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The “Champlain Trip” with Yasunori Imai

Thirty years ago, Yasunori Imai — a Japanese bass angler and long-time fan of my work in various outdoor publications as far back as the ’70s — came to the U.S. to fish with me and with Tom Seward, who wrote in some of the same publications I used to in those days.

This October, he came back to spend a couple weeks fishing with me. The highlight of his stay was to be a 4 day trip to Ticonderoga, NY, to fish Lake Champlain, and perhaps sample some of the other waters in that area.

Following his arrival on the 2nd, we spent a day visiting Bass Pro Shops, Tackle Supply Depot and Lunker City Fishing, then hit Candlewood Lake with Carl Lovisolo the next day.

The Candlewood trip was uninspiring, to say the least.

Yasunori caught the only keeper bass of the day, burning a lipless crankbait. Then after too many fruitless hours of fishing, we managed to bend the axle on Carl’s trailer getting the boat out of the water at Lattins Landing. The state put up a sign warning of the drop off the end of the broken ramp a few days later.

The next morning, we hit the road at 2:30 in the morning, heading in the direction of Ticonderoga, but with a stop at Cossayuna Lake planned on the way up. I had high hopes for a pig at Cossy. My high hopes were a bit on the optimistic side, I guess. No pigs in sight. Just a lot of small largemouths on the drop shot.

We hung around and caught them for a while, then left at about 11 to head up to Champlain. On the way up, I decided that with only the afternoon to fish, we would launch at South Bay and fish the lower end of the lake — no farther north than Benson Landing, VT. Hitting the hard stuff down south has been one of my favorite and most productive Champlain patterns for years. I’ll pitch a jig at the targets on occasion, but my main tool on the hard stuff is the drop shot. Because who else is going to whip out the light stuff to fish snaggy objects in dirty, shallow water?

My first hook set made the ride worth while. My personal best Champlain walleye (30″, 8#) bit the grapevine Ribster on my #2 VGB hook. Couldn’t get a glimpse of the fish in the dirty water, and I was trying to decide whether I’d hooked a big drum or a sizeable channel cat when I finally got a look at the fish.

Not sure how many bass we got in the 3½ hours or so we fished, but there were some really nice fish in the mix.

The next morning, we were joined by my son Tom. The plan was to run south and fish the rest of our hard stuff spots. But the Reynolds Marine TOC was starting that morning, and when 22 of the 27 boats headed south from Ti, we decided that it would be silly to run down there and compete with them. Since Tom only had a half day to fish anyway, we opted to stay in the general Ti area.

We ended up catching quite a few fish, some off hard stuff, some off clean, gravel banks, and some off a sizeable milfoil bed. All of them were shallow though. From less than 2 feet to about 4.

I can’t go up to lower Champlain without checking a few spots up around the bridge area, so on Saturday, we trailered up to Chimney Point to launch. We had three areas to check up there, and came up one for three. Two were pretty much a waste of time, but the other was golden. It was back to fishing rocks, wood and rubble with a drop shot rig, but this time in clear water. It wasn’t a fast bite, but one or the other of us seemed to get a good fish about every twenty minutes.

The weather reports for the next day did not look promising, so we decided that we’d head out in the morning and drive back to CT, stopping to fish one of the lakes in the northwest corner of the state, if we were out of the wind and rain by then.

What kind of idiot parks in front of a boat trailer at the motel?

What kind of idiot parks in front of a boat trailer at the motel?

Because I was planning on loading the truck up in the morning, rather than leave it hooked up to the boat, I parked it in front of our room at the Circle Court. At 6 in the morning, I came out to find my boat parked in! Couldn’t push it backwards to get the front wheel of the chock. With a whole lot more effort than an old geezer is supposed to expend, we got the bow over enough to hook it up and get the hell out of there.

We stopped at Lakeville for a few hours on the way home. I think we got 8 fish, and all but one of them came of “Rich’s Rock”. Or should I call it Yasunori’s Rock now?

We spent most of the afternoon at Lakeville, and hit home just before dark.


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