Paradise Found

Lake Champlain has long been a top Eastern destination for anglers of all genres. It's still a top producer and worth a visit if you ever get the chance.

North American anglers are blessed with an abundance of fishing holes. And thankfully, I’ve enjoyed more than a few of them on road trips over the years, while covering hot destinations and happening fisheries for North American Fisherman. From Lake Fork to the Gulf of Alaska, there’s no shortage of sweet spots in which to wet a line.

I was reminded this past week of one of the North’s top bass waters, when I covered the Rayovac FLW Series pro-am bass tournament on Lake Champlain. With serious cash at stake, it drew top sticks from across New England, plus far-flung states including Alabama, California and Minnesota.

Stretching along the northern Vermont and New York state line, Champlain is rich in largemouths and smallmouths. Off to a bit of a late start due to a delayed spring, the mighty lake still kicked out both species of bass on a variety of presentations.

Anglers tapping the weed bite in the fertile, soft-bottomed areas near Ticonderoga slayed largemouths at an amazing pace. Michael Marini of Slingerlands, New York, won the event on the weed bite, fishing Texas- and wacky-rigged 5-inch Senko softbaits in milfoil beds in 4 ½ to 6 ½ feet of water. The pattern produced three beefy 5-bass baskets totaling 57 pounds, 7 ounces.

A number of other pros including NAFC friend Dave Lefebre also played the green card. Lefebre finished thirdwith a 56-pound, 1-ounce tally taken largely on a green-pumpkin Terminator jig and Yamamoto double-tail trailer, though a number of bass also fell for a 4½-inch Storm swimbait.

But true to form, Champlain also produced an incredible number of quality smallmouths. In fact, Tournament Director Ron Lappin reported that many of the anglers said there are more five-pound smallmouth bass in the lake right now than they’ve ever seen. And sure enough, the bronze bounty played a factor in the event, as southern largemouth expert Jordan Lee of Auburn, Al., stepped outside his comfort zone and targeted northern smallmouths the entire event.

He racked up a 55-pound, 9-ounce total throwing 5-inch fluke-style jerkbaits over a shallow feeding area. He fished the baits weightless, Texas-rigged on a 4/0 hook just under the surface with a slow-falling presentation. Heddon Spooks also yielded a fair share of topwater bites.

It’s been 10 years since I’ve fished Champlain, but this tournament reminded me of what a world-class bass destination this scenic lake truly is. Hopefully, I’ll return sooner next time to sample its bounty.

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