Each season for the past ten years or so, the Bergen Bassmasters have been conducting a night tournament in mid-summer. For the fourth time, the club ventured north to Candlewood Lake in Connecticut. The lake is a popular spot for pleasure boating and in mid-summer, the daytime fishing can be tough, however, at night, the lake can give up some big catches. Cool fronts blowing in throughout the night had the bite at this year's event a little tough for many anglers but that did not stop the club members from bringing in numerous big smallmouth and chunky largemouth.
John Ernest is a two-time Angler of the Year, Top Gun Shootout winner, and consistent top finisher in Bergen tournaments, however, until Candlewood, he had never won a regular club points tournament. At the night-Candlewood, John topped the field with a record-breaking 5 fish limit of 18 pounds 3 ounces, including four bass in the 4-pound category and besting the runner-up by over 3 pounds! The previous record was caught by Scott Mitchell almost 9 years earlier at Greenwood Lake with 17 pounds 15 ounces. John had recorded big weights in winning the Top Gun event in 2003 at Candlewood and decided to start this year's event in Echo bay when he had found success in the past. When those areas failed to produce, he moved north to the New Milford arm and decided to fish for smallies. He utilized a smoke/silver fleck senko and concentrated on keeping his boat in 12-15' of water and casting to about 8'. His first couple of bass were small but throughout the night, he caught about 11-12 keepers and culled out all of his smaller fish with the exception on one 2-pound "rat". Unknowingly, John was still fishing his Senko on 6-pound line that he had on from Sacandaga.
The runner-up this year was Renato Santos who was the winner at the last Candlewood night-event. Renato, a non-boater bagged a big limit at 15 pounds 1 ounce, nearly duplicating his winning weight from two years earlier. He replicated his winning ways by fishing a homemade spinnerbait on just about every point in the southern half of the lake. His fish were caught on points and around docks. With a strong showing here, Renato has captured the lead in the race for the Top non-boater and has him position to challenge for his first-ever top six finish.
Placing third and moving into first place overall in the club was Alvin Walters. Alvin has had three straight top finishes, placing third at Candlewood, and second in each of the prior two events. His limit at Candlewood weighed in at 14 pounds 3 ounces and were mainly caught within sight of the Squantz Cove launch area. Alvin began the night by fishing worms around deeper weedlines and switched mid-evening to Senkos for a few more. He caught a total of 6 keepers.
Finishing in fourth place was a perennial top finisher at the club's night tournaments, Nick Albano. Nick weighed in a limit at 12 pounds 6 ounces and included a four pound plus smallmouth. He started out the event in the New Milford arm throwing a crankbait which produced his first fish. The remainder of his fish were caught on either a Jitterbug or a big-spinnerbait.
Fifth place was taken by Mark Scocco who drops to second place overall, just one point behind Alvin. Mark has also had three top five finishes in the first four events this year. His five bass limit weighed in at 10 pounds 11 ounces. He started in the New Milford arm and landed his first bass before dark. With the slow action, he moved south fishing deeper, weedy points in 12-15' of water. As the sun began to rise, Mark moved to the Squantz Cove area and landed four bass in the last 30 minutes to finish off his limit. All of his fish were caught on 5" watermelon Senkos.
John Ernest's boat was obviously positioned over some big fish as his partner, observer John Hayden, landed the tournament lunker, a 5 pound 7 ounce largemouth. The behemoth fish was caught by dragging a 5" Senko Texas rigged in deeper 8-12' off the bank.
In total, the 33 anglers weighed in 12 limits, 108 fish, and a total of 217 pounds 3 ounces. At the mid-way point, some exciting races are beginning to heat up. Alvin and Mark are in a dead heat for first overall while John Ernest is making a charge to join that race. Terry Eckel is having an excellent season and is currently in fourth overall. Bill Vella's great start and Kirk Stober's consistency have them both in the Top Six. Renato Santos is currently in seventh and is the top non-boater with Joe Benevenia and Steve Schilling not far behind.
The next event is schedule for Greenwood Lake on August 14th.