(Aug 7, 2015 - SYRACUSE, N.Y.)
Kraig Kettlekamp faces daily pressure as a salesman in the medical industry. Saturday, he faces closing a deal that requires defending his lead at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open presented by Allstate.
That won’t be easy.
“It’s almost uncomfortable, nerve wracking,” said the tournament leader from Clifton Springs, N.Y.
Kettlekamp caught 16 pounds, 1 ounce on Oneida Lake to bring his two-day total to 36-8. Two pounds behind is Randy Howell, champion of the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro. Howell calls Oneida his favorite lake, even though he won the prestigious Classic title on Lake Guntersville, Alabama.
This is Anthony Gagliardi, winner of the 2014 Forest Wood Cup, while another Classic champion from Alabama, Boyd Duckett, is fifth with 31-10. Chad Pipkens, an Elite angler and 2015 Classic qualifier from the Opens, is fourth with 31-14.
For Kettlekamp the heat is on.
Being unknown while surrounded by high profile anglers might be an advantage. The pros behind him are fishing open water, making them easy to spot by spectators on Saturday. Meanwhile, Kettlekamp has quietly settled into his productive area.
The spot features aquatic vegetation, covering rocky shoals at depth ranges from 4 to 10 feet. On Oneida Lake, miles of similar shoreline make the area unimpressive. The key fish attractant to his area is nearby.
“I’m a believer that some populations of largemouth don’t move far away from their spawning areas,” he said. “This lake is shallow enough for largemouth to spend their entire life cycle there.”
Kettlekamp described the area as near an embayment, where he believes the fish spawn. He begins the morning with a topwater lure to catch schooling bass and then switches to small soft plastic baits to coax slow biters.
“The topwater action comes fast and furious in the morning,” he said. “There’s a lull in the action and it takes the soft plastics to stimulate the bite.”
Exclusively targeting largemouth is another difference in his strategy. The remaining top anglers on the scoreboard are targeting smallmouth roaming in the open water over grassy shoals.
Howell’s success is contingent on the wind, although a balanced lure selection compensates for calm conditions.
“It’s a cat and mouse game of chasing bass, bait and balancing it out with the wind,” he said.
The action is best early when a slight breeze breaks the visibility between the surface and bass.
“When I can see them, they can see me and that takes more effort,” he added.
Howell strikes early with a topwater lure before the action slows by 8:30 a.m. He balances the remainder of the day using a drop shot rig. The lure switch is a time saver that brings success when the bite returns.
The presence of food is another key attraction at Howell’s area. The perch spawn occurred prior to the tournament, and the fry seek refuge in aquatic grass covering the rocky shoals. Wind creates current that pushes the young fish into open water, making them targets for the bass.
Top prize in the tournament for the pros is a Skeeter/Yamaha boat with accessories and trailer valued at $45,000 along with additional cash prizes. The co-angler prize is a Triton/Mercury package valued at $30,000.
The following contingency awards were presented on Day 2.
Allstate Good Hands, Great Day: Pro angler Mike Morrin received $250 and Co-Angler Tom Tennity earned $150 for awards for climbing the most points from Day 1 to Day 2. Morrin jumped from 125th to 55th place, while Tennity moved from 147th to 46th place.
Livingston Lures Leader Award: Kettlekamp earned a lure gift pack valued at $250 as the Day 2 leader.
The Top 12 anglers fish Saturday from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. The weigh-in begins at 3:15 p.m. at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Auburn.
2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Title Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Presenting Sponsor: Allstate
2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Premier Sponsors: A.R.E.
Accessories, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, GoPro, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha
2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Supporting Sponsors: Carhartt, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Huk Performance Fishing, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Power-Pole, Rigid Industries, Shimano
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines, Bassmaster website, television show, The Bassmasters social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series presented by Allstate, Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation events, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.