PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – For a man who says he’s never satisfied, David Dudley has experienced a lot of arguably satisfying moments this week, not the least of which was today’s weigh-ins where the Lynchburg, Va., pro extended his lead to a third day at the FLW Tour Major event on Lake Champlain.
Oh, and then there’s the Angler of the Year title that Dudley claimed today. He’s now tied with Texas pro Clark Wendlant for the most titles (three) but as the defending 2011 champ, Dudley now holds the distinction of becoming FLW’s first back-to-back season points winner. His road to this year’s AOY title has included a win at Beaver Lake (April) and a third place at the Potomac River (May). Another win at Champlain would boost his career total to seven victories. And while we’re on the stats page, why not point out the fact that Dudley’s 17-year career has included 35 top-10 finishes, 13 Forrest Wood Cup appearances and $2.9 million in winnings.
Now, back to the satisfaction thing, Dudley’s tournament jersey bears the tagline of his Castrol GTX sponsor: “Never be satisfied.” That’s something Dudley takes to heart and it shows in his work on the water.
“If you ever get to where you’re satisfied, you’re a flat line and everyone knows what a flat line means – you’re dead,” Dudley said. “I just try to live by that motto, ‘Never be satisfied’ and I think that has helped me over the years.”
Today, Champlain delivered less satisfaction than Dudley has experienced over the past two days. On day one, The Castrol GTX pro sacked up 24 pounds – the tournament’s heaviest bag. He followed a day later with 18-15, as strong winds presented a more challenging scene than the nearly flat conditions of the first day. Today brought more windy conditions and Dudley collected a more modest limit of 15-9 and tallied a 58-8 total.
Dudley has kept his descriptions vague, but all three days, he has stated that he’s using a variety of baits to catch his fish. Today, he was able to narrow down the selection and one particular bait ended up being more productive.
“I think I’m just getting clued in a little better,” he said. “I learned a little bit out there. Basically, what I learned is I know where to concentrate more of my time. Instead of trying a little bit of this and a little bit of that, I pretty much know what’s going on now.”
Spending all of his time in Champlain’s upper end, Dudley has been fishing exclusively for largemouth in relatively shallow habitat. Yesterday, he started on his best day-one spot, but found the fish uncooperative. Moving to another location proved essential to his success, as his productivity increased with the relocation. That spot was on again today, but the quality bites were harder to come by. The past two days saw Dudley’s bites spread throughout the day and his third outing was no exception.
“The fish I caught today were (from) what I found yesterday; I just need to get some bigger bites,” Dudley said. “There weren’t any flurries.”
Nevertheless, Dudley said he’s fired up to fish tomorrow’s final round. That’s nothing unusual for this driven competitor, but it’s not only about defending his position – it’s also about whom he’s defending it from. Trailing the leader are Jacob Powroznik and Andy Morgan – two of Dudley’s best friend, most respected peers and fiercest competitors.
“I have Jacob and Andy nipping at my heels and if there are two people who I don’t like nipping at my heels, who will put fuel to the fire, it’s those two guys,” Dudley said. “I’m going to have to have my A-AAA game on tomorrow.
“In every tournament I fish, if I can finish ahead of Jacob Powroznik and Andy Morgan, I halfway feel like I’ve won the tournament, so I’m winning the tournament right now, but we’ll have to see tomorrow. But that adds fuel to my fire.”
Powroznik pushes up to second
Hailing from Prince George, Va., Powroznik improved his position today with a limit catch of 17-9 and moved up to second place with 56-6. He returned to the southern waters of Ticonderoga today, but while his day-two catch included an oddball smallmouth that he found near a sailboat, Powroznik’s day-three bag held all green fish.
Today, he caught his fish on a Strike King KVD 2.5 squarebill crankbait, a homemade chatterbait and a Berkley Havoc Pit Boss. With the vast habitat of Ti presenting plenty of options, Powroznik has narrowed down his attack.
“The two spots I have are little rock piles inside the grass,” he said. “It’s a hard, flat bottom and that’s what they’re holding on. They’ve been on it every morning. Tomorrow, they could be all 5-pounders.”
Two straight days of sunny conditions have proven challenging for those working the grassy ranges down at Ti. However, the day-four weather outlook has Powroznik chomping at the bit.
“Tomorrow, it’s supposed to be cloudy and rainy (later in the day) so let the games begin,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been looking for. They’re really going to bite if it does that. And the wind is supposed to lay down so it’s going to be good tomorrow – it’s going to be a shootout.”
Morgan changes directions, improves to third
Days one and two saw Morgan head south to Ti at the takeoff, but today, he took a different course and ran to the lake’s upper end, where he focused on the shallow water largemouth habitat of a prominent bay. Good call, as the Dayton, Tenn. pro caught the day’s largest sack, 20-2, which was the only catch to break 20 today. That effort allowed him to gain eight spots and place third with 55-15.
“I really wasn’t on anything that super strong down there,” Morgan said. “I thought I could go down there and catch 15-17 pounds, but I didn’t know if that would be competitive, since I was in 11th (going into day three). We had a south wind and there was a lot of muddy water flowing in on every spot that I had.
“I just said ‘I’m going to turn around and go do something I haven’t done in a couple of days.’ I actually did practice up north one day; I caught them fairly good – nothing giant – but I thought I could run around up there and catch them pretty good. It just worked out good and I got the right bites.”
Working pencil reed banks in about two feet, Morgan caught most of his fish on a frog, but he also bagged a few with a jig. Staying off the fish and making long casts were essential to his success, he said.
Thompson slips to fourth
Joseph Thompson, of Landenberg, Penn. has joined the fun down at Ti the past three days and has fared best by sitting out a little deeper and casting up to grass edges. He’s been fishing a swim jig with a large unidentified trailer. He caught 16-7 today and sits in fourth place with 55-9.
Thompson said he’s optimistic about his chances of catching a big sack in tomorrow’s final round – as long as he doesn’t have to contend with the toothy party crashers that plagued him today. “I feel pretty good about everything; I just hope I can keep the pickerel off my line. I only have a couple of the baits that got me here left.”
Shuffield rises to fifth
Ron Shuffield, of Bismarck, Ark. continued his course of improvement today by moving up from 13th place to fifth. He opened day one with a 36th-place catch of 16-12, added 18-5 yesterday and increased by 19-3 today to amass a 54-4 total.
Shuffield has been fishing the grass of Ti and has located several schools of fish. Two days of windy conditions have necessitated frequent repositioning.
“The wind just keeps moving the mud around where I’m fishing,” he said.”I’m having to watch which side clears up a little bit and move from one side to the other until I come into contact with one of my schools.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the FLW Tour Major event on Lake Champlain:
6th: Blake Nick, of Adger, Ala., 54-2
7th: David Wolak, of Wake Forest, N.C., 53-9
8th: Scott Canterbury, of Springville, Ala., 52-2
9th: Roland Martin, of Naples, Fla., 51-15
10th: John Voyles, of Petersburg, Ind., 51-11
Day four of the FLW Tour Major event on Lake Champlain continues at Saturday’s takeoff, scheduled to take place at 6:30 a.m. (Eastern) at Dock Street Landing located at 5 Dock St. in Plattsburgh, N.Y.