Oneida Lake predictions, forecasts and prognostications


After more than five months of world-class fishing and 10 stops across the United States, the 2008 version of the Bassmaster Elite Series is coming to a close in Syracuse, N.Y. with the Champion's Choice tournament held on Oneida Lake.

The tournament is scheduled to be held Thursday through August 10.

Not only will one angler receive a $100,000 check for winning on Oneida, but the Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year Award also will be presented. That honor comes with a $250,000 check and accolades considered the finest in all of professional angling. It has come down to a battle between Kevin VanDam, a three-time TTBAOY winner, and Todd Faircloth, who holds a 21-point lead.

Oneida is known for its healthy population of smallmouth bass, but when the entire Elite field last visited the lake in 2006, Tommy Biffle chased largemouths to earn the victory. The pros are expected to take their pick of the two again this year — either relying on a steady stream of smallies, or taking their chances in hopes of finding the heavier largemouths.

Those options should make for an interesting finish to the 2008 Elite Series.

Here's who our pundits like this week.

Alan Clemons
ESPN Outdoors contributor

Dean Rojas — Barney the Frog will get a workout along the shoreline and could pay dividends.

Tommy Biffle — Dude won here two years ago with persistence and largemouths, which haven't disappeared from the lake. Don't count out Biffle.

Kevin VanDam — In the final event of the season and a chance to close out the year on a strong note, he'll be looking for another win and another TTBAOY title. Jeremy who?

Russ Lane — OK, this is a homeboy (Alabama) pick for a guy who has struggled this year. But he's newly-married, wants to finish the schedule on a good note and is ready.

Gary Klein — When it's a straight-up tournament and tough conditions, he's hard to overlook.

Trey Reid
ESPN Outdoors contributor

Aaron Martens — He's very consistent on this fishery.

Mark Davis — He gets a chance to shine on a lake that suits him well.

Kevin VanDam — It's crunch time on another northern lake.

Peter Thliveros — He has a history of fishing well here, including last year's victory in the Memorial.

Tommy Biffle — He won here two years ago and fished well in the Memorial last season.

James Overstreet
ESPN Outdoors Photographer

Dean Rojas — There's a lot of grass in the lake and I watched him wack his limit with his Spro Bronze-eye frog every morning last year, while late flights of boats were still idling out of the no-wake zone. If the tournament hadn't moved to Onondaga and the hole-course, Rojas probably would have gotten his first Elite Series win.

Bobby Lane — Lane will probably find a stretch of grass that looks an awful lot like his home water in Florida. When he does, the guy is one of the best grass fishermen on tour. He will close out the Rookie of the Year race going away.

Steve Kennedy — He came close at Oneida last year, and it's hard to think about him going through a season without a win on the Elite Series.

Skeet Reese — He may not be able to repeat as the Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year, but it won't be until after the fight. Skeet still has a chance to get it done, but he's got to have strong finishes at both New York stops, and a little help from those ahead of him. Look for him to handle his part of the equation.

Tommy Biffle — Unlike the Erie stop, this tournament will be won with largemouths. Biffle has proven his consistency on Oneida, and he'll bring a sack full of largemouths to the scales every day.

M.A. Fisher
ESPN Outdoors contributor

Dean Rojas — I like his chances chasing largemouths with "Kermit." He's just too darn good with that frog on the end of his line.

Mike McClelland — Looking for another solid showing to close out the season.

Todd Faircloth — Can go deep, can go shallow. The race for angler of the year is too close for comfort, which may force to go for the big boys along the shoreline.

Kevin VanDam — Ditto on the above.

Mike Iaconelli — It's been a while since he's won. Why not do it here to reinforce his considerable skills in what has been a trying season?

Steve Wright
ESPN Outdoors contributor

Dean Rojas — He was in first place after two days on Oneida Lake in last year's Memorial Major that shifted to Lake Onondaga for the semifinals and finals. Oneida, though filled with smallmouth bass, has proven to be a winner for anglers concentrating on largemouth bass the last two years. Rojas and his SPRO Bronzeye Frog should be a potent combination here.

Kevin VanDam — When the pressure is on, there's not a more formidable angler on the Elite Series tour than KVD. The pressure will definitely be on as VanDam tries to wrap up his fourth TTBAOY title, and his first since 1999.

Tommy Biffle — He took his last BASS title here in 2006. Biffle needs a big finish after going into the final two tournaments in 56th place in TTBAOY standings. With a Bassmaster Classic spot hanging in jeopardy, Biffle should rise to the occasion here.

Todd Faircloth — The Texas pro was in 26th place after two days on Oneida last year. He's had too good a year to fold at the end in the TTBAOY race.

Mike McClelland — You can say the same thing for this Arkansas angler as was said above in the reasons Faircloth is likely to do well here. And McClelland was in slightly better shape than Faircloth - 19th place - after two days on Oneida last year.