UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Cumberland

Hartwell on the verge

Hartwell on the verge
FLW Tour pros make their way to the start boat Thursday morning.

ANDERSON, S.C. - With air temperatures in the 80s and warm sunshine experienced during much of the three-day practice period, Lake Hartwell is close to a springtime explosion. It's not quite there yet, but it could happen any day or even any hour. With water temperatures inching closer to the mid-60s, the bass are eager to spawn. The most telltale sign that the first major wave is looming: the dogwoods are blooming.

With this in mind, many of the 150 Walmart FLW Tour pros practiced with a two-pronged approach. While spending considerable time looking for and marking bedders, they also sought a consistent prespawn pattern. But it's hard to commit to a prespawn bite when it's T-shirt weather and the sun is baking the back of your neck.

"These fish are right at trying to pull up," said Walmart pro Wesley Strader. "But I still think the lake is a little behind schedule. You pull up into a pocket, expecting to see 15 or 20 on bed, and all you see is one or two. I think we're experiencing a little bit of a lull with the fish transitioning into the spawn."

While the weather preceding the tournament has been warm, it will return to more seasonal conditions starting today with highs in the low 70s. But most importantly, the forecast is calling for sunny skies, which should further aid the ever-improving sight bite.

"I really didn't find a whole lot in practice," said Amp pro Stetson Blaylock. "But that tournament I won on Norman, I didn't find much either in practice. They were all fresh fish that just moved up."

Camden, S.C., pro Dearal Rodgers plans to target prespawn bass on day one of the Hartwell event.Blaylock said he's going to sight-fish some - he's got a 4-pounder marked - but he doesn't want to spend all day doing it. Instead he's been able to successfully dial into the dock bite.

"I don't know if it's just this lake or what, but getting the bedders to bite is tricky. That's why I don't want to do it all day; you can get caught up and come back with nothing. But with these conditions, the guys that are good at it, the guys that are committed, are going to catch them. I think we'll see some 20-pound bags; it's scary, really."

Even if all the bass aren't quite on nests, they will be shallow. And that makes things much easier on a blueback herring lake such as Hartwell. During other times of the year, the bass simply follow the schools of nomadic herring - making the fishing incredibly frustrating. But once they pull up to spawn, not even the tempting sight of herring can prevent them from doing their thing.

"For me, it's going to be a prespawn deal," said FLW Tour rookie Dearal Rodgers. "My primary plan is to catch staging fish, but I will stop for one on bed if it will help me. I'm mainly going to take the clear-water finesse approach; I want to fish for fish that are coming, not ones that are already there."

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this tournament is the lack of experience. After commencing the season on two traditional venues (Okeechobee, Beaver), Hartwell is entirely new water. Not only has the Tour never visited the Savannah River impoundment, there are very few pros who fish Hartwell often. The only true local in the tournament is defending BFL All-American champion Troy Morrow, also a Tour rookie.

Logistics

Anglers will take off from Portman Shoals Marina located at 1629 Marina Rd. in Anderson, S.C., at 7:30 each morning. Thursday and Friday's weigh-ins will also be held at Portman Shoals Marina beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday's final weigh-ins will be held at the Carolina First Center located at One Exposition Drive in Greenville, S.C., beginning at 4 p.m.

Fans will be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at the Carolina First Center on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. prior to the final weigh-ins. The first 300 kids 14 and under on Sunday will receive a free rod and reel combo compliments of The Greenville News. Fans can also register to win a Can-Am ATV courtesy of 92.5 WESC which will be given away following the final weigh-in. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and fans can learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public.Clear skies should make sight-fishing a productive technique on day one of the Lake Hartwell FLW Tour event.

In FLW Tour competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers. The full field competes in the two-day opening round. After day two the field is pared to the top 20 pros and co-anglers. The co-angler competition concludes at Saturday's weigh-in and the top-10 pros continue competition Sunday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all four days.

On the Web

For those who can't catch the weigh-in action in person, FLWOutdoors.com offers FLW Live, an online application that brings fans real-time weigh-in results, streaming video and audio.

In addition to FLW Live, FLWOutdoors.com is offering real-time updates from the water throughout each day of the Lake Hartwell event. Simply click on the "On the Water Coverage" banner from any of the home pages.

Thursday's conditions

Sunrise: 7:29 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 54 degrees
Expected high temperature: 71 degrees
Water temperature: 59-64 degrees
Wind: WNW at 15 mph
Maximum humidity: 39 percent
Day's outlook: sunny

Tags: brett-carlson  morning-story  2011-03-24-lake-hartwell 

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