How I will fish Lake Champlain


JD Blackburn

We are down to two events remaining in the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series season; Lake Champlain this week and then the St. Lawrence River next week. Our season will end by the middle of July, which is the first time in my eight years on the Elites that we have done that.

I still have a couple of Bassmaster Opens to fish in October, so I will have some time off after this. I need to finish the season strong. I am in 28th place in Bassmaster Angler of the Year points, so I can definitely fall out of the Classic with a bad ending to the season. There’s a lot on the line this week and next.

The good news is I love fishing in New York. It’s my favorite state to fish, and Lake Champlain is my favorite lake in the world. Bass act how they are supposed to act here. You can ride down the lake and see a spot and say, “There ought to be a bass there.” Then, you pull in and throw and there will be fish on it. That’s the way this place is. I’ve always had good vibes here. 

This week has felt like that, too. The second week of July is the earliest I have ever fished a tournament here. I’ve heard before about large “mixed bags” here consisting of big largemouth and smallmouth. And I have seen big bags of smallmouth and largemouth. In my opinion, those “mixed bags” are going to be the bigger bags here. The smallmouth bags will not be quite as big as they were last year; they are a lot skinnier. The fish are just getting done spawning, so that postspawn period of actively feeding back up is happening now. A 3.75-pound fish this week might weigh 4.25 here in two to three weeks. I haven’t seen a smallmouth over 4 pounds yet this week in practice.

The smallmouth here are different from the ones you see on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. Their mouths are a little bit larger, and they are not as broad as we will see next week in Waddington. Another significant factor is the goby. I haven’t seen those are in Lake Champlain personally. They play a big role in building those 5-pound smallmouth. These fish here eat a lot of perch and crawfish.

I will spend some time this week trying to catch a couple of big largemouth, but I love fishing for smallmouth up here. This year I have the added enjoyment of the Lowrance Active Target, which allows me to watch the fish and see what they’re doing with my bait. It’s so much fun to me.

The goal, the way to win here, is to catch a good bag of smallmouth and then go catch a 5-pound largemouth. You have a lot better shot of catching a largemouth that size than a smallmouth. There’s a better chance of making the long run to the Ticonderoga at the south end of the lake, but a long run like that is not my style. It will be interesting to see how many guys do that. 

I love the north end of this lake and have concentrated my efforts here. I have caught fish from 5 feet out to 30 feet and looked even deeper. The fish are pretty scattered because it is early postspawn, but it is a lot of fun regardless. Leaving the dock on Day 1, I’m pretty sure I’m going to catch fish, but I’m not sure how big the bag will end up being. It will take at least 16 pounds a day to make the cut, most likely. Last year it took almost 17 pounds a day. 

Water temperatures this week have ranged from 68 up to 73. That’s pretty typical for up here. The water doesn’t get a whole lot warmer than that, so that’s not going to be a big factor this week. The weather has been great in practice, a little breezy, but not too bad. 

I’m excited to get this one started. Y’all stay tuned to to see how it goes.