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Local Pro Brett Carnright Earns First Career MLF Victory at Toyota Series at Lake Champlain Presented by Rabid Baits

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – Local pro Brett Carnright of Plattsburgh, New York, brought a five-bass limit to the scale Saturday totaling 19 pounds, 4 ounces, to win the Toyota Series at Lake Champlain Presented by Rabid Baits. Carnright’s three-day total of 59 pounds, 11 ounces earned him his first career victory by 1½ pounds over his cousin, Ryan Latinville, also of Plattsburgh. Carnright earned $90,500 for his victory, which was the season-opening event in the Toyota Series Northern Division Presented by Rabid Baits.

When it comes to Champlain, especially during the spawn, it’s hard to talk about tournament fishing without bringing up Latinville and Carnright. Between them, they’ve raised the bar on what wins in June, and this tournament certainly fell into their wheelhouse. So, to see the cousins finish 1-2 is no surprise.  Though winning with 59-11 is a little shy of some recent Champlain events, considering the time of year and the size of the field, the Carnright’s winning weight is nothing to sneeze at.

It was made possible by a quirky spring that put a lot of big fish right where Carnright needed them.

“I thought it was going to fish a little lighter, just because of where I checked the first day of practice,” Carnright said. “Then, all of a sudden, we had a huge wave come up. We had some really cold weather two weeks before the tournament, I think it shut down a wave of fish that were coming, I checked some areas where they spawn a week prior and there was no evidence of any fish spawning. We got some warm weather, calm weather, the water got hot, and fish started showing up. About a week before the tournament, we started finding some big ones. Originally, I thought 59 was going to be right there, but by the tournament, Ryan and I both thought it would take well over 60.”

Plenty of other pros tried to bed fish to contend with Carnright, but only Latinville really came close, as the others who leaned hard on sight-fishing dipped out of the picture day by day. Meanwhile, Carnright actually improved his weight on Day 2, and caught the third-biggest bag of the final day.

“What helped me the most, which I thought would hurt me the most, was there was a massive amount of clear water and dirty water shifting around the north end of the lake,” he said. “Guys were talking about not being able to see 7 feet deep, and then next day you could see 17 feet deep. I was focusing on 8 to 11 feet of water, and I was able to find all my 11-foot beds prior to the weekend. Over the weekend, we had some bad weather that muddied up the water, so all my fish were protected from people being able to see them. People were coming around me into the area of the lake I was fishing, and I kept seeing less and less boats.”

Dirtier water protected many of his fish from the prying eyes of the competition, but it did make them harder to catch. So, in addition to using a flogger, Carnright had to catch some with his ActiveTarget alone.

“Luckily for me, I had good waypoints, and I was able to utilize my electronics,” he said. “I had to catch those fish, if I don’t, I don’t win the tournament. So, I knew my best bet was to sit there with ActiveTarget and catch those fish. I was able to catch all the fish I had marked, and I actually found a few bonus ones.”

Carnright lives for the smallmouth spawn, and has put days and days into the pursuit. In good shape and willing to go up and down with a flogger all day, he’s also lucky to have a really good eye for what might be a bed.

“It’s a lot of strategy, you have to find your fish before the tournament, finding them during the tournament is really difficult,” he said. “You have to be really strategic with which fish you catch. You have to hope they’re not leaving, and during this tournament a lot of fish acted like they wanted to leave. Over the years, we’ve noticed the spawn shifts earlier into June, so when this was announced, I didn’t think it would be a spawning event. But, with the cooler weather this spring, probably the biggest wave of fish the lake had came this week.”

To catch his bed fish, Carnright used a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm on a drop-shot. He also used a swimbait on a 3/16-ounce head to catch postspawn fish, which was a critical piece of his strategy.

“Day 1, I had one postspawn fish and four fish that were on beds,” he said. “Day 2, I had all bed fish. Today, I had all bed fish, and I caught one postspawn fish that was the same size as my smallest fish.

“When practice started, (the postspawn) fish were easy to catch,” he said. “As the week went on, I think more guys found it. It got a lot tougher, I think a lot of guys put pressure on those fish. They would run up, look at it and not eat it. That was something I figured out before the tournament – I knew I needed something other than bed fish. It was either going to be largemouth or catching postspawn smallies. We had a huge heat wave in April, and I think a lot of smallmouth spawned then. I think those fish went postspawn and started feeding up, and I knew that would be my bonus.”

Edging out his cousin Latinville, plus good friend LaBelle, Carnright has been on the cusp a number of times. Just this spring, he led the ABA championship on the Red River before coughing up the lead. In Toyota Series past, he’s finished fourth, second and fifth on Champlain.

This week, things aligned for Carnright, and also Latinville, to do what they do best on Champlain.

“Spawning fishing is really weird, it’s more like hunting fish, rather than fishing for them,” he said. “You’re looking for them nonstop, looking at rocks, looking at the bottom, hoping you can find some cleaner water where you can see. And it always wins. There really aren’t any major tournaments in June where bed fishing isn’t the major player. So, knowing that, we have to put a lot of time into it. After the 2017 Toyota, and the next one in 2018, that’s when we really got dialed in to bed fishing. If you look at the weights from then to now, it’s astronomical. The field is also learning, but we’re able to dial it in each year better and better. We’ve been able to win some pretty big local events with heavy 21-pound bags or 22 sometimes.”

Still, despite the previous success, Carnright didn’t go into the final day thinking he’d win. With LaBelle ahead of him, he knew things would have to break right.

“Bryan Labelle has been telling me I’m gonna win this tournament since the schedule came out,” he said. “What a way to do it, there’s not a more skilled angler to beat on the final day than Bryan. I’ve been saying for years he’s the best angler to ever fish this lake, I thought the mountain was unclimbable.”

The top 10 pros on Lake Champlain finished:

1st:          Brett Carnright, Plattsburgh, New York, 15 bass, 59-11, $90,500 (includes $35,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus)
2nd:         Ryan Latinville, Plattsburgh, N.Y., 15 bass, 59-0, $22,000
3rd:         Bryan Labelle, Hinesburg, Vt., 15 bass, 58-3, $15,250
4th:         Garrett Rocamora, Lake Wales, Fla., 15 bass, 57-6, $13,250
5th:         Ron Nelson, Berrien Springs, Mich., 15 bass, 57-1, $12,250
6th:         Alec Morrison, Peru, N.Y., 15 bass, 56-11, $9,625
7th:         Brayden Federer, Adrian, Mich., 15 bass, 56-10, $8,300
8th:         Tyler Woolcott, Port Orange, Fla., 15 bass, 56-6, $7,600
9th:         Brian Green, North Augusta, Ontario, Canada, 15 bass, 55-15, $6,300
10th:       Kyle Hall, Granbury, Texas, 15 bass, 55-13, $4,700

Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Pro Chris Adams of Shrewsbury, Vermont, took home the $500 Day 1 Berkley Big Bass award in the pro division Thursday with a largemouth weighing 4 pounds, 13 ounces. On Friday, pro Nick Radtke of Greenwood Lake, New York, earned the $500 Berkley Big Bass prize after bringing a 5-pound, 15-ounce bass to the scale.

Carnright earned an extra $35,000 as the highest finishing Phoenix MLF Bonus member. Boaters are eligible to win up to an extra $35,000 per event in each Toyota Series tournament if all requirements are met. More information on the Phoenix MLF Bonus contingency program can be found at PhoenixBassBoats.com.

Nicholas Veselka of Fishers, Indiana, won the Strike King Co-angler Division Saturday with a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 49 pounds, 15 ounces. Veselka took home the top prize package worth $35,400, including a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard motor.

The top 10 Strike King co-anglers on Lake Champlain finished:

1st:          Nicholas Veselka, Fishers, Ind., 15 bass, 49-15, $35,400 incl. Phoenix 518 Pro boat w/115-hp Mercury outboard
2nd:         Randy Nelson, Granger, Ind., 15 bass, 47-7, $6,625
3rd:         Jacob Swanson, Framingham, Mass., 15 bass, 46-13, $5,300
4th:         Richard Bleser, Burlington, Wis., 15 bass, 46-11, $4,150
5th:         Jeremy Vandenbosch, Lowell, Mich., 15 bass, 46-5, $3,650
6th:         Mitchell Robinson, Landrum, S.C., 15 bass, 45-7, $3,150
7th:         William Lisenby, Centreville, Va., 15 bass, 44-15, $2,650
8th:         Shawn Gokey, Georgia, Vt., 15 bass, 44-14, $2,075
9th:         Jim Jarvis, Timberville, Va., 15 bass, 43-11, $1,630
10th:       Cory Hartfield, Centerburg, Ohio, 15 bass, 43-4, $1,390

Garrett Seppala of New Ipswich, New Hampshire, was the Berkley Big Bass $150 award winner in the Strike King co-angler division, Thursday, weighing in a 4-pound, 14-ouncer. Friday’s Day 2 $150 award went to Brenden Massa of Battle Creek, Michigan, with a 5-pound, 4-ounce bass.

With one regular-season event in the Toyota Series Northern Division now complete, Carnright leads the Northern Division Angler of the Year (AOY) race with 260 points, while Veska leads the Strike King Co-angler Division AOY race with 260 points.

The Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats at Lake Champlain Presented by Rabid Baits, hosted by the City of Plattsburgh and the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau, was the first of three regular-season events for the Toyota Series Northern Division. The next event for Toyota Series anglers will be the Toyota Series at the St. Lawrence River, Aug. 10-12, in Massena, New York. For a complete schedule of events, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.

The 2023 Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats consists of six divisions – Central, Northern, Plains, Southern, Southwestern and the Western Division Presented by Tackle Warehouse – each holding three regular-season events, along with the International and Wild Card divisions. Anglers who fish in any of the six divisions or the Wild Card division and finish in the top 25 will qualify for the no-entry-fee Toyota Series Championship for a shot at winning up to $235,000 and a qualification to REDCREST 2024. The winning Strike King co-angler at the championship earns a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard. The 2023 Toyota Series Championship will be held Nov. 2-4 on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, and is hosted by ExploreBranson.com.

Proud sponsors of the 2023 MLF Toyota Series include: 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Black Rifle Coffee Company, E3, Favorite Fishing, Fox Rent a Car, General Tire, Gill, Grundéns, Lew’s, Lowrance, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Next Gen Lithium, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Wiley X and YETI.

For complete details and updated information visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.

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