Prior to practice for the Champlain FLW Tour, Tracy Adams didn't know whether he'd focus on largemouths or smallmouths. Tournaments at the long lake on the New York/Vermont border can be won with either, so it often pays to keep an open mind in regard to species.

He eventually settled on the green fish, and the decision produced the first tour-level win of his career. He went into day 4 with a 2-ounce deficit to leader Dion Hibdon, but caught the biggest bag on the final day and won by 1-06.

Here's how he did it.


Adams, a 32-year-old from North Carolina, had practiced in the Ticonderoga area of the lake, about 70 miles south of the launch, on his previous visits to Champlain in 2002 and '04. On those occasions, he didn't find enough to bring him back on the tournament days.

This time, the big largemouths that reside down there were in a biting mode. Dion Hibdon, who led the first 3 days, and Curt Lytle, another Top 10 finisher, were also onto them.

"I was just determined to find some good fish, whether they were largemouth or smallmouth," he said. "It just turns out that largemouth was what I found.

"I was just moving around, covering a lot of water, and I happened to come into them. They were the biggest fish I'd found."

The thickest concentration he located was in a milfoil bed that was 7 to 9 feet deep and 150 yards off shore. He found two other similar beds, but those got muddied up by the wind and were of no use when the tournament started.

He also found some fish in willow bushes along the bank, and those would be crucial on day 4.


> Day 1: 5, 16-08
> Day 2: 5, 17-11 (10, 34-03)
> Day 3: 5, 16-12
> Day 4: 5, 17-11 (10, 34-07)

Adams' milfoil bed was extremely productive on the first 2 days. His fish bit throughout the day, and he tried to manage them as best he could so the spot would continue to be fruitful.

They were suckers for a Zoom Brush Hog (green-pumpkin).

"I just went right to them and caught them, and I could have continued to catch them," he said.

His day 1 limit was nothing extraordinary, and it landed him in 33rd place. As always at Champlain though, a few ounces here and there lead to big moves in the standings, and he was the epitome of that phenomenon on day 2.

His second-day bag was just 1-03 bigger, but it moved him up 26 places. He made the cut in 7th.

The milfoil fish continued to bite on day 3 – but only until about 9:30. The wind had changed directions and began blowing from the north instead of the south, and that apparently triggered the shutdown.

"It really slacked off and I knew something was wrong," he said. "But I already had my fish for that day, so I wasn't too concerned."

Weights had been zeroed after day 2, and his 16-12 bag put him 2 ounces behind Hibdon, who'd also experienced a downturn with his own fish in a nearby grassbed. The Missourian's stringer was more than 3 pounds lighter than the ones he'd brought in on the first 2 days.

FLW Outdoors/Jeff Schroeder
Photo: FLW Outdoors/Jeff Schroeder

Tracy Adams didn't decide to key on largemouths until he'd practiced for several days.

The milfoil fish bit early again on day 4. But when they turned off again, Adams only had about 11 pounds in his well. He knew he needed a lot more, and it was time to make a move.

He went to the bank and began flipping a 3/8-ounce jig into the willow bushes that had harbored some fish in practice. They were still there, and they were of sufficient quality to win.

He ended up combining four willow fish with one he'd caught in the grass, and together they equaled his best bag of the tournament. He quit fishing at about 1:00 to take some of the stress out of the long ride back to the launch.

"I knew I had a shot at it, but it all depended on what Dion caught," he said. "And (2nd-place finisher Kevin Vida of Michigan) had perfect conditions for catching smallmouth off the beds, so if he'd whacked a bunch of 4-pounders, I was in trouble."

Hibdon came in with his smallest sack of the tournament and dropped two spots. And Vida had a good bag of bronzebacks (17-04), but it wasn't quite good enough.

Pattern Notes

> The milfoil fish were feasting on bluegill and yellow perch. "Like Dion said, just about every one of them had a tail sticking out of their mouth.

> He worked the Brush Hog a little slower than under normal conditions. "If you just threw it in there and hopped it right back, they wouldn't bite. You had to shake it a little bit gently on the bottom.

> When he moved to the willows on day 4, he flipped the jig as far back into the shade as he could.

Winning Gear Notes

> Brush Hog gear: 7' heavy-action G.Loomis MB844 IMX rod, Shimano Chronarch casting reel, 20-pound Gamma High Performance copolymer line (green), 3/8-ounce Tru-Tungsten weight, 5/0 Gamakatsu offset-shank hook, Zoom Brush Hog (green-pumpkin).

> Jig gear: Same rod and reel, 25-pound Gamma High Performance copolymer, 3/8-ounce Hotshot Lures jig (black/blue), Zoom Super Chunk (blue sapphire).


> Main factor in his success – "Definitely going to the grass bed, staying with it and beating the fish out of there, and then moving to the willows on the fourth day when it gave out on me."

> He was 54th (2002) and 56th ('04) on his two previous visits to Champlain.

> His previous best finish on the FLW Tour was 2nd at Kentucky Lake 10 years ago. He was the only member of the Top 5 to catch a limit on the final day (13-05), but George Cochran's four fish weighed a whopping 20-09.