Slow start

Valerie and I got a slow start this morning. I opened my eyes at sunup. There was white fluff all around my head. My ancient mummy-style sleeping bag had developed a small rip. It was spewing goose down.

I dug a roll of Gorilla Tape from my pickup and did a quick, makeshift repair. Gorilla Tape is duct tape on steroids. I believe you could repair a cracked boat hull with this stuff.

I roused Valerie. We headed for McDonalds in Brewerton, a one-stoplight town. Brewerton has two of the five basic food groups for low-budget tournament anglers, McDonalds and Subway. The others are Taco Bell, KFC and pizza (make mine Papa John’s).

Since McDonalds also has WiFi, we’ll be there every morning to e-mail our daily dairies for the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open at Oneida Lake.

The air was brisk and the water choppy when we finally launched at Oneida Shores. I got Valerie a set of small women’s raingear for the tournament. Frogg Toggs. If you fish bass tournaments, well-fitting raingear is more important than your favorite rod and reel.

Besides keeping you dry when it rains, you can’t beat raingear for cutting the wind. We need our raingear today. It was damn chilly. Val never took her Frogg Toggs off the entire day.

After breakfast and coffee at McDonalds, we launched at Oneida Shores. I ducked into a bay across the lake to get out of the wind. We needed to ready our tackle, which was a chaotic mess. I had no time to prepare for this tournament.

I rigged a baitcasting rod for Val and tied on an XCalibur Zell-Pop. She wasn’t getting the casting distance I felt she needed, so we switched to a spinning outfit. That did the trick. I also set her up with a drop-shot outfit.

We spent the next several hours bouncing on waves and fishing mid-lake humps. We fished depths from 6 to 15 feet. The deep grass edge peters out at around 10 to 12 feet.

I believe this edge will be a key during the tournament. We worked it hard with drop shot rigs, but the bass weren’t cooperating. The water was too rough for topwater, so we experimented with spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, crankbaits and a Sabile Magic Swimmer.

We plucked only three smallmouth bass from one stretch today. Like all tournament fishermen, I don’t care to discuss specifics. Then again, given my record fishing the Bassmaster Opens, you’d be a fool to follow my lead.

I’m hoping we learned enough from those bass to get us on the right track Sunday. We came off the water about 5 p.m. We had to find a Walmart. We forgot to pack towels.

After showering that evening, we sat by a campfire and sipped a few beers. We’ve had many conversations around a fire. I hope to have many more.

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