Coming into the 2019 FLW Tour finale at Lake Champlain, Casey Scanlon figured he needed to finish 12th or better to lock up a berth in the FLW Cup. He’d previously strung together four consecutive finishes of 90th place or worse leading up to the Champlain event, which was presented by T-H Marine, and he knew he had to turn it around on a lake that he’d never been to before, where weights are notoriously close throughout the standings and anglers constantly weigh the odds of targeting smallmouths or largemouths.
Despite the complexities of a Champlain tournament and his inexperience on the fishery, Scanlon rattled off four days worth of consecutive quality stringers to rally his season and earn his first FLW Tour win and a spot at the Cup on Lake Hamilton come August.
“Man, I needed it,” Scanlon says. “I’m not that old, but I’ve been at it a long time. I’ve been fishing tournaments since I was 15. It’s not easy out here, and days like this make it all worth it.”
The Missouri pro made the 50-minute run to Ticonderoga every day to target largemouths in the shallow, murky waters of Champlain’s southern end. For three days, all of the pros that ran to Ti, including seven of the top 10, enjoyed mild winds and smooth water on the way down and back. Today, getting to Ti was easy, but getting home involved a battering ride against a stiff north wind that riled up the big Northern fishery.
Scanlon had to leave Ti at 1:15 to make it back in time for the 3:30 check-in with a limit weighing 19 pounds, 10 ounces. His four-day total of 76-2 beat runner-up Eric Jackson’s weight by 1 pound, 11 ounces.
The biggest key to Scanlon’s win was his willingness to adjust each day to stay on the fish. Early in the tournament, most of his bass came off shallow rock inside of a milfoil edge. Yet, each day he caught more fish from the grass. By Sunday, all of his keepers were caught in the grass.
In order to stay consistent, the champ mixed up his presentations with a handful of rods and visited a half-dozen or so areas within a few miles of Fort Ticonderoga.
“I did junk it up a little bit, but I got myself in some decent areas, and I tried to make the most out of them by switching baits and trying some different stuff throughout the tournament,” Scanlon adds.
Each morning, he started on a pair of main-lake points along Champlain’s eastern shoreline. The points were swept by current, and together they comprised his primary area.
“My primary area was just a place that I had gotten a few good bites in practice,” he says. “Basically, in practice they were keying in on rocks on the inside of the grass line, and they were on every point, it seemed like, down the lake.
“You could see the current coming around the corner. They were obviously using the current to feed, and there was bait there, which was a big key. You’d see a lot of activity in the grass. That’s probably the main reason those fish were there.”
The first three mornings, Scanlon was able to put together early limits, but today started off slower. He didn’t catch any on his starting spot.
“Today I showed up to my primary area and nothing was working,” he says. “I could pretty much call my shots there the first three days, and I never got a bite there today. I just put my head down, put the trolling motor down, fished hard and ended up with a good bag.”
The fish that sealed the deal was a 4-pound bass that Scanlon caught while ripping a 3/8-ounce chartreuse and white Z-Man ChatterBait with a white soft jerkbait trailer through scattered milfoil just 10 minutes before he pulled the trolling motor and started the harrowing ride back north.
The ChatterBait probably produced most of Scanlon’s weight throughout four days. He fished it on rock and through scattered milfoil, pumping the rod to rip the bait free of the vegetation.
“I was looking more for isolated patches of milfoil; not the huge stretches, and it was basically to make it easier on myself,” he says.
He used a Luck-E-Strike Series 3 (green copper shad) square-bill crankbait on the rocks and in looser grass. A few fish early in the tournament bit a Luck-E-Strike Pow Stik rigged with either a 3/16- or 1/4-ounce Bass Pro Shops tungsten weight or a black and blue Bass Pro Shops tube – his only two bottom baits.
Scanlon tossed around a walking topwater bait only when he saw some surface activity on his primary point. The last tactic that worked was swimming a 1/2-ounce Trophy Swim Jig made by Scanlon’s own business, Trophy Bass Company, through lily pads and pencil reeds in very shallow water.
“That bite was not there for me yesterday, but it was there the first two days, and I caught a couple on it today,” he says. “I think what was happening is the fish were spawning in the lily pads and pencil reeds – just in the little holes in them – but I think less and less of them were there each day.”
By tournament’s end, it was clear that Ticonderoga was the place to be in this year’s Champlain showdown. Six of the top seven fished at Ti, as did Tyler Stewart, who led for three days and eventually finished ninth.
Largemouths won out over the north end’s spawning smallmouths. To finish at the top of the pack, Scanlon exhibited a tremendous amount of focus. He fired casts repeatedly and wasted little time throughout competition hours. He also fished to his strengths and eventually made all the right adjustments.
Scanlon did what winners do, and now he’s $100,000 richer for it.
Top 10 pros
1. Casey Scanlon – Lake Ozark, Mo. – 76-2 (20) – $102,700
2. Eric Jackson – Walling, Tenn. – 74-7 (20) – $30,000
3. Bryan Thrift – Shelby, N.C. – 73-15 (20) – $25,100
4. Christopher Brasher – Longview, Texas – 73-15 (20) – $20,000
5. Hensley Powell – Whitwell, Tenn. – 73-12 (20) – $19,000
6. Daryl Biron – South Windsor, Con. – 72-6 (20) – $18,000
7. David Dudley – Lynchburg, Va. – 72-4 (20) – $17,000
8. AJ Slegona – Pine Bush, N.Y. – 71-9 (20) – $16,000
9. Tyler Stewart – West Monroe, La. – 68-10 (19) – $15,000
10. Tom Redington – Royse City, Texas – 62-3 (18) – $14,000