Cayuga full of question marks and no grass

UNION SPRINGS, N.Y. — After three days of practice, Cayuga Lake has presented more questions than answers for the Elite Series anglers. The main question is this: Where are the bass going to be since there’s very little of the grass that has positioned fish in the previous two Elite Series tournaments here?

“I’ve fished here since I started (tournament fishing) in 2001,” said Jamie Hartman, who is a native of upstate New York. “This is the most different I’ve ever seen it. The grass situation is a lot different. We had such a cold, long, high-water spring.”

The questions will begin to be answered Thursday when the four-day SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at Cayuga Lake begins. There is no question that Cayuga will produce some five-bass limit, 20-pound bags like it always does.

“It’s still going to take 17 to 20 pounds a day to win because they live here,” said Bill Lowen. “It’s not like it has been in the past, at least for me. But I’m sure guys are going to catch them. They always do. They catch what lives here.”

The Elite Series has been here two times in recent years. Kevin VanDam won a June 20-23 tournament in 2016 with a four-day total of 71 pounds, 13 ounces. Greg Hackney won an August 21-24 event in 2014 with 85-0. When asked to predict the winning weight at Wednesday’s anglers’ meeting, the estimates ranged from a high of 83-2 to a low of 57-6 – in other words, all over the place.

“There’s a bunch of bass out there,” said a confident Seth Feider, who predicted 83-2. “It was all I was hoping for. I came and prepped for it, and it’s all lining up.”

Chris Zaldain finished third at Cayuga in 2014. While he’s not as confident as Feider, Zaldain still thinks it will take about 19 pounds a day to win.

“It’s so hard to find that extraordinary grass,” he said. “Everything looks the same. It’s almost like there’s a big blanket on the bottom. The fish are so hard to find because that’s all they usually relate to – the grass.”

Cayuga is one of New York’s glacier-formed Finger Lakes, which run north and south in deep channels. This 42,500-acre lake has depths up to 435 feet.

“I know what lives here,” Zaldain said. “There is a ton of bass in this place. They’re just not relating to what a bass fisherman typically finds them in. Finding that extraordinary grass has been very difficult.”

As Lowen mentioned, somebody in the 75-man Elite Series field will catch them this week. They catch what lives here, and big bass live in Cayuga Lake in abundance.

Daily takeoffs begin at 6:30 a.m. and weigh-ins at 3:00 p.m. at Frontenac Park.