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FALL'S THE TIME TO GET HOOKED

Bass offer the biggest bite for the buck during the first weekend of fall.

Salmon, trout and walleye can be found, but the most consistent hitters, in Great Lakes and inland waters, are smallmouth bass.

Move away from weed edges and up onto shallower dropoffs for that hit-and-jump reaction typical of smallies in warm, shallow waters.

Lake Erie

The early-fall walleye chase and race continues. Boaters run deep and far to find moving schools of 'eyes.

Bass provide more consistent open-water action. "All you have to do is find 20-25 feet of water west of Sturgeon Point. There are bass all over," says Dave Watts at Dave's Bait and Tackle in Derby. Watts holds out hope for a possible fall perch run, but his searches mainly turn up smallmouths.

Feeder stream activity, like the water level, remains low except at Cattaraugus Creek. Weekenders endured the heat and caught trout along the breakwater and smaller fish upstream. Forecasts of cooler temperatures could draw more fish into Cattaraugus.

Lake Ontario

Results in the Greater Niagara Fall Classic matched weights entered in the lakewide LOC Derby.

Charles Hoy of Niagara Falls took top honors in the walleye division and the grand prize drawing with his 13.3-pound walleye caught in the lower Niagara River. Other winners in the senior division were: Paul Devil of Niagara Falls, 5.5-pound smallmouth bass; Russ Maneval of Swantori, Ohio, 18.28-pound lake trout; Frederick Justice of North Tonawanda, 36.66-pound king salmon; Dale Dudwick of Lockport, 18.32-pound rainbow trout; and Michael Johannes of Ransomville, 15.02-pound brown trout.

Winners in the junior division: Armand Roler of Gasport, 25.28-pound king salmon; Jason Johannes of Ransomville, 11.44-pound brown trout; Mike Mylar of Niagara Falls, 4.85-pound bass; Scott Mrzyautt of Niagara Falls, 1.16-pound perch; Tom Wilson of Niagara Falls, 17.35-pound carp; and Joey Urso of Niagara Falls, 4.7-pound sucker.

Niagara River

Boaters have begun working Devils Hole, but the main salmon run has not begun, says John DeLorenzo, lower river guide. "We've been getting some kings, but we've had to work for them so far," he says.

"Pier casters do better with egg sacks than any other bait or lures," says Renee Kindzia at Devils Hole Bait and Tackle. When salmon move into the hole, they hold close enough to shore for casters.

Walleye and bass drew more attention last weekend during the Greater Niagara Classic Derby. Along with the winning fish, several other walleye above the 30-inch mark were weighed in or taken by anglers not in the contest. Bass put boats all along the shallower rock drifts and out into Lake Ontario at Fort Niagara.

The Lower Niagara River Fall Tourney goes from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Fort Niagara State Park on Saturday. Entry fee is $80 per team, and teams can sign up until 6:15 a.m. Saturday. To preregister, call 664-4954 or 483-0151 after 3 p.m.

Perch began showing in eddies on both sides of the river. Anchored boaters drop small minnows into current edges for good numbers of fair-sized perch. Fifty-fish limits are rare, but good anchor placement and line sets can produce a dozen or two at and above the 10-inch range.

Inland lakes

Chautauqua -- Walleye activity has picked up at the north basin. Trollers go with worm harnesses or stick baits around the edges. Vertical jiggers have just begun working the deeper holes with blade baits: Vib-Es, Silver Buddies, Sonars, Cicadas, etc.

Shallow-water casters send Cotton Cordell Big Os along shorelines for a mix of bass, walleye, large perch and muskies.

The Fall Walleye Derby began Sept. 12 and continues till Oct. 11. Entrants can sign up anytime. For details, call 358-4730.

Conesus -- Pike moved in along the north shore. Big bluegills go for nightcrawler segments and smaller crayfish dropped outside weed edges.

Waneta/Lamoka -- Panfish are in the shallows with few boaters working them. Worms work best.

Seneca -- Smallmouth bass and perch show better along north end shallows (15-20 feet) around HiBanks, Kashong and Reeds Points.

Oneida -- Perch show at 30-foot depths along the north shore and in 18 feet off Sylvan Beach. Smaller minnows work best shallow or deep. "Walleyes remain deep and difficult, under 72-degree surface temperatures," says Gerry Randall at Marion Manor. He sees bass as best bets for casting around shallow structures.

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