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

Summertime on Champlain

Summertime on Champlain

For three years running now, the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits has kicked off on Lake Champlain. The tournament, which is presented by Polaris, should offer great fishing like usual, but it’s going to be far different than the last two FLW Series tilts on the big Northern lake. While the most recent FLW history on Champlain has mostly been in June, this tournament runs July 18-20. It’ll be a much different event considering the highs have been in the 90s more than a few times leading up to it. Suffice to say, spawning smallies won’t be a factor.

 

Lake Champlain

The lay of the lake

At more than 100 miles long, Champlain offers plenty of options, and it’s not hard to find something in your comfort zone no matter what you like to do. 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 Ticonderoga (Ti), which involves a 60-mile run over a lake than can get extremely rough at times. Dirtier and grassier, Ti has a well-earned reputation as a great place to go to win or make money, but it hasn’t been as good in recent years. Of course, that turned right around in last month’s FLW Tour event on Champlain, when Casey Scanlon won at Ti and seven of the top 10 pros ran south every day.

Though the weather has been hot for a good bit now, summer has only recently arrived at Champlain. The high water of the spring is fading, but the delayed spawn and grass growth that resulted from it has definitely had some carryover effects. So, while the spawn is over throughout the lake, true summer patterns have yet to really develop. The offshore grass is healthy, but not as topped out as it usually would be in July.

 

Ryan Latinville

A local perspective

Hailing from Plattsburgh, N.Y., Ryan Latinville has finished in the top 10 in the last two Costa FLW Series events on Champlain and is coming off back-to-back Angler of the Year titles in the Champlain Bass Series.

Heading into any tournament on Champlain, one of the main questions is if Ti is going to play.

“I don’t fish down there a whole lot, but when I do I usually find them,” says Latinville. “I put an entire day down there last week and only caught four fish. I know they’re packed tightly down there from what most of the people are saying, so I probably just didn’t hit them.

“I didn’t like what I was seeing, but the grass actually looked really good,” adds the New York angler. “It was just missing fish. It’s probably that the stuff I was looking at was right for a normal year, but the fish haven’t got out to it yet.”

When pressed for a prediction on how the top 10 might shake out, Latinville thinks that three or four will come from Ti, with the rest coming up north. That’s not the same level of domination of some years past or the Tour event, but certainly nothing to count out.

Overall, Latinville thinks that the fish just aren’t very concentrated throughout the lake. That won’t make things easy in practice, but it should provide a lot of variety. 

“The problem is the smallmouth spawned so late that they haven’t grouped up how they should be,” he says. “Major areas of the lake are not producing groups of fish. The areas around Rouses Point and Point au Roche don’t have groups. You don’t get them deep this time of year, but it’s been very random.

“I think that the largemouths up north are pushed back, too, and during the Tour event there wasn’t grass in places where they should have been,” says Latinville. “I think a mixed bag will be the deal on the north end, but someone will find a school of smallmouth to ride, too. But I almost guarantee a lot more mixed bags than you saw in the Tour event.”

 

Possible tactics

Because smallmouths and largemouths will both hit the scale this week, the patterns in play will be pretty varied. On the smallie side of things, finesse baits such as a drop-shot, a Ned rig and a spy bait will do work. Moving options such as a swimbait or a topwater are sure to put fish in the boat as well. If anglers do find good groups of fish offshore, expect to see a Carolina rig or two put in an appearance.

For largemouths, a lot of the damage is going to get done around grass or docks. For that, the ticket will be either some kind of plastic or jig skipped or flipped around it. A vibrating jig or crankbait will catch fish around sparser grass or rocks, and a frog will get the call for the cheese.

 

Bryan Schmitt

Recent results

Of course, speculation and years past isn’t all we have to go off. The T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League Northeast Division had an event Saturday on Champlain, and FLW Tour pro Bryan Schmitt won it with 19-10.

Fishing on about a half day of practice, Schmitt stuck to the north end of the lake and weighed three largemouths and two smallmouths.

“I just ran and checked a lot of stuff I fished in the Tour, and a lot of it had got better,” says Schmitt. “I ran some topwater on points early for smallmouth, and I got one real good one doing that, and then I was just running. They’re heavy on bluegills now, and I was fishing real shallow, inside grass, docks, that kind of thing. Then I caught another smallmouth on a Neko rig, just kinda aimlessly fishing some sparse weeds. I consider it a pretty lucky bite to be honest.”

 

What will it take?

Chris Adams, a Vermont local, figures that it will take 58 pounds or better over three days to get the win. Latinville is a little less optimistic, but still really close.

“Two years ago Ron Nelson had 54 pounds and won,” says Latinville. “I think 18 1/2 a day or maybe 19 will win this thing. So, 56 or 58 pounds. The way the fishing is for me, I think 17 1/2 a day could get you in the top 10. We’ve seen in the past where 17-10 or 17-12 a day can make the cut. But, if you look at the time period, this is a transition period, so maybe by the time the tournament starts a lot of things will be turning on.”

Though Schmitt isn’t fishing the Costa FLW Series event, he weighed in on the likely outcome as well.

“I really think this particular tournament is going to be a flip of the coin,” says Schmitt. “I think somebody could easily win out of Ti or win up north. If they can go to Ti and get back comfortably every day that’s going to be tough to beat, because it seems like a special year down there. But also, I think someone could be very consistent up north. I think it will take really close to 60 pounds to win.”

 

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  2019-07-18-lake-champlain 

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