Lake Champlain is arguably the most storied New York bass tournament lake. As far back as tournament records go on the fishery, so does the question of whether largemouth or smallmouth will win the event.
Wind forecasts this week for Plattsburgh, N.Y., look friendly for the Bassmaster Elite Series field, and that will open the playing field and give largemouth anglers a lot more options for big runs. Likewise, smallmouth anglers won’t have much trouble staying on top of schools they find. We are late enough in the summer that spawning smallies shouldn’t be a large factor, and I suspect on average largemouth will weigh a little heavier this time of year.
Unlike last week, Canadian water being off limits won’t affect where the anglers fish very much. There is an area of Canadian water, but it is normally off limits and not usually a factor in big tournaments.
BUCKET A: HARTMAN
Jamie Hartman is coming off a solid 27th last week and has a large amount of experience on Lake Champlain. There are a lot of good anglers in Bucket A, and I was very tempted by Palaniuk and Canterbury as well. Hartman seems like he is going contend for a win in most years, and I've got a funny feeling about this week.
Dark horse: I can’t quite bring myself to put my 89.3% status on the line to make this pick, but I feel like Kyle Welcher could have a big tournament on frog fishing and flipping making big runs down to Ticonderoga.
BUCKET B: FEIDER
More chalk in bucket B, but I promise we will take some chances in remaining buckets. Seth Feider looked to be on the verge of his first regular-season Elite Series win in 2017 on Champlain if it wasn’t for an absolute freak show size bag from Aaron Martens to take the win out of nowhere. I look for Feider to lock a flipping stick in his hand and flip grass to a final-day appearance.
Dark horse: Austin Felix should have a solid week on Champlain, so if you are looking for a talented young angler that understands both grass largemouth and smallmouth fishing, Felix is your guy. As of Monday morning he had less than 1% ownership. If you listened to my fantasy fishing show last week, you heard Ronnie Moore and me talking about Felix being a solid pick this week.
BUCKET C: COX
Either of one of the Johnston brothers seems to be the obvious picks as they both have a long tournament history on Champlain with solid success. But as I have said before I hate choosing between them in the same bucket. So I am putting my fate in John Cox. With the wind forecast, he should be able to focus on green fish, so look for him to have a bust-out tournament with less than 5% ownership.
Dark horse: I see no reason why Hunter Shyrock can’t have a good tournament running south and locking big rods and braid in his hand. His past results are mixed on Champlain, but I am going to guess some of that was weather-related in the past.
BUCKET D: SCHMITT
Bryan Schmitt is widely known as a river and tidal guru, but he has a strong track record and a Bassmaster Open win on Champlain. Something about this water clicks for him, and he should be a solid pick in D.
Dark horse: Jesse Tacoronte is a sneaky guy to look at if you need to find a low percentage angler to have a big tournament to make a move. He has led going into the final days of big tournaments on Champlain and often does well here. He has had some bad events here too, but oftentimes that has been mechanically related.
BUCKET E: DOWNEY
Nobody jumps out at me in Bucket E, while Bob Downey doesn’t have any tournament experience on Champlain, everything I have seen about fishing there is pretty similar to the fishing we have in Minnesota and Wisconsin. So, I expect Downey to find himself at home, figure out enough to have a good tournament and get me some safe points. Plus if I pick him, maybe he will be a guest on a future video with me.
Dark horse: Rick Morris has been around forever and has a lot of experience on Champlain, some strong, some not so much, but he is a sneaky veteran pick. I could see him with a bladed jig or a frog this week and having a solid finish.