Labelle Comes From Behind for Another Champlain Win - Major League Fishing

Labelle Comes From Behind for Another Champlain Win

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August 11, 2022 • Jody White • Toyota Series

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – One of the premier local anglers on Lake Champlain, Bryan Labelle has been after a Toyota Series trophy on his home waters since it was the EverStart Series back in 2012. Today, bucking the smallmouth trend and weighing mixed bags, Labelle put 21 pounds, 10 ounces on the scale for a 61-11 total and the win in the Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. event on Lake Champlain. For the win, Labelle will take the trophy back to Vermont, along with a purse worth $86,500, which includes the $35,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus.

“It’s awesome, undoubtedly,” says Labelle. “I didn’t expect it. I didn’t think I was on that caliber of fish in practice, but it worked out.”

Winning tournaments on Champlain is nothing new for Labelle. In the last year alone, he’s probably won more local events than he has digits, but this one was special.

“This is the one I wanted the most,” he said. “I was 3 ounces in [2011] from winning it, and I made a very bad choice; I could have won it for sure. I knew that was not very smart, and it kinda haunted me ever since. I really wanted this one.”

Rocking two 9-inch graphs and no Power-Poles on his boat, Labelle may not be high tech, but he is efficient. While others have made headlines with smallmouth in recent years, Labelle never hesitated on his plan for the week, going for a classic Champlain mixed bag every day.  

Day 1 saw him bring four largemouth to the scale. Day 2, he brought just one, and on the final day, three green ones made the cut.

Of course, his start to Day 2 would be the envy of any smallmouth specialist on the lake.

“I had 20 pounds, 1 ounce in 25 minutes on Day 2, and I said ‘I gotta go largemouth fishing,’” Labelle said. “So I did, but I only upgraded a little bit.

“I’m new to the forward-facing sonar. I’m a knucklehead when it comes to it,” he joked. “Learning it, it’s easier than what I thought. I guess I didn’t understand it. I was seeing a few fish, but I wasn’t seeing what these guys are. But on Day 2, I understood it very well. It was unbelievable, and undoubtedly it helped the win.”

Still, Labelle put quality largemouth in play every day, and he did it mostly in grass and on deeper rock, not the docks Champlain is so known for.

“The largemouth are not that good this year, they’re really not,” he shared. “I had a couple deals in Missisquoi early that I got some real big fish on, but that dried up and it became very tough. I thought it was going to be a good largemouth year, but I think it’s gone downhill. Forward-facing sonar I think is going to take some pressure off them, and that’ll be a good thing.

“I tried some docks. I tried to mix in a few, but they’re just not on the docks good. I’ve got some rocks a little bit deeper that really helped, and grass. The grass really wasn’t all that good. I didn’t get a lot of big bites – I feel like I got lucky with the fish I caught.”

For baits, Labelle said he caught fish on his trusty ½-ounce Dirty Jigs Scott Canterbury Flippin’ Jig, plus a drop-shot with either a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flatnose Minnow in white or a perch-colored Jackall Crosstail Shad. The baits probably were a bit secondary for Labelle – he’s got more hours in on Champlain than most and a nose for big bass, so he could probably still win tournaments if he was limited to the Walmart tackle aisle in December.

Top 10 Pros

1. Bryan Labelle – 61 – 11 (15) – $86,500 (includes $35,000 Phoenix Bonus)

2. Kyle Hall – 61 – 09 (15) – $20,000

3. Spencer Shuffield – 60 – 07 (15) – $14,250

4. Brett Carnright – 60 – 05 (15) – $12,250

5. Wayne Vaughan – 59 – 12 (15) – $11,250

6. Joseph Thompson – 59 – 06 (15) – $9,125

7. Stephen Estes – 59 – 06 (15) – $7,900

8. Ron Nelson – 58 – 15 (15) – $6,900

9. Kyle Gelles – 58 – 03 (15) – $5,900

10. Colby Miller – 57 – 14 (15) – $4,500      

Complete Results