Martens culling up

Aaron just culled his 2 1/2-pounder with a 3-pound and change smallmouth. Now he's wondering if he should catch anymore.

He's laid back and enjoying the day.

"The hog-snatcher is back," he said.

He's fishing the same area as Matt Lee, who is also having a good day. But this isn't the only place Aaron has stopped on.

He did say that he has one that might be 4 1/2 pounds. Given he just culled a little more than a half pound. And the revelation of a possible additional 1/2 pound, Martens should be approaching the 19-pound mark.

Photo by Bassmaster Marshal Roderick Mackinnon

18 pounds in the well for Martens

We've pulled up on Aaron Martens and he's the usual happy Aaron. As well he should be. He has 18 pounds in the well and is the current unofficial leader on BassTrakk.

He's basically fishing for one fish at the moment. He said he has three 4-pounders, a 3 1/2-pounder and a 2 1/2-pounder.

He's wanting to rid himself of the 2 1/2 pounder. And in usual form he's working on that in slow, methodical casts.

Photo by Bassmaster Marshal Roderick Mackinnon

Expect similar Day 1 as 2007

While the prime areas may change a bit, expect today's weigh-in to produce similar results from a decade ago. On a body of water like Lake Champlain, where bass are plentiful but 6-pounders are rare, the standings will be bunched, just like they were in the last Elite Series event here in 2007. The Day 1 standings that year, when only 5 of 108 anglers failed to catch a 5-bass limit, included the following:

2 - Bags over 21 lbs.
5 - 18 lbs. or more
11 - 17 lbs. or more
28 - 16 lbs. or more
45 - 15 lbs. or more
60 - 14 lbs. or more
69 - 13 lbs. or more
85 - 12 lbs. or more

You can see from this list that 15 pounds - basically, a limit of 3-pounders - puts you right in the middle of the pack on Lake Champlain.

Following Hartman

We're following Jamie Hartman now. He's the only New York native in the tournament and currently sits in 15th place with five fish for 14 pounds 8 ounces. That's higher than BASSTrakk shows him, but he just sat down and weighed his fish.

He's from Newport, N.Y. about three hours away, and has won a bunch of BFL tournament on Lake Champlain.

Hartman is having a fantastic rookie year on the Elites, but he has been inconsistent. Here's his 2017 Elite record to date:

Cherokee, 2nd
Okeechobee, 84th
Toledo Bend, 3rd
Ross Barnett, 63rd
Sam Rayburn, 89th
Dardanelle, 6th
St. Lawrence, 7th

He's sitting at 13th in Toyota Angler of the Year points and 2nd in Rookie of the Year, just four points behind Dustin Connell.

He's just gone through a long dry spell here at Champlain. He just asked us, "Why is practice so much easier?"

Palaniuk upgrades again

Viewers of Bassmaster LIVE are getting a show out of Palaniuk right now. We just watched him boat a 3-plus-pounder. This one did not want to come into the boat.

After several attempts he reached his arm in the water up to the elbows and hauled it out.

With a cull, he should have about 12 pounds, we estimate.

We are leaving Palaniuk now, headed to check on some other anglers.

Local pressure coming

Conducting a bass tournament in the state of Vermont requires obtaining a permit. You get that from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. I checked the agency’s website and over this weekend found 8 permitted events in Vermont. Most of them are happening tomorrow. All appear to be club level events.

What prompted me to research that topic was the conversation I just had with photographer Garrick Dixon. He arrived at Drew Benton’s fishing spot to observe a local bass angler fishing there. The guy caught a keeper smallmouth and placed it into his livewell. Why is a mystery.

Benton told Garrick that he was packing it up and going fishing for largemouth.

This is a big lake, so the added weekend pressure is unlikely to affect the Elite pros fishing this week. The exception, of course, are the community holes. If the wind blows tomorrow that could eliminate some water, polarizing anglers to those community holes.

KVD with a limit

Kevin VanDam has a limit now for approximately 10 pounds 7 ounces. Wes Miller who is manning the Bassmaster LIVE camera in the boat with KVD, is also running his BASSTrakk. Kevin made a move about 30 minutes that paid off with three keepers. He's moving again, and we're off to check on Jamie Hartman.

Performing without a net

Palaniuk is a master at landing fish on light lime. I know, he lost two good ones early this morning, but he is masterful at playing the fish out and grabbing them by hand.

Many people wonder why landing nets are not allowed in the Elite Series. The net ban stretches back to the beginnings of B.A.S.S. competition. Ray Scott was insistent that anglers land their fish by hand. Not only does it add challenge to the game, but it makes for great TV, he reasoned.

Many pros would love to have the advantage of the landing net around these hard fighting smallmouth. I don't blame them.

Fish are turning on

Palaniuk finally was able to cull a fish a minute ago. His sixth keeper weighed less than 2 pounds but it should help him a little bit.

Just now we boated another good keeper, this one weighing about 3 pounds or a little better.

That should give him about 11 1/2 pounds after the call. That is a bit more than BASStrakk has him at. Things are heating up here on his flat.

Connell in the lead?

Not all of the anglers have a marshall in the boat due to a shortage of those officials this week.

Dustin Connell is on that list. He is fishing solo.

Photographer Garrick Dixon just messaged me that Connell could be a leader. Garrick watched him catch a solid keeper, and Stetson Blaylock also told him that Connell has a sack.

Stand by. We will do our best to confirm the above.

Either way, an important note to this developing storyline is Connell’s position on the Toyota Bassmaster Rookie of the Year race. Going into this tournament he led the ROY standings with 527 points, ahead of second place angler Jamie Hartman by 4 points.