UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Lake Mead

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Palmetto State showdown commences

For FLW Tour pros, day-one takeoff on South Carolina's Lake Hartwell is only moments away.

ANDERSON, S.C. - Amid a backdrop of cloudy skies, light winds and relatively balmy temperatures, FLW Tour anglers departed Portman Shoals Marina for the open waters of Lake Hartwell shortly after 7 a.m. to kick off the first FLW Tour Major of the season.

However, even though the FLW Tour visited the exact same venue last year during the exact same month, anglers are all too aware that using the 2011 template could be a recipe for disaster. For starters, water levels are way down from where they were last year at this time. The effect is that a lot of the shoreline cover - specifically flooded brush - that was fishable last season will not be in play this week.

In addition, the two week differential on the calendar regarding the timing of this year's event compared to last means that pre-spawn patterns will be dominant this time around as opposed to the significant spawning conditions that were pervasive in 2011.

FLW Tour anglers prepare for takeoff.Throw in the fact that anglers will be seeing significantly different conditions than they did even in practice - due to a cold front that blew in during the early part of the week - and you have all the makings of a challenging event to say the least.

"Obviously the lake is down 8 to 10 feet from last year so that's a big difference right there," said FLW Tour pro Brett Hite. "With the water levels last year, guys were able to fish flooded bushes around the shoreline. But now, the only real cover you're going to be able to target is docks.

"And because we're here two weeks earlier than last year, they won't be nearly as many bedding bass," Hite continued. "I think a lot of the fish are staging at this point and it's pretty much going to be a pre-spawn bite. And because of that, I think you're going to see the weights down a little bit compared to last year."

Many of Hite's competitors agreed that Lake Hartwell is a whole new ballgame this time around.

"It's definitely going to be a different tournament than last year," said FLW Tour pro Mark Rose. "Everything is different - the water levels, clarity and the temperature. But I still think the fishing will be good. Hartwell is a good lake and it has lots of fish in it. I also think we're going to have the best conditions we've had all week. During practice, we had post-front conditions but now it's starting to warm up again."

"This tournament is a couple of weeks earlier, the water levels are down and we're further away from the spawn compared to last year," added FLW Tour pro Jay Yelas. "It's a little bit of a different puzzle. But I think that's good. It changes things up for us. And that's nice."

So how will anglers attack Lake Hartwell this week given all of the new variables? The answer seems to be: with a little bit of everything.

FLW Tour boaters carefully navigate the marina before takeoff."A good subplot this week will be the Alabama Rig," said Yelas. "It's pretty much making its national debut and it's going to be interesting to see how it produces this week. But the good thing about this lake is that there is a lot going on right now and you can pretty much catch them anyway you want to. You can go finesse fishing in the clear water at the lower end of the lake. You can fish the muddy creeks with crankbaits and spinnerbaits. And you can fish the water in between with a mixture of both techniques. A suspending jerkbait is working really good right now as well.

"The great thing about this lake is that there are different kinds of water clarities," Yelas continued. "And because there are fish all over the lake, guys can really spread out and not be on top of each other."

Rose, a deepwater ledge specialist, agreed that there are plenty of ways to approach to Lake Hartwell this week.

"There will be some offshore fish caught on ledges but I'm not sure those type of fish are good enough to win you a tournament," he said. "For me, the key is getting that shallow big bite. But you can definitely fish this lake in lot of different ways. You can throw jigs and swimbaits offshore or you throw crankbaits and go flipping shallow. But I think because the fish are on the move, you're going to have to constantly stay on the move as well. For the most part, this is going to be a basic pre-spawn tournament. It's pretty textbook stuff."

As far as target weights are concerned, most anglers agreed that 14 pounds a day will get you into the top-10 cut while 16 pounds a day will be close to the winning total.

Tourney format

Anglers share a brief conversation with fellow competitors before takeoff.During FLW Tour competition, pros supply the boats, fish from the front deck against other pros and control boat movement. Co-anglers fish from the back deck and compete against other co-anglers. Anglers are permitted to weigh in their best five bass each day. Every angler who receives weight credit in a tournament earns points that determine angler standings. The full field competes on days one and two. After Friday's day-two weigh-in, both the co-angler and pro fields will be cut to the top 20. On day three, the co-angler champion will be crowned based on the field's three-day accumulated weight. Also on Saturday, the pro field will be cut down to the top 10 pros. The remaining pro field will then compete during Sunday's final round of tournament action. The pro winner ultimately will be determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all four days.

The tournament will feature a full field featuring top awards of up to $125,000 in the Pro Division and up to $25,000 in the Co-angler Division.

FLW Tour competitors will also be vying for valuable standings points in an effort to qualify for the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing. This year's Cup will be in Duluth/Gainesville, Ga., Aug. 9-12 on Lake Lanier and anglers could win as much as $500,000 - the sport's biggest award. Anglers are also vying for the prestigious 2012 Walmart FLW Tour Angler of the Year title that will be determined by the most points accumulated over the six FLW Tour Majors.

Tourney logistics

Anglers will take off from Portman Shoals Marina located at 1629 Marina Road in Anderson, S.C. at 7 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning and at 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning (note: Daylight Savings Time begins Sunday).

Thursday and Friday's weigh-ins will be held at Portman Shoals Marina beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday's final weigh-ins will be held at the TD Convention Center located at One Exposition Drive in Greenville beginning at 4 p.m.

Takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.

This week's FLW Tour contest is hosted by the Anderson Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Greenville Convention & Visitors Bureau,

Bass-fishing fans take note

Want to watch the weigh in live but can't make it in person? Then tune into FLW Live on FLWOutdoors.com shortly before 3 p.m. Eastern Time to watch live streaming video and audio of today's opening-round weigh in.

Daily on-the-water coverage will also be available online at FLWOutdoors.com. To see up-to-the-minute tournament updates, click here.

FLW Tour pros make some last-minute preparations before heading out onto Lake Hartwell.Fans will be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at the TD Convention Center on Saturday and Sunday from noon - 4 p.m. prior to the final weigh-ins. 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. On Sunday the first 300 children 14 and under who are accompanied by an adult will receive a free rod and reel combo courtesy of The Greenville News. Also on Sunday one lucky fishing fan will win a Can-Am ATV courtesy of WESC 92.5. The ATV giveaway is free to enter but the winner must be present at the conclusion of Sunday's final weigh-in to win.

Coverage of the Lake Hartwell tournament will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network when "FLW" airs April 15 from 1 - 2 p.m. ET. "FLW" is hosted by Jason Harper and is broadcast to more than 559 million households worldwide.

Vital statistics:

Sunrise: 6:50 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 53 degrees
Expected high temperature: 71 degrees
Water temperature: 53-57 degrees
Wind: From the south at 9 mph
Humidity: 68 percent
Day's outlook: Cloudy to partly cloudy skies

Tags: gary-mortenson  morning-story  2012-03-08-lake-hartwell 

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