PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — When anglers launch from Plattsburgh City Marina for the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain, they’ll find a lake with natural beauty matched only by its incredible diversity.
Nestled between the verdant splendor of the Adirondack Mountains to the west and the Green Mountains on the east, this picturesque lake straddling the border of New York and Vermont reaches into lower Quebec, but holds most of its 107-mile length within the U.S. Covering 514 square miles, Champlain holds healthy populations of smallmouth and largemouth bass — both of which grow to competitive sizes.
Elite Series rookie Destin DeMarion, of Grove City, Pa., has fished Champlain on multiple occasions and knows well the lake’s potential for producing winning sacks of green or brown complexion.
He’s good with either, but he’d prefer a good measure of both.
“I think it’s going to be a mix,” DeMarion said of the recipe for Champlain success. “Generally, this time of year, the guy who wins mixes them. You can catch good largemouth (in many areas) and it’s good to have a limit of smallmouth just as insurance.”
Along with its species options, Champlain presents a tremendous array of habitat features to pursue either or both varieties. Starting with the host site, Plattsburgh sits on the western shore of the main lake, where anglers can find rock reefs, points, bluffs, deep offshore structure and shallow targets like docks and riprap.
To the north, Champlain has a series of islands, fertile bays with shallow wood and vegetation, bridges and the massive Inland Sea on the east side of the Champlain Islands.
Heading south, the lake bulges between Port Douglas, N.Y., and Burlington, Vt., but quickly narrows and then further slims into more of a river look past the Lake Champlain Bridge at Chimney Point. Anglers who pass this landmark are typically headed for the shallow grassbeds of Ticonderoga — the area famous for whopper largemouth — so named for the town’s historic fort.
DeMarion expects to find anglers throwing a lot of the traditional smallmouth stuff, the drop shot, Ned rig, topwater, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and swimbaits. In the shallow habitats from Missisquoi Bay in the north end to Ticonderoga, jigs, Texas rigs and frogs should see plenty of action.
Time management demands attention on Champlain because the menu of options can tempt excessive running. Typically, the biggest decision is whether to fish Ticonderoga, as the 70-mile run means a full day’s commitment in calm conditions. Should the tournament see strong winds, travel times increase.
“I think you’ll see some guys making the run to Ti,” DeMarion said. “It could be a good option to try and win on the last day.”
DeMarion said he’s looking for a daily average of 17 1/2 pounds to reach Championship Sunday. He expects a winning weight in the upper 70s.
Champlain will very likely yield a handful of 20-pound bags, but consistency can be elusive during the summer season. Regardless, this will be one of the most aesthetically impressive lakes the Elite Series visits.
Competition days are set for Thursday through Sunday, with daily takeoffs at 6:45 a.m. ET from Plattsburgh City Marina with weigh-ins back at the marina each day at 3 p.m. The tournament will feature a full field of 86 anglers vying for a $100,000 first-place prize.
Under guidelines from the State of New York, no fans or spectators are allowed to attend events, but fans will still have multiple ways to catch live on-the-water action. Like always, the real-time action will be carried on Bassmaster LIVE at Bassmaster.com and ESPN3 beginning at 8 a.m. ET. Coverage will also be broadcast on ESPN2. Check your local listings for details.