PLATTSBURGH, New York — If Caleb Sumrall had his druthers, he’d rather be in a Bassmaster Elite tournament that requires “grinding,” chin down and reelin’ or punchin’, rather than a slugfest with bass biting as well as they are this week here on Lake Champlain.
“I like the grinders,” Sumrall said matter-of-factly Friday afternoon on the weigh-in stage at the Plattsburgh City Marina, where he and 84 other Elites took off for the second day of fishing at 6:45 a.m.
The New Iberia outdoorsman’s five-bass limit that day weighed 17 pounds, 5 ounces, to give him a two-day total of 32 pounds, 5 ounces. At the time, he was in 37th place.
Unfortunately for him, with less than half the field yet to weigh bass, that wasn’t enough to make the Top 40 cut and fish on Semifinal Saturday. Sumrall, who had a 15-pound limit on Thursday, will finish 52nd in the tournament that marks the halfway point of the coronavirus pandemic-delayed Bassmaster Elite circuit.
After the weight of his five bass was announced Friday, Sumrall proudly held up a big brown one (smallmouth bass) and a nice-sized green one (largemouth bass) for the camera. Lake Champlain is known for giving up quantity and quality bass of both species.
Dave Mercer, B.A.S.S. emcee, greeted him before he walked on-stage as the B.A.S.S. Nation champion in 2017. Then Mercer brought up last week’s costly gaffe by Sumrall, who was heading back to the weigh-in on the second day when he ran out of gas on the St. Lawrence River. The subsequent penalty left him in 86th and last place.
The emcee said something to the effect Sumrall “made it back on time today (Friday).”
Sumrall chuckled unabashedly and said, “Heh, heh, heh. Yeah, I made it back on time.”
Then the third-year Elite pro talked about his preference for tournaments in which he has to grind.
He has been in New York state since mid-July. He was ready to return to the heart of Cajun Country.
“I tell you what,” he said, standing near the stand-up microphone, “it’s been a long two weeks. I can’t wait to get home and kiss my babies (daughter Clelie and son Axel) … and my wife (Jacie), too.”
Sumrall’s stay at home will end in a few weeks when he leaves for the next stop, Aug. 20-23 at Lake St. Clair in Macomb County, Michigan.
Meanwhile, going into Semifinal Saturday at Lake Champlain, 39 Elites are trying to chase down Jamie Hartman of Russellville, Arkansas, a New York native who led after the first day with 22 pounds, 1 ounces, and again after the second day with a total of 42 pounds, 4 ounces. His second day limit weighed 20 pounds, 3 ounces.
The Arkansas bass pro is being challenged the most by Seth Feider of New Market, Minnesota, whose 20 pounds, 1 ounce, the first day, plus 21 pounds, 7 ounces, the second day gave him a two-day total of 41 pounds, 8 ounces, good enough for second place at the halfway point in the tournament that resumes at 6:45 a.m. Saturday with the Top 40. Weigh-in is at 3 p.m.
Floridian Koby Kreiger of Alva went into the third day of fishing on the sprawling body of water in third place with 40 pounds, 1 ounces.
Hartman said he did an about-face on his game plan. His first stop Friday was a rocky point close to the tournament site where he had finished up the day Thursday.
Within two hours he had a limit of smallmouth bass early Friday.
“I took a lot of pressure off this morning in the first hours-and-a-half. I had 18 ¼ pounds. Then I figured I only needed two more 4 pounders, but it took all the way to the last two hours to do it,” Hartman said late Friday afternoon.
He used a Carolina-rigged soft plastic and a ½-ounce Riot Baits Lil’ Creeper Jig with a swimbait trailer, he said.
Feider boasted the second day’s biggest bass, a 6-pound, 6-ounce largemouth bass. He caught it and other big bass by targeting boat docks with milfoil and flipping a 5/8-ounce Outkast Tackle Jig with a chunk-style soft plastic trailer.
Two Louisiana Bassmaster Elite anglers qualitied for Semifinal Saturday. Tyler Rivet of Raceland boated two 4-pound bass on his way to a 17-pound, 3-ounce, limit on Friday that gave him 20th place and 36 pounds, 5 ounces.
Baton Rouge bass pro Derek Hudnall just made the cut at No. 40. His two-day total was 33 pounds, 13 ounces.