Dock Talk from Champlain

Find out what the Elites have to say as they return from the final practice day before the Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain.

It’s the next to last Dock Talk of the season at the Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain, an ideal setting for another smallmouth blowout. Unlike the last derby at Lake St. Clair, there is another factor in play. Photo: Craig Lamb
Champlain supports a healthy largemouth population and especially at the north end of the massive impoundment. The lake level is reportedly three feet above normal, having inundated vast shoreline areas previously on dry ground. Photo: Craig Lamb
Or, will it be a four-day limit of 20 smallmouth, all caught on forward-facing sonar? Correction. Will it be all smallmouth seen on forward-facing sonar and then caught on a lure? Photo: Craig Lamb
By now you know the routine. We report. You decide if it’s fact or just dock talk.
Joey Cifuentes III
“I think you can do well with a mixed bag, but I’m fishing for smallmouth because it’s what I’ve always done here. I think smallmouth will win, but if a guy has a big largemouth in his bag, every day, then it will help him. 
“It’s really hard to catch a 5-pound smallmouth. They are practically nonexistent, at least based on what I’ve seen,” Cifuentes said. “You need smallmouth in the high 4-pound range to be in contention for Sunday. I only caught a few of those in practice. 
“You catch 50, 60 fish a day; you just have to go through the numbers to get the quality.”
Brad Whatley
“I’m definitely going smallmouth because the average size has gotten heavier.
“It seems like every year we come back that the cut weight has increased, and of course, some of that is forward-facing sonar, but the smallmouth have gotten bigger,” Whatley said.
“They have more (and better) forage with the goby. Where you used to look for 3-pounders before, now you are searching for 4-plus pounders.”
KJ Queen
“I think it will be mainly smallmouth, but a largemouth kicker will make a bag a contender. 
“To do that you’ll have to key on different areas,” Queen said.
“I’m going to start early on the largemouth and then switch over to smallmouth later in the morning.”
Brock Mosley
“Smallmouth are the only way to go here in August. They weigh so much more. Everything has to line up perfectly for a good, all-day largemouth bite. It can be done but it’s harder to sustain a largemouth bite all four days, at least in August. 
“The lake isn’t fishing like it normally does in August,” Mosley said. “Usually, I’m catching smallmouth off rockpiles. Instead, they are more likely to be found following bait around. 
“The weights would be really good if not for the wind that we have in the forecast. That will make it tougher for boat positioning, maneuvering and all that.”
Greg Hackney
“The largemouth are going to be the sleeper. They may end up being more than a factor than what everyone thinks. Now everyone has forward-facing sonar. There are more 4-pound smallmouth than there are largemouth. I just feel like the largemouth are getting left alone, no pressure. I’ve spent all my time on smallmouth. On second thought I wish I had not.
“I typically would mix it up here, but the lake is higher than normal, making the grass not as good,” Hackney said. “A lot of the really shallow water has soured, because the lake was up really high and now it’s dropped. The largemouth conditions aren’t ideal. 
“The sleeper will be someone who’s not done anything but largemouth, who went against the grain.”
Clark Wendlandt
“The water is awfully high. Unprecedented for the times I’ve been here. It’s near flood stage from what I hear, so largemouth might be great with all the flooded habitat. 
“It’s just not what I’m going to be doing,” Wendlandt said. “The fish seem to be scattered to me, maybe because of the high water. The lake is a lot different than normal. 
“There’s a lot of bait out deep, and a lot of guys targeting smallmouth way offshore, not even on structure. Looks like 50, maybe 100 feet. I tried it, could see the bait, but only caught small ones.”
Josh Douglas
“It looks there might be an algae bloom going on, the largemouth seem to be tricky, but there’s a lot of bait out there. 
“It seems like some areas of the lake have really fatter fish, more so than others,” Douglas said. 
“The wind is going to help, as it’s been practically windless all three days of practice.”