New York’s fishing season for black bass (largemouth and smallmouth) opened yesterday, as it does every year on the third Saturday in June. The allures of bass fishing are many and bass fishing is big business in the outdoors industry.
Bass are the perfect warm-weather fish that can be caught by a youngster fishing off a dock using a bobber and a worm. Yet, anglers spend tens of thousands of dollars on bass boats and other equipment in order to pursue the largest member of the sunfish family.
A fine coincidence is the fact that our state’s bass season opens Father’s Day weekend. When my father was alive, we fished for bass more than any other species. Those memories are some of my fondest, and to me that’s what fishing is all about.
In the May issue of Bassmaster Magazine, Lake Champlain was voted No. 5 in an effort to select the top 100 bass lakes in America. To compile the data used in the rankings, magazine editors sought out state fisheries biologists, conservation directors and other personnel in their state federations. The top lake was Texas’s Falcon Lake, with Lake Erie placing fourth. Other notable New York waters included Oneida Lake (14) and the St. Lawrence River (53).
And, speaking of B.A.S.S., the organization that publishes Bassmaster Magazine, for the past few years now they’ve shunned Lake Champlain, at least for their Elite Series tournaments. When they announced this year’s, schedule they had set aside a “mystery” location similar in fashion to the way the early Bassmaster Classics were held. In those days, B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott wouldn’t tell his anglers where they were fishing until they were on the plane.
Anyway, I was keeping my fingers crossed that the mystery lake would be Lake Champlain, but Green Bay, Wisc., was chosen instead. B.A.S.S. has not entirely avoided northern lakes. Oneida, for one, is a popular destination late in their tournament season. But the Elites haven’t been here in five years. You’d think the fifth-best bass lake in the country would get a little more love, especially since Elite anglers, including Kevin Van Dam, speak so highly of the lake.
What they are really missing is a brand-new boat launch with an adequate amount of room for parking and tournament headquarters. FLW, which is a competing organization to B.A.S.S., knows this and will be holding a few tournaments here this year (www.flwoutdoors.com). It would still be nice to see B.A.S.S.’s Elite series anglers return.
The Alabama rig
The lure, or lures, that everyone in bass fishing is talking about these days is the Alabama Rig, which is a trademark of Mann’s Bait Company. It is also known as an umbrella rig and emerged late last year when professional angler Paul Elias won $100,000 using it in an FLW tournament.
An umbrella rig uses multiple lures to mimic a school of baitfish. While anglers can and do catch more than one bass, the setup really has a knack drawing out bigger fish looking for a solid meal. It resembles an umbrella in that it has wires similar to heavier steel leaders extending from a solid body in the center, much like an umbrella or even the spokes of a wheel. Swivels are attached to each wire. The big question is, will they work on waters in the North Country?
Burnie Haney, a competitive bass angler from Calcium, N.Y. (Jefferson County), fishes tournaments and also recreationally at waters throughout northern New York. He and one of his fishing partners fished the rig last fall and finished first and second at two tournaments on Oneida Lake. The rig accounted for the biggest bass in each of these tournaments. But Haney, who has logged more than 200 hours with the rig, acknowledges that it may not work in all conditions.
“This spring I continued my research very eager to see how well the rig would work going from cold to warmer water and to date I’ve not enjoyed the same level of success that I experienced during the fall to winter transition period,” he said. “I’ve had numerous bass, pickerel and pike chase the rig to the boat, but not commit to it.
“If you fish waters that have pods or schools of roaming baitfish as the primary forage base, you ought to get a couple of these rigs and give them a try, because under those circumstances it will produce fish when nothing else can. As with any new angling tool, there’s still so much more to learn about this rig.”
Enjoy your summer fishing time and don’t forget that next weekend, June 23 and 24, are New York’s free fishing days. No license is required.