Walmart FLW Tour - FLW Tour Majors
Lake Champlain (June 28-July. 1, 2012)
PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – The sea sirens beckoning Odysseus sang never so sweetly as the alluring call of Lake Champlain's southern gem known as Ticonderoga. It's a long run from the northern takeoff site and the big gamble has dashed many dreams on the unforgiving rocks of time management. Nevertheless, conditions are prime for the FLW Tour Major event on this bountiful body.
Straddling the New York-Vermont border and tickling Quebec's lower edge, Champlain presents a unique northern fishery literally packed with smallmouth and largemouth bass. The latter is not uncommon in the upper U.S., but Champlain's green fish grow big and this time of year, tournaments can just as easily be won by either species. Largemouth exist throughout the lake, but the vast majority of big ones live down south in the fertile grass beds of Ticonderoga.
Given Champlain's relatively narrow figure, which slims significantly in its lower end, windy days bring big waves that rebound off high rocky banks for a brutal slop. Today's light winds will offer safe, comfortable rides and many will consider incorporating "Ti" into their game plans. For Alabama pro Kyle Mabrey, the decision was made prior to this day's dawning.
"I'm committed (to Ti) because the quality of fish I saw in practice is worth going," Mabrey said. "They healthy, they've recovered from their spawn and they seem to weigh good. The grass is looking good and I'm committed to the area no matter what it does. Shallow water grass fishing is what I like to do so as long as I can be doing that I feel like I have a chance."
Today's partly cloudy skies will see the fish out roaming more than they would during sunny conditions, so Mabrey plans to move around a lot and find fish with frogs, chatterbaits, swimbaits and spinnerbaits. He'll slow down and work active areas with flipping baits.
Indiana pro John Voyles will be joining Mabrey down south. He spent two of his practice days in Ti and one produced the biggest 5-fish sack he's ever caught on Champlain. He also found a good smallmouth bite in the north end, but he's convinced that Ti is the place to be this time of year. He'll ply the grassy habitat with a swim jig, chatterbait and topwater plug.
For some, tournament parameters will influence their Ti decision. For example, North Carolina pro Dave Wolak, who won last year's FLW Tour Open event on Champlain, has an early check-in time, so he's fishing north today. He'll have a longer day tomorrow and he's already decided to point his nose south.
"I think the Ticonderoga factor is going to be the biggest factor," Wolak said. "The grass is right; the growth stage is right and the amount of grass is critical down there. When you get later in the summer and into the fall, there's so much grass down there and then some of it starts dying out and that dissipates the concentrations of fish. Right now, you have them concentrated."
National Guard pro and 2011 Forrest Wood Cup champion Scott Martin scored FLW Tour wins on Champlain in 2004 and 2009. Although Ticonderoga's weedy composition resembles that of his Clewiston, Florida home waters, he's taking a different strategy and splitting his focus between largemouth and smallmouth in the mid to upper lake.
"I'm going to start on the largemouth and hopefully I can stay on them and grind out a nice bag," Martin said. "If I need to catch smallmouth, I have a couple of areas close to where I'm fishing for largemouth that I might be able to catch a couple of 3 ½- to 4-pounders. I might wish I would have went down south to Ticonderoga, but to be honest, I've caught so many fish over the years on the mid-lake to north end that I really just want to keep my confidence in that general area. It makes life a lot simpler, rather than trying to figure out which end I need to run to."
Martin's fellow National Guard team member Brent Ehler, who travelled cross country from his Redlands, Calif. home, will also mix it up with both bass. He'll throw dropshots, jerkbaits and Carolina rigs for smallies; and crank, frog and flip for largemouth. Also hailing from the Golden State, Cody Meyer, will focus his efforts on smallmouth in Champlain's northern end.
"I tried to fish for largemouth in practice but I didn't get them, so I'm going to fish for smallmouth and hopefully get some of the big ones on the light line," Meyer said. "Dropshots with a Jackall Crosstail Shad will be my primary bait. I'll also throw some jerkbaits and if they come up behind it without biting, I'll throw the dropshot on them."
Wherever and however anglers fish, Champlain's abundance practically guarantees the opportunity to keep the rods bent. That may sound good, and in terms of general fishing fun, this lake can be a blast. But tournament success demands time management, so this field will forego the vacation moments and dial in their search for quality bass.
"I don't have a glory hole down (in Ti); I have a little milk run I'm going to hit and see if I can come up with some 4-plus-pound bites because that's the key to getting a good bag," Mabrey said. "I could go down there and catch 2 ½- to 3-pounders all day and come in with 15 pounds just as easily as I could come in with 20.
"The deal is that you have to make a good decision every day, because I saw in practice that it has changed every day. There's a certain way they'll bite. That's the reason I practiced three days down there – to find the most productive water and then hopefully go in there on game day and make a good decision on how to get them to bite."
Martin echoes these thoughts: "Here's the thing about this lake: If it doesn't way 3 1/2 pounds, it doesn't count. No matter how fun this lake is, catching all these 2 ½- to 3-pounders, those don't count for the tournament. They have to be 3 ½ or better and that's what I'm going to fish for. I might not catch as many fish as I have in practice, but I'm looking for the big ones."
During FLW Tour competition, pros supply the boats, fish from the front deck against other pros and control boat movement. Co-anglers fish from the back deck and compete against other co-anglers. Anglers are permitted to weigh in their best five bass each day. Every angler who receives weight credit in a tournament earns points that determine angler standings. The full field competes on days one and two. After Friday’s day-two weigh-in, both the co-angler and pro fields will be cut to the top 20. On day three, the co-angler champion will be crowned based on the field’s three-day accumulated weight. Also on Saturday, the pro field will be cut down to the top 10 pros. The remaining pro field will then compete during Sunday’s final round of tournament action. The pro winner ultimately will be determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all four days.
The tournament will feature a full field featuring top awards of up to $125,000 in the Pro Division and up to $25,000 in the Co-angler Division.
FLW Tour competitors will also be vying for valuable standings points in an effort to qualify for the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing. This year’s Cup will be in Duluth/Gainesville, Ga., Aug. 9-12 on Lake Lanier and anglers could win as much as $500,000 – the sport’s biggest award. Anglers are also vying for the prestigious 2012 Walmart FLW Tour Angler of the Year title that will be determined by the most points accumulated over the six FLW Tour Majors.
Tourney Expo and Logistics
Anglers will take off from Dock Street Landing located at 5 Dock St. in Plattsburgh, N.Y., at 6:30 a.m. each morning. Thursday and Friday’s weigh-ins will be held at Dock Street Landing beginning at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday’s final weigh-ins will be held at the Plattsburgh State Field House located at 167 Rugar St. in Plattsburgh beginning at 4 p.m.
Fans will be treated to the FLW Expo at the Plattsburgh State Field House on Saturday and Sunday from noon-4 p.m. prior to the final weigh-ins. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and fans can learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public. On Sunday the first 300 children 14 and under who are accompanied by an adult will receive a free rod and reel combo. Also on Sunday one lucky fishing fan will win a Can-Am ATV. Both giveaways are courtesy of Fox 44, the Press Republican and WOKO. The ATV giveaway is free to enter but the winner must be present at the conclusion of Sunday’s final weigh-in to win.
As part of the FLW Tour’s community outreach initiative, FLW will be working in conjunction with the City of Plattsburgh and the Saranac River Trail to participate in a riverbank cleanup and education event at Waterhouse Park. The Saranac River Trail is a planned 17-mile greenway that provides opportunities for safe, non-motorized transportation and recreation through the city of Plattsburgh, excellent sites for appreciating nature, as well as access for fishing, kayaking and canoeing. FLW anglers will be on hand June 27 from 9-11 a.m. for the cleanup and education project.
Coverage of the Lake Champlain tournament will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network when “FLW” airs Aug. 26 from 1 - 2 p.m. ET. "FLW" is hosted by Jason Harper and is broadcast to more than 559 million households worldwide, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoors-sports television show in the world.
Bass-fishing fans take note
Want to watch the weigh in live but can’t make it in person? Then tune into FLW Live on FLWOutdoors.com shortly before 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time to watch live streaming video and audio of today’s opening-round weigh in.
Daily on-the-water coverage will also be available online at FLWOutdoors.com.
Sunrise: 5:11 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 60 degrees
Expected high temperature: 79 degrees
Water temperature: 66-68 degrees
Wind: NW 5-10 mph
Humidity: 50 percent
Day’s outlook: partly cloudy