Beatin' the Bank with Bernie Schultz - 2019 Cayuga Lake B.A.S.S. Elite

Rainbows are always a good sign, right?...

Rainbows are always a good sign, right?...

After a disappointing finish on the St. Lawrence River, I wasn’t sure what the rest of the season would bring. That river has always been good to me, and I fully expected to do well there. So falling behind in the points race was a major blow.

It was now essential that the next event go well.

The largest of New York’s “Finger Lakes,” Cayuga stretches some 38 miles north to south and averages less than two miles in width. It’s quite small in comparison to most Elite Series venues. But what it lacks in size is more than made up for in depth and numbers of fish.

Cayuga is more than 400 feet deep, and it’s home to a strong population of both largemouth and smallmouth bass.

Although most consider smallmouth the target species in New York, my focus in this event would be solely on largemouth. Their numbers are greater and they are easier to pattern, and I needed that edge to guarantee a strong finish.

Practice Begins

On day 1 of practice, I accessed the lake at our official ramp in Union Springs. There, it’s just a short jaunt to the extreme north end and the weediest part of the lake.

I started on a submerged intake pipe — a popular spot that’s known to hold numbers of quality fish. Using my Garmin Panoptix, I could see large schools of bait with predator fish nearby. But after spending more than an hour trying, I never boated a decent bass.

Anglers in the staging area before take-off at Cayuga.

Anglers in the staging area before take-off at Cayuga.

From there, I moved nearer to the shoreline and started finding better fish — some on docks, others on small clumps of eelgrass and lily pads. Several were the right size, too. My lure selection included a Hildebrandt buzzbait, Z-man Chatterbait with Zako trailer, and a 4-inch Senko rigged Texas-style with no weight.

I spent the entire morning looking shallow; until I was sure I had identified the better stretches in that part of the lake. Afterward, I moved deep to probe some offshore weedbeds.

Again, I found fish. This time by cranking a Rapala DT10 in the sparser areas and by pitching a 1-ounce Texas-rig Flappin’ Hog into the thicker clumps. The size of the fish matched those on the bank.

On day-2, I started near the ramp by throwing a Rapala Skitter V walking bait and Shadow Rap jerkbait. Both lures produced solid strikes. After that, I headed south to fish docks, where, again, I found quality fish by skipping the 4-inch Senko. No numbers, but good size.

On day 3, I returned to the northern end of the lake to add to what I had found earlier. Fishing was tougher, but I managed to locate a couple of key areas to fall back on. I felt I was ready.

Competition Begins

Drawing out in a late flight, I watched as boat after boat streamed away from take-off — wondering how many might stop on my spot near the ramp. To my amazement only one did, and it was my roommate , Cliff Prince.

Finishing strong at Cayuga could potentially save my season.

Finishing strong at Cayuga could potentially save my season.

I fully expected Cliff to be there, as we both had found the same area and even discussed a strategy to defend it. As it turned out, however, it was just the two of us — no need to defend anything.

For the next few hours, we both caught and culled bass after bass. The area was thick with 2-pounders. When each of us reached a solid weight, we agreed to leave and save something for the next day. Cliff went north. I headed south to fish docks and, by weigh-in time, we both returned with solid bags of fish.

On day 2, the take-off order was reversed and I got to our starting spot first. Minutes later, Cliff showed up and the catching began. The bite was much slower, but we eventually filled our livewells with 2 ½-pound fish. Satisfied, we agreed to leave and give the spot a break.

I headed south to fish the docks and by weigh-in, I had a limit of largemouth near 20 pounds. I knew I would be make the cut. Cliff also had a good day. He, too, would be fishing on the weekend.

Fishing the Finals

Saturday morning came quick, and again, Cliff and I started on our hot spot near the take-off site. I broke the ice with a couple of small keepers, then Cliff boated two fish back to back — a 3- and 4-pounder. Although it stung a bit, I was happy to see him get them. It also let me know some quality fish were still in the area.

Our New York events always bring out the B.A.S.S. fans.

Our New York events always bring out the B.A.S.S. fans.

As the morning progressed, Cliff filled out a solid limit then left for his spots to the north. I slogged along, catching and culling ounces at a time. At 10 a.m., I left to try some docks, hoping they might provide the weight I’d need to fish in the final.

Unfortunately, by 1 p.m. I was still stuck with the same small limit. Weighing my options, I decided to return to the starting spot and trust there were still some meaningful fish there. It was a good move.

In the remaining two hours, I gradually culled every fish in the livewell, ending up with 16 ½ pounds. It wasn’t enough to advance to Sunday’s top-10 round, but I was satisfied. Cliff, on the other hand, had had a banner day. He weighed 21 pounds of largemouth and easily advanced.

It was a good tournament for both of us, and a strong recovery from my shortcomings on the St. Lawrence. As a result, I’m back in the race for the AOY Championship. Stay tuned!

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