Lake Champlain shootout continues

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — The shootout on Lake Champlain's favorite fishing reef continued Friday, as anglers hammered the smallmouth hotspot once again during the second round of the CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open.

While the 10-acre hard bottom flat not far from Plattsburgh produced abundant catches, it also produced a new tournament leader, Massachusetts angler William Roe, who has a two-day total of 10 smallmouth weighing 37 pounds, 6 ounces.

Roe, in fifth place Thursday with 18-15, added 18-7 Friday.

That gave him a 4-ounce lead over first-round leader Joe Lucarelli, who, often fishing side by side with Roe, brought in 17 pounds for a total of 37-2. Alabama angler Kotaro Kiriyama, moved into third after weighing in 18-2 (37-2), while Steve Clapper dropped from second to fourth with 36-12. Steve Lucarelli, Joe's father, holds down fifth with 36-4.

All but Kiriyama are fishing the reef, but eight to 10 other contestants are also coming into the spot. Because everyone is catching bass, however, no one seems to mind the crowded conditions.

"It is getting harder to get bites out there," noted Roe, "but there are still an unbelievable number of bass in the area. Lake Champlain certainly ranks as one of the top bass fisheries in America, and this week, the fish are just ganged up in this part of the lake."

Lucarelli and Clapper actually left the reef; Lucarelli had his five-fish limit by 7:45 a.m. but stayed for two more hours to try to improve his weight.

"I have two other areas I haven't even been to yet," laughed Lucarelli, "mainly because I haven't needed to go there. I think Dad visited one of them today but if things get really tough around here tomorrow, I may have to try them, even if I have to chase him off."

Drop-shotting and Carolina rigs again proved to be among the most productive techniques, although a number of anglers are also doing well by working some of Champlain's shallow grassbeds. Still others, like Ohio pro Jamie Fabian, are fishing boat docks.

Fabian caught his entire limit today (13-7) from a single dock, the fifth and final fish being a 5-pound, 10-ounce largemouth that took Purolator Big Bass honors for the day and, thus far, is the heaviest bass of the tournament.

"Even after all the activity of catching the first four bass, that big fish just came up out of the dark water and held by a piling, as if to get a look at what was going on," said Fabian. "I pitched my jig in beside her and let it sink to the bottom, and I watched her turn and go down toward it. When I saw my line twitch a moment later, I knew I had her."

While the majority of the 139 pros and their non-boater partners are concentrating in the northern part of Champlain, a few are heading south to the waters around Ticonderoga where heavier largemouths are frequently caught.

Paul Hirosky, winner of the first Bassmaser Northern Open on Lake Erie last month, made the long run for the second day, this time without suffering any of the outboard problems that plagued him the first day. He came back with one of the day's heaviest catches, 19 pounds, 3 ounces, and moved from 30th into 11th place. It took him longer to make the boat ride than it did to catch his fish.

At the conclusion of today's weigh-in, the field was paired to the top 50 anglers, with the cut-off weight being 27 pounds, 13 ounces. Thus, all 50 anglers on the pro side are separated by less than 10 pounds.

Among the non-boaters, Joe Ritzenthaler of Ohio leads with 31-8, while New Jersey angler Steven Brinster follows right behind with 31-6.

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