Champlain fishing right on point

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Whether it’s an Elite Series event or a Bassmaster Open tournament, it always seems to take right at a 20-pound average to win on Lake Champlain. Denny Brauer won the first Elite Series tournament here in 2006 with 80 pounds, 3 ounces over four days. Weather shortened the last Elite Series tournament here in 2017 to three days and Aaron Martens won with 58-12.

“I think Champlain is fishing right on point, from one end to the other for both largemouth and smallmouth,” said Bryan Schmitt, who won a three-day Open here in 2016 with 59-13. “It might be a tick better because there haven’t been a lot of tournaments this year with the Covid (pandemic).”

Schmitt noted that Champlain is lower than usual, which has taken some shallow spots out of play. But there are still plenty of places to catch bass in this 107-mile- long, 14-mile-wide lake, which runs south to north.

Seth Feider loves Lake Champlain. He finished second by 14 ounces to Martens in 2017. “It fishes like home,” said Feider, who is from Minnesota. “Most places we go I’m out of my world. But when we go to upstate New York I feel like I’m right down the street at home.”

Like Schmitt, after three days of practice, Feider thinks Lake Champlain will fish like it always does. Feider isn’t one of the guys who will be making the long run south to Ticonderoga, which offers better largemouth fishing than the northern end of the lake.

“The Day 1 leader will have 22 to 24 pounds and it will come from Ticonderoga,” Feider said. “There’s no doubt in my mind. But I like the way the north end fishes. I usually mix it up. I start on smallmouth each day, then tie on a jig and try to catch a kicker largemouth or two.”

It’s those kickers that make all the difference in the standings, which are always tight, tight, tight at Lake Champlain. Brandon Palaniuk’s performance in 2017 is a prime example. He weighed 18-1 on Day 1 and was in 22nd place. He had 18-13 on Day 2 and moved up to 10th before closing with 20-7 on the final day to finish third.

“I feel good that I’ll catch a bunch of fish,” Palaniuk said. “But it’s somewhat volatile. I could catch 50 fish a day and (the best five) could weigh 15 pounds or 20 pounds. The difference between a 3-pounder and a 4-pounder is a pretty big deal. Three-pounders are everywhere. The last time I caught all smallmouth. This time I’ll probably try to mix it up a little bit. I feel like to win you’ve got to have at least one kicker bite.”

Palaniuk noted the standings will probably be so tight that a 4-ounce dead fish penalty could cost someone a place in the top 40 cut after two days.

“I think it will take 16 ½ to 17 pounds a day to get paid (make the top 40 cut),” he said. “And 18 to 18 ½ to make the top 10 (after three days).”

Daily takeoffs are set for 6:45 a.m. E.T. and the weigh-ins begin at 3 p.m. E.T.