In an earlier post I introduced the facts of Barometric Pressure (BP) as they relate to fishing, and offered some tips as to how it may relate to behavior and eating habits for bass in North America. Here in part 2 of that piece I’m going to detail how Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass relate to different BPs and their changes at my favorite body of water and frequent stop on the Bassmaster Elite Series and host to the second Bass Pro Shops Northern Open trail for 2015, the legendary Lake Oneida in Syracuse NY.
A Screenshot of Oneida Lake from my Navionics Web App!
Oneida is known for many things. When the weather is cruel it can be a harsh, unforgiving body of water. At roughly 51,000 acres it’s not the biggest body of water you’ll find on tour, and it has a reputation of fishing even smaller in 200 boat fields. Finding cookie-cutter smallmouth that are 2 pounds is relatively easy, but if you want to win an Open or an Elite event here, you’ll need a mixed-bag of smallmouth and largemouth, with an average of 19 pounds for three days. Single day tournaments will often see weights in the lower to middle 20s. But what they all have in common are that they most often have those mixed bags of largemouth and smallmouth. Not because they are fishing deep and shallow, but because they’ve learned that the bigger of these two species of bass cohabitate in the same areas. Warning, if you’re a friend of mine, I would rather you not read this any further, as you might want me dead for things that I’ve shared in this article…
The lake is often misrepresented as having a north end, and a south end. True, all bodies of water, this one included, have a north and south end, but the lake lies east and west. When people frequently say “the south end” they’re actually referring to the east end of the lake, near Sylvan Beach and Verona. The west end is where the Route 81 Bridge and Oneida Shores Boat Launch are located. This is where probably 90% of tournaments launch from. If you’re fishing a tournament here, you’re most likely going out of that park. For this reason, if there’s an east wind of any kind, (E, NE, SE) with any amount of substance (5mph+) you are going to be in for a rough day. Particularly if you plan to fish to the east of the two large islands (Frenchman and Dunham). Understand this, wind and waves are to be expected when you come here. It’s almost unavoidable. What is likely to happen is rather unique, in that you will probably have windy conditions at sunrise, and find the lake lying down at noon (in all my life, the only other lake I’ve ever seen do that repeatedly is Santee Cooper). So I’m going to break the lake down into two parts, east and west, with the dividing line being those two large islands.
In late July, early August, the lake becomes riddled with algae bloom. It can be so thick that you hear people refer to the water as “pea soup”. This condition will beat 50% of your competition before 8am on day 1 because they let it get in their head. The fact is, the only things impacted by the bloom are the anglers. The smallmouth love it. If you think about it, green dots wouldn’t stop an animal’s need for nourishment. The weather is hot, so the fish are digesting food at a high rate, and need to eat at a high rate. If there is wind that’s blowing from the east or the west, the direction that it’s coming from will have less bloom than the one that is on the receiving end.
High Pressure Locations
When the sun is high and the pressure is high (30.00 and up) and holding steady you will want to find cover in the shallower areas. By that I mean depths of 7 feet and under. Grass mats, weed beds, and docks with deep water will prime locations. The fish will be slow moving, and your best bet is to flip small profile baits and work slowly and quietly. You’re looking at a long day, where you’re best bet will deliver you 1 or 2 bites an hour. It’s imperative that you stay focused. You can’t afford to miss one. The river has some of the best dock fishing on the entire lake, and is often far less congested than the main lake. You’ll hear and see guys “chasing the birds”. These birds are Turns, small seagull like birds that are often seen crashing the surface, feeding on small shad that being pushed by fish gorging on them. Chase these birds at your own risk. They aren’t always eating shad that are being pushed by smallmouth (walleye also chase the shad to the surface) and the smallmouth aren’t always big smallmouth either. These fish run together, so if you catch a 2 pounder, that’s all you’re going to find in that group 90% of the time. Also, those schools of fish move incredibly fast, and by the time you reach them, they could have dashed 60 yards away. On some of the smaller shoals, the fish will be spread out, and rather than chase them, let them come to you. Your best baits will be topwater frogs, spooks, spinnerbaits, wake baits, Rat-L-Traps and medium diving cranks. My two favorites are a black Slop Frog or a Sexy Shad Lucky Craft Sammy. Your best largemouth locations will be the large bays on the west end and on the south shore to the far east.
Rising Pressure Locations
When the pressure is rising you’re going to struggle. This is a great time to throw a finesse bait like a dropshot on one of the shoals or in shallow water where the cover isn’t too thick. Get a limit so that you can easy your mind and take off some of the stress. Pancake, Shackleton, Dakin, are all great shoals that are community holes that always hold fish. Be prepared to have people close to you. This can be an issue for people not used to fishing NY lakes. It’s not uncommon to have another boat within 40 yards of you here. Rather than stress over it, work together to get the fish going and you’ll reap the rewards. Like any other fish, smallmouth can be irritated into biting. It’s essential that you understand how to read your electronics and have a good front graph on the bow of your boat. Fish directly over the fish with a half ounce weighted dropshot bait and dangle that lure in front of them until they react. You can also use spider jigs or small tube here as well. Don’t give up on them too quickly if you don’t get a bite in the first five minutes. Sometimes you just have to get them fired up, but then the whole school will react. A carolina rig is also a great bait for that location and time of year. Fisher Bay has a great area rich with green, luscious grass that I watched Randall Tharp fish for hours.
When the pressure is dropping from 30.00 and down, this is when you’re going to find the best fishing this lake has to offer. However, it might also mean the worst weather as well. Stay committed to a place and game plan. If you want to hide, the river on the far west end is a great option and holds some incredible smallmouth and largemouth fishing. You’ll be protected from the wind, and it’s a short trip (in terms of miles) when it’s time to return. However, keep in mind that there is a long no-wake area that will eat up a huge chunk of time. You’ll want to practice that run at least once to gauge how long it will take you, but you can probably plan to lose an hour of fishing each way. If you run to the east, look for wind-blown points. Huge smallmouth can be found mingling with largemouth in as little as 4 inches of water. Sexy Shad is a great color. For largemouth, key on areas that have ledges, or that are near deep water as the largemouth will start moving out of their real shallow hiding spots. Weave a spinnerbait or chatterbait in and out of the grass and slow roll it as much as possible, swimbaits or swim a jig. There are many bays that have outside edges like this. Just west of the 81 bridge is a large bay that offers an area that can be highly productive. Look to the places on the south shore in the center of the lake for great locations. There’s an unmarked shoal that I will frequently refer to as “mini shackleton” just to the south east of Dunham Island that can be absolutely dynamite! A green pumpkin tube, worked quickly, is also a favorite of mine in this area. Rig it texas, with a 3/8 ounce weight.
Now that I’ve shown you some areas you should be able to get a feel for where you can start depending on what your forecast is for that particular day. In part III, I will dissect Big Bay, and show you how I would fish that area based on three different types of weather in July/August.