May 24, 2012 Larrabees Point Access Area. I met up this morning with my friend Howard Hammonds, operator of H2O Guide Service in Westport, New York. Howard is a veteran tournament angler with years of experience in the fishing tackle industry. We got together for a day on Champlain before Howard departed to fish the upcoming FLW Everstart Series event on Kerr Lake in Henderson, North Carolina.
Howard met me at the Larrabees Point Access Area in Shoreham, Vermont. We set off at 7 am. Skies were overcast and air temperatures were in the high 60s. There was a gentle breeze from the south and a slight ripple on the water. During the course of the day the skies would clear and waves would top out at about a foot. Water temperature was in the mid 60s throughout the day.
After a short run from the launch, Howard pulled up on a small bluff bank in front of six feet of water. To our south was a large bed of curly leaf pond weed and to our north was a small rocky point. Immediately we noticed bait fish activity on the surface and larger fish boiling on both sides of the boat. When Howard’s first cast yielded a bite, it was apparent that we had converged upon a school of active largemouth. Howard began dissecting the school with a custom painted Strike King KVD 2.5 squarebill. He was firing out casts and pulling in fish as efficiently and effectively as I’ve ever seen an angler operate. Meanwhile, I was fuddling through my crankbait selection trying to find something to duplicate his success.
When the activity finally died, I had pulled seven bass from the school. Howard had landed probably three times that that number – he claimed he had lost count at about 15 fish. We had nearly 30 good fish between us and and we hadn’t been on the water 45 minutes. Though we were fishing in just five to six feet of water, the largemouth we caught all had that washed-out gray color of deep water fish. In the midst of the flurry, I had seen an alewife skitter across the surface, trying to escape something beneath. Though some of the larger fish had egg-laden bellies, none had bloody tails or showed any other sign of spawning activity. We had stumbled across a school of deep water bass chasing alewives into the shallows.
We tried to duplicate our incredible start elsewhere, but it was not to be. Our next stop in front of Fort Ticonderoga yielded two Senko fish, both tight-to-the-bank prespawn largemouth. We moved across the lake just north of East Creek and picked a single fish. A move north to Hands Cove produced the day’s first smallmouth and two largemouth.
At Watch Point, Howard picked up two spawners, including a nice 4 pound 12 oz fish. Just north of this area, we crossed paths with a small school. Howard went to work again with his Strike King KVD 2.5 squarebill, landing several quality fish. I picked up two from the school on a firetiger Storm Wiggle Wart and a Strike King Series 5 in green back chartreuse.
We traveled north of Laphams Bay, fishing points and small bays along the way. As the morning moved into afternoon, the bite largely shut down but we still picked up fish here and there. By the close of our trip I had landed 17 fish and closed some ground on Howard, but he still had a substantial lead and had landed all of the biggest fish. Our five best – I should say Howard’s five best – were easily in the 20 pound range.
It was humbling to watch this man at work. Howard not only found fish, but maximized each opportunity with good boat handling and optimized presentations. I enjoy fishing a crankbait, and have put a lot of fish in the boat with it this year, but in Howard’s hands, the KVD 2.5 was a deadly tool. I observed the true value of efficiency on the water first hand. Howard was a great teacher and gave me a lot of hints to help refine my cranking technique.
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