UPCOMING EVENT: YETI College Fishing - 2019 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Smallmouth Time at the 1000 Islands

Stop No. 2 of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division heads to the 1000 Islands area in Upstate New York. Taking off out of Clayton, N.Y., more than 170 pros and co-anglers will have the run of the eastern end of Lake Ontario and as much of the St. Lawrence River as they care to fish.

The event, which is presented by Evinrude and hosted by the Clayton Chamber of Commerce, runs July 27-29 and is sure to showcase the area’s tremendous smallmouth fishing.

 

The lake might be off

The eastern end of Lake Ontario has some of the better smallmouth fishing in the world, but recently the St. Lawrence River has been more consistent and sometimes outright better than the lake. Bob Izumi of Milton, Ontario, has won as much as anyone on the big lake and the river. He admits he’s having trouble cracking the lake this year.

“This year I’m not seeing a lot of empty beds in the shallows out in the lake. I think a lot of the smallmouths haven’t spawned this year and won’t,” Izumi says. “There was a little wave of fish that came in this year, but some of the traditional spawning areas don’t have any fish around them at all.

“The funny thing is, on all the deep spots in the lake, I personally haven’t found any bunches of fish yet. Usually this time of year you’ve got both; you have shallow fish that are fairly dependable if it’s sunny and deep fish that are always there.”

In short, Izumi thinks a lot of the fish that should have spawned in Ontario this year simply didn’t. Higher water than usual and a cold spring are the likely culprits if he’s right. On Lake Champlain those conditions pushed the smallmouth spawn back so the “main event” took place during the Northern Division season opener about a month ago. On Ontario, the situation might have stymied the spawn altogether.

Izumi says that with water temps in the lake in the high 60s and low 70s, he’d expect there to be a lot of fish shallow, and even spawning. After failing to find them, he believes that there are simply a lot of lake dwellers in transition, not bunched up shallow or offshore in 28-plus feet of water.

 

It’s game on in the river

If last week’s Bassmaster Elite Series event proved anything about the 1000 Islands, it proved just how good the river is fishing. Taking out of Waddington, N.Y., the pros weren’t allowed into the lake, and they caught a pile of 20-pound limits anyhow.

“I was keeping an eye on the Elite Series tournament like most of the guys fishing this event, and it showed itself very good,” says Izumi. “I’ve never seen the river kick out that many fish. It used to be you had to fish the lake to have a shot at winning a multi-day tournament, but there’s no question the river is showing itself with this high water.”

Currently, the river is running high, fast and with better clarity than the lake. Izumi thinks the stronger current has triggered the fish in the river to feed more than usual, like they might on a good day of flow on the Tennessee River.

“You’ve got to have some mojo happening to get the five right bites, but there’s no question the 3 1/2- to 4-pound fish bit very good in that tournament,” says Izumi, “which kind of got me worried a bit, because right now it’s fishing too good to ignore.”

In the river, there are all sorts of smallmouth options, from shallower flats of rock, sand and grass to deeper humps and current seams on the main drag.

“From what I understand there were a few fish still on bed in the river not that long ago,” relays Izumi. “But a lot of the shallow fish are just up cruising around. Like many of our smallmouth lakes up north you have three populations of fish: There are deep fish and then shallow fish that basically just cruise around those areas and then wolf packs of deep fish that sometimes come shallow. The nomadic fish can be very big, but everything’s timing and a little bit of lady luck. There are always a few fish shallow – giant fish – but those fish have gotten more educated over the years.”

From the looks of it, a shallow pattern like what led Scott Dobson to victory in 2016 might be a good route to take again. The heavy current can make fishing deep a little harder than usual, and the shallow bite seems to be as good as ever.

 

Adjustments will be key

Though the winner will almost certainly average more than 20 pounds of smallmouths, he or she might not do it the same way every day.

“I’ve won more money in tournaments here than anywhere else. I love this area, but it throws curveballs every year,” says Izumi. “It’s one of those tournaments that my rod locker is going to be jammed, and I’ll even have four or five largemouth rods just in case.”

For deep and shallow, pretty much everyone will have a drop-shot tied on, but after that there are a lot of options. Swimbaits, spin baits (they partially accounted for both Dobson’s win last year and Kevin VanDam’s win last week on the Elite Series), jerkbaits and spinnerbaits are all options to tempt shallower smallmouths.

One factor to watch closely will be the weather. Conditions were terrible on Monday, with storms and rain pounding the area. Smallmouths are sight feeders, and sunny conditions are the best for finding and catching them at 1000 Islands. It looks like at least two of the three tournament days will be sunny as of now, but an extended stretch of truly nice weather would likely really jump-start the fishing.

 

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 in each division determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.

Takeoff Time: 6:30 a.m. ET

Takeoff Location: Clayton Village Ramp, 750 Mary Street, Clayton, N.Y.

Weigh-In Time: 2:30 p.m. ET

Weigh-In Location: Clayton Village Ramp

Complete details

Tags: jody-white  pre-tournament  2017-07-27-1000-islands 

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