The most exciting week in bass fishing is here! It’s GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods week, and I’m fortunate enough to be competing in it for the third time in my career. Words can’t explain the feeling you get when they call your name, pull your truck into the arena, and you’re greeted by thousands of fans cheering for you. It’s special--real special--as is this entire week. Not only does the world champion get crowned, but there is also a huge expo all three days where you the fans can see all of the latest and greatest items in the fishing industry, as well as meet many of the pros who will be there representing their sponsors. If you haven’t already made plans to attend, don’t miss it. Get to Greenville, South Carolina this week and join the fun. Now let’s talk about the fishing.
As I’m writing this, I’ve already spent three practice days on Lake Hartwell. We still have one more “official” practice day on Wednesday before game day comes on Friday. Before I get into how my practice went let’s talk about the Classic mindset from an angler’s standpoint. In professional fishing we hear a term “swinging for the fence” tossed around a lot. While I’ll be the first to tell you that a lot of times that’s nothing more than a bad excuse for a tough day, that saying really does apply to the classic. For those of us who fish the Elite Series we have to choose our battles from time-to-time and honestly Angler of the Year points are always in the back of our mind. Some tournaments become about surviving, getting a few points and getting on to the next one. At least that’s how I go about it, but in the classic there are no points on the line. The last place guy is guaranteed a $10,000 payday this week and nobody will remember in five years who finished in second place.
I fished my first Classic here back in 2015. I learned a ton about the lake that week and walked away with a top 20 finish, which I felt was respectable for my first Classic. One of the key things I learned from that one is that Lake Hartwell is a big body of water, and the biggest key to winning here is being in the right part of the lake. Last time I found a part of the lake that I liked, and it better suited my style, but in the end my fish didn’t hold up like the guys at the top of the leaderboard did.
With that being said, I spent my practice where I think it will go down this week. I still have some finishing touches to put on my plan Wednesday, but I’ve caught some fish and I have my approach pinned down. What I haven’t found yet is that magic spot where I know I’m going to pull up and catch them. Those spots definitely exist on this lake, but for me it’s been pretty random so far. That’s typical for this time of year, especially with the crazy fluctuations in temperature we’ve been having in the southeast the past few weeks. I believe the guy who wins this tournament will have to adjust on the fly. Although I’d love to find that “magic spot”, I’m not so sure that’s going to be the deal this week anyway. I truly believe this tournament can be won in anywhere from 2 to 40ft of water. That’s just my opinion, but it’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out. The weather is supposed to warm up for the tournament so they are going to be biting and it should be exciting.
Obviously I don’t want to talk a whole lot about baits and techniques that have been working for me in practice, but I will leave you guys with a new bait that I’m excited about and have been catching some fish on. I’d say every guy here has thrown a spinnerbait some this week. It’s been a staple in the bass fishing world for a long time and really shines this time of year, during the pre-spawn. The awesome part about it is you can cover a ton of water, which makes it great for a tournament angler. I’ve been throwing one made by a company called Kinkee Baits. They will be released here this week at the classic and have some really cool features that set them apart from any other spinnerbait on the market.
My spinnerbait setup starts with an MHX 7’2” EPS86MHF rod. I like a rod that has some tip for precise casts but also has plenty of power when I need it and this rod fits the bill perfectly. For shorter guys, or someone who prefers a shorter spinnerbait rod, you could certainly cut this blank down and build it as a 7 footer as well. That’s the beauty of custom building. While you’re at it, build the rod with some Winn Grips, put a high speed reel on it, and spool it up with 17lb Vicious Pro Elite fluorocarbon and you’ll be ready to sling a spinnerbait.
As for the Classic my hope is that we put on a good show, stay safe, and may the best man win!