GREENVILLE, S.C. — After Wednesday’s final practice day for the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods, Hank Cherry offered a paradox in describing the current fishing conditions at Lake Hartwell.
“The fish are everywhere and they’re nowhere, if that makes any sense,” Cherry said. “Sometimes you can be fishing a spot and there’s nothing around you. You look 10 feet to your left, and there they are. They’re just so unpredictable right now.”
No angler interviewed after Wednesday eight-hour practice day seemed particularly excited about his final day on the water before the three-day Bassmaster Classic begins on Friday. But every angler expressed an added sense of confidence about his game plan. Those game plans vary from shallow to deep techniques and a mixture of everything in between.
“This is how the tournament is going to be won,” said Cherry, a North Carolina resident who grew up fishing Lake Hartwell. “Somebody is going to do this five times, three days in a row. He might pick up one over here on a jerkbait. He might go over there and flip one off a dock. He might come out here and catch two 2 ½-pounders on a drop shot. Then he might go in the back of a pocket in the dirty water, pick up a spinnerbait and catch a five-pounder. Nobody is going to sit on one spot, camp out and catch ‘em.”
That’s the consensus on how this tournament will play out.
“Casey (Ashley) had a dominant area when he won here (in 2015),” said Mike Iaconelli. “Alton (Jones) had a dominant area when he won here (in 2008). It could happen again. But because of what we’ve had weather-wise, I think you’re going to have to junk around a little bit.
“The only wildcard, and it’s not me because I’m not doing it, is if one of these guys committed all four practice days to finding largemouths, a guy like Jason Christie or Bobby Lane, guys that like to do that. If those guys have figured out how to catch those bigger largemouths, that could be a win right there.”
But, again, the prevailing opinion is that it will take multiple baits at multiple depths over three days to win.
“I don’t think you can catch enough just shallow, and I don’t think you can catch enough just deep,” said Ott Defoe. “Because of that, I think a guy is going to need two or three deep rods and two or three shallow rods on the deck. I just think it’s the wrong time of the year to go exclusively one way or the other.”
However, it’s so close to being the right time of the year that everyone’s opinion may change with the warming trend that’s forecast to begin Thursday and continue through the weekend. Defoe noticed the main lake water surface temperature had dipped a couple of degrees to 51 in the two relatively cold days since the anglers last practiced on Sunday.
“But I didn’t notice much change,” he said. “The water has come up a little bit, but the water color didn’t seem to change much.”
There’s another theory that was expressed by more than one angler: If you can just stay in contention the first two days, Sunday will be the day when someone can come from several pounds back to win the Classic, much like Jordan Lee did last year at Lake Conroe.
“That’s going to be the best day after a string of warm days,” said Bradley Roy. “Anybody that’s within four pounds on Sunday, watch out. The more we have these pre-spawn, spawn Classics, that’s what you’ll see – somebody busting a big bag on the final day.
“Everything is changing now. New fish are showing up here, and they’re leaving there. I’ve said all week that the guy that’s going to win the Classic doesn’t have a clue now and won’t until Sunday afternoon. We’ve got some good days of sunshine coming, and you know what the bass want to do this time of year.”