Winning the $50,000 top prize and finishing in the top 25 in the season-long standings, which guarantees a trip to the Open Championship on the Alabama River, Dec. 1-4, in Prattville, Ala. The top five Championship finishers receive invitations to Classic XXXVI on Lake Tohopekaliga near Kissimmee, Fla., Feb. 24-26.
Oneida Lake provides an intriguing place to stage such an important season-ending shootout.
This is just the second BASS event ever held on the 51,072-acre lake (Michigan’s Art Ferguson won the CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open held there in October 2003 with 32 pounds, 9 ounces). The largest inland lake in New York is best known as a walleye fishery, but the 2003 tournament showed a world-class smallmouth fishery exists in the 22-mile-long, 5-mile-wide body of water.
Oneida Lake already is part of BASS’ 2006 schedule, serving as the eighth stop on the new CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series, July 6-9, 2006.
Anglers who competed in 2003 were impressed with Oneida - which often is overshadowed by other larger, northern bass waters - as nearly 200 limits were caught. Ferguson’s success came on windblown points holding a mix of rock, sandy bottom and aquatic vegetation where he dragged a tube through congregations of smallmouth.
Ohio pro and Northern Open points leader Frank Scalish became a fan of the Finger Lakes region fishery.
“It’s a natural lake. It’s got a very prevalent first shelf and shoals formed by glaciers and it has a prevalent weedbed in the zero to 8-foot range,” he said.
“It definitely has a huge smallmouth population, but its largemouth population is underutilized and could potentially lead to bigger stringers. But you are going to have to really hunt and peck to get a good three-day limit sack of largemouths. It would be ideal to start out with a huge string of largemouths and then finish the tournament out on smallies. If you can jump into the lead with a big bag of largemouths, the smallmouths can carry you the rest of the tournament.”
Scalish cautioned that the lake isn’t as likely to surrender the same number of limits as in 2003. The difference in the smallmouth’s attitude between the months of September and October is considerable.
“I think it’s going to take 14 or 15 pounds a day to win this thing,” Scalish said. “But I think the fishing’s going to be slower overall.
“These fish really get hopping around the second week of October in this place. This lake starts coming on once the water temperature starts getting down into the mid-60s range. These smallmouth really start biting about then,” he said.
“This is a time of year when the local faction is definitely going to have an advantage, especially if the bite gets tough. They’ll have tricky little places that they know how to go fish and they’ll find them.”
The CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open top 25 boaters entering the season-finale are:
1. Frank Scalish Ohio 557
2. Ed Allen Ohio 545
3. Mike Desforges Canada 544
4. Paul Hirosky Pa. 540
5. Rodney Sorrell N.C. 538
6. David Smith Okla. 521
7. Ryan Hawthorne Conn. 497
8. Art Ferguson III Mich. 486
9. Rick Morris Va. 483
10. Lawren Wetzel Canada 466
10. Bill Lowen Ohio 466
10. Steven Clapper Ohio 466
13. Kotaro Kiriyama Ala. 464
14. Jamie Fabian Ohio 460
15. Justin Riley Md. 459
16. Doc Merkin Ill. 442
17. Kurt Johnson Iowa 438
18. Jon Bondy Canada 430
19. Shinichi Fukae Texas 428
20. Jami Norman Ohio 420
21. Ken Cook Okla. 411
22. Ken Brodeur Conn. 410
23. Joe Thomas Ohio 408
24. Darrin Schwenkbeck Md. 406
25. Wesley Kemper Ohio 404
Weigh-ins will begin at 2:30 p.m. at Oneida Shores Park, 9400 Bartell Road, Brewerton, NY, 13029. Local sponsors include the Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Sponsors of the Bassmaster Open Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).
BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.
BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 550,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-22208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.