UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Cumberland

FLW Tour Recap: Lake Hartwell

FLW Tour Recap: Lake Hartwell
Eighth-place pro Dave Lefebre playfully shows off his biggest bass from day four to the Greenville area crowd.

(Editor's note: Veteran bass pro Dave Lefebre has agreed to take time to share his insights into each FLW Tour event of the 2011 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 third installment. Lefebre ultimately finished the Lake Hartwell event in eighth place and walked away with $15,000 in winnings.)

What a great place for an FLW Tour event! Lake Hartwell was ideal and we happened to hit it at the perfect time as the big bass were just starting to move up shallow to start spawning. When I arrived in Anderson, S.C., on the day before practice it was 90 degrees. By the last afternoon of practice the water temperature was up to 72 degrees where I was fishing. That's crazy when you consider I was ice-fishing five days earlier back home.

I started practice by launching my boat way up the Seneca River. I saw that there were two major rivers on the map, and honestly, it was a 50/50 type of deal for me which one I was going to check on the first day. I've never been to Hartwell and couldn't find much info on the internet for this time of year (nor had I spoken to anyone about the fishing) so it was a little intimidating looking at the map. I ultimately chose to fish the Seneca River in the morning because the boat ramp was closer to our motel - it was as simple as that.

Alton Lackie was back as my co-angler practice partner for this event too, which was great. He said that he was only going to show up for the actual tournaments this season and not practice with me anymore, but after missing Beaver Lake he realized he missed me I guess. I'm glad he's back for many reasons, but especially for the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches he makes for us everyday.

As far as the fishing was concerned, the bass were beginning to spawn all over Hartwell. And after seeing 20-plus competitors up the river on that first day of practice, apparently word had gotten out that the clearer water was the place to be. By the third day of practice we never saw another boat all day up there, which is very rare. I planned on checking the other major river at some point, but after catching about 15 pounds on a spinnerbait the first day, and then only catching a single keeper on day two in the clearer water by the dam, I made the decision to go back and learn the Seneca better on the last day of practice instead of exploring new water. That third day was key for me because I finally got a bite on a jig, and then another, and then another. After the first two days I almost put the jigs away, but late in the day at the tail end of practice those four or five bites sent my confidence through the roof.

I ran the 30 minutes up the Seneca about as far as you could take a bass boat every day of the tournament. On the first two days I flipped and pitched a 5/16-ounce Chameleon TABU jig with a green pumpkin Yamamoto double-tail grub in the muddy water to catch most of my fish. On day three it rained nonstop all day and I couldn't catch them on the jig as the upper part of the river got too muddy. I had to move down river a little and fish a green pumpkin red Kinami D-Bug and Brush Hog very slowly and methodically to catch enough to make the top 10.

By day 4 the river was completely blown out with nasty mud, which I had obviously anticipated. I made the decision to start in a completely different area of the river where I had never been. As it turned out, it was an area that I had noticed on my GPS each day as I was heading back to weigh-in. It was about 5 miles from my primary area and it was a large pocket where the main river channel swung into the mouth of it. It was different from everything else in the area and I simply gambled on that spot the last morning. It worked out pretty well as I had a limit by 10 a.m. After that, I decided to go back and check the upper part of the river to see if I could get a couple of those big bites. However, it was ruined up there as I figured. So, after about 30 minutes, I came back to the area I started and proceeded to catch fish all day long. I threw a little 5-inch, green weenie, Yamamoto cut-tail worm on a 3/16-ounce Giggy Head the whole time. I managed to catch a 3 1/2-pounder at the end and cull up to about 12 pounds for the day, which landed me in eighth place for the event - my second top 10 in a row. I'm now third overall in the AOY Standings with four events remaining.

Being able to adjust to the changing conditions was the key at Hartwell last week. Jason Christie won the event, blew it away actually. He fished a single area each of the first three days, but even he had to change up on day 4 to catch them. He stuck with a spinnerbait the whole time, but realized he had to fish a little deeper in the end to pull it out. A bunch of guys were sight-fishing, but because of the heavy winds and rain, they too had to be able to adjust to stay high in the standings. Many anglers caught fish on spinnerbaits and Chatterbaits and many others I talked to stayed with finesse worms and Carolina rigs. Green pumpkin and watermelon were good colors but I heard that darker colors played as well, like Junebug and black/blue, even in the clearer water.

Fish were caught everywhere at Lake Hartwell - on the main lake, in the pockets, on points and up in the rivers. There were fish in all stages of the spawn which also made it very interesting. I talked to several pros, including my buddy Vic Vatalaro, who even caught them schooling in the mornings. The lake also has a million docks which came into play for several guys, but overall I think that the spawning pockets were the main deal. Some of the guys were looking at the fish, but most, like me, were just fishing the spawning areas slowly and catching the ones that were on beds but not visible.

I think if we wouldn't have gotten hammered by all that rain, I could have made a serious run at it. But I'm happy with how it turned out and pleased that I was able to adjust each day and do just enough to make the final cut. It wasn't easy, but is it ever? Lake Hartwell is a perfect place for a big tournament because it is huge lake and it offers a lot of different ways to catch fish. The fans are great too and the crowds really showed up for the weigh-ins each day. I think we will be back. I know I hope so!

We're heading to Lake Chickamauga next for the third FLW Tour Major and from what I'm hearing, it should be another good one. I hope to see you there!

To read more about Dave's life on the road, check out On Tour With Dave and Anne, sponsored by Chevy. Throughout the 2011 FLW Tour season, Dave and his wife, Anne will be keeping a detailed blog of their experiences while traveling the country in their Chevy Trucks.

Tags: dave-lefebre  blog  2011-03-24-lake-hartwell 

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