Carl SvebekWOW! After 7 years, I had no idea what to expect from my first tournament. Although the fishing at Oneida appeared to be a fish fest, it wasn’t overly easy. I spent my official first practice day just trying to figure what stage these fish were going through. Temperatures were warming up and it appeared the spawn was ending. Throughout the remainder of my practice, I decided to cover as much water as possible concentrating on that first and second contour line, in the 5’-8’ range and 8’-12’ range. It seemed there were fish in many depths, but I caught the better quality in the 9’-11’ range.

On day 2 of practice, I found 2 small bays at the far east end of the lake. These bays were extremely shallow in the back half, but had some beautiful clumps of grass with a mix of scattered rocks out front with deeper water close by. I have to give so much credit to MCR polarized glasses. I could see the grass clumps with ease, even at long distances, and that’s where I got bit throughout the tournament. Knowing in most cases with fish coming off the spawn they tend to be a bit sluggish, I chose a more subtle approach throwing a Gambler Weighted Wacky Worm Hook (1/16 oz.) with a 4” Green Pumpkin Senko-Wacky Style. The majority of bites were coming on the initial fall, whether it was a long cast or short pitch. This allowed me to cover a lot more water and really concentrate on each individual grass/rock patch. My backup plan was to throw a ¼ oz. Giggy Head with the same 4” Green Pumpkin Senko. When the wind would pick up, this combination allowed me to be more efficient targeting grass clumps in the wind. Starting out day Day 1 and would you know I drew out Boat #1. Just needed that first one in the boat to settle down.

Day 1:
Well, surely didn’t have to wait very long to get out there and get started. Being Boat #1, I was fishing right off the bat. I decided to start at the mouth of the first little bay. The weather was somewhat calm, with a lot of sun. I knew the bite wasn’t going to be fast and furious, but I felt if I put my head down I could possibly get those 5 right bites. I did manage a 3 lb. largemouth (don’t know where he came from), a 3 lb. smallmouth, and 3 other smallmouth in the 2 lb. class by 8:30. After 3 hours without a bite, I really needed things to pick up. I continued to elaborate and expand the area, but the bite just got hard. Around noon, in the same area, I started getting a 3 pounder about every half hour or so. One thing I have discovered fishing up North, is weights are always tight. In other words, every ounce is crucial in winning, making the cut, or getting a check. It’s so hard to catch up in these type of tournaments. Day 1 Weight: 15 pounds even.

Day 2:
Going into Day 2 I felt I would need around 15 pounds to get in the money and at least 17 pounds to make the cut. It was a little different day as there were scattered storms and a lot of wind. Seeing how the bite kept producing even after many lulls throughout the day, I decided to go back to Day 1 strategy and grind it out. I had one other area close to weigh-in so if I needed to bail, I had a backup. The bite certainly seemed to be better on Day 2 for catching fish, it was just tough to get 3+ pound bites. By mid-day I estimated to have just under 13 pounds, and although I was getting a lot of bites, I was going to finish just out of the money unless something crazy happened.
I caught the majority of my fish on the Giggy Head Senko on Day 2. It was just so much easier to fish with the strong wind and storms that filed through all afternoon. With about an hour and ½ of fishing time left, storms one right after the other, and an engine battery worn down, I decided to run to the little spot closer to weigh-in and give it that last try. I knew I would need a 3 pounder for a check, but had no idea what to expect. I hadn’t fished this area since the previous Monday during practice.
After arriving I told my partner we had 30 minutes to get it done. Not even a bite after 30 minutes and the frustration began to set in. I kept telling my partner “We need to go. We need to go!” This is when I looked up and said, “Last Cast of the Day Trick”. One long cast, a bump, and then a sky rocketing 3 pound smallmouth. My biggest concern was getting this guy in before it was time to run the two miles back to check-in. Finally lipped her, sat my smallest back in Lake Oneida and put this one in the livewell. At this time I had a good idea that my first tournament back after a 7 year layoff from fishing might even get a check! Weighed in 14 pounds 12 ounces and finished in 38th place overall. It’s a start, and I couldn’t be more excited to be fishing again!

In conclusion, remember “Last Cast of the Day Trick”. It is a quote that I have heard so many times over the course of 40 years. One that I hold deep in my heart every time the sun goes down and it’s time to put the boat on the trailer or head in for weigh-in.

Until next time!

“Let the Gopher Get It”