We’re back in Waddington, N.Y., a place that has been very good to me and one I love to visit.
I fished my first B.A.S.S. tournament on the St. Lawrence River in 1987, and I’ve won here three times. Every time we come back it never ceases to amaze how the fishery improves each year.
And I’m not alone. Several other Elite anglers have been touting the good fishing this week and this tournament is going to be a dogfight that should produce some real quality limits and big smallmouth.
We’re here later than last time, and the fish are in full summer patterns. They are schooled up deeper so it makes the current easier to fish because we can get over the top of them without spooking them. Catching them shouldn’t be a problem but finding the 5-pounders will be the key to winning.
How good has it become? When I won here in 1995 it took 41 pounds and in 1999 it was 51 pounds. Last year I won with 90 pounds, and it could take even more this year.
Several factors make it so good. The massive volume of water that flows from Lake Ontario through the many islands, flats and grass beds that the lake has to offer helps keep it healthy.
In addition, the forage base is diverse and huge. While no one likes the introduction of exotics like zebra mussels and gobies into U.S. waters, both have had a positive effect on the bass fishing in this river. The zebra mussels have made the river clearer and gobies are a high protein food source utilized by all of the gamefish - walleyes, perch, pike, muskies and of course, smallmouth and largemouth bass.
It is a unique fishery because of the strong current. There are tons of shoals and islands that create eddies in which the fish can feed.
I share this with you because this area isn’t just a pro tournament destination, but a great place for a family vacation as well. It’s a beautiful area that offers plenty of things to see and do other than fishing. You’ll have no problem finding a campground nearby or a place to stay during the visit.
Nor do you need a big boat to fish here. A lot of people are fishing from Bass Trackers to V-bottom aluminum boats, even when the wind gets up because you can tuck in behind many of the islands and catch fish.
As good as bass fishing is, the system also offers tremendous walleye fishing, lots of jumbo yellow perch, aggressive northern pike and world class muskie fishing.
In fact, I’ve heard stories this week about Elite anglers tangling with big muskies while practicing for the event.
One piece of advice - if you do come to the area, I strongly suggest you have GPS electronics with an updated mapping program on your boat. Many of the shoals are shallow, and during low-water periods like we are seeing now, you can avoid damage to your engine’s lower unit by navigating around them.
Aside from some unforeseen change in fishing conditions this week, buckle up for a heckuva shootout. The St. Lawrence River should deliver some impressive catches and a tight battle on the weigh-in stand.
Remember, it’s all about the attitude!