Lake Oneida Bassmaster Open
Where do i start?
This was the most challenging trip i have been on yet, it took me 30 something hours to get to the USA with delayed and cancelled flights which made me late that afternoon which then started a cycle of dramas with accommodation and Uhaul hire that eventually made me three days late for my arrival to Syracuse NY. ( I had a hired truck, boat and accommodation)
I left home in GC QLD on Sunday and finally arrived to my AirBNB in Cicero NY on the Thursday afternoon, it was hot and super humid but i needed to get some sort of tackle rigged up so i could start my practice on Friday AM. Turns out, that Friday was going to be the last of the hot weather for the remainder of my stay in NY. I fished for about half the day Friday and then went and sorted out all my shopping etc so i could concentrate on just fishing for the next few days. I also had a lot of videos to edit after AFTA so needed to get set up with all my WIFI etc and get to work on those as well.
Working out a new lake is fun for a while, exploring, not knowing what or where to look. Once you slowly catch a few fish the lake gets smaller in the way that you now have specific criteria that you are looking for to start to follow some form of pattern. I started to catch a few fish on different baits, spinnerbait, swim jjg, carolina rig, topwaters and chatterbaits. The only consistency i had was the type of terrain i was fishing in. I was targeting the grass lines with mixed rock anywhere from 6 - 14 feet. if i went shallower then 6 feet i would start catching largemouth and couldn't find a real pattern for them or any consistency in size (most were less than 2 pounds). After a few days of inconsistent fish captures and a bunch of by catch like pike, pickerel, walleye and drum i decided i may need to spend some more time on the shoals. I had heard from a few people that they should be out there and more reliable then the shallow water fish. I managed to catch a few fish out there each day and after messing around with different hooks and baits was finally onto a set up that i was confident in however the size of the fish just wasn't there for me with a 3.2lb small mouth being the biggest i weighed.
Back to the grass lines, i had noticed that white baits like the chatterbait, spinnerbait and swim jig i was throwing tended to catch a lot of toothy critters and when i caught a smallmouth on it they would throw up shad. However what i also noticed, these fish weren't as big as the occasional fish that i had managed on topwaters in the same type of terrain. One night i was doing some research on the bait fish in Oneida and found a lot of interesting stuff about the perch and what they do and when they school up in the grass etc etc. So i got out of bed at around 10:30pm to see what i had aside from a jerkbait that i could use to immitate a perch. I found one chatterbait in the Hite Delight colour that seemed as close as i could get. The next morning i ran through my usual cycle of lures and incorporated the perch coloured chatterbait. The first fish i caught on it was the biggest i had caught to date but what i was more excited about was how little of the chatterbait was left outside that bass' mouth. Over the next few days of windy and rainy/ overcast days i went to working out a pattern with the chatterbait, the fish were good size but not everywhere. Without hitting key areas hard, i could only get 6-8 bites a day running around the lake looking for key areas. Once i had identified areas i thought i wanted to fish i didn't got back to them or really fish the rest of that area so that i didn't pressure the fish much. With a day and a half of official practice left i had decided i had my plan and couldnt improve on it, so went to a sister lake nearby called Onandaga with the hope i could practice my chatterbait bite and ensure i was onto them once the derby started. I managed about 10 largemouth on the chatterbaits in Onandaga and then got on to a frog pattern so i quickly forgot why i was there and had some fun blasting bass in the thick stuff with frogs.
Last day of official practice was for respooling reels, cleaning and organising the boat as well as setting up baits and having spare baits etc within close reach.