PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Guys fishing for green fish way south of the Plattsburgh Boat Basin — particularly leader Timmy Horton who's got over six and a half pounds on his nearest competitor — seemingly have things in hand as the flags and trees lay still on the western shore of Lake Champlain.
But a couple of seasoned seers of the bass fishing world are lurking in the weeds — or more appropriately, the lake's myriad rocky points — playing dirty with chunky smallmouths perhaps just well enough to make a game of it.
"To be in contention here (with smallmouths) is surprising," Steve Daniel said. "I was here to get a paycheck doing what I know best, but if I can go out there and those guys slip up, 17, 18 pounds can go by a lot of people."
Daniel (35-1) doesn't have to pass a lot of people, just three guys — Horton, Steve Kennedy and Fred Roumbanis — locked in on serious sacks of largemouths most any angler would be proud to hoist onto the scales. If things go as they have the past few days, he'll be culling by the time those guys are reaching their fish.
"I had my 18 pounds at 6:33 yesterday and would have had it earlier if I hadn't jump a couple off. The first fish I put in the boat were two 3 ½ pounders. My partner was bowed up, too and I just hoisted them and broke my favorite jerkbait rod," Daniel said. "The problem is getting to 17 1/2, much less the 20 pounds I really need. It's hard to catch five pounders when there are so many three and a halfs out there."
Rick Clunn, also fishing for brown bass, is right behind Daniel in fifth place (34-4), and Clunn says Lake Champlain's expansive bounty realistically eliminates him from victory despite what might be his best possible effort for the two days."I could catch 20 pounds the next two days and it wouldn't be enough. I knew if they couldn't go to Ticonderoga I'd have a chance, but the (weather) is playing right into their hands," said Clunn, looking over the barely rippled water prior to blast-off.
"The reason I didn't go down there is that I practiced three days last year and never got to fish it," said Clunn, referring to last year's prohibitive breezes that kept most from the fish-filled grass 60 miles south. "What's worse than not winning is not getting a chance at it. So I made up my mind to concentrate on smallmouths this week. I'm just going to go out there and enjoy it the rest of this week."The fishing for smallmouth is so good, according to Clunn, that even if the southbound gang were run into a roadblock on one of the two days remaining, there would be enough fish closer to the stage to make up for it."Smallmouths not gonna win it even if they can only go down there for three days," Clunn said.A chance for victory notwithstanding, Daniel says he's more than pleased with this week's decision.
"Nobody's had more fun with these fish this week than I've had this week. I've got every one of my baits tricked out, I've had whole schools of fish following the ones I've hooked, I've learned something about how to absolutely make the fish hit. It's been incredible."
Editor's note: Check in daily during the tournament for live video of the weigh-ins and a realtime leaderboard at 3 p.m. ET Thursday through Saturday. ESPNOutdoors.com will air Hooked Up, the live Internet shows, on Sunday at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and noon ET on Sunday. The 45-minute Hooked Up show begins at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, leading into the final live weigh-in and a realtime leaderboard at 3:45 p.m. ET.
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