When opportunity knocks


Jim Sexton

Sometimes you just jive with a lake. It’s like you were made for each other. As a result you develop a relationship with the water that’s almost spiritual. That’s the way it is with me and Lake Hartwell. We’ve got a thing going, and it’s really fired me up about fishing the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. 

This will be my third Classic on this lake. In the other two I had a legitimate chance to win. Back in 2008 I finished 10th. In 2015 I finished sixth. I’m thinking that this might be the time. I’d sure like for that to happen. I’m not predicting anything, just telling you how I feel going into the thing.  

I know I got here through a combination of my record and a couple of good breaks. I’d like to show everyone that I deserve it. At a Classic you have to feel that way. If you don’t, you should go home because you don’t belong here. There’s no second place. You win or you lose.  

My previous finishes notwithstanding, this one will be different. I’m not sure about where the lake was back in 2008, but in 2015 the water was down. When I arrived here Thursday night one of the first things I noticed was that the water was way up. I don’t know for sure, but I’d say 7 or 8 feet. That’s higher than it was when I prefished it before it went offlimits. That change will make for a very different kind of fishing.

Another thing that’ll make this year different is that the last two Classics were true winter tournaments. This year’s Classic will be a true early spring, prespawn event. That means lots and lots of solid, heavy fish will be brought to the scales, and Hartwell has the population to get it done.  

It’s big, too. I’ve never counted them, but it seems like there are thousands of fingers and backwater-type places to fish. Any one of them could hold the winning weight. I guess that’s true anytime on Hartwell, but it’ll be especially true this year. With the water up and the weather getting warmer — remember, the bass haven’t spawned yet — the shoreline will produce.   

That is definitely my kind of bass fishing. I don’t like to fish in a crowd, and lakes that fish small bug me.

That won’t be the case this year. You might go the whole tournament and only see another competitor at the launch or at the weigh-in. That works to everyone’s advantage, I think, but it’s really favorable to me. I want to do my own thing without other competitors around to distract me.

I believe this could be a good week for me, but even if it isn’t it’ll be a good week for someone as well as for bass fishing and B.A.S.S. There’s nothing better than fishing the biggest bass tournament in the world under favorable conditions.

Mike Iaconelli's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter or visit his website at, mikeiaconelli.com.