Lake Champlain has been good to touring pro Shinichi Fukae.
The Palestine, Texas, pro earned his first B.A.S.S. victory at Champlain today by taking first place in the pro division of the Bass Pro Shops Northern Open presented by Allstate with a three-day catch of 56 pounds, 13 ounces. He earned the top prize of a Nitro Z9 bass boat/ Mercury 225 Pro XS outboard rig worth $40,000 and $7,595 in cash.
He caught all of his fish on two baits — a Gamakatsu shad-shaped worm on a drop shot rig and a 4-inch Senko attached to a 3/16-ounce wacky rigged jighead. The drop shot rig worked best for smallmouth while the wacky rig coaxed bites from quality largemouth. Fukae noted the drop shot is his key bait whenever he fishes Lake Champlain because he can “catch so many fish on it.”
The Texas pro disclosed he had both deep and shallow patterns working during this event. “I caught the big largemouth in shallow water — not too shallow though — (about 10 feet),” he said. “I had three or four key spots where I was fishing shallow and then deep back-and-forth. When I fished shallow too much they wouldn’t bite, so I would leave for a couple of hours and then come back there.“ The deep pattern produced smallmouth for him each day.
The victory fulfills Fukae’s dream of fishing a Bassmaster Classic since he will earn a berth in the 2015 Classic to be held on Lake Hartwell in Greenville, S.C., if he competes in the final Northern Open. “I’ll be happy when I fish the Bassmaster Classic,” Fukae said.
Latham, N.Y., angler Sean Wilkes caught the heaviest bag of the tournament today to climb into second place with 54-15. He caught his limit of largemouth today flipping a black-and-blue 1/2-ounce jig in shallow grass.
“That was my Plan D. My first plan was to fish a grassbed that had fish all over it, but when I got down there I wasn’t catching them,” he said. “I found out that one of the locals had ripped apart the grass before I got there. So I went to Plan B and that didn’t work out. Plan C didn’t work out either. Plan D was actually my kicker plan.”
The other Top 5 pro division finishers included Mike Iaconelli, Pittsgrove, N.J., in third, 53-8; Sam George, Athens, Ala., fourth, 52-3; Micah Frazier, Newnan, Ga., fifth, 52-0.
James Schneider of Watervliet, N.Y., won the co-angler top prize of a $25,000 Triton 17 Pro bass boat/Yamaha F115LA outboard with a three-day total of nine bass weighing 32-1. He caught all of his fish the first two days on a Li’l Hustler spinnerbait, but today he had to mix up his presentations with the spinnerbait and a tube bait.
Scott Siller, Milwaukee, Wis., and RC Cooper, Nashua, N.H., tied for the Carhartt Big Bass of $500 as both anglers caught 5-15 largemouth.
The Livingston Lures Leader Award of $250 for finishing as the top pro on Day 2 was given to Scott Siller. The Day 2 leader on the co-angler side, James Schneider, received a Livingston Lures gift pack worth $250.
Anglers in both divisions who advance the most places up the leaderboard from Day 1 to Day 2 receive the “Allstate Good Hands, Great Day” award. Pro division angler Chris Zaldain received $250 by jumping 68 places from 107th to 39th. Co-angler Marvin Stith Jr., earned $150 by climbing 72 places from 115th to 43rd.
The Toyota Bonus Bucks paid $1,500 to Mike Iaconelli, who was the highest placing eligible pro angler entrant for the award.
Image courtesy James Overstreet/Bassmaster