Keeping it simple for New York

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Jonathan H. Milo

I’ve been spending the last few days unpacking and repacking my boat to head for the 2021 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain and the 2021 Farmers Insurance Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River. 

It’s amazing, the difference between fishing for largemouth and smallmouth. They’re both black bass. I know that. I also know that’s where the similarity ends.  

For largemouth — this season so far — I’ve been carrying heavy tackle and in some cases giant lures in my boat. Things like big swimbaits, giant spoons and humongous topwater plugs have been part of my tackle inventory up until now. They’re paired with heavy rods and heavy line. Not every angler fishing for fun needs things like that, but when you’re fishing the Bassmaster Elites you need five big fish, and that means serious tackle and serious lures.  

But all of that is coming out. It’s being replaced by smaller and lighter tackle and lures along with fewer techniques.

The thing about smallmouth bass in the lakes we’re headed towards is that they’ll bite the same things they did years ago. I know that because I’ve had a lot of experience up there, especially on Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River.

Things like a drop-shot rig, a Ned rig and a tube setup are standard. Unless something really out of the ordinary comes up that’ll be pretty much all I’ll need. I will, however, put a few other styles of baits in my boat on the outside chance that I’ll need to make a horizontal presentation. I don’t anticipate that but you never know.  

Largemouth can be made to bite with the right lure and the right presentation. You can fish behind someone with something different and catch them. However, smallmouth are different. The trick to catching them is to find them. Once you do that they’ll bite. Fishing behind someone isn’t going to get you much of anything except a butt kicking on the stage. 

When I think about all of that as I put things in my boat, it’s refreshing. Packing for Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River is relatively easy and simple. I don’t have to plan for every contingency on the planet. I know what will work and what I need to do to have a successful tournament. The old saying "keep it simple, stupid" works perfectly.  

There is one other thing I want to mention about packing for northern smallmouth, though. If you go up there, make sure you pack your boat so that it is light in the front and heavier in the back. The weather up there can be brutal. In a matter of minutes the wind can go from calm to fierce, and the storms can be downright dangerous.

If your boat is light in the front and heavy in the back, the nose will ride higher in the water. That’ll make it go through big waves easier, and it’ll keep your boat dry, or at least drier. And, in my opinion there’s almost nothing worse than fishing out of a soaking wet boat when you’re soaking wet too. It won’t be cold so you won’t freeze, but it’ll still be miserable.

That’s all there is for now. It’s time for me to finish packing and point my rig northeast. The next two weeks are important to me. I’m currently in 51st place in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. I need to move up so that I get into the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk. I don’t want to miss Lake Hartwell.