Oneida Lake 9/12


Although fatigue was setting in and I had classes to teach in the evening, I was motivated to get up at dark-thirty and drive the 70 + minutes to Oneida Lake this morning. My buddy Craig told me that he felt fish were starting to bite again out here – so that certainly was a motivator as well. But I wasn’t going to give up on this lake’s massive smallmouth bass population by any stretch. I was on the lake just after 7 am. The forecast was calling for some clouds, then sun with light west winds. When I arrived, conditions were dead calm with bright sunny skies. Water temps were 71 degrees and only a few boats had launched at the South Shore Park launch.

Things got off to a slow start when I backlashed my spinnerbait setup and wasted around $10 worth of Flourocarbon line. I like Flouro for pitching/flipping and use it for leaders on dropshot rigs, but other than that I strongly prefer mono, especially after today’s mess. I think a lot of flouro is marketing hype. Is it really that invisible? Is the wet knot strength good? Does it handle well? What about the thicker diameter? Check out’s flourocarbon showdown from a few years ago to see an eye-opening article/comparison on flouro lines – but I digress. I wasted 20 minutes of valuable AM time trying to salvage the backlash. I wound up having to respool my spinnerbait setup with 14lb XXX mono.

I did a couple hours worth of exploring new water and found some promising largemouth bass areas. I missed a good hit near the surface on a Superfluke, had a sharp bite-off and missed a pickerel hit. But the area looked good! I knew that the AM bite might be slow due to the full moon, so I wasn’t letting my lack of success on the bass affect my take on the area’s potential.

A few shoals proved non-productive. I’d see this movie a few times this summer and I wasn’t going to repeat it – I know how it ends! So I tried working some deep water (28′ to 30′) with dropshot rigs and jigging spoons. The amount of bait and fish in the depths was impressive, but no takers. Who knows what species the marks were? But I found a very promising area near a shoal. There was a weedless shelf running around 10 to 15′ deep with what appeared to be a rocky bottom. As I prepared to work the area I knew without a doubt I would connect with some bass. Just a strong feeling – this area had features that weren’t very common on Oneida Lake. Then it appeared that I had a follow on a tube and weeds got thicker, so I started casting a spinnerbait (re-spooling that outfit paid off.) Over the next 7 or 8 casts I landed 3 nice smallmouths. Smallies crush spinnerbaits and it’s a great feeling. My next pass yielded a better fish. By this time the wind was coming out of the east. Fishing was improving and a gull dove on some bait and a fish or two surfaced. Bass were turning on and the wind finally started coming out of the west, but unfortunately it was time to leave. I kept two bass to eat (payback for the last couple tough trips!) and I checked their stomach contents. One fish was empty, the other had a crayfish or two in its stomach.

It felt great finally “cracking” this lake. I’d caught a fair number of bass here over the past 25 years or so, but never felt like I really understood what I needed to do and what was going on. I was usually on someone else’s boat fishing their patterns and areas. Now I know what to look for and how to find it on my own. I always tell my clients that tough fishing with some good feedback (from the fish) is often the best “character builder” on the water. It breeds confidence. If someone calls me and asks where to go for lakers or whatever, and I tell them – they just become reliant on reports. I don’t feel I will get shut out on this lake again.