Strader in prime position

Tennessee pro Wesley Strader put himself in a great position to sneak to the top spot this week. After catching 17-10 on Thursday he busted 18-2 on Friday and was in 3rd place, just 1 pound behind.

After searching all day, I found him fishing the north shoreline and he believes he has the same weight roughly as Day 1. If that's the case then he should definitely be in the running and possibly a favorite to take the title with 1st place York and 4th place Kempkers struggling. There is no word on how 2nd place Wetherell has done today. I failed to find him out there.

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Kenney culling

JT Kenney punched his ticket to the final day with two good days on Oneida. His weight after Friday's weigh-in rounded out at 34-6 and had him in 10th place, respectively.

He's even catching and culling all day, but he has at least two in his livewell that he doesn't want to take to weigh-in. With how tough it's been today, I'd certainly expect him to move up a few spots given how tight the weights are.

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Walters with a limit

Patrick Walters of South Carolina is fishing his first Top 12 on the Bassmaster Opens trail this week at Oneida Lake. The College Series product has blasted them the last couple years and has taken home a few wins.

If you remember, just this year he and partner Tyler All won the Southern Regional on Winyah Bay. They busted the biggest bag of the event on the final day and won by 9 pounds.

Walters is looking for a 7+ like he had to anchor that bag. Right now he has a limit worth roughly 12 pounds.

"I'm going to need to do some culling, that's for sure," Walters said.

He started the day tied for 8th overall with 34-15.

BassCam: Driving rain, gusting wind

Driving rain and gusting wind is changing it up for the Top 12.

Garrett's momentum

John Garrett has only fished six Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens and already qualified for the Top 12 on two occasions. What’s even more notable about that is the first Championship Saturday appearance came just two weeks ago on the swampy waters of the Sabine River in southeast Texas. Now, he’s at it again on a totally different Oneida Lake.

The key to all of the above is Garrett had fished neither fishery, or that type of water, until the competition. So how did he dial into smallmouth on a new lake?

“Every summer for the past four years I’ve fished Lake St. Clair with my grandad,” he told me yesterday. “I’ve learned a lot about smallmouth and much of what I’m doing came from those trips.”

At St. Clair, one of the best smallmouth lakes in the country, Garrett honed his skills fishing rockpiles, bottom depressions with scattered weeds, and other subtle contour changes. All three types of smallmouth water are in play now on Oneida.

Garrett is no newcomer to tournament fishing. At Bethel University, the scholarship/student athlete is on the bass fishing team. Garrett won the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Classic Bracket presented by Bass Pro Shops. He did that last summer on Kentucky Lake, his home water. By virtue of the win he fished the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. The win also earned him paid entry fees in the Opens, along with a Toyota Tundra used to tow his Nitro boat.

Garrett's gone

Moments ago John Garrett sat down, re-rigged a few baits and then pulled his trolling motor and left the area. From the looks of it, he headed to where he and Zack Birge caught them fast and furious on Day 1. No one from the Top 12 was fishing that grass line so Garrett's hope is it will produce for him.

York said he was going to wait the fish out until they bit for him. It's do or die on that spot it seems.

York and Garrett

Steve York, the Day 2 leader, and John Garrett the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series representative have been sharing water for most of this event, but today hasn't been nearly as prosperous as previous days.

Right now York has one smallmouth in the box and it certainly isn't the size he needs or wants. He didn't measure it, but it couldn't have been much bigger than the 12-inch size limit, possibly a 13-incher.

Meanwhile Garrett is still sitting on zero and he jumped off his only bite of the morning, which by his reaction was a good one when it jumped.

Both York and Garrett have mixed up their baits, but they seem to be catching more pickerel than bass at the moment. A jerkbait has paid big dividends this week, not only for these two but a good number of the field.

From the looks of it, it seemed that York threw around a jig on this offshore grass. Don't hold me to this, but I believe his two big largemouth that he caught came on the jig, at least that was the backstage mumblings I overheard.

Rain and an east wind greeted their area much sooner than it has the previous two days.

Morning rain

For the first time during this tournament, rain is falling during the early morning portions. We've been lucky with just a few afternoon showers the last two days, but a storm cell is hitting our area right now. It started to drizzle at takeoff and has continued to do so, but the yellow portion of the system is on us now.

It looks like it should pass around 8 a.m. and it'll be clear for a bit after that.

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Championship Saturday underway

Championship Saturday of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open on Oneida Lake is underway as the Top 12 heads out for the final day of competition. Only 2 pounds, 11 ounces separate the leader Steve York and 12th place Chad Pipkens. Today, it's anyone's ballgame. 

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Numbers to consider

The first Northern Open of the 2017 season has a decidedly northern flair.

That’s logical. Open tournaments get a greater number of regional participants than say the Elite Series, where the anglers travel to wherever the tournament is held. It also makes sense because the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open No. 1 is being dominated by a crazy good smallmouth bite on New York’s Lake Oneida.

Northern (and Midwestern) anglers theoretically have an edge when it comes to catching smallies. The particular type of bass can be found in a good portion of the U.S., but it’s native to the cooler-water states of the middle and upper reaches of the Mississippi River basin and the Great Lakes region. So familiarity with these hard-fighting bass likely is key to catching.

Some numbers to consider:

  • Of the 12 pros remaining in the tournament, eight hail from northern states (three are from Michigan and one each is from Connecticut, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and New York.)
  • More than half of the 198 pros in the open are from northeastern or Midwestern U.S. states – 106 of them to be exact. That does not include the four anglers from Maryland or the lone angler from West Virginia, as those two states are listed in the South Region, according to the U.S. census. It also doesn’t include the four Canadian anglers in the field, who are decidedly more “northern” geographically than Marylanders or West Virginians. 
  • Host state New York had the greatest number of entries (27) in the original pro angler field of 198. Pennsylvania had 19, New Jersey 13, and Michigan 12. Virginia had the most anglers (18) from what the census lists as a southern state. Tennessee had 11 and North Carolina 10.
  • With three anglers surviving to fish on Saturday, Michigan placed exactly 25 percent of its competitors inside the cut. Coincidentally, the cut was to the Top 12, so Michigan residents make up 25 percent of the pros fishing on Lake Oneida for the open championship. They include tournament leader Steve York (two-day total of 36 pounds, 12 ounces,) Kyle Kempkers (fourth, 35-8,) and Chad Pipkens (12th, 34-1.)