Unlike many other anglers who have qualified for the Elite Series through the Bassmaster Opens, Jamie Hartman didn’t get hooked on tournament fishing via a family member. His initial angling ventures were casting spinners and worms for trout into New York’s West Canada Creek, which was in his backyard.
During Hartman’s mid teens he expanded his fishing horizons to what he calls the “Barge Canal.” It is part of the New York State Canal System, a successor to the Erie Canal.
“My mom rented a space at the canal for our canoe,” Hartman said. “I would bike 10 miles to get there with my younger brother, Chris, or one of my buddies. My brother passed away a few years ago.”
Hartman and his canoe companion would cast tiny crankbaits with ultralight spinning outfits to catch rock bass and smallmouth.
“We didn’t have a clue what we were doing,” he said.
While attending Whitesborow High School in Marcy, N.Y., Hartman was a defenseman on the school’s accomplished hockey team. He still has all his teeth, but he did suffer a few broken thumbs.
After graduating from high school, Hartman got into competitive 3D archery while working at an archery shop. He soon became a local ace and began touring the 3D circuit as a pro shooter for PSE Archery. He competed in this venue for several years and claimed scores of trophies and plaques.
“That was my main deal,” Hartman said. “It’s what I wanted to master and pursue.”
The downside to the sport was that, “It didn’t pay squat.”
After nearly 10 years in competitive archery, Hartman lost interest in the sport. So much so that in the year 2000, when he was 27 years old, he skipped a Sunday archery competition to fish a small local bass tournament on the canal that he once fished from a canoe.
This was his first bass tournament. It attracted a field of less than 20 boats but the experience had a profound impact on him.
Hartman fished his maiden bass tournament from a 14-foot johnboat rigged with a bow-mounted electric motor and a small outboard. This was the boat he had previously used for shooting carp with a bow. After a day of feverishly casting a black buzzbait on the canal, Hartman received plaques for first place and the big bass.
“I still have the two plaques,” Hartman said. “After that, I was absolutely hooked on bass tournaments. I thought ‘Screw this bow stuff. I can make money fishing.’”
From that day forward Hartman passionately pursued his bass fishing education. He taped every TV show that had to do with bass fishing, bought every educational bass fishing video he could find and subscribed to Bassmaster Magazine. He viewed the tapes over and over, read and reread the articles and doggedly practiced the fishing techniques he gleaned from these sources.
The year after winning his first tournament on the barge canal, Hartman joined the Bucketmouth Bass Club. He joined another local club the following year. In addition to the tournaments put on by the clubs, Hartman competed in any local events he could find in a 16-foot Hydra-Sports, his first bass boat.
It took a few years for Hartman to find his bass fishing groove. Since then he has consistently finished in the money and contended for the AOY title in any circuit he has competed in. After two years in the bass clubs, Hartman stepped up the BFL Northeast Division and won the AOY title for three out of four years.
Encouraged by his success, Hartman put his deposits down to fish the 2006 FLW Tour. He also quit his job, which, at that time, was as a truck driver for a beverage company. However, he had only two months to secure the sponsorships he needed to compete on the FLW Tour and was unable to pull it off.
“I had to go back to the grind and regroup,” Hartman said.
Since that disheartening experience, Hartman has been driving for a local trucking company that allows him the time off needed to pursue his dream of becoming a professional bass angler. Hartman’s consistency over this time has been remarkable, finishing in the money 74 percent of the time with 11 wins and 54 top 10s out of 101 events. Ten of those tournaments have been Bassmaster Northern Opens, in which he claimed a check seven times.
In 2016 Hartman qualified for the Elite Series by finishing sixth in the Northern Open AOY point standings. Because established Elite Series pro Adrian Avena finished third in the Northern Open AOY standings, Hartman moved up one spot to earn his invitation to join the Elites.
Although Hartman is excited about the opportunity, he has no illusions. He realizes that he will be competing against the strongest field of bass anglers ever assembled. And, that he will be fishing unfamiliar waters across the country.
“I know how hard it’s going to be for a rookie,” Hartman said. “I’ve got to make it in the next two years or it’s back to the grind.”
Hartman’s current sponsors include Nitro Boats, Riot Baits, Lowrance Electronics, Lew’s reels and Cashion rods.