Nation: Adkins claims lead at Hartwell

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Dalton Tumblin

ANDERSON, S.C. — Adjusting with the changing conditions helped Willie Adkins Jr. catch 10 pounds, 15 ounces and claim the lead after Day 2 of the TNT Firework B.A.S.S. Nation Southeast Regional at Lake Hartwell with a two-day total of 24-5.

Adkins, a Wayne, W.Va., native, holds a 2-ounce lead over Jay Ladner of Mississippi, while Georgia angler Patrick Brown jumped into third place with 23-13.

“It was a great day. I had about 15 keepers today and I covered a lot of water,” Adkins said. “It’s hard to make it here. There’s a lot of good, tough fisherman in West Virginia and when they find fish they can catch them.”

After catching 13-6 on Day 1 fishing for shallow largemouth, Adkins started Day 2 with the same idea, making a 25-minute run to target spawning bass. While he caught some shallow, he said the pattern wasn’t as productive.

As the day wore on, the wind speeds over Lake Hartwell increased, and Adkins moved to some shallower points.

“The wind picked up and I changed over to a big spinnerbait and it worked well for me,” Adkins said. “When I left the bed fish, I was catching all spots.”

Adkins estimated his two best spotted bass each weighed about 2 1/2 pounds.

On the final day, he said he plans on making a longer run and will use the same game plan as Day 2 — fish for spawning largemouth in the morning and then move to the points when the wind picks up in the afternoon.

“It’s all I got,” he said.

Ladner, a Perkinston, Miss., resident, caught 12-7 to increase his two-day mark to 24-3 after placing seventh on Day 1 with 11-12. Ladner said he changed his approach completely on the second day.

“Like a lot of guys are doing, I was running and gunning,” he said. “It seemed like the fish bit, for me, a lot better before 10 in the morning. I had all of my fish by 9:30. It is wide open, as fast as you can go, and it is key, little, intricate places that I’m hitting that I think a lot of people are overlooking.”

Ladner said he is familiar with the Ouachita River, which will be the site for the 2021 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Nov. 3-5 — and that adds some motivation to finish at the top of his state standings.

“I’ve got a different plan for tomorrow,” he said. “So hopefully with three different patterns and three different areas of the lake we can pull this thing out.”

After finishing Day 1 in 40th place, Brown brought 14-12 to the scale on Day 2, the largest bag of the tournament thus far. Brown caught just over 9 pounds on Day 1 flipping after having a productive practice, but when the bite did not materialize early on Day 2, he knew he had to make a change.

“With the wind forecasted to blow, I knew we had to get on the shoals,” Brown said. “I had a shoal that had a lot of bait on it. Luckily there wasn’t anybody on it.”

While the shoal did not produce for the first hour, Brown stayed and his patience paid off, as he caught a limit of spotted bass on a topwater bait. He added that he lost about a 7-pound largemouth.

“You can hardly get them to eat when it is calm,” Brown said. “It was actually blowing a little too hard, but when the wind got going about 10:30, that’s what got them going.”

Brown is searching for his first National Championship appearance since 2003 and said he is excited for the opportunity to get back.

“I’m pretty excited,” he said. “I’ve tried several times. I’m ready to get back after it.”

Matt Luken of Independence, Ky., maintained his grip on the co-angler lead, landing a limit weighing 5-11 to increase his two-day total to 14-12. Reggie Guffey Jr. of North Carolina is in second with 13-5 while Jody Belcher of West Virginia is in third with his 13-5. Guffey holds the edge in the tiebreaker with his 7-1 on Day 1.

South Carolina boater Chris Jones earned big bass honors on the boater side on Day 2 with a 4-9, while Justin Jensen of Mississippi caught a 5-8 and holds that lead on the co-angler side. Adkins remains on top of the overall big bass standings on the boater side with a 6-0 largemouth from the first day.

With the individual competition still underway, South Carolina earned the victory in the team standings, catching 262-8 over two days to claim the wire-to-wire win. The team earned $6,250 in Skeeter/Yamaha winnings. North Carolina (256-8) finished second, earning $3,750, and West Virginia (250-12) finished third.

The Top 20 boaters and nonboaters, as well as the Top 2 boaters and nonboaters from each state if they weren’t already in the Top 20, will take off from Green Pond Landing at 6:30 a.m. ET Friday and return for weigh-in at 2:30 p.m.

The top boater and nonboater from each state will qualify for the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.

The tournament is being hosted by Visit Anderson.