Largemouth make big Day 1 showing

Some fisheries are defined by a particular black bass species, even when others share the pond. Go to Lake Erie, you’re after beastly smallmouth. Amistad, it’s chunky largemouth. Shasta — lots of spots.

Lake Hartwell’s also known for its spotted bass, but while plenty of these feisty fish crossed the Day-1 weigh-in stage at Green Pond Landing and Events Center, it was big largemouth bass that drew most of the attention.

Of course, “big” is a relative term, but since we’re not talking about Florida-strain largemouth, which commonly reach double double digits, it’s understood that a Hartwell green fish in that 4-plus range are straight-up difference makers.

Bassmaster Elite Patrick Walters, who tied Derek Lehtonen for sixth place on Day 1, had a 4-pound, 6-ounce largemouth in his 14-15 bag. As he notes, big green fish are certainly not rare — it’s simply a numbers game. 

“The spotted bass are definitely taking over (Hartwell),” Walters said. “When I used to come up here during high school and college, it was probably a 50/50 split. Then it got to where it was 60/40 spotted/largemouth and now I’d say it’s 70/30. 

“The largemouth are out there offshore with the spots. They’re mixed; you just have to go through enough of them to get the right bites. I caught probably six other largemouth, but that 4-6 was the only one that was bigger than my spots.”

Pat Schlapper, who won the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Northern Regional on Minnesotas Lake Vermilion a few weeks a few weeks ago, caught a 3-13 largemouth and lost another in the 4-pound range. Since practice, spotted bass have dominated his action, but the largemouth he’s seen have been good ones.

“That was the only largemouth I caught all day,” Schlapper said. “In the eight or nine days I’ve been here, I’ve only caught half a dozen largemouth.”

With a recent lake turnover and significant water influx from Hurricane Sally’s remnants, on top of the usual fall patterns, Hartwell’s predators are actively chasing the fleet-footed blueback herring schools all over the lake. Largemouth aren’t shy about rubbing elbows with spots and stripers, so the frequent schooling activity that boils the surface could very well yield a green fish of impressive girth.

Several more hefty green fish drew applause at Wednesday’s weigh-ins.

Among them:

Cody Hahner, who leads the pro field with 20-4 found a pair of whopper largemouth that weighed 6-3 and 5-8. His biggest is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors.

Second-place pro Bobby Stanfill anchored his 16-8 with a 5-pounder. 

Third-place pro Scott Martin backed up a 4-pound spotted bass with a 3-4 largemouth. 

Second-place co-angler Nathan McClure amassed more than half of his weight with a 4 1/2-pounder.

J.W. Smith holds the Phoenix Boats Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 6-0.

It will be interesting to see if largemouth make another strong showing today. Even more interesting: Could we see someone reach the Top 10 by targeting the green fish?

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