3-pound smallie

A 3 1/2-pounder for Destin Demarion.

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Wind out of east, fishing least

That myth is fact on Oneida Lake, which by topography runs east-west. And according to local anglers—and tournament history—the fishing is indeed less productive when the wind blows from that direction. And blowing it is. Photographer Andy Crawford just checked in from the gusty lake, saying there are two-footers on the open water—which is most of this oval-shaped fishery.

This time yesterday, Andy reported Frenchman Island—a popular community hole—as covered up in boats. Today? No boats at all. In fact, yesterday Andy said he could easily see boats across the sunny, calm water. Today, boats are fewer to see, and those he’s spotted are on windblown points, or hidden in the canals and quieter coves.

With that said, it’s likely we could see a notable shift in the tournament leader board. Stay tuned to see what happens on this eve of Championship Saturday.


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Bailing on the community holes

My eyes and ears for this blog today are Andy Crawford, our on-water photographer, who is compiling a gallery of the morning action. He’ll only be on the water for another hour, before returning to shore to process his gallery and publish that to this website. 

Not surprisingly, the notorious community holes of Oneida Lake— filled up quickly this morning. Andy said the holes were covered in boats, with most anglers fishing vertical baits. The normal pattern befitting that observation is the smallmouth hide inside the edges of grassy edges, where the sun casts its brightness into the grassy openings. When gobies or baitfish swim into that target zone, the bass ambush them. The other pattern is fishing around the grassy edges of the islands, namely the 25-acre Frenchman Island that is another top community hole. 

What is making those patterns tough to evolve are the prevailing conditions. Those are sunny skies and calm winds, neither of which are conducive to that bite. What is more, what is now happening validates the feedback Andy and I yesterday received from the anglers. It’s just plain tough out there. By 9 a.m., the boats were dispersing from the community holes and heading in all directions of the lake. 

So far, Andy has few fish catches. Gary Clouse caught a bass flipping along a grassy shoreline. Otherwise, look for a sequence of birds in the gallery, including this bald eagle. 

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The other tournament

This morning began the final event of the 2019 Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Opens series. Next week, a similar scenario will pan out in Oklahoma at the Central Open.

Back in New York, the competition just began with the 6:30 a.m. takeoff at Oneida Shores Park at Oneida Lake. Prior to the Wednesday tournament briefing in talking with some of the anglers, all expressed the same sentiment. That is there will less of a constant in the standings and more daily shifting around on the scoreboard. Nobody really elaborated, but I have a hunch after covering all of the Opens held here during this time of the year. 

For one, the offshore bite in play means the community holes will see heavy pressure, as they do during the short bass season. With 170 boats in the tournament that means the sustainable population of bass will diminish each day. The edge could go to the angler that chooses to avoid the community holes, and find something different, away from the crowd. 

Meanwhile, another tournament is silently playing out on another scoreboard. It is the angler of the year standings that produce the prospects for the 2020 Bassmaster Elite Series. Five anglers will receive invitations, and then have until a deadline date, to be determined, to decide if they want to make the big move. 

The top five get invites, but it always takes going beyond fifth place in the final standings. This year it could take going way deeper to lock in those invites, and here is why. Among the top anglers, the following are FLW Tour pros. John Cox (leader), Bryan Schmitt (third), Austin Felix (fifth) and Buddy Gross (sixth).

Rumors are swirling about the future of FLW, and that certainly will give those anglers incentive to make the move to B.A.S.S. For the FLW loyalists like Cox, they will be doing some hard thinking about what to do next.

Elsewhere on the list is the only current Elite Series angler. He is Brandon Lester, in fourth place as of Thursday. Lester is exempt so his spot will be opened up to another Eastern Opens angler. 

With exception of the FLW guys, the current prospects include Destin DeMarion (second), Craig Chambers (eighth), and Whitney Stephens (10th). Should they say yes to the invite, the window of opportunity for making pitches to potential sponsors will be narrow. Normally, that deadline is in early November, leaving them them about eight weeks to seal the deals. 

Stay tuned on this one. It will be worth watching to see who moves up, both in the final standings on Saturday, and who decides to move on to the Elite Series. 

Getting started

Co-angler Travis DeHart says, "Lets gets this derby started."

Morning vlogging

Austin Neary updating his fans in North Carolina. Follow Dream Catchers Fishing.