ANDERSON, S.C. — When Brandon Cobb realized the bass might be spawning for this week’s Bassmaster Elite at Lake Hartwell, he grimaced just a little bit.
Cobb is a South Carolina native who grew up fishing Hartwell, and he knows things about the lake that others don’t. He was afraid the spring spawn would bring the bass into clear view for the entire field, neutralizing his home-field advantage.
Turns out, they are spawning.
But so far, his advantage seems to be intact.
Cobb brought five bass to the scales today that weighed 19 pounds, 9 ounces and took the Day 1 lead at the third Elite Series event of the season. He has a 2-pound advantage over North Carolina pro Hank Cherry and Georgia pro Micah Frazier, who each caught 17-9.
“There are a lot of fish on bed out here right now,” Cobb said. “But I know what this lake looks like when there’s an all-out spawn going on, and it’s just not happening.
“There have been some fish caught on beds, and there will be some more caught off the beds. But judging from today and from what I saw in practice, the spawn is not in full swing.”
Cobb said he caught a couple of bass on spawning nests himself today, but he also caught prespawn and postspawn fish.
His experience on the lake played a big role in his first-round success — just as he’d hoped it would.
“I didn’t really have a specific pattern today,” said Cobb, a former member of the Clemson University bass fishing team who holds a degree in wildlife and fisheries biology. “I basically just ran a lot of stuff where I’ve caught them in the past. Since practice was so bad, I just fished a lot of stuff I was familiar with.”
Just as Cobb wouldn’t offer specific details about how he caught his bass, Cherry was vague about how he ended up in second place. The seventh-year Elite Series pro weighed in four solid largemouth and one impressive shoal bass that weighed just over 3 pounds.
“I sight fished a little bit,” Cherry said. “I threw a wacky worm around a little bit. Then I did some damage later on in the day, doing what I do best.”
He wouldn’t elaborate on his final point, but he was obviously pleased with his results.
“That shoal bass was one of the biggest ones I’ve ever caught,” Cherry said. “I caught three of those today. It was just a good day all the way around.”
After what he described as “terrible practice,” Frazier said he tried some new areas today and found what he believed to be prespawn bass. He used the popular term “junk fishing” to describe the conglomeration of tactics he used.
“I caught some sight fishing, some on topwater and one or two on a dock,” Frazier said. “It was just ‘Junk Fishing 101,’ but that’s what you do here sometimes because there are a lot of ways to catch them on this lake.”
The tournament could take an interesting turn during Friday’s second round with a strong band of storms expected to hit the Lake Hartwell area around sunrise. Winds and heavy rains could make it nearly impossible for anglers to fish for the few bass that are spawning in shallow water.
A steadily falling lake level could take the spawning element even further out of the equation.
“The weather is not going to let us do any sight fishing tomorrow, and I kind of threw that out the window today already,” said North Carolina pro Matt Arey, who placed fourth with 16-15. “We’ll just change it up tomorrow. I was slow and methodical today, and I’ll probably pick up a few more moving baits tomorrow.”
Mississippi pro Brock Mosley took the early lead for the Phoenix Boats Big Bass award with a largemouth that weighed 5-9.
The tournament will resume Friday with takeoff at 7 a.m. ET from Green Pond Landing and Event Center and weigh-in back at the same site at 3:15 p.m. Only the Top 35 anglers will advance after Friday’s round.