I finally got the boat back in order and made a decision to fish the Washington County Bassmaster Open out of South Bay on Lake Champlain this past Sunday. It's been a long time since I've had the boat in the water (almost a month exactly with the needed repairs). Hopefully I still have some readers left.
I wanted to run the boat a bit before the tournament began so we decided to head up Saturday and break the new lower unit in and potentially get some practice in as well. When we launched the water temperatures were 62-63 degrees and they remained there for the rest of the weekend. We had two beautiful days of fishing with classic fall skies, light winds, and only one downpour towards the end of Sunday. The water clarity was slightly stained in areas and a little dirtier in others. The only other thing worth noting is the water is definitely lower that I am used to.
Onto the fishing. We really struggled to find groups of large bass. We found groups of small bass and isolated large bass but I couldn't locate the big schools of large Champlain largemouth that I am used to. After Saturday, I thought that we could do about 20 lbs on tournament day but I feared 20 lbs wouldn't be enough to win.
On Sunday (tournament day) our first few spots did not pan out. On spot one we marked the fish but could not get them to chew. Our second spot had shore fisherman lining the bank. Our third spot which I really thought would pan out was completely void. I had marked some fish on a ledge on Saturday but was unable to activate the school. I decided I would give them a shot and we were able to coax a few into biting. One of which was a 3 lb smallmouth taken on a crankbait. We bounced around to a few more similar spots with no luck.
It's hard not to get discouraged but we kept our heads and continued grinding. I returned to one of my prime spots that I mentioned previously and we went on a mini run boating a 4 plus, another close to 4, and a few limit fillers. We milked the spot for all it was worth and decided to let it cool down and reload. On my first cast in our next area, I boated a small largie. On my very next cast I hooked into a toad on a crankbait which inexplicably came off.
We rotated through our areas again, mixed in a few new ones, but it was obvious to me that we had wiped them clean and we needed to switch it up a bit. I decided to fish some similar areas down the lake. The move paid off and I hit another close to four. I felt if we could get a five pound bite and cull our small fish (a 2.25), we might have a chance.
We battled our rear ends off and we did cull our 2.25 fish. We did so twice actually, but only culled it up to a 2.5 pound fish. We fished hard right up until the buzzer but it just wasn't our day. We weighed in 17.11 lbs (5 fish) and the winning weight was 20.09. The fish I dumped earlier in the day probably cost us a check but what can you do? Fish come off sometimes.
I really wish I could give you some kind of major advice to help your fall fishing on Champlain but the truth is, we just fished hard. We did catch the majority of our fish on crankbaits near rock but there was no rhyme or reason as to when they showed up or why. We would pass a point once and not catch anything. We would pass by it again 20 minutes later and catch five. When you find a school, fish it hard and milk it for all its worth. Also, if you know an area has potential but you don't catch fish off of it in practice or on your first pass, don't give up on it. Trust your instincts.