SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Kraig Kettelkamp faces daily pressure as a salesman in the medical industry.
Tomorrow he faces closing a deal that requires defending his lead at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open #2 presented by Allstate.
“It’s almost uncomfortable, nerve wracking,” said the leader from Crystal Springs, N.Y.
Kettelkamp caught 16 pounds, 1 ounce on Oneida Lake to bring his two-day total to 36-8. Two pounds behind is 2014 Bassmaster Classic champion Randy Howell, who calls the lake his favorite, even though he won the Classic title on Lake Guntersville in Alabama.
Another Classic champion from Alabama, Boyd Duckett, is fifth with 31-10. Chad Pipkens, a 2015 Classic qualifier from the Opens, is fourth with 31-14.
For Kettelkamp, the heat is on.
Being unknown while surrounded by high profile anglers might be an advantage. The pros behind him are fishing open water, making them easy to spot by spectators on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Kettelkamp has quietly settled into his productive area.
The spot features aquatic vegetation covering rocky shoals at depth ranges from 4 to 10 feet. On Oneida Lake, miles of similar shoreline make the area unimpressive. The key fish attractant to his area is nearby.
“I’m a believer that some populations of largemouth don’t move far away from their spawning areas,” he said. “This lake is shallow enough for largemouth to spend their entire life cycle there.”
Kettelkamp described the area as near an embayment where he believes the fish spawn. He begins the morning with a topwater lure to catch schooling bass and then switches to small soft plastic baits to coax slow biters.
“The topwater action comes fast and furious in the morning,” he said. “There’s a lull in the action and it takes the soft plastics to stimulate the bite.”
Exclusively targeting largemouth is another difference in his strategy. The remaining top anglers on the scoreboard are targeting smallmouth roaming in the open water over grassy shoals.
Howell’s success is contingent on the wind, although a balanced lure selection compensates for calm conditions.
“It’s a cat and mouse game of chasing bass, bait and balancing it out with the wind,” he said.
The action is best early when a slight breeze breaks the visibility between the surface and bass.
“When I can see them, they can see me and that takes more effort,” he added.
Howell strikes early with a topwater lure before the action slows by 8:30 a.m. He balances the remainder of the day using a drop shot rig. The lure switch is a time saver that brings success when the bite returns.
The presence of food is another key attraction at Howell’s area. The perch spawn occurred prior to the tournament, and the fry seek refuge in aquatic grass covering the rocky shoals. Wind creates current that pushes the young fish into open water, making them targets for the bass.
Top prize in the tournament for the pros is a Skeeter/Yamaha boat with accessories and trailer valued at $45,000. The co-angler prize is a Triton/Mercury package valued at $30,000.
The following contingency awards were presented on Day 2.
Allstate Good Hands, Great Day: Pro angler Mike Morrin received $250 and Co-Angler Tom Tennity earned $150 for awards for climbing the most points from Day 1 to Day 2. Morrin jumped from 125th to 55th place, while Tennity moved from 147th to 46th place.
Livingston Lures Leader Award: Kettelkamp earned a lure gift pack valued at $250 as the Day 2 leader.
The top 12 anglers fish tomorrow from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. The weigh-in begins at 3:15 p.m. at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Auburn.