It’s not hard to imagine that Frank Sinatra’s ballad about making it big is playing over and over in the heads of the 106 Bassmaster Elite Series pros.
That’s because they’re headed into the decisive Aug. 21-24 A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite at Cayuga Lake out of Union Springs, N.Y., where, for them (as Ol’ Blue Eyes crooned), “It’s up to you, New York, New York.”
At Cayuga Lake, the final of eight full-field events this season, each Elite Series pro has a shot at a first-place prize of $100,000 and an automatic qualification for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic.
But the Cayuga Lake tournament is also very much about points. The Elite pros who earn enough Angler-of-the-Year points at Cayuga to stay in or reach the Top 50 in the standings qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series AOY Championship, Sept. 18-21 on Bays de Noc out of Escanaba, Mich.
That’s where berths for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic will be awarded. Not to mention the coveted title of Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY), the $100,000 prize that goes to the pro with the most points earned throughout the season. The 49 other contenders at Escanaba will also share in the total prize fund of $900,000, allocated according to final season standings after the championship.
“King of the hill, top of the heap.” (There’s that song again.)
Heading into the Cayuga event, the king of the hill is Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La. He has just one point on reigning AOY Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala. And they have competition. The spread between Hackney and No. 10 in the points standings is 47.
Add to that pressure the fact that Cayuga is a first-time stop for the Elite Series. That means new challenges for most of the field. Stretching north to south about 40 miles and with about 95 miles of shoreline, the lake is one of the smaller fisheries the field has been to.
Elite pro Terry Scroggins expects the lake to “fish small.”
“I feel like the lake will fish very tight,” he said. “It’s extremely deep down the center, so the 106 best anglers in the world will be confined to the shallower areas.”
The deep glacial lake (up to 435 feet) is rimmed with shallows and grass — great habitat for largemouth bass. From San Mateo, Fla., Scroggins was weaned on fishing Florida grass lakes.
“There’s smallmouth there, but I’m a grass fisherman, so I’ll target largemouth,” he said. “Normally when you’re talking about grass, you’re talking about shallow-water grass, and there’s a lot of that (in Cayuga), but there’s also some deep grass.”
Unlike at many Northern lakes, largemouth bass will be the target species, he said.
“I feel it’s the dominant species on that lake,” said Scroggins, who stopped at Cayuga last year for a quick scouting trip because he’d never seen the fishery.
Scroggins is one of the Elite pros who needs a strong finish at Cayuga to get into the Top 50 to qualify for the AOY Championship. “My goal is a Top 20 so I can get to Escanaba,” he said. “Then it will be looking pretty good for me.”
Scroggins also has the Classic on his mind. “But one step at a time,” he said. “We have two events left, and I just can’t stumble. Probably if I stay in the Top 30 in both of them, I’m secure for the Classic. I want to do really well in this next one to have a little cushion going into Escanaba.”
Fishing fans are invited to the free-admission Bassmaster event in New York. All takeoffs and weigh-ins will be at Frontenac Park, 26 Chapel St., Union Springs, N.Y. The pros will leave the docks beginning at 6:15 a.m. ET. Start time for the weigh-in will be 3:15 p.m. ET.
The free Bassmaster Elite Series Expo, which features Elite sponsor products and services, will also be at Frontenac Park. The expo will open at noon Saturday and Sunday.
The Bassmasters TV show on ESPN2 will feature the Cayuga event on Sunday, Sept. 28, in the 2:30-3:30 p.m. time slot.
Image courtesy James Overstreet/Bassmaster