The Classic window of opportunity

Anglers always talk about timing when they are on a specific bite throughout a tournament. This was more and more evident as the Bassmaster Classic progressed on Lake Hartwell.

The morning herring bite was something that numerous anglers sought to start their mornings. Even with the sub-freezing air temperatures and low-40’s water temps, blueback herring still went shallow every morning and the bass weren’t far behind either.

The average Lake Hartwell bass weighed in during the Bassmaster Classic was in between 2 1/2 and 2 3/4 pounds. Three-pound class fish were heavily desired in order to separate anglers to the top half in order to make the cut for the final day.

Classic contenders raved about the early-morning blueback herring bite, where anglers could hit the banks in hopes of catching a couple quick keepers and even some kickers. The morning was definitely the time that was most valuable to these anglers. It wasn’t just the morning, but rather the first hour and half of the day when the sun was still low and the fish would still gather shallow.

The hour and half delay on Day 1 of the Bassmaster Classic hurt numerous anglers who were keyed in on that early bite. Runner-up Bobby Lane, fifth place Jacob Powroznik, sixth place Mike Iaconelli and even ninth place Justin Lucas were all affected from the lack of a morning bite. Lane, Powroznik and Iaconelli all brought four fish to the scales on Day 1 while Lucas only managed three.

When it comes to above-average keepers (3+ pounders), there were 13 caught on Day 2 before the 8:30 a.m. mark, which is the time when anglers launched on Day 1.

No doubt that the first hour of the morning was crucial, but the 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. portion of the morning was significantly better than any other two-hour portion of any day. Day 1 saw 18 3+ pounders caught during that stretch, while Day 2 saw 27 and with only half of the field fishing on the final day, 12 were still caught.

On the flip side, the final hour of the day was basically non-existent in terms of getting a decent keeper in the boat. Approximately 10 total fish over 3 pounds were caught from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. BassTrakk, of course, is unofficial, but it is the best data we have.

The interesting thing though is that Casey Ashley didn’t have many lulls to his days like the rest of the field had at times. Ashley may have had slow periods, but he would catch smaller keepers and finally weed through them until he caught a better sized fish. Everyday it seemed that Ashley would be one of the first anglers to catch a limit each day and upgrade from there. While anglers like Randy Howell would catch a good one to start the day, but they may only get five bites all day and they had to capitalize on every single one. Howell started the final day with the first fish catch, a four-pounder to get his day started. He would go on to only catch two keepers on the final day.

The Classic champion had the benefits of knowing he didn’t have to go shallow to catch a decent one because his schools were filled with the right fish he needed. The even crazier thing is that Ashley won the Classic without the help of a giant kicker like Dean Rojas had on Day 1 or that Coby Carden had to help his Day 2 bag.

The 9 to 11 time period that I spoke of earlier was the host to many quality fish. This period was when Carden boated his two biggest bass of the day that helped anchor his Day 2 bag of 19 pounds and 13 ounces. Not to mention that Mike Iaconelli caught two fish between 4 and 5 pounds on the Bassmaster Classic live stream during this time.

The morning bite during the Bassmaster Classic was crucial, but BassTrakk says that the mid-morning bite was even more important to anglers’ success on Lake Hartwell.