Smallmouth bite is on this morning

If you're watching the LIVE Mix, you just saw Micah Frazier, Jamie Hartman and Seth Feider land big smallmouth bass in rapid succession. For Frazier, it filled his five-bass limit at 7:48 and he'll be culling up from 13-12 from now on. Feider's weighed 3 1/2 pounds and gave him three keepers. Hartman has three keepers as well.

"That's 4 pounds all day long," Hartman said of his last fish. "Man, I've already worked up a sweat."

Several anglers remarked yesterday about the aerial acrobatics of Lake Champlain smallmouth bass. They seem particularly prone to go airborne here.

"Crazy suckers," said Frazier. "They come straight up every time."

Just got a wild hair

Buddy Gross is sitting on a flat area off the main channel where my boat driver says “no one ever fishes.”

I tend to pay attention to those kind of statements from Ken Golub, who fishes these waters fairly regularly.

With Buddy sitting in second place going in, I had to ask is this where he caught his big bag yesterday?

The answer was pure Buddy Gross, “No, I just got a wild hair. Caught a few in practice here thought I’d stop for a moment.”

That moment has produced three small keepers before we got here. And he said he had two big ones follow his last catch.

We’ve not seen a smallmouth yet. A couple of pike have come aboard. But we have high hopes. Last time Gross had a wild hair was on the final day of the Eufaula event.

Mosley loves Champlain too

You might be tired of hearing it by now, but there's a long list of Elite Series anglers who absolutely love Lake Champlain. You can add Brock Mosley to the list. In what appears to be one of, if not the most significant two-week periods in his Elite Series career, Mosley has experienced the long-distance birth of his second child back home in Mississippi, pulled a largemouth rabbit out of smallmouth hat with some magic at the St. Lawrence River and now goes into Day 2 at Lake Champlain in a 5th-place tie after weighing 19 pounds, 13 ounces yesterday.

"I've had better finishes on the St. Lawrence, but this is my favorite lake anywhere we go across the country," Mosley said yesterday. "You can catch 'em green (largemouth), brown (smallmouth) and the numbers are unreal. It's an awesome place to fish. It really needs to be on everybody's bucket list to come try this place out."

Mosley is back on the brown bass this week, like he normally would have been at the St. Lawrence River as well. He had one largemouth in his five-bass limit yesterday.

"We hit it right, where it's warm enough that the smallmouth are offshore where I like them to be to catch 'em," Mosley said. "If they're not out there yet, I usually concentrate on largemouth here. But they're out there this week, and it's a lot easier catching 3 1/2-, 3 3/4-pound smallmouth than it is largemouth."

A sheet of glass

What a difference a day makes. Lake Champlain is a sheet of glass this morning.

And my boater, Steve Dinco, said that opens up a lot more possibilities.

“The conditions are going to allow them to focus in on boulders with drop-shot rigs,” Dinco said. “Without the waves they’re going to be able to really stay locked in on the fish.

“There’s some islands in the broad lake that the guys will be able to fish today that they wouldn’t be able to fish because of the waves.”

I love Lake Champlain

I love Lake Champlain. I really do. Not only did virtually every angler cross the stage yesterday and say those words, but it’s evident in the standings why any derby angler would love this place.

There’s 4-pounds that separate 40-something places from 3rd place on down. That would be about the difference or jump you would make if you caught the big bass of the day. That will be around 6-pounds. Assume you get to cull a 2 or pounder. Catch one bigger and you are on a rocket ship.

But that’s not why we love Champlain. It’s because all these weights are so close. And the fishing so good for smallmouth and largemouth.

I don’t care where you are, it’s still summer and a 15-pound day is pretty good fishing anywhere from sea to shining sea. That’s a good, if not great, day. Here you would barely crack the top 70. And it’s been that way for the past decade.

Day 2 live lineup at Champlain

After a fantastic day, full of big weights, the Top 8 anglers are on Bassmaster LIVE for Day 2 of competition. Jamie Hartman leads the way with 22 pounds, 1 ounce and Brandon Palaniuk rounds out the coverage with 19 pounds, 12 ounces. You can catch the action on and ESPN2.

Times 8-10:30 am & 11:30-3 pm ET
LIVE Mix: 6:40 am - 3 pm ET
ESPN2: 11:30 am - 3 pm ET

Left to Right: (Brandon Palaniuk, David Mullins, Seth Feider, Buddy Gross, Jamie Hartman, Micah Frazier, Brock Mosley and Stetson Blaylock).

As predicted, Champlain fishing right on point

Bryan Schmitt’s pre-tournament prediction was spot on, after three days of practice for the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain.

“I think Champlain is fishing right on point, from one end to other for both largemouth and smallmouth,” said Bryan Schmitt, who won a three-day Open here in 2016 with 59-13. “It might be a tick better because there haven’t been a lot of tournaments this year with the Covid (pandemic).”

As you can see in the chart below, it is “a tick better” than it was on Day 1 – July 27, 2017 – the last time the Elite Series was here. There were a few surprises, like the number of 19-pounds-plus five-bass limits – 13 versus 7 on Day 1 in 2017.

“I didn’t think there were going to be that many big bags caught,” said Seth Feider, who is in 4th place with 20-1. “I knew I wouldn’t be leading, but I didn’t think there were going to be that many 18s, 19s. I can’t believe how many good bags came in today.”

It’s always about consistency in a four-day tournament, but especially so at Lake Champlain. You cannot afford a slip-up on any day, even slightly. That’s reflected in this fact: Of the top 10 anglers on Day 1 in 2017, only one was left in the top 10 when the tournament ended after three days, due to weather. It’s not like they fell far. But Day 1 sets the benchmark. The leaders must match their benchmark each day or get left behind at Lake Champlain.

“There’s a long way to go, but I just can’t see 20-pounds-a-day over four days not being hard to beat,” Feider said. “When I get 20 (Friday), I’ll quit. If not, I’ll burn everything I’ve got and worry about the next day after that.”

Day 1 7/27/17 7/30/20
Total anglers 109 85
Limits caught 107 85 
% catching limits 98.2% 100%
1st place 21-122-1
5th place 19-8 19-13
10th place 18-12 19-6
25th place 18-0 18-3
40th place17-0 17-2 
50th place 16-9 16-7
75th place 14-11 14-0
Big bass 6-1 6-2
Bags over 18 lbs. 25 28
Bags over 19 lbs. 713
Bags over 20-lb. 
Total fish weighed 539 425
Total weight 1,732-12 1,425-4 
Ave. wt./bass 3.21 lbs. 3.35 lbs.

Hartman: "This is why I stopped here!"

Jamie Hartman is following what's become the formula for success today on Lake Champlain: catch a solid limit of smallmouth bass, then seek some kicker largemouth upgrades. Hartman did it with a 5-pounder at 1:23 p.m.

"This is why I stopped here," Hartman shouted after boating the 5-pounder. It gives him 19-4 and moves him into second place, according to BASSTrakk. "I'm still shaking so bad I can't tie a knot," added Hartman, several minutes after the big bass had gone into his livewell.

But he did get another lure tied on, and 30 minutes later Hartman put another near-5-pound largemouth in the boat. BASSTrakk has Hartman in the lead now with 21-2. So it's "That's why I stopped here," times two.

Walters trying to fire up a school

I found Patrick Walters fishing offshore in the Inland Seas, and he said his day has been decent thus far - but it could have been better.

“I’ve got about 14 pounds,” Walters said “I started on this spot, and they have some good fish here. I just have to get them to eat.

“There was a school down there. If you catch one it’s going to be a 4-pounder.”

The key to the spot is what’s under the water.

“There’s one pod of grass,” Walters said.