SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Milking one spot for three straight days made a winner of Wil Hardy II at the Bass Pro Shops Northern Open #1 on Oneida Lake.
The Harlem, Ga., angler caught his second consecutive 18-pound limit (18 pounds, 4 ounces) of smallmouth bass to win the pro division and the grand prize of a $45,000 Nitro Z20/Mercury 225 Pro XS rig and $8,491 in cash. The 26-year-old Hardy finished with a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 53-13 to win his first B.A.S.S. tournament and claim a 2017 Bassmaster Classic berth if he fishes the remaining two Northern Opens.
Each day Hardy caught his limit early while Carolina rigging a green pumpkin Zoom Speed Craw and dragging a 3/4-ounce Green Fish Tackle Creeper jig tipped with a green pumpkin Zoom Speed Craw along the bottom. “I had a limit pretty early again (about 7:30 a.m.) today but it was a whole lot slower than it has been,” he said. “We didn’t catch many small ones. It seems like most of the ones we caught were pretty decent. Then we culled up three or four times after that.”
Hardy said the area he fished had a “whole lot of everything” including scattered gravel, zebra mussels and cuts of grass. “I found that spot last year (in the Open) but I never really caught them that good there,” said Hardy, who caught a quick limit there the first day. Most of the fish he caught were about 11 to 13 feet deep.
Indianapolis, Ind., pro Jacob Wheeler chased after smallmouth again and caught a limit weighing 16-6 to take second place with 50-9. “Today was a lot of fun,” Wheeler said. “I went out there and caught a lot of fish. That is the cool thing about Oneida Lake. It is getting better and better every single time we come here.”
Wheeler found smallmouth roaming in the holes of grass and along breaklines where the fish were 10 to 13 feet deep. His main tactics for catching brown bass were drop-shotting with a green pumpkin finesse worm to catch a limit and switching to a Carolina-rigged Larew Punch Out craw or Larew Biffle Bug Junior for kicker fish.
The rest of the top five in the pro division included Jamie Hartman, Newport, N.Y., third place, 50-6; Kurt Dove, Del Rio, Texas, fourth, 50-4; and Larry Mazur, East Aurora, N.Y., 48-11.
The co-angler top prize of a $30,000 Triton 179 TRX/Mercury 115ELPT Four Stroke package went to Joel Willert who finished in first with 29-9. The 32-year-old Burnsville, Minn., angler caught all of his fish throughout the tournament on a Ned Rig and drop-shotting a soft plastic goby bait.
The Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award of $750 on the pro side went to Mike Shumanis, Bethlehem, Pa., with a 5-4 largemouth. Jeremy Jones, Big Rapids, Mich., weighed in a 5-pound bass to earn the $250 Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award on the co-angler side.
Hardy also received the Livingston Lures Leader Award of $250 for finishing as the top pro on Day 2. Darryl Halbert, Enoree, S.C., won the Livingston Lures gift pack worth $250 for finishing as the top co-angler on Day 2.