Rivet loses one on the trolling motor

While trying desperately to upgrade the two smaller fish in his live well, Tyler Rivet breaks off a 4 pounder on the trolling motor. While bringing the fish up from 25 ft, the line wrapped up in the trolling motor and snapped... just before landing it in the boat.

Rivet is sticking to this spot, as the fish that just broke off happened to be on his first cast in this area. He’s continuing to throw a drop shot, look for something to upgrade a couple 2 pounders sitting in the live well.

Dock attraction

Seth Feider, among other anglers, is largely focusing his largemouth catching efforts around marinas. Feider caught a 6-pounder early today flipping a jig to the corner of a slip.

Isolated milfoil, depth and an abundance of dock-dwelling baitfish like bluegill and perch are the drawing card. Large marinas on Lake Champlain are protected by breakwalls, which provide even more habitat, while providing protection to the boat slips.

Those offer ambush points for largemouth as baitfish swim past them. The milfoil, just like elsewhere on the lake, is a favored habitat of largemouth, which can blend in well with the stems. Some of the marinas are dredged out to accommodate the extended keels of the sailboats that are popular on this lake.

Add it all up and you have everything the largemouth needs to survive. Best of all, the visible cover is an ideal casting target.

Blaylock culls, barely

Stetson Blaylock spent more than an hour working a couple of submerged reefs, watching his electronics and dropping to fish. It didn’t get him a bite.

Until he moved to a sharp drop and set the hook on a throwback, followed by a second 3-pounder that went into the livewell.

However, the catch didn’t help him much - he only added an ounce to his weight.

He has about 15 1/2 pounds in the livewell, and he said most of that came this morning.

“I caught most of what I have early, and then it got brutal after that,” Blaylock said.

Do you stay or do you go?

As Davy Hite and I watched Jamie Hartman boat fish after fish this morning, I had to ask the question.  At what point do you leave your fish, and at what point do you stay and keep whacking on them?

What Davy said made a lot of sense, “If you have multiple places to go with decent fish, then you leave that spot and save them for the next day. However if you only have a few spots that are producing, then it’s better to stick around and see if you can keep culling."

I love my job with Bassmaster for many reasons; but the one that sticks out the most is all the freebie tips.

Lester’s big cull

Brandon Lester just finished telling me the lack of wind was making his day more difficult when he set the hook on a smallmouth that really helped him out.

“That probably gave me an extra pound,” Lester said of the 4-pounder.

And it could have helped him even more.

“It puked out a 6-inch perch,” he said while wrestling the bass to the boat.

However, his bite isn’t frenetic, a fact he attributes to the slick-calm conditions.

“It started fast this morning, but then it slowed down,” Lester said. “Without the wind, they can see better. A little clouds or wind lets you trick them easier.”

That said, he feels confident after his cull, estimating that pushed him north of the 7-pound mark.

“That should get me into tomorrow,” Lester said.

Little does he know that, if his estimated weight is correct, he’s in the Top 10, according to BASSTrakk.

Palaniuk makes two big culls

Brandon Palaniuk knows what the daily goal is at Lake Champlain - 20 pounds, just like it is every time there's a B.A.S.S. tournament here. And he's working his way there with two big culls in the last 30 minutes. The last one, which looked to be 4-plus pounds, was especially significant.

"It's the biggest one I've hooked all week," said Palaniuk as he fought it to the boat. "That's what we are after." After putting the fish in the livewell, he pointed to the water surface a few feet from his boat and said, "Look at what he just spit up. Petey the perch." It was a 4- to 5-inch long yellow perch floating dead on the surface.

Palaniuk started the day in 8th place, after weighing 19-12 on Day 1, all smallmouth bass. BASSTrakk shows him with 16-1 today. I think he's got more than that. But he doesn't have 20 pounds, and the goal is 80 pounds at the end of the week, if you want to be in contention for the title.

"I'm not slowing down until I get 20," Palaniuk said. "I've still got time. Got to keep grinding."

Check out the gallery for more of Palaniuk's morning. 

Pipkens seeing some big ones

This morning is very different from yesterday morning. Instead of clouds and rain we are hit with bright sun and very little wind.

Chad Pipkens is our second target this morning. When we pulled up on him he already had five fish in the livewell and has already culled twice in the last 15 minutes.

Chad said this morning he started with topwater and a jerkbait, but now that the sun is getting high and there is very little wind so sight fishing has become his main technique. Using a drop shot he is targeting the fish that he is seeing, and he is seeing some big ones.

Feider: 'Oh my God! It's a 6-pounder, dude!'

Seth Feider just put on a show of his own on Bassmaster LIVE. After sacking a decent limit of smallmouth bass, Feider switched to his largemouth pattern — flipping a 5/8ths-ounce Outkast Tackle Stealth Feider jig in a marina. After culling one smallmouth with a largemouth, Feider made the cull of the day.

"Oh, my God! It's a 6-pounder, dude!" shouted an ecstatic Feider. If you understand the importance of 5- and 6-pound bass at Lake Champlain, you understand Feider's excitement.

After pausing to catch his breath and settle down a bit, Feider looked at his cameraman Eric Kaffka and said, "It feels right, don't it? It's going to be a good week."

Feider would love to add a regular season Elites Series tournament championship to his resume, especially here where he came up 14 ounces short of the winning weight in 2017.

Gross looking for his groove

We’ve decided to change Buddy Gross’ luck.

We’ve been on him all morning and judging by everyone else’s performance, he’s having a tough day.

In the last 20 minutes we’ve seen him lose two, and he had another blow up on his topwater and not take it.

He’s not worried about it. He knows he will catch them eventually. But I’ve found sometimes it’s better to pull back and let it happen without us watching over a shoulder.

Meanwhile Randy Sullivan has thrown an ear from his prop. So we are going to pick up a new one and run it to him.

Maybe in the interim Gross will find his groove.

A game of ounces

Look at the Day 1 leaderboard and it reveals just how many 3-pound class smallmouth are being caught. During my interviews this morning I asked the guys about the tight weights. All stressed the importance of catching smallmouth weighing in the high 3-pound range. A 3-pounder won't cut it. All you get is a 15-pound limit. Those limits were at the very bottom of the leaderboard, almost equivalent to catching nothing at all, in the big scheme of things.

On Day 1, Ray Hanselman Jr. was in the middle of the pack with 18 pounds on the board. He was not alone. Sixteen anglers had 18-pound-range limits. Eighteen anglers had 16-pound limits, and 13 anglers had 17-pound limits.

Hanselman and others are going after fish in the 3 1/2- and higher range, with the golden egg a four pounder that can crack the weight outside 3 pounds.

"Having 18 pounds a day really doesn't give you much of a cushion," he said. "You must catch 18 pounds just to stay in the Top 20."

That means today the goal is not 18 but 19 or 20 pounds to have a shot at fishing on Championship Sunday. Anything less and you might be going home early.

Ed Loughran, the seasoned Virginia angler, provided even more insight on this game of ounces.

"Typically up here on these northern fisheries a pound can make 10 or 15 spots difference on the leaderboard," he said. "That is why it is so important to catch those upper three- and four-pounders."

Who would've thought that a measly 3-pound smallmouth would be so insignificant to the big picture?