Upstate New York is a bass angler’s nirvana

By on June 24, 2019
Greg Jones of Victor with a nice Lake Erie smallmouth. Greg is a hardcore bass fisherman who fished over 100 days last year, landing more than 1,000 bass. Provided photo

Greg Jones of Victor with a nice Lake Erie smallmouth. Greg is a hardcore bass fisherman who fished over 100 days last year, landing more than 1,000 bass. Provided photo

New York State has 99 problems … but finding a great place to bass fish is not one of them. I think Jay-Z has a song about that. For those over fifty, please Google.  

If you started on the bass season opener on June 15 you could literally fish for bass on a different body of water every weekend for the whole summer and never come close to fishing all the excellent bass water we have here in Upstate New York.  

Lakes like Erie, any of the eleven Finger Lakes, Lake Champlain, Oneida Lake, not to mention my favorite … the St. Lawrence River, and the eastern half of Lake Ontario. 

As a testimonial of how good they are, these lakes are favorite tournament stops for The Bassmaster Elite tournament trail. Mind you, these are the best bass anglers in the world, and could hold their tournaments anywhere in the country. This year their Elite tournament trail is visiting two of our waters. 

The 2019 Berkley Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River will be held August 15 through 18 in Waddington and the 2019 Site One Bassmaster Elite at Cayuga Lake will be held August 22 through 25 in Union Springs. If you ever have a chance to visit one of these tournament weigh-ins, I suggest you go for it. They have a festival-like atmosphere with many fishing games for the kids to go along with a number of tackle vendors. Go to Bassmaster.com and look for the Elite tournament schedule for details. A lot can be learned at these weigh-ins where you can observe the best bass fishermen on the planet. The size of bass that they bring in each day and what baits they are using to catch those bass is tremendous intel for anyone who fishes that lake. Many times, they produce size and numbers of bass that the locals didn’t even know were there.

Lake Champlain is a favorite of the Bassmaster tournament trail … visiting it every other year. This lake has some of the best mix of largemouth and smallmouth fishing in the country and is also a favorite of local bass-aholic Greg Jones of Victor. Greg is a hardcore local bass fisherman who puts more time on the water than our politicians spend investigating each other. Greg fished over 100 days last year, landing more than 1,000 bass. He keeps detailed records to prove it. The man chases bass like they owe him money. His love of bass fishing is equaled only by his love of building hand-crafted guitars, and he excels at both. I reached out to Mr. Jones and asked about his favorite bass fishing waters and his best techniques for fooling them. He was gracious enough to respond, “My wife Nora and I fish Lake Champlain for two weeks every year and I consider it the best bass lake in the country. We prefer the northern section of the lake a dozen miles from the Canadian border. The lake has so much great structure. There are countless offshore boulder humps teaming with smallmouth and hundreds of miles of shoreline and docks loaded with largemouth. The place is bass heaven!

“When I bass fish locally, I bounce around the Finger Lakes and occasionally up to Sodus Bay which I hear has completely changed this year due to high water.” Greg mentions that due to the high water all over the area, the bass have all new structures to set-up on and some of his favorite docks for largemouth are now under water. As much as he feels bad for the people living on these flooded waterways, the fact that there is now a no-wake speed limit makes fishing those bays a more pleasant experience. 

“I like the fact that there aren’t jet skis and power boats flying up and down the shoreline. I have this vision of what bass fishing hell would be like and it’s me trying to fish out of a small boat while several jet skis are buzzing around me, and each dock has a blaring boom box spewing rap music. That is why I try to fish the lake or bay that has the least boat traffic.” 

When I asked Greg about his favorite baits he replied without hesitation, “The Ned Rig. I just started using a Ned Rig by Z-Man last summer and found it to be the most veritable bait out there for both large and smallmouth bass. The Ned Rig is really nothing more than a jig head with a small three- or four-inch plastic worm or crawdad body. What is unique about this rig is the shape of the jig head. It has a flat top that allows the jig to actually stand up on the bottom causing the plastic bait to just dangle there. The bass can’t resist it. I’ve seen bass spook from my boat and as they are swimming away, I throw a Ned Rig out at them and they turn and come back and hit the bait. I’ve never seen that with any other lure. In general, I like to go small in my