Cayuga Lake

Cayuga Lake will host the Bassmaster Elite Series Aug. 22-25, its first visit since 2016.

UNION SPRINGS — When the Bassmaster Elite Series visited Cayuga Lake in 2016, that late-June event saw lots of fish on beds.

Next week’s return to this Central New York lake will find anglers facing a completely different seasonal complexion when the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite. The event is slated for Aug. 22-25.

“The first time we were there for an Elite event, it was a summertime event (late August 2014) and it was probably 99 percent largemouth,” Bassmaster Elite Series pro Keith Combs said in a B.A.S.S.-issued press release. “When we went back in 2016, it was kind of a spawn/post-spawn event, and we saw a few more smallmouth. I expect to see a couple of big smallmouth this time, but not many.”

The longest of New York’s glacial Finger Lakes, Cayuga Lake stretches nearly 40 miles from the town of Cayuga to Ithaca. Its north-south orientation features steep sides, shallow top and bottom ends, and a plunging center that reaches approximately 435 feet.

Combs noted that grass and docks comprise the primary habitat elements likely to dominate the week’s fishing.

“If it’s anything like the last visits, I think grass will be more of a player. It’s just the main feature of that lake,” he said. “This lake has a lot of milfoil, eel grass and a variety of other vegetation.”

Combs expects to see much of the field focusing on large areas of matted grass with jigs and Texas-rigged plastics. Frogs could play a role too, particularly around shoreline cover.

Pitching and skipping docks should produce keepers, but don’t count out the occasional reaction bite on spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and bladed jigs. Although somewhat of an outlier, it’s likely a handful of anglers will dial in a smallmouth bite with tubes or drop shots.

“In the 2016 spring tournament, there were some 4 1/2- to 5-pounders weighed in, and we’ll see that again this year,” Combs said. “I think they’re probably roaming in deep water this time of year, but if a guy finds the right area where they’re schooling, smallmouth can definitely be a factor.”

Cayuga’s not a huge lake, so crowding may become a factor, especially as the event progresses. The long-range weather forecast looks stable, which is a good thing for anglers who do not want to see big winds.

“We found out last time that, with its depth and the direction it lays, Cayuga gets extremely rough,” Combs said. “It’s completely exposed. There’s a river on both ends, but there’s nowhere to get out of the wind. You want to give yourself plenty of time to run.”

In 2016, it took a four-day total of nearly 72 pounds to win. Combs said he’s looking for 15- to 16-pound daily weights to make the final round, with about 80 taking the trophy.

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