Oneida Lake was not kind to my fishing partner and I this weekend and one of my three goals of 2014 is now unattainable. That goal was to qualify for the Northeast Team Bass Tournament of Champions while only fishing 4 of their 5 tournaments.
This was an extremely difficult tournament weekend for a variety of weekends. We had 0 practice and I haven't been on Oneida Lake in 2 years. I have only been on Oneida 3 times prior to this weekend and one of those times I can't really count because my power trim broke on my boat two hours into my day. I knew we had to have some luck on our side to do well and we had the opposite of that.
Going into the tournament I did loads of research to make up for my lack of practice time. I literally read every blog post from the last time the Elites visited. I watched the last two Elite Series shows from Oneida. I picked apart almost every Oneida report ever written.
After doing as much research as possible, I determined that smallmouth were the way to go for us. I knew I didn't want to waste time trying to find spots within spots during a tournament. I needed large areas that held decent fish. I also drew on my very limited past experience on Oneida to choose our areas.
I was really looking forward to these tournaments because I love fishing for smallmouth, especially when they school up. I was really hoping to get on a big school of smallmouth chasing bait on the surface but in two days, we didn't come across that. We would see a fish bust here or there, but nothing consistent.
On day one, I pulled into a shallow bay with grass that is fed by a creek. Within 5 minutes I had my first smallie in the boat on a popper (a 3lb class fish). Three hours later, and that was still the only fish in the livewell. We made an adjustment and fished an offshore up and boated two quick ones. One was a runt and the other a decent smallmouth, a 2 lb fish. Both fish came on tubes.
We went fishless for another 2 hours before moving to a spot I had had some success on the last time I fished Oneida. Throwing a tube jig, my partner boated a nice 3 lb smallie. Two minutes later, I boat a good 3lb + largemouth and we filled out our limit. We would boat one more fish that would barely cull our runt and we now had 2 hours to cull it and have a decent finish. We spent another hour on this spot without a bass bite. This spot had low lying scattered grass in 10-11 feet of water.
We just couldn't buy a bite the rest of the day. Our inexperience on Oneida finally caught up with us and we only weighed in 13.69 lbs of bass. The winner had 17.99 leaving us with 76 points for the tourney which was more than enough to keep us afloat in the standings.
Going into the 2nd tourney on Sunday, I really thought we could blow away that 13.69 we had on Day 1. I felt that even though we weren't getting a lot of bites, almost every bite in our prime areas were solid 3+ lb fish. I really felt like we only needed 5 bites and we could cash a check.
Day 2 was the worst tournament day I have ever had minus the first tournament of my career when my boat broke down. I could sit here and make excuses but that won't do you any good at all. I really felt terrible for my partner as he had to watch me lose a 4+ lb largemouth, a hammer smallmouth close to 4lbs, a 3lb largemouth, and two other 2-2.5 lb smallmouth. I also lost some smaller fish along the way. It was brutal; especially because every drum, walleye, and pickerel I hooked up with managed to find their way into the boat.
My partner carried us by boating three 3 lb largemouth. I was able to catch two dinks to fill out our limit and we ended up finishing with 12.35 lbs. The winning weight was ~21.5 lbs.
As brutal as this weekend was, I am very optimistic going into the Federation tournament at Cayuga Lake this weekend. I am glad to get a day like yesterday out of the way when it really doesn't matter all that much.
I will be practicing Thurday, Friday, and Saturday for the tournament on Sunday. As usual, I will leave no stone unturned and control every controllable that I can. I just need to put the fish into the boat once I hook them.
Thanks for reading.