There are quantifiable ways to determine perfection in some sports. Baseball has its perfect game, when a pitcher allows no baserunners for nine innings. Bowling has its 300 game, achieved by toppling all 10 pins 12 straight times. While there is no such thing in tournament bass fishing, Brandon Cobb set an Elite Series standard for perfection in his wire-to-wire win at Lake Hartwell last week.
“I didn’t leave anything out there,” said the 29-year-old Elite Series rookie, “other than a couple of bed fish that were rolling and I couldn’t catch at the time. I would describe it as, ‘as perfect as it can get.’”
Cobb had the perfect conditions for a near-perfect performance. He grew up fishing Lake Hartwell. He lives with his wife, Amy, in nearby Greenwood, S.C., and he was able to make the hour-long drive home every day. If he needed someone to talk tactics with, one of his best friends, Elite Series angler Shane LeHew, was staying with him last week. (LeHew, by the way, finished fifth.)
But Brandon Cobb has been fishing this lake long enough to know what near perfection looks like without talking to anyone else. He was in the ultimate tournament bass fishing comfort zone.
“I never ran out of places where I thought I might catch one,” he said. “Not at one point did I ever have to think, ‘I wonder where I can go next?’ That makes a big difference. It just kept me calm.”
Cobb calmly took the lead on Day 1 with a five-bass limit weighing 19-9. And he never left the top spot on the leaderboard with bags of 17-8, 18-5 and 16-14 over the next three days. His four-day total of 72-4 far exceeded what most anglers thought it would take to win last week. (In a pre-tournament predictions survey, only two anglers predicted as much as 70 pounds, and Harvey Horne’s estimate of 72-14 was closest to the winning weight.)
That's another important point: After practice, no one was comfortable on Lake Hartwell, not even Cobb. The first wave of bass moving to the bank to spawn had occurred two weeks prior to the three-day practice period. It was followed by a cold front that seemed to put the bass in a funk. But that changed for the better on Day 1 and improved slightly each day. This wasn’t a full-blown bed-fishing tournament, but it was close by last weekend.
“I was just going down spawning areas, throwing a (Zoom) Fluke Stick at anything that looked like a bed, hoping to catch them before I got there,” said Cobb in describing his method of success.
He noted how important it was to keep his distance from the spawning beds. That meant not being able to identify exactly how big the bass were that were occupying those beds. But the tactic led to quick catches and, more importantly, the “best catches.”
“I’d throw a weightless Fluke Stick past the bed, or what I thought was a bed, pull it up to it and let it sink to the bottom,” Cobb said. “For some reason, if they don’t see you and you surprise them, you’ll catch the female eight out of 10 times.”
Did you catch that tidbit? It’s worth repeating: “For some reason, if they don’t see you and you surprise them, you’ll catch the female eight out of 10 times.” It’s a nice tip to keep in your head the next time you’re frustrated by some finicky fish on spawning beds.
If a bass didn’t have his bait when he reeled up, Cobb would get close enough to definitely see what was there. If he liked what he saw, like a big bass on a bed, he’d drop his Power-Poles and cast a Zoom Trick Worm on a 1/8th-ounce Green Fish Tackle shaky head jig. He didn’t spend much time on any particular spawning bed.
“(Sunday) I caught three off one bed,” Cobb said. “It took about 15 minutes to catch all three. Ten minutes was about the longest I spent on any one fish (during the tournament).”
Cobb mentioned that he tried a variety of different lures during the tournament, but all the bass he weighed-in were caught on the two Zoom baits – either the weightless Fluke Stick or the Trick Worm on the shaky head jig. Some variation of green pumpkin was his color choice, either green pumpkin green or green pumpkin purple.
Even though Cobb led the tournament all four days, it wasn’t like he ran away with it. His lead was only 1-5 over Micah Frazier after Day 2. And everyone was catching keepers. Only two of the 74 anglers didn’t weigh a five-bass limit on Day 1. Only four didn’t limit on Day 2. The big bass of the tournament was Stetson Blaylock’s 5-15 on Day 3. With nothing caught over 6 pounds, this wasn’t an event where anyone was likely to have that monster day and catch Brandon Cobb while he was locked in his comfort zone.
It was a zone of near perfection.