The U.S. Angler’s Choice Region 4 Tournament of Champions was held on Oneida Lake near Syracuse, NY October 9-11. This event was hosted by the Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau. Angler’s Choice is sponsored nationally by Legend Boats, Mercury Outboards, Motorguide, Lowrance, and Bass Tackle Depot. Regional sponsors include Susquehanna Fishing Tackle and Intercoastal Marine of Maryland.
Over 130 teams qualified from 12 separate divisions within Region 4 for this championship and 87 participated in this event. Each team fished 7 tournaments in their respective divisions accumulating points and pounds in order to qualify. During the week prior to the contest, the Oneida Lake weather offered a myriad of conditions letting each of the teams practicing know what they might be in for on the Friday and Saturday tournament days. Frosty mornings, 30 MPH winds, changing barometers, and revolving cold fronts all made appearances during the week.
Friday, the first tournament day began a bit breezy, but warmer and quite tolerable for the 87 teams. Blast off commenced from Oneida Shores County Park at 6:50 and boats departed in all directions as the championship began. Breeze was good for many of the teams on a hot smallmouth topwater bite while those electing to ply the shallow for largemouth bass with frogs were hoping to find flat water.
While a lot of nice largemouth visited the scales on Day 1, it was the bountiful smallmouth bass that stole the show. 70 out of a possible 87 limits were weighed in on the opening day and the weights were heavier than anticipated. Steve Griggs and Rodney Sorrell, who hail from North Carolina and compete in the DelMarVa Division held the lead after the first day of competition with a limit of smallmouth weighing 19.57 pounds and included a 5.10 bronzeback. Jamie Hartman and Derek Bigford from the Central New York Pro Teams were right on their heels with a limit that weighed 19.15 pounds. Oneida Pro Teams Jason Putnam and Jon Putnam rested in 3rd with 18.49 pounds. Travis Craig and Mike McKay (Oneida Pro Teams) finished day 1 in 4th with 17.34 pounds and TGIF Friday Pro Teams’ John Hart and Ed Pribish rounded out the top 5 with 17.00 pounds even. Robert Kerber and Aaron Stone took big bass honors on Friday with a 5.29 largemouth.
The final day of competition began with cooler temperatures but no wind. The lack of wind throughout the day proved to be a nemesis to some teams who relied heavily on it to entice their fish to bite. First day leaders Steve Griggs and Rodney Sorrell stumbled a bit as their big smallmouth refused to cooperate on Saturday. When asked if the lack of wind hurt them in this final round Steve replied, “It didn’t hurt us…it killed us.”
Many of the top 10 teams jockeyed for a higher position on the final leader board as the weigh-in came to a conclusion.
TGIF Friday Pro Teams competing on the Chesapeake Bay had 2 teams in the top 5 as the tournament results were calculated. Bill McDermott and Mike Gambill put together 2 very consistent days to finish the tournament in 5th place with 32.31 pounds earning them $1000
Only 4 bass exceeding the 5 pound mark were weighed in during this championship. Our 4th place finishers had 2 of them, narrowly missing winning the big bass award on both days. TGIF’s John Hart and Ed Pribish capitalized on these big largemouth to complete the tournament in 4th place. On Friday they caught a 5.27 pound largemouth and on the final day they tricked a 5.03 pound bass into biting to help them earn $1900 in prize money.
Jason Putnam and Jon Putnam from Oneida Pro Teams remained steady as they held their 3rd place status throughout the 2-day championship. They finished with a 2 day total of 33 pounds to claim 3rd place and win $2100 by backing up an opening limit of 18.49 with a solid 14.51 in the final round.
The Upper Susquehanna Pro Teams division is accustomed to fishing for smallmouth on the river, but only in a foot or less of water. Making the transition to Oneida Lake’s deeper bass was no problem for Rex Magargle and Casey Magargle. They improved their catch just enough on the second day of competition to move up the leader board to secure 2nd place. They were also the 2nd highest finishing AOY (Angler’s of the Year) in the tournament adding a substantial prize package to their modest second place winnings. Overall they were presented around $500 in prize money and AOY awards.
The 2008 Region 4 champions expressed amazement at the numbers of fish being caught by their fellow competitors, especially those who had never experienced Oneida Lake before this week. They had arrived at their first day weight of 19.15 pounds by 9:30 and left their prime area to save their fish for the final round on Saturday. They were second-guessing their decision a bit at Friday’s weigh-in as bag after bag of big bass were carried to the scales. Central New York’s Pro Team’s Jamie Hartman and Derek Bigford, also the Angler’s of the Year from that division made the right decision as their big bass continued to eat on Saturday allowing them to arrive at a total weight of 36.89 pounds, more than enough to seal the deal..
They were awarded a certificate for a brand new 2008 Legend Alpha 199 bass boat with a Mercury 200 Optimax. Their prize package as the highest finishing AOY was valued at over $2500 in addition to the boat package. They were also presented with silver serving plates to commemorate their victory. Congratulations to these fine gentlemen on their victory!
In all, 751 bass were weighed in during this tournament and Angler’s Choice is proud to announce that ALL 751 bass were released back into Oneida Lake. Our tournament fishermen and women did an excellent job in keeping our resource intact. Also, 134 out of a possible 174 limits were weighed in this weekend.
Many, many thanks to our Region 4 Directors who include Rob and Kim Goffredo, Harry Wert, Tim Chadwick, and Melanie Frost for their efforts contributing to the success of this tournament.
Many volunteers were on hand to keep things running smoothly and most of them wore lots of hats. A special thank you to Aggie Makarewicz and Linda Martin for their assistance during registration and handling all of the paperwork during weigh-in inside the trailer. Photos during week were capably handled by Gene Cochran, Leslie Martin, and Randy Knopp, all competitors in the tournament. Mimi Benbeneck took over on Saturday, too. Mike Gee and John Benbeneck provided the rescue boats on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Andrew Bebeneck ran the fish from the scales back to the live release boat.
Representative Katie Nielsen was on hand at Registration to ensure that everything was in proper order for our championship tournament.
Dom Maio played a major roll in securing the facility for our registration, dinner, and awards ceremony by not only having a fantastic high school to work with us, but lining up the Good Ole’ Boys Junior Bassmasters to escort the teams from one venue to another. The local police force, the Constabiles of Central Square aided with parking, directing traffic in and out of the school, and providing security for those teams with boats in-tow at the evenings events.
Gary Lopez and Judy Talbot, who represent the Onondaga County Parks worked with Angler’s Choice relentlessly throughout the past year and a half coordinating this event at Oneida Shores County Park.
Thanks to all for a great year in Region 4 and we look forward to seeing everyone back in 2009!