GREENVILLE, S.C. — One practice day remains and then it’s show time at the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. The pros spent last weekend scouting Lake Hartwell and get a final day on Wednesday. Last fall they had many weeks to explore the fishery.
The change in seasonal patterns evolved as fall turned to winter. Now the lake level has risen to nearly full pool, and an early burst of spring weather was interrupted by more typical seasonal weather.
What have the pros learned through the transition and all the practice time?
Here are three things apiece learned by the following pros during their time on the water thus far.
Higher water: “Obviously the water level is much higher than 2015 and 2008,” said the Florida pro fishing his third Classic on Lake Hartwell. “I expected the fish to be much shallower than where they are now.”
False spring: “Trees and flowers are blooming everywhere, and I have been practicing like the fish should be moving shallower,” he said. “They are not necessarily moving shallow and seem to be back and forth.”
Chilly water: “When you have a cold snap with overnight lows in the 30s you expect the water temperature to fall and then rise with the daytime heat,” he explained. “The water temperature has not fluctuated much at all, either higher or lower, and I think that is because of the balance of cold and warm weather.”
Higher water: “I was surprised how much the water has come up, because every other time I’ve fished here the level has been much lower,” said the California pro on his first Classic at Hartwell. “This is my forth time on this lake and I’ve never seen it this high.”
Dirty water: “The areas where I am focusing are more stained because of the higher water, and that is in areas that have been clearer in the past where I’ve fished,” he continued.
Fishing bigger: “Everyone is more spread out because there is much more water to fish, from deep to shallow,” he added.
Temperature tricks: “The water temperature was in the low- to mid-40s for the previous Classics and it’s up in the 50s,” said Iaconelli. “That’s a really big change and I expected the fish to be doing something completely different and they are not.”
Options galore: “In past years with the low water and temperatures the options were fewer in shallow water,” he observed. “Now we have a lot more targets like laydowns and vegetation included with the docks.”
Seasonal transition: “I was excited to revisit true wintertime areas where I caught fish here in the past,” he said. “The fish weren’t there and that tells me that true wintertime patterns are a bust.”
Search bait: “Diving birds are a telltale sign of feeding fish, and I’ve bottom scanned areas where bait should be,” said Lester. “I’m not finding the bait I need to put together an offshore pattern.”
Random bites: “I’m surprised at the randomness of the bites,” he added. “I’ve caught fish from 35- to 2-feet of water and would really like to find that magic spot.”
Shoreline coverage: “There is so much of it, including the dog fennel that is really thick on the shoreline,” he said. “It makes it just about impossible to throw treble hooked baits.”
Clearer water: “I expected to see more stained water after the lake has come up so much,” said DeFoe. “There isn’t that much dingy water and I was counting on it.”
Temperature tricks: “The very back ends of the creeks are in the 50s, and I expected temperatures in the low 60s,” he said. “So it’s cooled off more than I thought.”
Tough bite: “I was expecting to get a lot more bites because of the higher water,” he added.
Water woes: “In pre-practice the water was 9 feet lower and that really threw me off, probably the biggest surprise of the week,” said Wheeler.
Cleared up: “The water is clearer than I thought it would be,” he continued. “That could be due to all the vegetation.”
Scattered bite: “It surprised me how difficult the bite was to crack,” he added. “The fish are much more scattered than I guessed they would be.”