Oneida Lake Bass Fishing
Oneida Lake is located in central New York just north of Syracuse on RT81. A long time destination for fishing and boating, it's history goes way back as a trade route. Beginning with the Native Americans, it was an important trade and fishing area to the Oneida and Onondaga tribes of the Iroquois Six Nations. With major villages at present day Brewerton and Sylvan Beach areas, the bounty of Oneida fed many people. The sometimes severe weather there earned it the Native American name “Tsioqui” which means white water. When the storm winds blow out of the west, the lake can whip up into a frenzy.
Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation
After the settlement of Europeans came, it continued it's importance as an area of fertile bounty. New Englanders came to this area in search of better farming and found the fertile soil produced abundant crops. Oneida Lake as a fishery was still an important source of food. A large tract of land was granted to veterans of the Revolutionary War as well. By this point the Native Americans had been largely displaced.
When the Erie canal was built, there wasn't the effective water travel to cross the sometimes treacherous waters of Oneida Lake, so it was bypassed. Later in the early 1900's a side canal was dug and Oneida became part of the barge canal that extended all the way from New York harbor to the Great Lakes. Oneida Lake experienced significant trade traffic and really helped settle the West, much to the chagrin of the Native Americans who treasured this area. As inland trade routes and ocean travel developed, the Erie canal slipped into the past as a major player in the transport of goods to the American Frontier. Oneida got her solitude back, well sort of.
Today, this massive lake that stretches 22 miles long and 5 miles wide is home to anglers and recreational boating. Under the watchful eye of the New York State Department of Conservation, Oneida lake is healthy and open to all who wish to enjoy themselves on the water. Thousands of New Yorkers and visitors flock to Oneida's clear water to cool off and go fishing. The lake has drawn the attention of professional bass fishing as well. The Bassmaster Elite Series has visited several times and the catches have been very impressive. The tournament prides itself on conservation and responsibility, and has had no negative effects on Oneida.
The Bassmaster Elite made a stop here in 2009 and I was fortunate enough to be part of it. The co-anglers were removed from the schedule in place of the Marshal Program. Any BASS member is eligible to ride along with tournament pros as an observer for the integrity of the rules. Without the pressure of angling, the Marshal gets a day long seminar and a look behind the scenes of professional bass fishing. Marshals are paired up with a different pro each day, so they are exposed to different techniques and areas of the lake.
The first day of the Oneida Lake Champions Choice, I was paired with Takahiro Omori from Emory Texas. The 2004 Bassmater Classic winner has earned more than $1.2 million and finished “in the money” over 100 times. Takahiro placed second the day I was with him with a bag of 16 pounds and 11 ounces. He was able to do this with a combination of shoreline and open water tactics. Clouds and fog dominated the first 3 hours of the day, so Takahiro chose to stay shallow at first as everyone ran down the lake to offshore structures. As many others did, the key was to catch a limit of bass and cull up to a winning total weight. Takahiro used soft plastics like Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver to comb the shoreline grass and docks, and netted his limit within a half hour of the launch. His big bass was actually caught in less than 1 foot of water. After that it was off to a deeper water grassy hump that produced a dozen 3+ pound largemouth that took him to the #2 position for the day. This first day performance along with solid bags for the next 3 days landed him at 12th place overall and earned him a nice paycheck as well. Here are some pictures of day 1...
Day 2 I was paired with Mark Tucker of Saint Louis Missouri. A very accomplished angler with over 13 years on the pro circuit and 63 times “in the money” under his belt. Mark would spend day 2 searching for Oneida Lake smallmouth to add to his first day catch of 11 pounds and 8 ounces. He started the day with spinner baits and pitch a Sweet Beaver trailer on a jig. After losing a couple of key fish in the morning, Mark was unable to make up the weight he needed to fish on day 3. The acrobatic and moody smallmouth on Oneida proved to be too much for most of the field of anglers at the Champions Choice. The field was cut to 50 anglers from the original 98 and then to 12 for the final day. Here are some pictures from day 2...
Two days was all I was able to stay, but I learned a couple of very important things. The first was that the basic knowledge of bass movement is the most important factor. No matter what your experience, if you can't find them, you can't catch them! A lot of time is spent plugging this rod or that bait, but that is to keep the sponsors happy. This is absolutely necessary to fish as a pro. Oneida lake did show that certain baits were superior when you were on active bass. The knowledge of seasonal movements and the reaction that bass have to frontal conditions helped some of the Bassmaster Elite rise to the top. The failure to do this sent the others home.
The thing that separates the “average” angler from the professional can be summed up in one word...WORK. Believe me, Oneida Lake was work for the pros! They practice for three days before the tournament to find schools and key structures. They formulate a plan, and back-up plans for the tournament. The Bassmaster Elite then fish for 10 hours a day, for 4 days in a row. They don't sit down, they don't take breaks, and they hardly even eat or drink. The WORK they do is NEVER shown on the highlight reel. All this work comes after the confident feeling that they have the bass figured out. That feeling only comes after studying the behavior and patterns of bass. This is the only thing that will improve your fishing success whether you be a pro or “average” JOE.
Learn the habits and patterns of the bass. Read everything you can about them and plug in common sense and your experience. Do your research on the water you are fishing and the time of the season you're fishing. Also is there a weather front coming that will concentrate bass in a certain area? That is how you get better. Worry about fine tuning your bait after you have done your homework.
The basics are the most important things to remember and apply at all levels of angling. Bill Dance has assembled just what you need in his bass fishing course. As an accomplished tournament angler, he knows what it takes to win and catch more bass. The DVD format will help you remember what you have read. All the video knowledge is on audio CDs as well. You can listen to the same knowledge while you are traveling around in your vehicle. Nothing puts you in a better mood on the way to work like listening to good bass fishing techniques.
Conquer Oneida Lake and any other body of water with The Bill Dance Complete Bass Fishing Course!