PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Lake Champlain's healthy population of largemouths and smallmouths shined on back-of-the-boaters as well as professionals on the first day the BASS Elite Series. Twenty-eight co-anglers weighed in sacks of more than 10 pounds, headed up by Central Square, N.Y., resident Craig Daino, who had 16 pounds, 9 ounces.
Daino, a plumbing contractor who's fished Champlain only "four or five times" in his career, shared a boat with Kurt Dove, who turned in a 14th-place bag of 16-12 on Day One. Fishing slow with soft plastics, Daino's bag consisted mainly of largemouths around weeds.
"We're not finesse fishing, but we're definitely not power fishing either," said Daino, who is taking a break from the busy season of installing pipes in new house construction. "We tried power fishing but it didn't work."
Catching around 15 keepers for the day, Daino said he and Dove secured most of their fish between 7 and 9 a.m. after making a long run south."He goes pretty darn fast. We passed up a lot of people on the way there," said Daino, who will fish with Marty Robinson (11-12, 89th place) Friday. "There was one big spurt about 7:30, 8."
Though he intends to fish the remaining Elite Series in Buffalo — only a two-hour drive from his hometown — Daino admits that this "mini-vacation" hasn't exactly gone over too well with several people.
"The business is just unbelievable right now. New houses are going up all over the place and builders get really held up in the winter," Daino said. "This is the time when a lot of people think I should be working, but this is worth it. You just have to prepare as much as possible beforehand."
Sliding into second place is Syracuse, N.Y., resident Lawrence LaClair, a bridge mechanic for the CSX Railroad. He bagged 15-15 Thursday behind pro John Murray an hour south of the blast-off.
"We fished mainly topwaters today and did most of our damage in the first hour of fishing," said LaClair, who missed out on a check last year at Lake Oneida on a tiebreaker between two other co-anglers. "They were really chewing this morning."
Fishing were scattered in grass that came to within a foot or so of the surface in six to seven feet of water, LaClair and Murray also flipped some tubes and ran an occasional crankbait in securing his limit, which consisted of four largemouths and one smallmouth.He almost didn't make it to the tournament at all after daughter was involved in a car accident a week ago."She was pretty banged up and had to have surgery to have pins placed in her ankle," LaClair said. "I wasn't able to make it here until Tuesday night."
Third place belongs to Oklahoma State student Brandon Pedigo with 15-12. Fishing with Gary Klein, the young angler from Lawton, Okla., flipped up a healthy bag of largemouths on a Sweet Beaver around an assortment of grasses before upgrading near the end of the day, putting two meaty smallmouths in the livewell just three minutes from the dock.
"It was on two consecutive casts with a jerkbait. I was throwing a Lucky Craft Pointer 100 and I ended up upgrading with two big smallmouths," said Pedigo, who's been in a two tourney slump, including a subpar finish in his home state of Oklahoma. "It's good to get back on track. I just couldn't catch them on Grand (Lake). I don't know if it was the draw or what, but I just wasn't thinking."Fourth place (15-9) belongs to Tom Booth of Rochester, N.Y. In his first Elite event and first time on the lake, the salesman with Mercury Printing tallied 15 keepers fishing with Skeet Reese.
"My brother Mark and I do pretty well fishing tournaments in the finger lakes closer to home," said Booth, who said he and Reese made the run to the Ticonderoga area far south of the launch.While they shared water early with four or five boats, Booth said they were alone when they got on their fish, most of which were caught throwing topwaters.
"We were fishing weedbeds for the most part," he said, "and we also flipped a little bit and threw a frog."
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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