The tournament season is in full swing on Lake Champlain and the Big Boys of Bass fishing are coming to town. The FLW Tour’s final Major event of the season will be hosted on Lake Champlain by the city of Plattsburgh and the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau with a lot on the line as some of bass fishing’s top names vie to overtake Lynchburg, Virginia’s David Dudley for Angler of the Year title. Anglers are also competing to qualify for the Forest Wood Cup, the FLW’s championship, and the grand prize of $125,000.
With the unseasonably warm weather in the North Country the competitors face a different lake than in past tournaments. Normally, coming to Plattsburgh in mid-June the bass would still be on spawning beds. Many local fisherman report the spawn has come and gone, however. And most bass have entered their summer patterns. What this means to the competitors is the weight of fish caught will be down with the result being mere ounces determining positioning on the FLW leaderboard. The loss of one big fish could mean the difference between winning and losing, or a big check and no check at all.
For those not familiar with tournament bass fishing, competitors can weigh in five fish per day with the leader determined by the heaviest weight for their five fish. After four days of fishing the winner is determined by the most weight for up to 20 fish.
Tournament fishing in the North Country has become a controversial topic. Fish kills, high speed boating and whether fishing for cash is sportsmanlike at all are subjects being debated. The reality is that there is very low mortality among fish caught during tournaments. Because of the dead fish penalty imposed by the tournament rules great care is taken by tournament anglers to keep their fish alive. Tournament anglers use live wells on their boats along with chemical additives to keep fish alive. A dead fish can not only cost the competitor points but a great deal of cash.
High speed boating? The first question I am asked by the casual observer is why do I need a 21-foot boat with a 250 horse power motor that runs 70 plus mph. The answer is real simple: the time I save between fishing spots the more time I have to fish. Moreover, I have been involved in tournament fishing for 26 years and know of only two deaths, and neither of those had to do with speed. Just like a race car driver, when you’re running the wide open spaces of the lake you’re paying close attention to what’s going around you. I really think it’s a lot safer on Lake Champlain at 70 mph than interstate 87 at 65 mph with big trucks passing me at 75 mph.
Why fish for cash at all? Just the nature of sports, keep score and sooner or later people are going to want to keep score for money. But, the sport of bass fishing is a big business and has a large impact on local economies. Three hundred competitors coming to the North Country, buying gas, staying in motels, eating meals becomes an important financial plus for local small businesses.
Get a firsthand feel for the sport this weekend. The FLW Tour weigh-ins will be conducted at the Plattsburgh State University field house with a Fun Zone for kids from noon-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. You will have an opportunity to meet the pro fisherman, a chance at samples and giveaways, and can play interactive games hosted by the fisherman all sponsored by the various companies involved with the sport, especially Walmart. I’ll be there, hope to see you.
My prediction for the top five:
- Cody Meyer , CA
- Jacob Powroznik, VA
- Scott Martin, FL
- Shinicki Fukae, Japan
- Anthony Gagliardi, SC
Howard Hammonds is a guide and experienced bass fisherman living in Westport. He can be reached at email@example.com.