ANDERSON, S.C. — Brandon Cobb has been driving about an hour every morning this week to the takeoff site for the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Hartwell.
It’s a little farther than he’d normally want to drive for an Elite Series event, but he says it’s been worth it to get the full benefit of his home-field advantage.
The Greenwood, S.C., pro, who has been sleeping in his own bed and eating home-cooked meals with his wife, Amy, while other anglers in the field stay at hotels and campgrounds, caught five bass today that weighed 17 pounds, 8 ounces and maintained the lead for the second straight day.
Cobb’s two-day total of 37-1 puts him just ahead of second-place Georgia pro Micah Frazier (35-12) and Florida angler Drew Cook, who caught a tournament-best limit of 20-6 in today’s second round and rose from 25th place to third with a two-day mark of 34-10.
“Yesterday, I ran around a little bit more and fished some different areas, and I didn’t catch as many as I expected,” said Cobb, who took the opening-round lead Thursday with 19-9. “So, I (mostly) stayed in one area today.”
Heavy rains fell on Lake Hartwell during the first few hours of fishing today, and it seemed to change the way the bass bit for the former Clemson University bass angler. Cobb relied heavily on boat docks for his first-round catch, but only caught small fish off of docks today.
Fortunately for him, one of the final bass he caught today was a 5-7 spawning largemouth that made the difference between maintaining the lead and starting Saturday’s semifinal round playing catchup.
“I caught that fish off of the bed,” Cobb said. “It only took about four casts, so I was pretty fortunate. That was the last fish I culled with.”
As for sleeping in his own bed — and fishing a lake he grew up on while others in the 74-angler field have traveled from far-away locales like Oregon, Texas, and Australia — Cobb said it’s a rare treat.
“It’s so nice,” he said. “I go home, and my wife will either have dinner ready or we grill something. It’s been nice staying at home. You sleep better, too.
“Now, I just need to keep finding that big bite every day.”
Frazier has stayed on Cobb’s heels by using bits and pieces of several patterns each day. Today, he benefited heavily from a pocket he discovered while competing in the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods on Lake Hartwell.
“I didn’t practice there, and I didn’t fish it yesterday either,” said Frazier, a three-time Classic qualifier. “Today, I ran back in there and caught a big one on a boat dock. Then on the other side of the pocket, I caught one that was about 3 1/2 pounds.
“I’ll definitely make a pass through there tomorrow.”
Beyond that, with greatly increased boat traffic expected Saturday, Frazier said he isn’t certain what he’ll do.
“I’ve caught them doing a few different things this week,” he said. “But there’s just not enough of that stuff left, and I’m going to have to go somewhere else.
“That’s a risk, but I really have to do it because I’ve caught all there is around where I’ve been fishing.”
Cook turned in the only 20-pound limit of the event so far by targeting shallow-spawning bass. He caught every fish he weighed in by sight fishing.
“In practice, I thought I could have 17 to 19 pounds one day of this tournament,” Cook said. “I thought it would happen yesterday and then things would fall off today.
“But today, with the rain and the clouds and everything, a lot of people stayed off the banks and weren’t trolling over the tops of the fish — and that helped tremendously.”
A warm evening and a more favorable forecast for Saturday and Sunday has Cook feeling optimistic for the rest of the event.
“I was able to find about 10 more fish this afternoon that I left for tomorrow,” Cook said. “I know there will be a lot more boat traffic, but hopefully everything will pan out.”
Illinois pro Chris Groh took the lead for the Phoenix Boats Big Bass award with a largemouth that weighed 5-13.
The Top 35 pros will resume fishing Saturday with takeoff scheduled for 7 a.m. ET from Green Pond Landing and Event Center in Anderson and weigh-in back at the same site at 3:15 p.m. After Saturday’s round, only the Top 10 will advance to Championship Sunday with a shot at the $100,000 first-place prize.
On Saturday and Sunday, a special Elite Expo will be held at Green Pond Landing with demo rides of a Nitro, Skeeter and Triton boats, prizes from Toyota and Academy Sports + Outdoors, fun activities at the Berkley/Abu Garcia Experience trailer and activities offered by other Elite Series sponsors.
On Saturday from 1-3 p.m., fans can get autographs and take photos with Elite Series pros at Angler Alley. The pros will also be holding Elite Angler Clinics from 1-3 p.m., giving tips on all things bass fishing.