The first Bassmaster Northern Open seemed to approach as quick as it was over. These events can leave you feeling humbled or happy depending upon how the chain of events play out during those few tournament days. Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to squeeze out a 9th place finish on the Co-Angler side.
This was my third time returning to Lake Oneida for an Open. I was eager to get after this one because of previous knowledge I had on the lake and we were coming back at the same time of year. After having a long practice with my travel partner, Josh Douglas, we were feeling confident about tactics we'd discovered in years past along with a few new techniques that were unveiled.
A big success for me this year on Oneida was a 3/4 oz All-Terrain Tackle Football Jig in Green Pumpkin. I fished this a little differently than I typically would; just the jig head, no skirt and I cut the weed guard off to allow for a better hook up ratio because I was mainly fishing it around cleaner rock. I rigged a 3.8" Green Pumpkin swimbait to imitate the Gobies the lake had started to see a plethora of over the past couple years, which quickly became a very dominate forage for the bass there. Also the larger profile bait I believe helped trigger some bigger bites.
Throughout practice I found they wanted the bait moving and were either hitting it on the initial fall of the cast or on a slow retrieve bumping the rocks back to the boat.I used this technique on a Daiwa 7'4" H Tatula baitcasting rod with a Tatula CT Type-R reel in an 8.0:1 gear ratio. I liked a longer rod and heavier power for getting longer casts and better hook sets. The fast gear ratio reel really helped to pick up the line I needed to quickly. I used 20lb fluorocarbon line because the rocks were covered in zebra mussels and would cut the line up really bad. This allowed me to get a few more casts in-between retying and I didn't find it affected the amount of bites I got. The eye of the AT Football Jig also played an important roll in keeping the line from rubbing against the rocks too much. It's located more towards the top of the jig head and sticks out farther, rather that being a part of the head and further at the nose of the bait.
A few other techniques definitely were successful for me like a drop shot and a tube to imitate shad, gobies and crawfish depending upon the area I was in, but I wanted to highlight this unique way that an All-Terrain Football Jig can be used. It was a great way to cover water from the back of the boat and pick up a few key bites I needed to get my Top-10 finish, but of course I couldn't have done it without the pros I was paired with and them having me around fish. Overall I'm very excited to move forward with some momentum going on to the next stop at the James River for the second Northern Open!