PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Fish for smallmouth and largemouth. Run south or stay up north. Tournament anglers familiar with Lake Champlain know that means a mixed bag of bass fishing is in play, and it happened at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Eastern Open.
When the largemouth bite is on fire it’s anybody’s game to win. All it takes is making the roughly 140-mile round trip run to the south end of the lake near Ticonderoga, N.Y. Making the run to “Ti” as the anglers call it, comes with inherent risks and rewards.
The risk is getting there and back, and especially in a south wind like the anglers encountered during the week. Early in the week the prevailing thought was Ticonderoga could produce the winning catch, if the windy conditions would settle.
The wind laid and Ticonderoga got hot.
The lures chosen by the top finishers, Brian Labelle included, produced the evidence that largemouth did indeed produce the winning catch, and most of the quality bass weighed during the week.
Carl Jocumsen (12th, 49 pounds)
Jocumsen chose a drop shot designed to imitate small perch fed upon by the smallmouth. He made it with a 4-inch Molix Virago, rigged on No. 2 long shank hook, with 3/8-ounce tungsten weight.
John Cox (11th, 49-9)
Cox fished deep for smallmouth with a drop shot and shallow with a weightless worm. That choice was the 5- and 6-inch Berkley PowerBait MaxScent The General, rigged to 1/0 Berkley Fusion19 EWG Hook. For the drop shot he used the new 4-inch PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm, rigged to No. 2 Berkley Fusion19 Drop Shot Hook and 1/2-ounce weight.
Wesley Strader (10th, 50-15)
Strader kept it simple, bearing down on shallow bass with a punch rig. He made it using a 4-inch Zoom Z Hog, 5/0 Lazer TroKar TK130 Flippin’ Hook and 3/4-ounce Reins TG Tungsten Punch Shot Weight.
Hunter Eubanks (9th, 52-6)
Eubanks used a drop shot, jerkbaits and punching rig. He made it with a 4-inch Strike King Rage DB Craw, rigged on 4/0 Lazer Trokar Big Nasty Flippin Hook, with 3/4-ounce tungsten weight. A 5.25-inch Zoom Salty Super Fluke, with 2/0 Gamakatsu Hook, and 3/8-ounce tungsten weight comprised the drop shot rig. Jerkbait choices included the Megabass Ito Shiner and Megabass Ito Vision 110.
Dakota Ebare (8th, 53-13)
Ebare rotated through three baits. A 5/8-ounce Santone Lures M Series Flipping Jig was a key choice. So was a Carolina rig fashioned from a 4-inch Strike King Rage Twin Menace Grub, with 4/0 Bass Pro Shops XPS SuperLock Hook, and 3/4-ounce weight. A Lucky Craft RC 1.5 DD crankbait was another choice.
Rich Howes (7th, 53-14)
Howes used a topwater, weightless worm and spinnerbait. That choice was a 1/2-ounce Lunker Lure Triple Rattleback Vibratron Spinnerbait. He also used a River2Sea Whopper Plopper, and 5-inch Yamamoto Senko, fished weightless on 4/0 Owner Hook.
Kurt Mitchell (6th, 54 pounds)
Mitchell rotated through a jig, topwater frogs and wacky rig. He made it with a 5-inch Yamamoto Senko, rigged on a No. 1 Decoy Finesse Hook. For the jig he chose a 1/2-ounce Big Mouth Lures Jig with unnamed trailer. Frog choices included a Spro Dean Rojas Bronzeye Frog 65 and unnamed popping frog.
Greg Dipalma (5th, 54-12)
Dipalma used a 4.6-inch Riot Baits Baton, featuring a tri-module design to maximize underwater undulation. A 2/0 Hayabusa WRM202 Weedless Wacky SP Hook completed the rig.
Brandon Lester (4th, 55-11)
Lester targeted smallmouth using a drop shot rig. He made it with a 4-inch Xzone Lures Handpoured Slammer, rigged to Mustad TitanX Wacky/Neko Rig Hook 4, with a 3/8-ounce weight.
Bobby Lane Jr. (3rd, 56-3)
Lane rotated through a casting jig, wacky rig and pitching rig. For those he used the 5- and 6-inch Berkley PowerBait MaxScent The General. He rigged it to 1/4- and 3/16-ounce Greenfish Tackle Casey Ashley Shakey Head, which is designed with a flat bottom, to keep the bait upright as it moves over rock. He used a No. 1 Lazer Trokar Hook for the wacky rig. Lane also used a 7/16-ounce 4x4 Bobby Lane Signature Series Jig for flipping.
Buddy Cipoletti (2nd, 56-7)
Cipoletti used a bladed jig and Australian-made spinnerbait. That choice was a 3/4-ounce Bassman Spinnerbait used to catch smallmouth. Cipoletti also junk fished with a 1/2-ounce Z-Man Original Chatterbait. On Championship Saturday, he added a 5/8-ounce Outkast Tackle Stealth Feider Jig with Missile Baits D Bomb.
Bryan Labelle (1st, 58-10)
Labelle went power fishing with a jig. The choice was a 1/2-ounce Dirty Jigs Scott Canterbury Flippin’ Jig, with a Zoom Super Chunk, Flippin’ Blue color.