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As bass tournament fishing goes, last year was not very productive for most anglers in the Tioga County Bass Angler’s Club. Cold fronts, which can affect the bass bite, were numerous. The wind and high temperatures added extra challenges. Then the rain from a hurricane closed some lakes; the high water caused dangerous boating conditions.
The club’s top finisher, John Tomb, had thirty-two bass for our ten tournaments. I ended in second place with a total of twenty-five fish. That’s an average of 2.5 fish per tournament—not very impressive. Dustin Wheatley was in first place for most of the year until he met his demise on Cowanesque Lake where he couldn’t find a legal bass. He ended with a zero and fell in the standings. Only three anglers caught fish in all ten tournaments: John, myself, and (third place) Philip Bruce.
Cayuta Lake is a small 588-acre lake located along Route 228 in Schuyler County, New York. It is referred to locally as “Little Lake” and legend has it that it’s named after a Seneca Indian princess.
We were scheduled to fish Cayuta Lake in August, but Hurricane Irene changed our plans. The lake had risen to an unsafe level, boat traffic was not allowed, and our tournament was canceled. We shuffled the tournaments around and rescheduled Cayuta.
The weather forecast for September 14 predicted a decent day on the water as we headed to Cayuta Lake. But we drove through a light drizzle and on arrival there was a cold wind blowing across the water.
I started on the east side targeting docks. A bass hit my crankbait on the second cast, but it was too small and had to be released. Continuing from dock to dock, there were a few nibbles but no hook-ups. The dock fishermen said that the lake was still about a foot and a half high, and the fish weren’t biting. My lure action was mostly from the wind and shivering from the cold.
I crossed to the other side, which was sheltered more and not as windy. Most of the club was in the same general area. As I fished along, the locals were busy with front-end loaders and skid-steers. In preparation for winter, they were pulling out the docks ahead of me. That didn’t help the fish situation. Curt and Mary Sweely caught up with me and fished alongside as we talked. Time was winding down and we were headed toward the launch for the weigh-in.
At the weigh-in Skip Bastian was lamenting the fact that he couldn’t catch the fifth bass to fill out his limit. Philip Bruce, his back boater, said, “You did get your limit. What about the fish on the front deck of your boat?”
“Oh, yeah. I forgot about that one, but it can’t count—it’s not even a bass.” Skip continued, “It felt like I was hung on some weeds. I pulled to get free and, reeling in the lure, it felt different. We were surprised to see a fish that was smaller than the four-inch lure.”
Skip laid the monster in his hand next to a dime. And Mary took a picture—for posterity.