(Sep 15, 2016 - PLATTSBURGH, N.Y.)
A hot, dry summer is likely to alter the shallow-water bite at Lake Champlain during the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open Sept. 21-23.
While pre-fishing for the tournament, New York B.A.S.S. Nation angler Jamie Hartman has noticed conditions are different than the last time the Northern Open visited Lake Champlain in the summer of 2014. “The lake is extremely low,” said Hartman, who has fished the lake for about 15 years “It is the lowest I have ever seen it in all the times I’ve fished there.
“A lot of that shallow stuff that I used to fish in 6 to 8 feet of water is now only in 3 and 4 feet of water,” he said. “So there will have to be an adjustment to the low water.”
Summer patterns prevailed in 2014 when Texan Shin Fukae won the Northern Open on Champlain mixing in finesse tactics to catch both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Fukae tricked smallmouth in deep water with a drop shot rig to complete a limit each day and targeted kicker largemouth in the shallows with a Yamamoto Senko attached to a Gamakatsu G-Finesse Wacky Head jig.
The unusually hot weather has kept the water warm at Champlain even at the beginning of September. During his most recent pre-fishing trip, Hartman noticed the water temperature was still around 74 degrees. “Unless the weather changes and we get a lot of cool nights with some cool days thrown in, I think it is still going to be set up for summer patterns,” Hartman said. “There will be a lot of scattered fish and a lot of different ways to catch them.
Hartman struggled his first day of pre-fishing, but made an adjustment the next day and found plenty of action. “They seem to be eating pretty well,” he said. “It’s going to be a bass buffet. Everything is going to come into play. You just have to figure it out or find a bunch of fish.”
Finding bunches of bass could be a problem, though. Hartman found smallmouth scattered at various depths during his pre-fishing days. “A lot of shallow patterns will play and a lot of deep patterns will play,” Hartman said. He saw fish cruising as shallow at 4 feet and caught smallmouth as deep at 28 feet.
So Hartman believes diversity will be the key to succeeding in the Open. “You got to have several different patterns going and move around a lot,” he said. “I don’t think you will be able to sit in one spot.”
The New York angler predicts the most productive patterns for smallmouth will be working jerkbaits and topwater baits or soft plastics on Carolina rigs and drop shot rigs around deep rocks or shallow grass.
The Fort Ticonderoga area produced good largemouth fishing earlier this year, but the action there has tailed off lately due to the low water. “I don’t know if the Ti area is going to come into play,” Hartman said. “The grass grows out to about 4 to 4 1/2 feet and that seems to be about it. The water is so low down there that the grass never grew out deep.” The low lake level has also eliminated shallow largemouth hideouts such as reeds, tules and boat docks.
Hartman expects the largemouth will be scattered in the shallow grass so he doubts anyone can sit in one spot and consistently catch fish. Making a milk run to various grass spots and throwing topwater frogs, buzzbaits, spinnerbaits and swim jigs will more likely be the best way to catch largemouth during the event.
Despite the low lake level, Champlain offers vast amounts of fishable water. “It is a big lake between the entire Champlain area and then the Inland Sea, so everything can play,” Hartman said. “The way it is setting up, I found the mid-lake area seems to be pretty decent. It seems like the low water has pulled the fish to the dropoffs.”
Catching about 34 1/2 pounds of mainly smallmouth in two days could be enough for a Pro Division angler to make the Top 12 cut for the final round, according to Hartman. He guesses it will take about 56 1/4 pounds to win.
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