It's tournament time in New England and our first stop has us at Hoyts Cove off the CT River in VT. We are fishing the Champlain Valley Hardwater Tournament Series that is run by Ice Team Pro James Vladyka. This is an amazing series with lots of great anglers and tons of prizes.
The day started out with 37 degrees and pouring rain, then to freezing rain and then to about 18 degrees and strong winds. This is where money spent on quality equipment pays off. Thermal shelters, Buddie heaters, Ice Armor by Clam Outdoors suits and of course with no snow on the ice and standing water.... ice cleats!! Can't stress enough how important these are along with the rest of your safety gear.
The cove we were in is about 7 to 10 FOW with 3 major weedlines. My son Brandon and his friend Brian chose a spot to set up our Clam Bigfoot 2000 hub shelter. After drilling a few holes with my brand-new K-Drill/Milwuakee Fuel combo, we soon learned we were on the edge of a weedline, we had never fished this area, so this seemed like a good place to start and with the weather the way it was, we just wanted to get set up and out of the elements.
With my son and his partner all set, I retreated to the comfort of my Clam Scout XL Thermal, without these shelters, it would be less than favorable fishing, but inside we were nice and warm, add our Mr.Heater Buddie heater to the mix and it was great!
Now that we were comfortable, it was time to get down to business. Brandon started out slamming fish on every drop with a Eurotackle "Bvibe" which is a 2in swimbait style soft plastic rigged on a jighead, color was gold.
I had a Jason Mitchell 28in Meatstick rigged with the new Clam "Dropper Jig" and the Clam/Maki "Neki" and also the Matt Johnson Pro Series rod from Clam Outdoors rigged with a "Snowdrop" Jig and spikes and on a St.Croix Glass Series rod with a Eurotackle Drop X jig and Eurogrub combo.
The fish seemed to want the larger baits early in the morning as my son was getting bit nonstop, however, they were slow to take my offerings. After some experimenting with colors and jig shapes/sizes, I found that later in the morning the smaller baits worked.
I settled on the Clam Dingle Drop, gold in color with a red Maki "Matdi" and a Eurotackle "crazy critter" in red.
Towards the end of the tournament we were asked to get off the ice by the local PD due to an ice jam up river that had broken loose and flooding would prevent us from getting off the ice.
The guys running the show had already gone and gotten a bunch of wooden pallets and built a bridge so it was time to pack up and head to the weigh in.
My bag consisted of the 2 biggest bluegills of my life, a .94 LB and a .89 LB, a good pumpkinseed and 3 good perch, or so I thought, turns out there was also a very small perch that I thought I had culled out, but in my rush to get packed up and off the ice I never double checked!!
This mistake cost me my .94 LB gill as a penalty!!! Even so, I ended up in 12th place out of 38 teams which made me very happy.
Lessons learned on this trip, wear your ice cleats! Big baits worked early and small baits worked later in the morning, gold and red work great in VT and ALWAYS check your fish before heading to the weigh in!!