By Rob Newell - April 5, 2019
The 2019 Challenge Select Elimination Round 2 airs Saturday, April 6 on Outdoor Channel from 2-4 p.m. ET.
COLCHESTER, Vt. – After the Major League Fishing Select caravan came to rest at the Larry Greene boat ramp in the northeast section of Lake Champlain on the second day of the MLF Challenge Select, Michael Neal found himself right where he wanted to be for the Elimination Round.
“I haven’t even made a cast yet and already things are going my way,” Neal said with a grin as he readied his rods for his Elimination Round.
“I was dreading possibly going to a zone inside the Inland Sea or over in Malletts Bay,” he continued. “But when we headed north and I saw a sign for the Missisquoi River, I was hoping this is where we would end up. I’ve fished three tournaments on Champlain in the past and every time I fished Missisquoi Bay. This area up here fits my style of fishing; I really like it. It might backfire on me, but right now I like where I am.”
Former MLF Select winner Wesley Strader was also feeling the Missisquoi vibe early on.
“I’ve been to Champlain a bunch and I’ve fished up here on this end of the lake more than anywhere else,” Strader said. “This is one of my favorite areas on the lake. It has plenty of shallow shoreline reeds and vegetation. The water looks to be about two feet low, which might hurt the shallow bite, but that’s okay. Missisquoi Bay has a lot of offshore contours, like reefs and humps. If the fish aren’t shallow, I’ve got some offshore breaks I can try, too.”
“It’s cloudy and we’re supposed to get some rain today,” he added. “That’s not really smallmouth weather, so I’m probably going to look for a largemouth bite in the first period and see where that goes.”
Select pro JT Kenney was also expressing a little concern about the weather in terms of his species choice.
“The section they’ve put us in here is good for both largemouth and smallmouth,” Kenney said. “So a guy can sort of pick his poison. I know enough places up here to fish either way, but the determining factor to me will likely be the weather. Smallmouth are notorious for not biting on dark, cloudy days; they like bright sun and a little breeze. We’ve got rain coming today and that makes smallies funky. So I’ll be on the prowl for green fish.”
Cody Meyer was pleased the size of the selected zone as well. With so much water extending down into the Inland Sea, Meyer had smallmouth on his mind for the day.
“It’s not exactly a smallmouth kind of day, but that’s the species I’m after,” he said.
In addition to the weather, Meyer notes that smallmouth are a challenge because they take time to find.
“It’s hard to find smallmouth on the fly on Champlain,” he explained. “A lot of the good smallmouth habitat on this lake is rock in 20 foot or less. When graphing smallies that shallow, the boat often spooks them. You can’t just ride over a break, graph them and cast out there and start catching them. You have to leave the area, let the fish set back up on it and then come back and cast to them. All that takes so much time; it’s hard to find even just two or three smallmouth spots where they set back up fast enough to catch them before the day is over.”
“Despite all that, it’s still what I’m going to do because I love fishing that way,” he added. “And if I ever do find a spot where the smallmouth are setting back up fast, I can get ahead on the SCORETRACKER really fast.”