SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Checking social media reports helped Randy Elliott develop the game plan that has him leading the pro division of the Bass Pro Shops Northern Open #1 at Oneida Lake.
"I didn't see anybody posting anything for the last week on big largemouth so I decided to stay with all smallmouth," said Elliott, a veteran of Bassmaster Northern and Southern Opens.
The Bowie, Md., angler caught a five-fish limit of smallmouth bass weighing 19 pounds, 3 ounces to take the early lead in the pro division.
The smallmouth bite was early and often for most of the top contenders including Elliott, who had his limit by about 8 o'clock. However, while other anglers struggled to catch fish later in the day, Elliott kept catching them.
"The fish are post-spawn," he said. "They are hungry and feeding up. There are lots of baitfish around. Every time I caught a fish it was coughing (baitfish) up."
The weather was sunny with a light north wind today but the forecast calls for clouds and rainstorms throughout Friday. Elliott doesn't expect the weather to change his pattern any.
Bird watching is usually a good way to find schooling smallmouth on Oneida as the diving seagulls indicate baitfish and bass activity on the surface, but neither Elliott nor Day 1 runner-up Derek Yasinski relied on the birds to find their fish.
"I found five or six places this week (in practice) that I knew fish were there," said Elliott. The government contractor decided to key on those spots rather than run around looking for bird activity.
"We saw some birds later this afternoon and pulled up on them and caught a few little fish, but I am not fishing the birds," Yasinski said.
Yasinski caught his limit in about his first 30 minutes of fishing and finished the day with 18-9. "Then we jumped around and caught one or two here or there," said the 29-year-old machinist from Senoia, Ga.
"I tried to catch a bigger fish (after catching his limit) but I mostly went prefishing so I could hopefully catch a decent limit tomorrow."
Other pro division anglers in the top 5 include Jesse Tacoronte, Orlando, Fla., third place, 18-0; Wesley Strader, Spring City, Tenn., fourth, 17-7; and Mike Shumanis, Bethlehem, Pa., fifth, 17-6.
Local angler Andrew Hammond took advantage of a one-hour spurt in the middle of the day to catch a three-fish limit weighing 11-3 to move into first place in the co-angler division. The 38-year-old sales rep for a paint coating company lamented losing a fish that would have padded his lead.
"I dropped about a 4 1/2-pounder on my second cast or I would have had about 13 pounds today," said the Fulton, N.Y., angler.
Hosting this tournament is Visit Syracuse (www.visitsyracuse.com). The competitors will take off the next two days at 5:30 a.m. ET at Oneida Shores Park. Friday's weigh-in will be held at 2 p.m. at Oneida Shores Park, with the final weigh-in on Saturday being held at 3 p.m. at the Bass Pro Shops in Utica, N.Y.