Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Champlain Forever

I’ve been tasked with writing about my dream fishing trip. The who, the what, the where. I often dream of fishing for something massive in exotic locales: smallmouth on Erie, tarpon somewhere in the sunny south, huge largemouth on Falcon, swimbait fish on Clear Lake. Exquisite as those locations may be, there is something to be said for water you know like the back of your hand that also happens to be one of the best lakes in the country.  Fortunately for me, I’ve been on that dream fishing trip many times per summer for the last 20 years.

Champlain has been my home lake for as long as I’ve had a home lake. The quality largemouth and smallmouth up and down the lake will always keep me coming back. It’s a great feeling when you can go out in the summer with two rods and feel perfectly confident about where you’ll get bit and what they’ll bite. If the bites happen to be 3+ pound smallies- so much the better.  

Naturally, I’d fish for the smallmouth if I had my choice. Bedding season is unreal and summer and fall rarely disappoint. Also, there is something about watching and hearing a big smallie crunch a Tennessee Shad GunFish 115 that never gets old. Additionally, they reside in a much more romantic part of the lake than the largemouth. I take a perverse pleasure in battling the frequent waves in the big part of Champlain. Of course, that constant chop only makes me appreciate the calm days more.

And, there is no better person to fish with than the person who taught you to fish. It isn’t even a question that I’d fish with Dad. I like fishing by myself and with friends but it’s tough to beat a day spent talking fishing and baseball with someone you’ve talked fishing and baseball with forever.

The final piece of the puzzle is the sheer amount of memories I have on Champlain. Walking down the dewy stairs to the little boat on a cool fall morning, catching particular fish twice, learning about a “new” boulder on a drop, watching the point gradually erode. The amount of time I’ve spent at our camp simply magnifies the pleasure I take in returning. It just never gets old. 

This blog entry is my submission for the Red Tuna Shirt Club and Outdoor Blogger Network Writing Contest.

Ben Dziwulski at the Northern Regional

Jeff Bumgarner and Ben Dziwulski are hardened collegiate anglers with lots of top-5 finishes between them. Additionally, they both fished in the FLW College Fishing National Championship last year continuing the North Carolina State University Basspack’s run of Northern Division dominance. Fishing together for the first time this year, Ben and Jeff are a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming Northern Regional no matter how you slice it.

Ben with a Champlain smallie
BD- Hey Jody- glad to answer these. I practiced all week- this lake will kick out some seriously low numbers unless things change (or we suck) haha.

JWF: How did you start fishing with Jeff and what do you think of your quick success? 

BD: Well, Jeff and I have fished a total of one day together and we won $2,000. I figure there must be something right going on! It was a blessing to squeeze into that top 5 with soo much money spent to make it to the tournament.

JWF: How much have you been able to pre-fish?

BD: I just got finished with a 6 day stint on Sayers and will be going back for 3 more days right before the cut-off.

JWF: The Regional is being held more in the summer than last year so the fishing ought to be more stable. Do you think this will make your pre-fishing more valuable? 

BD: I think pre-fishing should help out quite a bit, but last year the fish I was on at Jordan did not move for over a month! I hope that it is the same with the few fish we found on Sayers. I do not expect them to move, but it will all depend on the weather leading up to and during the event.

JWF: Speaking of pre-fishing, F.J. Sayers Lake is really tiny. How will that affect things? 

BD: No matter where you are on the lake, another competitor can most likely see you. This plays a major role in balancing trying to find fish while not giving away any good areas to other competitors. I was fishing a little brushpile this week, and as soon as I left another college competitor pulled in and idled over it to see what I was fishing- this lake is small!

JWF: And, the biggie, how is the lake fishing so far? 

BD: The lake is fishing very tough. A few teams are apparently catching them, but I think the weights will certainly be very low compared to Jordan last year. I am hoping the cooling water will make the fish actually want to eat!

JWF: The Bass Pack has enjoyed a lot of success in college fishing lately. What are some reasons for that?

BD: The main reason for our success is that we have such a competitive club.. In order just to fish one qualifying event we have to go through the gauntlet of our clubs' 6-event "regular season" to try and make the top 8 fisherman. With 50+ members this is no easy task. So anyone who does make the postseason out of our club has already proven themselves on some fairly tough fisheries. 

JWF: Do you have any sponsors you’d like to thank in particular?

BD: We truly have some of the greatest sponsors in the college fishing arena. We owe a lot to the companies that have still stuck with us even in tough economic times; Columbia Sportswear, JB's Custom Rods, Ace Hardware of Lake Gaston, Wood Tree Surgeons, Carolina Outdoors, Stick Jacket, Eagle Claw, Pure Fishing, and Bass Lake Draft House

JWF: Thanks Ben and good luck at the Regional!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Virginia Tech Bass Fishing Team

Our first meeting of the year is Thursday. So if you are interested to join the Team come on out!

CNU at the Northern Regional

The FLW College Fishing Northern Regional is this week and I'll be covering it extensively. A good way to start is with a preview of some of the teams in the event! 

Ryan Ingalls and Derek Berhalter are Christopher Newport University’s representative team at the FLW College Fishing Northern Regional.  CNU has to be a favorite going in because of Ryan and Joe Wilkerson’s 5th place finish at the National Championship and the week of practice Ryan and Derek got in  before the cut-off date.

This year’s location is very intriguing as well. The host school is Penn State and the lake is tiny F.J. Sayers (1,730 acres compared to last year’s Jordan at 13,940 acres).

Ryan and Derek with their bag on Champlain (Photo credit: College Fishing)
JWF: How did you start fishing with Derek and what do you think of your quick success?

RI: Derek and I have been fishing together for the past few years around school and just for fun, the qualifier on Lake Champlain was our first tournament we have fished together. Our success has been awesome, I was a little worried at first since Joe was such a good teammate, but Derek is a great angler and I think we work well together.

JWF: The Regional is being held more in the summer than last year so the fishing ought to be more stable. Do you think this will make your pre-fishing more valuable?

RI: I think pre fishing is valuable on any body of water, during any time of year. However the 10 day off-limits is a long time and a lot can change in that time frame. I think it will even more valuable on Sayers this go round since it is such a tough body of water, it does not yield 12inch keepers that easily.

JWF:  Speaking of pre-fishing, F.J. Sayers Lake is really tiny. How will that affect things?

RI: Well, on a large body of water, similar to Kentucky Lake for the FLW College Fishing National Championship, you really have no realistic chance of fishing everything unless you live on the lake, you have to break it down and select certain areas to key in on and find the quality fish. Here on Sayers that basically can go out the window and you can fish the whole lake in a short amount of time. On our first day of fishing today we covered nearly half the lake with various lures. I may cut the time spent pre fishing short by a few days because the lake is a lot smaller than I had originally thought.

JWF: And, the biggie, how is the lake fishing so far?

RI: One word describes it best, TOUGH! We caught 12+ fish today, ten of which were 11 ½ inches or smaller. While it was only our first day, talking to other guys it seems to be the same, keepers do not come easy, and there are a ton of small fish in the lake. There is potential for big fish, and they are in the lake we just have not figured them out yet. I had one fish just under 3lbs today and I believe that will be a quality fish during the tournament.

JWF: CNU has enjoyed a lot of success in college fishing lately. What are some reasons for that?

RI: Pre fishing and time on the water. We have put in as much if not more time on the water then most teams we have been competing against. After the first year of college fishing and our highest finish being 7th Joe Wilkerson and I sat down and decided we had to pre fish, it was the only way to be successful. If paid off after the first qualifier the second year after pre fishing Mt. Island Lake in North Carolina we placed 3rd. This success allowed me to purchase a used bass boat which made it much more efficient to cover water and pre fish larger bodies of water. To give you an idea Joe and traveled over 9,000 miles in a month pre fishing for the national championship in April.

JWF: Do you have any sponsors you’d like to thank in particular?

JWF: Thanks for your time and good luck at the Regional! 

Erie Photos

Some pictures I took at Erie. 

Preston and Dave getting ready to head out

Sunrise on Erie

I think it's kinda weird to launch in a city


Freas and I breaking down the day

We have a lot of Stick Jackets

College Fishing Failure on Erie

It's always hard  for me to write about disappointment so, it shouldn't be a surprise it's taken me this long to write about Erie. Of course, I've got plenty of excuses too: no internet until yesterday in my apartment, moving into a new apartment, school starting, hurricanes that barely touched Blacksburg, earthquakes that barely touched Blacksburg, etc.

Put simply, Freas and I stunk it up. We planned to run into the river and catch a limit and then hit the main lake to catch kicker 6lb smallies. Prior to the tournament Freas was talking about how the smallies on Erie stopped biting after 10 am. I should have voiced my concern about giving up on the best fishing in the main lake right then.

We ran into the river and caught a quick but small limit. Then we stuck around looking for some marginal upgrades that didn't come. So, we ran out to the main lake and started drop-shotting humps with every bait know to mankind. And, I caught my first goby and that was it. For what it's worth,  we used Berkley Gulp! Alive leaches and 4 inch curl tail worms on a drop-shot to catch most of our limit in the river. We ended up with like 9lbs in like 25th place, a disappointment all around.

Freas and I getting ready to break-down the day
It made for a long drive back. Freas and I were both bummed about not qualifying for the FLW College Fishing Regional. Fortunately, the Virginia Tech Bass Fishing Team wasn't out of luck! David Bryant and Preston Chrisman did what we should have done and loaded the boat on morning smallmouth to finish 5th and qualify as Tech's second team for the Regional!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

College Fishing on Erie

I’ve spent the week moving. From vacation to home and from home to my new apartment. Now, I’m sitting at my desk waiting to start a jaunt from Blacksburg to Buffalo and Lake Erie.

The idea of Erie excites me immensely. Smallmouth are my all time favorite fish and Erie has a reputation as one of the best fisheries in the country. Champlain is great but you are not going to regularly catch 5 and 6 and 7 pound smallmouth there.

I’m Erie bound for the final College Fishing qualifier of the year. Mike Freas and I are gunning for a top-5 finish so we can fish in the Regional Championship on tiny Sayers Lake in a few weeks. It seems like it will be a fun tournament. If we can get out through the potential weather we should be able to find some hawg smallmouth in the main lake. If the wind strikes we’ll hash things out in the Niagara River and maybe drop-shot the falls or fish some man-made cover or throw an X-Jig in the grass.  

Keep in mind, you can watch the weigh-in live at 1pm Eastern on Also, watch for the other Virginia Tech team of Preston and Dave!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The X-Jig

Jacob Robinson of Gnarley Baits was kind enough to send me a few of his new X-Jigs. My pond is too choked for anything but a frog so I threw them in the pool this afternoon. They swim sweet and look like a great change-up from the usual swim jig or bladed jig or spinnerbait. I'm most impressed by the hook and the fact that i could reel as fast as possible and not roll it. Definitely something I look forward to unleashing on VA in a few weeks. 

Friday, August 12, 2011


A slowdown in the throw down on the merry-go-round at the hoedown in Motown.

I'm back from vacation and starting school in a bit more than a week. I need to move in to my new apartment, fish a tournament on Lake Erie, and pack. So, it should be fun.

Also, support a friend and go or donate to: Jay Sager Plays Percussion. Or watch it LIVE online (!) at 7:30 Eastern!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Champlain Update

As you know I've been on Champlain all week. The action has been great but the bigger 4lbers are still elusive. Dad and I are going to try out some new ideas on them tomorrow.

The other day I had the opportunity to take Rich Lindgren (of Rich's Bassin Blog and @hellabass fame) fishing on Champlain. It was his first time out and we did well but not spectacularly. He taught me a trick for my Gulp! Leaches and I experimented with a bunch of his ima and Optimum baits.

I've had my eye on the ima Skimmer for a long time and it didn't disappoint. The topwater bite has been off this year  (everything else has been on though) and I only managed two small fish on it but the bait cast and walked great.

Also, I've been experimenting with the Optimum BLT a bit this year (here and here). Rich brought out the new 4 inch size (and left one!) and the new Top Of the Line 4 inch. The TOL has more weight and a line-through top hook. The added weight means you can burn it faster without it rolling and fish it deeper. The top hook lets you fish it on the bottom or through/over weeds a lot better. I was impressed with how it ran and how it cast but I think the standard 3.5 inch BLT may be more effective for Vermont smallmouth.


Rich staying plugged in on the water

Rich giving a smallmouth mouth-to-mouth

One of the day's better fish

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Champlain Rocks!

We smoked 'em on Champlain today. Pretty much everything came on either a craw, a Berkley Gulp! Alive leech, or a Roboworm. We threw everything on a drop-shot. Dad and I also had 3 doubles. We tried a picture with the timer for one, shared the next, and just threw the third back. 

Weekend Fishing and Vacation!

As you know I fished two tournaments on the south end of Champlain Saturday and Sunday. I did just fine in one and poorly in another.

The first - a Rutland B.A.S.S. tournament - I got to fish with dad and we did really well, between us, we would have had 18 lbs or so and perhaps more had I not attempted to a boat-flip a 3.5 lber that shouldn't have been. We threw a crankbait in shallow weeds and pitched a Craw Papi to shallow cover and fished jigs on channels swings. Dad also caught a 9lb bowfin. Respectively, dad ended up with 16lbs and I had 10 something.

Sunday Billy Gilbert and I fished a NETB out of Ti and caught 12 something for a second half (I imagine) finish. We threw a crankbait and pitched to shallow cover and I was quite frankly surprised by our finish. We had caught 19 in practice and dad and I had left spots alone or fished them minimally Saturday on our way to a good day.

The patterns I've fished recently on Champlain are not super complicated. Because the high water retarded a lot of the usual millfoil growth the fish have been generally shallower this year.

 I've been fishing one spot with a Speed Trap that has been kicking out some really good fish (a 4lber during the tournament). Basically, I'm pulling the bait slowly over and through the grass and then down the edge. Usually the bass would bite like a moving weed.

Friday and Saturday I also pitched shallow laydowns. We caught some really good fish and had 20 or so marked for Sunday. Unfortunately, they didn't have a fish over 2lbs on them Sunday.

I'm on vacation for two weeks now in the middle of Champlain. So it's gonna be all smallmouth all the time!


And of course, we'll need an idea of how awesome the middle of Champlain is this time of year too. 

Feel free to hit the +1 button if you enjoyed it and stay tuned for some photos of the Champlain action.