Invasion of the largemouth bass

I’m up on Cayuga Lake getting ready for the last Northern Open. Something has caught my attention over the last few years as I fish the more northern lakes in our country that I believe we should think about. I call it the invasion of the largemouth bass.

There was a time when all you caught up here — I’m talking about our northern lakes in general — were smallmouth bass. That’s not a bad thing by any means, but it was an only thing. That’s what lived here bass-wise, and that was pretty much the way it was unless you wanted to chase muskie or walleye. That’s not the case anymore. Largemouth bass are everywhere and getting bigger and stronger every year.

To give you an idea of what I’m trying to say, consider that there was a big tournament out of here last week. The guys fishing it knew what they were doing. Some of them will be professionals someday. The first five spots went to largemouth stringers.

I suppose there are a lot of reasons for this change, but I suspect that the warm weather we’ve had and the proliferation of zebra mussels are at the top of the list — my list anyway. Let’s talk about the warm weather first.

This global warming thing is a little problematic for me, but there’s no denying that the past few years have been warmer than normal. That’s a fact. We haven’t had the bitter cold and heavy snows in the winters, and the summers have been plenty hot. Overall our lakes and rivers have warmed up. I think that helps largemouth bass. They do better in water that’s too warm for smallmouths.

Now, before you point out to me that the smallmouth fishing has exploded at the same time, let me say I know that. Both species are doing well. But most of the smallies are being caught deep — not all but most. The largemouth tend to inhabit the shallower, warmer, water. And there’s more of it now.

I also think the zebra mussels have helped. They clear the water. That makes it more habitable and helps the weeds grow. There was a time when you couldn’t find a weed in one of these lakes. Now they’re everywhere. Here on Cayuga they ring the lake. The largemouth love it.

This has had an effect on other species, too. I’ve been catching giant sunfish (pumpkinseed) with drop shots along the weed edge since I arrived. They’re bigger than I can ever remember seeing, and they’re prettier too. Their colors are so bright they look like saltwater fish. It’s amazing.

Anyway, this is a really great place to fish. If you can get up here in the next couple of weeks you’re in for a real treat. The daytime heat has broken, the nights are getting cool, and — during the week at least — the lake is peaceful and quiet. The fish are healthy and they’re biting. Take advantage of it while it lasts.

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