Anybody who happened to be at media day at the 2015 Bassmaster Classic might’ve seen me the most disappointed I’ve been in my entire life. At the official rules meeting that afternoon – the day before the start of the Classic on Lake Hartwell – B.A.S.S. tournament director Trip Weldon informed us that we would be starting two hours late on Day 1 because of the crazy weather that showed up in South Carolina that week.
In that moment, I felt like I had already lost the Bassmaster Classic.
Let me explain.
My practice that week at Hartwell was incredible. I had located a spot where spotted bass were just loaded first thing in the morning, and it didn’t matter if the lake was frozen over and I had to drill a hole to get to them, those fish bit on every cast and I was going to catch ‘em.
It was one of those magic situations where, in my mind, I knew was going to win the Classic on that one spot.
But here’s the catch: it was only an hourlong deal. Those fish were there first thing in the morning, and by the time I finally got out to that spot after the ice delay on Day 1, those fish were gone and I had missed my opportunity.
I ended up weighing 9 pounds, 2 ounces that day, which put me way down in 25th place.
On Day 2, I got out to that spot and had a 16-pound limit in five casts. In my mind, though, that just wasn’t enough. I felt like I needed to catch a big one to make up ground from Day 1, so I fished the bank all day looking for a giant. I caught a ton of fish that day, but no giants, and ended Day 2 in 18th place with 24-2.
But that final day was what I had hoped for all week, and a day that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I got out on that spot, and caught ‘em almost every single cast until about 11 a.m. I had a writer from Japan with me, and at one time of the morning, he had to ask me to slow down! I was catching so many fish that he couldn’t keep up.
I jumped from 18th place to fifth that day, with just shy of 19 pounds of Hartwell spotted bass.
Back for redemption
Now, a Top 5 at your first Bassmaster Classic is nothing to be ashamed of, but I’m coming into Classic Week with a pretty healthy desire to make up for that first day in 2015.
Lake Hartwell is only five hours from my house, and I’ve been fishing it for about 12 years now, going back to my FLW days. When I found out that we would be fishing it for the 2015 Classic, I went down there and spent a month by myself, approaching it like it was a totally new lake to me. I learned everything I could about that lake, and I feel like I know it about as well as a non-local can.
Hartwell is going to fish differently than it did last time around. The water has come up 10 feet, and it’s about 25 degrees warmer than it was when were where there in 2015. I think there are going to be plenty of fish in 10 feet or less, and a guy can pick the way he likes to fish and be competitive – I doubt that it’ll be a spot-oriented deal.
The thing that sets Hartwell aside is that it’s absolutely full of bass. It has the numbers and size of fish to make a great tournament; combine that with the fact that every single one of us comes to the Classic to WIN, and I promise you, you’re going to see one of the best Bassmaster Classics in history.
I hope to see you all out there.