After a month hiatus for the Bassmaster Classic, the Bassmaster Elite Series heads to New York to begin the Northern Swing with the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain.
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Stop No. 8 of the nine-event Elite Series visits Plattsburgh, N.Y., July 8-11. The season wraps up the following week on the St. Lawrence River, where titles, Classic berths and re-qualifications will be decided.
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Lake Champlain, often referred to as the sixth Great Lake, is a 125-mile long natural lake on the border of New York and Vermont with a portion in Canada. Twelve miles at its widest, Champlain covers 435 square miles, has 587 miles of shoreline and averages 64 feet deep with a maximum depth of 400 feet.
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The Plattsburgh Waterfront on Dock Street at 2 Dock Street is tournament central, with launches at 7 a.m. ET and weigh-ins at 3 p.m. All B.A.S.S. venues are free to enter, and the Expo, with sponsor displays, food, drink and boat rides, opens at noon Saturday and Sunday.
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B.A.S.S. has held 13 pro events on Lake Champlain, dating back to Roland Martin’s 1997 victory in the Vermont Top 100. This will be the fifth visit by the Elite Series, including last year.
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Brandon Palaniuk rallied from fifth place to win on Lake Champlain in 2020, catching 21 pounds, 6 ounces on Championship Sunday to finish with 80-1. It took almost 34 pounds to make the Top 40 cut, and the last man in the Top 10 averaged 19 pounds a day.
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Palaniuk and Tiffany McCall, who married late last month, celebrate Palaniuk’s fourth blue trophy. Palaniuk added a fifth on Santee Cooper later in the season, which required rescheduling of the events due to COVID restrictions.
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Seth Feider finished runner-up to Palaniuk at Champlain, and this year Feider leads the Bassmaster Anger of the Year standings. Feider, whose worst event this season was a 29th, has 602 points and leads closest competitor Jason Christie by 48. “The position I’m in with AOY, I’m probably never going to see again,” Feider said, “So, I don’t want to have good tournaments all year and mess up one of the ones I’ve been looking forward to the most.”
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There will be 95 Elites competing on Champlain after several more dropped out for various issues. After two days, the field will be cut to the Top 45, then the Top 10 advance to Championship Sunday with a chance to win the $100,000 first-place prize and coveted blue trophy.
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Also on the line this week is a concerted effort to qualify for the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic as well as re-qualifying for next year’s Elite. A majority of the Elites requested and voted on the ability to drop their worst tournament if someone were to miss because of COVID. B.A.S.S. recently sent out an updated AOY point standings with each angler’s worst event excluded. The drop list only pertains to Classic qualifying.
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There is extensive vegetation in Champlain. Although quite a run from takeoff, Ticonderoga on the south end of the lake is a famed largemouth haunt. Champlain continues to rank well in Bassmaster Magazine’s Best Bass Lakes, and proof came last year in that almost the entire field caught limits each day.
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Rocky terrain is abundant as Champlain is surrounded by the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondacks of New York. The lake, which has 71 islands, is the lowest point in the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park.
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Champlain offers opportunities to target both largemouth and smallmouth, as evidenced here by Jamie Hartman last year when he brought in a mixed bag to lead with 22-1 on Day 1. “My game plan every time I’ve been there has been to catch 15, 16, 17, 18 pounds of smallies and then go catch two big bucketheads to fill out a big bag,” Feider said. “I’ll spend most of my practice looking for largemouth just because I think it’s harder to find the big ones.”
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“We’re hitting Champlain at a good time — and I really don’t think there’s a bad time to hit it,” Feider said. “I’m assuming most stuff is going to be done spawning. If there are a few left, they’ll be smallmouth. But it’ll be a typical Champlain tournament where you can catch them any way you want.”
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Champlain had rain before anglers began practice on Monday and another front will cool things off for competition days. South winds are the main concern as rough waters can build in the long stretches of Champlain.
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Fans can tune in for live, on-the-water coverage from Bassmaster LIVE each day at Bassmaster.com and the FOX Sports app. FS1 has the early morning coverage on Days 3 and 4, beginning at 8 a.m. ET. Check local listings for broadcast times.