PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — The first day of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Eastern Open No. 3 on Lake Champlain delivered three bags of 21 pounds or better, and Bobby Lane’s 21-pound, 13-ounce sack was the stoutest of the three.
Lane, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Lakeland, Fla., is dominating the Eastern Opens Series. He won stop No. 1 at the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Florida back in February and finished 16th at Lake Norman in North Carolina in May. His Day 1 lead here makes him the unofficial points leader in the four-event series.
Bryan Labelle of Hinesburg, Vt., weighed 21-8 for second place. Chris Molineaux of Hope Valley, R.I., is third with 21 pounds.
“My day started tough,” Lane said. “I was taking waves over the bow all morning. My smallmouth weren’t firing, and I caught one little fish early. I thought I’d be lucky to catch 16 or 17 pounds, but then I just started running and went to a bay without wind and started flipping and frogging.”
He caught his two biggest fish within five minutes of one another, and he said he didn't have a lot of bites throughout the day.
“When you’re flipping and frogging, you’re not going to catch a lot," Lane added. “But the ones you catch are generally going to be big. I’m going to fish new water tomorrow and see what I can do.”
He noted he’s not necessarily fishing north or south. “It's more central,” he said.
Largemouth were the dominant fish at the scales, with most anglers making big runs north or south. Lane weighed all largemouth, and his limit included two 5 1/2-pounders. Labelle also weighed all largemouth, and Molineaux would have weighed five largemouth as well, but he caught a big smallmouth at his final stop that helped him add a few ounces.
At one point, there was a three-way tie for big fish with three largemouth that weighed 5-9. Then Franklinville, N.J., pro Pete Gluszek broke the tie with a 5-11 fish that held up as big bass of the day.
Conditions were nearly ideal for most of today, although the winds did impact some anglers who were making long runs or fishing exposed areas. Overall, most of the lake was very fishable.
Tomorrow, the lake should be relatively flat, with the forecast calling for light south winds.
Labelle said the bite was “slow,” and it took him all day to generate six quality largemouth bites out of the 20 keepers he caught. That was still good enough to help him amass 21 1/2 pounds.
“I'm power-fishing and covering a lot of water,” Labelle said. “It's not really a pattern, and I don't have a game plan. I'm going to switch water tomorrow and see what happens. I'm trying to catch big fish, and it might take all day again tomorrow.”
Molineaux, who drives the five hours from Rhode Island to fish Champlain on a regular basis, is fishing a single area. He found it in practice, and it produced most of his 21-pound limit in 45 minutes Thursday.
After that, he left and helped his co-angler catch a limit, then culled late with a quality smallmouth. He plans to start there again tomorrow.
“I was expecting this type of weight based on the practice I had,” Molineaux said. “When I found the spot, I caught three big fish on three consecutive casts. I kept checking them during practice and they were still biting.
“I'm fishing a combination of power and finesse. When they stopped biting the power, I switched to finesse. I never saw another boat around me. I finished fourth here two years ago and 10th two years before that. I don't want that to happen again. I want to win one of these things.”
Among some of the other anglers inside the Top 10, Greg Dipalma (fourth, 20-13) weighed all largemouth and is again trying to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series. He was close last year, but a poor finish at Champlain pushed him out of the qualification window. He feels tomorrow’s south wind will help him.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Gerald Spohrer (fifth, 20-12) made a long run and fished around a lot of boats. He said he waited for boats to leave a spot, then moved in and caught bass the other boats didn't. He estimated he caught 15 keepers.
The full 193-boat field will fish Friday. Then the Top 12 remaining anglers will advance to fish Saturday’s final round. Anglers will take off at 6 a.m. ET from Plattsburgh City Marina with weigh-ins back at the marina at 2 p.m.