Lake Oneida, Syracuse, NY
The Bassmaster Northern Opens are finally upon us! I get pretty stoked for any and every tournament I fish, however none more so than the Northern Opens. Traveling around the country, I get to dissect some pretty good fisheries, but the opportunity to fish northern-style waters that include smallmouth bass, fits my strengths so much better and gives me a real competitive edge in the Angler of the Year race.
Joining me on my trip to New York was good buddy and Bassmaster Open co-angler, Chad Smith. We busted ass East and as we were closing on our destination, we realized our homeboy Seth Feider was an hour away from take-off at the Bassmaster Elite Series event on Cayuga Lake. After a quick fist bump and a good luck, as well as a quick tire change do to probably driving too damn fast so that we didn’t miss take-off, we were finally launching on one of my favorite bodies of water, Lake Oneida.
Having been to the lake twice, I was really starting to feel familiar with both the smallmouth and largemouth bass on this fishery. This time presented some challenges as I’ve only been here in the later summer previously and this go round, things seem to be more spawn/post-spawn. We had ourselves a slick first day, so I immediately grabbed a Biovex Joint Bait 142 and a wacky rigged senko and cruised the shallows with my troller on 100. I was simply looking. What I found was a handful of postspawn cruiser that were willing to bite and not much left for actual spawners. I did manage to catch a few nice largemouth off shallow cover and was more eager about that then the skinny cruising smallies. AKA, ghost fish.
The next couple days we targeted deeper areas that I’ve done well in the past. It didn’t take long at all to catch some nice sized smallmouth and it seems the newly introduced gobies joining this eco system have gotten the smallmouth fatter than ever. This in itself throws things off a bit as before, the smallmouth seemed to eat a good balance of perch, crayfish and shad, but now throwing gobies in the mix, have some fish acting an awful lot like their cousins out on the Great Lakes.
Over practice I was able to locate smallmouth feasting on all the above mentioned and felt I also still had a very solid largemouth game going as well. The smallmouth are definitely getting bigger on Oneida but there are still plenty of 5 to 6 pound largemouth that roam these shallows. My game plan was to get a competitive limit of smallies right away in the morning and then when the sun got high, go and search out a big largemouth.
Tournament morning everything went exactly as planned, I started catching fish and good ones at that. Unfortunately for me, I broke off my biggest fish of the week right at the boat. The fish were forgiving and biting good so even without that fish, I was still sitting with a solid limit of smallmouth and had plenty of time to go upgrade on a big largemouth. I hit the shallows and caught my share of largemouth with the only problem being none of them were big enough to cull any of my smallies. I hit the scales with a limit of brown ones going 16.1 lbs and had me sitting 26th in what was a very tight race.
Day two I set out to fish clean and stick with the smallies as I didn’t see the forecast of heavy wind, clouds and rain as being good for my largemouth bite. The problem, the strong east wind was something I hadn’t seen at all in practice and really hurt the way I needed to approach these fish. I scrapped half the day just to fill a limit. I ran my Phoenix/Evinrude combo so hard all over a blustery Lake Oneida and in the end could only muster up a small limit of 13-10 lbs and finished in 39th place. It was tough to see a good start vanish but I am still extremely thrilled to land a always needed paycheck and start the Northern Opens off on the right foot and continue my string of checks in smallmouth tournaments!
Looking forward to getting back home and spending some time with the family, as well as guiding and fishing a couple local tournaments.
Happy 4th of July! Be safe and don’t do nothing I wouldn’t do!! Tight lines.