Top 10 baits from Lake Champlain - Major League Fishing

Top 10 baits from Lake Champlain

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A pretty good variety of baits worked for the Top 10 on Champlain, as the lake was in the midst of the spawn to summer transition. Photo by Charles Waldorf. Angler: Bryan Labelle.
June 26, 2023 • Jody White, Charles Waldorf • Toyota Series

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – The Northern Division Presented by Rabid Baits got rolling in fine fashion on Lake Champlain, with one of the fishiest Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats events of the year. In the event, it took a 34-pound, 15-ounce total to get paid, and 32-11 was 100th on the pro side. With the smallmouth spawn coming in clutch for many of the top finishers, there were also plenty who relied on postspawn fish, which was a pattern that seemed to get stronger by the day.

Here’s what worked best for the top pros.

1. Earning the win that was overdue, Brett Carnright knocked out nearly a 20-pound average with all smallmouth. Catching most of his fish on beds with a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm, he also tempted postspawn smallies with a Megabass Spark Shad on a 3/16-ounce head.

2. Finishing second to his cousin, Ryan Latinville weighed entirely spawning smallmouth and did most of his damage with a Samatis Baits HTW rigged on a Ned head or a drop-shot.

3. “The best angler to ever fish this lake” according to Carnright, Bryan LaBelle earned another top finish on Champlain. Weighing a mix of spawning smallmouth and postspawn smallmouth and largemouth, LaBelle weighed four smallmouth on Day 1, just two on Day 2, and then three on the final day. LaBelle caught his bed fish and many postspawn smallmouth with a Beast Coast Open Water Sniper Jig with a 2.8-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT trailer. He also used a wacky-rigged Yamamoto Senko to pluck bass from shallow cover.

4. Coming up from Florida, Garrett Rocamora made his mark on Champlain, finishing ahead of a lot of local luminaries.

“It was amazing,” he said. “I’m really far from home, I’ve been fishing out of state for a long time, and I always have one good day and one bad day. Whether I lose fish, or don’t get the bites, I can’t close it out. It was a big thing for me to come up here and catch them. My weight went up every day, and I was doing something I had a lot of confidence in.”

That something was roaming flats with ActiveTarget and throwing at every smallmouth he could see. His primary baits were an Outkast Tackle Goldeneye Swimbait Jig Head with a 3.8-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT and a 13 Fishing Power-Slide topwater. He also flipped for largemouth some with an Outkast Tackle Cage Feider jig and a Gambler Chunk.

5. Crushing on Champlain yet again, Ron Nelson overcame an abbreviated practice to make the Top 10. Nelson mixed smallmouth and largemouth, and his best bait was a wacky-rigged Yamamoto Senko.

6. A subpar first day put Alec Morrison behind the eight ball, but he sacked 19 pounds on the final two days to make the Top 10.

“It felt good to come back, for sure,” he said. “I knew I was around them, but it was about getting these suckers to bite. It was definitely a grind, I had to throw at a million to get a couple good ones to bite”

Fishing for postspawn smallies, his top baits were a Heddon One Knocker Spook and an OSP Blitz Max DR.

7. Fishing his first Toyota Series event, Michigan angler Brayden Federer leaned on postspawn fish in the Inland Sea to earn a Top 10.

His primary game was a pair of Megabass Spark Shad swimbaits, one in the ayu color to imitate perch and the other in albino with chartreuse on the tail to imitate alewives. He fished both on a VMC Hybrid Swimbait Jig, using both the 1/4- and 3/8-ounce sizes. Federer also caught a few fish, including a key 4-pounder, on a Heddon Super Spook Jr.

“Going into practice, I knew it was going to be a spawning derb, and that’s not something I wanted to do,” Federer said. “I fished my strengths, and did more graphing in practice than fishing. I marked a lot of isolated boulders and rock piles, and got into that pattern early.”

8. Former Pro Circuit pro Tyler Woolcott knocked out a Top 10 with postspawn smallmouth as well. Casting at roamers eating alewives, he used a drop-shot with a Strike King Baby Z-Too on a 1/0 Hayabusa FPP Straight and a 3/8-ounce Woo! Tungsten drop-shot weight. He also used an Outkast Tackle Goldeneye Swimbait Jig Head with a 3.8-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT to cast at the same fish when they wanted a different look.

9. Canadian Brian Green continued the trend of postspawn smallmouth success, despite having little experience on Champlain.

“This is my first tournament with MLF, and with the tournament, I had 11 days on the lake ever,” he said. “I went about a month and a half ago and looked for which sections had the warmest water already. In the Inland Sea, I found spawning smallmouth, and I knew I wanted to fish for postspawn fish. I didn’t find spawners were a reliable pattern for myself, because a lot of locals knew it better than me. So, I just targeted postspawn smallies in that section.”

For his baits, Green used a Megabass Vision 110 in French pearl over grass. For targeting boulders, he went with a 2.75-inch Strike King Rage Swimmer on a 1/4-ounce YUM Forward Facing Sonar Jig Head or a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Lil’ Trooper Craw on a 1/4-ounce Weapons of Bass Destruction Ned head.  

10. A fixture in the Top 10 when smallmouth are around, Kyle Hall earned another on Champlain. Chasing the postspawn bite in 10 to 14 feet with Garmin LiveScope, he did his work with a drop-shot and a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm, a 3/8-ounce weight and a No. 1 Owner Cover Shot Worm Hook. For his setup, Hall used an Odiehammer Full Send rod, an Abu Garcia Zenon reel and Berkley X9 braid with a Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon leader.