Big smallmouth await Bassmaster Open anglers at Oneida Lake
Published By OutdoorsFIRST Media Published June 23, 2017
Some of Jamie Hartman's earliest memories date back to time spent at his grandparents' lake house on Oneida Lake in upstate New York.
He remembers standing on a pier at their home and catching a carp on one occasion and a smallmouth bass another time. When Hartman was older, he would take a canoe or a johnboat onto the water with friends for recreation.
But it wasn't until Hartman began bass fishing competitively in 2000 that he discovered Oneida, the largest lake located entirely in New York State, to be the perfect place to practice the sport he was quickly learning to love.
"I was into competitive archery at the time I fished my first club tournament," Hartman said. "In fact, I skipped an archery competition to fish in that thing, and wouldn't you know, I won it. I was absolutely hooked from the start. Who knows where I'd be if I hadn't won that first club tournament?"
Hartman will be back on the lake he knows so well when the first Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open of the season gets underway at Oneida Lake June 29-July 1. Approximately 200 professional anglers, as well as 200 co-anglers, are expected in the field.
The winning pro will earn a spot in the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods, provided he fishes all three Northern Opens on tap this year. In addition, the top pro will win a Nitro Z20 bass boat with a Mercury 225 Pro XS engine, and the top co-angler will win a Triton 179 TrX boat and Mercury 115 ELPT 4-stroke outboard.
Hartman would like nothing more than to be that winning pro, and he's come close on Oneida before. This will be the sixth time he's fished a Bassmaster Open on the lake, dating back to the 2003 Northern Open, when he finished 26th overall. Since then, he's finished no lower than 14th, and he placed third on the 50,000-acre fishery in 2016.
Currently a rookie in the Bassmaster Elite Series, Hartman, 44, has three Top 10 finishes in six Elite events this year.
The combination of this year's success and his knowledge of Oneida Lake has Hartman thinking big as the first Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open of 2017 approaches. Additional Northern Opens will follow on the James River in Virginia on Aug. 3-5 and on Douglas Lake, Tennessee, on Sept. 7-9.
"I'm certainly looking forward to this one," Hartman said. "I'm confident. I know the area, and I think I can take a chance or two here and there."
He predicts that Oneida Lake bass will be finishing up the spawning season by late June, which could mean the fish will be hungry and eager to bite as the water temperature steadily warms. There are healthy largemouth and smallmouth populations in the lake, and Hartman predicted bass will be caught in a variety of ways during the Open.
"They seem to get into pods this time of year, and that could be in 2 feet of water or 25 feet of water. I was in there practicing (recently), and I was amazed at the width of some of the smallmouth. They're getting bigger and bigger every year, it seems. They're just really fat."
Hartman believes the average size of those bass could have something to do with the presence of gobies in the fishery. An invasive species, the round goby has spread throughout the Great Lakes and other waterways in the Northeast.
And the bass apparently like them a lot. Still, Hartman said anglers won't have to throw lures that mimic the goby to get bass to bite this time of year in Oneida Lake. He's expecting fishing to be good enough that anglers can choose whichever lures they prefer.
"There's been very little pressure on the bass so far, so they'll look at a lot of things," he said. "Maybe later in the year something (that looks) like a goby may come into play, but right now, it's going to be a fishing playground. I can't wait."
The Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open No. 1 will begin at 6 a.m. ET each day at Oneida Shores Park, 9400 Bartell Road in Brewerton, NY. Weigh-in will be held beginning at 2 p.m. on Days 1 and 2. The final weigh-in will begin at 3:15 p.m. at the Bass Pro Shops located at 1579 Clark Street Road in Auburn, NY.
Pro anglers can weigh a limit of five bass, and co-anglers can each weigh three bass. The entire field will fish the first two days of the Open, with the Top 12 anglers in each division competing on Saturday, the final day.