GREENVILLE, S.C. — After one day of fishing on Lake Hartwell, the leaderboard for the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods has a familiar look.
Oklahoma angler Jason Christie leads the way, with Edwin Evers — a fellow Okie and Christie’s roommate on the Bassmaster Elite Series — sitting close behind in second.
Christie said a change in strategy near the mid-point of Day 1 helped him to his tournament-best weight of 20 pounds, 14 ounces.
“I’ve got two little deals going, and I did the first little deal for the first three or four hours,” said Christie, who claimed the GEICO Everyday Leader Award of $2,500. “But then it just kind of ran out.
“I changed it up and actually caught a 5-pounder — and that gave me a clue. So, I just ran with it and ended up culling everything I had.”
Christie said he caught fish all day, but patience was required for finding the type of big fish that helps an angler win the Classic.
“They’re all on the same kind of stuff, but you just don’t know where the big ones are going to come from,” he said. “You’ll catch a 2-pounder, a 2-pounder and then finally a 5-pounder.”
Evers, who brought in 19-9 Friday, got off to a fast start with a good early-morning bite that he said might have been due to bass feeding on blueback herring.
“I honestly don’t know what they were doing,” he said. “I got really lucky and found a place that had a bunch of fish in it. It was an early-morning deal. I caught them every cast.”
Like Christie, Evers caught his biggest fish — two largemouth that each weighed 4-10 — in the afternoon hours.
“Those fish came around 12:30 or 1 o’clock,” he said. “It made for a better day than I thought I was going to have. I thought I was going to catch 16 or 17 pounds and maybe get a couple of big bites to push that up — and that’s what happened.”
The last time these two anglers waged a close battle in a Classic was 2016 on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in their home state. Back then, Christie led the first two days, only to see Evers overcome him with a giant catch on the final day.
With two days left to fish on Hartwell, there are several other anglers who are within excellent striking distance of the $300,000 first-place prize, including reigning Classic champion Jordan Lee of Alabama.
Lee, who raised the Classic trophy last year on Lake Conroe in Texas after struggling the first day, had a solid opening round on Hartwell, bringing in five bass that weighed 18-10.
“It was fun to come out and have a good start for a change, especially when you consider that I wasn’t really on anything in practice,” Lee said. “I fished a lot of boat docks today, and that’s what I really like to do. I didn’t get many bites, but I caught a few big ones.”
California angler Brent Ehrler is in fourth with 17-8, followed by Tennessee’s Ott DeFoe (16-8) and yet another Oklahoma pro, James Elam (16-7).
Alabama angler Mark Daniels Jr. took the lead in the race for Berkley Big Bass with a largemouth that weighed 6-11.
Lake Hartwell produced excellent numbers of fish, with only one of the 52 anglers in the field failing to land a five-bass limit. Only four anglers finished below the 10-pound mark, and it took 13-9 to get into 25th place.
The tournament will resume Saturday with Law Enforcement and First Responders Appreciation Day, with takeoff scheduled for 7:30 a.m. ET from Green Pond Landing and Event Center in Anderson, S.C. Doors open for daily weigh-ins 3:15 p.m. at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in downtown Greenville.
The Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in the TD Convention Center. Just outside the Center is the Get Hooked on Fishing presented by Toyota and Shakespeare, an interactive exhibit for youngsters from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.All activities are free to the public.
For more information, visit Bassmaster.com.