PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Dave Andrews of Bolton, Mass., started strong and finished stronger to take the lead Friday at the Bassmaster Northern Open on Lake Champlain. His two-day total of 38 pounds, 3 ounces, puts him barely ahead of Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mike Iaconelli of Runnemede, N.J., who amassed 37-8 over two days of fishing.
"I had a good topwater bite this morning and from there, I did a lot of slow Carolina rig fishing targeting smallmouth," said Andrews. ""After I got a decent limit, I saved an hour for a largemouth spot to fish one isolated weedbed and I pulled a five and a four out of there and culled my two smallest fish.
"The weather, similar to Thursday, fluctuated constantly. It was relatively calm, and nowhere near the predicted 15- to 20-mile-per-hour winds that were forecasted. The winds are predicted to blow for the final day of competition on Saturday.
"We're faced with weather changes almost hourly up here when the clouds roll over the mountains. It was supposed to be rough today, but at noon it was flat and you just have to adapt," he said. "When it's flat, there's a topwater bite, and when it's windy, you drag a Carolina rig."
Meanwhile, Iaconelli stuck with the same approach Friday as Thursday. The 2006 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year targeted largemouth after a long southerly run. Despite a slower bite, he was still able to bring 18-4 to the scales.
"I really believe largemouth are going to win this tournament. You pick a species, put your head down and go for it and hope to get a few big bites," he said. "They didn't bite as well today. I had about half as many bites as I did yesterday."
With an hour remaining, Iaconelli ran north toward the ramp to trade two small largemouth for larger smallmouth. His plan for Saturday is largely dependent on the wind.
"My rule of thumb is if it blows 10 (miles per hour) or less, I go (south). If it blows 15 or more, I'm north. I've got fish up north I can fish for, but I really want to go down south," he said.
Getting to Iaconelli's southern fishing hole may not be as easy, as there is another tournament launching near there.
"That may change things up as far as how I have to fish, but generally it's the same game plan."
Rounding out the top five was Todd Glover of Orion, Mich., with 37-5 in third while Frank Scalish of Cleveland, Ohio, continued his strong performance in the Northern Opens and was tied for fourth with Mike Wolfenden of Warwick, R.I. Both had 37-4.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Dave Wolak of Wake Forest, N.C., posted the day's biggest bass, a 5-pound, 4-ounce largemouth and finished in 11th.
Northern Opens points leader Dave Mansue of Robbinsville, N.J., fell out of contention with electronics trouble on Day One and finished in 80th. Scalish has a prime opportunity to slide into the lead with a strong Saturday. Elite anglers Kotaro Kiriyama of Moody, Ala., (fifth) and New Jersey's Mike Iaconelli (eighth) are within striking distance.
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 hole 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.
Live coverage on the tournament can be found on Bassmaster.com including real-time leaderboards, photo galleries and stories. 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. The top 30 anglers will fish Saturday, with the 31st through 50th place finishers receiving a check today.