We've followed Ott DeFoe back toward the launch site. This is the west side of Oneida. Brian, our driver (who by the way just slipped into the water to cool off), tells us the fish often begin biting in this spot around 10:30 or 11 a.m.
We just caught up with B.A.S.S. photographer James Overstreet (left) and B.A.S.S. emcee Dave Mercer. They have been following Brent Chapman this morning and say he has around 13 pounds in the livewell. Mercer's boat has a Subway wrap and Overstreet asked him why the boat doesn't come with a supply of tasty sandwiches.
No Elite Series angler has a better track record at Oneida Lake than Dean Rojas, who won here in 2008 and has two other top 4 finishes here. Rojas noted this morning that the lake is lower this year than it has been in the previous four Elite Series events on Oneida – not by a bunch – but it's lower.
And he predicted that would make a difference in how the anglers approached this tournament. When Tommy Biffle won in 2006, he caught only largemouth bass, flipping the banks, when Oneida was at a higher level than it would be the next three visits here.
“I don't think you'll see many fish caught like that this time," Rojas said.
We have access to a BASSTrakk map, which shows the location of each angler. And Rojas' prediction seems right on the money. Only one angler of the 50 with BASSTrakk, appears to be beating the banks at this time.
The Erie Canal is on both ends of Oneida Lake. Back in the day, when they were digging the canal, they'd dump the soil into Oneida. So there are sections of the lake labeled "dumping grounds" on the map. These are now shallow areas of the lake.
The grass in the photo is on the dumping ground between Frenchman's Island and Dunham Island. Look at a satellite photo of the lake, and you'll see bars on the bottom of the lake in many areas. These are the dumping grounds for the Erie Canal.
We've pulled up on Ott DeFoe who is fishing a shallow area between two islands. He just pulled in a nice two pound smallie. He now has three in the Livewell. We're estimating he has between 7 and 8 pounds total.
AOY leader Brent Chapman is already one-third of the way home in his quest for the title. He's already got a five-bass limit weighing 12 pounds, 12 ounces, according to BASSTrakk, which puts him in the lead at present.
Again, remember, we have BASSTrakk in only 50 boats, but Chapman is essentially competing within himself in this tournament. No matter what anybody else does, if Chapman makes the top 12 cut to Sunday, he wins.
Chapman has been keeping a simple mantra in his head: Catch 20 fish. That would mean he had a chance to weigh a limit all four days. But Chapman really only needs 15 to make that Sunday cut, and the AOY race ends Saturday.
Chapman set a daily goal of 14 pounds; he's almost there two hours into Thursday.
With so much on the line at the Ramada Championship, we'll be using BASSTrakk all four days to follow the Top 50 anglers in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. See who's already in the hunt via BASSTrakk.
In the photo below, B.A.S.S. tournament staffer Ryan Watkins tosses a BASSTrakk phone to a competitor from the dock at the Day One launch at Oneida Lake.
After stopping on Kelly Jordon and Jeremy Starks for a few minutes we are off to find DeFoe. We are hoping he's had a better morning. We like to see a closely contested race. Oversteet and Mercer are texting that Chapman is wailing on them.
He has to feel good about that. In a few minutes we will see if DeFoe is starting to keep it interesting.