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Northern Division Finale on Oneida

Northern Division Finale on Oneida
Oneida sunrise (photo by Charles Waldorf)

This week, the Costa FLW Series Northern Division hits Oneida Lake August 18-20 for the final stop of the Northern Division’s season. The tournament, presented by Ranger, will decide who wins the Angler of the Year title, finalize the qualifiers for the Costa FLW Series Championship this fall on Table Rock and show off one of the Northeast’s best tournament lakes.

 

Oneida Lake

How Oneida sets up

Roughly 20 miles long and 5 miles wide, Oneida is largely shallow, with an average depth just past 20 feet and the deepest point ringing in at about 55-feet deep. With only a few islands, and almost no small, protected coves, Oneida is a difficult place to fish in the wind – particularly if a big wind blows out of the east or west, giving it the full length of the lake to make waves.

Loaded with grass and rock, the primary structure elements on Oneida are various humps and shoals scattered around the lake, with lots of docks lining the bank. From deep to shallow, the one constant is plenty of bait – be it alewives, perch or something else, the fish in Oneida have plenty to chase. Historically, largemouths have been a strong player in tournaments on Oneida, but over the last few years, smallmouths have earned an increasingly prominent place, and that trend is expected to continue this week.

“Right now the smallmouth should probably have it,” says Ken Golub, who has finished in the top five in four of the last six FLW Bass Fishing League events on Oneida. “You might get one or two guys who get lucky with largemouth, but I don’t think that pattern will stay for more than a day or so.”

Casey Smith, who hails from Macedon, N.Y., and won the season opener on the Potomac River, mostly agrees.

“I think we’re in for a lake that’s seen a lot of tournament pressure this year, and its seen a lot more over the last few years too,” says Smith. “You had the B.A.S.S. Northern Open there in June, and it hasn’t slowed down since, with multiple club tournaments going on each weekend.

“It’s been smallmouth for the last two years. We had a really strong largemouth year in 2014, but last year was dominated by smallmouth. You’re gonna see a lot of smallmouth, but last weekend there was a club tournament where there were some largemouth, and the way the weather is getting hot and the smallmouths are getting out, I think you’ll see some largemouth too.”

 

Possible patterns

Recently, a heat wave has engulfed the North Country, and Oneida is running a few degrees warmer than normal. That could make things trickier than usual for the competitors.

“When it gets this hot for this long the smallmouths will kind of pull out and suspend,” says Golub. “They go chase the bait and the birds, but you can’t always find them.”

“The smallmouth are out there,” says Smith of the offshore bite. “The bait offshore is grouped up and roaming and the fish will follow it. There’s groups of fish that will follow them and just go. But at the same time, you’ve got humps and shoals and points and all the typical structure a northern lake will have.”

In addition to chasing suspended smallmouths with topwaters, drop-shot rigs, umbrella rigs and swimbaits, there are more conventional opportunities as well.

“Some of the weed beds haven’t set up as well as they typically do, so they’re a little bit scattered,” says Golub. “Its definitely changed from the previous years. I think topwater and some of the near open water stuff will play a bit more of a role than flipping the weed beds will, that bite has kind of weakened the last two years.”

Despite a change in how the weed beds setup, there is still a lot of grass in the lake, and it’s certainly a wildcard for someone to figure out. According to Smith, Oneida is one of the few lakes where you can catch a largemouth on one flip and a smallmouth on the next. Along with the grass, the aforementioned “typical” structure should play as well, as there are plenty of resident bass that never leave a prime rocky shoal.

However its gets won, both anglers expect a photo finish, with close weights and plenty of bags in the 15-pound range and a winning average of about 17 pounds.

 

Watching the AOY race

Oneida is the culmination of the Northern Division season, and with that comes the Strike King Angler of the Year award. The reward from wining can be rich, as the $2,000 prize package includes deposits for the 2017 season of FLW Series competition, and the winning pro as well as the rest of the top 40 pros and co-anglers qualify for the Costa FLW Series Championship.

Currently, a trio of Canadians lead the standings, topped by Cory Johnston with 486 points, Bob Izumi (482) and Chris Johnston (476). Just behind them, Ron Nelson of Berrien Springs, Mich., has 472 points and Casey Smith has 468. The pros in the top five have already had stellar years: Cory Johnston will be chasing and incredible third Northern Division AOY title, Chris Johnston won the Walmart FLW Tour Rookie of the Year award and is going for his second Northern Division AOY and Bob Izumi cracked the top 10 at the 1000 Islands and is a smallmouth expert to the first degree.

 

Tournament Details

Format: All boaters and co-anglers will compete for two days. The top 10 boaters and co-anglers based on cumulative weight after two days of competition will advance to the third and final round, with the winner determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.

Takeoff Time: 6:30 a.m. ET

Takeoff Location: Oneida Shores County Park, 9400 Bartell Road, Brewerton, N.Y. 13029

Weigh-In Time: 2:30 p.m. ET days one and two, 3:30 p.m. ET on day three

Weigh-In Location: Oneida Shores County Park on days one and two, day three at Walmart, 3018 East Ave, Central Square, N.Y. 13036

Complete details

Tags: oneida-lake  jody-white  pre-tournament  2016-08-18-oneida-lake 

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