UPCOMING EVENT: FLW Pro Circuit - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

Spawning Smallies and More at Champlain

Spawning Smallies and More at Champlain
Neil Farlow

This year’s kickoff to the Costa FLW Series Northern Division could turn out to be nearly a carbon copy of last year’s opener – a big field, tons of spawning smallmouths, some largemouths and an all-around great time. Presented by Power-Pole and hosted by the City of Plattsburgh and the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau, this year’s opener takes place June 21-23 on Lake Champlain, one of the most scenic and productive fisheries in the world.

 

Last year provides a good blueprint

Held at almost the same time last year, the 2017 Northern Division opener could be a great roadmap for this year’s event. Then, Ron Nelson wrangled up a mix of spawning smallmouths and spawning and postspawn largemouths from the north end of the lake for the win. Behind him, the rest of the top 10 leaned hard on spawning smallmouths and the second and third place pros exclusively caught brown ones. Notably, nobody in the top 10 made the long run down to Ticonderoga (Ti) to chase largemouths.

Plattsburgh, where the tournament takes off, is a great place to be for access to the plentiful smallmouths in the more open areas of the north end, and it provides equally convenient access to the largemouths in the bays. The only issue is getting to the largemouths down south near Ti, which involves a 60-mile run over a lake than can get extremely rough at times. Ti has a well-earned reputation as a great place to go to win or make money, but that was earned in past years. Recently, the northern end of Champlain has reigned and that will probably be the case again this year. Of late, due to tournament timing and a slight uptick in the fishing up north combined with a drop off down south, the north end has been the place to be.

FLW Tour pro and Costa FLW Series stalwart Kurt Mitchell spent his Saturday down around Ti and came away less than impressed.

“I had like 16 pounds that day, but mainly when I go to Ti I’m looking for schools of fish on the grass a little farther out,” says Mitchell. “I was fishing out there for like 5 hours and I caught one doing it, so I moved up shallow. I kinda gave up on it, I’m probably not going to go back there. Ti is really fickle compared to the rest of Lake Champlain. It gets tough really quick and if I can’t find a school if fish I’m not going to run an hour to pluck around on fry guarders and stuff.”

At around 100 miles long, Champlain provides plenty of options and you can’t entirely rule anything out. While the odds are probably against someone cracking an 18-pound-plus average for three days, down in Ti it isn’t out of the question if the south end is going. The same can be said for the smallmouths – multi-day derbies are rarely won with all brown, but this might be the year.

 

The state of the spawn

Though basically every bass south of the Champlain Bridge has spawned, the same can’t be said for the rest of the lake. Up north and in the middle, there are going to be plenty of bass still on beds for this one. Because the largemouths up north generally duck into the shallow bays and backwaters to spawn early, most of those spawning fish will be brown.

Somewhat to the chagrin of the locals, last year’s event showed how well following the water temperature for spawning smallmouths can work. A number of pros based their tournaments on finding the coolest water and the freshest fish, and that could be a big factor this year as well.

Figuring out postspawn largemouths up north is going to be key, too – if only to supplement smallmouths.

“I think a guy that can figure out the largemouth can catch over 20 pounds, and if they can do it three days in a row they’ll win,” says Chris Johnston, who holds two Strike King Angler of the Year titles in the Northern Division. “My game plan is to go out and get a mixed bag, I think the person that wins will have a mixed bag. I find it really hard this time of year to get a good bag of all largemouths up north.”

Austin Felix on spawning smallmouths

The scoop on Floggers

 

Prospective patterns

This time of year, the focus for both smallmouths and largemouths is likely to be shallow and varied.

Spawning smallmouths will eat all kinds of finesse baits, hit a jerkbait and even blow up on a topwater. Other shallow brown fish could be caught on hair jigs, crankbaits or swimbaits. If some deeper smallmouth patterns develop, expect to see Carolina rigs, jigs and drop-shot rigs get a workout.

Largemouths on Champlain are most often found in and around the plentiful milfoil beds, but they can get comfy with other cover, too – from rock piles to docks, laydowns and reeds. Flipping is the most common way to put a largemouth in the net, but Senkos, frogs and vibrating jigs also see a lot of action.

 

Recent results

Champlain plays host to a number of tournaments throughout the summer, but not nearly as many as the average lake down south. Nonetheless, the north and south end got hit pretty hard on Saturday with a Northeast Division T-H Marine Bass Fishing League (BFL) event with 149 boats out of Plattsburgh and an ABA event with 70 boats out of Ti. JJ Judd ran south for smallmouths from Plattsburgh to win the BFL with 19-14. Down by Ti, Joe Tefft ran isolated cover and won with five largemouths for 19.93 pounds. In the BFL, a whopping 18 pros weighed 18 pounds or better, and there were six ties in the top 20 – pretty solid proof that a lot of cookie-cutter size smallmouths were on beds.

 

Tournament details

Format: All boaters and co-anglers will compete for two days. The top 10 boaters and co-anglers based on cumulative weight after two days of competition will advance to the third and final round, with the winner determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.

Takeoff Time: 6:00 a.m. ET

Takeoff Location: Plattsburgh City Marina, 5 Dock Street, Plattsburgh, NY 12901

Weigh-In Time: 2:00 p.m. ET

Weigh-In Location: Plattsburgh City Marina

Complete details

 

Tags: jody-white  pre-tournament  2018-06-21-lake-champlain 

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