PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — True to form, the opening day of the CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open at Lake Champlain turned into a closely-packed free-for-all with 17 anglers bringing in catches of at least 17 pounds and more than 30 weighing in at least 15 pounds.
There may be trouble ahead, however, as many of the those catches came from the same general area, a large, well-known underwater reef where the water ranges from 5 to 30 feet deep. At one time, a dozen boats, some less than a cast apart, were fishing the spot.
Leading the pack is New Hampshire pro Joe Lucarelli, 26, who brought in 20 pounds, 2 ounces, but he's only 5 ounces ahead of Ohio's Steve Clapper (19-13) and 3 ounces ahead of Vermont angler Jimmy Kennedy, whose 19-11 catch was bolstered by a 4 pound, 14 ounce largemouth, the heaviest fish of the day on the pro side.
Kennedy hadn't had a bite at 9 a.m., a time when many of his competitors already had filled their livewells with smallmouth, but then he made a slight technical change and spent the rest of the day catching more than 20 fish.
Among the non-boaters, Andrew Karcich of New Jersey leads with 17 pounds, 7 ounces, but another local Vermont fisherman, Doug Wilson, is close behind with 16-14. Non-boater Steven Brinster of Highland Lakes, NJ brought in the largest bass of the day, 5 pounds, 4 ounces. He's in 7th with 13-14.
"We had a lot of fun out there today," laughed Ohio pro Ed Allen, who holds 9th with 18 pounds, 4 ounces, and was part of the crowd fishing the underwater reef. "We were so close together we were analyzing each other's casting techniques and guessing the weights of each other's fish."
Allen isn't sure if he'll return to the spot tomorrow.
"A lot of fish came off that reef today, and a lot more were hooked and turned loose there," he says. "The chances are I will go back for at least part of the day, but I just don't see how it could give up so many bass a second day in succession."
One who probably will return to the reef is eigth-place angler Steve Lucarelli, the father of leader Joe.
"We fish a lot together, although this is our first Bassmaster event, and even if I don't catch another fish, I'll enjoy watching him," he said. Both father and son are fishing guides on New Hampshire's Lake Winnepasaukee.
Also not surprising in the first day results is the fact the 1,064 total fish caught by the 139 pros and their partners came on a wide variety of lures and techniques. Many were taken on soft plastic tube lures dragged slowly along the bottom, but drop shotting and Carolina rigging also proved productive. Others who targeted Champlain's largemouth fishery worked shallow vegetation with jigs and plastic worms.
"It's an absolutely amazing lake," noted Paul Hirosky, the winner of last month's Bassmaster Northern Open at Lake Erie but in 30th place here with 15-8. "I made a long run to the southern part of Champlain near Ticonderoga but could only fish three hours because of motor problems and still caught plenty of bass."