Fantasy Fishing: Count on skilled vegetation anglers to catch them on Cayuga

I’ve fished two B.A.S.S. tournaments on Cayuga Lake (a Northern Open in ‘12 and an Elite Series event in ‘14) and both were held in mid-August. Even though this year’s Elite event is in late June I feel my prior experience will allow me to assemble a strong roster and give you some solid picks to consider for your own Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team.

Cayuga Lake is the longest of the Finger Lakes, running nearly 40 miles from end to end. It’s full of submerged vegetation, especially on the north end, which can be found close to the bank out to 22 feet deep.

I expect the largemouth-dominated fishery to fish both shallow and deep. There will likely be opportunities to catch some big fish and possible five-fish limits sight-fishing, especially the first competition day, but I feel the angler who targets vegetation in 6 to 12 feet will dominate the tournament.


Chris Zaldain is one of a handful of anglers to come from the West Coast within the last five years and shine on the Elite Series. His power fishing and finesse fishing skills complement themselves nicely, which will be useful on Cayuga. He also excels fishing both shallow and deep vegetation.

Zaldain finished third here in ‘14, so he has the confidence and experience to take down the rest of the talented anglers in Bucket A.

Seriously considered: Dean Rojas

Rojas, a shallow-water specialist, loves to put his head down and cover water with a heavy-weighted creature bait. He used this presentation to finish 11th in ’14, and there’s no doubt a heavy-weighted creature bait and jig will be an effective presentation again this year.

He’s also comfortable fishing around other anglers, which can be an issue on Cayuga, especially on the north end where anglers bunch up fishing the lake’s abundant vegetation and healthy fish population.


Dave Lefebre is having a strong “rookie” season on the Elite Series and has already been in contention to win an event after finishing second on Wheeler. The Pennsylvanian has a lot of experience fishing Northern waters and is comfortable fishing both shallow and deep. I feel he’ll be in contention for the win going into championship Sunday.

Seriously considered: Jordan Lee

Lee’s backed up his rookie season by nailing down two Top 12’s already this year. What he may be lacking in experience fishing Northern waters, he makes up for in skill and prior experience on other vegetation-dominated fisheries, like Guntersville. Cayuga may be a thousand miles from Guntersville, but after fishing both places myself I can tell you they can fish similar, especially in the 6- to 12-foot zone.


Like Zaldain, Cliff Pirch is another West Coast angler who’s proved he has the staying power to compete on the Elite Series. Pirch has qualified for three consecutive Bassmaster Classics since ‘14 and has his best finishes on lakes and rivers with good water visibility, like Cayuga.

Pirch used his clear water and finesse fishing skills to finish 23rd on Cayuga in ’14, and I expect him to do well again this year. Look for Pirch to be in the Top 12 come Sunday.

Seriously considered: Todd Faircloth

Faircloth finished runner-up to Greg Hackney on Cayuga in ‘14 by fishing deeper vegetation than most of the field. Even though there will be a bigger fish population up shallow this time, the deep bite will still be there for those who are willing to look for it.


I’ve picked Chad Morgenthaler more than any other Elite angler this year, or maybe it just feels than way because the schedule has been full of shallow-water power fishing venues.

I feel Morgenthaler is the smart pick in Bucket D. I realize he missed a check on Cayuga in ‘14, but he loves to pitch around a heavy weight and jig in vegetation, which I expect to be a strong pattern on Cayuga.

Seriously considered: Brandon Lester

Lester has the ability to power fish shallow and deep, and he had a Top 20 finish here in ‘14. He may not be fishing to his potential so far this season, but it’s only a matter of time before his skills push him up in the standings.


Mark Davis is struggling this season, which is uncharacteristic of him. I, however, am backing the 3-time Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year in Bucket E. Davis has proven he can catch bass from shallow, deep, clear and dirty water conditions; if you look at his tournament statistics he performs well on Northern waters, including Cayuga.

Seriously considered: Chad Grigsby

I can feel Grigsby’s frustration this year. I’ve been there. But I have no doubt his shallow-water vegetation fishing skills will be on display on Cayuga. He’s going to be in his element, which means he’ll be comfortable and in a position to fish well.