Top 5 Patterns for Champlain FLW Finale


Prior to practice for the Champlain FLW Tour, Tracy Adams didn’t know whether he’d focus on largemouths or smallmouths. Tournaments at the long lake on the New York/Vermont border can be won with either, so it often pays to keep an open mind in regard to species.

He eventually settled on the green fish, and the decision produced the first tour-level win of his career. He went into day 4 with a 2-ounce deficit to leader Dion Hibdon, but caught the biggest bag on the final day and won by 1-06.  Here’s how the Top 5 got their fish.

Adams, a 32-year-old from North Carolina, had practiced in the Ticonderoga area of the lake, about 70 miles south of the launch.  This time, the big largemouths that reside down there were in a biting mode. Dion Hibdon, who led the first 3 days, and Curt Lytle, another Top 10 finisher, were also onto them.

The thickest concentration he located was in a milfoil bed that was 7 to 9 feet deep and 150 yards off shore. He found two other similar beds, but those got muddied up by the wind and were of no use when the tournament started.   He also found some fish in willow bushes along the bank, and those would be crucial on day 4.

Adams milfoil bed was extremely productive on the first 2 days. His fish bit throughout the day, and he tried to manage them as best he could so the spot would continue to be fruitful.  The hefty largemouth were suckers for a Brush Hog (green-pumpkin).

His day 1 limit was nothing extraordinary, and it landed him in 33rd place. As always at Champlain though, a few ounces here and there lead to big moves in the standings, and he was the epitome of that phenomenon on day 2.  His second-day bag was just 1-03 bigger, but it moved him up 26 places. He made the cut in 7th.

The milfoil fish continued to bite on day 3 – but only until about 9:30. The wind had changed directions and began blowing from the north instead of the south, and that apparently triggered the shutdown.

Weights had been zeroed after day 2, and his 16-12 bag put him 2 ounces behind Hibdon, who’d also experienced a downturn with his own fish in a nearby grassbed. The Missourian’s stringer was more than 3 pounds lighter than the ones he’d brought in on the first 2 days.

The milfoil fish bit early again on day 4. But when they turned off again, Adams only had about 11 pounds in his well. He knew he needed a lot more, and it was time to make a move.  He went to the bank and began flipping a 3/8oz jig into the willow bushes that had harbored some fish in practice. They were still there, and they were of sufficient quality to win.

He ended up combining four willow fish with one he’d caught in the grass, and together they equaled his best bag of the tournament. He quit fishing at about 1:00 to take some of the stress out of the long ride back to the launch.  

Pattern Notes
> The milfoil fish were feasting on bluegill and yellow perch. “Like Dion said, just about every one of them had a tail sticking out of their mouth.
> He worked the Brush Hog a little slower than under normal conditions. “If you just threw it in there and hopped it right back, they wouldn’t bite. You had to shake it a little bit gently on the bottom.
> When he moved to the willows on day 4, he flipped the jig as far back into the shade as he could.

Winning Gear Notes
> Brush Hog gear: 7′ heavy-action G. Loomis 844IMX rod, Shimano Chronarch casting reel, 20# Gamma High Performance Copolymer Line, line (green), 3/8oz Tru-Tungsten Sinker, 5/0 Gamakatsu Worm Hook, Zoom Brush Hog  (green-pumpkin).
> Jig gear: Same rod and reel, 25# Gamma High Performance Copolymer Line, 3/8oz Hotshot Lures jig (black/blue), Zoom Super Chunk (blue sapphire).
> Main factor in his success
– “Definitely going to the grass bed, staying with it and beating the fish out of there, and then moving to the willows on the fourth day when it gave out on me.”  

2nd: Kevin Vida
is a threat to win at any venue that features big numbers of smallmouth, and he came up just 1-06 short of his first tour victory here.  His preferred pattern was sight-fishing for bedding bronzebacks, but that was difficult on the middle 2 days due to clouds and wind. But even when he couldn’t see the fish, he could still catch them because he had their locations pinpointed.

His bags consisted of 18 smallmouths and two largemouths. He caught both largemouths on day 3 (they were fish on a flat that he’d seen earlier). Vida relied on two baits – a Mizmo Bad Boy Tube & a Berkley Power Jerk Shad .

> Tube gear: 6’6″ medium-heavy Fenwick Techna AV rod, Abu-Garcia Cardinal 503ALB spinning reel, 10-pound Berkley  Vanish fluorocarbon line, 1/4-ounce Bite-Me jighead, Mizmo Bad Boy Tube (green-pumpkin surprise).
> Jerkshad gear: 7′ medium-heavy Fenwick Techna AV rod, Abu Garcia Torno 3006 casting reel (6.3:1 gear ratio), 17-pound Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon, 3/0 Gamakatsu Hook , Berkley Power Jerk Shad (pearl).
> Main factor in his success – “My new Solar Bat Sunglasses – I have to give them credit. I got a new pair with high-contrast yellow lenses, and they opened up a whole new world for sight-fishing. Even on cloudy days, I could find fish. It’s an amazing lens.”

3rd: Dion Hibdon’s plan for this tournament has been well-chronicled: He came in 75h in the points and wanted to move into the Top 48, which would give him his first berth in the FLW Tour Championship (FLWTC) since 2003.

Along with his father Guido and Northeastern Stren roommate Ricky Doyle (Champlain local), he determined that his only chance to achieve that goal was to catch some big largemouths from the Ticonderoga area at the southern end of the lake.  He fished a jig in milfoil beds and whacked the biggest sacks of the first 2 days. His bite slowed when the north wind arrived on day 3, but he’d already accomplished what he set out to do.  The bucketmouths in the milfoil were eating bluegill, and he threw big jigs that mimicked that forage.  (Hibdon ended up 43rd in the points).

> Jig gear: 7’6″ heavy-action American Rodsmiths flipping stick, Shimano casting reel (6.3:1 gear ratio), 20-pound Seagaur Carbon Pro Flourocarbon line, 5/8oz Luck E Strike or 1-ounce Terry Odom jig (bluegill), Luck E Strike Guido Bug trailer (green-pumpkin).
> Main factor in his success – “I fished for big fish with a big bait and I never gave up on it.”

4th: Scott Martin has made three straight Top 10s here and won in 2004. He loves to catch Champlain’s smallmouths and tries to avoid largemouths entirely – unless he finds a spawner that might help him.

He sight-fished for bronzebacks the majority of the tournament and caught them on a Berkley Power Tube. His first 2 days went precisely according to plan, and he went into day 3 with considerable confidence that he’d gain his second straight victory here.

He stumbled a bit on day 3 though, and attributed it primarily to “bad note-taking.” He hadn’t accurately kept track of which bedding fish had been caught by himself or someone else, and wasted some time running to a few that were no longer there.

> Sight-fishing gear: 6’10” Kistler Magnesium tube rod, Abu Garcia Cardinal 803 spinning reel, 8-pound Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon line, 1/4- or 1/8oz Matzuo rattling jighead, 4″ Berkley Power Tube (watermelon seed).

> He switched to a 7’6″ medium-heavy Kistler Helium rod when the wind was at its worst. “It was made special for me 2 years ago, but now it’s a production rod.”

> Like Vida, he said his sunglasses made a big difference. His were made by Panoptx. “They have a lens that’s called copper, and it really enhances your sight-fishing ability. The clarity is that much better.”

> Main factor in his success – “A 55-gallon drum of confidence and a plan – a plan for fishing and a plan with God.”

5th: Shinichi Fukae of Texas made his third Top 10 on the strength of finesse worms. He spent a little bit of his practice time pursuing largemouths, but the bulk of it was devoted to bronzebacks.

He fished for smallmouths exclusively during the tournament and primarily targeted humps. He didn’t sight-fish.

> Worm gear: 6’6″ medium-light St. Croix Legend Elite Spinning Rod, Shimano Stella C3000 spinning reel, 6-pound Duel (Yo-Zuri) fluorocarbon line, 3/32- or 1/8oz unnamed jighead, 5″ Gary Yamamoto Cut Tail or Shad-Shaped Worm (both green-pumpkin).
> Main factor in his success – “It’s a lake I like a lot and I was able to use my finesse skills.”

It will be interesting to see how the weights compare when the Bassmaters Elite Series visits Champlain in a few weeks.


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