Bryan Schmitt fed Lake Champlain bass a steady diet of bogus crawfish this week to win the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open finale.
Fishing in only his fourth Bassmaster Open, Schmitt won the pro division title and took home the top prize of $52,278, including a Triton TR-19X with a Mercury 200 Pro XS outboard worth $45,000. He finished with a winning total of 15 bass weighing 59 pounds, 13 ounces.
Schmitt said he lost one “giant” fish today, but he boated everything else to finish the day with an 18-14 limit. The Deale, Md., angler caught a heavyweight limit of smallmouth Thursday, but the rain and clouds slowed down his smallmouth bite today. He still concentrated on smallmouth but his limit included a mixture of two green and three brown bass. “I had to adjust a little bit,” Schmitt said. “I fished one spot today that had largemouth and smallmouth.”
The Chesapeake Bay charter guide stuck with a 1/2-ounce Riot Baits Minima Jig in a green pumpkin/black color, tipped with a green pumpkin Riot Baits Fuzzy Beaver all week to catch both largemouth and smallmouth. Noticing that bass were spitting up crawfish in his livewell inspired Schmitt to use the jig throughout the tournament.
“I was throwing some swimbaits and did some Carolina rigging, but once I caught all the largemouth from one spot, I went to my smallmouth spot. I tried the swimbait, Carolina rig and drop shot, but as soon as I picked up the jig, it was just game on,” he said.
Schmitt keyed on shoals with a mixture of rocks and weeds to catch both largemouth and smallmouth. Most of his fish were holding near the bottom at 10 to 12 feet deep. After making a long cast to his spots, Schmitt would hop the jig about 5 feet off the bottom and let it drop. He said most of his strikes occurred on the fall.
Bartlett, Ill., angler Stephen Mui caught a 20-8 limit today to climb from ninth place into second in the pro division. He spent the week drop shotting a hump with a Strike King Dream Shot and Missile Baits Fuse about 16 feet deep for smallmouth and flipped a homemade jig later in shallow cover for largemouth to catch a three-day total of 58-3.
The remaining Top 5 finishers in the pro division included Alton Jones Jr., Lorena, Texas, third place, 56-6; Chris Molineaux, Hope Valley, R.I., fourth, 56-3; and David Gaston, Sylacauga, Ala., fifth, 55-0.
Winning the co-angler division and a $30,000 Nitro Z18/Mercury Pro XS rig was Eric Stecker, who caught nine bass weighing 34-13. Fishing in only his second Open, the Quakertown, Pa., angler relied on a green pumpkin football jig all three days to catch bass in depths of 6 to 15 feet on boulders along large flats.
Schmitt also earned the Livingston Lures Leader Award of $250 for finishing as the top pro on Thursday. Nicholas Sokolowski won the Livingston Lures gift pack worth $250 for finishing as the top co-angler on Thursday.
The Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award of $750 on the pro side went to Molineaux, with a 6-9 fish. Robin Roystan, Bath, N.H., weighed in a 5-6 bass to earn the $250 Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award in the co-angler division.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Adrian Avena earned the A.R.E. Top Angler Award of $500 for being the highest placing angler using A.R.E. products.
Schmitt earned the Power-Pole Captain’s Cash award of $500 for being the highest-placing angler who is registered and eligible, and uses a client-approved product on his boat.