2024 Tackle Warehouse Invitationals preview: Lake Champlain - Major League Fishing

2024 Tackle Warehouse Invitationals preview: Lake Champlain

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June 11, 2024 • Jody White • Invitationals

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – This year, the final two events on the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals trail take place in the North, with a lot of smallmouth likely to hit the scale in both of them. The finale at the Detroit River takes place in July, but Stop 5 Presented by 7 Brew on Lake Champlain will get the party started.

Always an interesting stop, how anglers fish Champlain has changed a lot the last few years, and the timing of this event should put several possibilities in play.

Lake Champlain

Plattsburgh, N.Y.

June 15-17, 2024

Hosted by the City of Plattsburgh and the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau

Tournament details

About the fishery

At more than 100 miles long, Champlain offers plenty of options, and it’s not hard to find something in your comfort zone no matter what you like to do. Plattsburgh, where the tournament takes off, is a great place to be for access to the plentiful smallmouth in the more open areas of the north end, and it provides equally convenient access to largemouth in the bays. The only issue is getting to the largemouth down south near Ticonderoga (Ti), which involves a 60-mile run over a lake that can get extremely rough at times. Dirtier and grassier, Ti has a well-earned reputation as a great place to go to win or make money, but it hasn’t been as good in recent years. In 2019, Casey Scanlon won an FLW Tour event at Ti, but since then, the best anyone has done down south in a major event is Top 10.

Lately, unless you’re Bryan LaBelle, the name of the game has been smallmouth, and that’s pretty likely to play out again this time.

Last time

In 2023, Brett Carnright earned a long-sought win with spawning fish. Photo by Jody White

Taking place a little later than the event this year, last year’s Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Northern Division event is probably a very good comparison for this year’s Invitationals event. Won by Brett Carnright with a spawning smallmouth program, the Top 10 saw a pretty good mix of spawning smallmouth and postspawn, ‘Scoping smallmouth.

Another possibly interesting comp is the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event held at the beginning of July in 2022. Won ‘Scoping in the Inland Sea, that event was a fascinating mix of offshore electronics action and some pros still sacking up smallmouth shallow or staging on buoy lines and boats.

Also, it’s maybe worth venturing back a little in time to 2019, which was the last year largemouth really played out in Ticonderoga. Scanlon used a ChatterBait to win and a bunch of pros made cuts off hard cover and grass down around Ti while spawning smallmouth or shallow largemouth were key players up north. Of course, that event took place before forward-facing sonar became mainstream, and it took less than 20 pounds a day to win.

What to expect this time

Alec Morrison poses with one guarantee for the event – quality smallmouth bass. Photo by Charles Waldorf

It’s unreasonable to say that exactly the same thing will happen this year as last year, but the most recent Toyota Series sure seems to provide a pretty good blueprint. This year, May has been warmer than usual, and the water temperature is also running warmer than normal. Combine that with the fact that anglers can usually practice more for a Toyota Series than an Invitational and you’ve got a scenario that could favor the postspawn ‘Scopers over the anglers counting heavily on bedding bass.

Alec Morrison, a local who also happens to be sitting second in the Fishing Clash Angler of the Year standings, figures that this year should go as expected.

“I don’t think there’s too much of anything that’s going to change,” he said. “I expect a lot of people to catch them spawning, and some guys to catch them really good postspawn. I’m going to be trying to mix up the two.

“I think there’s the possibility some guys will catch some largemouth, maybe not a lot, but enough to fill out a bag,” he said. “I think there will be a lot of possibilities. If I looked at this tournament date five years ago, I’d say you’d have to be catching spawners, but nowadays, it seems like it happens earlier and earlier.”

Headlines to watch for

Jake Lawrence is one of a few southern pros who need to find a northern gear for the end of the season. Photo by Rob Matsuura

Champlain is a nearly perfect tournament venue – it’s got great scenery, great fishing and often a lot of things going on. Lately, that variety hasn’t been there quite as much, but it’s remained a special place to fish and usually produces very close events, with stacked weights that keep things tense until the last fish hits the scale.

  • All eyes on Lawrence – Not to put too much pressure on him, but after taking the AOY lead with a win at Eufaula, Jake Lawrence now needs to hold it on unfamiliar ground. An amazing offshore angler and a whiz with LiveScope, he should be just fine chasing down smallmouth. Still, the Tennessee rookie has very little northern experience, and one of the brightest young anglers New York has ever produced is hot on his heels.
  • Watch out for the locals – Possibly the premier local at Eufaula, Justin Barnes hopped in the Invitationals event there and made the Top 10. This event has all the best locals in it as well, with standouts like LaBelle, Morrison, Carnright, Ryan Latinville and more ready to do battle for high stakes on the home pond.
  • Curveballs aren’t out of the question – As much as a standard spawn and ‘Scope derby is likely, you don’t want to ever get too comfortable on Champlain. There are quality largemouth scattered all around the lake that could bite a number of baits, and it only takes 15 fish to win this one. Plus, there are a few anglers in the field that have a propensity for nonstandard fishing areas, LaBelle and Kurt Mitchell probably being foremost on that list.

Follow along

You can watch the action from Stop 5 Presented by 7 Brew on Lake Champlain unfold live on MLFNOW! from 7 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. ET. on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app, and stay locked to the website for on-the-water galleries, daily stories and more.