John Cox patiently waiting

We’ve set up on John Cox who is further south into the Ticonderoga.

He’s fishing a big flat with a bunch of milfoil pods. The closer we get to him the clearer the water gets. He’s varying his approach. But he really expects the majority of his action won’t come until after the sun gets up and positions the fish.

Meanwhile he’s doing what he does best, moving around shallow cover and being patient.

Flats play early on Champlain

Anglers don’t like to talk about “flat” productivity, unless you twist the semantics and talk about productivity on a flat.

We’re seeing some of this early on Day 1 of the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain, as several anglers, started their day on a big flat off the Rouses Point area, north of takeoff, on the New York side. Here, fish roam in wolf packs and chase schools of perch in about 5 to 15 feet of water

Among the group was Clark Wendlandt, who placed eighth at last week’s Elite on the St. Lawrence River. With the morning starting with nearly flat calm conditions, Wendlandt threw a topwater, which produced a 3-pounder around 7:30 — and a large pike that had Bassmaster LIVE host Mark Zona dreaming of a fish fry.

Drew Benton, who had fished his way into the (unofficial) top 10 by 8:15, was also targeting the flat and catching fish on soft plastics. His analysis: Find the sweet spots.

“If you find the taller grass, or you find a little rock (structure), they’ll be a pile of them,” Benton said.

Wendlandt loses lure to a pike

Clark Wendlandt enters this fourth Elite Series event of the season as the Angler of the Year points leader. Much has gone his way so far this season, including an 8th-place finish at the St. Lawrence River last week. The schedule is, in a sense, going his way as well. Wendlandt loves Lake Champlain.

"I've always liked it," said the 54-year-old Cedar Park, Texas, veteran angler. "It's a good time to be here. I've had some top 10s, no top fives, and I've been in the money here many times. I had a decent practice. I looked for largemouth and smallmouth. I just wasn't as successful finding the largemouth."

Wendlandt did find a fish with a large mouth this morning - a large, toothy-mouthed northern pike. It took Wendlandt's lure as a parting gift. But not before he'd caught a 3-pound smallmouth on the topwater bait.

"One thing about this place this time is it's lower than I've ever seen it," Wendlandt said yesterday. "A lot of places you'd expect largemouth to be are almost dry."

Bryan Schmitt superstition

While covering take-off this morning on Day 1 of the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain, I noticed that Bryan Schmitt had zero rods on his deck. 

Now typically most of the anglers are rigging their rods before take-off; and they usually have at least 6 rods on deck.  So I asked Bryan what was up with the clear deck; and he said, “well I have a superstition, that if I pull my rods before I get to my first spot, I don’t catch anything.” 

At the St. Lawrence tournament last week he said that he put the rods on his deck before take-off and he didn’t do so good.

I will be expecting a big bag today from Bryan. Learn more about Schmitt's path to the elites

The one-two punch

We are in the second week of the New York swing. Last week, it was all smallmouth for the top finishers (except Brock Mosley) at the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. Historically, smallmouth win tournaments there, and for good and obvious reasons.

Not so at Lake Champlain. The lake has a viable largemouth fishery. Historically speaking, the most fertile largemouth waters have been at the far south end of the lake, near Ticonderoga. In recent years that has changed. Largemouth and their habitat are flourishing in the Plattsburgh region.

Carl Jocumsen found out in the final minutes of the 2018 Eastern Northern Open held here. Across the lake from Plattsburgh, on the Vermont side, Jocumsen's glide bait caught a 7-pound class largemouth. It wasn't alone. Other largemouth in that size class followed it. Jocumsen caught one and ended up in 6th place.

This week he's broadening his strategy to include smallmouth and largemouth.

"I'm going to be chasing smallmouth for most of the day," he said. "If I can get to the 17-pound mark with the smallmouth then I'm going to go for largemouth."

He continued, "During practice I caught the biggest northern largemouth that I have ever seen. What I've learned here over the years, and this is one of my favorite lakes, is that it takes largemouth and smallmouth to win."

Brandon Lester, who calls Champlain his favorite lake of them all, recognizes the potential that largemouth have here.

"In my opinion, it's easier to get a good limit of smallmouth," he said. "If you want to win you need a really good limit of smallmouth, 15 pounds or more, and a couple of kicker largemouth to keep you in the hunt."

Talley on Ticonderoga

Our first stop in the Ticonderoga is on Frank Talley.

Frank the Tank told us with the exception of a 5-mile rough section the ride from Plattsburgh wasn’t too bad.

Still there only appears to be a few boats who dared to make the trip. Currently along with Talley is Kyle Monti and John Cox, who you can watch on Bassmaster Live.

The water up here has a nice dinginess to it, but there’s also a lot of milfoil and eel grass. Plus it’s way low, which sucks for navigation but could concentrate fish.

I expect these guy's mouths are watering.

Tacoronte special spook

In 2013 Jesse Tacoronte was fishing a tournament on Champlain and on day 3 he drew a guy named Brian. Tacoronte had been catching his fish on a dropshot and this guy pulls out what Jessie called a “special spook.” On Brian’s fifth cast he catches a 5-pound brown.   Tacoronte says, “man, what color you throwing”, the co-angler says, “it’s the only one to throw on this lake.”   Tacoronte says, “well I ain’t got none of them”, so Bryan gave him the spook.  On Tacoronte’s second cast he catches a 5 pounder.  Yesterday he said he caught a 6-pounder on it. This week he has only caught 3 smallmouth and they have all been over 4 on the special spook.  I have never seen one like it. It’s a Jimmy Houston spook with a color that right now is, well unknown.

Auten: Getting bit, but ...

Todd Auten is fishing an area in which he located some bass during practice, and he’s getting bites.

The problem is he’s catching the wrong species. “I’ve caught three or four of those little goggle-eye,” Auten said. “They’re eating me up.” That said, he’s not giving up the offshore area just yet. “I haven’t been in here this early,” Auten explained.

So he’s hoping the fish he found will show up soon.

Champlain already kicking up

Lake Champlain is known for its rough water whenever the winds kick up. We are on the Vermont side in an area known as the Inland Sea, and it's living up to its name.  

And a stiff breeze already has the lake building. I’m on the Vermont side, and there is already a 1-foot chop washing across the area.

My boater, Charlie Crouchman, said Champlain gets particularly rough with a southerly wind - which is exactly what we have this morning.

“It’s got 70 miles to build,” he said.

Meant to be

One of my favorite fishing stories, or at least a story about the games anglers play, comes from the Ticonderoga.

I mentioned earlier the lock Timmy Horton had on the 2007 event. He found a rock pile that was loaded, so much so that he showed up early to weigh in on the final day and ordered a pizza while he waited for everyone else.

When he found the fish he obviously worried someone else would find them too. So he played defense in practice. While guarding the rock pile, he noticed another competitor getting closer, graphing the area.

Instead of sitting on the spot and drawing attention to it he devised another plan. He quickly went to the bank.

His plan was to pitch a jig in a bush and immediately set the hook as if he had a bite and missed.

It was a good plan. He tossed his jig in the bush with eyes on the approaching angler and set the hook.

Instead of hanging up on a limb or coming out clean he was surprised to find he had hooked a 5-pounder. The fish was a nice surprise. Although it wasn’t what he was planning on it had the desired impact.

The approaching angler settled in and started flipping, and worked right by the rock pile that would have likely shown up on his graph.

Horton’s plan was perfect and as the saying goes “It was just meant to be.”

Wondering if we will see one those “meant to be” starts today.