BASS Oneida Lake Baits, Gear & Patterns

Boyd Duckett's Winning Pattern Baits & Gear

Call it good fortune or just plain ol’ dumb luck, but when Boyd Duckett pulled into the driveway of the lakeside cabin he and fellow Bassmaster Elite Series pro Kelly Jordon shared at Oneida Lake last week, little did he know that the winning fish for the final event of the season were literally straight out off the end of the dock. After the first day of official practice, while relaxing on shore, Duckett and Jordon watched as the surface came alive a few hundred yards off shore in Maple Bay. They thought it was a school of perch, but it turned out to be smallmouths. All the better for Duckett. “Straight off the dock, I watched them every night after I found them the first night,” he said. “It was pretty cool.”

While the area endured heavy fishing pressure from several pros during the event, Duckett was able to make slight adjustments that gave him the edge and allowed him to catch 62-06 from the bay and claim the victory and an automatic berth in next year’s Bassmaster Classic. He overtook Randy Howell on the final day after Howell couldn’t finish his limit and wound up 6 ounces back. The conventional wisdom coming in was that Oneida was a place where someone could fish their strength and do well, but a series of fronts that moved through prior to the tournament, combined with shifting wind patterns during the event, conspired against those who were mixing and matching different patterns. Duckett’s area was ideal because it was sheltered from the winds for the most part, allowing him to key in on the micro factors that enticed the better bites. While many in the field struggled mightily during practice, Duckett felt his time would be best spent getting to know the area out in front of his rental house. When he did, he discovered not only was there an area where smallmouths would school up and chase bait to the surface, but plenty of ideal largemouth habitat in the 3- to 7-foot range. “I had one other area where I’d caught a 4 1/2-pounder flipping, but I never went to it because I didn’t have to,” he said.

Competition:

Atop Duckett’s to-do list at Oneida was do what he could to get himself into contention for a Classic berth. He’d had an awful 2011 season, but has been fishing better of late. Judging by the daily weights turned in by those in the Top 12, a 12-pound bag was okay as long as it was accompanied by a couple in the 15-pound range. Typically, hitting the 60-pound mark will put someone in contention for the win at Oneida. He opened with a 13-11 bag that had him in a three-way tie for 27th. But his area was hardly a secret and saw plenty of traffic. Along with Duckett, Jordon and Jeremy Starks fished the same water, at times in very close quarters. Tim Horton, Matt Reed and Chad Griffin also poked around the area at one point or another. “We were thrashing it,” Duckett said. “That’s a lot of boats in a tiny area. At times, it looked like a parking lot. (The fish) were very finicky.”

Knowing a 27th-place effort wasn’t going to do much for his Classic hopes, he continued to hammer away on the largemouth on day 2 and he gained some serious traction with a 17-11 catch that catapulted him to 2nd in the standings, just 12 ounces behind Howell. His 14-00 on day 3 kept him in 2nd, but his deficit to Howell grew to 2-06. Points-wise, he came into the last day pretty much needing to win in order to make the Classic as holding onto 2nd wouldn’t have been enough to make it on points. The early-morning topwater smallmouth bite wasn’t there on day 4, so he went to a 4” Berkley PowerBait Hollow Belly swimbait that had produced keeper bites earlier in the week. This time, he threw a blueback herring pattern and got a 4-03 largemouth to eat it. He was then able to cull up with smallmouths and pulled out enough from the bay to put 17 pounds in his livewell. “That area was very special because it had both species within 100 yards of each other,” he said.

Winning Pattern:

The area Duckett fished was a “giant grass bay,” he said, with some rock mixed in, but the fish (at the least the smallmouth) weren’t holding on it. “There’s a big opening that’s probably 100 yards by 50 yards and that’s what they school in with no grass,” he said. “That’s what makes it special – it’s got a 100-yard section of no grass and that’s where the fish on the edges were, out in the middle schooling all day.” The key element to his presentation and why he was able to generate more and better quality bites from the area was his decision to downsize lines on day 2. He’d been pitching with 17-pound braid, but the fish would just bump the bait. He went to 10-pound fluorocarbon and they started eating it. “I argued with Kelly after the second day about how to catch them flipping,” he said. “All three of us pitched and I caught two largemouth and they never caught one. The reason I did it was I was pitching 17 and I’d get a bite and it’d go bump and they wouldn’t be there. After several of those, I decided to go to the 10 and started catching them. “That was the difference-maker for me compared to the other guys in my area.” When he was targeting largemouth, he’d rarely get bit on the fall. “You had to move it, lift it and drop it,” he said. “In fact, you had to move it a lot, really, to get the pitching bite.”

Winning Gear:

Swimbait gear: 7’ medium-action Duckett Fishing Micro Magic casting rod, Abu Garcia Revo Premier casting reel (7.0:1 ratio), 10-pound Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon line, 1/8-ounce Buckeye J-Will swimbait jig, 4” Berkley PowerBait Hollow Belly swimbait (Tennessee shad). He also threw the swimbait in the blueback herring pattern, but the color’s no longer in production.

Pitching/flipping gear: 7’ medium-heavy Duckett Fishing Micro Magic rod, same reel, same line, unnamed 3/16-ounce bullet weight, 3” Berkley PowerBait Chigger Craw (cinnamon/purple flake and green-pumpkin).

His big fish on day 2, a 5-01 largemouth, fell for the cinnamon/purple flake Chigger Craw. “That’s such a great color,” he said. He also weighed fish this week caught on a Z-Man ChatterBait and Lucky Craft 115 Gunfish.

Main factor in his success – “The difference-maker for me because I had so many guys around me who didn’t make it was definitely the line change.”

Performance edge – “Re-committing myself to the sport. I was real busy and I know that’s not a real good excuse, but it is. I had a lot going on and probably didn’t give it the time it deserved. To be good at anything, you have to give yourself to it. You just have to. Nobody’s good enough not to. I’ve always done multiple things at the same time and it got to the point where I’d say, ‘I got that. I’ve been fishing for longer than most of these guys out here.’ And you just take it for granted that you can just show up and catch them because you have for so long. The next thing you know, it gets in your head and it falls apart on you and then you’re really messed up because there’s nothing worse than any kind of a competitor that doesn’t have confidence. You’re done. And you try to get it back, but it doesn’t come in a bottle and there is no book to read.”

Oneida Lake Winning Pattern Bassfan 8/30/12 (Todd Ceisner)

Randy Howell's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Randy Howell has been to Oneida Lake enough in his career that he was sure he had enough fish to run to if he got in a pinch no matter the conditions. He even paid the lake a visit before it went off limits just to get a feel for how it was fishing this summer. Things were coming together according to plan as he seized the lead after day 2 thanks to a good topwater bite during the first 2 days. Over the final 2 days, he had to go deeper and caught his key fish on a swimbait and flipping a 1-ounce jig. Three of his five keepers on day 3 came off the outside edge of a grass line. “I did that a lot and got it down to knowing that it was going to be three or four things that were going to work,” he said. But he couldn’t manage to find one last keeper on the final day that would’ve kept him ahead of Duckett. He had a solid 14-04, including a 4 1/2-pound largemouth and 4-pound smallie, but just couldn’t entice one more bite. “I did all I could do,” he said. “I wish I’d have found out how to catch a limit before I started flipping. Any sized keeper was all I needed and that’s what gets me. “I’m happy about the decisions I made all week. I thought they’d play out right and it had a lot to do with the fishery from being here so many times now and learning what I need to know about it. I always said I wasn’t going to let that happen to me again and to not catch a limit and that’s what’s going to haunt me here now.”

Topwater gear: 7’2” Daiwa Steez Fle-X-Lite casting rod, Daiwa Zillion Type-R casting reel, 70-pound Daiwa Samurai braided line, 3” Rebel Pop-R (bone).

He also caught fish on a Heddon Super Spook (chrome).

Swimbait gear: Same rod and reel as topwater, 16-pound Gamma fluorocarbon line, 1/2-ounce Do-It Molds swimbait jighead, 4” NetBait BK Swimmer (albino and pearl).

Jig gear: 7’4” extra-heavy Daiwa Steez casting rod, same reel, 1-ounce Lunker Lure Triple Rattleback Monster Grass jig (green-pumpkin/blue), Kinami Baits Psycho Dad trailer (black/red flake).

Jerkbait gear: 7’ medium-action Daiwa Steez Fle-X-Lite casting rod, Daiwa Steez Ultra Magnesium casting reel (7.1:1 ratio), 10-pound Gamma fluorocarbon line, Molix Finder-Jerk 110 (shiny shad).

Main factor: “Spending lots of time on the lake learning and marking places over the years. My Lowrance HDS-10 is how I was able to find so many spots.”

Performance edge: “My Triton and Mercury held up all week even with all the running around I was doing.”

Oneida Lake Patterns 2-5 Bassfan 9/4/12 (Todd Ceisner)

Scott Rook's Pattern, Baits & Gear

There wasn’t a lot of bait in the area Scott Rook fished, but that didn’t seem to matter much. He located the offshore shoal in practice and caught a decent smallmouth on a jerkbait and noticed several followers nearby. On the last day of practice, he went back to check the spot and caught three 3-pounders on a dropshot rig. “I knew that’s where I was going to start,” he said. “There were quite a fish there. I wasn’t really dialed into where the sweet spot was so I started working my way around.” Once he ID’d the sweet spot, he then got dialed into how the fish wanted to bait. “I’d throw it out there and let it hit bottom and just dead-stick it,” he said. “I’d pick my rod up and hold it and hold it and then when I’d go to pull it there’d be one on there. If it was a small fish, like 1 1/2 pounds or less, I’d feel him bite.” He caught every fish he weighed in the tournament off that same shoal and never had another boat move in on him. He was still able to catch quality bags the final 2 days despite some strong winds at various points of the day. “I was just real patient with it,” he said. “I’d just go back and forth. When I caught a fish the first couple days and it’d slick off, I could see them swimming down there and they had fish of equal size swimming with them, so that gave me confidence that there was enough there.”

Dropshot gear: 7’ medium-action St. Croix Legend Extreme spinning rod, Abu Garcia Revo Premier spinning reel, 8-pound Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon line, size 1 Gamakatsu Rebarb hook, 1/4-ounce Big Strike dropshot weight, unnamed dropshot worm (smoky green color).

Main factor: “Working it real, real slow and being real patient with it.”

Performance edge: “The equipment had to work good and my MotorGuide trolling motor helped me stay out in those waves the last 2 days. I was just crashing into waves with water coming over the nose. All of your equipment has to work right and my Mercury outboard and MotorGuide trolling motor were big parts of my success.”

Oneida Lake Patterns 2-5 Bassfan 9/4/12 (Todd Ceisner)

Takahiro Omori's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Practice was a struggle for Takahiro Omori, who knew he had to catch big stringers each day to work his way into contention for a Bassmaster Classic berth. “I practiced mainly for largemouth the last 2 days and they weren’t there,” he said. “This is like my fifth tournament here so I know where the fish are. I found a little key stretch here and there, but I was only getting five or six bites a day.” He was targeting the outside edges of deep grass in 12 to 14 feet for smallmouth with a Lucky Craft Slender Pointer and skipped docks and flipped shallow grass for largemouth. He’d also flip any other sort of shoreline cover that looked enticing, such as laydowns or pads.

On day 1, he caught all largemouth and weighed 12-08. Needing a similar bag on day 2 to make the weekend, he was down to his final 30 minutes and had just four fish when he latched onto a 3 1/4-pound smallmouth. He had another smallie on his stringer that day and they proved to be the only brown fish he weighed all week. It turned out to be the fish that kept his season alive. “That put me into (48th) so I if didn’t have that fish, I’d have been done for the year,” he said. He went after smallmouth on day 3, but couldn’t locate them, so he changed up and targeted largemouth, knowing a couple big bites could improve his Classic hopes. He got those key bites, including a 5-06 that took big-bass honors for the event, and weighed 18-13 to rise to 8th on the leaderboard. It was the best single-day weight of any event he’s fished at Oneida. His weight slipped to 14-00 on day 4, but it was enough to help him gain four more spots in the final standings and push him to 24th in points, well inside the Classic cut line.

Flipping gear: 7’3” medium-heavy Daiwa Black Label pitching/flipping rod, Daiwa baitcasting reel, 60-pound Sunline FX2 braided line, unnamed 1/2- and 1-ounce flipping weights, 4/0 Gamakatsu Superline EWG hook, unnamed creature bait (black/blue).

Skipping gear: 6’8” medium-action Daiwa spinning rod, Daiwa spinning reel, 10-pound Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, 4/0 Gamakatsu G-Lock worm hook, 5” Yamamoto Senko (green-pumpkin).

Main factor: “I tried to fish with an open mind and listen to the fish because I could’ve fished for smallmouth or largemouth.”

Performance edge: “Mental toughness. I had a lot of pressure on me and I had to tough it out.”

Oneida Lake Patterns 2-5 Bassfan 9/4/12 (Todd Ceisner)

Ott Defoe's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Ott DeFoe didn’t set the lake on fire in practice, but he figured it out enough to give himself a puncher’s chance at the win and Angler of the Year (AOY) title. He estimated that he caught 12 keepers in 3 days of practice, but just couldn’t figure out the offshore smallmouth bite. “I caught one smallmouth that was actually where he should’ve been in practice,” he said. “I caught a couple shallow, but only one deep. And I’m not very good at that so I just went to places where I could fish shallow. I got some bites shallow and the ones I got were good ones. I felt like I had two things going in practice.” One was flipping grass in moderate depths (6 to 8 feet) around a creek mouth and the other was skipping docks and overhangs. “I don’t think the type of grass mattered,” he noted. “Location was more important than anything.” After struggling to put together a 12-05 stringer on day 1 and seeing Brent Chapman weigh 16-05 to gain some separation in the AOY race, DeFoe went out with a more relaxed mindset on day 2. But that didn’t make it any easier to catch fish. He worked through the same day-1 water, but found it was empty.

By mid-morning on day 2, he started to wonder if he was going to even make a check or catch enough to maintain his place in the Top 8 in the standings, which would earn him a berth in the All-Star event next month. Then, he caught a 3 3/4-pounder on a Berkley Havoc Pit Boss to get started. That fish paved the way for a 15-05 sack and helped him make the weekend in 23rd. “I just went with it after that,” he said. He had a 15-keeper day on day 3 when he weighed 15-13 to make the Top 12. He closed with 13-07 to lock up his second straight 5th-place finish as well as 2nd place in the AOY standings.

Flipping gear: 7’6” heavy-action Fenwick Aetos casting rod, Abu Garcia Revo MGX casting reel, 20-pound Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon line, 1/2-ounce Reins Tungsten flipping weight, 5/0 VMC flipping hook, Berkley Havoc Pit Boss (Okeechobee craw).

Skipping gear: 7’ medium-action Fenwick Aetos spinning rod, Abu Garcia Revo Premier spinning reel, 10-pound Spiderwire braided line (main line), 12-pound Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon line, 3/0 VMC offset round-bend hook, 4” unnamed soft stickbait (green-pumpkin).

He also caught some schoolers on a 5-inch Berkley Gulp! Jerk Shad (pearl white) and threw a Rapala No. 7 Skitter Pop (shad). The Fenwick Aetos rods debuted at ICAST in July and should hit stores this fall.

Main factor: “Just going fishing on the 2nd day.”

Performance edge: “Using the braided line for skipping. I caught fish over metal bars in the docks and over tree branches – crazy stuff.”

Oneida Lake Patterns 2-5 Bassfan 9/4/12 (Todd Ceisner)