ANDERSON, S.C. — Tim Dube had never fished a competitive round on Lake Hartwell prior to Wednesday’s start of the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.
But he went out and treated the place like home water.
Dube, a 29-year-old New Hampshire resident, caught a limit of five spotted bass for a total of 16 pounds, 3 ounces. That was enough to give him a 2-ounce lead over defending B.A.S.S. Nation Champion and Bassmaster Elite Series pro Will Davis Jr., who finished Day 1 with 16-1.
“It was tough to even get fish to bite in practice,” Dube said. “But I got a tip from my co-angler from New Hampshire, and I ran some stuff I found in pre-practices. I just got the right ones to bite today. And I had room to grow, too. I had a 5-pounder break off at the boat.”
Dube was tightlipped when it came to the lures he used to hook Day 1’s big bag, but he indicated he’s covering a lot of water and power fishing.
“I’m doing something different, and I don’t have any boats around me,” he said. “(The key) has been finding the right brushpiles and the canepiles. The fish need to be set up on them right and to be unpressured, if there is such a thing here.”
Dube said he’ll continue with the tactics that helped him climb into the pole position on Day 1.
“I could get 8 pounds and I could get 18 pounds,” he said. “The good thing is the fish seem to reload every day. There are so many fish in this lake. It’s just a matter of getting them to bite.”
Davis, 31, already knows what it takes to win a B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, having won the 2022 title on Pickwick Lake. That got the Sylacauga, Ala., resident into the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic in Knoxville (he finished 40th of 55 anglers). It also earned him a spot on the 2023 Bassmaster Elite Series, and he impressed there, winning a derby on Lay Lake back in May and finishing fifth in the Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Rookie of the Year standings.
Davis said those experiences have given him plenty of confidence.
“It got my mind right to compete at another level,” he said. “Fishing is all about confidence. If you don’t have it, you might as well not even put a boat in the water.
“And Hartwell fits my style pretty well. I know the way the spotted bass behave some days. But they’ll change up on you. I must’ve fished 50 spots today and I only caught fish on four of them.”
Davis said three of his keepers came on a Davis Bait Company Wood Jig, and one each on a Davis 1/2-ounce spinnerbait (peacock color) and a Davis Shaky Head.
“That Wood Jig is a bad dude,” he said. “It’s a phenomenal bait when you power fish and want to cover a lot of water.”
Maryland’s Andrew Sams is third in the boater division with 14-8. South Africa’s Andrew Nienaber is fourth with 14-7 and Michigan’s Nic Rand is fifth with 14-5. Georgia’s Chris Moody, who’s in sixth place with 14-3, caught the heaviest bass in the boater field (4-4).
Cole Buser, who’s representing New Mexico, leads the nonboater field with a limit that weighed 13 pounds. Virginia’s Larry Witt is second with 11-11 and Kansas’ Kyle Klein is third with 10-15. Klein’s 4-8 spot was the heavy on Wednesday.
A total of 113 B.A.S.S. Nation anglers from 48 states and eight foreign countries are competing at Hartwell — the storied 56,000-acre reservoir straddling the South Carolina-Georgia border. Fifty-eight competitors are in the boater field and another 55 are nonboaters. Each finished atop their state standings at one of five B.A.S.S. Nation regionals this year to qualify for the championship.
Davis is fishing alone, as is customary for the defending champion. So are Jurgen Geiger of Namibia and Texas’ Jack Barber, who is representing the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Besides the U.S. and Namibia, other countries represented this week include Canada, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Japan, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The field will be cut after the Day 2 weigh-in, with the Top 10 boaters advancing to the third and final day of competition. Anglers from each of the five B.A.S.S Nation regions that don’t have a Top 10 weight after Day 2 also will advance to the final round, as will any nonboater whose weight is equal to or greater than any boater in the Top 10.
The Top 10 in each field will split a cash purse of $96,500, including Big Bass awards ($1,000 to the boater and $500 to the nonboater), as well as a $500 award to the angler using Garmin Electronics who finishes highest in the boater field.
The top three boaters will earn a spot in the 2024 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees near Tulsa, Okla., scheduled for March 22-24. The winner will qualify for the 2024 Bassmaster Elite Series.
Day 2 of the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship will begin with a 7:30 a.m. ET takeoff from Green Pond Landing. Weigh-in is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. Follow all the action on Bassmaster.com.
Visit Anderson is hosting the event.
2023 B.A.S.S. Nation Title Sponsor: TNT Fireworks
2023 B.A.S.S. Nation Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2023 B.A.S.S. Nation Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Dakota Lithium, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
2023 B.A.S.S. Nation Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Lew’s, Marathon, Triton Boats, VMC