Rick Clunn has often mentioned a Native American adage: To know the owl, study the mouse. Clunn translates that easily to bass fishing: To know the bass, study the shad.
Yes, other forms of bass forage are more important than shad at certain times and at certain lakes. But what's interesting about Oneida is that, apparently, it has evolved into a "shad lake" since the Elite Series started coming here in 2006.
In '06 and '08, it was common to hear an Elite Series angler mention the ounces lost in his livewell, after he'd found a big yellow perch or two that a bass had regurgitated.
But it's not that way now, according to Mike Iaconelli, and it may be part of the reason these guys aren't catching the numbers they're accustomed to at Oneida. Part of the reason, not the entire story.
"I think the shad population has quadrupled in the last few years here," Iaconelli said Thursday. "And I think the smallmouth bass population has swapped yellow perch for shad. It has changed the way the smallmouth behave.
"I'm not even sure there were shad in this lake when I first started fishing it in the '90s."
The theory is that instead of feeding in the shallows on yellow perch, schools of smallmouth are more likely now to roam the lake, following big balls of threadfin shad.
"I think the largemouth here have stayed the same," Iaconelli said. "When they're shallow, the primarily feed on bluegill."