Bassmaster Elite Series returns to New York’s St. Lawrence River

Waddington, N.Y. — Jamie Hartman’s bad back might not hurt nearly as much as does having to miss the Bassmaster Elite Series event when it returns to the St. Lawrence River here Aug. 23-26.

Hartman, of Newport, N.Y., has been sidelined by a ruptured disc in his back, and that means he’ll miss the tourney that will be conducted on what may be considered a home water, one he’s fished since childhood.

“I think it’s actually the first place I ever caught a bass,” Hartman said. “My aunt had a camp up there and we’d go up once a year and I’d fish off the dock. Then my mom would take us up there, and when I got older I’d go up by myself. I loved it.”

Hartman’s rise through the professional bass tournament ranks and onto the Elite Series included over $100,000 in winnings last year, but hit a roadblock earlier this year with the back problem.

“I’m actually feeling better, and hoping to get through this without surgery,” he said last month. “They (tournament officials) offered me the chance to get back on tour and compete, not for points but for money. But if I got a day with rough water up there – well, it would just be stupid to try it right now.”

Hartman, who says he’ll be watching the event on B.A.S.S. Live, finished seventh last year on the St. Lawrence, earning $13,000. He would have likely been among the favorites on the St. Lawrence, but it’s not meant to be.

That said, this year’s event won’t offer quite the same fishery as did 2017, which was held July 20-23.

“You won’t have the shallow-water fishing like we did last year,” Hartman said. “It will be more of a deeper game, and the water will be lower, which will eliminate the shallow stuff.”

Brad Paradis, an FLW Costa Series pro from nearby Ogdensburg, N.Y., agrees that his home water will offer a different look this time around.

“Having the tournament a little later in the summer definitely changes the game,” he said. “The bass won’t be in their summer pattern; they’ll be deeper, 30 to even 50 feet. It will be a smallmouth game. Some guys will run down into Chippewa Bay and target largemouths, and they’ll do OK. But you can’t win here with largemouths.”

Hartman says that the deep-water smallmouths will be scattered, and that will make it difficult for angler – even the best in the business – to pile up four huge five-fish limits.

“I think the winner will have one huge bag, and then three consistent days of 21 pounds or so,” he said. “They’re not going to get 23 or 24 pounds every day.”

Paradis predicts the winning four-day tally will be “85 to 88 pounds, unless there’s a little lull in the fishing. Every year is different. Kevin VanDam won here last year with 90 pounds, and Edwin Evers with 77 (in 2015).”

Both Hartman and Paradis predict drop-shotting will be the tactic of choice for the deeper smallies, with plenty of color choices.

“Some guys might use tubes but drop-shotting will dominate,” Paradis said. “The bigger fish will be deep. There are a lot of colors out there so anglers will be experimenting with a variety of stuff, and most of it will work. A lot of green pumpkin, though, and chartreuse, and certainly some goby-colored.”

And, as usual, weather will play a role in the tourney’s outcome.

“Some anglers will make a longer run down toward Lake Ontario, and it can get bad,” Paradis said. “But you can still navigate the river even on bad days. Current will be a factor, too. An east wind can stall out the current up top but it’s there down below, and that can make drop-shotting a bit more difficult.”

When the pros return to the scales each day, it’s likely most will be toting five fish – and some big ones.

“We should see some 5s (pounders) every day, and a ton of 4s,” Paradis says. “And I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 6 or two pop in there every day. Seven is even a possibility; we’ve seen 7-pounders weighed in at our local tournaments, so they do pop up occasionally.”

The state record-tying smallmouth of 8 pounds, 4 ounces also came from the St. Lawrence River.

And the region is anxiously awaiting the return of the big event. “Waddington does a great job of supporting the tournament; they really embrace the event, which they see as important in the area and to the region’s economy. It should be fun again,” Paradis said.

Bassmaster Elite Series, St. Lawrence River, Waddington, N.Y.
Aug. 23-26

Takeoff: The public is welcome for an early-morning look at 108 of the best bass anglers in the world beginning their day on the St. Lawrence River. Takeoff will begin with the national anthem at 6 a.m. The location for the takeoff is Whittaker Park at State Road 37/Pine Street, in Waddington. 

Weigh-ins: After a day on the water, watch the Elite Series anglers weigh in their catches on stage with B.A.S.S. emcee Dave Mercer and Tournament Director Trip Weldon. Weigh-ins are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. at the same location as takeoff, Whittaker Park at State Road 37/Pine Street, Waddington. 

Expo: At every Elite Series event don’t miss the Elite Expo every Saturday and Sunday. You can take a demo ride of a Nitro, Skeeter or Triton boat; see the latest from Toyota and win prizes; see the Berkley Experience trailer with its live aquarium; buy official B.A.S.S. merchandise and more from the Huk trailer; win prizes and more from Cahartt; and learn more about Yamaha, TH Marine, Power-Pole.

Sunday is Military and Public Safety Personnel Day – bring your ID for an official Bassmaster hat.

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