win or do well and qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup, Dudley catches a bass mid-interview and then it’s time to move.


David Dudley

David Dudley

The next place is another largemouth-looking area, this time with some more defined clumps of milfoil out off the bank. For that, Dudley picks up a flipping bait and right away begins to get bites again. Despite covering water slower than before, he’s getting noticeably more bites flipping than he was with his previous arsenal. So far today, every move has been geared toward largemouths, but it’s not the entire plan.

“I used to fish a lot for smallmouth, but here in the last little bit the largemouth have been kicking butt.”

With plenty of time left in practice, there are a few smallmouth places on tap, but certainly not as many as there would be a few years ago or later in the summer.


David Dudley

After fishing down a ways, it’s time for lunch. Dudley likens hunger to someone tapping on your shoulder all day to remind you about it, and figures that if he can eliminate a distraction that easily it’s worth doing. Pulled pork with plenty of fresh-cut veggies, some Cheetos and some Schweppes do the trick for Dudley. After eating, he does a little more flipping and then fires up again.


David Dudley

On the way to his next spot, Dudley does some high speed wandering, driving by his previous areas out deeper with a sharp eye on the water looking for grass. Then, he speeds out toward the Inland Sea.


David Dudley

Heading through the highway bridge is easy enough, but it reveals just how rough Champlain can get. With 3-footers pounding against the railroad bridge beyond, Dudley elects to pick up a squarebill for the windblown bridge and not go any further into the rough water.

Working down the rip rap with a bite or two and a little smallmouth, it’s pretty apparent that anyone trying to fish in the wind will be having a tough time of it.

After rolling down the rip rap a bit longer, Dudley calls it quits. Without being able to get out to his next target, he wants to go to the juice.


David Dudley

If the weather lays down at all then he’ll head out into the Inland Sea, but for now, Dudley heads off to get on his best stuff in Missisquoi Bay and keep looking for the winning fish. 

Tags: david-dudley  lake-champlain  jody-white  pre-tournament  2016-06-23-lake-champlain 


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