Sunday, June 30, 2019

2019 FLW Tour Lake Champlain Day 3: Tyler Stewart Making it 3 Days in a Row!

Canadians Sim 18th. 
by Curtis Niedermier

Sunday will be the battle of Ticonderoga.
(Photo: FLW)
There’s a showdown looming on Lake Champlain tomorrow, and how it’s going to end up is anybody’s guess. 

Louisiana pro Tyler Stewart is in the lead for the third consecutive day at this week’s FLW Tour event, which is presented by T-H Marine. But Stewart, who weighed, 18 pounds, 5 ounces today, has been catching his fish down at Ticonderoga. That’s all he has, and he says a hurricane can’t keep him from making the long run to Ti tomorrow. 
Getting there doesn’t look to be an issue, but if the weather forecast is correct, getting home from Ti tomorrow afternoon could get a little dicey. The wind is supposed to blow out of the north at a clip that pro Daryl Biron, who’s fished Champlain for years, thinks might build big enough waves to more than double the normally 50-minute run down there. 
Stewart isn’t the only one making the run. Four of the top five and seven of the top 10 are fishing in Ticonderoga, including Biron in fifth, second-place pro Casey Scanlon and third-place pro Eric Jackson. The only one in the top five staying up north is Bryan Thrift, who’s in fourth. It’s highly likely that Thrift will have a limit in the boat before anyone fishing at Ti even gets to his starting spot – and that’s during the calm period forecast for the morning. The fact that Thrift is nipping at their heels and they’ll have a shorter day doesn’t seem to be dissuading any of the top pros from making the run to Ti. 
“I’ll zero tomorrow before I don’t go down there,” Stewart says.
The thing Stewart has in his favor this week is that Ti continues to churn out postspawn largemouths that exceed 4 pounds. A 4-pound bass is worth a lot of money in a tournament at Champlain. Stewart probably needs at least a few of them and another upper teens limit tomorrow if he wants to hold off the competition. So far, he’s weighed in 58-6 in three days.
“It started off kind of slow,” Stewart says of his morning today. “I got down there to my main places, and it was crowded. There was a tournament out of Ti, and on one of my main holes, there was a guy fishing it just fun fishing. 
“I didn’t get to fish that. I had two places that were covered up with people today – where I was really planning on smackin’ them today. I ended up catching a 4 1/2-pounder and got some momentum going and just grinded all day and ended up catching some good fish and just kept the wheels going.” 
Stewart had to adjust and run some new water on the fly to stay on the caliber of fish he’s been catching. His primary tactic all week has been flipping shallow cover on the main lake where the bass are keying on a particular type of baitfish. Today, he did get a few bites on a square-bill just “showing them something different,” which produced one of the keepers he brought to weigh-in. Then he lucked into a 3 1/2-pound smallmouth that culled one of his largemouths once he got back to Plattsburgh.
The leader says the smallmouth bites he’s gotten have been all luck, and he has no other pattern to run in the north end of the lake. He’s all in on the shallow largemouths in Ticonderoga, no matter the wind or waves. Stewart is gunning for his first-ever FLW Tour victory, and he’ll have to earn it in challenging conditions tomorrow.
2. Casey Scanlon – Lake Ozark, Mo. – 56-8 (15)
Midway through the day today, it looked like Missouri’s Casey Scanlon was on pace to overtake Stewart’s lead. Scanlon’s unofficial weight estimate was around 20 pounds, and it looked like Stewart might slip. 
As estimates sometimes go, the predictions were a little off. Scanlon weighed in 18 pounds, 13 ounces and will start day four 1 pound, 14 ounces behind Stewart.
He’ll also have to deal with that long run to Ticonderoga, where he’s been catching his fish with a trio of presentations on key main-lake shorelines.
This morning, Scanlon started on the same spot where he’s started each day, and he quickly put a quality mid-teens limit in the boat.
“The fishing’s been weird,” he says. “They eat different baits a lot of days, and a few patterns just seem to come and go. You just kind of have to judge the day. Today, I got a good reaction bite going. I went through my areas and got some good fish; never got a real big bite. They were all pretty much the same by the end. I culled a bunch of fish. I didn’t really save anything. I just kept hammering them and never did get that 5- or 6-pound bite.”
Scanlon has been getting quality bites from “bigger 4s” each day, and has lost some 5-pound fish, so he’s around the type of bass needed to catch Stewart. He’s also convinced his areas are replenishing.
He plans to begin Sunday on his same starting area and then adjust from there.
“I’ve got a lot of other water that I’m confident in,” he adds. “It doesn’t take me a ton of time to run some of it. I can definitely be more thorough. I try to mix in a few new places each day, for sure.”

3. Eric Jackson – Walling, Tenn. – 55-13 (15)
This year, Eric Jackson will miss the world championships of freestyle kayaking for the first time in more than two decades because, rather than heading to Spain to compete alongside his family, he’s been here on Lake Champlain, fishing his way to the first top-10 finish of his FLW Tour career.
Jackson split his practice fishing down by Ti and up near the Canadian border. Based on the weather forecast, he expected to fish south the first two days and north today. Then this morning, he woke to calm conditions and wound up running south again. That’s where he caught 19 pounds, 15 ounces, which was the heaviest limit of the day. He’s spent his entire tournament in one area and plans to go there again tomorrow and try to continue the streak of improving his weights by more than a pound each day.
“All I’m throwing is a [Strike King] Tour Grade Swim Jig with a Rage Menace – a white swim jig basically – and 50-pound braid, just huckin’ that thing at lily pads and the bank, making as many casts as I can,” he says. 
On day one, Jackson caught his fish with strictly the high-speed approach. Yesterday, he dialed in a couple of very precise key spots and started letting the jig fall and fishing a little more thoroughly through the area. Today, he caught fish on the jig and a weightless Strike King Ocho.
“I’ve got two spots that these fish are loading up, and in a nutshell what’s going on is the lake is dropping and my pond is draining, so all the fish are leaving the pond, but they’re not leaving all the way yet. And I’ve got some nice little sweet spots where they’re hanging out, and that’s where I’m going.
“My goal is to try to catch them faster tomorrow. I was slow to start out [today].”
4. Bryan Thrift – Shelby, N.C. – 55-6 (15)
Bryan Thrift propelled himself into contention today with an impressive mixed-bag limit that weighed 19 pounds, 7 ounces. 
“I’ve been catching a mixture of some topwater fish and swimbait fish, mostly,” he says. “I’ve been catching both [largemouths and smallmouths]. The first day, I weighed all smallmouth. Yesterday and today, I had one largemouth.
“I’m winding around a 4-inch Damiki Armor Shad. I’m catching a lot of fish – a lot of everything – perch, goggle eye, smallmouth, largemouth, drum.”
The topwater pattern has produced all of Thrift’s bigger fish, but the bite lasts only about 20 minutes. 
“That’s what’s gotten me here,” Thrift adds, “is getting a couple of key bites real early. Hopefully tomorrow we can do it again.”

5. Daryl Biron – South Windsor, Conn. – 55-2 (15)
Thanks to many years of experience here on Champlain, Daryl Biron might have more places left to fish than anyone else. The key is getting dialed in on the right fish to try and catch Stewart. He also needs to land the right ones when they bite. A couple of lost fish today might have cost him a 20-pound bag. Instead, Biron weighed 16 pounds, 15 ounces.
The Connecticut pro says fishing pressure in his best areas has forced him to change his approach this week. Today, he started farther north than he’d have liked to in order to get on some stuff that anglers fishing a tournament out of Ticonderoga might not have gotten to yet. Then he worked his way south. 
“I started on all backup stuff,” he says. “The problem with backup stuff is I caught a lot of small fish. So I had a limit for about 11 pounds. Then it went to about 13 or 14. Then I started hitting my primary stuff. When I started hitting my primary stuff I started catching bigger fish.
“Tomorrow, hopefully there won’t be a lot of guys down there, and I can have my water to myself. Once I started hitting my primary stuff, it was tougher fishing, but when I would get bit it would be bigger fish.”
Stewart is fishing extremely slowly with finesse plastics in shallow water. Most of his largemouths are postspawn, but some have bloody tails and bellies that show they’ve just left the beds. 
“I try to fish as clear water as I can,” he adds. “With the clay banks, unfortunately with the boat traffic it gets messed up. It eliminates about half your water when it’s real dirty like that.”
Top 10 pros
1. Tyler Stewart – West Monroe, La. – 58-6 (15)
2. Casey Scanlon – Lake Ozark, Mo. – 56-8 (15)
3. Eric Jackson – Walling, Tenn. – 55-13 (15)
4. Bryan Thrift – Shelby, N.C. – 55-6 (15)
5. Daryl Biron – South Windsor, Con. – 55-2 (15)
6. David Dudley – Lynchburg, Tenn. – 55-2 (15)
7. AJ Slegona – Pine Bush, N.Y. – 54-15 (15)
8. Tom Redington – Royse City, Texas – 54-15 (15)
9. Christopher Brasher – Longview, Texas – 54-11 (15)
10. Hensley Powell – Whitwell, Tenn. – 54-4 (15)

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