PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Ish Monroe and John Crews were up until 11 p.m. the night before he began fishing the Champion's Choice presented by Toyota Tundra because as persons born after Jan. 1, 1974, they are required by Vermont law to take a boater safety course before motoring around Lake Champlain.
Monroe's mood as he described this episode were worsened by three factors: He's only 7 months too young to have skipped the exam; he's a pro angler, with a bazillion hours logged in his boat; and it was about 4:30 a.m. on the lake when he related the story.But at least he passed, with a solid 82 percent. "Not many of us bring printers with us on the road," he said. "So John and I have sent them (the test results) to our cell phones."
If there is a week for boater safety brush-ups, however, it may be this. The bulk of the Bassmaster Elite Series anglers interviewed Thursday morning said they'd be making long, rough runs of perhaps 90 minutes or more on this vast, skinny lake. They also were in near-unanimity that the winner of this tournament will be an angler who succeeds in catching both smallmouth and largemouth bass, though no one much was interested in targeting smallmouth.
"You might have a guy catch a nice smallmouth on the way in, but you can win on largemouth," Brent Chapman said. "I haven't even made a cast for smallmouth.""My philosophy on Champlain is always large," Alton Jones said. "If you look at major events here, it always requires largemouths. You can compete with smallmouths, but you can't win it."
Certainly, the bigger largemouth will be the more prized fish. But with the lake level about 3 feet lower than at last year's tournament, anglers said the largemouth bass that last year were enjoying brush near the shore are now more spread out.
Coupled with the post-front weather, the largemouth bite could be elusive. Monroe rigged a frog, a tube and a drop shot. Jones said he expected the fish to shy away from the topwater baits they followed during practice, so he had rigged several soft plastics."They move too much for me," Monroe said of smallmouth bass. "I like the largemouth, lazy, sitting still, sort of like the guy who drinks beer and sits on the couch. The smallmouth is the marathon runner."
Asked to what extent smallmouth would play into his strategy, Matt Amedo, an inveterate smallmouth fisherman, replied, "Hopefully not much. If they do play into my game plan, it's because I didn't get (largemouth) down there."
Paul Elias said he expected that the winner would bring in a mix of fish. But asked what ratio he'd shoot for, he replied, "I hope I can stick with largemouth all week." The angler who can pull off that feat may just find himself with a safe lead at some point.
Editor's note: Check in daily during the tournament for live video of the weigh-ins and a realtime leaderboard at 3 p.m. ET Thursday through Saturday. ESPNOutdoors.com will air Hooked Up, the live Internet shows, on Sunday at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and noon ET on Sunday. The 45-minute Hooked Up show begins at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, leading into the final live weigh-in and a realtime leaderboard at 3:45 p.m. ET.
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