By Brandon Card
Each year on the Bassmaster Elite Series we travel to some of the best smallmouth bass fisheries in the world. This year we went to the St. Lawrence River and Lake Champlain. Both have excellent smallmouth fishing and I love going to those places, but maybe not for the reasons you would expect, I like to chase northern largemouth. These waters are excellent for largemouth and they often receive far less pressure than the smallmouth. I have had success and failure this year chasing the green fish, but it is how I like to fish when I head north.
Getting Away from the Crowd
I try to avoid fishing around others whenever possible. Some of my best tournaments were when I found those out of the way areas that others missed and I was lucky enough to have them all to myself. It is pretty easy to find largemouth areas to yourself when fishing the St. Lawrence, but it is a little more difficult at Champlain because more anglers are targeting largemouth. It is also easier to challenge for the win at Champlain with just largemouth, but there is still a slight chance it could happen on the St. Lawrence.
Targeting only largemouth this year worked for me at the St. Lawrence event, as I finished in the top 20. I underestimated just how big and fat the smallmouth were this year, though. I averaged around 19-pounds a day and finished in 20th place. The last time we were there I finished 4th and averaged less than that. It was a great year for big smallies.
The area I found on the St. Lawrence was out of the way and a long way from the ramp, just how I like it. I had found several areas on Google Earth. I was looking for backwaters, creeks, and bays and anywhere else that would hold largemouth. I counted on finding grassy areas to throw a frog and punch like I did the last trip there, but instead wood was key. I was skipping a Senko deep under the branches and also flipping and pitching the wood.
I was fortunate that this area had enough fish for me for all three days. It was a long way away from the ramp and if I had to run 30-50 miles to another spot, I would have been too spread out. I was able to focus on just that area and fish it for the day.
Lake Champlain is different and is more known for largemouth as there is much more attention and pressure for them. I practiced in Ticonderoga, an area known for big largemouth and for winning tournaments. I spread myself out too much and would find small stretches that were productive and then have to run five miles to another small stretch of good water.
The wind also factored into it as it messed up some of my best water. I was able to gain some decent points and I finished 58th. Not the best finish, but it could have been worse.
The biggest lesson I have learned from targeting largemouth in a smallmouth dominant region is to find as many areas as you can close to one another. These waters are very big and it is not practical to run back and forth to different spots. One thing about largemouth in northern areas is that a lot of times the best habitat for them is limited and running from spot to spot doesn’t always work. That is true if you are in a tournament or just out for fun. You’ll often waste a lot of time and gas. It also helps sometimes to go against the grain and find areas others might overlook.