At stake is more than $322,000 in total prize money, plus 15 berths into the Open Championship. The top five boaters at the Open Championship will earn berths into the CITGO Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 24-26 on Lake Tohopekaliga near Kissimmee.
“This is a phenomenal fishery and the fish are biting like crazy,” said one-time Classic qualifier and CITGO Bassmaster Tour pro Frank Scalish. “I’m fishing a deep-water pattern off shoals and ledges and concentrating on smallmouth, but you can catch them both shallow and deep, which is pretty unique.”
Ohio’s Scalish, 44, said he will fish Yum soft plastics on silver-thread fluorocarbon line and believes it will take 20 pounds a day to win. Ken Cook, the 1991 CITGO Bassmaster Classic winner and 14-time Classic qualifier, echoed the prediction.
“I won’t be surprised if it takes 60 pounds to win … It’s going to be an awesome weigh-in,” he said. The Oklahoman will search for both small and largemouth bass on 6-pound Berkley Vanish Fluorocarbon line.
Art Ferguson, a four-time Classic qualifier and CITGO Bassmaster Tour pro from Michigan, says Champlain is plentiful but anglers will be challenged finding the schools of bass.
“I’ve practiced for two days now and have found the fish to be really tight and bunched up,” he said. “They’ve been a little tough to find, but when you do, it’s a good thing.”
Ferguson is using bottom-bouncing baits to hook his catch and is throwing Senkos, flukes and jerk baits to remain versatile. He’s been fishing for smallmouth bass but plans to search for largemouth in protected areas should the weather turn ugly.
Others, including Craig Daino of Central Square, NY, already earmarked certain areas. “I’ve got one area that I anticipate catching my limit in, and one other area that I hope to get bigger bites,” he said.
And while 2005 Bassmaster Northern Open event winner Paul Hirosky, of Guys Mills, Pa., is feeling confident of another win, he realizes that Champlain is a different lake with new conditions in which to adapt.
“I’m focusing on the big catch,” he said. “It only takes one cast to find the winning spot.”
The field of 171 boaters and 114 non-boaters will be cut to 50 each after Day 2.
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 Classic in February 2006 on Lake Toho near Kissimmee.
Weigh-ins begin at 2 p.m. at Plattsburgh Boat Basin, 5 Dock St., Plattsburgh, New York.
The last Northern Open event is Sept. 15-17 on Oneida Lake in Syracuse, N.Y.
Local sponsors include 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).
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968. Coming in 2006 are an expanded Tour schedule to 11 events, three Majors tournaments and the Women’s Bassmaster Tour.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.