First Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open heads to Oneida Lake

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Garrick Dixon

More than 390 pro and co-anglers will take on Oneida Lake during the first Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open held out of Syracuse, N.Y., June 30-July 2.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Bass could be in all stages of the spawn during the first Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open of the season, June 30-July 2 at Oneida Lake, offering professional anglers a variety of bass-catching options.

“We had a pretty warm winter, but then the spring was cooler, so I thought the fish would be well advanced in the spawn by now,” said Kraig Kettelkamp, who finished third in the 2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open at Oneida. “But I think the fish are at their normal stage for this time of year. There will be some prespawn fish, some will still be on beds and then some will be done.”

The New York angler predicts smallmouth and largemouth bass will be holding in a wide range of depths. He expects largemouth will be as shallow as 1 foot and as deep as 15 feet. The smallmouth can be found in a depth range of 10 to 25 feet.

Largemouth thrive in the shallow vegetation (milfoil, cabbage and lily pads) spread throughout the lake. The lake also features plenty of smallmouth hangouts such as shoals, rockpiles and islands.

“The entire lake is just a big shallow bowl, so those fish are close to shore all around the lake,” Kettelkamp said. “It is definitely a mixed-bag lake. That is the nice thing. If the largemouth are off, you only have to run a mile or two away to be into your smallmouth. You don’t have to do anything drastic to switch your game plan.”

The lake yields some quality largemouth, but smallmouth are the dominant species in Oneida. “I have seen schools of 30 to 40 smallmouth chasing bait,” said Kettelkamp, who believes the Open can be won targeting brown bass. “I think a guy could really just put his head down and go for three days’ worth of smallmouth and do really well.”

A variety of lures should produce for the Northern Open competitors. “A spinnerbait and a ChatterBait are going to work well,” he said. “Certainly topwaters will play big. Depending on the weed growth, a few people could get on a decent flipping bite in the weeds.”

The New York angler also expects a variety of soft plastics will trigger bites from largemouth and smallmouth bass during the event.

The Open extends into the busy Fourth of July weekend, but Kettelkamp thinks recreational boat traffic will be tolerable throughout the tournament. He thinks the pleasure boats will be out in force if the weather stays in the mid-80s.

“We fish there a lot during the summertime on hot days, so I expect the boat traffic to be pretty high but reasonable,” he said.

Wind could present a tougher challenge for the competitors at Oneida. “It can be a nasty lake when it comes to wind direction,” Kettelkamp said. “It seems like that east wind can really make it brutal, especially right where the tournament is going out of (Oneida Shore Park).”

Bass fishing at Oneida has remained good despite heavy fishing pressure throughout the years.

“The lake does get an awful lot of tournament pressure,” he said. “Oneida is one of the most popular tournament sites in New York state because it is so centrally located and there are so many fish in it. There are tournaments at Oneida every weekend during the season and even during the week there are night tournaments.”

Kettelkamp thinks the key to victory in this event will be the ability to adjust to crowds. “I don’t know if a guy is going to be able to find some stuff all to himself,” he said. “With a couple of hundred boats (in the Open), I don’t think anyone is going to find a winning school of fish and have it all to himself. An angler will have to be able to really out fish guys in a crowd.”

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Randy Howell won last year’s Open at Oneida with 49 pounds, 2 ounces. Kettelkamp estimates this year’s winning weight should also be in the upper 40s.

“I think there will be a 20-pound bag, and if that guy backs it up with a couple of 16-pound limits, he could be in good shape,” said Kettelkamp, who predicts it will take about 30 to 32 pounds to make the Top 12 cut.

Anglers will take off each day at 5:30 a.m. ET at Oneida Shores Park. Weigh-ins will be held at 2 p.m. at Oneida Shores Park the first two days, with the final weigh-in on Saturday taking place at the Bass Pro Shops in Utica, N.Y., at 3 p.m.
 
The local host for the event is Visit Syracuse.

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