Lake Champlain is widely known as one of the most productive smallmouth fisheries in the world. Tournament competitors often weigh a limit of huge smallies in excessive of 20 pounds, but quality largemouths also play a role in competitors’ strategies. With a variety of structure, vegetation, water clarity and depth found in the mammoth lake, anglers can utilize just about any technique to catch a limit of bass. Of 200 pros fishing Wednesday, a staggering 189 caught limits, while 127 co-anglers also weighed limits. To offer another example of the quality of fishing found at Lake Champlain, even 67th place in the Pro Division weighed in 15 pounds.
“I’m fishing pretty shallow,” said Walker, who is focusing on largemouths. “Although I can’t see the fish, I think the fish I’m catching are spawning. I’m just pitching in grass.
“I’m running about an hour south, so if the wind blows I’ll probably have to stay closer. I did find a few places in practice closer to the ramp just in case the lake gets rough. But I’ll still be fishing for largemouths.”
Rounding out the top five pros are Garmin pro Rob Kilby of Hot Springs, Ark. (five bass, 19 pounds, 2 ounces); Jimmy Millsaps of Canton, Ga. (five bass, 18 pounds, 12 ounces); Kellogg’s pro Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas (five bass, 18 pounds, 11 ounces); and BFGoodrich Tires pro Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla. (five bass, 18 pounds, 7 ounces).
Also at stake this week for FLW Tour pros is the coveted Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year title. Reigning Japan Bass Angler of the Year, Shinichi Fukae of Osaka, Japan, leads the points standings by 33 points and is poised to win the title after finishing day one in 17th place. Yamaha pro Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., second in the Angler of the Year standings coming into the tournament, completed day one in 71st place.
Greg Gulledge of Monticello, Ark., leads the Co-angler Division by 14 ounces with five bass weighing 16 pounds, 13 ounces.
Charles Ward of Greer, S.C. (five bass, 15 pounds, 15 ounces); Larry Caldwell of St. Peters, Mo. (five bass, 15 pounds, 10 ounces); Jason Knapp of Uniontown, Pa. (five bass, 15 pounds, 7 ounces); and Robert Blosser of Poynette, Wis. (five bass, 15 pounds) round out the top five co-anglers.
Yamaha pro Alton Jones of Waco, Texas won the pro Snickers Big Bass award with a 6-pound, 5-ounce bass worth $750. Ken Bearden of La Grange, Ga., and Mike Hawks of Galax, Va., tied for the co-angler Snickers Big Bass award with 4-pound, 7-ounce bass. Both co-anglers earned $250.
Anglers caught 1,811 bass Wednesday weighing an impressive 4,481 pounds, 3 ounces. More than 98 percent of the fish were weighed alive.
The four-day tournament is the sixth of seven FLW Tour events that will culminate with the record-setting $1.5 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship Boat and Outdoor Show in Birmingham, Ala., Aug. 11-14, where the winning pro earns the sport’s largest cash award, $500,000, and fishing fans are treated to hundreds of displays featuring special offers on everything from crankbaits to bass boats. .
Coverage of the Lake Champlain tournament will be broadcast to 65 million subscribers of the Outdoor Life Network on the “FLW Outdoors” television program. A tournament preview show featuring bass-fishing legend Hank Parker will air June 27 at 1 p.m. Eastern time and July 29 at 5 p.m. Eastern time, and fishing fans can watch the tournament weigh-in with hosts Carlton Wing, Taylor Carr and Charlie Evans Aug. 1 at 1 p.m. and Aug. 5 at 5 p.m. Eastern time. Tournament veteran Larry Nixon will host a tournament wrap-up show Aug. 8 at 1 p.m. Eastern time, and that show will re-air Aug. 12 at 5 p.m. Eastern time.
Anglers will take off from Mooney Bay Marina in Plattsburgh at 6:30 a.m. Thursday and Saturday and at 8 a.m. Friday. Thursday’s weigh-in will also be held at Mooney Bay Marina beginning at 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 25 Consumer Square in Plattsburgh beginning at 5 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.
The community is invited to attend the Family Fun Zone Friday and Saturday outside the weigh-in tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The Family Fun Zone features interactive displays, product samples and games for the entire family to enjoy. The Fun Zone will open Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m.
The full field competes in the two-day opening round for one of 10 slots in Friday’s competition based on their two-day accumulated weight. Weights are cleared for day three, and co-angler competition concludes following Friday’s weigh-in. The 10 pros continue competition Saturday, with the winner determined by the heaviest two-day weight.
In FLW Tour competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers.
Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, the Wal-Mart FLW Tour is administered by FLW Outdoors, the world’s leading marketer of competitive fishing. Other FLW Outdoors-sanctioned tournament trails are the EverStart Series, the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour, the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye League and the Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail. Wal-Mart and many of America’s most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its six tournament trails. Wal-Mart has been the title sponsor of FLW Outdoors since 1997.