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The Senko. There is no denying the incredible fish catching power of the Yamamoto Senko. Whether they’re fished wacky-style or Texas-rigged, weighted or weightless, Senkos just plain work on Champlain. Everyone has their favorite go-to Senko color. Black with Blue flake, Green Pumpkin, or Watermelon can be effective on both largemouth and smallmouth .Capt. Howard says “If it’s green it’s mean!” Try subtler colors in clearer water, brighter and darker colors in dirty water. Buy Capt. Howard’s designed version of the famous Senko for a lot less cost. Or, look in his tackle box for many different brands.
The Jig. Just like everywhere else, jigs catch big bass on Champlain. Effective trailers include the Zoom Chunk, Paca Craw and Yamamoto Hula Grub. Pitch a jig to rock and weed edges or drop it in the openings in the chestnut mats. Denny Brauer flipped a black and blue Strike King Premier Pro Model jig tipped with a Strike King 3X Chunk in Missisquoi Bay to win the 2006 Elite Series Champion’s Choice event. Football jigs can also be effective smallmouth, dragged along the bottom in deeper water. Buy Kopykat’s version of a flipping jig designed especially for Lake Champlain. Or dig thru Capt. Howard’s tackle box for other brands.
Creature Baits. Zoom Brush Hogs have been a long-time favorite on Champlain. In recent years, Beaver-style baits have also become popular. In sparse weeds, Texas rig a creature bait with a 1/4 oz. pegged sinker. In denser mats of milfoil and water chestnut, use a heavier weight to poke through the vegetation. Creature baits can also be effective for smallmouth when fished with a Carolina rig. Try subtler approaches with lighter line and drag the rig around rock piles and rocky points. Save money by buying Kopykat’s version of these recommended baits in our tackle box.
Hard Jerkbaits. Hard jerkbaits like the Lucky Craft Pointer, Rapala Husky Jerk, X-Rap, Original Floating Rapala, and the Bomber Long-A are especially effective in the cool water periods of early spring and late fall when vegetation is less prevalent. Hard jerkbaits can be fished with a variety of cadences, from subtle twitches and shakes to fast walk-the-dog style actions. In cooler water, try subtler jerkbaits like the No. 11 Original Rapala and more quiet retrieves with longer pauses. As the water warms, jerkbaits can be fished more rapidly and used to cover water and locate fish like a crankbait. Perch color (clearer water) and fire tiger (dirtier water) patterns can be effective. Pro angler Mike Iaconelli has written an excellent article on jerkbait fishing. Ye Ole Tackle box carries the favorite brands online of all the styles and colors needed for Lake Champlain. Remember the toothy creatures love these baits also.
Top water Hard Baits By far the most exciting action fishing Lake Champlain is when you are throwing a top water bait. There is nothing better than late in the evening, walking the dog with a Zara Spook and big Smallie explodes on your offering It’s just heart stopping. When action gets hots CP Powers coined the term “Spook Thirty”. His favorite is a Heddon Spook Jr. An unusual characteristic of Lake Champlain is to fish a top water when the wind dies and it’s slick calm. Most fisherman won’t think of throwing a” walk the dog” style bait in these conditions. But, trust me the big’ens will crush a top water. Search around in Ye Ole Tackle for some greatbuys.
Soft Jerkbaits It all started with Herb Reed’s Sluggo back in the late 80′ and they still work today. The soft jerks bait revoluation never really ended. Whatever your favorite, if it’s Sluggo’s or Zoom’s Flukes, almost anytime of the year these are deadly baits on Lake Champlain. Check out Capt Howard’s tackle box for the Shadlyn, his favorite, or one of several other brands of soft jerkbaits.
CRANKBAITS There really isn’t a more deadly bait on Lake Champlain than a shallow running crankbait. Perch colors are by far the best, along with crawfish then some shad colors like KVD’s Sexy shad. Capt Howard’s personal favorite is Craig Powers’ (CP) homemade Fat Sides. Other favorites on Lake Champlain are KVD’s Strike Kings 1.5’s and 2.5’s. Bandit 200’s and Rapala’s DT 4 and 6 series work well. But, the best kept secret is the Norman Fat Boy. Look for the shallow rocky bolder areas with weeds, we call it “colors”. CP recommends throwing them on a spinning rod with 8lb. P-Line mono varying your speed from fast to medium to irregular. Hold on!! Don’t muscle them once they bite, keep the pressure on. Never slap you crankbait on the water to clear weeds., pull the weeds off by hand.
FROGS During the Mid Summer months some of the shallow area of the Lake, especially the Ti region, become matted with Milfoil and vegetation, this is the time to pull out the frogs. Soft bodied frogs like the Scum Frog and Bronzeye Frog are weedless and have no protrusions or sharp angles that can pick up vegetation. Thick midsummer milfoil mats with algae growing on top are the place to try frogs. Fishing a frog lure is pretty easy. Cast it out on the grass and twitch it back, Or slowly crank it . Buy KopyKat,s recommended soft plastic version shown here, easy to rig and always lands upright.
The Chatterbait. If there has been a “secret” hot lure on Lake Champlain the last few years it has been the Chatterbait. This lure fishes like a spinnerbait but provides a unique chattering buzz that really catches the attention of largemouth, especially in dirty and stained water. Because it so weedless, the Chatterbait can be used effectively around vegetation, making it a nearly perfect search lure for aggressive Champlain bass. Match the color and trailer of the Chatterbait to your favorite trailer and use the two in combination to pick off aggressive and neutral fish from the same school. Capt. Howard’s tackle box holds many version of this deadly lure.
Dropshotting. The dropshot is an incredibly effective technique to use on Lake Champlain. You can use it to present finesse baits to smallmouth in deep, gin-clear water or use larger worms and creature baits to largemouth in the shallows. For smallmouth, try Zoom Finesse Worms, Roboworms, or wacky rig a 4″ Yamamoto Senko. The master of Champlain dropshot fishing is Rich Zaleski. Rich’s writings have appeared in numerous publications, including In-Fisherman books and magazines. He writes an entertaining and informative blog about his bass fishing adventures on Lake Champlain. To read Rich’s excellent article on the dropshot, click here. Ye Ole Tackle box sells many versions of plastic bodies and drop shots.
The Carolina Rig. Many fishermen talk down the Carolina Rig, referring to it as the “old ball and chain,” but the C-rig is an super-effective way to cover a lot of water and present a variety of soft plastic baits to Champlain bass. The C-rig can be fished fast or slow and components can be varied to give the rig a stealthy, finesse quality when bass are finicky. Try a Zoom Speed Craw, Senko, or Yamamoto Kreature on a 3 or 4 foot leader behind a 3/4 oz egg sinker. Buy the recommended lures and hardware from Capt. Howard’s Tackle Box..