• TV Note: Catch all the Champions Choice action on the CITGO Bassmasters Saturday, July 22, at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2.
PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. On the eve of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series Champion's Choice, several anglers mentioned that a strong flipping bite was evident on Lake Champlain. One look at the leaderboard after Thursday's weigh-in proved that wasn't just a "fish story."
With the exception of Chris Lane¹s five-bass limit of 21 pounds, 2 ounces,
the top 10 was dominated by anglers who were flipping a jig into heavy cover
for largemouth bass. Even pros who wanted to target Lake Champlain¹s
world-class smallmouth fishery were left with no choice but flipping for
largemouth. Lane, by the way, caught his on a topwater plug.
Mike Wurm, who is tied for second with Terry Butcher at 19 pounds, 8 ounces, was one of those anglers faced with only one option.
"I found these fish on Monday (in pre-tournament practice)," said Wurm of his largemouth limit. "Tuesday and Wednesday I tried to find smallmouth, and I just couldn't get them to do it. Today I said, well, I've got all my eggs in one basket, I might as well kick it over and break 'em."
The Hot Springs, Ark., veteran angler won't be faced with putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.
"I really think I can stay in there (Friday) and catch 'em," said Wurm, who also caught the big bass of the day at 6 pounds, 6 ounces.
Of the top 10 Thursday, all are predominately flipping for largemouth. That list includes Denny Brauer of Camdenton, Mo., who is in fifth place with 19-5, and Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., who is in eighth place with 18-9.
Brauer's was a name that several pros mentioned in pre-tournament interviews because of his ability to flip a jig on heavy line and attract a largemouth bass strike.
"Every time I come here, before the tournament I pattern smallmouth and plan on catching a kicker largemouth," said Brauer. "This time I decided to stick with largemouth.
"I don't get to fish for smallmouth very often. They are so much fun to catch, it's easy to get caught up in it. Before you know it, your practice time is gone.
"I pretty much proved at Oneida that I'm not a very good smallmouth fisherman."
Brauer was referring to a 93rd-place finish in the Empire Chase at Oneida Lake in Syracuse, N.Y., last week.
Biffle won that tournament by ignoring the incredible numbers of smallmouth at Oneida and concentrating on what he does best. That game plan brought Biffle a $100,000 check and made him the 16th pro bass angler to top the $1 million mark in prize money.
It's no secret that Lake Champlain has a far superior largemouth population than Oneida, both in numbers and size, so Biffle had no reason to change tactics this week. He did, however, have to tweak the game plan a bit.
"I thought the water would go down," Biffle said. "I was on them real strong a couple of weeks ago. But the water came up and moved those fish.
"I just need to let the wind tell me where to go."
Lane, a Winter Haven, Fla., resident who will celebrate his 31st birthday Monday, took a lesson from Biffle's performance at Oneida.
"(Biffle) caught them shallow," Lane said. "This lake is further north than Oneida. You can always catch largemouth when they are shallow. I think they'll be shallow until the water temperature gets over 80 degrees."
Lane said he was fishing 75-degree water. He isn't making the 70-plus-mile run that most of the top 10 is to the south end of Lake Champlain and that could be an advantage in the final three days of the tournament. By finding a hot spot about half as close to the weigh-in site in downtown Plattsburgh, Lane will have half as many headaches if the wind starts howling on Lake Champlain, which is famous for it.
The rough water early Thursday was enough to swamp Tim Horton's boat. He and his co-angler were rescued and put in another boat before the day was over, but Horton couldn't overcome the lost time, finishing with three fish weighing 3-12.
"I'm just glad to be here," Horton said. "It's a success that I'm standing here on this stage."