2008 Elite Series - Champion's Choice Oneida Lake - Syracuse, NY, Aug 7 - 10, 2008

Ohio pro looks to finish with big bang

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — It might come as a surprise to some BASS fans that Charlie Hartley was a competitive skateboarder and still climbs aboard a board most days.

And believe it or not, that skateboarding experience — and getting right back up after you fall — appears poised to help Hartley out in his chosen profession.

Hartley, the likable pro from Grove City, Ohio, opened up this week's Champion's Choice Elite Series Tournament presented by Ramada Worldwide mired way back in the pack with five bass that weighed 9 pounds, 15 ounces.

What did Hartley do?

Simple, he picked himself up and went fishing again on Friday, determined to make the Top 50 cut.

By day's end — his 44th birthday, no less — Hartley had done just that, weighing five bass at 15-4 to move into 34th place with a two-day total of 25-3, just 3-4 out of the Elite 12 cut coming on Saturday afternoon. With his trademark smile in place at the Day Three launch, Hartley was hoping to continue that trend.

"There's no reason that I can't make the Top 12 if I can bring another bag in like I did yesterday," he said. "I moved 40 places yesterday, so anything is possible.

"I'm going to (go out today) and catch as many as I can, which is what I always do."

While Hartley is excited about trying to make the cut, he admits his thoughts are more on what he hasn't accomplished this season rather than on what he still has a chance to do.

Ranked 96th in the 2008 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year point standings, Hartley admitted that it looks as if his run as an Elite Series angler is all but over.

Until he requalifies, that is.

"Realistically, I don't think I can requalify even though they'll work down the list (with anglers who double qualify)," he said. "I'd love to think that they'll get down to me but I'm just sick about it.

"If they start the first Elite (Series event) next year without me, I'll cry.

"But that's just part of life."

And part of life for Hartley, harkening back to his skateboarding expertise, is getting right back up again.

"I'll enter all three Open Divisions and requalify," Hartley said. "You know, I won the points in the Southern Opens last year and there is no reason that I can't go do that again and get my butt right back in here."

If that doesn't happen, the emotional Hartley doesn't want to think about being away from the Elite Series tour.

"You know, it's been my dream to be with these guys and to not get to hang with them would be devastating," Hartley said after newly crowned 2008 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam walked by and patted him on the shoulder.

"They are like family (to me). We share some intense emotions together, positive and negative.

"Yeah, these are my people and they all have the same screw loose that I do."

Once this season's action concludes on Oneida Lake, Hartley will begin his "offseason," such as it is, since the autumn and winter months will bring a plethora of fishing tournaments and angling commitments.

"I don't really have an offseason," said Hartley, who held the Day One lead at the Classic this year. "I try to fish every friggin day to keep my senses sharp. That's what I like to do. My days off, I go fishing.

"If I have it my way, every single day I'm on the water."

In a way, the success that he enjoyed this year in his first ever Classic — Hartley finished 15th and took home more than $22,000 in cash and prizes — really didn't help the angler's Elite Series campaign like he thought it would.

"You know, I really hate to admit it, but I think the high of the Classic really sent me into a spin," Hartley said.

"I'm a real emotional person and I think that the Classic really spun me around more than I knew."It was the greatest high in the world and I joke that regular life is pretty boring    after they tell you that you're leading the Classic."

Trouble is, there is life after the Classic for all of these Elite Series pros.

"You know, I never really got everything back together (in) getting everything ready for that first tournament," Hartley said.

What has the Buckeye State pro learned after this year's Elite Series campaign that will help him the next go around?

"I just made bad decisions this year and this is a decision making sport," Hartley said. "If you make good decisions, you catch fish and I just made some bad decisions.

"I'd like to think that I'm a better fisherman than this and so I need to get out there and prove it."