It’s still too early to predict how the Classic on Lake Hartwell is going to shape up. The weather in March can be very unpredictable and that will determine where the fish are and how guys will be fishing.
Here are my biggest considerations for this year’s classic:
The seasonal conditions
I really want it to stay cold. The very worst thing that could happen would be to find the fish spawning on Hartwell. That can offer some big opportunities, but those opportunities are available to just about everybody, so there’s no home advantage.
If the weather stays cold, those fish will be deeper in the early prespawn mode; maybe a few still in wintertime mode. That’s when a local angler would have an advantage because that deep stuff — rock and trees — is hard to find.
I know it’s not likely to be anything like it was in 2015, when we had some pretty severe winter conditions. But I’d just rather it not be super warm.
The worst case scenario for me would be sunny and 75 degrees every day. Even if it’s still cold, those conditions will warm things up and that will make the fish move. They won’t be in any sort of pattern; they’re going to be scattered because they’re going to want to come to the bank.
Now, I wouldn’t care if it’s warm, as long as it’s also rainy, cloudy and windy. You just don’t want it slick and sunny. That would put everybody on the bank and I’d just have to get in there and try to fish with them.
The lake is low right now and it has been about 10 feet low since the beginning of the year. If it comes up and continues to rise during the Classic, that will really change the game, as well. This type of scenario will even the playing field by making more of the shallow cover accessible.
Now, if we had warming conditions along with rising water, that would pretty much eliminate any tactical advantage I might have, because in that situation, everybody’s going to blast them.
The thing about that scenario is that you may catch fish in places they’ve never been caught before. Most locals would never even glance twice at these spots. But that’s what these type conditions will open up. It’s a whole new world and a whole new lake.
In some regards, local knowledge can help you in knowing the areas where the bigger fish live.
In addition to the weather and water level, I’m not going to be able to avoid a lot of attention as the defending Hartwell champion. My first time, it was a lot worse than it will be in March. I had never won a Classic; you’re expected to do well and there was a lot of added pressure.
Not to say there’s not going to be pressure this year because you’re expected to repeat. But I’ve already won one; and not that I don’t want to win again — of course, I do. It just lightens the load a little bit.
The Spectator Boats
It’s pretty safe to say, I’ll have a good number of spectator boats following me around the lake, so I’ll have to work around that. We fishermen greatly appreciate our fans and we love seeing everyone out there enjoying the Classic, but boat traffic definitely has an impact on what you can and cannot do. And with the water being low, you have to worry about all those boats muddying up your bank.
You’d normally run in, shut down and start fishing, but you can’t do that when you have 50 boats because they’re going to go as long as you go. I’ll have to shut down much farther out and his will take me twice as long to fish the places I want to fish, therefore, I won’t get to fish everything I want to fish in a day’s time.
So, I guess for now, all of us are in the same boat. We’re going to have to keep a close watch on the weather and put together our best plans base on what Mother Nature gives us.