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Published: December 28, 2012

Summit Cup Poised to Blow
the Lid off Chautauqua Secrets

by Lynn Burkhead

Shhhhh! And with apologies to Elmer Fudd, be very, very quiet.

Not because we're hunting wabbits, mind you.

But because the Jack Link’s Major League Fishing pros are visiting Chautauqua Lake, site of the 2013 General Tire Summit Cup competition, the second event in the organization's history.

Why such secrecy? Because the pros are about to descend upon the beautiful and vegetation filled waters near Jamestown that have really been a bass fishing unknown outside of Western New York.

By the time such pros as Gary Klein, Boyd Duckett, Kelly Jordon, Denny Brauer, Mike Iaconelli and Tim Horton are done at Chautauqua Lake, in all likelihood, the cat will be out of the bag, the secret will be exposed, and the lid will be blown on one of the Empire State's best kept fishing secrets.

Until now that is.

A natural 13,000-acre water body that is 78 feet at its deepest point, the water body near the renowned Chautauqua Institution, headquarters for this week's event, is full of chunky northern largemouths and Great Lakes sized smallmouths.

Full of rock piles, subtle and not so subtle points, shallow flats teeming with grass beds and hard weedlines, boat docks, creek channels, and even a sunken steamship or two, Chautauqua has given up largemouths to nearly eight pounds and smallmouths just over that same mark.

In fact, local Randy Dustin, one of the lake's best tournament anglers and a camera boat operator for the event, owns the lake records for both species at Chautauqua Lake.

That includes an 8-pound, 2-ounce smallmouth caught in the summer of 2009 and a 7-pound, 7-ounce largemouth landed in September 2012.

"The Monday that I caught that 7-pound, 7-ounce largemouth, I had one of the best days I've ever had on Chautauqua," said Dustin. "Believe it or not, I also caught a 6-3 largemouth; a 6-3 smallmouth; a 5-13 smallmouth; and a 5-8 smallmouth. I caught those fish in about two hours and those five fish would have gone over 28 pounds."

Angling secret or no secret, those are definitely Major League Fishing type numbers!

Emptying into the Chadakoin River - whose water eventually ends up in the Ohio River, then the Mississippi River, and finally the Gulf of Mexico - the lake's native name reportedly means (according to at least one translation) a "place where fish are taken."

That's an understatement at the natural water body lying in a narrow, skinny valley near Jamestown. Besides its prodigious bass population, the 17-mile long Chautauqua is also chock full of sunfish, crappie, perch, walleye and muskellunge.

Speaking of muskies, in addition to being one of New York's best kept bass fishing secrets, the lake also is arguably the state's finest muskie fishery, annually producing a number of fish of 50-plus inches.

But as good as the fishing is at Chautauqua, it is but one facet of what the area has to offer visitors.

Situated in Western New York about an hour south of Lake Erie, the Chautauqua area is full of natural beauty with gently rolling terrain that is ablaze with color every fall, ample hardwoods and evergreen trees that give the valley a lush green hue in the summer, and beautiful native flowers and plants that offer colorful blooms in the spring.

Founded in 1874 by inventor Lewis Miller and Methodist Bishop John H. Vincent, the world renowned Chautauqua Institution has a natural beauty that is very evident, a remarkable place of trees, flower gardens and beach-lined lakeshore.

Originally a teaching camp for Sunday School teachers, the Institution today offers a plethora of activities and lodging options, annually drawing well known musicians and speakers including U.S. Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Bill Clinton. Other notable figures who have performed or lectured at the Institution include George Gershwin, Booker T. Washington, Dr. Jane Goodall and actor Alan Alda of M*A*S*H television fame.

With a 6,000-seat amphitheater, a movie theater, the striking Athenaeum Hotel, condominiums, several inns and private cottages, the year-round population of the Institution stays close to the 400 mark although that number can swell to 10,000 or more during the Institution's popular summer season.

But for all of its notoriety, the Institution is just one of the many attractions in the area. With the lakeshore surrounded by private cottages, summer homes, and picturesque hamlets, including Mayville, Chautauqua, Bemus Point, Ashville Bay, Maple Springs, and Stow among others, there are numerous quaint shops, local eateries, wineries and water based recreational opportunities to be enjoyed.

Those opportunities include the lake's fabulous fishing, plenty of swimming options, sailboat and pleasure boating opportunities, ample canoeing and kayaking options, a working ferry at the lake's narrowest point, and one of the few authentic Mississippi River style steamships left in America, the Chautauqua Belle.

Aside from the Normal Rockwell-like Americana sights and sounds to be found in and around Chautauqua, the surrounding terrain literally teems with wildlife and outdoors recreational opportunities.

The latter includes nature hikes, rock climbing and birding in the summer months, and ice fishing, ice boating, snowmobiling and skiing in the winter months. During the fall, the area boasts some of the state's best hunting for white-tailed deer, ducks and Canada geese.

All in all, Chautauqua Lake and its surrounding villages and natural attractions will prove to be a great site for the 2013 General Tire Summit Cup.

But, by the time Outdoor Channel, Extended Cast PPV and NBC have finished airing all six days of the Summit Cup competition, Chautauqua Lake's well kept angling and tourism secrets will be exposed to the rest of the country.

Tune in and see for yourself.