Day 1: I really dread this drive. Chris decided to leave a couple days earlier, so it will be just me and 1000 miles of black top. I will miss shooting the breeze together on the c.b., it really makes the drive go better. I can only imagine what the gas prices will be in NY. One thing good, Champlain is a fish factory. Last time up, sight fishing was a dominant pattern, and I guess will again. I have 16 hours of drive time to think out a game plan. Its hard to believe we are into the last FLW event of the regular season. Its been a season I will just soon as forget. My main goal at Champlain is to try and salvage what's left, so I will probably gamble, make or break.
I arrive at our hotel for the week, Chris is still up. He said he has no problem catching a limit, size is another story. Last time it took around 32 lbs to make the two day cut. It will be tight, with only ounces separating checks. The little mom & pop hotel we are staying at will be tight for parking too, but it comes with a kitchenette so we can cook. Its right on the water, you get a good view of this enormous body of water. I told Chris prior to his arrival that the maps do not do the lake justice as far as size. On paper, you say, well, I'll go try this then run over here. Over here is miles apart !
Day 2: Today the weather is cool in the morning, sweater type, but warms up to were shorts are comfortable. It will be bright and sunny, and the lake will be slick as glass. Eriee, because you know the wind will eventually blow. And this lake is a muther when it does. I will catch alot of fish today, size is not up to the estimated 15 lb plus needed. I saw several on the beds, mostly smallmouth. A smallmouth on the bed is easy pickins. It was kind of funny today, I was fishing along and a guy come out of his house and ask "are you catching them?". I replied just small ones like this one I'm about to catch. The guy looked at me, "what"? He didn't know there was about a 2 lb smallie on the bed I was fishing. I set the hook on it, the smallie does the usual tailwake fight they are known for, and then comes off. The guy yells, "Bummer"! I remark, "Oh, no problem, I'll catch him again. I can tell the guy is like yea right, but I do in about 3 cast, it comes off again. Now the guy is really intend on my task. I flip back over on the fish, and this time land her. The guy looks in amazement, and says "Durn, you guys are good". Well, not really, a smallie on the bed makes it look easy. My phone rings, its Chris. He ask if I know how to use a line to get out a hook. Chris has buried a treble hook in his hand. I tell him to get a heavy pound test, loop it around the bend, and jerk. I mean jerk! He says ok, hangs up. A few moments later, he calls back. He did and it didn't come out. Dang, I can only imagine how that must have hurt. He ask "where are you", and to our amazement, I'm not that far considering they call this place the Inland Sea. So off I go. When I find him, I quickly see the problem, he used to short of loop. But the hook is really buried, and I can tell he is in deep pain. I tell him I can do it but it will hurt. So Chris takes his lifevest in mouth, I prepare a new loop. Chris says tell me when you are going to do it. I say "ok". On 5, I will jerk it out. So here I go, 1..........2..........Jerk !!! Out pops the hook clean. Chris screams "You didn't tell me when you were going do it. Now did you really want me to? It will be sore, but Dr. Thomas comes thru. Tomorrow, the forecast is for rain and severe winds. It really makes you have to plan on where you will practice. Time to fill up the boat, and at $2.20 a gallon, its Ouch!.
Day 3: I awake to cold ! Brrrr, can you believe its the first day of summer and its a bone chilling 43 degrees? What's even more crazy is that you will see the locals swimming and fishing in shorts and shirtless. Alan and I have on everything we own, still cold, and they are acting like its 90 degrees. Guess when it gets cold enough to freeze over this massive lake, anything over 32 degrees is a heat wave. The wind is forecast to really blow today. My buddy Alan will join me today. I tell him I plan on running way south, so it could be alittle rough. That was an understatement. By noon, it is gusting up to 30 or more. On this lake, that is a killer. Fortunately, I made the decision to cross over to the ramp side before it got too bad. But it still is a pain staking ride back. The good news is that I think I found some really good fish, the bad news is that if the wind blows half this bad, I can't get to them. Alan's roommate is fishing with a buddy of mine, Ron, from the pro side. They put in at the same south ramp as we, but I choose to come in around 3 as the front hit, with wind increasing in strength. Later that nite, Alan calls me to say that Ron and Brantley could not make it in, were stranded due to the wind in some cove on the Vermont side. They have called for someone to bring the trailer. The only way you can do that is either drive into Canada, and then back down thru Vermont. There is no bridge that crosses the lake, only Ferry service. So its by Ferry to the rescue. It will be a late nite for them, but they safely get in. I talk to my wife before I go to sleep, she says the heat index was 104 today at home. I tell her the wind chill here was 34 ! Another thing that is noticeable, is the daylight. Up here, which is only 40 miles from Montreal, it gets daylight at around 4:30, and its not dark till almost 10 PM. Long days !
Day 4: The wind is forecast to lay some, only up to 25 today. I think I will try and find something close just in case. Alan and I manage a decent day, not the 15 lb target weight I think it will take, but least something close. This tournament will boil down to wind, if it blows, you better be ready to take a beating, or if it doesn't, you can make a long run and hope it doesn't blow before you get back. I didn't catch the numbers today, or the size, but I think I have found something to fall back on. Alan plans on sleeping in tomorrow. Good choice, it forecast to be rainy and windy. A great combo.
Day 5: Alan picked a good day to sleep in, its cold and raining, and windy as crap. I put in, run across the rough lake, only to find my accessory panel is dead. No bilge, trim, and worse, not aerators. So back I go, to service trailer to get it fixed before tournament. After that is solved, with just a change in fuse box, off I go again in the weather to test it. Chris calls, says he has had enough, putting it on the trailer, and I'm not far behind. All You can get accomplished to is probably tearing up something. Tonite is the pairing meeting, where they will fed us. Man, did that meal suck. It was some kind of tofu hamburger meat, or soy, but I threw it away. My co-angler partner for tomorrow is from Texas, never been on the lake. I tell him to brace for some rough water. Now I must make the decision, do I make the long run south, hope the wind lets me get back, or do I stay close? My biggest practice bag was south, so I will go. Early to bed tonite, time to prepare both mentally and physically.
Tournament Day 1: I meet my partner, its 6 am, and its been light for almost 2 hours. FLW always has a late take off. The wind is not too bad, so the run is still on. After a semi rough ride, I begin fishing. My first stop produces two 2 pound smallies. The wind really picks up, and its hard to fish my area like I want to. I hook a really nice smallie, only to see her jump off. The day will go alot slower, and not the size I had hoped for. I will have a limit at 13 lbs, but with the misfortune of dead fish, I will only get credit for alittle over 12 lbs. Ounces will be crucial in this event. It can be the difference in a good check, and no check. Boy, they sacked them as expected. I'm in the first flight, and my 12 pounds don't even get a mention. Its amazing, the difference between 12 lbs and 15 lbs is over 75 places. Three pound separation. There is no doubt that Lake Champlain is the foremost premier lake in the country. It is absolutely incredible. But for me, I will have to hope for a big string tomorrow if I am to get in the money. Its just so hard to catch up on this lake when its so tight, specially knowing it will be repeap tomorrow. Unless the weather gets most. Forecast for tomorrow is a south wind at 25-35 mph, so my long run is out of the question. Winds like that on this lake are deadly. Even to the point that the 2nd day tournament could be canceled. The wind is not supposed to blow till late morning, with the approaching rain front, so I'm sure we will go. Decision time, do I go, hope I get back, or do I stay close and hope for the best. It will be hard to go any where with 20 mph plus winds on this place.
Tournament Day 2: Have you seen the movie Perfect Storm? Well, today, they could have filmed it on Lake Champlain, with having 5 to 6 foot, maybe higher waves from 35 mph plus wind. It was brutal. I choose not to run to my fish south, stay somewhat close, only about 30 minute run. I managed a limit pretty quick, before the winds came, and never could better it. I wound up with about the same weight as first day, alittle over 12 lbs. On this lake, you need to average atleast 14 pounds to scare a check, so I finished alittle over 2 lbs out of the money. The days story is the wind. I was fishing in a small, somewhat shelter cove, when a boat off in the massive swells was trying to get in to weigh in. Suddenly I saw the boat do a big 360 as the motor broke from the boat. Now the boat was adrift in life threatening conditions. The boater made it in to some calmer water, a local boat got to him quickly to aid. When they reached me, they said they were due in, he was in 7th place and needed help. Well, I couldn't just leave them stranded in this weather, so we pulled his boat, with the big outboard dangling only by its gas line and steering cables, to a nearby area that would not allow the boat to be sweep on the rocky shoreline. I have to make the decision, do I sacifice the remaining 2 hours fishing time to make sure they are secure in, or do I leave them? I tell them to get in my boat, and off we go in some back jarring water. It takes us awhile to get back to the marina, but they are on time. Bad news is, my day is basically history because there is no fishable water close with the wind blowing directly on the marina side. Off in the distance, you can see a boat that has lost power and been blown ashore. Here, the shoreline in mainly rock and the boat will be thrashed. The boat is gone. It looks like a toy being tossed. I will later learn it was one of the 7-Up team boats. My primary area was down the lake where the guy lost his engine. It was a bad deal. I could have continued fishing, perhaps increasing my weight in the two hours left to secure a check, or I could make sure they were safe. I chose to make sure they were safe. He will go on to finish near the top 10, I will be an also ran. That about sums up the season. Mostly bad decisions, bad luck and bad showings. Good news is that my buddy Bump will make the top 10. I only have the long drive back home.