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Oneida Presents Multiple Choice Test For Northern Open Contenders

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The second Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open presented by Allstate heads to the Oneida Lake out of Syracuse, N.Y., Aug. 6-8., where a field of 199 pro anglers will compete for the top spot and a berth in 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.

Photo by James Overstreet/B.A.S.S

July 30, 2015

Oneida Presents Multiple Choice Test For Northern Open Contenders

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Syracuse, N.Y. — Whether to go green or brown will be the key question contenders in the Bass Pro Shops Northern Open presented by Allstate will have to answer when they compete Aug. 6-8 on Oneida Lake.

“The tournament will be won by someone who can find one or two 4- to 5-pound largemouth a day,” said Bill Lortz, a former Bassmaster Northern Open angler who owns NY North Country Bassin’ Guide Service. “Largemouth are definitely going to be a player to win. You will see some anglers fish for largemouth exclusively, and they may do well.”

The local guide believes Oneida will fish similar to the last Northern Open held there in 2013 when New York angler Jim Bianchi weighed in 52 pounds, 7 ounces of mostly largemouth bass and a few smallmouth bass.

Bianchi caught most of his green fish — largemouth — flipping jigs or drop shotting soft plastics in the shallow grass. Lortz estimates it will take about 16 pounds a day to make the Top 12 cut this year. He predicts the winner will need about 53 to 54 pounds to top the pro division field.

Sparse grass in Oneida has condensed the largemouth bass into smaller areas and resulted in 20- to 21-pound bags during tournaments last summer.

Lortz noticed areas on the west end of the lake that normally contained 20 acres of vegetation have dwindled to 2 acres, making it easier for anglers to pinpoint the largemouth. Grass growth has been a little behind schedule this year, but Lortz suggests the vegetation will play a role during the Open.

“If the grass increases this year, it will spread out the fish,” he said. The guide’s choices for luring largemouth from the grass include Texas rigged green pumpkin creature baits, beaver style baits and soft stickworms.

Fishing pressure on brown bass will present a challenge for Northern Open contenders who prefer targeting smallmouth. “The guy who does well with the smallmouth is going to be the one who catches them quick and avoids the crowds,” Lortz said.

The smallmouth will be schooling up along rock shoals and humps in depths of more than 12 feet. However, the brown bass will be chasing baitfish rather than relating to the structure during the Open, so Lortz recommends watching for diving terns. Then it’s time to tempt the smallies on top with a Zara Spook or a Rebel Pop-R. When the surface action diminishes, Lortz recommends switching to snapping a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce brown football jig and green pumpkin plastic craw, or drop shotting green pumpkin soft plastic finesse baits.

Avoiding the crowds then becomes a problem once a school of smallmouth is found. Lortz notes the “bent rod” pattern comes into play because once other anglers see someone fighting a smallmouth, they all flock to that spot.

The west end of the lake should produce best during the Open, according to Lortz. “Some guys will go down to the other end of the lake, which does hold fish, but the majority of the tournaments are usually won west of midlake,” Lortz said.

Wind could also determine where most of the field fishes during the tournament. “Oneida can be a very, very mean lake when we get a west or east wind,” Lortz said. He noted a 15-mph east wind (capable of creating 5-foot waves) is the worst wind possible on Oneida.

Anglers will take off each day at 6 a.m. ET. Weigh-ins will be held at 2 p.m. ET at Oneida Shores Park the first two days, with the final weigh-in on Day 3 held at the Bass Pro Shops in Auburn, N.Y., at 3:15 p.m.

The local host for the event is the Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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