SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Last year Todd Faircloth started the season-ending tournament at Oneida battling with Kevin VanDam for the Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year title. He left, in a manner of speaking, with his tail between his legs after finishing a disappointing 93rd here.
But rather than dreading a possible repeat of that debacle, Faircloth said he looked forward to coming back.
"You've got to learn from your mistakes," he said. "So this year I approached it differently. I don't dislike this lake."
His first day catch of 13-14 has him tied with Clark Reehm for 30th place, only a pound and a half out of the top 12 cut. He knows that one or two bites can make up that difference and he's looking forward to fishing into the weekend.
"It was good to go out there today and catch a big bag," he said. "Especially after last year when I kind of spun out."
Wolak not stressed
On the past three trips to Oneida, Dave Wolak has finished no worse than fifth overall, and many pundits picked him to contend for the title. So while his position in 23rd place might seem like a letdown to some, Wolak himself believes that it has him positioned to make a move.
"I had three big schools of smallmouths located and Kevin (VanDam) was on one of them," he said. "Only one of the other schools even showed up, so I went real shallow, like six inches of water, and caught three largemouths."
In a tournament where only three pounds separate 96th place from the money cut and only two and a half pounds separates 50th from 12th, he knows that as long as he progresses to each round he'll have a chance to move up each day.
It's a grind it out type of tournament and those are the type that I do well in," he said.
Sphar not loving New York
Matt Sphar, the only New York resident in the field of 98 anglers, wasn't feeling the homestate love. His Day One catch of 12-1 has him mired in 68th place.
"There is a local advantage, but it's smaller than you'd think," he said. "They've all been here before."
In order to capitalize on his proximity to the tournament site Sphar camped at Oneida for a week and a half before the cutoff, knowing full well that things were likely to change by the time the tournament rolled around.
"It's a grind here this month," he said. "The smallmouths are schooling and roaming around a lot. One minute you're on them, the next minute you're not. They didn't come up this morning all that good for me."
Day One quotes
"Whenever you're less than a day's drive away from home, it's nice. The other guys have all been complaining about how far they had to drive. I just don't want to hear it."
—Rookie Massachusetts pro Mark Burgess
"I started on smallmouth this morning and caught a pretty easy limit. That's what I'll do again tomorrow."
—Tommy Biffle, currently in 5th place, who won here in 2006 on a diet of largemouths.
"I caught a fish on the last cast of the day, culled, cut my line and ran in with it on the floor of the boat."
"There is a specific cover you're looking for. When you find a blend of the right stuff, it's pretty automatic."
—Mark Menendez, currently in 6th with 15-10.
"They call it Oneida, but if I get a check I'm going to call it 'One-neida.'"
--Gerald Swindle, currently 7th with 15-09, who has not made the money here before. He finished 35th out of 50 in 2007 and 79th in both 2006 and 2008.
"I need the wind."
"The opportunity is out there to catch some 15 to 17 pound limits of smallmouths."
"I'm doing the right things to catch a big bag. I just never got a 4- or 5-pound bite."