Outdoor Journal: Big bass regain their appetite

I guess the moon and sun and whatever else is required to make fish bite must have been perfectly al

Categories: Sports

I guess the moon and sun and whatever else is required to make fish bite must have been perfectly aligned last week because there was a considerable number of big fish caught — especially largemouth bass — in Saratoga Lake.

This lake has been fairly quiet since the good bass fishing during the spring spawn, but all of a sudden, the big bass bite has been as good as ever.

In a recent South Shore Marine Wednesday afternoon/evening three-bass team tournament, there were several trophy largemouth bass that came to the scales. The top three cash position teams each had a five-pound-plus bass in their bag. Leading the field of 31 teams were Saratoga Springs anglers John Jenkins and Dave Munger with 10.85 pounds, which included a 5.25-pound largemouth.

First place returned $260. Second, with a 5.34-pound largemouth anchoring their three-bass catch, were Jim McHale of Ballston Spa and Gary Rhodes of Saratoga Springs, with 10.39 pounds, worth $180. But it was the third-place Schuylerville team of Ted Spezio and Justin Liptak who had the tournament’s biggest bass of 5.41 pounds and a three-bass total of 9.28 pounds. Third place returned $120, and the big bass an additional $155.

Many of the the tournament anglers reported plenty of action on pound-and-a-half bass, but the bigger ones were hard to come by. McHale and Rhodes said they were fishing in six to 10 feet of water and really only got three good bites. This seems to be the trend on Saratoga Lake. You have to put in the time and weed through the smaller fish to catch a few bigger ones. Venom Salty Slings and Slingipedes fished weightless are still producing when the wind doesn’t blow, and weighted when it does. However, Andy and Jeff Daubert of Ballston Spa, who weighed in a 5.44-pound largemouth, caught it on a spinner bait.

As for “spots” on Saratoga Lake, I would suggest the weed beds in the south end of the lake, Stoney Point, south side of Snake Hill and any and all of Manning’s Cove. Work them slowly; it’s worth the effort.

Although these smaller bass (10 to 14 inches) aren’t what most anglers are looking for, their willingness to bite is something that can be quite useful when teaching a youngster not only how to fish for bass, but how to release them. Wacky-worm fishing is very simple to teach a youngster, and it’s usually very easy to recognize a bite. If it gets a little windy, you can weigh the bait down with a BB-size pinch-on weight placed right above the hook eye. Another way for a youngster to fish this bait is with a small bobber about 24 inches above the hook and bait. This bobber technique will also work when slow-drifting with the wind or current.

In the smallmouth bass category, I would say the three-plus-pound smallies that Gerry Rosenbarker of Scotia and his partner, Bruce Jeram of Rexford, caught in the recent Schenectady Elite Anglers tournament on the Mohawk River definitely qualify as big bass. Their biggest smallie weighed four pounds, 10 ounces. The waters were quite muddy when the 27 teams left the Mohawk Valley Marine launch that morning, but it didn’t seem to have an adverse effect on the anglers. Gerry and Bruce’s winning six-bass limit bag of smallies totaled 20 pounds, 14 ounces, and earned then a first-place cash award of $710.

The second-place duo of Tim Paraso of Inlet and Matt Leiberman of Mechanicville had all largemouths totaling 16 pounds, four ounces, and they received $535. Jeff Zielonko of Green Island and Mike Warmt of East Greenbush were third with 16 pounds, one ounce, and the Rotterdam team of Vince Monini III and Brian Ouillette placed fourth with 15 pounds, eight ounces. Third- and fourth-place finishers, both with mixed bags of largemouth and smallmouth bass, returned $355 and $180, respectively. Big bass honors and $135 went to Pat Lenny of Colonie and Scott Madchero of Schenectady for their four-pound, 12-ounce largemouth.

The winners actually culled a dozen 2 1⁄2-3-pound bass throughout the day. With quite a few 12- to 14-pound, six-bass team limits coming to the scales, the bass bite is definitely on in the Mohawk River.

At the Bassmaster Weekend Ser­ies, operated by American Bass Ang­lers, the New York State Division opener on northern Lake George earlier this month, the quantities were high, but the quality was average. Of the 84 participants (42 boaters and 42 co-anglers), there were 33 boater five-bass limits and 34 three-bass co-angler limits weighed in.

Jim Kane of Massachusetts won the $5,000 first-place money in the boaters’ division with 11.29 pounds, just a little over a 2.25-pound aver­age. His biggest bass was a 4.37-pound largemouth. On the co-angler side, the top three had three-bass limits that averaged more than three pounds per fish. The winner, New York angler Mike Rinaldi, anchored his 9.90-pound catch with a tourn­ament-leading 4.98-largemouth.

Most of the largemouth that came to the scales were caught in the weedy bays in the South Basin. These included Dunhams, Northwest, Bolton, Kattskill and Harris Bays. And, I was told by several ang­lers who fished in this event, that “dock fishing” also produced a number largemouths. As for the smallies, the Narrows and many of the islands in both the North and the South Basin held fish. The lure choices varied from top-water offerings in the early morning to wacky worms, both weightless and weighted, tube baits and shad-colored crankbaits.


This week’s big bass honors go to Dr. George May of Plantation, Fla., a summertime resident of Saratoga Springs, who hooked, photographed and released a six-pound, one-ounce largemouth bass in the Stillwater area of the upper Hudson River.

Several persistent casts to a small weed and rock undercut bank finally triggered the big bass to bite so hard it almost pulled the rod out of his hands. The fish was caught on a wacky-rigged Venom Lures six-inch black/red glitter salty Slingipede.


According to the 2007 Freshwater Angler Survey by the State Department of Environmental Conserv­ation, the black bass is still the top favorite among the 20,000 New York anglers who participated in the survey. These randomly selected state-licensed anglers spent an estim­ated 18.7 million days fishing in 2007. Oneida Lake and the Hudson River were some of the bodies of water that had significant increases in number of angler trips. Each jumped about 200,000 additional anglers since the last survey in 1996.

The survey also revealed that resident and non-resident anglers collectively spent an estimated $331 million on fishing sites and $202 million en route to fishing sites. Ninety-eight million dollars was generated in the Great Lakes fishery.

One species of fish that’s seldom mentioned in my fishing report is the channel catfish. Now, the “cat” is not really considered one of the most popular freshwater game fish, but if you ever caught one, you know that it is quite a fighter when hooked with a rod and reel. I have hooked up with some 10-pound “cats” on Lake Champlain, and they offer plenty of fun.

I know Jan Allen of Hadley was quite excited when he related his story of a channel catfish he caught near Rockwell Falls on the Hudson River recently. Jan was fishing from shore with a nightcrawler on four-pound-test monofilament in 15 feet of water when the 14.48-pound channel cat hit. It was a classic angler/fish battle that lasted 30 minutes before the fish could be netted.

Jack Douglas of Galway and his son, Jeff, of Greenfield, also had a good day catching Lake Champlain channel cats.

Launching at South Bay, they went up the channel to the area around Buoy No. 30. They used a variety of bait, including cut herring, to catch and release 10 catfish ranging in size from five to 14 pounds.

One of the “cats,” a 12-pounder, was caught on six-pound-test monofilament. Jack also said they caught a dinner’s worth of white and yellow perch in this same area.


ESPN recently reported that the world record bass catch may have been tied. The current record is 22 pounds, four ounces, pulled out of Montgomery Lake in Georgia in June, 1932 by George Perry. According to ESPN.com:BASS, a bass reportedly weighing 10.12 kilograms, or a little less than 22 pounds, five ounces, and measuring nearly 29 inches was caught by Manabu Kurita on July 2 on live bait from Lake Biwa in the Shiga Prefecture of Japan. The lake, the largest in Japan, covers 259 square miles, is one of the oldest in the world and is more than 300 feet deep.

If Kurita’s bass, which will be submitted to the International Game Fish Association, holds up, it would be the biggest legally caught and certified largemouth in history. However, according to IGFA rules, in order for a fish to be considered the world record, it would have to weigh at least two ounces more than the existing record. If you would like to see a video of the catch, go to youtube.com/watch?v=HXOyXArL9rw. This is a big bass!

Closer to home, Utica angler Tom Yacovella caught a five-pound, 4 1⁄2-ounce brook trout that’s officially the new state record. The fish measured 21 inches long and had a 15-inch girth. He caught the brookie June 7 in Hamilton County’s Racquette Lake, trolling a 3 1⁄2-inch, shad-colored Rapala off a three-way swivel rig. It was his only bite in his 10 hours of fishing.

He had the fish weighed officially on four different certified scales. And for those of you who once had a Zebco Cardinal 4 spinning reel, that’s what Tom used to reel in his record brook trout. These reels are now highly collectible items.

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