Loughran broke the ice

Ed Loughran has finally broken the ice. After hooking up and losing a fish, he hooked into one in pure smallmouth fashion did not come to the boat easy.

Loughran actually has his hand on this fish several times and it jumped away from him.

He finally got it in and a few minutes later landed one about 1 1/2 pounds. He’s got two that loiter around the 5-pound mark.

Curse of the 3-pounder

Digital scales are getting overly frequent use by the anglers this week at Lake Champlain. The reason why is the overabundance of 3-pound smallmouth.

"The 3.1- and 3.3 ounce smallmouth are so abundant that they can't get you to the 18-pound limit you need to keep advancing in the tournament," said Ed Loughran.

I used that quote because it's so odd that guys are basing success on mere ounces within a 3-pound class fish. That just goes to show you how much of an ounces-driven game we have this week.

"Now, what I really want is to catch those 3.5- and up to 4-pound pound smallmouth," added Loughran.

See what I mean? A game of ounces, literally.

Hartman repeating Day 2 pattern

By 8:45 a.m., Jamie Hartman was one of six anglers who already had a five-bass limit. Hartman, the tournament leader the first two days, posted 15 1/2 pounds on the BASSTrakk leaderboard to keep him in first place, unofficially. It's a repeat of what he did yesterday, when he sacked 20 pounds for the second day in a row.

"I got on 'em quick," Hartman said of his Friday performance. "I got on 'em in the first hour, hour-and-a-half. I had 18 pounds pretty quick. That took a lot of pressure off."

Hartman has relied on a Carolina rig all week. But Friday two key fish, including a 5-pound smallmouth, came on a half-ounce Riot Baits jig.

Mercer: Lester early bite

Dave Mercer caught up with Brandon Lester. Lester is having an incredible morning with 17 lbs. in the boat. 

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Fish health more important than ever

The Bassmaster Elite Series pros are professionally trained in the best practices of fish care, and their high-tech bass boats are rigged with the very latest in livewell aeration systems.

Dead fish are a rarity. Even so, the anglers are not leaving anything to chance. On the dock this morning I watched many of them walk over to the live release boat and retrieve bags of livewell treatment from a container.

"Maintaining fish health is a top priority, even though we are in cooler temperatures," said Bryan Schmitt. "Losing just one ounce can mean a difference of 10 places in the standings."

The dreaded dead fish penalty deducts four ounces for every dead fish weighed.

Kreiger’s 1-2 punch

Koby Kreiger has boated more than 15 pounds, but he’s had to switch up baits to do it.

His primary bait is a Spook, and he’s caught a couple of his smallies using that topwater.

But if a fish misses the lure, Kreiger switched to a wacky rig, and that’s contributed to his early morning limit.

Avoiding boat shyness

Last week, Paul Mueller relied on his Garmin Panoptix LiveScope to "see" smallmouth in the already ultra-clear water of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.

This week, it's David Mullins who is relying on the feature for the same reasons.

LiveScope allows the user to see highly detailed, live scanning sonar images of structure, bait and fish swimming around and ahead of the boat.

"It's changed the way I fish for smallmouth," said Mullins, who as I write this is catching fish after fish on Bassmaster LIVE.

Another carryover--and noteworthy discovery thanks to live scan sonar--is just how boat shy bass are in the clear water. Last week, I wrote about Mueller realizing that his hooking ratio improved when he backed off a piece of bottom cover holding a fish.

Same thing this week for Mullins.

"I can see the fish from 60 feet away, but I've got to make a cast before I get any closer or it'll spook," he said.

It's fun to watch but also a great lesson learned, as live scan sonar becomes more mainstream.

Kreiger’s pattern

Koby Kreiger has been working back and forth over a flat up the lake, and he’s said mentioned boulders as part of the pattern that so far has put mire than 15 pounds in the boat.

My boater, Vermont’s Steve Dinco, said another key to the pattern is the sparse vegetation on the flat.

“We look for that grass,” Dinco said. “There’s not a lot of structure, so that grass is what holds fish.”

Waiting on the fireworks

Ed Loughran has yet to hook into a keeper which is a bit odd. But it’s a situation that seems to be plaguing the field.

This time yesterday Jamie Hartman and Seth Feider had big limits. And catches were showing up all through the standings.

Looks as if that catch rate has slowed considerably. We expect it won’t change the amount of fish brought to the scales by the end of day. But it’s not gang busters this morning by any stretch.

It’s calm out here. Same as yesterday. But much quieter than the day before.

We are all waiting for the fireworks to start. If I knew where to light the fuse I’d head that way.

Kreiger limits

Koby Kreiger just put his fifth smallmouth in the livewell, and he’s now sitting on about 14 pounds. And that includes a 1-pounder, so he’s got room to upgrade. 

He’s working over a flat and getting bites, but he knows he has some work to do.  “It’s not enough,” Kreiger said.