SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Bassmaster Elite Series tour makes its 11th and final stop of the 2008 tournament season beginning Thursday with the Champion's Choice presented by Ramada Worldwide.
Oneida Lake looks like a pond compared to the last week's Elite Series event on Lake Erie. This naturally-formed lake is only 21 miles long and five miles wide. Its average depth is 22 feet. (Erie is 241 miles long and as wide as 57 miles.) But large or small, the format is the same: 106 Elites Series anglers will compete for a $100,000 first place check.
Smallmouth bass will be the main target here, but largemouth bass will play a key role. There aren't nearly as many largemouths in Oneida as there are smallmouths, but on average they'll out-weigh a brownie. Tommy Biffle won the last four-day stop the Elite Series made here with a total of 63 pounds, 10 ounces in 2006.
The field will be cut to the top 50 after Friday's weigh-in and the top 12 after Saturday. The 8 a.m. ET take-offs and 5 p.m. weigh-ins will be held at Oneida Shores County Park.
Thirteen pros were asked to pick the three most likely winners this week.
Dave Wolak - he's got some successful history here.
Kevin VanDam - for the same reason as Wolak, he's been good here in the past.
Steve Kennedy - I've got to pick somebody whose fishing for largemouth.
Denny Brauer - because the bite is just a little bit off, and as good as he his flipping for largemouths, he's patient enough to make it happen.
Peter Thliveros - he's one of the best offshore fishermen I know off. There's really no one else in his league as far as being patient and making them bite offshore.
Kenyon Hill (in spite of the rule that you can't pick yourself) - I've caught them here before. Am I on enough fish to do it right now? No, but I've won tournaments before in the same situation.
John Murray - he's been as tough as nails lately, and he's good at finding them offshore.
Aaron Martens - for the same reasons (as Murray).
Denny Brauer - there's a little bit of a flipping bite going on, and he can find the right ones.
Mike Iaconelli - he's fished here a lot, and he's done well here in the past.
Peter Thliveros - because he's always done real well here, and he's a patient fisherman.
Steve Kennedy - he's catching them really shallow, and he's going for largemouth.
Todd Faircloth - I just think it would be real exciting for him to win his way to Angler of the Year.
Paul Elias - just a hunch.
Aaron Martens - because there are a lot of fish to be caught drop-shotting.
Todd Faircloth - just because I want him to win Angler of the Year.
Matt Reed - he's been strong lately, and I think he's catching them here.
Dave Wolak - he's good on this lake. He's from this neck of the woods.
Dave Wolak - he always makes the cut here. He's got this lake figured out.
Mike Iaconelli - he seems to always do good here. It suits his style of fishing.
Jeremy Starks - I think he knows as much about this lake as anyone. He's overdue to do well here.
Dean Rojas - he's going to unleash Kermit (the SPRO Bronzeye Frog) on them.
Kotaro Kiriyama - back-to-back drop-shot wins.
Jon Bondy - it's close to home, and because he barely missed the (top 12) cut last week, he's got a lot of incentive.
Kevin Wirth - he's got a lot of experience here, and it suits his style of fishing.
Brian Snowden - he's real slow and deliberate. There's a good chance he'll find the largemouth.
Aaron Martens - I've seen him fishing deep, deep. I've seen him out there graphing. That's what he's best at.
Kevin VanDam - he always does good here, and he can smell that Angler of the Year title. KVD is all three picks for me. He's a smallmouth expert. And he's a largemouth expert too.
Dave Wolak - he knows how to catch them here.
Kevin VanDam - it's a pretty tough bite right now, and if anybody can make the smallmouth bite, it's him.
John Murray - he's in another world right now. There are a lot of positive things going on in his life. He's really in a positive frame of mind.
Paul Hirosky - I just think he's an awesome smallmouth fisherman.
Bill Lowen - there are some fish up shallow, and he'll go shallower.
Jon Bondy - he caught them last week, and he's due for a win.
Grant Goldbeck - because he's a good shallow-water fisherman.
Steve Kennedy - for the same reason: he's a good shallow-water fisherman.
Dave Wolak - because he knows this lake, and he can catch both smallmouth and largemouth here.
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Champion's Choice with weigh-in host Keith Alan, Aug. 3-10, 2008. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 5:00 p.m. ET. On Saturday, catch "Bassmaster University" at 4:15 p.m. ET before the weigh-in. Then on Sunday, get "Hooked Up" with hosts Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona at 1 p.m. and 4:20 p.m. ET, with the final day weigh-in and real-time leaderboard content starting at 5:00 p.m. ET.