SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The 198 anglers competing in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open No. 1 hammered the smallmouth bass on Thursday.
Steve York rode that bite into 19th place on Day 1, but he wanted more on Day 2.
York caught three hefty smallmouths Friday on Oneida Lake, and he added a pair of kicker largemouth bass that filled his limit. The mixed-bag weighed 19 pounds, 11 ounces and was the heaviest creel so far in the tournament. The haul propelled the Bronson, Mich., pro to the top of the leaderboard with a two-day total of 36-12.
Now York will try to hold off the remaining 11 anglers who are hot on his heels for the tournament championship. The winner will collect a boat/motor package valued at nearly $50,000 as well as a berth in next year's GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods provided he fishes the final two Northern Open events in 2017.
York fished with purpose on Friday. After a slow start, his primary area finally turned on and he boated three keeper bass in short order. York swung out of the spot and returned later to find the area still producing. He's hoping it continues to do so on Saturday when he hits the water and heads for the same honey hole.
The area produced a 4-14 largemouth on Friday which was the Phoenix Boats Big Bass on Day 2. York also earned the Livingston Lures Leader Award by virtue of having the second-day edge on the field.
"The key was getting the largemouths mixed in," York said. "That and multiple baits. The weather and the bite are changing up during the day, and figuring out what to throw at what time boosted me. I'll tie on about three main baits tomorrow (and see what happens)."
Connecticut pro Alex Wetherell caught a five-bass limit on Friday that weighed 17-6. That gave the Day 1 leader a two-day total of 35-15 and put him in second place.
Wetherell was going to head east on Oneida Lake to start Day 2, but he made a last-minute decision to go north instead. He said he'll maintain an open mind until he blasts off Saturday.
"To be honest, I'm going to pray on it and when I have peace, I'll make the decision," Wetherell said. "It paid off today and I'm fishing tomorrow."
Tennessee pro Wesley Strader is in third place with 35-12 overall. His Day 2 total of 18-2 was one of six limits that topped the 18-pound mark on Friday. There were four such bags caught on Day 1, though the overall weights were slightly down on Day 2.
Michigan pro Kyle Kempkers survived the cut and is in fourth place overall with 35-8.
Bethel University angler John Garrett continues to fish with authority in Open events, and currently sits in fifth place with 35-2. That follows his Top-12 showing in the second Central Open of the season on the Sabine River two weeks ago.
Garrett was the first angler to weigh-in on Friday and he put 18-4 on the scales. Each of his five bass were in his live well by 10 a.m., and he slowly culled up from that point. Garrett said he fished the same school of bass Friday that helped him catch a 16-14 limit on Day 1.
"The school shrunk a little bit and it moved about 50 yards," he said. "I'm catching them on a Strike King Sexy Dog and a Strike King KVD jerk-bait. I'll probably stick with that tomorrow. My co-angler caught them on a drop-shot and a Carolina rig, so I have a couple approaches tomorrow in case they don't bite top-water or a jerk-bait."
The remaining anglers making the Top 12 cut are: Sixth, Glynn Goodwin, 35-1; seventh, Stanley Sypeck Jr. 35-1; eighth (tie), Josh Douglas and Patrick Walters, 34-15; 10th, JT Kenney, 34-6; 11th, Jason Putnam, 34-6; and 12th, Chad Pipkens, 34-1.
The top pro will win a Nitro Z20 bass boat with a Mercury 225 Pro XS engine. The shot at the Classic is an added prize if he fishes the Northern Open events on the James River in Virginia this August and on Tennessee's Douglas Lake in September.
Virginia's Barry Brandt Jr. paces the co-angler field with a two-day total of 20-6. He caught 10-13 on Day 1 and followed with 9-9 on Friday to take the lead in that division. The winning co-angler will receive at Triton 179 TrX boat and Mercury 115 ELPT 4-stroke outboard.
Launch for the third and final day of the tournament will be held Saturday at 6 a.m. at Oneida Shores County Park. The final weigh-in will be held beginning at 3:15 p.m. at Bass Pro Shops, 1579 Clark St. Road, in Auburn, N.Y.
The Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau is hosting this Bassmaster Northern Open.