Hardy Rides One Good Area To Bassmaster Northern Open Win On Oneida Lake

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Milking one spot for three straight days made a winner of Wil Hardy II at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open on Oneida Lake.</a><br>

The Harlem, Ga., angler caught 18 pounds, 4 ounces of smallmouth bass — his second straight catch of 18-plus pounds —to win the pro division and the grand prize of a $45,000 Nitro Z20 with a Mercury 225 Pro XS and $8,491 in cash.

The 26-year-old Hardy finished with a three-day total of 15 bass that weighed 53-13 to win his first B.A.S.S. tournament and claim a berth in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic, provided he fishes the remaining two Northern Opens.

Each day, Hardy caught his limit early while Carolina-rigging a green pumpkin Zoom Speed Craw and dragging a 3/4-ounce Greenfish Tackle Creeper jig tipped with a green pumpkin Zoom Speed Craw along the bottom. “I had a limit pretty early again (about 7:30 a.m.) today, but it was a whole lot slower than it has been,” he said. “We didn’t catch many small ones. It seems like most of the ones we caught were pretty decent. Then we culled up three or four times after that.”

Hardy said the area he fished had a “whole lot of everything” including scattered gravel, zebra mussels and cuts of grass. “I found that spot last year (during the Northern Open held on Oneida in August 2015), but I never really caught them that good there,” said Hardy, who caught a quick limit there during the first day of this year’s event. Most of the fish he caught were about 11 to 13 feet deep.

Indianapolis, Ind., pro Jacob Wheeler chased smallmouth again and caught a limit that weighed 16-6 to take second place with 50-9. “Today was a lot of fun,” Wheeler said. “I went out there and caught a lot of fish. That is the cool thing about Oneida Lake. It is getting better and better every single time we come here.”

Wheeler found smallmouth roaming in the holes of grass and along breaklines where the fish were 10 to 13 feet deep. His strategy was drop-shotting with a green pumpkin finesse worm to catch a limit and then switching to a Carolina-rigged Larew Punch Out craw or Larew Biffle Bug Jr. for catching larger fish.

The rest of the Top 5 in the pro division included Jamie Hartman of Newport, N.Y., with 50-6, Kurt Dove of Del Rio, Texas with 50-4 and Larry Mazur of East Aurora, N.Y., with 48-11.

The co-angler top prize of a $30,000 Triton 179 TRX with a Mercury 115ELPT Four Stroke package went to Joel Willert who finished with 29-9. The 32-year-old Burnsville, Minn., angler caught all of his fish on a Ned Rig and drop-shotting a soft plastic goby bait.

The Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award of $750 on the pro side went to Mike Shumanis of Bethlehem, Pa., with a 5-4 largemouth. Jeremy Jones of Big Rapids, Mich., weighed in a 5-0 to earn the $250 Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award on the co-angler side.

Hardy also received the Livingston Lures Leader Award of $250 for finishing as the top pro on Day 2. Darryl Halbert, Enoree, S.C., won the Livingston Lures gift pack worth $250 for finishing as the top co-angler on Day 2.

Wheeler earned the A.R.E Top Angler Award of $500 for being the highest-finishing angler using A.R.E products.

Wheeler also won the Power-Pole Captain’s Cash award of $500