The ‘Buzz’ About Bait: 2018 outlook on bait and tackle trends

Chaumont Bay Marina has live bait and a selection of fishing lure for all kinds of fish.

BY: Matt McClusky     
     It might not have looked like it, but ask just about anyone with a rod and reel and they’ll tell you that the fish were in fact biting throughout 2017. Sure, the story of last summer for most anyone on or near one of the local big bodies of water was all about the flooding. Abnormally high water took over plenty of docks, and even seeped into homes and businesses. Yet, while sandbags and anchored-down barrels were more common sights from the shoreline than jet skis and tour boats, anglers who could get out on the water did find fish in both the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. Tara Morina, who owns Chaumont Bay Marina with her husband, claimed last year’s water issues only hurt “out of state business,” or the people who feared the worst and decided to stay away.

     Those out-of-state losses, of course, added up for the mostly seasonal bait and lure shops. “You don’t recover from that (flooding) like when it just rains a lot,” according to Todd Cerow, owner of the Thousand Islands Bait Shop in Alexandria Bay. Still, for anyone who was able to safely launch a boat and navigate the rising waters, fish were out there. “The fishing was actually good,” Karen Ashley of Woody’s Tackle in Pulaski said. “There just weren’t as many docks in, there just weren’t a lot of places to launch boats; those were the biggest issues.”

    Luckily enough, according Cerow, whose shop sits near the St. Lawrence, the waters are lower so far in 2018. The early fishing in the north country “is back to normal right now because people can get to docks and get out on the water,” Cerow said. Mike Stoner with the Henderson Tackle Shop in southern Jefferson County proclaimed that the weather as of mid-May had not given off “anything too drastic.” In fact, business was pretty much booming early in some spots throughout the area. Ashley says Sandy Pond off Lake Ontario in Oswego County experienced its “best walleye season-opener in over a decade” last month, and that “pike is being caught from shore” in some areas. Stoner echoed a similar sentiment: “Shorelines are a little high, but water levels are good.”

    So with the sport going full-gear, and flooding not at the forefront, the question for the various fishing seasons becomes: is there anything new in the world of baits and lures? Now, anyone with experience in casting a line or two will surely tell you that the proper bait and lure depends on what you’re looking to catch and where you’re looking to cast, be it closer to land or out in the middle of the expansive Lake Ontario or St. Lawrence River. Further, anglers don’t tend to stick to just one fish. What goes on the end of their reel is dependent upon the calendar. Cerow, who has seen many fishermen and fisherwomen come and go in his 12-plus years owning the Thousand Islands Bait Shop, explained that “everyone has their own style, their own personal bait or lure.” It could be, according to Cerow, a “bucktail jig” for walleye or simply live minnow to try and pick some pike. Ashley said anglers coming into Woody’s might find success by using stick-bait while trolling for brown trout or, after the third Saturday in June when the season gets going, spinnerbaits are an old standby when it comes to reeling in bass. “Essentially, the people who fish are probably going to stick with what has worked in the past.

It can be a stubborn if not superstitious lot, these men and women who throw their lines into area’s waterways.

     However, Stoner with the Henderson Tackle Shop claimed he has seen something of a new trend for an old favorite so far for ’18. “There has been a reemergence of older style Eppinger spoons.” A spoon in the world of fishing is typically shaped like the inside section of the eating utensil they’re named after. Fishing spoons are also made of metal designed to reflect light and—hopefully—attract a certain type of fish to the fishing hole.  Stoner said the red eye and the eagle eye spoon from Eppinger were discontinued for a few years but are now making a “big comeback” among his customers.

     Stoner, something of a fishing philosopher, did offer up a bit of advice to anyone looking for an inside edge on what’s hot or popular in baits and lures for the season: “All fishing is localized.” Meaning that whatever is working in one portion of Lake Ontario might not do well in another. That same approach applies to the St. Lawrence River and, for that matter, any fishing hot spots anywhere in the world. It’s all about casting a line and waiting, trial and error, until you find something that does the job and brings in the big haul.

So with plenty of well-stocked bait and tackle shops along shorelines of the great lake and the big river, and with their waters mostly back down throughout the region, anglers might just be out of excuses if they let the big one get away this summer.