Lake Champlain is arguably the most storied New York bass tournament lake. And as far back as tournament records go, the question is always whether largemouth or smallmouth will win the event.
With this event being a little closer to the end of the spawn, smallmouth are likely to be a little lighter and skinnier than last season. On top of that, they may not be as grouped up and predictable as 2020.
I really think this sets up for the largemouth to be the dominant player for the overall winner and the majority of the Top 10.
With two events left to go, if you are near the top, it might be time to play it safe with a few calculated risks. If you are below 90% it is time to take some serious gambles and go big or go home with some risk-taking on lower percentage anglers. That being said, my picks are skewed to the latter, and I am going to try to give you a handful of sneaky picks for you to think about on Champlain.
BUCKET A: FEIDER
Seth Feider has come dangerously close to getting his first full-field Bassmaster Elites Series win on Champlain a few times. Even if Feider isn’t able to put the cherry on top of his Bassmaster Angler of the Year sundae in this event with a blue trophy, I think he is going to notch a Top 10 and put a dagger in his nearest pursuers for AOY.
Dark horse: Bryan New has never fished a high-level tournament as a boater on Champlain, but he has been there numerous times as a co-angler for high-level events and had quite a bit of success. I think New could be sneaky good, he has a ton of experience on Champlain and he will get a chance to put his own spin on it. I would expect him to shine in early July.
BUCKET B: KUPHALL
Caleb Kuphall should prosper on Champlain after setting his eyes on it for a second time this season. I think there is a strong chance Kuphall will be able to leverage his affinity for grass flipping much like he did for his win on Guntersville.
Dark horse: David Mullins seems a bit undervalued after almost winning on Champlain in 2020. While being a few weeks earlier, Mullins may have to adapt on his smallmouth cranking pattern, but he could be a strong pick in early July as well.
BUCKET C: SCHMITT
Bryan Schmitt has a lot of history on Champlain including a Bassmaster Open and BFL win. Not to mention, he excels on grass fisheries in general. Schmitt is a solid value in Bucket C that is hard to overlook.
Dark horse: I think Bob Downey as a northern angler will really benefit seeing Champlain a second time in as many seasons. Downey is pretty comfortable flipping grass as we saw last fall on Guntersville. Look for him to make a big push on Champlain to push himself above the 2022 Bassmaster Classic points cut line.
BUCKET D: CANTERBURY
Scott Canterbury is largely known as a southern power angler, but over the years he has been to Champlain many times in the summer and had his share of success. Also, being slightly earlier in the summer, he should be able to leverage largemouth even more and have a good event.
Alternate: It's hard to call the reigning AOY a dark horse. Much like Canterbury, Clark Wendlandt has been to Champlain many times in June and July in his pro career. Look for him to have a strong event fishing green fish at Champlain.
BUCKET E: LINEBERGER
I'm trying to be a little sneakier and not take the obvious northern anglers like Destin DeMarion or Garrett Paquette. I am going to take Shane Lineberger. He has been a consistent top 40 to 50 check casher on Champlain, plus he is coming off his first ever Top 10 on Guntersville.
Dark horse: Kelley Jaye has had a pretty lackluster 2021 season after taking a hardship part way through 2020, but in 2017 Jaye had a top five on Champlain. On top of that, the Elites are visiting Champlain a little earlier this year and that could make the jerkbait all the more deadly for Jaye.
Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge roster:
- Matt Arey
- Greg DiPalma
- Seth Feider
- Jamie Hartman
- Scott Martin
- Brandon Palaniuk
- Chad Pipkens
- Bryan Schmitt