Triton Anglers Finish 1-2-3 at Final Northern Open
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A dangerous combination of gusting winds, rain and dropping temperatures erased any suspense Friday in the $300,000 New York CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open presented by Busch Beer on Lake Oneida in Syracuse when tournament officials canceled the final day of competition.
Triton's Art Ferguson III led the first two days of competition before getting a little help — the win — from Mother Nature in Saturday's final. That handed the title and $50,000 top prize to second-round leader Art Ferguson of Michigan who had led wire to wire with 32 pounds, 9 ounces. Triton's Kevin Wirth finished second with 29-15 and Triton's Kenyon Hill was third with 29-5.
"After talking with the Coast Guard, officials from the Oneida Lakes Parks Department and local law enforcement officers, we decided that the weather was going to be to bad to send these anglers out," tournament manager Chuck Harbin said. "The weather called for rain and wind out of the southwest 15-25 miles per hour.
"We have to think of the safety of these guys, and a lot of them would run down there regardless of the conditions. I've got to take into consideration that I have to get all of these anglers back safely. The Coast Guard actually called me and let me know that those conditions were not conducive to letting these anglers out."
Despite the early cancellation, Ferguson reveled in his latest victory
"I'm kind of in awe right now," he said. "I was coming here, really, to try to re- qualify for the (Bassmaster) Tour because I had a bad season. I set a goal early on to make the Bassmaster Classic early on through this so that I could have an easy season this winter.
"With the weather like it was, I just didn't get as much time in as I thought I needed. I just caught a bunch of fish. They stayed there for me all week, and if we would have gone out today, I'm quite confident that I could have had what I had the last two days.
In the amateur division, Maryland's Lee Cox claimed the $24,000 top prize with a total weight of 26 pounds, 11 ounces. "I was fishing a spot that they're moving into. They aren't leaving it; they're moving into it, and with the weather like it is today, I think it would have turned them on. My primary baits for this tournament have been a Bandit 200 Series crankbait that was chartreuse with a brown back, a Yamamoto twin -ailed Hula Grub, watermelon colored - and I was dipping the tails chartreuse which is something I really do a lot this time of year. They seemed to really eat it. I was also using a pearl Mizmo tube and switching off to a (color called) Work of Art, which I helped design. It's watermelon colored with a couple of different colored flake in it. Quarter-ounce custom poured owner jig head on all three of the bottom baits.
"I keyed on fall patterns, schooling fish. I was looking for feeding flats this time of year with a little less vegetation since the vegetation is dying with the shorter days. I was looking for places where there might be some sand and rock mix and found a bunch of fish on it."
This is the fourth time Ferguson has qualified for the Classic. He is the first to do it from the BASS Federation Championship, the Bassmaster Tour and now through the Open series.
Lee Cox, out of Maryland was the big winner on the amateur side, winning his first BASS event with 26-11.
"I would have liked to fish today, but truthfully, sitting in first place after day two I was happy to see it come to an end," he said. "There's a lot of good fishermen out there, and I feel like any one of them in the top 10 or 15 could have gotten a good bag today and surpassed what I had. I was fortunate, and I'll take the win anyway I can get it."
"I was very fortunate to fish with Steve Daniel for my first day partner. I've always admired him and thought he was a good fisherman. He was on some quality fish, and we probably caught three limits a piece. We used a spinner bait in a shallow area down the lake a bit. Day two, I had Steve McGahan out of Connecticut, and he was on some good fish. I actually caught more fish with Steve the second day throwing tubes, completely different style of fishing. I fished a little deeper and a little slower with the tubes but we got more fish.
"I think the key in being a non-boater is paying attention, being observant of what your pro partner is doing ,and be ready to be versatile. With one partner you might be topwater fishing, power fishing, the next one you might be finesse fishing, deep. So carrying a surplus of tackle and try to be observant to what the pro's doing and take advantage to whatever you've got."
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. In 2004, BASS will introduce the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 Series, a four-event, no-entry-fee circuit featuring a $1.6 million prize purse for the world1s best anglers. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass-fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.