Time management

Making the most of your time on the water is always a wise strategy, but on the final day of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open on Lake Hartwell, Andrew Upshaw knows that it’s absolutely critical.

Coming into Championship Friday 2 pounds, 4 ounces off the lead, the Oklahoma pro explained a time-management game plan that he’s hoping will deliver a shot at the win. It’s all based on his Garmin Panoptix LiveScope, which allows him to not only spot cane piles and other structure ahead of his boat, but also monitor fish movement in real-time images. 

“I’m trying to make the most high-percentage cast possible,” Upshaw said.

The reason this is so important is that the schooling activity common to blueback herring lakes like Hartwell can be a feast-or-famine proposition. Often a mix of spotted bass, largemouth and stripers will push the baitfish topside, ravage them as long as possible and then it’s over.

Sometimes it delivers — Day 1 leader Cody Hahner plucked a pair of hefty largemouth that weighed 6-3 and a 5-8 from a schooling eruption. But considering the frenetic nature of schooling activity, along with the fact that your bait is competing with the natural forage the fish eat every day, relying on schoolers can amount to a frustrating game of ghost chasing.

Rather, Upshaw is scanning around his predetermined targets, watching for clusters of fish and mostly saving his casts for what he considers realistic opportunities. 

“I’ll fire out just past where I see the fish and then watch them react,” Upshaw explained. “You have to make two casts: The first one to draw them out and the next one to get them to bite.”

Upshaw’s strategy earned him the day’s first limit, approximately 9 pounds by 9 o’clock. Most of the day remains and Day 2 leader Patrick Walters is also on track for a solid day. 

Bottom line, every shot counts today. The angler who wins will be the one who puts the most casts in the best spots.