PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. - Chris Sumansky, of Renfrew, Pa., found 21 pounds, 5 ounces, worth of Lake Champlain bass to take the lead Thursday at the second stop of the Bassmaster Northern Open circuit. Sumansky took advantage of a week-long practice before the tournament to get re-acquainted with Champlain.
"This is my second time out here, the last time was three years ago, so I came up a little early and had an incredible practice," said Sumansky. "Today, I got bit immediately at each of my spots, whacked them, and then left. I think it could happen again tomorrow."
Sumansky said working weedbeds and boulders was most productive, and in particular, a single weedbed marked on his GPS proved key. After Thursday's success, Sumansky plans to do more of the same throughout the tournament.
At stake for the pros is a top prize of $45,000 and valuable points toward qualifying for the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series season and two berths in the 2010 Bassmaster Classic, set for Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala. Co-anglers compete in the Opens for the top prize of a Triton/Mercury package valued at $32,000. After Day Two, the field will be cut to the top 30 pros and co-anglers, who will advance to Saturday's final day of competition.
Like Sumansky, Craig Nels of Baldwinsville, N.Y., did his homework on Champlain. Nels, who was second with 20 pounds, 10 ounces, spent considerable time figuring out the smallmouth bass' feeding habits during his practice time. A methodical approach drop shotting grasslines and breaklines with YUM soft plastics was Nels pattern of choice.
"I just fished slow and thorough along the grass edges," said Nels. "My goal was to catch some 3 1/2-pound fish, and if I was on a spot that had smaller fish than that, I didn't give it a second look. If you get 15 pounds a day, you may get a check and nothing else."
On Friday, Nels will target the largemouth that eluded him Thursday and will be looking for the four- or five-pound bite. The weather will play a factor in his approach.
"A lot of what I'm going to do depends on the wind," said Nels. "I tried to catch as much as I could today because I know how the waves can get up here, which could really knock me down tomorrow. And you could always get canceled for a day with the weather."
Frank Scalish of Cleveland, Ohio, sits in third with 20-8. Scalish was second in the points standings heading into Champlain and with another top finish would be a favorite to make the 2010 Bassmaster Classic. 2009 Bassmaster Classic participant Scott Parker of Londonderry, N.H., was fourth with 19-10. Rounding out the top five was Elite Series pro Ish Monroe of Hughson, Calif., who boated 19-9.
Mike Iaconelli, another Elite Series pro, was seventh with 19-4.
On the co-angler side, Terry Ford of Westerville, Ohio, managed 19 pounds Thursday. His limit was anchored by one of the day's biggest bass, a six pounder. Tom Alt of Columbia City, Ind., was ten ounces behind Ford with 18-6 and in third was long-time Bassmaster Magazine contributor Mark Hicks of Glouster, Ohio.
In 2007, Alabama's Timmy Horton, a veteran Bassmaster Elite Series pro and the 2000 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, ran away with the victory on Champlain at an Elite event with an advantage of nearly 13 pounds over second-place finisher Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., the reigning Bassmaster Classic champ. The whole of Horton's 83 pounds, 10 ounces came on a Booyah Football Head jig.
Fans are invited to the Open's Friday and Saturday takeoffs and weigh-ins at Plattsburgh Boat Basin at 5 Dock Street, Plattsburgh, N.Y. Anglers will launch their boats at 5:45 a.m. ET and the weigh-ins are scheduled to begin at 2:05 p.m. All activities are free and open to the public.
Up next is the final stop in the Northern Open division, the Sept. 24-26 event on Lake Erie out of Sandusky, Ohio. Dave Mansue of Robbinsville, N.J., leads the Northern Open points standings on the strength of his circuit-opening victory on the Chesapeake Bay. Scalish of Cleveland, Ohio, is close behind in second while Elite anglers Kotaro Kiriyama of Moody, Ala., (fifth) and New Jersey's Mike Iaconelli (eighth) are within striking distance.