By Sean Ostruszka
Special to BassFan
(Editor's note: In observance of the Independence Day holiday, BassFan will not publish a new First Cast article until Friday, July 5.)
All smallmouth? It’s happened. A mixed bag of smallmouth and largemouth? That’s the norm. But winning a major tournament on Lake Champlain with all largemouth? That’s a rare feat that hasn’t been done in more than a dozen years.
That is, until this week.
Casey Scanlon – along with a host of other top-finishing pros at the FLW Tour regular-season finale – bucked history and became the first pro to win a four-day event on solely largemouth from the Ticonderoga area of Champlain since Tracy Adams did it back in 2006.
Of course, there are a number of factors at work as to why the long run to “Ti” is such a high-risk, high-reward proposition, and nearly all of them came into play for Scanlon during his winning week.
Scanlon had never been to Lake Champlain before this year, but his roommate, Christopher Brasher, had, making a top 20 there back in 2012 by fishing the Ticonderoga area. Thus, that’s where the two headed opted to begin their scouting expedition.
“We went down there the first and third days of practice, and we had a great practice,” Scanlon said. “We both did our own thing and got dialed in on different stuff.”
For Scanlon, he figured out the bass were keying on rock, be it points or stretches of bank. They weren’t necessarily on the rocks, but more so in the vegetation near it.
One key spot he found was a pair of rocky points close together with current coming around them and a small patch of milfoil between them that was no bigger than the deck of his boat. He caught a couple nice fish and noticed the amount of bait on that spot, making a mental note.
He also found a few stretches of bank with mixtures of pencil reeds and “dollar pads” (small lily pads) that seemed to be producing bigger bites.
“We both had a good feeling about [Ticonderoga] after day 1, and after day 3 we really felt it’d be won down there,” Scanlon said. “We just didn’t know if we could get down there.”
> Day 1: 5, 20-00
> Day 2: 5, 17-11
> Day 3: 5, 18-13
> Day 4: 5, 19-10
> Total = 20, 76-02
It takes roughly an hour to get down to Ticonderoga from Plattsburgh, N.Y., and that’s with calm conditions (a rarity on a lake the size of Champlain). Amazingly, that’s exactly what Scanlon and the rest of the pros got for the majority of the event.
On each of the first three competition days, Scanlon easily made it down to Ticonderoga and put together quick limits on the small grass patch between the two points. If the bass came up chasing bait, he’d fire a topwater at them, but his main lures were a 3/8-ounce white-and-chartreuse vibrating jig with a white soft jerkbait trailer or a black-and-blue Lucky Strike Pow Stick.
From there, he’d start chasing kickers in and amongst the pencil reeds and pads with the previous two lures or a half-ounce black-and-blue Trophy Bass Company Trophy Swim Jig of Scanlon’s own design.
A big key was being able to keep adapting, as his fish seemed to be moving every day.
“In practice, the fish were keying on rock,” Scanlon said. “Come the tournament, most of my fish came off the inside of a milfoil edge near the rock, and each day I caught more fish from the grass. By [Sunday], I caught all my fish in the grass or on the outside edge.
“Even the lures changed for me every day. The vibrating jig was key for me the first day, but I had to rely more on the Pow Stick and swim jig on days 2 and 3. Then I couldn’t get bit fishing slowly [on Sunday]. It was all about a vibrating jig again.”
There were two reasons Scanlon figured the fish were moving so much. One was the water was dropping every day, and the other was he felt many of the fish were spawning and then leaving, especially in and amongst the pencil reeds. Regardless, that ability to adapt loomed large on the final day right off the bat.
“I showed up to my primary area and nothing was working,” Scanlon said. “I could pretty much call my shots there the first three days and I never got a bite there Sunday. I just put my head down, put the trolling motor down and fished hard.”
Hard and until the very end, as he ended up catching a key kicker with about 15 minutes left before making what turned out to be a near two-hour run back north in some rough water. But he made it back, and with the heaviest bag in the final-day field.
Winning Gear Notes
> Vibrating-Jig gear: 7’6” medium-heavy Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris CarbonLite 2.0 casting rod, Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Platinum Signature casting reel (6.8:1 ratio), 17-pound Bass Pro Shops XPS fluorocarbon line, 3/8-ounce vibrating jig (white/chartreuse), soft jerkbait trailer (white).
> Swim jig gear: 7’3” heavy-action Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris CarbonLite 2.0 casting rod, Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Platinum Signature casting reel (7.2:1 ratio), 40-pound braided line, 1/2-ounce Trophy Bass Company swim jig (black/blue) craw trailer (black/blue).
> Worm Gear: 7’6” heavy Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris CarbonLite 2.0 casting rod, Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Platinum Signature casting reel (7.2:1 ratio), 20-pound Bass Pro Shops XPS fluorocarbon line, 1/4- or 3/16-ounce Bass Pro Shops tungsten weight, 4/0 Hayabusa FPP Straight Worm Hook, Luck-E Strike Pow Stick (black/blue flake).
> Scanlon also mixed in a Luck-E Strike Series 3 square-bill (green copper shad) and a tube. He swapped out the stock hooks on the bait in favor of No. 4 Hayabusa TBL 930 trebles.
The Bottom Line
> Main factor in his success – “Multiple things. My Mercury and Nitro – I was making some long runs and never had an issue. I’d also say the ability to make adjustments. The fish were changing on me every day. I had to stay calm, slow down and grind out bites sometimes.”