The big bass of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain played monster roles, even though the biggest weren’t quite as big as in past events on the northern fishery that boasts sizeable populations of smallmouth and largemouth. Bryan Schmitt had an average of almost 4 pounds per fish in winning his first Elite with 78 pounds, 5 ounces. Following is a look at the bigger bass and what they meant for the anglers.
1 / 25
Randy Pierson of Oakdale, Calif., came with 21-0 to start off in third place on Day 1, which saw 94 of the 95 competitors catch limits. His largemouth bite helped him to one of eight limits topping 20 pounds, but he could only manage 17 pounds the next two days to finish 19th.
2 / 25
John Crews went the smallmouth route and brought in 19-6, including his biggest of 4-14 that was more than a pound heavier than the day’s average of almost 3-8. There were nine bags in the 19-pound range on the day, but like Pierson, Crews, who started 13th, couldn’t get over 18 pounds the next two days to fall to 20th.
3 / 25
Chris Zaldain followed diving birds feeding down on schools of alewive to target the smallmouth feeding up. That produced a bag of 20-11 and put the Texas pro in fourth.
4 / 25
KJ Queen had one of the 40 bass entered on BassTrakk topping 4 pounds, and his limit of 18-0 was one of 18 in the 18-pound range. Queen had 19-6 on Day 2 before 16-10 that left him with a 27th-place finish. Earning 74 points, the North Carolina angler took over the lead for Rookie of the Year.
5 / 25
Dale Hightower landed a 5-15 largemouth on Day 1, putting the Oklahoma 15th with 19-5. Illustrating how tight the weights were, he had a 15-0 on Day 2 and fell to 44th as another 94 landed limits. On Day 3, Hightower was among two of 45 who didn’t limit and he finished 45th. His 5-15 earned daily and overall Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the event and a $2,000 bonus.
6 / 25
Catching a mixed bag, Schmitt had a number of bass topping 4 pounds and came in second on Day 1 with 21-11. Schmitt was a known threat on his “favorite lake,” having won previous events there including the 2016 Basspro.com Open.
7 / 25
Buddy Gross, behind a 5-pounder, held the Day 1 lead with 21-13. However, slower days followed for Gross, still suffering from an ankle injured before the Classic. He came in with 17-0 then 14-6 to finish 30th, but he’s secure in a Classic berth by standing 20th in points.
8 / 25
Destin DeMarion of Grove, Pa., made a move on Day 2, bringing in a 4-0 and 5-0 in a limit of 21-2, one of six bags topping 20 pounds on the day. DeMarion moved into second place and threatened to post his best Elite finish, which was seventh last year on Santee Cooper.
9 / 25
Louisiana’s Caleb Sumrall got into the mix with a 5-1 that bolstered his 20-0 day and moved him to seventh. Sumrall’s big bites slowed in bags of 17-14 and 16-13, leaving him eighth. With a fast start on the final day, Sumrall actually held the BassTrakk lead twice, supplanted both times by Schmitt.
10 / 25
Bryan New made perhaps the biggest move on Day 2. The winner of the season opener, New had held the Rookie of the Year lead but fell some 60 points back of Queen after finishing 91st on Day 1. Behind a 5-7, New weighed 19-11 and rose to finish 59th, and that point gain kept him alive in the ROY race. New goes into this week’s season ending Farmers Insurance Elite on St. Lawrence River 24 points behind Queen.
11 / 25
Seth Feider, 10th after Day 1, looked to gain ground in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. The AOY leader since the fourth event of the year at the Sabine River, Feider landed a 5-11 in his bag of 19-7 to stand fifth. Feider had the big bass last year at Champlain, a 6-6.
12 / 25
Again making all the right moves with brown and green bass, Schmitt caught his second bag over 20 pounds. His 21-5 gave him a 2-8 lead going into semifinal Saturday. Only Schmitt and Lee Livesay topped 20 pounds on the first two days.
13 / 25
Patrick Walters continued his successes, jumping up after Day 1 with two 20-pound bags. The South Carolina angler had 20-1 on Friday then 20-4 to stand fourth heading into Championship Sunday, where he fell to seventh.
14 / 25
Canadian Chris Johnston improved each day after starting 57th. He caught 19-6 to jump to 25th then made a run at the Top 10 with 20-3 — helped by a 4-9 — but came up four ounces short. Johnston, who last year became the first Canadian to win an Elite, finished 12th. The series heads to the site of his victory this week, the St. Lawrence.
15 / 25
After bags of 20-5 and 20-0, the size in Livesay's Day 3 limit of 17-15 came in one fish just under 5 pounds. He went into Championship Sunday 4 pounds out of the lead with a chance to win his second title of the season, but the big bites eluded him again and he fell to eighth.
16 / 25
Texan Randy Sullivan made a run at the Top 10 from deep in the field. His 20-0 on Day 3 left him 13th, just 10 ounces from making the cut.
17 / 25
Standing 19th, Keith Combs reached the final day with the big bag of Day 3. He had the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the day, a 5-pounder, in catching 20-14. He climbed to third place, just 3-10 out of the lead.
18 / 25
Zaldain scored bags of 19-11 and 19-7 to put him in contention at second, 2-7 from the lead. Zaldain has been close to winning numerous times in the past few years, and with 17-2 on Championship Sunday, he finished third with 76-15, 1-7 from winning.
19 / 25
On Championship Sunday, there were around a dozen lead changes on BassTrakk, and DeMarion led twice, for about 15 minutes until 11 a.m., then again for about three minutes near a 1 p.m. A flurry of catches saw four different leaders in about a half hour. DeMarion landed several fish near 4 pounds and a 4-8 in his limit of 18-10 that put him sixth, 2-3 from the winning total. He improved his previous best by one spot.
20 / 25
Austin Felix, the 2020 Rookie of the Year, had the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the day at 4-13 that gave him 19-6, the day’s biggest bag. Felix also held the BassTrakk lead or tie for the lead three times before finishing fifth with 76-6, 1-15 back of the winning weight.
21 / 25
Feider had the day’s second biggest limit at 19-5, totaling 76-14 to finish 1-7 back of Schmitt. Feider has two runner-up finishes on Champlain, and while he certainly would have loved a win, he’s now solely focused on the AOY. He’s not counting his chickens as disaster could strike, but Feider goes into the final tournament with a nearly insurmountable 55-point margin over second-place Walters.
22 / 25
Combs added excitement to the final day, landing some oversize bass on a topwater. Several bass just shy of 4 pounds helped him to cull to 19-3 and finish second with 77-13, just 8 ounces back of Schmitt.
23 / 25
Schmitt started slowly, losing the lead three times as he couldn’t entice the larger smallmouth early. As on Day 3, Schmitt caught a limit of 2-pounders and began to cull. A late 3-8 helped him to a 16-1 total, his smallest of the week.
24 / 25
Although he believed he didn’t close, that fish on his last spot as he headed in gave him the 1-pound cull and the victory with 78-5. The victory also helped Schmitt climb into Classic contention, gaining 13 spots in AOY to stand 39th as the last man in for an automatic berth into next year’s Classic. Schmitt showed he once again is the king of Champlain.