The last time the Northern Open pros came to these waters in October of 2002, the Hudson was its usual clear, tidal self. This time around, it will be a completely different river that poses some special challenges for the boaters battling for the $50,000 top prize.
Also at stake are valuable points toward the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship, where five spots will be awarded to the coveted CITGO Bassmaster Classic next summer in Pittsburgh.
Ohio pro Frank Scalish, fresh from a win in the 2004 Northern Open season-opener on Lake Erie, has been scouring the 70-mile stretch of the historic waterway for the past three days.
"It's muddy, which is not normal for this particular river system," Scalish said. "It's been raining on and off since I've been here. Four days before I came down here it was a deluge.
"The fish are running small - a lot of pound-and-a-halfers. So basically I have not unlocked the secret."
Former Bassmaster Classic champion Woo Daves was the winner in the previous BASS stop on the Hudson. He used a hodgepodge of lures, including jigs, spinnerbaits, and soft plastics to catch the top string of 32 pounds, 5 ounces for three days of fishing.
Daves scored consistently in Wappinger Creek, which is guarded by a low-slung railroad bridge, where he targeted an assortment of structure and cover ranging from water chestnuts to laydown trees and grass.
In defending his title, the veteran Virginia pro will find a different looking river and its tributaries.
The pros will have to make two basic strategic decisions: whether to fish for largemouth or smallmouth; and to run the tide or simply fish an area.
"I've been catching all smallmouth, but I think largemouth will win it," Scalish said. "The smallmouth aren't running big enough. I'm catching them cranking, throwing a spinnerbait and a 4-inch worm.
"Two years ago when I was here, I was catching 30 fish a day. The water was gin clear and the smallmouth were on fire. Things have changed and we're going to have to adjust.
"It's a tidal river that fluctuates about 4 1/2 feet each day. It's a big tide. You can't get away from the tide. I ran as far up the river as you can possibly go and it still had tidal influence."
Massachusetts pro Danny Correia practiced on the Hudson two weeks ago with good success, but expects the fishing to be considerably more difficult when the tournament begins.
"I was surprised how well we caught them, but I heard it's gotten tougher," Correia said. "You know why - it's later in the year and the chestnuts aren't as easy to fish as they were two weeks ago. They get so thick that you can't get a bait through them. You can't really penetrate them.
"Everybody thinks they will be able to go there and catch them in the chestnuts because that's what happens earlier in the year, but it's going to be a tough bite. And with the muddy conditions at this time of year, it's going to be feast or famine. There will be a lot of guys that don't catch anything."
Daily weigh-ins will take place at Catskill Point Park at 2:30 p.m. Anglers launch beginning at 6 a.m.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer, which includes the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Toyota, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Local Sponsors include Greene County Tourism Promotion Office.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.