Hartman remains on top

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Reversing his game plan, Day 1 leader Jamie Hartman of Russellville, Ark., added 20 pounds, 3 ounces to Thursday’s weight of 22-1 and retained the top spot in the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain with a two-day total of 42-4.

Hartman ended Day 1 by stopping on a rocky point close to the tournament site and catching a 4-pounder 10 minutes before the 3 p.m. weigh-in began. Friday, he started on this spot and quickly lit up the BASSTrakk leaderboard by securing a solid limit of smallmouth in less than two hours.

“I took a lot of pressure off this morning in the first hour and a half, I had 18 1/4 pounds,” said Hartman, a New York native who moved away from his home state to pursue a career in professional bass fishing. “Then I figured I only needed two more 4-pounders, but it took all the way to the last two hours to do it.

“That spot was on my way to a big flat I wanted to fish in the lake’s north end, so I just said I’m going to start there and see if the fish were there, and they sure were. Hopefully, they’ll reload and I’ll get on them tomorrow morning.”

Having fished this spot in years past, Hartman said his nearly immediate bite on Day 1 told him the point held greater potential than he had anticipated. With Friday’s calm, clear conditions contrasting Thursday’s partly cloudy and increasingly breezy complexion, he started Day 2 expecting fireworks and the bass mostly cooperated.

Hartman caught those early fish on a Carolina rig with craw bait on a 3/0 Owner extra-wide gap hook. He used a 1-ounce weight and a 3-foot leader, which helped him keep his bait above the grass.

“The spot had scattered grass and rock, so the Carolina rig was absolutely perfect, and my hookup to landing ratio is really good,” he said. “I said I was going to put it in my hand this week before we started because I lost so many fish last week [at the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite on the St. Lawrence River]. I said I’m going to swing with the big one this time.

“I was using a steady retrieve and whenever I’d come through a patch of grass, I’d pop the rig to snap it out of that grass. They’ll whack it every time when I do that.”

By midmorning, he decided he was not going to upgrade on his starting point, so he made a move to avoid burning up too much of the spot’s population. Heading to his northern flat, he focused on scattered grass in about 10 to 15 feet.

“I didn’t want to keep hammering my starting spot,” Hartman said of his plan to manage the bass. “I didn’t even go back to it on the way in. I didn’t want to catch another one off that spot; I need them for tomorrow.”

When the Carolina rig failed to produce, Hartman went to a 1/2-ounce Riot Baits Lil’ Creeper jig with a swimbait trailer. He was again targeting smallmouth but ended up making a key cull with a largemouth around 2:30 p.m.

Seth Feider of New Market, Minn., is in second place with 41-8. After anchoring his fourth-place Day 1 catch of 20-1 with a 5-4 largemouth, Feider added a limit of 21-7 Friday that included another huge largemouth that went 6-6.

Feider caught Friday’s big fish by targeting boat docks with milfoil and flipping a 5/8-ounce Outkast Tackle jig with a chunk-style trailer. While largemouth on marina docks produced most of his Day 1 weight, today told a different tale.

“I did most of my damage this morning on smallies; I ended up weighing four smallies and one buckethead (largemouth),” Feider said. “My smallmouth spot was a grass point in 10 to 12 feet on a big flat. I caught two on drop shot and two on a crankbait.”

Koby Kreiger of Alva, Fla., is in third place with 40-1. After posting 18-1 Thursday, he added 22 pounds on Day 2. Noting that a Heddon Super Spook Jr. and two jerkbaits — a Lucky Craft Pointer 100 and a Megabass Vision 110 — produced his fish, Kreiger said today’s calm, sunny conditions plus a cleaner performance yielded a better sack.

“It slicked off, which made it easier for me to see the fish and for them to see my bait,” Kreiger said. “Yesterday, I jumped off a couple and today, I fished clean.

“I’m fishing a great big flat in 10 feet with isolated rocks and isolated grass patches on it. I can see them pretty far out with my Humminbird 360; that shows me what’s in front of the boat when I’m drifting.

Feider is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with his 6-6 largemouth.

Saturday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6:45 a.m. ET at Plattsburgh City Marina. The weigh-in will be held at the marina at 3 p.m.

Live coverage of the event will be available starting at 8 a.m. on Bassmaster LIVE at Bassmaster.com with simulcasts on ESPN2 and ESPN3. Check local listings for ESPN2 times.

The tournament is being hosted by the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau, City of Plattsburgh and Clinton County with support from the Office of the Governor of the State of New York.

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