Though pros are fishing different areas of the lake and dabbling with the occasional largemouth, the Costa FLW Series Northern Division opener presented by Power-Pole on Lake Champlain has basically turned into a spawning smallmouth shootout. Because the smallmouths are bedding so heavily north of Plattsburgh and in the main lake, it took a whopping 19-pound average to make the cut. The top three are both over 40 pounds, and it seems like weights may only slack off a little on the final day.
In the lead, Brett Carnright is fishing a little deeper than everyone else. But, that only has him 7 ounces head of Ron Nelson in second and 8 ounces ahead of Austin Felix in third. The weather for day tow was primo – fairly calm and very sunny. However, the weather for day three is forecast to be a little sketchier, with 2- to 4-footers from the south predicted in the morning and a little rain in the forecast as well – making for less-than-ideal conditions for sight-fishing.
Regardless of weather, the weights are tight and fishing is good, which is going to make for one heck of a final day on Champlain.
2. Ron Nelson – Berrien Springs, Mich. – 40-8
After winning the Northern Division opener last year on Champlain, Nelson is looking to do it again this week with a similar strategy.
On day one, the Michigan pro mixed in a largemouth with his smallies and weighed a touch under 21 pounds. Today, Nelson caught all smallmouths for 19 pounds, 13 ounces.
“I caught those fish early, and then after that I wasted my whole day basically fishing for largemouths,” says Nelson of his smallmouth limit. “I caught a few heavy largemouth, but they didn’t help.”
Nelson seems to feel pretty good about his chances at another good bag on day three. He’s got plenty of fish to run to, but doesn’t know exactly how far past 18 pounds his projected weight is.
3. Austin Felix – Eden Prairie, Minn. – 40-7
FLW Tour pro Austin Felix is a bonafide spawning smallmouth expert, and he’s had that on display all week. Wrangling up 19 pounds, 8 ounces on day two, Felix fell one spot to third place.
“I haven’t touched a green fish since I’ve been here – 12 days,” says Felix. “It went alright today. I didn’t think I would have that much, but when it slicked off I found two 4-pounders I was able to catch and a couple other big ones that would have helped me that I threw back for tomorrow.”
Felix says he’s mostly been targeting fish in about 5 to 7 feet of water, but that the found some as deep as 11 feet with this afternoon’s calm conditions. According to him, he’s got about 18 pounds dialed up for day three, but getting past that mark will require some new fish.
4. Cory Johnston – Cavan, Ont. – 39-11
The only man in the top 10 to weigh-in a largemouth two days in a row, Cory Johnston put two greenies and three brownies on the scale today for 19-5.
“It was done pretty early, I went around and caught some bedded fish quick,” says Johnston. “Then I waited for the sun to get up and went around and looked and caught a few largemouths.”
Johnston says he marked a bunch of smallmouths in the afternoon for day three, and also marked one largemouth that might join the party on the final day. He also took the opportunity to look deeper this afternoon and says there are better fish there but he’s not sure exactly how much weight he’s looking at.
5. Chris Adams – Shrewsbury, Vt. – 39-7
Hampered by the wind on day one, Chris Adams roared back with the biggest limit of the day on day two. Also catching all spawning smallmouths, the Vermont angler sacked up 20-7 to move from 11th to fifth.
“I made some adjustments and fished some new water,” says Adams of day two. “I did my thing and ran some history and some new water I’ve never looked at in my life. I had probably 19 pounds early, and then I found two good ones later that helped.”
The smallmouth spawn has been key the entire event, and Adams is as well-versed as any when it comes to capitalizing on it on Champlain. He’s likely to encounter some rough seas again on day three, but if he can catch another 20-pound bag he’ll definitely have a shot at a win.