PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – You'll often hear anglers say "Wind is your friend," because moving air masses move the water, oxygenate the shallows, position baitfish and make bass easier to target. But just like that friend who overstays his welcome, raids your fridge and leaves his socks on the couch, too much wind can become a hindrance. That's what happened to a lot of anglers on day two of the FLW EverStart Series Northern Division tournament on Lake Champlain.
Following a nearly flat-calm opening day, this long and narrow lake straddling the New York-Vermont border saw big winds of 30-plus knots building ahead of the approaching storm system that would drench Plattsburgh a few hours after the weigh-ins. Fortunately, Champlain offers many leeward banks, islands and protected coves; but when your main deal sits right in the wind, it's tough seeing the game plan blow away like dry maple leaves.
Day-one pro leader Tom Lavictoire Jr., of West Rutland, Vt., faced just such frustrations, but he persevered and held onto the top spot with a limit that weighed 18-2. Adding that to his first-day's weight of 20-4 gave him 38-6 and a margin of 2-10.
"It was a very different day," Lavictoire said. "Yesterday, I caught 80; today I caught 25. It was a hard blow and I lost 3-4 of my prime spots to the wind and the mud."
Lavictoire, who returned to the Ticonderoga area at the lake's south end today, said he countered the wind's influence by moving around more and managing his time with a healthy dose of discernment.
"Instead of spending a half an hour or 40 minutes on any of those spots today, I spent a grand total of 5-10 minutes," he said. "If it didn't look right or if it was muddy, I left. I'm running different places; I have a spot way down south by Benson Landing that's producing for me.
"It might look easy for me out there, but it's not. I struggled to get quality bites today. I had four quality ones today and I culled a fish late in the day next to the boat ramp that helped me with another half a pound."
As he did on day one, Lavictoire caught his fish by flipping and pitching into the shallow grass for which Ticonderoga (aka "Ti") is known. He's using a jig and an undisclosed Texas-rigged bait that he said is playing a key role in his program.
"I'm just power fishing with heavy stuff," Lavictoire said. "I have two rods on the deck and when they bite, it's either a pound-and-a-half or it's 3 ½-4 ½ pounds. You have to go through a lot of them to get to the (quality fish).
"The thing that scared me today was that the mid-range fish weren't biting – the 2 ½- to 3, 3 ¼-pound fish. I didn’t catch a lot of those and a lot of my areas down there are pretty much blown out."
Lavictoire said he's committed to fishing Ti in Saturday's final round. The weather forecast calls for much lighter winds, but with 20-plus year of fishing Champlain, he knows it's never a cake walk.
"There are so many variables where I'm going and the first thing is the weather and you're mechanical stuff," he said. "You have to get down to Ticonderoga and you have to get back from Ticonderoga. It's a 66-mile shot one way. Your (outboard) motor has to run, you're trolling motor has to run, you have to catch them and your fish have to stay alive. There's so much that has to come together.
"My friends and I always talk about the 'Ticonderoga Curse.' You can go down there and catch 18-20 pounds or you can catch 10 or 12 pounds. I just hope that doesn't happen to me tomorrow."
Grigsby improves to second
Keystone Light pro Chad Grigsby also made the run to Ti and found another strong limit that raised him from third place to second on day two. He weighed 18-3 on day one and added 17-9 today for a total weight of 35-12.
The Maple Grove, Minn. pro said his transit to and from Ti was not unbearable, but the west wind certainly impeded his fishing.
"It wasn't bad this morning and it really wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be coming back this afternoon," he said. "(Fishing) was hard for me because I'm pinpointing little holes in the grass. Two of my areas are right in the wind and I'm throwing a light rig to get it where I want it and be able to feel the bite."
Grigsby caught his fish on a Texas-rigged Senko fitted with a 5/0 Strike King Hack Attack flipping hook and a 3/16-ounce tungsten weight. After struggling with the wind for most of his day, he located a semi-protected spot with good grass beds and ended up doing his best work there.
"I had looked at this place in practice but I hadn't fished it," Grigsby said. "I fished it today and I caught a 4-pounder and two 3's. I culled out everything but one in the last half hour. I want to fish that spot tomorrow for more than 45 minutes to see what potential there is there."
Lefebre goes to third
Although day one was much calmer, Frosted Flakes pro Dave Lefebre suffered from the ill effects of declining water level. He burned a couple of hours trying to make a shallow spot work, but today, he went right to where he needed to be and made better use of his time by fishing deeper grass
"I went right to where I was catching them yesterday," Lefebre said. "Looking back, the only thing I did wrong was I left too early. I couldn't really tell which direction the wind was blowing and I thought it might be super bad coming back, but I got back with an hour and a half to spare."
Getting right on his productive scenario – Ti grass beds – Lefebre had time to mix up his presentations. He caught fish by flipping and pitching the same Texas-rigged baits he used on day one, but he found the fish were liking a new crankbait model.
"I was throwing a crankbait that I know nobody has because it's a brand-new thing," Lefebre said. "There's a lot of pressure where I'm fishing so having something a little different was the key."
Lefebre said he caught about 30 fish today. Four of his limit fish came on the crank. His day-two bag of 17-7 lifted him to third place with 35-4.
Schwenkbeck slips to fourth
"I was handcuffed and strapped down today," Schwenkbeck said. "I stayed in one little area and once I had (the fish I weighed), I couldn't upgrade. I made one small run to a place where I had found a 3 ½-pound largemouth in practice in a patch of reeds. I didn't catch anything and when I looked out in the lake, I knew I couldn't go anywhere."
Targeting strictly smallmouth, Schwenkbeck threw a Spro McStick jerkbait in the clown color. He likes to fish this bait aggressively, but with frequent long pauses. This technique, he said, was tough in the blustery conditions.
"It's hard to feel your bait in the wind," he said. "The technique I use is very specific and you really need to sense what's going on with your bait. With that wind, it's hard because you have too much slack line."
Wood makes big move to fifth
Securing his final round berth in dramatic fashion, Joseph Wood, of Westport, Mass., sacked up 16-1 on day two and climbed 21 spots to place fifth with 31-11. Focusing on smallmouth in the lake's north end, he also found the wind impeding his technique.
"I did the same thing I did yesterday, although today I was limited to one area and I just pounded it," Wood said.
Fishing over grass-strewn rocks in 8-15 feet, Wood caught his fish on a dropshot and a Carolina rig with a Zoom lizard.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the EverStart Series Lake Champlain event:
6th: Bryan Labelle, of Hinesburg, Vt., 31-10
7th: Aaron Hastings, of Middletown, Md., 31-10
8th: Rob Digh, of Denver, N.C., 31-5
9th: Todd Brunelle, of Milton, Vt., 31-3
10th: Dave Wolak, of Wake Forest, N.C., 31-2
Garry Woodruff took Big Bass honors with a 5-pound, 5-ounce largemouth.
Giannini expands co-angler lead to 2 ½ pounds
Making his EverStart debut, Robert Giannini, of Rochester, Ma., not only maintained his lead for a second day; he extended his advantage from a whisper-thin day-one margin of 4 ounces to a meatier 2-pound, 8-ounces on day two. Pairing his first-round weight of 16-8 with 13-3, Giannini heads into Saturday's final round with 29-11.
Today's windy conditions prompted Giannini and his pro partner to head in about an hour early, but the short day didn't seem to hurt the top co-angler. That's because he got off to a quick start and pretty much had his deal sewn up a couple of hours after takeoff.
"My boater put me on smallmouth so I could get a quick limit," Gianninin said. "He knew roughly what I needed to make the top-10, so he took me to one of his spots and let me catch what I needed to catch.
"I got my limit and then we went flipping for largemouth. I couldn't upgrade by flipping, but I had my weight by 8:20."
Same as day one, Giannini caught his fish on a dropshot with a black worm. He found his bites on a deeply sloping bank in 8-25 feet of water.
"Some of them were up tight; some of them were out deep," Giannini said. "The bigger ones were out deeper."
In second place, Edward Jaskolski, of Dudley, Ma., had 27-3, while Jason Bezio, of Plattsburgh, N.Y., placed third with 26-12. In fourth place, Dick Gum, of Woodbridge, Va. had 26-11 and Bryan New, of Belmont, N.C. took fifth with 26-7.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 co-anglers leaders at the EverStart Series Lake Champlain event:
6th: Frank Miller, of West. Nanticoke, Pa., 26-6
7th: Scott Shafer, of Glenville, N.Y., 26-4
8th: Andy Dick, of Wilmington, Del., 25-12
9th: Darren Carlson, of Penfield, Pa., 25-10
10th: Lenny Baird, of Stafford, Va., 25-10
Day three of EverStart Series Northern Division action on Lake Champlain continues at Friday’s takeoff, scheduled to take place at 5:30 a.m. (Eastern) at the Dock Street Landing in Plattsburgh, N.Y.