Eyes on the size prize in New York

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Big smallmouth may be harder to find this week in Upstate New York.

After a thorough practice effort, Destin DeMarion feels confident he can catch a bunch of fish during the Basspro.com Bassmaster Northern Open on the St. Lawrence River. His goal will be to catch five big ones each day.

Sounds like the standard tournament game plan, right? It is, but the river and nearby Lake Ontario will not make it easy this week. 

With the fall transition well under way, those big schools of plump smallmouth that anglers targeted during the Farmers Insurance Bassmaster Elite at the St. Lawrence River in mid July have fractured. The big ones are still around, but they're moving from deep to shallow and presenting anglers with a frustrating game of cat and mouse.

“It takes time, with the fish moving, thermoclines breaking up, the stronger winds, the cooler nights, fish (transitioning) from deep to shallow and moving around because the bait’s moving,” DeMarion said. “There are are lot of variables, so you have to constantly be moving and looking for them.

“I found areas with big fish in practice, went back a couple days later and it’s like ‘Where’d they go?’ I went down a hundred yards and there they were. They’re just moving a lot, so you have to constantly be on your toes.”

DeMarion found tanks in the 6-pound range, but they were few and far between. Smaller fish, he said, were exhaustively abundant.

“Obviously, they’ve had a lot of good spawns the last couple of years. That’s what it’s telling me, but for the tournament, you’re going to have to find those big fish.”

Clearly, this is a scenario that’s good for the long term; tough for the short term. As DeMarion notes, overcoming this dilemma will require craftiness and mobility.

“There’s just a crazy abundance of really small fish of 12 inches or less,” DeMarion said. “There’s just an unlimited amount of those. That looks great for the future of this fishery because those are the 1- to 2-year-old year class fish.