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Posted By The Bass Hog

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — It was a day of firsts for Bill Perkins, as the New York pro made the most of his Bassmaster Opens debut to dominate the Northern Division event at Oneida Lake from start to finish with a three-day winning total of 52 pounds, 3 ounces.   

Courtesy of BASS Communications.

With weights of 18-11 and 17 pounds, the first two rounds gave Perkins a slim lead each day. On Championship Saturday, he stepped on the gas, added 16-8 and crossed the finish line more than 2 pounds ahead of second-place A.J. Slegona Jr., of Walker Valley, N.Y.

Because Perkins didn’t fish the first Northern Open of the season on the James River, he’s not eligible for an automatic berth into the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk. That berth will go instead to Texas pro Ray Hanselman, who was sitting on the verge of Classic qualification in the Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year standings. 

But Perkins, a resident of Rochester, N.Y., still earned the Skeeter Boats top prize of $45,000 — and was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief.

“I haven’t let loose in three days; I haven’t slept, I haven’t eaten, I’ve been losing my mind, but it was all worth it,” he said. “I don’t know what to say, I’m just superappreciative.

“Thank God — He blessed me this week and He’s blessed me time and time again. I thank B.A.S.S., I thank my family and friends. The last three days have been epic. I won’t ever forget it.”

Spending his tournament in the midlake region, Perkins targeted rocky bottom structure in about 14 to 20 feet.

The first two days, he had to contend with full-field crowding, plus strong winds that presented challenging conditions. While there was no escaping the boat pressure, Perkins managed to moderate the latter impediment with tackle adjustments.

“I was fishing a drop shot with a 2.8-inch Keitech Easy Shiner and a 1/4-ounce tungsten weight, and a 1/6-ounce Z-Man finesse Ned head with a Z-Man TRD in the goby Bryant color,” Perkins said. “I had to go heavier on my weights to keep the baits on the bottom.

“Even with that adjustment, it was hard to make accurate presentations because I was getting blown off my spots by the wind. Even with Spot-Lock, I was getting blown back.”

A field that was reduced to 10 for the final round allowed Perkins the freedom to fish just about anywhere he wanted. The biggest advantage, however, was the nearly flat conditions, which allowed him to closely inspect his area with his Humminbird MEGA 360 and make precise presentations.

“I’ve been running multiple areas and today, I sat down on my best spot in Fisher Bay because there wasn’t as many guys on the water and I had it all to myself,” Perkins said. “There was a bunch of isolated rock in there and I was just slowly picking it apart.”

Surprisingly, Perkins was unable to get bit on his drop shot or Ned Rig Saturday, so he switched to a 1/2-ounce Keitech tungsten football head with a green pumpkin Keitech Spider Grub. Working this bait with a painfully slow retrieve delivered prompt results.

“I had a limit today by 8:04 and I caught my biggest one — about a 4 1/4 — at 7:30,” Perkins said. “That took the pressure off.”

Day 1 yielded only six bites and Perkins had to endure several hours of catching only drum before boating a bass at 11:30. Day 2 started more productively, with a limit by 10:04, but Perkins would catch only six fish. He attributed his final-round success to persistence.

“The key was staying put,” he said. “I got all my good bites in Fisher (the first two days) and I said, ‘There’s not going to be nearly as many guys today, I’m gonna buckle down in there.’ I had it all to myself — it was great.”

Slegona placed second with 50-2. After a 21st-place bag of 15-12, he added 17-14 on Friday and entered Championship Saturday in third place. Matching Perkins’ final-round weight allowed him to rise one spot.

Focusing on main-lake rock shoals in 10 to 12 feet, Slegona fished a Carolina-rigged Zoom Speed Craw in grassy areas. In more open areas, he used a 1/2-ounce Keitech football jig with an Erie Darter trailer.

“I only had six to seven bites a day throughout the tournament,” Slegona said. “It was just all about timing. They turn on at different times and, every once in a while, you get the right rockpile with fish biting on it.”

Sam George of Athens, Ala., finished third with 49-8. He caught 18-2 on Day 1 and tied Thomas Hughes of Cicero, N.Y., for third place, then added 16-10 on Friday and moved up to second before slipping back a spot with a final-round limit of 14-12.

Targeting a large main-lake grass flat with gravel patches, George caught his fish by drop shotting a Strike King Rage Swimmer in sexy shad and a Strike King KVD Dream Shot in honey candy.

“I got a little dialed in on Day 1,” George said. “I had a rough start and didn’t get a lot of bites, but late in the day, I got on a little area where it started happening for me.”

Liam Blake of Syracuse, N.Y., won the $750 Phoenix Boats Big Bass award.

George won the $500 Garmin Tournament Rewards for being the highest finishing competitor using Garmin products.

Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, leads the Northern Open standings with 392 points. Mike Iaconelli of Pitts Grove, N.J., is in second with 381, followed by Hugh Cosculluela of Spring, Texas, with 372, Alex Redwine of Blue Ash, Ohio, with 360 and Jacob Powroznik of North Prince George, Va., with 357.

Powroznik leads the overall Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens points standings with 878 points.

Posted By The Bass Hog

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Ten minutes. That’s how long it took Randy Howell to win the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open #2 presented by Allstate.
Howell, of Springville, Ala., desperately wanted to win at Oneida Lake after losing a 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series tournament here by 6 ounces to Boyd Duckett. Settling the score seemed impossible.
Howell had four small bass in the livewell just minutes before his official check-in time of 2 p.m. Coming in late meant a costly weight penalty, plus he was 2 pounds from the lead.
With the check-in station in view, a school of bass erupted in a feeding frenzy over a rocky shoal. Howell hooked a 4-pound largemouth on the first cast and proceeded to upgrade his catch.
He arrived with only 45 seconds remaining on the clock. The last-minute heroics paid off with a winning weight of 49 pounds, 2 ounces. Michael Gagliardi finished second with 48-10. Kraig Kettelkamp, who led the first two days of the event, dropped to third place with 48-0.
“Being strong willed and wanting to win this tournament, erasing that loss was my greatest motivation,” said Howell, the 2014 Bassmaster Classic champion. “The biggest key for my win was attitude.”
Credit the birds, too. Howell kept a lookout for diving seagulls that signaled other surface feeding action like he found in the final minutes.
“A lot of anglers, surprisingly, don’t look out for the birds,” he added. “The birds are an easy giveaway to the presence of the bait.”
That activity accounted for Howell’s catch early in the week, when a deepwater bite was successful. Plenty of perch roamed shallow water, too, where he caught largemouth on the final day.
Howell’s hero bait in the final minutes was a 3-inch Bass Pro Shops Speed Shad in a hologram shad color. He rigged the soft plastic bait to a 1/4-ounce jighead tied to 12-pound Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon. A Daiwa Tatula reel and 7-foot, medium/light action rod from the brand completed the package.
Spooking the bass and shorter casts were only preventable during windy conditions. Calm conditions early on the final day hampered Howell’s success.
“The wind helped move the bait and that made the bass more active,” he said.
Earlier in the week, Howell used a Livingston Lures Walking Boss, casting the topwater lure into the feeding schools of bass. When the feeding ceased, he switched to slower tactics and lures.
Those included a weightless, wacky rigged, 5-inch Gary Yamamoto Senko and the brand’s 4-inch Shad Shaped Worm. He rigged that bait on a 3/8-ounce drop shot rig.
Gagliardi focused on roaming schools of smallmouth following the perch hatch. Active fish were caught on a Zoom Super Fluke. He switched to a drop shot rig to coax slow biters.
Kettelkamp led the tournament on the first two days, only to suffer a setback on the final round. A largemouth he guessed weighing 4 pounds broke off at the boat.
“Losing that fish haunted me for the remainder of the day,” he said.
Howell’s prize included a Skeeter/Yamaha boat with accessories and trailer valued at $45,000.
Scott Shafer and James Schneider tied for first place in the co-angler division after both anglers caught 27-15. Shafer, of Glenville, N.Y., won in a tiebreaker for catching the single heaviest day catch between the two anglers. Shafer’s prize was a Triton/Mercury package valued at $30,000.

Courtesy of BASS Communications.

Posted By The Bass Hog

RICHMOND, Va. — Chris Dillow couldn’t match the 20-pound bag that Boyd Duckett brought to the scales on the first day of this year’s Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open #1, but he never faltered. Dillow caught 19 pounds, 2 ounces of James River bass Saturday to bring his three-day total to 50-12, enabling him to defeat his closest challenger by a margin of more than 9 pounds.
The victory earned him a Nitro Z9 bass boat and tandem Nitro trailer rigged with a Mercury 225 Pro XS valued at $45,000.
While the majority of the field made long runs and burned dozens of gallons of gas each day, Dillow stayed close, never venturing past the mouth of the Appomattox River tributary. He maximized his fishing time and generally avoided the crowds. Similarly, while others rued the increasingly undesirable and unpredictable tidal flows, Dillow was glad the water was higher than normal for longer than normal.
“I like high tide,” he said. “I like that security over my fish. When it gets too low, they tend to get spooky.”
Duckett’s unheard-of 20-4 limit on Thursday had Dillow in second place, but even Dillow’s subpar 12-13 on Friday allowed him to claim a lead that he wouldn’t relinquish. Duckett was not able to amass a double digit catch either the second or third day.

After falling to second on Friday, Duckett ended the tournament in 12th place. Like many others, he was a victim of a tide that didn’t go out according to the tide charts, and then a decreased amount of “good low tide” on the short final day of competition.
As Duckett and others like Dave Lefebre struggled to match their heavy first-day catches, Ohio pro Michael Simonton remained exceptionally consistent over the course of the three days. The former Elite Series angler turned in catches of 14-14, 13-10 and 12-11 to finish second with a three-day total of 41-3. He relied primarily on a black Spro frog, but only had a limited period of time to produce his fish.
“The first hour when we started fishing was game time,” Simonton said. “It was fast and furious and awesome. Today, I stayed in my primary area and never left. I’m not sure why it was so good. There was a boat ramp nearby, and I was skipping the frog to laydowns and under overhanging trees.”
Adrian Avena of Vineland, N.J., finished third with 36-3. Like Simonton, he was consistent, producing limits that weighed 12-10, 12-9 and 11-0, but was unable to consistently catch the larger fish that Dillow corralled. He credited his New Jersey upbringing with teaching him how the fish relate to tidal movement, but noted that he couldn’t capitalize on unfavorable tides.
“The tide was coming in most of the day,” Avena said. “That didn’t matter on my starting place, but after that it was pretty much a grind.” He used a “power drop shot,” a finesse worm and a 1/2-ounce Zorro buzzbait to put together his limits.
Nick Angiulo of Hainesport, N.J., won the co-angler division with three three-fish limits that totaled 21-3. Greg Mauldin of Archdale, N.C., was second with 20-15, and Lou Britos was third with 19-12.

Courtesy of BASS Communications.