ANDERSON, S.C. — When the window of opportunity opened, Cody Hahner of Wausau, Wis., seized the moment and nabbed a pair of big largemouth bass to anchor a limit of 20 pounds, 4 ounces that gave him the Day 1 lead of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open on Lake Hartwell.
“My morning started off fine, and I was on course to catch 11 to 12 pounds, and then I stumbled across something special,” Hahner said. “It was one of those days where, if you fish enough, it will happen. But for it to happen in a tournament was unbelievable. I took advantage of a situation that just materialized.”
Hahner is proud that his plan produced two big fish that went 6-3 and 5-8.
He caught those two kickers and several more bass on a mix of reaction baits selected to mimic Hartwell’s sizable blueback herring population. He rotated through a big, walking topwater bait, a jerkbait and a fluke.
The key to success, Hahner said, was a blistering retrieve.
“These herring are quick baitfish, and you have to keep a bait moving fast to get them to react,” he said. “I was watching spotted bass chasing my bait, and there was no way I could keep it away from them.
“A fast, slashing bait was the key. I was just mixing it up and whatever I felt was right at the current moment is what I threw. It seemed like every decision I made was a good one.”
During the usual midday slowdown, Hahner turned to a drop shot and a shaky head.
“There was definitely a midday lull and even into the end of the day, it was tough,” Hahner said. “The fish are getting really beat up. Everybody knows where to fish and it’s just a matter of if you get there at the right time and you just pop one in the head.”
Despite holding a lead of 3-12, Hahner said his day was no cakewalk. With the exception of his magical midmorning moment that produced his heaviest two bass, Hahner described a lake full of often indecisive fish.
“Most of the time, the fish are just following your bait back,” he said. “It’s really hard to get a bite. I was just on the bookend of a very fortunate event.”
Looking ahead to Thursday’s second round, Hahner said he wouldn’t hesitate to exploit another golden opportunity like the one he faced today. However, he feels confident that a solid Day 2 will advance him to Championship Friday.
“I’m never going to count on something like that happening again, but if it did, it would be great,” Hahner said. “If I can catch 10 to 11 pounds, I’d feel pretty comfortable going into the Top 10.”
Bobby Stanfill of Greenwood, S.C., is in second place with 16-8. With a limit comprising four spotted bass and one kicker largemouth of approximately 5 pounds, Stanfill caught all of his fish on topwater lures. He, too, reported a tough — often frustrating — bite.
“Today was just torture,” Stanfill chuckled. “They didn’t bite good today. All the fish were tentative and it was really hard to get a bite. So many would just come up and nip at my bait.”
Stanfill said he tried several combinations of bait style and presentations. Ultimately, he found a high-speed retrieve with a silent bait (no interior rattles) was most effective.
Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla., is in third place with 15-12. Noting that he used a mix of reaction baits and slower presentations, Martin said he stayed on the move and hit several dozen spots throughout the day.
“I had to mix it up all day; different times, they’d trigger on different things,” Martin said. “It was a wide range of lures. I just made some good decisions today. That’s what it boiled down to.”
Hahner is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with his 6-3.
Mike Anderson of Eustis, Fla., leads the co-angler division with 8-5. Holding his cards low, Anderson said his success came from making sure he gave the bass a different look from the back of the boat.
“I think for me it was maybe fishing a little differently than my boater to pick up some fish that he missed,” Anderson said. “I was fishing quickly; I was just fishing a different bait. I was catching my fish anywhere from 20 to 40 feet over cane piles, submerged wood, brushpiles and points.”
J.W. Smith of Goose Creek, S.C., holds the Phoenix Boats Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 6-0.
Thursday’s takeoff is scheduled for 7 a.m. ET from Green Pond Landing and Event Center. The weigh-in will be held at Green Pond at 3 p.m. After Thursday, only the Top 12 remaining anglers will advance to the championship round.
The tournament is being hosted by Visit Anderson.