Championship Sunday “stacked” on Champlain

Pringles potato chips, a deck of playing cards, the Library of Congress — all accurate examples of the term “stacked.”

Championship Sunday on Lake Champlain also fits the description; both, in terms of competition and weather.

For starters, the Day 3 standings told the tale of a tight race with only 2 pounds, 12 ounces separating first and tenth places. At the upper end, the weights were incredibly close.

Jamie Hartman, who has led the field for three days entered the final round only an ounce ahead of David Mullins. Koby Kreiger and Seth Feider followed in third and fourth by margins of 10 and 12 ounces, respectively.

Amplifying the intrigue, today’s final round includes four anglers that also reached the top-10 at last weeks’ SiteOne Bassmaster Elite on the St. Lawrence River. Brock Mosley finished third last Sunday, while Elite rookie Takumi Ito, Cory Johnston, and Brandon Palaniuk placed fifth, seventh, and tenth places.

That application of “stacked” is a good thing. It promises intense competition, high drama, and amazing storylines.

But then there’s the other application; as in the “stacked” waves.

Today’s weather forecast calls for southeast winds of 10-20 mph, with potential gusts of 30 mph, cranking up by mid-morning. This follows three days of mostly calm, sunny conditions; with the exception of a Day-1 storm that kicked things up for a while.

Notably, last week saw a similar scenario, with three days of mostly calm conditions — winds increased the second half of Day 3 — with an absolutely beastly final round. Those who remained in the river certainly had no cakewalk, but those who fished a Lake Ontario faced a tooth-rattling splash fest.

The difference, however, is that Great Lakes tend to build long roller type waves. No fun, but manageable.

By contrast, Champlain’s long north-south profile gives today’s wind many miles of open water to whip the lake into a frothy fury of stacked by the time it reaches the upper end — where the entire field is fishing.

By 8:30, waves were already splashing bows and those long, white foamy streaks bespoke steadily increasing winds. BASSTRAKK showed several anglers picking off good limits early — a point that all recognize as a critical objective before the bad stuff arrives.

Once the high winds arrive, boat handling will become increasingly challenging, as the meteorological mayhem will accelerate drift speeds. By 9 o’clock, Kreiger had deployed a windsock to help control his drift.

Champlain’s north end offers plenty of protected areas where competitive fish roam, but much of this week’s productivity — with the exception of Feider’s big largemouth catches inside a marina — has come from open water scenarios. It will be interesting to see how anglers chose to manage the elements.

Wherever anglers fish, rough water also makes it tougher to get your hands on a fish. Some techniques favor boat flipping, but when boat side scooping is the right move, big waves create bad memories.

At 9:15, BASS Live saw Palaniuk leaning and reaching for a good smallmouth as his bow rose and splashed. Eerily, Palaniuk noted that he thought he was about to take a big wave to the face mere seconds before the water dynamics pulled the fish out of his reach long enough for it to shake free.

Boating a good keeper about 10 minutes later helped ease the pain, but anglers can’t afford to miss any opportunities today.