Every time I head to the St Lawrence River to fish the 1000 Islands, I drive right past Oneida Lake and think I need to fish this lake sometime. But with my fishing platform being my kayak or a rental boat, I have always opted to keep traveling further north. That is why I was so excited to find Giuseppe Barbieri on Instagram. Giuseppe fishes this New York bass factory with a lot of success. Giuseppe took some time to give us a lot of information about kayak fishing Oneida Lake.
How long have you been fishing Oneida from a kayak?
I have been fishing Oneida Lake from my kayak since early spring 2013, however, I have been fishing Oneida Lake in general since I was a kid/early teens. Oneida Lake is such a versatile body of water with a variety of species including Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, Northern Pike, Crappie and the list goes on. Being able to drive down the road and fish for one of these species at any given time is just awesome.
Oneida for me just has so many memories that I have collected over the years with so many great fish caught. But most importantly the memories that really stick out are with the people that I shared the time with. Oneida Lake is home to me.
What kayak are you fishing out of?
I am currently fishing out of a NuCanoe Pursuit but also have a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120, my first kayak. The Pursuit I purchased this past season. I wanted to try something a little different with the ability to stand in with confidence, which this exceeded my expectations with flying colors. Being able to stand and present a bait from a different angle depending on the situation is huge. Being able to flip n pitch a jig, frog or any other bait really helps give you an edge. On larger bodies of water, longer kayaks help cover more water and can be more efficient especially when trying to paddle at a further distance.
What kayak accessories are especially important when fishing Oneida?
An anchor is a huge plus. This lake can get angry and windy. You need an anchor to help keep you on the fish so you are not constantly paddling back and forth after every cast.
A PFD, I 100% make sure that my PFD is on at all times on Oneida. As I mentioned, this lake can get angry at the blink of an eye. You don’t want to underestimate it.
A depth finder is a great tool for Oneida and for me is a must but generally not necessary. It helps identify the depth, water temps and structure that you are fishing and help find those fish much easier.
When I think of Oneida, I think of off-shore fishing for smallmouth. Is this something that you do? From the kayak, what are you looking for on your radar to know where to concentrate your time, since you can’t shoot from spot to spot like boaters?
Absolutely, targeting Smallmouth is my favorite and extremely satisfying. When I’m in search mode, I concentrate on many things including my sonar.
Time of year, time of day and current weather conditions is my first starting point for my search. Then, I am looking for depth, water temps and structure. I like to start in the 5-7ft depth range and work my way up accordingly while keeping my eye on the sonar to see if there is any extreme depth change and also looking for any obvious structure for example a rock pile.
Water current and wind can fire up the Smallmouth. So if you have those conditions and you are around them, you will probably start catching them. Also, pilings and current breaks often hold Smallmouth so I try not to ignore those areas as well.
What are your favorite off shore baits on the lake?
I have a few options that I always have great success with, Ned Rig, Drop Shot, Tubes and Swimbaits. For the Ned Rig I like to use a mushroom jig head usually around 1/10 oz using a Xcite Baits Slim-X. I cut off about 1/3 of this bait and use that 1/3 on the hook. The Slim-X floats very well and works great in this technique. For Drop Shot, I like using the same bait cut in 1/3 or 1/2 on a number 2 hook with 1/4 oz weight.
Tubes have always been great for Smallmouth. Just a normal tube hook either 1/8 or 1/4 oz, dragged across rocks.
Lastly, Swimbaits, specifically the Xcite Baits Shadnasty. I love using this bait with a 3/0-4/0 Swimbait hook. Reasoning for 2 different sizes is due to the difference in the brand of hooks. VMC I use 4/0 and Trokar Lazers I use 3/0, they are about the same size side by side. The Shadnasty is great when there is a lot of structure or vegetation because I can work it easily without getting hung up or snagged.
I use these techniques throughout the year and always work for me. Some may work better during different conditions and different time of year but overall they continue to get the job done.
How much does weather and wind affect your ability to fish the lake?
Weather and wind play a huge part in whether I go to the lake or not. Those that are familiar with Oneida Lake can all agree that the lake can turn on you at any given second. Waves instantly rise with force. If you are not paying attention, you can flip.
Before I head out to Oneida, I check my weather app to see what the wind speeds and direction is. Typically, if I see winds over 15mph for Oneida, I usually will not go unless it is going in a specific direction to where I can be somewhere on the lake protected from it. Otherwise I go elsewhere. If I see that it will rain and not much wind, I will definitely be out there. I have had amazing days on Oneida fishing in pouring rain. It’s a blast!
How about recreational boat traffic? How bad is it in the summer?
Yes, the recreational boaters and jet skis! Summer time Oneida does get very busy, but not just recreational boaters, bass boaters too. For the most part all boaters are pretty respectful when they drive by us kayakers and slow down when getting near us. I have even had many boaters stop and chit chat for a while asking questions about my kayak and setup.
There are some areas that the traffic isn’t as bad and those are the areas that I will try to fish when I can. If I know there is a bass tournament going on, I will not fish the lake those days just out of respect for the competitors.
So if conditions don’t allow to have an off-shore approach, how good of smallmouth fishing can be found in more sheltered areas of the lake?
A great area to chase Smallmouth during those conditions is the Oneida River. Many schools of Smallmouth will pass by this area often and if you catch a school at the right time, hold on to your rod cause they will be biting aggressively.
You can also fish the river from shore by the Brewerton Bridge and Caughdenoy Dam. Of course fishing from shore has its ups and downs but sometimes weather calls for it. There are many other locations throughout the lake that shore fishing can be had and successful.
Fishing in the river, I make sure to always have my paddle ready because after one or two casts, you could be 20-30-50ft or more from where you just were. You have to always be aware of that as well as your surroundings so you don’t drift into anything or anyone. From shore, I try to stick with baits that tend to be more weedless or less likely to get hung up. Shore fishing seems to be especially difficult because I find myself getting hung up more often than from a kayak.
Judging by your Instagram, I should not overlook the largemouth fishing on Oneida. What is your approach to targeting largemouth on the lake?
When I fish for Largemouth, I love fishing shallow and fast. Xcite Baits XB1 Square Bill is a great search bait, along docks, laydowns, riprap and weed lines.
Floating vegetation and lily pads always calls for a frog and punching a Hawgalicious. Many bays are filled with this thick vegetation so I try to fish those spots as much as I can especially sunny days. Spinnerbaits are a great option as well, especially in grassy areas where a crank bait would get hung up too often.
I usually will stay under the 10ft depth range when water temps are in the 50’s and up, on the warming side of the year. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t find them in deeper water, this is just my preference and how I am more successful with my style of fishing.
In my opinion, being versatile will help any angler be more successful because the bass will change constantly throughout the day. You need to change with them to continue to catch them. If you don’t change, whether if it’s locations, technique or depth, you won’t catch them.
Overall, what are your biggest pieces of advice for anyone wanting to come to Oneida and fish from there kayak?
First and foremost, Safety! That includes your PFD, always wear it and consider all safety precautions. Attach a high visible flag with a light to your kayak.
Carry one or more flashlights on you especially if you want to fish at night. Keep track of weather conditions before and throughout the day. If you know a storm is coming, you can get off the water and be safe.
Use tie downs, rod leashes and paddle leashes. I can’t tell you how many people I know that have lost rods, cameras, phones and other things because they were not tied to something. You can even make do it yourself leashes for all of these things for cheap!
Carry extra clothing, maybe an extra pair of shorts/pants and a shirt. You can use a dry bag and store in the kayak or leave in your vehicle. You just never know if you might take a dip and those backup clothes will be quite handy.
Find your niche, your style or the way you like having your kayak setup. Being organized and comfortable on your kayak while on Oneida or any body of water will help make you a more confident kayak angler with less worry. Having fun and enjoying your time on the water is very important and for those that have never tried kayak fishing will get hooked as soon as they do.
Who do you pro staff for and what do you love about their products?
I am currently a Pro Staffer for 3 companies, Xcite Baits, Hoo Rag and Waist Deep. Xcite Baits has been a huge part of my success over the past couple of years. They have a great selection of plastics and their Shadnasty Swimbait has been a game changer across the country. The Shadnasty is by far one of my favorites and also the XB1 Square Bill. I was using many of their baits prior to joining their team so when the opportunity came, it was a no brainer.
Waist Deep has an array of clothing products, hats, decals and accessories. They have some very comfortable shirts. In fact my fiancé seems to steal them from me so I never get to actually wear them on my fishing outings. Need to get more of course.
Hoo Rag has face masks that are for fisherman, hunters, adventurers and everyday people. They have a huge selection, it’s quite amazing the patterns they have. They also have different ones for colder weather, female specific and also have shirts and hats. My local kayak organization, Kayak-Anglers of CNY, had custom ones made by Hoo Rag. Out of all buff style face masks I have owned, this custom Hoo Rag is by far my favorite.
Oh how my wheels are turning. 2018 must get me to Oneida. Thanks Giuseppe for getting my planning started. All of us can follow Giuseppe and his fantastic Oneida Lake fishing on Instagram @rawjuicefishing.
Additionally, Giuseppe qualified for the Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship in March 2018 on Kentucky Lake. So I will also definitely be following to see his success in this tournament.