SYRACUSE, N.Y.– Of the three 2022 St. Croix Bassmaster Northern Opens presented by Mossy Oak Fishing, Oneida Lake is the only venue that provides the opportunity for true Northern smallmouth fishing. Anglers took full advantage of that opportunity on Day 1 and brought impressive limits of mostly brown fish to the scales.
Two 20-pound bags hit the scales as Kenny Mittelstaedt took the lead with 20 pounds, 7 ounces while Kyoya Fujita followed close behind with 20-3. More impressive, however, is the sustained weights throughout the Top 100 anglers.
84 anglers weighed limits between 18-0 and 15-0, with 41 of those anglers catching over 16 pounds. With the field jumbled together, moving day on Oneida could be critical for those anglers in contention for Elite Series bid.
In total, boaters caught 2723-9 pounds of bass on Day 1 with 145 limits while co-anglers caught 1216-10 pounds and 98 limits.
Rock and grass transitions played a key role on Day 1. Conditions were calm and clear all day and even though the bags were impressive, many anglers said the bites did not come easy. Casey Smith has fished Oneida for many years and despite an 18-7 bag that put him in 6th-place, he would like to see conditions change.
“The sunny and calm conditions made it way more difficult,” he said. “They get too good of a look. It is so clear. You can see down in 7,8 and 9 feet of water.”
With fish spread out between a spawning, post spawn or early summer phase, the top anglers on Day 1 had to bounce around multiple spots to achieve their bags.
Mittelstaedt moved between five different areas during his day and made critical culls throughout the day. Fujita moved between several different offshore humps on his way to a 2nd-place Day 1 showing while fellow Japanese angler Kenta Kimura used one specific technique on multiple offshore places and a topwater to land in fourth with 18-15.
“I was running and gunning,” Kimura said. “You can’t hardly tell if the fish are there on LiveScope. You have to make casts and majority of the time the bigger ones are right on the bottom. I probably hit 10 spots throughout the day.”
Smith caught bass in five different areas, but stopped at close to 25 spots in the process.
Jake Maddux was the only angler who said on record he was targeting both largemouth and smallmouth throughout the day. That strategy paid off with a 18-3 mixed bag for the young Alabama angler, putting him in 7th-place to end Day 1.
He estimated all of his smallmouth weighed just over 4 pounds while his biggest largemouth clocked in at 3-10 and was locked on bed.
“I was moving around and covering a lot of water in practice,” Maddux said. “Today I had to slow down in some areas but I was still fishing fast. I had a lot of waypoints from where I graphed and I eliminated a lot of water and had to feel it out. I would spend 30 to 45 minutes on largemouth and then go back and fish for smallmouth.”
Maddux said he is prepared to run new water tomorrow as well. He has plenty of waypoints he has not touched yet and learned a couple things from his co-angler that he will keep in the back of his mind.
While Joey Nania landed in 13th with 17-13, slick conditions made the fishing difficult during the middle of the day. But by trying a couple different spots, he made some key culls in the late afternoon to improve his day.
“I’m fishing as many places as possible and just covering water and keeping the bait wet,” Nania said. “I’m hoping the wind will blow tomorrow. A little breeze should help.”
While plenty of anglers, like Kimura, are fishing a mid-depth range, big bass have also been caught in shallow water. Mittelstaedt has been to Oneida before and had not spent any time shallower than 8 feet of water. But he decided to go shallower for this event when he realized the weather conditions would be calm and sunny.
He targeted smallmouth, but also ran into a bonus largemouth in one of his shallow areas that made the weigh-in team.
“These sunny, calm days make it good for shallow smallmouth fishing so I stuck with that. I’m not sure if I will be able to do it again tomorrow but I have plenty of offshore stuff to go to,” he explained. “It is just something I have noticed with smallmouth throughout the years. When it gets calm and sunny, they like to get on top of the shallow shoals.”
While the bass he caught today were not specifically on bed spawning, Mittelstaedt mentioned that he could visually target some of the bass he caught on Day 1 while his co-angler had a good day as well blind casting. He also found one that was locked on a bed that he will try and catch tomorrow.
Shallow bass also played a role in Nania’s day. He found a key 3-pounder in shallow water late in the day and was able to land that bass by sight fishing.
While sunny skies are expected to prevail tomorrow, the wind is forecasted to increase on Day 2, which could shake things up. The full field will launch from Oneida Shores Park starting at 6 a.m. ET and will return for weigh-in at 2 p.m.