Multifaceted fishery set for Eastern Open on Champlain

unnamed_21.jpg

B.A.S.S.
A full field of 400 pro and co-anglers will be competing in the third Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Eastern Open Aug. 2-4 on Lake Champlain out of Plattsburgh, N.Y.

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — The Bassmaster Opens circuit will make its northernmost trip of the season with next week’s Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Eastern Open No. 3 at Lake Champlain.
 
The tournament is scheduled for Aug. 2-4, with daily takeoffs at 6 a.m. ET from Plattsburgh City Marina and weigh-ins back at the marina each day at 2 p.m. A full field of 200 boats will compete the first two days, with only the Top 12 pro and co-anglers advancing to Saturday’s final round.
 
Sam George, an Alabama angler with a history on Champlain, said he wouldn’t be surprised if that Top 12 is made up of anglers from 12 different states.
 
“This is literally my favorite place in the world,” George said. “You see more people from around the country do well here because it has a little bit of everything. It has grass, rock, offshore fishing, shallow fishing, boat docks.
 
“Whatever you like to do, you can find it here.”
 
George’s personal experience at Champlain exemplifies the diversity of the fishery. He finished fourth in a Northern Open on the lake in 2014 and 11th when the circuit returned to Champlain in 2016.
 
He used vastly different tactics each time. 
 
“When we were here in 2014, that was an offshore deal with typical hot summertime fishing,” George said. “Then when we were here in 2016, they were kind of transitioning into that fall period. I was catching smallmouth in 2 feet of water on a ChatterBait.
 
“That’s two Top 12s doing two totally different things — so you just never know here.”
 
One thing that creates so many opportunities on the lake is the presence of both largemouth and smallmouth bass.
 
Miles Burghoff is an Opens competitor and a guide on Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga, who goes by the nickname “Sonar” — partly because his father, Gary Burghoff, portrayed the popular character “Radar” on the landmark television series “M.A.S.H.”
 
He thinks anglers taking part in the event will have to be prepared to fish for both species.
 
“This is my second trip to Champlain and though the fishing is phenomenal across the board, the lake is absolutely massive and it presents some tough decisions, including whether to target smallmouth or largemouth or both,” Burghoff said. “Being mostly a largemouth guy, and seeing that it’s August, I’m inclined to focus on shallow vegetation. But I think to win, you’ll need a strong smallmouth game plan as well.
 
“I plan on eliminating as much water the first couple days of practice as possible, so I can start narrowing my focus for the event.”
 
George said he thinks it will take 17-plus pounds a day to make the final Top 12, and he expects 57 pounds — an average of 19 pounds per day — to win. Those who finish highest, he said, will be the anglers who find bass of both species that are just a few ounces bigger.
 
“There are a lot of 3 1/2-pound fish in the lake — both largemouth and smallmouth,” George said. “The guy who separates himself from the pack will be the one who finds fish in the 3 3/4-pound range. It’ll be that close — and one giant fish could be the difference in the tournament.”
 
B.A.S.S. has visited Lake Champlain 11 times, including 2017 when Alabama pro Aaron Martens won a Bassmaster Elite Series event there with a total of 58-12 in an event that was scheduled for four days, but shortened to three because of inclement weather.
 
The value of one giant fish was obvious in that tournament when Martens rose 19 places on the final day, thanks largely to a 6-4 largemouth.
 
Martens’ winning pattern involved drop shotting a 4-inch Roboworm in the Aaron’s magic red color on massive weed flats. Largemouth and smallmouth were mixed together, and he caught quality fish of both species, though it was the largemouth that ultimately propelled him to victory.
 
He fished 20 to 30 feet of water the first two days, but moved shallower the final day into 12 to 21 feet. 
 
The event will be hosted by the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau and the City of Plattsburgh.