It’s a quick turnaround for the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain, July 30-Aug. 2. The fourth stop on the circuit for 2020 is hosted by the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau and City of Plattsburgh.
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The 85 Elites made a relatively short trip from Clayton, N.Y., and the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence to Lake Champlain on the New York and Vermont border.
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Paul Mueller led the first three days at the St. Lawrence River. On Day 1, he weighed the big bag of the event at 27 pounds, 1 ounce, bolstered by this 7-13 smallmouth. The fish was his personal best smallie and 7 ounces shy of tying the New York state record of 8-4.
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Mueller was among the anglers who ventured into Lake Ontario, which bared its teeth on Championship Sunday with winds pushing waves that made fishing and the ride in treacherous. Canadian waters were off limits because of that country’s Quarantine Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the playing field stretched down the St. Lawrence and as far into Ontario’s American waters as an angler cared to go.
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Although areas he grew up fishing were not available, Chris Johnston became the first Canadian to win an Elite tournament. With numerous Japanese Elite champions and Australian Carl Jocumsen winning on Tenkiller Lake last year, Johnston added a fourth nation to the list. Johnston was thwarted last year after leading the first three days on St. Lawrence, but he finished atop the standings when it counted Sunday as he was the only competitor to eclipse 20 pounds each day.
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Lake Champlain, once designated a Great Lake for a short time, is 107 miles long and 14 miles at its widest point. The natural freshwater lake that extends into Canada — again off limits — covers more than 500 square miles, averages 64 feet deep and has a maximum depth of 400 feet.
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B.A.S.S. has visited Lake Champlain 12 previous times, starting with Roland Martin’s victory in the 1997 Vermont Top 100. This will be the fourth visit by the Elite Series to Champlain.
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Champlain offers opportunities to target both largemouth and smallmouth, as evidenced by Chris Zaldain’s past efforts.
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There is extensive vegetation in Champlain where largemouth live. Ticonderoga on the south end of the lake is a famed largemouth haunt, but it’s quite a run from takeoff at Plattsburgh. The lake ranks well in Bassmaster Magazine’s Best Bass Lakes and was recently named 11th best nationally over the past decade.
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Rocky terrain, including reefs, points, bluffs and riprap, is abundant as Champlain is surrounded by the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondacks of New York. The lake, which has about 70 islands, is the lowest point in the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park.
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Plattsburgh City Marina is tournament central with takeoffs at 6:45 a.m. ET each day and weigh-ins starting at 3 p.m. ET. However, no spectators will be allowed due to coronavirus restrictions. Fans can tune in for live, on-the-water coverage from Bassmaster LIVE each day at Bassmaster.com or ESPN3, and check local listings for ESPN2 broadcast times.
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“With approval from New York State and the Clinton County Health Department, the City of Plattsburgh and Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau are happy to welcome the Bassmaster Elite Series back to Lake Champlain,” said Alyssa Senecal, Assistant Director of Tourism & Marketing for the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau. “Although this year will look a lot different with no spectators, quarantining while off the water, masks and a whole lot of hand sanitizer, all partners involved in this planning process have gone above and beyond in making sure all guidelines have been followed and the health and safety of our community stays top priority. We’re looking forward to seeing what the Elites reel in!”
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Bryan Labelle was the most recent winner of a pro event on Champlain, averaging almost 20 pounds a day to win the August 2018 Eastern Open there with 58-10. Current Elite angler Bryan Schmitt won there in 2016 with 59-13.
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On the line this week is more than $700,000 in prize money, with $100,000 going to the angler with the most weight over four days of competition. The field of 85 fish the first two days with the top 40 moving on to semifinal Saturday and 10 advancing to Championship Sunday. Points are awarded each event toward the prestigious Bassmaster Angler of the Year title and qualification to the Bassmaster Classic, bass fishing’s premier event.