Oneida has it all

While you’re reading this I’m putting together my tackle to get ready for Lake Oneida. That’s a tougher project than you might think. With some fisheries you know what you’re going to get and you know what you’ll need. Not so with Oneida. It’s very complex.

What I mean is that if I’m headed to Lake Erie I’ll be carrying smallmouth rigs. That’s all I’ll need. If I’m headed to Lake Okeechobee the front deck of my boat will be stacked with shallow largemouth stuff. There’s no such thing as a smallmouth bass down there. With Oneida, however, I have to be ready for anything and everything.

You can win on Oneida with big smallmouths on drop shot rigs, shaky heads and several other things. You can also target big largemouth with other baits and accomplish the same result. And then there’s the topwater factor. Both species will slaughter frogs in the grass and the mats, depending upon conditions. It’s like being a kid turned lose in a candy store. You don’t know what to grab first. Everything is tempting.

That means I’m rigging two or three outfits for every kind of fishing imaginable. I have drop shot rigs, shaky heads, jig setups and, of course, several rod and reel combos to throw my favorite Snag Proof frogs. And that’s certainly not a complete list. All I’m trying to do is give you a taste of what we’re looking at.

I say we because every Elite Series angler will face the same challenge come next Monday morning, although we may have different goals. Oneida is a unique lake. She offers challenges and opportunities like no other. 

At the same time a guy has to keep in mind the tremendous fish population in that lake. There’s no safe margin of weight when you fish Lake Oneida. You have to perform at the top of your game every day and make changes during those days. If you don’t you’ll be an also-ran. Any given angler can catch a huge sack of bass on any given day.

What I’m describing makes the trip to Oneida fun, but also really tough. It isn’t often we get to pick the species we want to target and, at the same time, get to pick the way we want to target them. I think of it as a treat but also as a challenge.

Regardless of all that, in the end it’ll be about making the right decisions. Someone will figure out how to catch the biggest bass. They’ll win the tournament and break everyone else’s heart. Hopefully, one of them won’t be mine.

I’m currently sitting in the 14th spot in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. Aaron Martens and I both have 462 points and my brother, Bobby, is right behind me with 448 points. I need to have a strong finish next week if I’m going to fish in the postseason. And I’ll tell you what, that’s definitely my goal. I do not want to take the fall off.

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