Seminole Southern Open will challenge

BAINBRIDGE, Ga. — The final Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open presented by Allstate of the 2015 season will be a challenge for the anglers who compete in this bass tournament. The event takes place on Georgia’s Lake Seminole Oct. 22-24.

The problem is not a lack of bass. Seminole grows big bass and plenty of them. Brett Hite of Phoenix, Ariz., demonstrated this when he won a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament here in March of 2014. His four-day total of 20 bass weighed a whopping 97 pounds, 10 ounces.

The predicament for the anglers fishing in the upcoming Southern Open is timing, points out Bassmaster Elite Series pro Randall Tharp of Port St. Joe, Fla.

“For Seminole, October is the toughest time of year to possibly fish it,” Tharp said.

Tharp will be competing in the Southern Open on Seminole, and he has been on the lake prior to the tournament searching for bass. A favorite to win the tournament, he finished fifth in a Southern Open on Seminole in October 2010.

Tharp needs the victory, which provides a berth in the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro March 4-6 in Tulsa, Okla. After qualifying for the 2014 and 2015 world championships, he finished below the Top 40 Classic cut this year. Winning at Seminole is his only hope of qualifying for his fourth Classic.

The three five-bass limits Tharp brought to the scales during that tournament weighed a meager 37-4. The winning weight was only 44-2. Although Seminole is capable of yielding a huge five-bass limit on any given day, Tharp points out that the lake is even stingier now than it was during the 2010 Southern Open.

“The bass are scattered,” Tharp said. “You have to cover a lot of water and keep a positive attitude because you won’t get many bites during the day.”

Seminole is such a diverse environment that the field of more than 170 pro anglers and an equal number of co-anglers will ample room to spread out over its 37,500 acres. For those who like casting to shallow bass cover, Seminole has an abundance of stumps, standing timber and a wide variety of aquatic vegetation, with hydrilla being the dominant species.

“There is way more grass here now than there was in 2010,” Tharp said.

Hydrilla is especially prominent in the Spring Creek and Fish Pond Drain arms on Seminole’s northern shore. Because these areas are springfed, they tend to have the clearest water in the lake.

The Chattahoochee River arm flows south into Lake Seminole from Lake Eufaula, which lies along the state line between Georgia and Alabama. Major tournaments have been won on Seminole by fishing pockets and small creeks off the Chattahoochee.

Seminole’s main lake also has plenty of grass and standing timber. Anglers who prefer to fish deeper offshore structure will likely fare best in this section of the lake.

Largemouth bass will dominate the Seminole Bassmaster Open because they dwell throughout the lake. Although the fishing may be slow, some heavyweight bass are sure to be caught. Seminole lies in the southern range of the Northern largemouth and the northern range of the Florida largemouth. This overlap of species allows for naturally occurring hybrid “intergrade” bass that grow larger than the Northern largemouth.

Shoal bass live far up the Flint River from the Earle May Boat Basin in Bainbridge, Ga., where the weigh-in will take place on the first two days of the tournament. Shoal bass don’t grow as heavy as largemouth bass, but they can be more reliable. However, to reach them means navigating a bass boat over shallow rocks and riffles that can rip a lower unit off an outboard.

Most of the anglers will head south from Bainbridge in search of largemouth bass. That includes Tharp. “Largemouth will win this tournament, and I’m fishing to win,” Tharp said.

During the 2010 Southern Open on Lake Seminole, twitching weedless frogs over matted grass and punching through thick vegetation with a heavy sinker matched with a variety of Texas rigged soft plastic baits were productive tactics. These methods also should be players this time around, but there are other options.

“You can fish to your strengths here,” Tharp said. “Keeping a positive attitude and fishing to your strengths will be the keys to winning.”

Takeoffs will be from the Earle May Boat Basin at 7:30 a.m. ET each competition day. On Thursday and Friday, weigh-ins will be held at the same location at 3:30 p.m. The final weigh-in for the Top 12 anglers on Saturday will take place at 4:30 p.m. ET at Bass Pro Shops, 4059 Lagniappe Way, Tallahassee, FL 32317.