Oneida Lake erupted Friday as winds shifted to the east, and even the moderate gusts roiled the lake and delivered five-foot waves in the most exposed areas of the large, east-west waterbody in Central New York. The result was relatively little movement near the top of the leaderboard at the Bassmaster Eastern Open.
There were exceptions, and the biggest was a massive move by Abbeville, S.C. angler Kameron Harbin, who whacked a 19-15 sack and climbed all the way from 13th to take the lead with a two-day, 36-06 total.
Day-1 leader Grae Buck weighed the second-largest limit of the day at 17-08, which dropped him to 2nd place, where he trails Harbin by a micro-thin 2 ounces. And red-hot Jamie Hartman climbed one spot to third, after weighing 17-02 today. Hartman, from nearby Newport, N.Y., now calls Russellville, Ark., home. He's a little less than 2 pounds off the lead pace.
The top 12 anglers advance to fish tomorrow. In addition to Harbin, three other anglers climbed to make the cut today. They were Bradley Dortch (40th to 6th), Dean Silvester (15th to 9th), and Alex Wetherell (39th to 10th). The last angler in at 12th was was Jamey Caldwell, with 30-04.
The five other anglers fishing tomorrow are Brian Schmitt (4th), Ben Nielsen (5th), Stanley Sypeck Jr. (7th), Andy Hribar (9th) and Kyle Welcher (11th).
Harbin's bag was an ounce shy of 20 pounds – the best limit caught thus far. He only got five bites, he said, and he boated all five. Yesterday he had 10 bites, but only boated five.
"It was a grind out there," Harbin said. "I should have boated 20 pounds yesterday too, but I lost half my fish.
"I found three areas in practice. I've caught fish on two of them, and I haven't been to the third yet. The first day I had a limit by 9:30, then laid off them. I fished that area some, but fished my second spot most of today. The wind is supposed to shift to the west tomorrow, which shouldn't affect my third spot."
Harbin's here to make the Elite Series, but he's too far back in the points to qualify this year. However, a win would put him into the 2020 Bassmaster Classic, more than a consolation for missing the Elites.
"I can't say much about what I'm doing other than I'm fishing smallmouth," Harbin said. "Hopefully I'll be telling everybody everything tomorrow."
Second-place Buck weighed about the same as he did on day 1. He again weighed all smallmouth.
"My starting spot had people on it for two days," Buck said. "I didn't catch any fish there today, so I had to move around. But I couldn't fish as much water as I wanted to because of the weather. I had to slow down and fish the weather. There just weren't that many spots where you could roll up and fish. I'm hoping to fish that starting spot tomorrow with only 11 other (competitors) out there.
"I fished pretty much the same way I did yesterday. I was dropshotting a Cornerstone Baits Shimmy Shot on a Hayabusa DSR hook, but I caught a few today Ned-rigging the Shimmy Shot on a 1/10th-ounce jighead."
Hartman, who won the most recent Elite Series at Cayuga and two of the last three Elites, keeps on rolling and didn't disappoint his fans today when he climbed one spot into 3rd on his home lake. A big largemouth anchored Hartman's bag.
About the wind, Hartman said: "You need wind on this lake for them to bite, but not an east wind. An east wind here is deadly. I've got a boat full of water and a whole ton of stuff to dry out. It was okay for a little bit this morning, but then it got brutal."
Hartman noted that he caught fish "periodically, all day long," and his largemouth wasn't by accident – he went fishing for some.
About tomorrow, and the wind's predicted 180-degree shift to the west, Hartman said: "As long as the wind isn't cranking, it should be okay. If it's anything other than an east wind, I'll take it. I was able to hold on stuff today – I wasn't dragging – but again, it was brutal. I'm still calm. I feel no pressure. I'm just taking things one bite at a time."
Dortch, of Atmore, Ala., is the big-bass leader with a 6-01 largemouth. Dortch said he caught the cow on his own Jenco Fishing Trapline Rip-Knocker, which is a line-through rattlebait that debuted at the most recent ICAST industry tradeshow. "You thread your line through the bait, then tie on your treble," Dortch said. "Your bait slides up the line when you hook up, which makes it much harder for the fish to throw the bait."
Here are the totals for the 12 anglers who'll compete on the final day:
1. Kameron Harbin: 36-06
2. Grae Buck: 35-04
3. Jamie Hartman: 34-08
4. Bryan Schmitt: 33-01
5. Ben Nielsen: 32-14
6. Bradley Dortch: 32-13
7. Stanley Sypeck Jr.: 32-08
8. Andy Hribar: 31-03
9. Dean Silvester: 30-12
10. Alex Wetherell: 30-09
11. Kyle Welcher: 30-07
12. Jamey Caldwell: 30-04