PLATTSBURGH, N.Y.—Bryan Schmitt fed Lake Champlain bass a steady diet of a crayfish imitator this week to win the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open finale.
Fishing in only his fourth Bassmaster Open, Schmitt won the pro division title and took home the top prize of a Triton 19 TrX/Mercury 200 Pro XS rig worth $45,000 and $6,528 in cash. He finished with a winning total of 15 bass weighing 59 pounds, 13 ounces.
Schmitt admitted to losing one “giant” fish Friday but boated everything else to finish the day with an 18-14 limit. The Deale, Md., angler caught a heavyweight limit of smallmouth Thursday but the rain and clouds slowed down his smallmouth bite Friday. He still concentrated on smallmouth but his limit included a mixture of two green and three brown bass. “I had to adjust a little bit,” he said. “I fished one spot Friday that had largemouth and smallmouth.”
The Chesapeake charter guide stuck with a green pumpkin/black 1/2-ounce Riot Baits Minima Jig tipped with a green pumpkin Riot Baits Fuzzy Beaver all week to catch both largemouth and smallmouth. Noticing bass were spitting up crayfish in his livewell clued Schmitt in on using the jig throughout the tournament.
“I was throwing some swimbaits and did some Carolina rigging but once I caught all the largemouth from one spot I went to my smallmouth and tried the swimbait, Carolina rigging and drop shotting but as soon as I picked up the jig in that area it was just game on,” he said. Schmitt noticed the jig was so consistent in the other places he tried that he decided to stick with the jig at all of his spots.
Schmitt keyed on shoals with a mixture of rocks and weeds to catch both largemouth and smallmouth. Most of his fish were holding near the bottom at 10 to 12 feet deep. After making a long cast to his spots, Schmitt would hop the jig about 5 feet off the bottom and let it drop. He said most of his strikes occurred on the fall.
Bartlett, Ill., angler Steve Mui caught a 20-8 limit Friday to climb from ninth place into second in the pro division. He spent the week drop shotting a hump with a Strike King Dream Shot and Missile Baits Fuse about 16 feet deep for smallmouth and flipped a homemade jig later in shallow cover for largemouth to catch a three-day total of 58-3.
The remaining Top Five finishers in the pro division included Alton Jones Jr., Lorena, Texas, third place, 56-6; Chris Molineaux, Hope Valley, R.I., fourth, 55-3; and David Gaston, Sylacauga, Ala., fifth. 55-0.
Winning the co-angler division and a $30,000 Nitro Z18/Mercury Pro XS rig was Eric Stecker, who caught nine bass weighing 34-13. Fishing in only his second Open, the Quakertown, Pa., angler relied on a green pumpkin football jig all three days to catch bass in depths of 6 to 15 feet on boulders along large flats.
Bryan Schmitt also earned the Livingston Lures Leader Award of $250 for finishing as the top pro on Day 2. Nicholas Sokolowski won the Livingston Lures gift pack worth $250 for finishing as the top co-angler on Day 2.
The Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award of $750 on the pro side went to Molineaux, with a 6-9 fish. Robin Roystan, Bath, N.H. , weighed in a 5-6 bass to earn the $250 Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award on the co-angler side.