UPCOMING EVENT: Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Okeechobee

FLW Tour preview: Lake Hartwell

Randy Blaukat of Joplin, Mo., snared fourth place overall with a total catch of 20 pounds, 3 ounces during the first day of Grand Lake competition.

(Editor's note: Starting immediately, FLW Tour pro Randy Blaukat has agreed to provide a pre-tournament blog for each Walmart FLW Tour event of the 2014 season. This is his first installment.)

The second Walmart FLW Tour event of the 2014 season on Lake Hartwell (March 6-9) will be a radical departure from the Tour opener last month on Okeechobee.

While many of the top finishers at Okeechobee relied on one or two giant bites in and around the lake's famous take-a-number community holes, Hartwell will be an event where all the anglers can spread out, fish undisturbed and post consistent limits of 3-pound fish which have the potential to keep you fishing on Sunday.

That perspective alone is why I feel that Lake Hartwell is a "perfect" tournament lake.

With 56,000 acres of water, lots of creeks and coves full of docks, Lake Hartwell fishes big and is an excellent "pattern" lake. In my opinion, those are the key elements a lake needs to deliver a fair playing field to its competitors.

However, we are going to find Hartwell a bit different than we did during the last Tour event held there in 2012.

Currently (but always subject to change with unforeseen heavy rains), the lake is about 5 feet higher than it was in 2012. This may or may not play a factor in the overall techniques used and weights we will see.

Regardless, Hartwell will be a textbook pre-spawn event, which will open up dozens of techniques that could possibly produce a top-10 finish or a win.

The myriad ways to catch bass on this lake will no doubt keep all of us up at night thinking about the potential strategies and tactics to employ.

And all of the competitors are thinking the same thing right now: How do I want to approach my practice period?

To be sure, it's not like Okeechobee where you tie on a ChatterBait, a punch skirt and head straight to the North Shore. On Hartwell, you can catch fish all over the lake, with about everything you have packed into your boat.

In fact, right now as you are reading this, many of the FLW Tour pros are remembering and thinking several of the following things ...

1) Okay, Brent Ehrler won in 2012 by drop-shotting and dragging a football head for suspended fish out in the middle of the lake while spending most of the time looking at his graph. (Man, I'm going to have to try that some.)

2) The rivers produced a "take-a-number" scenario where all the guys who don't like to fish over 3 feet deep were piled up on each other. (And, most likely, every dock up there will have a constant spinnerbait running by it.)

3) What about Dan Morehead catching 20 pounds on docks on the first day in 2012? (Geez, that's a slow way to fish.)

4) Tom Monsoor was catching them big-time on that dang swim jig of his two years ago in clear water. (That's all that dude throws ... and he's the only guy who can catch them on that thing 12 months a year!)

5) Remember when Jason Christie won a few years ago using a thumper spinnerbait in Beaverdam creek! (That place will be covered up.)

6) There's got to be a bunch of fish in all that deep timber. (Where the heck do I even begin? ... There are like 30,000 acres of submerged trees!)

7) It's the pre-spawn, so why don't they bite a jerkbait very good on Hartwell ... Oh man, those dang blueback herring ... jerkbaits have never work good on blueback lakes. (Too bad we are not on a threadfin lake ... all anyone catches on a jerkbait here are stripers.)

Confusing? No doubt. The bad thing about Hartwell is that it's a huge lake, fishes huge and you can catch them any way you like. The great thing about Hartwell is it's a huge lake, fishes huge and you can catch them any way you like.

The challenge pros will have at Hartwell this March is deciding what part of the lake to fish with which technique. This can be a dangerous situation for a lot of anglers. With so much water and so many variables, unless you begin catching fish and establishing a pattern pretty quickly, there is a tendency to fish too fast and fish "over" good areas.

Take dock fishing for example. Most of the coves on Hartwell are full of them. The fish can be positioned under the walkways, under the lifts, on the bottom off the ends, suspended just under the floats, in brush just off to the sides or in-between the docks.

And unless you are throwing the right lure, the right color, and the correct weight, you may pass over a stretch of docks that are loaded with fish. Then you will run the risk that the next pro who comes through there with the right presentation will come out of the event with a $10,000 check on those very same docks.

That is why I love Hartwell as a tournament lake. Creativity is rewarded. There are no "holes" and your imagination and intuition can be used to the fullest extent.

As far as tournament predictions go, I think the weights will be similar to the events we've had there in the past. Nine to 11 pounds a day should get you a $4,000 dollar check. Twelve to 13.8 pounds a day should get you $10,000.

The top-20 cut will likely be about 14 pounds per day, and overall 55 to 60 pounds should come close to winning the event.

Lake Hartwell will be the site of the March 6-9 FLW Tour event.With the rising, cold, stained water that's been coming into the lake, I don't see the rivers playing as big as a factor this year as they did in 2012. That year, the rivers were low and stable, and the fish were more concentrated.

As usual, the docks will kick out a lot of fish, and I think you will see jigs as a dominate player around them.

A big key here will be the use of side imaging and sides-cans there to find the brush piles near the docks. Although there are thousands of docks on the lake, most of them are fishless. Identifying the key docks with brush, and fishing slow is going to be one of the main deals.

The pattern I see emerging for the likely winner, and the most potential for a big bag of fish, is fishing for suspended fish in the deep timber. The water level and cold leading up to this event are going to make this pattern really good. Drop-shots, jigs and spoons should be the ticket.

I fish Table Rock Lake in Missouri a lot, and that lake sets up just like Hartwell in terms of deep timber. This is where all the fish on Table Rock are right now as well.

Although an angler who adopts this pattern stands an excellent chance of winning the event this year, most FLW pros won't even bother with it.

Idling for hours, looking for fish and structure takes confidence and patience. After a few hours out deep without any success, most of the pros will be on the bank, chunking and winding in their comfort zones.

While these are my views and predictions surrounding our second FLW Tour event, in all likelihood several stories will unfold of unusual or oddball patterns/techniques that either produce a win or some high finishes. And that is the beauty of tournament bass angling - imagination and creativity sometime win out over technology and intellectualizing.

Best of luck to all!

Related links:

To follow Randy Blaukat's exploits throughout the season, fans can visit any one of his (or his sponsor's) social media platforms below:

www.facebook.com/randy.blaukat

twitter.com/randyblaukat1

www.facebook.com/BridgfordFoods

www.facebook.com/SweetBabyRaysBeefJerky

twitter.com/BridgfordFoods

Tags: randy-blaukat  blog 

/tips/2016-07-28-flw-podcast-128-mark-rose

FLW Podcast 128 - Mark Rose

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-23-1000-islands-day-3-midday-update

1000 Islands Day 3 Midday Update

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-22-1000-islands-midday-update-day-2

1000 Islands Midday Update Day 2

Day two of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event presented by Mercury at 1000 Islands got started on a slightly different note this morning when FLW’s tournament directors declared Lake Ontario off limits due to hazardous conditions. The change threw a few of the top pros off their primary plans, but regardless the 137-boat field will be cut down to the top 10 after today, so adjustments need to be made in order to qualify to fish the weekend. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-19-flw-podcast-126-icast

FLW Podcast 126 - ICAST

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-14-2017-walmart-flw-tour-schedule

2017 Walmart FLW Tour Schedule

In what has become an annual tradition at FLW, the 2017 Walmart FLW Tour schedule was announced at a press conference and industry gathering held Thursday on the show floor at ICAST in Orlando, Fla. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-12-si-se-puede-yes-we-can

Si Se Puede ... Yes We Can

Mexico’s Lake Zimapan is different in many ways from the lakes to the north such as Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and California’s Clear Lake, but one element it has in common with those famous fisheries is big bass. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-11-5-rookie-lessons-learned

5 Rookie Lessons Learned

People have asked me what my first year on the Walmart FLW Tour was like. Well, it was like running headfirst into a hurricane for a few months. I came out the other side a little battered, bruised and smelling like fish. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-11-flw-podcast-125-scott-martin

FLW Podcast 125 - Scott Martin

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-08-review-lew-s-custom-speed-stick-lite

Review: Lew’s Custom Speed Stick Lite

Recently I had the opportunity to try one model in particular – the 7-foot, 4-inch Magnum Pitchin’ rod. After fishing with it several times, I’ve concluded that it performs as advertised, is sensitive and lightweight, and is well worth the money. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-08-reunited-and-it-feels-so-good

Reunited, and it Feels so Good

This year I really had a reunion with finesse fishing. Most of my better tournaments came from fishing some type of finesse presentation. Finesse tactics seemed to always give me a certain confidence about the day. While finesse tactics are nothing new to the game of bass fishing, this year I regained the confidence and joy of catching bass on smaller offerings. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-08-2016-icast-preview

2016 ICAST Preview

The doors to ICAST don’t open until next week, when everyone gets out on the showroom floor in Orlando, Fla., but there are already plenty of snippets of information available. FLW’s media crew will be there in full force to bring you coverage of the hottest new products, as well as the annual New Product Showcase awards. For now, take a gander at some of the early birds. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-07-flw-canada-kicks-off-at-tri-lakes

FLW Canada Kicks Off at Tri-Lakes

Among these Canadian all-stars was the eventual winning team of Chris Vandermeer of Peterborough and Jeff Slute of Millbrook. Capitalizing on a strong day one shallow-water smallmouth pattern, the duo took advantage of the slick-calm conditions using a silver-hued topwater popping plug to agitate the lake’s bronzebacks into attack. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-30-flw-tour-pro-cooksey-recovering-after-accident

FLW Tour Pro Cooksey Recovering After Accident

Walmart FLW Tour sophomore Dalton Cooksey of New Concord, Ky., is recovering at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee following a single-car accident that took place Wednesday afternoon. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-30-flw-podcast-124-jeremy-lawyer

FLW Podcast 124 - Jeremy Lawyer

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-29-stetson-blaylock-s-recipe-for-a-wacky-rig

Stetson Blaylock’s Recipe for a Wacky Rig

From March until the end of the fishing season I’m going to have a wacky rig on deck. It’s a really effective way to fish anytime the fishing is tough, or if the fish are up cruising banks. Anytime fish are about 5 feet deep or less, I can catch them on the wacky rig. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-28-morgan-claims-third-flw-tour-angler-of-the-year-title

Morgan Claims third FLW Tour Angler of the Year Title

MINNEAPOLIS – Livingston Lures pro Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tennessee, added to his incredible fishing resume by winning his third Walmart FLW Tour Angler of the Year title Saturday at the FLW Tour's final 2016 regular-season event on Lake Champlain.... READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-24-three-things-by-dd-kentucky-lake

Three Things by DD: Kentucky Lake

Kentucky Lake did not go the way I intended. I was pumped and ready to rock out a top-20 finish. I had great expectations of myself, but nothing seemed to come together. Practice was dicey, but I thought for sure I could put something together to make the cut. That was until day one came, and the whole vibe of my day instantly went from eager to agitated. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-23-how-to-catch-smallmouths-with-hair-jigs

How to Catch Smallmouths with Hair Jigs

The “right” hair jig for smallmouths is a small 1/16- to 1/8-ounce marabou jig with a round or mushroom-shaped head. The jig is similar to marabou jigs used by crappie fishermen, but bass models will often have a larger, stronger hook and possibly a longer or thicker skirt. Naturally, anglers have their favorites, and there are subtle differences in jigs that make some better than others. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-22-two-exciting-events-to-look-forward-to

Two Exciting Events to Look Forward To

We are in the last stretch of the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour. Awaiting us is the Lake Champlain tournament in just a few days. A couple of things will be settled there: the pro field for the Forrest Wood Cup and the Angler of the Year. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-21-tagging-along-with-sprague-in-kentucky

Tagging Along with Sprague in Kentucky

Through the first four events of the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour season, Jeff Sprague finished inside the top 20 every time and challenged for the win at Beaver Lake. After stop No. 4 on Pickwick, Sprague took over the lead in the Angler of the Year race. This is the story of his first tournament as the AOY leader – stop No. 5 on Kentucky Lake. Currently, Sprague is preparing for the finale on Lake Champlain. He’s in second place in the AOY standings. READ MORE »