PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Jason Knapp of Uniontown, Pa., saved his best for last Saturday, making up more than three pounds on the competition to claim his first BASS win at the Bassmaster Northern Open event on Lake Champlain. The 27-year-old was able to hold off veteran Frank Scalish of Cleveland, Ohio, and Elite Series pros Mike Iaconelli and Ish Monroe with his three-day total of 56 pounds, 3 ounces.
Knapp took a scattershot approach on Thursday that netted him more than 17 pounds, which left him more than three pounds off the lead. His approach was to grab a limit of smallmouth bass early, then focus on the larger largemouth bite to anchor his limit. On Saturday, he switched gears to eliminate his deficit and focused primarily on largemouth. He says his ability to adjust to the conditions was paramount in his win.
"The first two days I got a limit of smallmouth casting a black 1/2-ounce Deps football head jig in about 15 feet of water," he said. "I did the same thing Saturday but then I went flipping. That's what won it for me.
"Since I culled most of my smallmouth, I fished slow and focused on getting a big (largemouth) bite," he said.
Knapp's flipping approach was different than most of the field's and it was cultivated based on a few key bites in practice.
"I had one good bite there in practice but didn't get to expand on it, and the second day I went up there and my co-angler caught two four pounders so I knew there were good fish there."
Saturday Knapp flipped a Mizmo creature bait in three to four feet of grass in a shallow bay 22 miles from the launch ramp. Knapp plans on re-investing most of his victory check — more than $45,000 — into his fishing career which he hopes will lead to the Bassmaster Elite Series. At 31st in the points standings, Knapp will need a good showing at the final Northern Open event on Lake Erie to qualify. The top seven in the points standings will qualify for the Elites.
Frank Scalish blamed his poor performance Friday for missing out on his second consecutive Bassmaster Northern Open victory.
"I really dropped the ball yesterday because after a 20 pound day, you've got to come back with another good day," he said of his 16-9 Friday weight. "I lost some ground. I really wanted to win."
Despite not winning, Scalish leads the Northern Opens points race, and with the final event schedule in his backyard at Lake Erie, he has a good shot at one of the two berths to the 2010 Bassmaster Classic, set for Birmingham, Ala., on Lay Lake Feb. 19-21.
Rounding out the top five pros were Dana Perrotte of Winooski, Vt., in third with 53-12. Mike Wolfenden or Warwick, R.I., took fourth with 53-5 while Todd Glover of Orion, Mich., was fifth with 52-11.
In the co-angler division, Friday leader Christopher Hall was able to hold on and take home his first BASS win. With the win, Hall takes home a brand new Triton/Mercury package worth more the $32,000.
Up next is the final stop in the Northern Open division, the Sept. 24-26 event on Lake Erie out of Sandusky, Ohio.