PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — The late arrival of summer has Lake Champlain’s bass fishing behind schedule, but it should be back on track during the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open presented by Allstate July 31-Aug. 2.
“The season has been late, so everything is behind what people would normally expect to see as far as weather conditions,” said Chris Flint, a Northern Opens contender from Potsdam, N.Y.
“The weather has the bass in different phases in different parts of the lake,” Flint said. “In some spots the fish are done spawning and are in full-time summer mode. Some midlake fish are just recovering from the spawn. And others in the north are even a little further behind.”
While prefishing for the Open, Flint found water temperatures varying from 72 to 79 degrees. “If you are on the main lake, it is still cold, but you can get back into pockets and find almost 80 degrees,” he said.
Water conditions are close to normal for the 271,000-acre natural lake along the New York-Vermont border. “The water is a little low right now, but we have had some heavy rains, so it seems to be coming up a little bit,’ Flint said. “The midlake is clear (about 10 feet of visibility), and Ticonderoga in the south has some stain (1 to 3 feet of visibility), like it normally does. And the north end is pretty muddy because of a predominant south wind.”
Flint described his prefishing as “pretty good,” even though the best summertime pattern hasn’t kicked in yet. “The hollow-belly frog is going to dominate,” he predicted. “That bite is starting to come around, and I imagine by the time the Open gets here it is going to be in full swing.”
The New York angler foresees several competitors making long runs to the Ticonderoga area to fish for largemouth stacked in the shallow weed mats. “That is where a lot of the good mats are and that’s where a lot of the good bags are taken from once that summer pattern kicks in,” he said.
The area features giant mats of grass, so the Open anglers will have to search for the best parts of the vegetation to throw their hollow-belly and popping frogs. “The better mats are the ones that have bluegills underneath,” Flint said. “Once you hear the bluegill activity, there is a pretty good chance you are going to find some bass underneath that mat.”
Flint believes the Ticonderoga area will produce the best fishing during the Open, but making the long run south will be a gamble. Wind can make the main lake extremely rough, and it’s rare that conditions are calm enough for a comfortable run to the South Lake area three consecutive days.
“It seems there is always a day when the wind blows really hard,” he said. “But, guys still take that chance and make that run, even if it only gives them a couple of hours to fish.”
Northern Open contenders can also target smallmouth bass in the midlake area, which will be a favorable alternative if they want to avoid the crowds at Ticonderoga or a long, rough ride to the south on a windy day.
Drop shotting with a perch-imitating bait produces best for smallmouth hanging around the rockpiles at depths of 10 to 20 feet.
Flint expects it will take 15 pounds a day to make the Top 12 cut with the winning weight for the three-day Northern Open at about 54 pounds.
The daily takeoffs will begin at 5:30 a.m. ET from Dock Street Landing, 4 Beach Road, Plattsburgh, N.Y. 12901. Weigh-ins will also be held at Dock Street Landing and begin at 2 p.m. ET.