CLAYTON, N.Y. – Holy mother of pearl! Actually, that’s probably the mildest of exclamations uttered by EverStart Northern Division anglers who ventured to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River and witnessed what an approaching cold front does to Lake Ontario. Reports from wave-weary anglers told of 7-footers at takeoff and you just know it didn’t get any better all day.
Now, for land bound visitors to upstate New York’s 1000 Islands region, this weather change will make for a lovely weekend of cool, clear pre-fall pleasantness. But of course, bass boats do not operate well on terra firma, so the options were – the lake or the river. Everyone knows there’s a whole lot more bass in the lake, but there’s also a lot of wide open water that gets awfully angry when blown upon by strong winds. On the other hand, the river – while certainly not immune to windy conditions – offers more protected areas while all those islands break the blow and offer some relief.
Yesterday, more anglers fished Lake Ontario and the big water did not disappoint. Today, fewer boats ventured past the mouth of the river, so it’s not surprising that the weigh-ins saw more largemouth, which also exist in the lake but are more common in the river. Overall, smallmouth again dominated the weigh-ins and that’s no surprise.
Topping the pro division was Derek Strub, who moved up from eighth place to first with a two-day total of 42-7. The only pro to break 20 pounds both days (20-10, 21-13), Strub hails from Elora, Ont., but his day two was more like Surfin’ U.S.A. – and we’re not talking The Beach Boys.
“It felt like I was sliding around on a 21-foot surfboard today,” Strub said of his boat’s continuous motion on Lake Ontario. “When you’re out and it’s like that, you’re kind of gliding over the waves on an angle so you don’t spear the next one. It was really hard. I only had seven bites all day. There’s no boat control. There’s no point in putting your electric motor in the water.”
Notably, Strub’s bag included a nice largemouth that he caught incidentally, while targeting smallies. Realistically, he may not have even had a shot at the green fish if it weren’t for the day’s weather. He caught the largemouth on the edge of a grass bed when the wind and waves pushed him off the hard bottom structure he was targeting.
The bulk of his weight, which included the Snickers Big Bass (5-12) came from smallmouth and targeting these fish was no cakewalk. He had to set up wind drifts with his outboard engine and make the most of each pass.
“I’m fishing specific spots, so I would pull up just past (a spot), jump up on the bow, get two or three casts and then pull back up again,” he said. “That’s why I wasn’t getting a lot of bites; because it’s not a very effective way to fish. But luckily, they were biting well enough. And I didn’t lose any today, which is surprising considering how hard it was. You’re drifting 3-4 mph and trying to land a fish.”
Strub stuck with dropshots again today. He caught his fish with Trigger-X Probe Worms and X-Zone Slammers. Upsizing dropshot weights helped keep the rigs on target, but there was no remedy for the clock-munching waves.
“It took almost 40 minutes to get between spots because I was running at 8 or 9 mph,” Strub said. “It’s big out there and I didn’t have any spots that were close together. We lost probably three to four hours today just trying to move.”
Hartman slips one notch to second
After leading day one with 22-7, Jamie Hartman, of Newport, N.Y. turned in a solid limit catch of 19-8, but yielded one spot on the leaderboard as he trails the lead by 8 ounces with his total weight of 41-15. Hartman said that dealing with the wind and rough water was taxing on his body and his equipment.
“I drained my (trolling motor) batteries down pretty bad,” he said. “I was having a hard time holding (on my spots). I had to keep my trolling motor on 80 percent just to hold. I’m fishing a lot of really specific stuff – a lot of nooks and crannies – and the wind makes it very hard.”
Hartman caught his fish on dropshots with green pumpkin worms during the morning’s cloudy conditions and switched to a clear bait when the afternoon brought partly sunny skies. A 5/8-ounce weight was essential for maintaining the stationary presentation the fish required.
“You can’t move the bait at all – they’re not eating it if you move it,” he said.
He caught his limit, but had one smaller fish in his sack. That wouldn’t have been nearly as frustrating, had he not lost a big fish with enough girth to improve his numbers.
“I was missing one more good bite to put (my weight) into the 20- to 21-pound range,” he said. “I lost one today that would have done it, but it was only one.”
Third-place Lucarelli bags day’s best
New Hampshire pro Joe Lucarelli caught the largest bag of day two – a limit that weighed 21-15 – and earned his final-round berth by improving from 13th to third with a total weight of 41-5. Lucarelli opted to fish the river today and the move obviously panned out nicely. Lucarelli noted that he did not have to run far from the takeoff site at the mouth of French Creek.
“I probably burned a gallon of fuel today,” he grinned.
Lucarelli looked for rock piles off the main channel and watched his Lowrance Structure Scan to pick out the ones with the largest fish. Dropshots with X-Zone Slammers were most productive and the action, he said, got off to a quick start.
“I probably had 18 pounds at 7 o’clock,” he said. “That let me loosen up and just fish.”
Fourth-place Izumi seeking repeat
Bob Izumi, of Milton, Ont., caught a day-two limit of 18-9 and slipped two spots to fourth with a total of 40-8. By comparison, Izumi’s positioned better than he was going into day three of last year’s 1000 Islands event, which he won after placing 17th and seventh the first two days.
Izumi caught one of his keepers on the main lake, but the rough conditions quickly prompted him to spend the remainder of his day in the river. The move allowed him to fish more comfortably and efficiently, but Izumi said he had to work hard for his bites.
“I caught five more keepers on five different spots,” he said. “I caught them on everything from shallow spinnerbaits to deep dropshots in 30-plus feet of water.”
Izumi reported that his last keeper came in the last hour of his fishing day. He decided to make a big run up the river and caught a nice smallmouth with just enough time to make the afternoon check in deadline.
Chapman sticks to the river
“Yesterday I caught everything on a dropshot,” Chapman said. “Today, with the cloud cover, they ducked down to the bottom so I put the dropshot away and picked up a tube and they ate it. I was moving it as little as possible – just dragging it.”
Chapman said he used a drift sock along with his trolling motor to control his boat’s movement for a slow presentation. Green pumpkin was his tube color.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the EverStart Series 1000 Islands event:
6th: Jason Ober, of Johnstown, Penn., 39-14
7th: Chris Flint, of Potsdam, N.Y., 39-3
8th: Jacob Powroznik, of Prince George, Va., 39-2
9th: Tom Belinda, of Holidaysburg, Penn., 38-11
10th: Howard E. Hammonds, of Westport, N.Y., 37-11
Sensitive dropshot rod key for Stois
Joseph Stois, Sr., of Fairview Park, Ohio placed fourth on day one with 17-15 and even though his productivity slipped a little today, a limit catch of 15-3 boosted his total to 33-2 and moved him up to first place.
Stois caught his fish on dropshots baited with Hooker’s Widow Sticks, the 4-inch Hag’s Tornado and Berkley Gulp baits. Today’s bite, he said, seemed less aggressive than that of day one, so bait color was more critical. He started with darker baits and fared better when he switched to a lighter green bait. Also important, Stois said, was the right rod.
“I attribute a lot of it to the Kistler rods I’m using,” he said. “When the fish aren’t thumping the bait, it just feels mushy or like there’s some weight there or a little resistance, a lot of rods won’t let you feel that. This one actually transmits it almost right into your hand.”
On day one, Stephen Kocell, of Waxhaw, N.C. and James Mignanelli, of Harmony, Penn. tied for the co-angler lead with 18-10 each. Today, Kocell pulled ahead to place second with 32-11, while Mignanelli took third at 31-5. Joe Wilkerson, of Falls Church, Va. placed fourth with 30-4 and Roberto Staccini, of Nepean, Ont. was fifth with 30-2.
Wilkerson also earned Snickers Bib Bass honors for his 5-pound, 6-ounce smallmouth.
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the EverStart Series 1000 Islands event:
7th: Rich Clarke, of Clayton, N.Y., 29-13
6th: James Perez, of Rensselaer, N.Y., 29-5
8th: Doug Wiser, of Brackney, Penn., 28-10
9th: Doug Caldwell, of Kane, Penn., 28-1
10th: David Kelly, of Goose Creek, S.C., 27-15
Day three of EverStart Series Northern Division action at the 1000 Islands continues at Saturday’s takeoff, scheduled to take place at 5:45 a.m. (Eastern) at French Creek Marina, located at 250 West Street in Clayton, N.Y.