Play the numbers game

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Andy Crawford

Strip away the beautiful natural scenery, forget about the mostly pleasant weather and anglers will still adore Lake Champlain. Why? Because it is absolutely loaded with bass — the green ones and the brown ones.

Sounds like a dream scenario, but a catch-fest kinda lake can quickly become a nightmare for the tournament angler that becomes so enamored with a bent rod that they lose sight of the necessary numerical calculations.

Summarily, 3-pound smallmouth are not hard to find on Lake Champlain; and while everyone of these firecrackers is a blast to catch, 3-pound smallmouth will not win an Elite tournament. That’s why the wheels of analysis and time management turn constantly behind those polarized sunglasses.

Gotta have a Plan A, B and C.

Gotta have a target weight.

Gotta judge each catch and factor it into emerging or declining trends.

Most importantly — gotta know when to pull the plug.

Day by Day

We saw such key decisions on Friday, as Hartman decided to start his day on the spot that quickly yielded a 4-pound smallmouth at the very end of Day 1. Returning the next morning, Hartman tallied a solid limit in short order; but when he determined he wasn’t upgrading as he needed, he moved north, where he found two late-day fish that kept him in the lead.

Feider also made a key move yesterday. After collecting a good bag of smallmouth on a grassy flat, he moved to the marina that produced a 5-2 largemouth on Day 1 and cracked another “bucket head” — this one, a 6-6 that currently leads the Phoenix Boats Big Bass standings.

Day 3 began with strong morning action, as BASSTrakk had two-day leader Jamie Hartman, Seth Feider, Koby Kreiger, Dave Mullins and Micah Frazier around the 15-pound mark by 8:30.

That’s certainly the right way to start a day, but these pros know there’s a lot more work to be done. With the general consensus that a Champlain win will require pretty close to a 20-pound daily average, you can bet that each of the top-40 anglers fishing today are well aware of where they entered Day 3 and what they need to do to reach Championship Sunday.

Hartman demonstrated the right plug-pulling judgement this morning by enduring a dry spell and sticking with his opening spot until it produced a key upgrade. BASSTrakk showed Hartman boating a 4-4 at 8:19. Nearly 90 minutes later, he replaced an earlier keeper with a 4-pounder that pushed him to an unofficial weight of 17 1/2 pounds.