SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Joey Rodrigues of Danbury, Conn., won his first ever BASS event today, sealing the CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open win on Oneida Lake by a mere two ounces over runner-up Shinichi Fukae.
"I'm a little surprised, I got lucky," said a stunned Rodrigues. "I was struggling in practice, but during the tournament I was able to find some fish."
Rodrigues clinched the win with his sack of 16 pounds, 14 ounces on Day 3 for a total of 44-14. Using a 4-inch worm, he worked a drop shot in water 8 to 12 feet deep around weedy humps in the morning and then moved to shoreline structure in the afternoon.
Rodrigues, 30, won more than $46,000 in cash and prizes including a new Triton boat with a Mercury outboard.
Japanese-born Fukae of Mineola, Texas, led after Day 2 but fell to second with a limit of 13-11 and a total of 44 pounds, 10 ounces. He fished shallow using a 3/8 ounce jig with 4-inch Yamamoto Senko.
This was Fukae's first time competing on Oneida Lake and his best finish in a BASS-sanctioned event. "I came here right after Champlain," said Fukae, referring to the previous CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open. "I am mad, but I've had a very good time this tournament."
Chris Daves of Hopewell, Va., came into Day 3 in second place but ended the tournament in third. He weighed in 14 pounds, 5 ounces, bringing his total to 44-10. Daves was targeting schooling fish off small rock piles and grass edges using a Bass Pro Shops XPS Lazer Eye Extreme Slim Dog.
New Yorker Peter Dirado took top honors in the non-boater division. He crushed the competition with a 14-pound, 2-ounce sack that brought his total to 40-1, more than 6 pounds ahead of second place.
Though Dirado, 40, fishes local bass tournaments, the final CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open on Oneida Lake was his first BASS tournament. He caught his limit using top water lures, spinnerbaits, Senkos and jigs. "It was awesome," he said.
The top 25 boaters and non-boaters in CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open points standings advance to the Open Championship on the Alabama River in Prattville, Ala., Dec. 1-4, 2005. The top five from that tournament qualify for the CITGO Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 24-26, on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla.
Ontario, Canada's Mike Desforges finished first in boater standings with a total of 769 points, trailed by Rodney Sorrell with 765 points and Frank Scalish in third with 762 points.
"It feels great to be in the lead," said Desforges. "I'm going to try to make it to the Alabama River."
Also, the Salt City Bassmasters hosted a CastingKids competition for youngsters ages 7-10 and 11-14 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Oneida Shores Park prior to the weigh-in. Jacob Jones, 7, of Camillus, N.Y. won the younger age division with 90 points and 13-year-old Thomas Merritt of Cicero, N.Y. swept the older age division with 130 points. Both competitors received a gold medallion and Zebco rod and reel and will advance to the state CastingKids competition.
Day Three Purolator Big Bass
Boater: Randall Romig, 4-8, Barto, Penn.
Boater: Rick Ash, 4-8, Pottstown, Penn.
Non Boater: Jim Staszewski, 3-13, West Gardiner, Maine
Local sponsors: Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce.
Bassmaster Northern Open sponsors: CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).