Coming from behind is tough, but it's exactly what the top three finishers managed to do in the Bassmaster Northern Open on Lake Champlain.
Here's how they did it.
(1st place — 56 pounds, 3 ounces)
When Saturday morning arrived, Jason Knapp of Uniontown, Pa., was sitting in 19th place. Not only was he 4 pounds off the lead, but, if he expected to win, he needed to jump over 18 other anglers, all of whom were starting with more weight than he had posted.
"I lost a couple of good fish on Friday, so I figured I was out of it. My plan on Saturday morning was to target largemouth and go for broke. I figured I'd either move way up or take a real whipping that way. But I never really thought I could win. I was too far out of it, or so I thought.
"I knew if I followed my Thursday and Friday plan — get a quick limit of smallmouth and then go largemouth hunting — I'd end up in the also-ran column. I didn't want that. Sometimes you have to be willing to gamble and be willing to accept defeat in order to win."
Of course, we all know now that Knapp put together a 22-pound bag and took home the gold. He did it by fishing a shallow flat, no more than 3 feet deep, covered in sparse, emerging cabbage grass and eelgrass.
"I never did figure out what was so special about the place. It was really pretty ordinary. It did have a ton of pumpkinseeds and bluegills on it, though. The bass might have been feeding on them. I honestly don't know.
"I flipped everything I could, as fast as I could. I'd make my pitch, let my plastic fall to the bottom and then immediately pick it up and pitch again. They either hit it on the fall or were there when I pulled it up off the bottom. Doing anything else was a waste of time."
Knapp flipped a black and blue Mizmo creature bait on 65-pound-test PowerPro braid with a 3/4-ounce tungsten sinker and a 3/0 Gamakatsu hook. His rod was a heavy action, 7-foot, 11-inch Kistler Flipping Stick. His reel was a Shimano Curado (7:1 gear ratio).
"The reel was especially important. With a fast gear ratio you can get your bait back much quicker. That gives you more casts during the day, which gives you more opportunities to catch bass."
(2nd place — 53 pounds, 13 ounces)
"I fished a drop shot rig and did some flipping to catch my bags. On Thursday and Friday they were mixed — smallies and largemouth. On Saturday, however, all my keeper bass were smallmouth. I know a lot of the guys were chasing largemouth, but my smallmouth were what pushed me up from fourth place on Friday to second place on the last day.
"I couldn't find any quality bass out in deep water over structure. I fished my drop shot on 10- to 15-foot-deep flats with scattered cabbage grass around the area. It's not what I was hoping for, but it's all I had.
"My bait seemed to work best when it was about 20 inches off the bottom, just over the shorter grass. I think that stirred them up and put them into a feeding mode.
"When I found heavier vegetation — milfoil — I switched to a flipping presentation. There wasn't anything special about that technique. I'd toss a Booyah 3/4- or 1/2-ounce jig out with a black and blue Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver or maybe a black Yum Wooly Hog as a trailer."
The Cleveland, Ohio, native rigged his drop shot with 10-pound-test Silver Thread fluorocarbon line, a Strike King Super Finesse Worm or a Berkley Gulp Minnow and a 1/0 Gamakatsu Drop Shot Hook. He fished with a 7-foot, medium-heavy Powell spinning rod and a Daiwa spinning reel (6.2:1 gear ratio).
He flipped with 20-pound-test Silver Thread fluorocarbon line, a 7-foot, 6 inch heavy-action Powell Flipping Stick and an Abu Garcia Revo STX reel (6.4:1 gear ratio).
(3rd Place — 53 pounds, 12 ounces)
Winooski, Vt., angler Dana Perrotte found his bass a little deeper than the other guys. He fished an offshore area of mud and rock in water that ranged from 18 to 24 feet deep. That gold mine allowed him to move from 14th place into third place.
"I found this area a long time ago. What made it so productive last week was the crawfish. They were everywhere. My livewell was full of them every day. They held the bass in place, and that made them easier to catch. I didn't have to spend my time chasing fish. I was able to concentrate on catching them."
Perrotte caught most of his fish on a drop shot rig. He used 6-pound-test Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon line, a black Berkley Gulp Leach, a 3/8-ounce sinker and a 1/0 Gamakatsu Drop Shot Hook. He rigged it so that his bait hovered between 12 and 18 inches above the bottom.
He fished with a 6-foot, 6-inch medium-action All Star rod and a Daiwa Regal spinning reel.