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Alabamian extends lead in Champlain derby

Alabamian extends lead in Champlain derby

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – Through two days, Jacob Walker of Springville, Alabama, has been in command on Lake Champlain. Sacking up over 21 pounds on Day 1 and 21-1 on Day 2 for a 42-5 total, the first-year MLF Invitationals pro is handily leading the event.

Leading the way with LiveScope and smallmouth bass, Walker has an impressive cast in pursuit. Also ‘Scoping for smallmouth, Nick Hatfield of Greeneville, Tennessee, and local favorite Alec Morrison of Peru, New York, are both over the 40-pound mark and on his heels. In fourth with 39-1, Milford, Delaware’s Kurt Mitchell is relying on largemouth from docks and rocks, and there are some other notable largemouth anglers in the hunt as well (plus the usual cadre of folks looking at screens). Day 2 on Champlain did put one pattern pretty much to bed – it looks like the smallmouth spawn is about wrapped up.

Only the Top 30 pros, based on their two-day cumulative weight, now advance to Monday's final round.

Over the last few years, with the development of the open-water bite on Champlain, fishing with company has become more common than ever before on the big lake. It makes sense – you can see a long way, and smallmouth are not sneaky about being hooked. But it might make finding something new – or an untapped area – all the more valuable. This week, Walker has been able to fish in relative peace and quiet, and he seems to have a lot of fish at his disposal.

“It was a little slower start than I expected,” said Walker, who works for a tackle shop in Alabama. “I wasn’t nervous, I was just excited. I was kind of rushing myself, I think. I lost a couple. On one particular rod, I had the drag at a certain point, and then I changed it last night – I think that’s why I was losing them. It was too loose, and they were eating it, and I would swing on them and it would peel. I tightened the drag down and hit ‘em with it hard. I lost a few more, but I caught a lot more.

“I don’t know at what point I had 20 (pounds), I feel like it was probably pretty early, 10 o’clock or so,” he added. “Today was a game of numbers, I swung on a lot more today, to try to catch as much as I could – I caught at least 60 today. The last place I found, I caught at least 25, and they were all over 3 pounds. But, I was trying to catch one over 4, to make a big difference, and I did, eventually.”

Fishing a few areas in a couple of miles of water, Walker isn’t doing anything groundbreaking from a technique standpoint. But, he’s doing it well, and he’s on the cusp of a huge win.

“I still don’t feel like I’m leading,” he said. “It’s really hard to get excited when I catch one, because they’re all pretty close, and I can’t really tell how big they are. If I knew it was a 4 1/2 (pounder), I’d probably be screaming. I’m not anxious or nervous or anything like that, but I still have to catch them. They’re going to catch them even if I don’t – the job’s not done, so I’m not fired up yet.”

Walker has finished runner-up in a Bassmaster Open on Lay Lake – his home fishery – and he’s had a lot of success this season, including some close calls along the way. Now, he’s a day away from his first high-level victory

“Not that I doubt myself, or that anyone doubts me, but it’d prove it – to myself and everybody,” he said. “It would be a big deal for sure, but I don’t know what’d it’d mean – I hope I can tell you tomorrow.”

Here's a look at the weights for the anglers who advanced to the final day:

1st: Jacob Walker, Springville, Ala., 10 bass, 42-5
2nd: Nick Hatfield, Greeneville, Tenn., 10 bass, 40-5
3rd: Alec Morrison, Peru, N.Y., 10 bass, 40-4
4th: Kurt Mitchell, Milford, Del., 10 bass, 39-1
5th: Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., 10 bass, 38-11
6th: Drew Gill, Mount Carmel, Ill., 10 bass, 38-11
7th: Brody Campbell, Oxford, Ohio, 10 bass, 38-2
8th: Spencer Shuffield, Hot Springs, Ark., 10 bass, 38-1
9th: Hunter Eubanks, Landrum, S.C., 10 bass, 37-14
10th: Jake Lawrence, Buchanan, Tenn., 10 bass, 37-12
11th: Troy Stokes, Trenton, Mich., 10 bass, 37-11
12th: Brett Carnright, Plattsburgh, N.Y., 10 bass, 37-10
13th: Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., 10 bass, 37-7
14th: Erik Luzak, Fenelon Falls, Ontario, Canada, 10 bass, 37-6
15th: Jaden Parrish, Liberty, Texas, 10 bass, 37-5
16th: Colby Dark, West Monroe, La., 10 bass, 37-0
17th: Britt Myers, Jr., Lake Wylie, S.C., 10 bass, 37-0
18th: Chad Mrazek, Montgomery, Texas, 10 bass, 36-15
19th: Marshall Hughes, Hemphill, Texas, 10 bass, 36-15
20th: Mitchell Robinson, Landrum, S.C., 10 bass, 36-14
21st: Flint Davis, Leesburg, Ga., 10 bass, 36-12
22nd: Bryan Labelle, Hinesburg, Vt., 10 bass, 36-10
23rd: Evan Barnes, Dardanelle, Ark., 10 bass, 36-9
24th: Ken Thompson, Roaring Springs, Pa., 10 bass, 36-9
25th: Cole Breeden, Lebanon, Mo., 10 bass, 36-9
26th: Spike Stoker, Cisco, Texas, 10 bass, 36-9
27th: Keith Poche, Pike Road, Ala., 10 bass, 36-7
28th: Ryan Latinville, Plattsburgh, N.Y., 10 bass, 36-6
29th: Jason Reyes, Huffman, Texas, 10 bass, 36-5
30th: Jordan Wiggins, Cullman, Ala., 10 bass, 36-4

The final 30 anglers will launch at 6:30 a.m. ET Monday from the Plattsburgh City Marina, located at 5 Dock St. Monday’s weigh-in will also be held at the marina and will begin at 2:30 p.m.

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