It’s a quick turnaround in New York to the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at Cayuga Lake out of Union Springs, N.Y., Aug. 22-25. This will be the fourth Bassmaster pro level on Cayuga, and it is the eighth of nine regular-season Elite tournaments this year. Micah Frazier won his first Elite title Sunday in the Berkley Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence presented by Black Velvet.
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At just under 40 miles, Cayuga Lake is the longest of New York’s Finger Lakes, named for the gouges done by glacial activity. The ice sheets that retreated 10,000 years ago cut deep, U-shaped valleys and left deposits of gravel that dammed streams to create the lakes.
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Cayuga is the second-largest of the Finger Lakes to Seneca in surface area and volume. While about one quarter of the lake is 20 feet or less -- mostly on the northern end -- Cayuga is 435 feet at its deepest point. There are 95 miles of shoreline on the 42,500-acre lake.
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Tournament central is Frontenac Park in the Union Springs on the northeast end of Cayuga. Launches are scheduled at 6:30 a.m. ET Thursday-Sunday and weigh-ins will be at 3 p.m. each day. Frontenac Park, at 26 Chapel Street, is also site of the expo with music, food and activities for all ages. All B.A.S.S. events are free.
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Cayuga, which will be hosting its third Elite event and fourth pro level tournament, ranks 13th in the Northeast in the Bassmaster 100 Best Bass Lakes. There are populations of largemouth and smallmouth in the lake.
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Fans came out in force in 2016 when Kevin VanDam won the Cayuga Elite in late June with 71 pounds, 13 ounces. In August 2014, Greg Hackney weighed 85-0 to win there, and Pete Gluszek had 56-1 over three days to win a Northern Open in 2012.
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Fishing shoreline and shallower docks, Matt Herren has made it to Championship Sunday in each of the past two events on Cayuga Lake. Fantasy pundits predict anglers adept at fishing grass should perform well, but decent-sized smallmouth could certainly play a role.
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Chris Zaldain is the highest returning finisher from the 2014 event, taking third, Largemouth dominated that year while the earlier June event in 2016 brought smallmouth into play.
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Keith Combs, who finished sixth in 2016, said he thinks the field will focus on the matted grass areas, making Cayuga fish small, but he doesn’t rule out someone figuring out the smallmouth bite. “This lake has a lot of milfoil, eel grass and a variety of other vegetation,” he said. “I think (smallmouth are) probably roaming in deep water this time of year, but if a guy finds the right area where they’re schooling, smallmouth can definitely be a factor.”
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The region and lakes are known for their natural beauty. This is a shot of the canyons in famed Watkins Glen State Park, on the south end of Seneca. Cayuga has similar features, like Taughannock Falls on the southern end. The huge fall in that state park plunges 215 feet past rocky cliffs that tower nearly 400 feet above the gorge. A total of 140 streams flow into Cayuga Lake.
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One mid-lake point of reference is the Cayuga electrical generating station on the east shore, a coal-fired plant that uses lake water as a cooling source. Here anglers will find the lake’s average width of around 1.7 miles. The widest point is about 3.5 miles near Aurora.
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A first-place prize of $100,000 is on the line, as are points in the Toyota Angler of the Year race. The race for several key spots comes to the forefront with only two regular-season events remaining. The top spot has flip-flopped of late, with Scott Canterbury taking over after the St. Lawrence from Drew Cook, who had wrested the lead from Patrick Walters. Expect more movement this week.
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The cut to qualify for the 50th Bassmaster Classic next March on Lake Guntersville out of Birmingham, Ala., now stands at 42nd, and there are a number of anglers within striking range. Koby Kreiger, fifth last time on Cayuga, is 55th and hopes to make a move this week. After the rescheduled Cherokee Casino Tahlequah at Fort Gibson Lake, the top 50 advance to the AOY Championship on Lake St. Clair in late September for one last chance to climb into Classic consideration.
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The forecast for Union Springs this week includes a day of scattered thunderstorms Wednesday that will cool things off for tournament days. Thursday and Friday will be partly cloudy, with lows in the mid-50s and climbing to the low 70s. Winds shouldn’t top 10 mph. It’s expected to be mostly sunny on Saturday and Sunday, with similar temps in the mid- to upper-70s.
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The action starts early Thursday, and B.A.S.S. teams will be out on the water reporting on all the action. Bassmaster LIVE airs each day from 8-11 a.m. ET, and noon-3 p.m. ET, leading into the weigh-ins.