MARBURY, Md. — While most of the Elite Series pros fishing this week's Capital Clash presented by Advance Auto Parts have suffered from inconsistent or declining catches, Ohio's Charlie Hartley managed to increase his bag each of the first three days. He's the only angler in the Top 12 who has achieved that feat and it has landed him in second place as Day Four begins.
"Usually I do just the opposite," he said. "I went to brand new water yesterday and it paid off. Skeet and I shared an area the first day and a half. He was leading the tournament on the second day and respectfully asked me to leave. It worked to my advantage. I went out to the mouth of the creek and caught a good limit."
On Day Three, he adjusted once again and started on a spot he's fished for years, the solitary deep area on a large flat.
"It's an old dredge into a marina or a dock, with a seven foot channel," he said. "It's a long ways to deep water. I've always thought it was an afternoon spot, but I caught twenty fish yesterday in the first hour and a half before I pulled off."
He currently sits almost nine pounds behind Reese, and he acknowledged that the deficit will likely be hard to make up, but made clear that it's not insurmountable.
"He's in a community spot and it's entirely possible that he could have a tough day and I could catch twenty pounds."
If he finds himself in need of a kicker fish at mid-day, he may end up joining Reese in the downriver creek in order to maintain his second place standing, which would tie his best finish in a BASS competition.
He recognized that it's a "small narrow spot where a lot of boats fly by, but that messes with us more than the fish."
He doesn't intend to crowd Reese, citing an unspoken agreement among the top pros that makes turf wars a relative rarity.
"We're at a level where these guys all worked very hard to get here," he said. "We very seldom have any issues. Sometimes you'll see a boat come flying into your area and then when he sees you're there, he'll just wave and leave. That's tough to do in competition, but it happens all the time."
While Hartley is known to the angling public primarily as a Great Lakes smallmouth fisherman, his angling education began by fishing for largemouths on the stingy Ohio River. He credited the methodical techniques he learned there for enabling him to improve his catch here every day while others faltered and fell out of the running.
"One good thing about the Ohio is that I'm real confident on these fisheries that have a lot of fish," he said. "You flip on a log here and you expect to get a bite. Flip on a log on the Ohio River and you're hoping you might get a bite.
"I fish very methodically. If I see a good laydown, I might spend a half hour on it. It sounds crazy, but a lot of times you can catch three fish in that half hour. On a river like the Potomac where there's a lot of wood in the water, that may be hard to do, but on the Ohio where there are only like five laydowns, if you fish fast you'll be out of things to fish in an hour."
Regardless of where he finishes today, it's unlikely that Hartley will wear anything other than a smile to the weigh-in.
"I have no trouble being invigorated. I love to fish. Every day I just want to get out there and fish versus Kevin Van Dam and Mike Iaconelli. It's just like when we were kids, just that we're bigger kids now and we're starved for attention," said the former competitive skateboarder.
"It only bothers me when I'm not catching fish. Like with any other sport, hard work only gets you so far. It gets you to be Charlie Hartley. Some have that plus God-given talent. If you have that, you're KVD. Fortunately, that's not what it's all about and that's why I'm fishing today."