On the main route to Green Pond Landing at Lake Hartwell is an iconic tackle shop, the likes of which are becoming rarer in these days of big box stores and online shopping. Go inside and you will be greeted by other anglers eager to talk fishing and assist in choosing everything you need for a day of fishing at the lake set to host the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.
Lake Hartwell Fishing and Marine, located in Anderson, S.C., a co-cost city of the Classic, is a roadside shop selling everything from live herring to high-end rods, reels and a wide selection of locally and regionally made lures. While being packed with a strong quantity and variety of tackle, the shop also tells a story of its own. A story of long-lasting friendships, loyal employees and a close community.
What makes the business stand out is an ongoing commitment to hire students from nearby Clemson University — and specifically members of its collegiate bass fishing team.
Randy Childers, general manager, feels he is able to build a strong connection with students through fishing, while gaining the benefits of dedicated work ethic, combined with their fishing knowledge and youthful enthusiasm within the store.
“I like hiring Clemson students from the fishing team because it benefits them, and it benefits us,” Childers said. “They have the fishing knowledge, which helps me a lot, and it gives them a place to work, and we also give them a discount. I try to hire as many as I can, and if they want, I’ll let them work here the whole time they’re in college.”
During his 15 years at the store, Childers has hired around 20 Clemson students, most notably Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brandon Cobb, also a Classic qualifier, and Derek Freeman, who is fishing the pro side of the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series.
Cobb worked at the store throughout his enrollment at Clemson while a member of the bass fishing team. Childers claimed he was a huge help and very knowledgeable. A long-lasting relationship grew between them, and Cobb visits the store when in the area.
More recently, a Clemson bass fishing team hire is graduate student Hunter Bond. Bond is aiming for an advanced degree in computer engineering and computer science. Bond has fished for Clemson for five years, having finished fifth place at the 2021 Bassmaster College Series National Championship with his partner, GL Compton.
Bond learned about the Lake Hartwell Fishing and Marine and Clemson connection through Freeman, a longtime friend, who worked in the store for six years while enrolled at Clemson. Bond considered the benefits of the job and made his decision to reach out to Childers and apply.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity to explore my knowledge of fishing, and I also love our community and getting to talk to people about fishing,” Bond said.
“Honestly, working in this fishing store has done more for me than you could imagine versus being on the water,” Bond said. “Being exposed to all the different brands, companies and the relationships that I’ve established within the community and with tackle vendors has been phenomenal.”
The job also comes with perks, such as arranging work shifts around his academic schedule. Bond keeps his boat in the store owner’s garage, and he gets leniency regarding time off to fish tournaments.
The only challenge to the job, according to Bond, is shutting out all the fisherman “dock talk” within the store.
“I kind of have to drown out a lot of the noise from the fishermen that come in and out of the store, especially when fishing a lake like Hartwell,” Bond said. “It can be a challenge getting wrapped up in what everyone else is doing out on the water, especially when you hear it every day.”
Instead, Bond takes pointers on certain things and sticks with his instinct and what he knows.
Overall, Bond described his time working at Lake Hartwell Fishing and Marine as a great experience with a lot of lasting relationships built. He plans to keep working there until he graduates in December and pursues a job with his degree. While fishing is a major part of his life, he knows that going pro is on an “if it’s meant to happen” basis.
“If I was ever in the position to go pro, I’d consider it,” Bond said. “But there are other things that are a priority in my life, like I want to be a family man one day and build up my community. So, if fishing is a part of that, I’d consider it, but we’ll see where life takes me.”
As for the upcoming Classic, Bond spent time on Hartwell during recent weekends. He predicts the fishing is going to set up well for the anglers.
“There will be a lot of prespawn bites going on, and guys are going to be able to catch them both shallow and deep,” Bond said. “I think we’ll see some squarebill action in dirty water areas as well.”
Bond predicts Classic fans could easily see average daily weights of 18 to 20 pounds, or more, during the March 4-6 competition. Regardless, Bond and Childers are excited for the Classic, and they can’t wait to greet all the Elite Series friends they have made over the years.
If you are in the area during the Classic, make a point to stop by Lake Hartwell Fishing and Marine, located at 5365 SC-24 in Anderson. The store is located near Green Pond Landing, takeoff site for the Classic.