March 11, 2014 by Dave Lefebre
(Editor's note: Kellogg's Frosted Flakes team pro Dave Lefebre has agreed to take time to share his insights into each FLW Tour event of the 2014 season. After every event, Lefebre will give his thoughts on tournament strategy, winning techniques and other behind-the-scenes stories/information that is compelling to our readers. The following blog represents his second installment of the 2014 FLW Tour season. Lefebre ultimately finished the Lake Okeechobee event in 25th place with a two-day total of 24 pounds, 2 ounces. For his efforts, Lefebre took home $10,000 in winnings.)
It feels pretty good to get out of South Carolina with a decent finish, but I've still got a pretty big mountain to climb to make this year's Forrest Wood Cup, back in South Carolina on Lake Murray. The Forrest Wood Cup is everything in this sport and my main goal each season is to get there again. I've managed to make it every year since my rookie season back in 2004, but I've never been this deep in a hole from the start. A 25th-place finish at Hartwell helps a lot though, as I just passed 85 guys in the AOY standings - even after a last place showing at the first event of the season on the `Big O.' I need top 20s from here on out, and a nice win would sure be welcome along the way.
Hartwell was a tough one, unexpectedly. I think we all thought it would be a slugfest, but the unseasonably cold winter had the fish a bit funky. I personally liked the cold weather in practice and I always welcome the tougher events, especially during the pre-spawn. My big regret was not sneaking into that top 20, day-three cut, because I would have stroked them under those day-three and day-four conditions. But that is the way it goes sometimes and I'm now moving my attention to the next tournament on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas.
I caught fish at Hartwell on a Storm Wiggle Wart, a Rapala Shad Rap #6 (in shad color), and a 5-inch Yamamoto green pumpkin blue worm on a 3/16-ounce Giggy Head. The worm was going to play for me big time had I made the cut to day three, the cranks were the deal on days one, two and four. I took out some Kellogg's friends while the top 10 and 20 were competing and we caught some really big fish. I then filmed a "Beyond the Basics" video during competition hours about pre-spawn cranking and caught a few more pretty nice sized largemouth on camera. I almost hated to leave the south, but those ice crappies were calling my name!
Big sacks were taken out of the creek I focused on last week. I saw Randall Tharp, Skip Johnson, Ramie Colson, Clark Wendlandt and other high finishers running around in there every day. We all seemed to be doing completely different things, which is a reason many pros love going to Lake Hartwell. It is true that you can catch them there doing whatever you like to do ... within reason of course.
Vibrating jigs, like the new Fizzle used by Randy Howell in the Classic were big during this event as well. On day one of practice, The Lack Attack (Alton Lackie) and I had a fun time casting the Fizzles around. Terminator Spinnerbaits, Rippin' Raps, and the good old Shad Rap were big producers too. The water conditions were clear in places, muddy in other places, and everything in between, so color choices obviously varied a little, but the baits remained the same. Some were caught on jigs I guess; I believe Casey Ashley employed one to win the event by a landslide, but I couldn't make the jig work for me this particular time for some reason. I may have given up on it too soon, or maybe I just had one too many crankbait or worm bites in practice?
As far as locations go, again this lake just has them everywhere ... fish I mean. Any creek was good. I fished the mid-section of a larger creek, guys whacked them all the way in the mud in the back and they caught them at the mouth. Others were catching them on the main lake in the clearest water also. This is truly a wide open fishery and it is absolutely gigantic, which is another thing I love about it!
Hartwell is not on the schedule for next season unfortunately, but I'm certain we will return sometime in the near future as it's just too perfect for big events like the FLW Tour Majors. And having a tiger on the side of your boat and Chevy truck doesn't hurt with Clemson University being so close by!
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The writer's opinions and observations expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policies or positions of FLW.