Oneida grind

I’m writing this blog from a McDonald’s in Brewerton, New York. The Golden Arches are only a few minutes drive from Oneida Shores Park where the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open will begin in a few days.

It’s Monday, the first official practice day before the tournament. I came off the water at noon so I could finish an article for Bassmaster Magazine that’s due Thursday. And you thought all I did was fish.

I started my unofficial practice for Oneida Lake last Friday. My plan was to spend three days fishing for smallmouth bass and three day targeting largemouths.

The brown ones have been elusive, but I believe I can sack enough of them to fill my limit each day. I need to hang tough and grind it out, something I failed to do the last time I fished an Open tournament here.

After a slow start on day one, I panicked and ran helter-skelter all over the lake. I tried to fish every spot where I had gotten a bite in practice. I managed only one bass.

I stayed with a few key areas the second day and culled up to a 14-pound limit. I need to do at least that well the first two days this time to make the top 12 cut.

I searched for largemouth bass this morning and failed to catch one. I’ll be back after them tomorrow, because it often takes green bass to win here. If I can find a place or pattern that produces largemouths, I’ll go for them after I sack a limit of small jaws.

Oneida has a substantial algae bloom right now. The water has a greenish stain. I suspect that may be having an impact on the fishing. The lake is also full, which may benefit guys that do well with largemouths at Oneida.

There has been substantial rainfall the past few days. I don’t mind the rain when I’m fishing, but it’s a pain when I’m camping. I’m camping at Oneida Shores Park. I also camped at the James River Open last month when the sky dumped 10 inches of rain there in 24 hours.

Have you ever seen a cartoon character walking around with a perpetual cloud over his head? I’m beginning to feel like that guy.

I’ll move to a motel Wednesday evening when my daughter, Valerie, arrives to provide moral support. I’m lucky to have it.

The drive to Oneida was easier on my 2006 Ford F-150 than the drive to the James River Open. Under the hood is a V6 that’s bolted to a five-speed manual transmission.

It’s not exactly the ideal tow vehicle for a bass boat. However, I do enjoy driving it, and it gets me where I’m going.

Why didn’t I buy something with more horsepower? Good question. I don’t know how it happens, but it seems that circumstance allows my vehicles to choose me.

The V6 and those gears get a serious workout when I’m hauling a bass boat through the mountains. I have to drop down to third gear to climb the steeper grades. The motor churns at 3000 rpm to maintain 50 mph.

I’ve spent a lot of time jockeying with semis in the truck lane.

I never had to drop into second gear until I drove back to Ohio from the aforementioned James River Open. Somewhere in the mountains of Virginia, the two lanes angled up as if they were the highway to heaven.

I downshifted to third and floored it. The speedometer held at 50 mph initially, which is what usually happens. Then the needle slowly inched back to 45 mph. The engine started to lug.

Holy moly, second gear here we go. At 3000 rpm I was climbing to the clouds at 35 mph. The engine had more to give, but I was leery of revving it any higher.

I’ve learned to be patient when climbing mountains with a bass boat in tow. But, I was coming up on a semi that was dogging it at maybe 20 mph. There was no truck lane. I glanced in the review mirror. A car was quickly gaining on us, but it looked far enough back for me to make my move.

I floored the gas pedal, swing into the left lane and zoomed past the semi at a blistering 38 mph. I pulled into the right lane well before the car approached. Move over Dale Earnhardt Jr.