Walmart FLW Tour - FLW Tour Majors
Lake Champlain (June 28-July. 1, 2012)
PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – The prevailing view for the Walmart FLW Tour Major event on Lake Champlain was that the largemouth roaming the weedy shallows at the southern end would play a major role in the day's results. Well, pro leader David Dudley got half of that right – the part about the largemouth.
We'll get to his exploits in a moment, but first, this snapshot: Champlain's overall narrow figure constricts dramatically in its southern end, which culminates in a region generally known as Ticonderoga (for the local town and namesake historic fort). Largemouth dominate the grassy south end, but the green fish also roam the bays and coves of Champlain's upper range; often rubbing elbows with the more abundant smallmouth.
Hailing from Lynchburg, Va., Dudley took the day-one lead by catching an even 24 pounds of largemouth bass, but his sack came from the lake's north end. Today's calm weather left the lake uncharacteristically calm and the ideal boating conditions made the long run down to Ticonderoga particularly appealing. Nevertheless, Dudley formulated a northern game plan and stuck with it. For him, it didn't matter where his fish came from – he was thrilled with a double dozen.
"Anytime you can have 20 pounds on a northern lake, it's a good day; to have 24 pounds is an exceptional day," Dudley said. "I got a lot of the right bites and that's what it takes to do well up here, so I'm tickled to death."
Dudley – the 2011 FLW Tour Angler of the Year and current leader in the 2012 race – said his day lacked any tight periods of quality fish rallies. Rather, he kept busy throughout the day, right up to the very end.
"It was just nickel-and-dime all day," he said. "It was set the hook-set the hook-cull, set the hook-set the hook-cull. That's pretty much the theory I live by."
The leader was understandably reluctant to divulge many details about his day, but he noted that he was fishing the upper end of the lake in an area without much boat traffic. He said he worked through a diverse selection of baits and maintained an open-mined approach.
"It's hard to get dialed in on one lure here because you'll get messed up," Dudley said. "I just worked through a lot of lures and just did whatever felt right at the moment."
Working one general area, Dudley caught his fish mostly in the 6- to 8-foot range. He hit about five or six unique spots and caught fish on each of them.
"It was a grind today; I just had to put my head down and keep going," he said. "I just had to move around a lot and I ended up getting a lot of key bites today."
Dudley's strong opening performance gives him a lead of 3-pounds, 4 ounces heading into the second day. He said he'll return to his main area on day two with complete confidence that he can break 20 pounds again.
Cochran, Powroznik tie for second
Also preferring Champlain's north end, Cochran said the area he fished had a mix of grass and rock. Most of his fish came in 4- to 6-feet of water and Cochran progressed up in sizes and he worked through a trio of key baits.
"When you're practicing, once you catch a few fish, you get out of there, so I really didn’t know what I had until today," he said. "I was throwing a Strike King Little Mr. Money and caught a limit on it. Then I changed to a Strike King jig and caught another limit on it, and a couple of good ones. Then I changed to pitching and flipping a Strike King Rodent and I caught most of the good ones on it."
Taking advantage of the day's tranquility, Powroznik made the run down to Ti and met with a warm welcome. "I caught them this morning right off the bat on a crankbait and a chatterbait. It took me about 11 minutes and I had (the fish I weighed). Then it slowed down a bit and I went to just throwing a Senko around."
Powroznik said he's definitely returning to Ti on day two. The early bite, he said, necessitates efficiency, but the fish aren't picky. He's confident that if conditions remain calm and he can get down there quickly, he'll have a good shot at another big sack.
"Tomorrow's a different day, but they're right there and they're biting (early)," he said. "Once you get around them, it really doesn't matter what you throw. The faster I can get there, the faster I can catch them."
Noting that Ti attracted many boats for the tournament's first day, Powroznik said he's approaching the fish a little differently than most. "I'm staying out where I can't see the grass. I'm just watching on my Lowrance electronics and fishing different water than everybody else is."
Morgenthaler dissects grass for fourth
Joining the Ticonderoga convoy, Chad Morgenthaler, of Coulterville, Ill. caught the day's final bag of 20-plus pounds; his weighing 20-5. Paying close attention to specific details of the grassy habitat was essential to his success.
"There is a little bit of difference in the grass and I keyed in on it the last day of practice," Morgenthaler said. "I noticed that the fish were starting to move on me (in practice). They bit really well the last day, so it was really easy for me to pull up into new areas and see really quick if they were there. I started getting so many bites that I started keying in a couple of little key deals.
"The fish are kind of moving around from morning to afternoon and you just kind of move with them. I didn't get nearly as many bites today as I thought I would, but I stayed there and fished with the bait I was going to fish, just hoping to get those bigger bites. I caught a big one on a frog early this morning on my first stop and that helped."
Morgenthaler said he had his weight by about 12:30 today. He caught his fish on a Snagproof Ish's PHAT Frog, a Secret Lures Reeling Frog and flipping/pitching baits.
Schenck goes brown for fifth
Bucking the largemouth trend that dominated today's weigh-ins, Shad Schenck, of Waynetown, Ind. sacked up a nice bag of brown fish that went 19-11. Spending his day in Champlain's upper end, Schenck reported a stellar day of smallmouth action.
"It was one of those days you dream about," he said. "This fishery is pretty awesome to say the least. I'm not one of these guys who's catching 50-100 bass, by any means. But I'm getting the right bites."
Schenck said he threw a mix of baits that included swimbaits, dropshots, jerkbaits and topwaters. Most of his bites came in 12-17 feet over a particular type of habitat that he declined to disclose.
"I know that bottom pretty well and they're not just swimming around every place," Schenck said. "It's pretty specific."
Best of the rest
6th: Blake Nick, of Adger, Ala., 19-10
7th: Chad Grigsby, of Maple Grove, Minn., 19-7
8th: Koby Krieger, of Okeechobee, Fla., 19-2
9th: Micah Frazier, of Newnan, Ga., 19-1
10th: Shane Long, of Springfield, Mo., 19-0
10th: Spencer Shuffield, of Bismarck, Ark., 19-0
Dudley and Tennessee pro Andy Morgan shared Snickers Big Bass honors with twin 6-pound largemouths.
Senkos deliver co-angler lead for Ferguson
Durham, N.C. co-angler Daniel Ferguson took the long ride to Ti, but found it well worth the trip, as he sacked up a division-leading limit that weighed 18-3. Ferguson devoted his entire day to a purple Senko Texas-rigged with a 1/8-ounce bullet weight all day.
"I stuck with the same (presentation all day) and they kept biting it," he said. "Most of my fish were hitting on the first fall. I'd throw it out, let it go down, wind it in and do it again."
Ferguson said that he and his pro hit about five spots, with most of his fish coming on the first one. Each subsequent location yielded a little more improvement.
"I caught five smaller ones and then every other spot I was getting a good one and it worked out for me," Ferguson said.
Robin Roystan, of Bath, N.H. took second place with 17-14. His catch included a 5-pound, 8-ounce largemouth that won the Snicker's Big Bass award. Glenn Babineau, of Mechanicville, N.Y. followed in third with 17-0, while Grant Holderman, of Augusta, Kans. was fourth with 16-8. Josh Smith, of Hamilton, Ohio took fifth with 16-7.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 co-angler leaders at the FLW Tour Major event on Lake Champlain:
6th: Rick Etherton, of Friendsville, Tenn., 15-15
7th: Mike McDonald, of Randleman, N.C., 15-13
8th: John Kite, of Festus, Mo., 15-12
8th: Marc Marsh, of Prosperity, S.C., 15-10
10th: George Miller, of Springfield, Penn., 15-9
Day two of the FLW Tour Major on Lake Champlain continues at Friday’s takeoff, scheduled to take place at 6:30 a.m. (Eastern) at Dock Street Landing located at 5 Dock St. in Plattsburgh, N.Y.