Sypeck Wins Bassmaster Northern Open On Oneida
AUBURN, N.Y. — The smallmouth bass bite on Oneida Lake was incredible this week. The smallies already were fat, and yet they still were hungry. Just about every angler in the field was hammering them, and it was that bite that figured to make or break an angler’s chances of winning the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open No. 1.Stanley Sypeck Jr. had other plans, though.
From the start of the three-day tournament, he figured largemouth would be key. It certainly wasn’t the most-popular strategy, but it definitely was the most effective.
Sypeck weighed the big bag of the tournament Saturday when he presented a five-bass limit that tipped the scales at 20 pounds, 7 ounces. That was enough to vault him from seventh place into first, and it sealed the victory for the Pennsylvania pro.
Sypeck won more than $9,000 in cash as well as a Nitro Z20 bass boat with a Mercury 225 Pro XS engine. He also earned a spot in the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods provided he fishes the final two Northern Open events on the James River in August and on Douglas Lake in September.
It was a thrilling come-from-behind win for the 50-year old Sypeck. He started the tournament Thursday with an 18-1 bag that put him third place. He slipped to seventh place Friday with 17-0, but was only 27 ounces out of the lead with a day of fishing remaining.
Had Sypeck caught a lighter bag Saturday, he still would have been well within striking distance of the anglers ahead of him, many of whom struggled on the final day as heavy rain and strong winds from the east fell on Oneida.
Sypeck’s bite continued despite the foul weather. He had five fat largemouth in his sack Saturday; the heaviest weighing 5-4 which won the Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award of $750 in the pro division.
Sypeck’s was the only bag of the week that topped 20 pounds, and it helped him blow past the competition in what had been an extremely close tournament. He wound up winning by more than 3 pounds when the Top 12 was separated by less than that margin heading into the final day of fishing.
Sypeck said he decided to fish for largemouth just before the tournament started, even though he had just spent $300 on drop shots preparing to fish for smallmouth. He fished for smallies for three hours during the opening round, but the results were disappointing.
“I didn’t get a bite when I was out deep drop shotting,” he said. “So I switched up and went after largemouth. I caught 18 pounds on Thursday. But still the next day, I spent the first two hours with a drop shot, and didn’t get a bite again.
“So that was it. I switched to largemouth for good. I knew that’s what I would do all day today.”
Sypeck fished isolated rock piles and weed lines in 6 to 9 feet of water. When the water level rose nearly a foot overnight Friday, he had to move to shallower water.
“At one point this morning, I had five fish in the boat for 6 pounds,” Sypeck said. “I had to go even shallower. I was at 5 or 6 feet today, and I probably hit 25 or 30 different spots.”
Sypeck threw one lure all week to catch the largemouth — a 7/16-ounce jig in the Cumberland craw color. He tried to mimic the forage crawfish present throughout the lake, and the plan worked.
“A local guy here in New York makes them for us,” Sypeck said. “That was the one thing that I went to all week. It worked.”
Sypeck lives about three hours from Oneida in Sugarloaf, Pa., but he has a camp here and he said he fishes on the lake about 100 times a year. He’s won numerous tournaments at various levels on Oneida through the years, but he’d never won a Bassmaster Open — until Saturday.
“It finally worked out” Sypeck said, choking back tears. “Your dream is to go to the Classic. You see it on TV and think it would be nice. Now to say you’re going; it’s just unbelievable.”
Wesley Strader of Spring City, Tenn., finished second with 52-3, and Glynn Goodwin of Marietta, Ohio, placed third with 51-14. Goodwin had the same overall weight as Connecticut pro Alex Wetherell, but Goodwin claimed third with the heaviest-sack tiebreaker.
Strader also earned the Power-Pole Captain’s Cash Award of $500 for being the highest-placing angler who is registered and eligible and uses a client-approved product on his boat in the pro division.
Mike Elkins of Kalamazoo, Mich. won the co-angler division with 29-9. He was the last co-angler to weigh-in Saturday, and his three-bass limit of 10-3 edged him into the top spot. Elkins won a Triton 179 TrX boat and Mercury 115 ELPT 4-stroke outboard with the win.
Bryce Baker of Sherrill, N.Y., received the Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award of $250 for the co-angler division with a 4-11 bass. Barry Brandt Jr. of Newport News, Va., received the Livingston Lures Leader Award of $250 in merchandise for being the Day 2 leader in the co-angler division.
The tournament started with 396 anglers (198 pros and the same number of co-anglers.) Each field was trimmed to the Top 12 for Saturday’s competition.
The Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau hosted this Bassmaster Northern Open.