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Walker wins at Champlain as Day 3 canceled

Walker wins at Champlain as Day 3 canceled

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – It wasn’t a total shock when the final day of the MLF Invitational on Lake Champlain was called off Monday morning. With a lot of wind at takeoff and more in the forecast, it was setting up to be a pretty rough day on the lake. With a 2-pound margin on his competition, Springville, Alabama pro Jacob Walker hoisted the trophy in the parking lot at the Plattsburgh City Marina around 8 o’clock Monday morning, while gulls wheeled overhead and most folks were clocking in or starting their morning coffee.

With a two-day total of 42 pounds, 5 ounces, Walker caught over 21 pounds each day of the event to win handily. In second, Nick Hatfield of Greeneville, Tennessee, had 40-5, and local favorite Alec Morrison of Peru, New York, weighed 40-4 for third. For the win, which is his first with MLF, Walker pocketed $80,000 and locked up a trip to REDCREST 2025 next year in his home state of Alabama.

Well-schooled with a jig and a minnow, Walker was a first-timer to Champlain, but he was in his element as far as the fishing goes. Perhaps the biggest thing that set him apart was his location. Walker fished in the Alburg Passage and could pick and choose what he caught with little competition.

“The first day of practice, I wanted to try to find some spawners to get an idea of what stage the fish were in,” he said. “I was running through the Alburg Pass and the wind was blowing, and it was a little calmer in there.

“I pulled over and I cruised down the bank for 15 minutes and saw probably 30 empty beds. I had a feeling that those fish had probably spawned before we got there – I knew they couldn’t be far. I was on the phone with my buddy Mark [Condron], told him I saw some beds, and I was on the phone and I trolled out there, off the flat into that channel. As I trolled out, I saw a smallmouth sitting on that break – made a cast, and it was a 3 1/2-pounder. I could tell by how she acted, there had to be a lot of them around, to be so aggressive and eat so easily.”

Walker could have cranked his Mercury to leave. Instead, he trolled and looked at the screen. The rest is history.

“I cruised around for a second, saw another, caught it, and it was a 3-15,” he said. “They were both fat, so I knew there had to be some bait around. I put my rod down, trolled around for a second and saw some bait and some groups in the bait and I left. I was in there no more than 10 minutes.”

After re-checking the area on the final day of practice, Walker was feeling pretty good.

“I knew it was a safe bet I could catch five in there and probably guarantee myself a check,” Walker said. “I had no clue it would be like that. I had no clue that bigger-than-average fish would be in there. It makes sense now that I’ve spent so much time in there – if I wanted to, I could catch over 100 fish per day.”

Throwing a 5- or 6-inch Deps Sakamata Shad in the sliver shiner color on mostly a 3/16-ounce Owner Range Roller head, Walker whooped up on the bass every day he went fishing.

“It’s identical to the alewives, and it looks like the smelt,” said Walker of his bait. “I could have gone through 100 of them a day if I wanted to. I caught an alewife yesterday [that] I showed the camera man. It’s incredible how similar it really is – it’s identical.”

Using 16-pound-test mainline and a 10-pound-test fluorocarbon leader, Walker went with a G. Loomis GLX 863 rod, which he thought was perfect for the task.

“It’s a medium-heavy, but it’s extremely parabolic,” he said. “So, I have the backbone to carry that big bait, make a good cast with it and pin the fish. But it’s very parabolic, so I don’t lose them. If you see in pictures, a lot of that rod is bending, but it’s still strong enough to where I can pin them and put a hook in them, especially those real big ones.”

As far as catching the fish, Walker had his boat in 20 to 35 feet most of the time but caught fish throughout the water column. A big part of his success was making very precise presentations, and sometimes trying to wait for bigger fish to show themselves or become available.

“I run my (Garmin) LiveScope at 80 feet because I can really see a fish and really decipher where the fish is,” Walker explained. “It’s a big deal with how you present a bait. A lot of times, I think if your bait is too close to them, and you come over their backs, it spooks them. The real big ones, the smart ones, if you spook them, you might catch some but a lot of times they’ll spin around and they’ll look at it but they know it’s not natural.

“How many times does a bologna sandwich hit you in the face? It never happens. Most of the time, I try to present my bait first, very high, and get an initial reaction to get them to come up and eat it. If it’s too high, and they don’t see it, I’ll make a cast closer to them, but maybe 5 or 10 feet to their left or right. I’m very patient – I don’t just see a fish and bomb on it.”

To hear him tell it, Walker could have been burning through 100 bass a day, but he took a more considered approach.

“At some point, I had to stop,” he said. “I would sit on a group of fish and wait until I knew I could get a good cast on a 4-pounder. When my trolling motor was in the water, very rarely was I not looking at fish. I had to really be patient and understand that if there’s a group, there’s a big one in there, and I had to watch them and try to pick them out.”

With the wind whipping at takeoff and a trophy in hand, Walker was adamant that he wanted to win it all the way.

“It’s a big move; it’s a very big deal,” he said. “It’s not real yet. When I get back home to reality it’ll probably set in. It’ll set in eventually, but I just want to go do it again. I love bass fishing.”

Here are the final totals for the Top 30:

1st: Jacob Walker, Springville, Ala., 10 bass, 42-5, $115,000
2nd: Nick Hatfield, Greeneville, Tenn., 10 bass, 40-5, $50,000
3rd: Alec Morrison, Peru, N.Y., 10 bass, 40-4, $20,000
4th: Kurt Mitchell, Milford, Del., 10 bass, 39-1, $18,000
5th: Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., 10 bass, 38-11, $17,000
6th: Drew Gill, Mount Carmel, Ill., 10 bass, 38-11, $16,000
7th: Brody Campbell, Oxford, Ohio, 10 bass, 38-2, $15,000
8th: Spencer Shuffield, Hot Springs, Ark., 10 bass, 38-1, $14,000
9th: Hunter Eubanks, Landrum, S.C., 10 bass, 37-14, $13,000
10th: Jake Lawrence, Buchanan, Tenn., 10 bass, 37-12, $12,000
11th: Troy Stokes, Trenton, Mich., 10 bass, 37-11, $10,000
12th: Brett Carnright, Plattsburgh, N.Y., 10 bass, 37-10, $10,000
13th: Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., 10 bass, 37-7, $10,000
14th: Erik Luzak, Fenelon Falls, Ontario, Canada, 10 bass, 37-6, $10,000
15th: Jaden Parrish, Liberty, Texas, 10 bass, 37-5, $10,000
16th: Colby Dark, West Monroe, La., 10 bass, 37-0, $10,000
17th: Britt Myers, Jr., Lake Wylie, S.C., 10 bass, 37-0, $10,000
18th: Chad Mrazek, Montgomery, Texas, 10 bass, 36-15, $10,000
19th: Marshall Hughes, Hemphill, Texas, 10 bass, 36-15, $10,000
20th: Mitchell Robinson, Landrum, S.C., 10 bass, 36-14, $10,000
21st: Flint Davis, Leesburg, Ga., 10 bass, 36-12, $10,000
22nd: Bryan Labelle, Hinesburg, Vt., 10 bass, 36-10, $10,000
23rd: Evan Barnes, Dardanelle, Ark., 10 bass, 36-9, $10,000
24th: Ken Thompson, Roaring Springs, Pa., 10 bass, 36-9, $10,000
25th: Cole Breeden, Lebanon, Mo., 10 bass, 36-9, $10,000
26th: Spike Stoker, Cisco, Texas, 10 bass, 36-9, $10,000
27th: Keith Poche, Pike Road, Ala., 10 bass, 36-7, $10,000
28th: Ryan Latinville, Plattsburgh, N.Y., 10 bass, 36-6, $10,000
29th: Jason Reyes, Huffman, Texas, 10 bass, 36-5, $10,000
30th: Jordan Wiggins, Cullman, Ala., 10 bass, 36-4, $10,000

Complete results for the entire field can be found at

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