How-To

Oneida Lake strategies

See how the Top 12 caught their fish at the final Bass Pro Shops Northern Open.

<p> 	Oneida Lake offered a diverse fishery to the anglers at the recent Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open. Grass, rock, sand and wood provided ample cover to ply in search of the numerous smallmouth bass and hefty largemouth that call Oneida home. While Ish Monroe won the event on a shallow largemouth pattern, the rest of the Top 12 finalists employed a diverse array of techniques from topwater to spinnerbaits to soft plastics. Here’s how they caught them.</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - Oneida Lake offered a diverse fishery to the anglers at the recent Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open. Grass, rock, sand and wood provided ample cover to ply in search of the numerous smallmouth bass and hefty largemouth that call Oneida home. While Ish Monroe won the event on a shallow largemouth pattern, the rest of the Top 12 finalists employed a diverse array of techniques from topwater to spinnerbaits to soft plastics. Here’s how they caught them.
<p> 	<strong>#12 Kurt Dove -- 42 pounds, 14 ounces</strong></p> <p> 	Kurt Dove paired a 3/4-ounce chartreuse War Eagle spinnerbait with a Powell 734 casting rod and 16-pound Toray SuperHard Upgrade fluorocarbon. He also spooled 12-pound Toray on a Powell 703 for tossing a shad-colored Ima Flit jerkbait. “The biggest key on the Flit was the orange belly,” Dove said. “It creates more flash. Smallies like bright stuff.”</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - #12 Kurt Dove -- 42 pounds, 14 ounces Kurt Dove paired a 3/4-ounce chartreuse War Eagle spinnerbait with a Powell 734 casting rod and 16-pound Toray SuperHard Upgrade fluorocarbon. He also spooled 12-pound Toray on a Powell 703 for tossing a shad-colored Ima Flit jerkbait. “The biggest key on the Flit was the orange belly,” Dove said. “It creates more flash. Smallies like bright stuff.”
<p> 	Dove finished 12th in the tournament with 42 pounds, 14 ounces, primarily targeting smallmouth bass on deeper grass edges. While many of the other competitors searched shallower water, Dove kept his bait in the 9- to 11-foot zone, keying in on sparse coontail. “Some days, I could throw the spinnerbait and fish it fast and they would hit it on top,” Dove said. “Other days, I had to throw the Flit as a follow-up bait, because you could just let it sit there.”</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - Dove finished 12th in the tournament with 42 pounds, 14 ounces, primarily targeting smallmouth bass on deeper grass edges. While many of the other competitors searched shallower water, Dove kept his bait in the 9- to 11-foot zone, keying in on sparse coontail. “Some days, I could throw the spinnerbait and fish it fast and they would hit it on top,” Dove said. “Other days, I had to throw the Flit as a follow-up bait, because you could just let it sit there.”
<p> 	<strong>#11 Ron Bane -- 42 pounds, 15 ounces</strong></p> <p> 	Ron Bane gave his strategy a personal touch, crafting his own chartreuse spinnerbait to attack the Oneida smallmouth. He also employed a medium-diving Norman Middle N crankbait in the shad-like “splatterback” color. “I was fishing them as fast as I could reel,” Bane said.</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - #11 Ron Bane -- 42 pounds, 15 ounces Ron Bane gave his strategy a personal touch, crafting his own chartreuse spinnerbait to attack the Oneida smallmouth. He also employed a medium-diving Norman Middle N crankbait in the shad-like “splatterback” color. “I was fishing them as fast as I could reel,” Bane said.
<p> 	Bane, who finished 11th with a total of 42 pounds, 15 ounces, was remarkably consistent; he posted stringers in the 14-pound range each day of the event. Like the other smallmouth chasers in the field, weeds were the primary focus. Bane threw both the spinnerbait and crankbait near “grass in 10 to 12 feet of water.”</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - Bane, who finished 11th with a total of 42 pounds, 15 ounces, was remarkably consistent; he posted stringers in the 14-pound range each day of the event. Like the other smallmouth chasers in the field, weeds were the primary focus. Bane threw both the spinnerbait and crankbait near “grass in 10 to 12 feet of water.”
<p> 	<strong>#9 Fletcher Shryock -- 43 pounds, 11 ounces</strong></p> <p> 	Fletcher Shryock employed his whole tacklebox to catch fish from the shallows of Oneida, but one key bait was a Luck-E-Strike tube. He flipped the tube on heavy tackle and a 1/2-ounce tungsten weight. The big largemouth were key to shallow water anglers, and Shryock managed a few of those bites on the first day when he caught over 17 pounds. It was the weather change that prompted his versatility. “Every day it was something different,” Shryock said. “In three days, I caught fish on 8 to 10 different baits.”</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - #9 Fletcher Shryock -- 43 pounds, 11 ounces Fletcher Shryock employed his whole tacklebox to catch fish from the shallows of Oneida, but one key bait was a Luck-E-Strike tube. He flipped the tube on heavy tackle and a 1/2-ounce tungsten weight. The big largemouth were key to shallow water anglers, and Shryock managed a few of those bites on the first day when he caught over 17 pounds. It was the weather change that prompted his versatility. “Every day it was something different,” Shryock said. “In three days, I caught fish on 8 to 10 different baits.”
<p> 	Shryock, who already qualified for the Classic through the Southern Opens and now has qualified for the Elite Series via his finish in the Northern Opens, landed 43 pounds, 11 ounces on Oneida Lake and ended the tournament in ninth place. His shallow water gameplan netted him quality largemouth. He targeted shallow mats and wood; one tree in particular held multiple big fish for him, and he visited it at different times during the tournament.</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - Shryock, who already qualified for the Classic through the Southern Opens and now has qualified for the Elite Series via his finish in the Northern Opens, landed 43 pounds, 11 ounces on Oneida Lake and ended the tournament in ninth place. His shallow water gameplan netted him quality largemouth. He targeted shallow mats and wood; one tree in particular held multiple big fish for him, and he visited it at different times during the tournament.
<p> 	<strong>#8 Matt Martin </strong><strong>-- 43 pounds, 12 ounces</strong></p> <p> 	Local stick Matt Martin had a mixed-bag approach to the tournament, throwing a Chatterbait with a Zoom Fluke Jr. trailer to imitate shad and a spider grub to imitate crayfish on shallow rocks. “I was keying on the bait source and trying to imitate that,” Martin said.</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - #8 Matt Martin -- 43 pounds, 12 ounces Local stick Matt Martin had a mixed-bag approach to the tournament, throwing a Chatterbait with a Zoom Fluke Jr. trailer to imitate shad and a spider grub to imitate crayfish on shallow rocks. “I was keying on the bait source and trying to imitate that,” Martin said.
<p> 	Martin shows off some of the bait that the bass were gorging on at Oneida Lake. He tried to imitate that with the Zoom Fluke Jr. trailer that he used around grass.</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - Martin shows off some of the bait that the bass were gorging on at Oneida Lake. He tried to imitate that with the Zoom Fluke Jr. trailer that he used around grass.
<p> 	Martin caught 43 pounds, 12 ounces on Oneida to finish in eighth place overall. He bounced between rocky points or shoals and sandy, grassy areas where the shad had moved in. “The smallies were on the rocks, and I caught the largemouth on the shad-style bait around grass,” Martin said. “I tried to get a mixed bag each day and it worked out for me each day.”</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - Martin caught 43 pounds, 12 ounces on Oneida to finish in eighth place overall. He bounced between rocky points or shoals and sandy, grassy areas where the shad had moved in. “The smallies were on the rocks, and I caught the largemouth on the shad-style bait around grass,” Martin said. “I tried to get a mixed bag each day and it worked out for me each day.”
<p> 	<strong>#6 Mike Iaconelli </strong><strong> </strong><strong>-- 44 pounds, 4 ounce</strong></p> <p> 	Mike Iaconelli added a new trick to his repertoire after frogging his way to sixth place on Oneida Lake. He credited his buddy Ish Monroe for turning him onto the Snag Proof Ish’s Phat Frog, which he threw in the black color. If they missed the frog, he rigged up a Berkley Havoc Pit Boss on a 3/4-ounce flipping weight to follow up. “I’ll leave here with a good finish, but more importantly, I leave with another weapon in the arsenal,” Iaconelli said.</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - #6 Mike Iaconelli -- 44 pounds, 4 ounce Mike Iaconelli added a new trick to his repertoire after frogging his way to sixth place on Oneida Lake. He credited his buddy Ish Monroe for turning him onto the Snag Proof Ish’s Phat Frog, which he threw in the black color. If they missed the frog, he rigged up a Berkley Havoc Pit Boss on a 3/4-ounce flipping weight to follow up. “I’ll leave here with a good finish, but more importantly, I leave with another weapon in the arsenal,” Iaconelli said.
<p> 	Iaconelli landed 15 pounds, 7 ounces on the final day, boosting his total up to 44-4 and a sixth-place finish. The fish were up in super-shallow water, a not uncommon thing for Oneida largemouth, but there were nuances to what Iaconelli was fishing. “The key was eelgrass mats,” Iaconelli said. “Dead mats of grass blown up on the bank. If you could find that with a little deeper water, that was key. We caught so many today, my hands are torn up.”</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - Iaconelli landed 15 pounds, 7 ounces on the final day, boosting his total up to 44-4 and a sixth-place finish. The fish were up in super-shallow water, a not uncommon thing for Oneida largemouth, but there were nuances to what Iaconelli was fishing. “The key was eelgrass mats,” Iaconelli said. “Dead mats of grass blown up on the bank. If you could find that with a little deeper water, that was key. We caught so many today, my hands are torn up.”
<p> 	<strong>#5 Randy Howell </strong><strong>-- 44 pounds, 5 ounces</strong></p> <p> 	Randy Howell mixed it up for smallmouth, throwing a variety of reaction baits around fish that were schooled up and feeding for fall. A deadly shad-imitator he used was a Yamamoto D Shad (“I had Yamamoto 2-day them up here so I would have plenty.”), a soft plastic jerkbait. He also changed between a trap, a Molix Punitor topwater bait and a Gunfish. A few fish also fell victim to a jerkbait and a spinnerbait. “I was hitting them with a lot of different reaction baits and covering water,” Howell said. “I also used high-speed Daiwa Type R Zillion reels. When you see them break, you have to be able to reel in quick and cast there.”</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - #5 Randy Howell -- 44 pounds, 5 ounces Randy Howell mixed it up for smallmouth, throwing a variety of reaction baits around fish that were schooled up and feeding for fall. A deadly shad-imitator he used was a Yamamoto D Shad (“I had Yamamoto 2-day them up here so I would have plenty.”), a soft plastic jerkbait. He also changed between a trap, a Molix Punitor topwater bait and a Gunfish. A few fish also fell victim to a jerkbait and a spinnerbait. “I was hitting them with a lot of different reaction baits and covering water,” Howell said. “I also used high-speed Daiwa Type R Zillion reels. When you see them break, you have to be able to reel in quick and cast there.”
<p> 	Howell finished fifth with 44 pounds, 5 ounces, just an ounce ahead of Iaconelli. He learned his lesson after last year, when wind killed his primary area and he bombed, falling out of contention. “The key to being successful here is covering water and having fish at all ends of the lake,” Howell said. “I was keying on shad, mostly smallmouth that were schooled near grass in 10 feet of water. Today, I spent more time near the ramp because the wind yesterday blew so much bait in there and I saw them schooling.”</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - Howell finished fifth with 44 pounds, 5 ounces, just an ounce ahead of Iaconelli. He learned his lesson after last year, when wind killed his primary area and he bombed, falling out of contention. “The key to being successful here is covering water and having fish at all ends of the lake,” Howell said. “I was keying on shad, mostly smallmouth that were schooled near grass in 10 feet of water. Today, I spent more time near the ramp because the wind yesterday blew so much bait in there and I saw them schooling.”
<p> 	<strong>#4 Pat Golden -- 45 pounds, 7 ounces</strong></p> <p> 	Pat Golden spent most of the week chasing largemouth, but had to change up for smallmouth on the final day. He fished a big area and casted a Zoom Fluke Jr. in Pearl White when he was covering water. As the day progressed, he would slow down and flip a Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw in Green Pumpkin with blue claws, a 3/4-ounce tungsten weight and 50-pound Sufix braid.</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - #4 Pat Golden -- 45 pounds, 7 ounces Pat Golden spent most of the week chasing largemouth, but had to change up for smallmouth on the final day. He fished a big area and casted a Zoom Fluke Jr. in Pearl White when he was covering water. As the day progressed, he would slow down and flip a Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw in Green Pumpkin with blue claws, a 3/4-ounce tungsten weight and 50-pound Sufix braid.
<p> 	Golden boxed 45 pounds, 7 ounces over the three days for a fourth-place finish, but had to adapt on the final day when the largemouth were not firing. “I found the hard spots in the milfoil beds; in the morning, they were schooling in there,” Golden said. “Later in the day, I would flip the areas. It was basically an area that was a 2-acre square and I was catching largemouth. At 10 today, I didn’t hardly have anything, so I went to the shoals for smallmouth.”</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - Golden boxed 45 pounds, 7 ounces over the three days for a fourth-place finish, but had to adapt on the final day when the largemouth were not firing. “I found the hard spots in the milfoil beds; in the morning, they were schooling in there,” Golden said. “Later in the day, I would flip the areas. It was basically an area that was a 2-acre square and I was catching largemouth. At 10 today, I didn’t hardly have anything, so I went to the shoals for smallmouth.”
<p> 	<strong>#3 John Pelletier</strong><strong>-- 45 pounds, 7 ounces</strong></p> <p> 	John Pelletier landed all smallmouth, and they all came on a 1/4-ounce white Chatterbait with a 4-inch Pearl White Zoom Super Fluke on the back. Part of the key to catching bigger fish was the retrieve. “I was making long casts and had a slow retrieve – the slower the better,” Pelletier said.</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - #3 John Pelletier-- 45 pounds, 7 ounces John Pelletier landed all smallmouth, and they all came on a 1/4-ounce white Chatterbait with a 4-inch Pearl White Zoom Super Fluke on the back. Part of the key to catching bigger fish was the retrieve. “I was making long casts and had a slow retrieve – the slower the better,” Pelletier said.
<p> 	Pelletier finished third with 45 pounds, 7 ounces for three days of competition. After two solid stringers to open the tournament, the school he had been fishing didn’t produce any bigger bites and he couldn’t make a push for the top. “The key was getting those three big bites on Day Two,” Pelletier said. “That gave me almost 12 pounds for the three fish. I stayed levelheaded and went fishing like I was fishing for fun.”</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - Pelletier finished third with 45 pounds, 7 ounces for three days of competition. After two solid stringers to open the tournament, the school he had been fishing didn’t produce any bigger bites and he couldn’t make a push for the top. “The key was getting those three big bites on Day Two,” Pelletier said. “That gave me almost 12 pounds for the three fish. I stayed levelheaded and went fishing like I was fishing for fun.”
<p> 	<strong>#12 Michael Simonton</strong><strong>-- 48 pounds, 12 ounces</strong></p> <p> 	Michael Simonton stayed with the frog throughout the competition and boated the biggest stringer on the final day. He used a SPRO Bronzeye Frog in the Midnight Walker color (all black). “They were engulfing it all the way back in their throats,” Simonton said. “I would throw it to the edge of the eelgrass and as it was walking (up and down, not side to side); they were nailing it.”</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - #12 Michael Simonton-- 48 pounds, 12 ounces Michael Simonton stayed with the frog throughout the competition and boated the biggest stringer on the final day. He used a SPRO Bronzeye Frog in the Midnight Walker color (all black). “They were engulfing it all the way back in their throats,” Simonton said. “I would throw it to the edge of the eelgrass and as it was walking (up and down, not side to side); they were nailing it.”
<p> 	Simonton boated 48 pounds, 12 ounces, saving his best stringers for the final two days on the water, but it was ultimately not enough to catch Monroe. He ran down the lake looking for largemouth and found them in two key areas. “I had two big bays I was fishing with 6 or 8 spots in each,” Simonton said. “Definitely the eelgrass that was piled up on the shoreline was the key. </p>
Photo: Rob Russow - Simonton boated 48 pounds, 12 ounces, saving his best stringers for the final two days on the water, but it was ultimately not enough to catch Monroe. He ran down the lake looking for largemouth and found them in two key areas. “I had two big bays I was fishing with 6 or 8 spots in each,” Simonton said. “Definitely the eelgrass that was piled up on the shoreline was the key.
<p> 	<strong>#12 Ish Monroe -- 51 pounds, 2 ounces</strong></p> <p> 	Ish Monroe frogged his way to victory on Oneida Lake. His black or white signature Snag Proof Ish’s Phat Frog caught most of his fish, but he also punched using a 1 1/2-ounce River2Sea Trash Bomb with a prototype black and blue creature bait on a 5/0 Paycheck Baits Punch Hook. Both were rigged on Daiwa Steez rods and Daiwa Zillion Type R reels with Samurai braid. He caught some fish in specific spots using the black frog, but on the final day, the fish were schooling in 2 feet of water in sparse grass and so he used both Cristyl and Platinum Plus colors to imitate the bait. “They were keying in more on shad today, but nothing else could get in there to come through the thick grass,” Monroe said. “I wanted a shad pattern when I designed the frog because there are times when you can’t fish anything else.” </p>
Photo: Rob Russow - #12 Ish Monroe -- 51 pounds, 2 ounces Ish Monroe frogged his way to victory on Oneida Lake. His black or white signature Snag Proof Ish’s Phat Frog caught most of his fish, but he also punched using a 1 1/2-ounce River2Sea Trash Bomb with a prototype black and blue creature bait on a 5/0 Paycheck Baits Punch Hook. Both were rigged on Daiwa Steez rods and Daiwa Zillion Type R reels with Samurai braid. He caught some fish in specific spots using the black frog, but on the final day, the fish were schooling in 2 feet of water in sparse grass and so he used both Cristyl and Platinum Plus colors to imitate the bait. “They were keying in more on shad today, but nothing else could get in there to come through the thick grass,” Monroe said. “I wanted a shad pattern when I designed the frog because there are times when you can’t fish anything else.”
<p> 	Monroe won the event with a commanding 51 pounds, 2 ounces, a nearly 3-pound margin of victory. Aside from the sweet spot on the final day, the key was looking at his Navionics. “I was fishing nothing but banks,” Monroe said. “But the little key deal was they had deeper contours nearby. It was a pattern you can look on your Navionics and see. That special area had a creek channel on one side and the main channel on the other, so it was a great transition area to their fall pattern.”</p>
Photo: Rob Russow - Monroe won the event with a commanding 51 pounds, 2 ounces, a nearly 3-pound margin of victory. Aside from the sweet spot on the final day, the key was looking at his Navionics. “I was fishing nothing but banks,” Monroe said. “But the little key deal was they had deeper contours nearby. It was a pattern you can look on your Navionics and see. That special area had a creek channel on one side and the main channel on the other, so it was a great transition area to their fall pattern.”