CLAYTON, N.Y. - August 29, 2001 - About the time B.A.S.S. anglers begin competition on the St. Lawrence River and in adjoining Lake Ontario, the autumn foliage of upstate New York should be peaking. And so should the fishing.

While the colorful fall foliage draws an annual pilgrimage of tourists to the area, it's the fabulous bass fishing of the Thousand Islands region that attracts the attention of anglers competing in the New York CITGO BASSMASTER Eastern Open September 13-15.

"The fishing should be phenomenal," notes Connecticut pro Terry Baksay, who has fished the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario since 1981. "The water is clearer than we've ever seen it, and baitfish are abundant. We think the bass are simply seeing the bait easier and feeding better now. Because the zebra mussels have cleared up the water, vegetation is more widespread, too, which means the bass have better overall habitat. Both the largemouths and smallmouths are thriving."

As an example, Baksay cites the results of a recent four-day tournament in which it took 76 pounds to win. By comparison, Rick Lillegard's hot spot produced 45 pounds in three days for his victory in 1997, and 1999 winner Kevin VanDam boated 51 pounds, 4 ounces.

While the bass may be both larger and more abundant, they're still found in the same areas touring pros discovered back in 1977 during the first B.A.S.S. event here. In the St. Lawrence, those areas include Lake of the Isles, Goose Bay, Chippewa Bay, and the rocky coves and points around the Admiralty Islands. In Lake Ontario, the key spots are Fox and Grenadier Islands, and Chamount Bay.

In any of these areas, the basic rule for fishing is that bass won't be far from vegetation. Jigs have always been extremely productive lures in these waters, but Baksay also predicts spinnerbaits and jerkbaits will play a role.

"One of the lures and techniques that has worked especially well in recent months has been wacky worming a weightless Senko worm into open pockets in the vegetation or around rocks," he adds. "The lure falls slowly and very naturally - after it touches bottom and you twitch it, there's a smallmouth already on it."

"I don't think there's any doubt we'll see a number of 20-pound smallmouth catches brought in," stated Baksay.

"This tournament will be a week earlier than B.A.S.S. usually comes to New York, so hopefully, the weather will cooperate," adds Lillegard, referring to the high winds and stormy conditions that have plagued several previous tournaments and which can make fishing Lake Ontario extremely dangerous. "A lot of fishermen actually try to establish two patterns, one for Lake Ontario if the water is calm and another for the St. Lawrence if it's rough."

Lillegard, of course, did not have to worry about dual patterns, as he discovered what he terms "the spot of a lifetime" in the St. Lawrence. During that 1997 tournament, he and his partners usually caught their limits in five consecutive casts from the tiny rocky point, and even on the final day he was culling after just eight minutes. Overall, Lillegard's spot produced more than 75 pounds of bass in about 15 total minutes of fishing.

"It was an extraordinary area, and I found it completely by accident."

Although locating such bass bonanzas is rare, the chances of finding such a place may be better in the St. Lawrence than in most other fisheries. This particular part of the river is filled with miles of coves, points, and rocky islands - thus the name, Thousand Islands - that offer almost unlimited fishing possibilities. The miles of underwater reefs, sandbars, and weedlines of Lake Ontario provide many more potential tournament-winning sites.

The New York CITGO BASSMASTER Eastern Open is the first of four events in the Eastern Division in which anglers can earn qualifying points for the 2002 CITGO BASS Masters Classic world championship. Daily weigh-ins will begin at 3 p.m. at French Creek Marina in Clayton, and are free to the public.

By sanctioning over 20,000 tournaments worldwide, B.A.S.S. is the world's largest fishing organization. The CITGO BASSMASTER Tournament Trail is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit. It continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism, and sportsmanship after more than three decades. B.A.S.S. is a wholly owned subsidiary of ESPN.

Sponsors of the New York CITGO BASSMASTER open include: CITGO, Chevrolet Trucks, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Pennzoil Marine, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, Stowaway Batteries, Kumho Tires, Long John Silver's, Gore-Tex Outerwear, MotorGuide Trolling Motors, Bass Pro Shops, Armstrong Industrial Hand Tools, GMAC/ B.A.S.S. Vehicle & Boat Insurance, B.A.S.S. Platinum Visa/First USA.

Associate Sponsors include: Bass Cat Boats, G3 Boats and Champion Boats.

The New York CITGO BASSMASTER Open is presented locally by the Clayton Chamber of Commerce.

For more information contact:
B.A.S.S. Communications at (334) 272-9530.

New York CITGO BASSMASTER Eastern Open
St. Lawrence River