For the third time in 10 years, Lake Hartwell will be hosting the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. Competition is set for March 16-18, 2018. There are only three bodies of water that have hosted more Classics than Lake Hartwell.
Hartwell first held the Classic in 2008 and again in 2015.
Lake Hartwell’s 56,000 acres on the Savannah, Tugaloo and Seneca rivers, situated along the South Carolina/Georgia border fished drastically different in 2008 and 2015. In 2008, Alton Jones brought home the title, fishing in a lake that was 20 feet or more below full pool, with a total of 49 pounds, 7 ounces.
Last time around, Casey Ashley hoisted the world championship trophy, in front of a hometown crowd, after battling 20-degree temperatures throughout the competition. Ashley, who weighed 15 bass for 50-1, would join Alabamians Boyd Duckett and Randy Howell, as the only anglers in the 47-year history of the Classic to win the title in their home state. A club that Oklahoma’s Edwin Evers joined the following year on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.
In 2008, the moonscape of the exposed red clay banks left little to no shoreline cover available to fish, pushing anglers into deep structure to find the majority of their catch. Though the shoreline was virtually out of reach, the 50-boat field weighed 91 limits totaling 530 bass that weighed 1,363 pounds, 15 ounces.
In 2015, an additional benefit of hot coffee was discovered during the coldest Classic to date. Anglers were using a cup of joe to defrost their bass boats from ice-stricken trailers in 10-degree morning launch temperatures. Despite the frosty temperatures and frozen equipment, the top 56 anglers in the world accumulated 72 limits comprised of 510 fish that weighed 1,353 pounds, 5 ounces.
According to BASSTrakk, the 2015 field caught 661 keepers that averaged 2-1. Forty-four 4-plus-pound fish were registered over the course of the three-day competition, with eight fish over 5 pounds, including Bobby Lane’s 6-6 big bass.
Lane, along with Mike Iaconelli, are the only two anglers that backed their top 10 performance in 2008 with similar finishes again 2015. Lane finished fourth in 2008, and second in 2015 with one fish shy of a tournament limit, and Iaconelli notched a 10th- and sixth-place finish, respectively. Notably, the 2008 victor, Jones, missed the 2015 Classic. He did indeed qualify for the 2018 Hartwell Classic.
There are 10 anglers competing in the 2018 Classic that have had success on Hartwell. The numbers below explain why they may have an advantage in this year’s Classic. There is one angler you may not know about, first-time Classic qualifier by way of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open #2 at Lake Chickamauga, John Cox, who also won the FLW Tour stop on Hartwell in 2016 that occurred at nearly the same dates the 2018 Classic is scheduled.
-Eight Classics in the last 10 years (winning 2015 Hartwell Classic with 50 pounds, 1 ounce).
-Ashley caught a limit on 57 percent of his Classic competition days.
-Ashley has finished in the top 15 of the Classic 38 percent of the time the last 10 years.
-At the 2015 Classic, Ashley registered 20 keepers, three heavier than 4 pounds. Ashley’s average on 15 fish was 3-5.
-Eight Classics in the last 10 years (win 2008 Hartwell).
-Jones caught a limit on 80 percent of Classic competition days.
-Jones has finished in the top 15 of the Classic 50 percent of the time the last 10 years.
-10 Classics in the last 10 years.
-Lane caught a limit on 83 percent of Classic competition days.
-Lane has finished in the top 15 of the Classic the 60 percent of the time the last 10 years.
-Three top five Classic finishes, including two at Lake Hartwell.
-Bobby Lane registered 17 keepers, with three 4-plus-pound fish. Lane’s average on 14 fish was 3-6, one ounce larger than Ashley’s.
-This will be his fourth Classic appearance in as many years as an Elite Series pro.
-Powroznik caught a limit on 63 percent of Classic competition days.
-Powroznik has finished in the Top 15 75 percent of the Classic he has fished including fifth at Hartwell (2015) 12th at Conroe (2017).
-Powroznik registered 23 keepers, with two more than 4 pounds in 2015.
-Longest active streak at 17, only missed 2001, won in 2003.
-Iaconelli has caught a limit on 74 percent of Classic competition days.
-Iaconelli has finished in the top 15 of the Classic 50 percent of the time the last 10 years.
-Iaconelli registered 16 keepers, with four more than 4 pounds in 2015.
-Six Classics in the last 10 years (missed 2015 and 2016).
-McClelland has caught a limit on 67 percent of Classic competition days.
-McClelland has finished in the top 15 of the Classic 33 percent of the time over the past 10 years including an eighth place finish at Hartwell (2015).
-McClelland registered 22 keepers, with two more than 4 pounds in 2015.
-Six Classics out of six years on the Bassmaster Elite Series.
-DeFoe has caught a limit on 89 percent of Classic competition days.
-DeFoe has finished in the top 15 in 83 percent of the Classics he has fished.
-DeFoe registered 21 keepers, with none more than 4 pounds in 2015.
-Four Classics out of four years on the Bassmaster Elite Series.
-Pirch has caught a limit on 30 percent of Classic competition days.
-Pirch has finished in the top 15 for 25 percent of the Classics he has fished including a 13th place finish at Hartwell (2015).
-Pirch registered 15 keepers, with three more than 4 pounds in 2015.
-One previous Classic via BASSFest in 2015.
-Wheeler caught a limit all three days of Classic competition in his first appearance on Lake Hartwell in 2015.
-Wheeler finished 14th in 2015 on Lake Hartwell, this will be his first Classic as an Elite Series competitor.
-Wheeler registered 22 keepers, with one more than 4 pounds in 2015.
First time Classic qualifier by way of Lake Chickamauga Open, won on Hartwell in 2016, on nearly the same dates of the 2018 Classic. After his three-day total of 51-4, Cox brought in 16-2 to seal the win.
(Despite talks of time of year influencing the total weight brought to the scales, comparing 15 fish to 15 fish Ashley would only be 1 pound, 3 ounces off of Cox when the Classic was held 2015.)