The sixth largest freshwater lake in the United States, Champlain begins on the Canadian border near Quebec and stretches 110 miles south to the Ticonderoga area. In the process, it splits New York and Vermont (by 12 miles at its widest point), covers more than 300,000 surface acres and has a maximum depth of about 400 feet. Surprisingly, its 585 miles of picturesque shoreline still is largely undisturbed by developers.
And, it is absolutely loaded with quality-sized smallmouth and largemouth bass.
“Champlain is, has been and probably will be for a while the No. 1 bass lake in the United States,” said former CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Michael Iaconelli, who won the last BASS event held there in the fall of 1999 with 61 pounds, 3 ounces. “I’ve fished there for a lot of years and there’s no doubt about (its reputation).”
Other anglers agree.
“The fishing should be absolutely phenomenal,” added Terry Baksay, a former Classic qualifier from Connecticut. “The fishing this summer has been out of control.”
In Lake Champlain tournaments, the competitors are faced with a basic, but difficult decision: stay in the northern portion and fish for smallmouth or make the long run south where largemouth bass reign.
“This might surprise some people, but 90 percent of the summertime events that I’ve fished there have been won on largemouth,” Iaconelli said. “It’s phenomenal this time of year for largemouth. That bite is just off-the-hook amazing. In the summertime on Champlain, you see the largemouth really shine.”
But Baksay counters that heading south to target largemouth has some inherent risks.
“Some of the guys who run all the way south can get as many largemouth as they want, but running 75 miles is a giant gamble on that body of water,” he said. “If the wind blows, the guys won’t be able to go down south.”
Baksay’s game plan is to fish for smallmouth in the northern section of the lake near the Plattsburgh launch site. If he makes the top-50 cut for the final round, Baksay will decide whether to make the long run south based on his position in the standings.
While the smallmouth will hold in water 20 to 35 feet deep, the largemouth are typically shallower and considerably more accessible this time of year, according to anglers. The majority of the smallmouth will be offshore, while the largemouth will be largely relating to shallow vegetation.
“I absolutely think two baits are going to shine for largemouth,” Iaconelli said. “A jig and a soft-plastic stick bait like a Berkley Gulp Sinking Minnow or a Senko. For the smallmouth, it’s going to be the baits that can get 20 or 30 feet deep.
“And the other thing to throw into the mix for both species is a topwater,” Iaconelli added. “Especially if the conditions get right, the topwater bite on Champlain this time of year can be phenomenal.”
Iaconelli predicts the winner will need daily five-bass limits weighing 20 to 25 pounds.
Baksay’s estimation is slightly smaller. “I don’t think the weights will be quite as high as they are in the fall, but I think they’ll be close,” he said. “I’d say in the mid-50s for three days.”
This is the second of three Northern Open events that will send the top anglers to the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship in December. The top five from that championship are invited to the CITGO Bassmaster Classic February 24-26, 2006, at Lake Toho near Kissimmee.
Launch and weigh-ins will be at the Plattsburgh Boat Basin, 5 Dock Street, Plattsburgh.
Local sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open on Lake Champlain are the City of Plattsburgh and the "I Love NY" campaign.
Sponsors of the Bassmaster Open Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.