ICAST is over. I’ve had a few days of rest and relaxation so now I’m beginning to think about my next episode of Ike Live! We’re going to talk a lot about Lake Champlain. We’ll cover how to fish her and what I think might work. The majority of my time, however, will be spent reminiscing about days past on this mighty body of water.
You see, Lake Champlain is the place where I won my first professional grade tournament. That was back in 1999. I was still working full-time for Dick’s when it happened. Back then it was called the Bassmaster Top 150. When I qualified for the tournaments at that level, I had to go to my boss to see about getting enough time off work to fish them. But, at the same time, I had to keep working there for financial reasons.
Fortunately, my boss was a former B.A.S.S. Nation angler. He really understood what was burning inside me. We had no trouble working things out.
That tournament has another meaning for me, as well. It was the first time I ever weighed more bass in a tournament than Rick Clunn. I couldn’t believe it when it happened. He had 59.4 pounds. I had 61.3 pounds. I was first. He was second.
Clunn was, and is, one of my all-time heroes in this business. He’s won a ton of tournaments but, more importantly, he’s promoted the sport of bass fishing for decades. I admired him as a kid when I was just learning to fish with my grandfather. I admire him today. He’s my kind of guy. Knowing that I could compete with him, at his level, changed my professional life. It gave me a confidence I’d never had before.
I’ve wanted to say that for years, to tell him how much he inspired me. I’m glad it’s a part of my column. Now let’s talk just a little about Champlain.
It’s a great body of water. One of the things that make it great is that it supports a true 50-50 mix between smallmouth and largemouth. Not very many lakes do that. Most of them — even those with healthy populations of both species — favor one or the other.
Think carefully about some of the super bass lakes in the country and you’ll see what I mean. How many lakes do you know where you can face a bank and catch 25 pounds of largemouth, and then turn around with your back turned to that same stretch of shoreline and catch 25 pounds of smallmouth? And, on most days, you can do it with the same lure. It’s incredible.
It’s also about the only place I can think of in the United States where they’re might be unexplored water. I really think that there are places in that lake that have never been fished and fish living there that have never seen an artificial lure. If you think that sounds crazy, I suggest you go out in the middle section of her one day and just wander around.
Next week, we’ll talk a little about how to fish her.