Saturday, March 26, 2011

FLW Tour on Lake Hartwell: How to Make the Top 20

How to Make it to the Top 20
By Luigi De Rose

There are always leaders in any tournament. A magic few who seem to hit the right spots at the correct time. Others might be fishing similar spots or similar ways with poorer results. As the legendary Rick Clunn explained, sometimes it is finding the secondary or even a lesser pattern that will allow you to win. Even though it is not the primary pattern, not everyone is working it. This allows you to expand it without being overcrowded. Rick Clunn rode this theory to the winner circle many times over his career. It might be what is needed to do well on Lake Hartwell.

Lake Hartwell
Lake Hartwell is a reservoir bordering Georgia and South Carolina on the Savanna, Tugaloo and Seneca Rivers. It was host to the 2008 Bassmaster Classic. Anglers will recall that the water was ultra low and fishing was difficult.

In the year of 2008, due to severe drought in the southeastern United States, the lake dropped to over 22 feet (6.7 m) below its normal water level at its lowest in December 2008. As of the first of October 2010, the lake is back up to just over 654 feet, 6 ft lower than full pool of 660 ft. During the drought, much of the shoreline dried and was able to seed with bushes, weeds and other plant life. A rejuvenation of the shoreline creates an abundance of cover as water levels rises to normal levels.  During the spring, when the bass are searching out shallow areas to feed and spawn, anywhere that has a mix of cover, proper water temperature and baitfish, anglers can expect good results.

Two Lakes in One
Anglers were in two camps this week. Some wanted to dabble in sight fishing which meant heading towards the dam area in search of clearer water. The clearer the better for seeing the beds. Another group wished to head up river to the stained water to fish for staging bass or bedding bass. Many anglers admit that catching bedding bass is not their strength. Feeling more comfortable just fishing, many anglers focus running spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, cranks, swimbaits mixed in with casting to target with soft plastics or jigs. 

What to Use
Christie looks over his spinnerbait.
(Photo: Rob Newell FLW)
No one is crazy enough to admit to using a specific lure on Day 1 or 2. Unless bed fishing, which is more a game of finding the correct beds with larger female bass, giving up any details, especially on a weigh in stage is asking for trouble. But, if you analyze the anglers and look that how their co-anglers fared will give you some clues to their future success.

On Day 1 many anglers did well. Trying to figure out if their on them is difficult. Larry Nixon has 16-10 and his co-angler Keith Honeycutt sacked the largest creel on the co-angler side with 16-13. Two excellent bags from the same boat. Mike Reynolds had a huge 21-15 pound day and his co-angler Moo Bae got a respectable 13-15. Both co-anglers are skilled but their pros where on good areas. I'm sure either pro wished their co-anglers didn't hook as many big bass as they did.

Bryan Thrift is another example. He has 12-14 on Day 1 and his partner Aaron Combs nailed 11-01.  This was further explained on Day 2 when Thrift landed 19-10 and his partner Timothy Lane got 10-05. Bryan's two day total of 32-08 was good enough for fourth place. Imagine how well he would or could do if his partners were not in the boat.  

Joe Thomas is loving the Chatterbait.
(Photo: Rob Newell FLW)
Sight fishing pro's co-anglers didn't fare as well. Ish Monroe has 16-10 his partner has only 1-11. David Dudley had 20 and Westley Strader 16-11 but their partners did horribly.  But that is the nature of the beast. When the pro is staring at a bed, the co-angler is kind of out of the loop. One question is how will the sight fishing guys fare over four full tournament days. Interestingly, both Westley and Ish spent a considerable amount of time on Day 1 in the same pocket. 

Day 3 and 4
What will the next two days reveal?  My bet is that the bass will continue to position into the creek arms and slowly move to the backs of the coves or pockets. If the water is super clean, anglers will see them as the weekend progresses as long as the days stay warm. Many anglers who were using reaction baits need overcast, wind or an early boat number to have the longest bite. Many who did well on Day 1 when it was windy didn't do well with the calmer conditions. The trick is to be relentless with casting to good spots to trigger a bite. A bit of luck won't hurt either. Unlike Florida, a giant bite is not available to rocket you up 15 places in the leader board. Slow and steady with the fish will produce. As much as anglers like the stained water you just never know if there are fish in your area or not. Being confident in an area will make a huge difference.

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