After qualifying for the 2022 Academy Sports+Outdoors Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell presented by Huk through the 2021 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, Oklahoma native Jared Miller is in prime position to make another run at a Classic appearance.
With two days complete at the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional at Grand Lake, the former Elite Series angler is in fifth place overall with 30 pounds, 13 ounces.
Although he is from Oklahoma, Miller qualified for this event through the Colorado B.A.S.S. Nation, and with one boater from each state qualifying for the 2022 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship at Lake Pickwick, he is currently the highest Colorado angler in the boater standings.
In fact, he holds a 7-pound lead over the next highest Colorado angler Joe Conway and can qualify for his second-straight Nation Championship with another good day.
Miller’s experience on Grand Lake has helped him navigate changing conditions this week. As boats were still taking off, Miller landed two of his keeper bites and not long after secured his limit on his way to 15-9.
“I was junk fishing, and it was very random,” he said. “Some were on wood, some were on rock. I was fishing a bunch of current today. I have so much history here that in a three-day tournament, everyone might catch them one day, but I can go from one end of the lake to the other and fish new water the whole time.”
On Day 1, he caught all of his fish on one bait. The second day, however, Miller had to run through a rotation of baits as the water levels rose in his areas.
For many years, Miller was known for an infamous video of him bouncing off rocks at the tailrace of Jordan Dam during an Elite Series event on the Alabama River and any conversation Miller had relating to fishing started with that video.
Now the conversation has shifted to his fourth-place finish at the 2021 Championship as well as the Classic, where he was in 13th place after Day 1 with nearly 17 pounds.
“I’ve been to Nationals three times now, and it was an amazing experience to go to the Classic,” he said. “Luckily, I was way high up on BassTrakk the first day of the Classic and now everyone talks about that and it is really cool.”
With a berth into the Nation Championship on the line, Miller said he plans to fish new water in hopes of finding quality bites.
Louisiana, Arkansas dominate cutline
Of the 16 anglers that made the final day cut on the boater side, 11 are either from Louisiana or Arkansas. Louisiana took home the overall team championship and a $5,000 check with six anglers making it to Championship Friday.
Arkansas, however, holds the top two overall spots with Mike Webster claiming the overall lead with 32-14 and Doug Thompson right behind with 32-4. In total, five Arkansas anglers will be competing, including former Elite Harvey Horne who is in 12th overall.
“I’m telling you, some of the best anglers in the country are from Arkansas,” Webster said. “Time and time again we have five and six guys going out on the final day. We have Doug Thompson sitting second, and he is one of the best in the state. He is going to be tough to beat. It’s been good to fish with these guys.”
This tournament is unique, however, as only the top boater and non-boater from each state will advance to the Nation Championship. Not only will teammates be focusing on beating the entire field tomorrow, but their main goal will be beating their fellow teammates for the opportunity to earn a ticket to the Bassmaster Classic.
Rising water plays a major role on Day 2
The heavy rains that moved through the area have caused the water levels on Grand Lake to rise as much as 2 to 3 feet in some areas. Webster reported that he was fishing in 11 to 13 feet of water on Day 1 and those same spots were now in 15 to 16 feet of water. His bass moved off the areas he was catching them in.
Webster wasn’t the only one who had to relocate bass as the overall weights dropped significantly from Day 1 to Day 2.
Drew Porto did not find the same quality he found on Day 1, catching 12-3 on the second day after landing more than 17 pounds on the first day. Porto, now in seventh with 29-8 total, said he got off to a quick start on the same gizzard shad spawn, but the bass were not as fat as the ones he caught the previous day.
When the rain picked back up mid-morning, his bite shut down and the bass started acting differently.
“I caught a small limit relatively fast and then that rain came through and water started rising. I think a front came through after because once that happened the fish got really weird. I slowed down and started dragging, and I had three more good bites. I had a 4- and a 6-pounder pull off on back-to-back casts, and I jumped a 4-pounder off on a wacky rig that was on a bed. They weren’t eating it well, they were just reacting.”
Along with Miller, Jeremy Montgomery was one of the anglers who managed to stay consistent with their bags while making key adjustments during the day. After catching over 12 pounds Day 1, the Missouri angler caught 15-3 on Thursday to land inside the cut at 11th place.
Montgomery keyed in on a dock bite the first day of the event, but did not find that same success on Day 2. Instead, he switched to a rotation of inflow areas that were holding a better quality of bass.
“If the inflow continues where I found it, I think it will replenish and the fish will be there. I’m probably not going to waste time on docks. I think I can catch the 3- to 5-pound fish doing that and put a good bag together.”
Throughout the week, Montgomery has found there are still a lot of bass waiting to pull up as well as bass spawning and some postspawn as well. But what he has found in the inflows doesn’t revolve around the spawn, just bass feeding on what is caught in those areas. On Thursday, he only found one or two bass in each inflow and then would have to move to the next one.
“I think the bass just haven’t got there yet. From this morning to this afternoon, our area came up almost a foot from takeoff to noon. With the lake coming up, I think more bass will move up. If the inflow stays, I think there will be more there (Friday).”