SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Every angler who visits New York’s Oneida Lake should feel at home. It’s one of the few places that has something to offer everyone whether his or her preference is finesse fishing deep water for smallmouth or power fishing for chunky largemouth in inches of water.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Dave Wolak grew up two hours south of the lake, and was able to take advantage of Oneida’s wealth of diversity to become a well-rounded angler. However, the thing that he and many anglers struggle with is knowing which species and pattern will be the most productive.
“There’s an equal number of 3-pound smallmouth as there are 3-pound largemouth. The lake is basically a big, giant grass flat. I call it the Okeechobee of the north,” he said. “Determining which species will be more dominant each day is the key. When both species are viable, you need to see which is biting better and then figure out how to catch ’em.”
Oneida is a natural lake that’s littered with submerged vegetation. Similar to Lake Okeechobee, much of the lake and its cover looks the same. Bass of both species will be in a transitional phase between their summertime and fall haunts during this third and final 2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open. They’ll be scattered and at all depths as they’re not all in step toward their fall habits.
“There are fish all over the place; there are fish in the middle, there are fish on the bank, and they’re all moving around a lot,” he said. “Even if an angler moves through an area and catches some fish, you could go right behind him and catch ’em just as good.”
Wolak recommends that anglers who are new to the lake stick to their strengths; there are more than likely some willing to bite whatever it is that you throw.
“You can go around the flats with a lipless crankbait and pick up a limit, or you can flip all day. Both will get bit,” he said. “But, whatever you determine you want to do, you’ve got to fish lots of areas to ensure your pattern will hold.”
Even if anglers have a rock-solid pattern ironed out, it can still become moot if the wind decides to blow. Competition days are subject to cancellation because of high winds, and B.A.S.S. has shortened tournaments because of unsafe boating conditions.
“Sometime you’ve got 4- or 5- foot waves in 6 feet of water and you darn near hit the bottom when you’re in the trough, so that plays into your head; can I make it to my spot?” he said. “Plus, the wind moves the fish around a lot. You’ll see all kinds of patterns and lots will be successful. A frog may work just as well as a drop shot in 30 feet of water.”
In 2008, Dean Rojas won an Elite Series event on a topwater frog in 2 to 3 feet of water, while runner-up Kevin Langill caught most of his fish in 18 to 20 feet of water.
Regardless of how anglers catch their five-fish limit, Wolak feels that 15 pounds per day will ensure a solid finish, but maybe not a win and resultant Classic berth.
2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Official Sponsors: Toyota Trucks, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, Mercury, Skeeter, Triton, Yamaha
2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Supporting Sponsors: Humminbird, Luck “E” Strike, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats
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