WADDINGTON, N.Y.—When anglers arrive in New York for the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Northeast Regional at St. Lawrence River June 22-24, St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series presented by Mossy Oak Fishing champion Cooper Gallant anticipates the bass will be in all stages of the spawn.
“I think you are going to be able to do a lot of things,” the Canadian pro said. “You are going to be able to catch fish shallow that are roaming. You are going to be able to catch fish deep, and you are going to be able to catch some fish off the bed. I think it is going to be pretty wide open.”
Coined “smallmouth Disneyland” by Elite Series angler Taku Ito during his victory last season, the St. Lawrence River has been the backdrop for many Bassmaster events, including multiple Elites, Opens and the 2021 College Series National Championship won by Adrian College’s Griffin Fernandes and Hayden Scott.
Gallant pushed hard for an Opens win on the famed fishery last year but ultimately placed fourth as Elite Series pro Cory Johnston took the title.
With the tournament going out of Waddington, anglers will have access to the New York side of the river and will not be able to access Lake Ontario. Boaters will also only be able to bring four bass to the scales, while co-anglers will be allowed three.
Smallmouth will be the dominant species, and they will likely be in several different areas.
Boulders, rockpiles and sand flats around spawning flats will be key areas that attract prespawn smallmouth. Meanwhile, the smallmouth that have locked onto bed will be around big boulders and rocks in protected areas, flats with hard bottom and boulders away from the current and wind.
For anglers trying to catch spawners, a flogger will come in handy.
“It’s no different than a largemouth spawning on an isolated patch of lily pads,” Gallant said. “They will get on isolated boulders and have a bed next to the boulder and they will also spawn on chunk rock and things like that.”
As the smallmouth move off the bed, they make their way back to deeper water through the same areas they used in the prespawn period.
“Depending on how far along they are in the postspawn, they could be deeper or shallower,” he said. “But year-round, smallmouth love rock and you just have to find which areas of the river they are living in and if they are postspawn; you have to figure out where they are going next and how far along they are.”
Gallant expects drop shots, spybaits, jerkbaits, tubes and Marabou hair jigs to play a major role.
While there are plenty of largemouth in the fishery, Gallant said it is difficult to win a multiday event with only largemouth.
Anglers will launch from Whittaker Park starting at 6 a.m. ET and return for weigh-in starting at 2 p.m. Around 240 anglers representing 11 state teams from across the Northeast and the province of Ontario will compete on the St. Lawrence River. The top boater and co-angler from each state at the end of the tournament will punch their tickets to the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, which will be held Nov. 9-11 on Pickwick Lake.
The event is being hosted by the Village of Waddington and St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce. This tournament is supported by a Market New York grant from I LOVE NY/New York State’s Division of Tourism awarded as part of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative.