UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Eufaula

A tale of 10 tournaments

A tale of 10 tournaments
Marty Stone working docks over with a spinnerbait.

The Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Hartwell turned out to be a dealer's choice event for the 163 pros who participated. The prevailing pattern was primarily deep, as National Guard pro Brent Ehrler wonderfully executed a game plan that he built around one stellar group of spots in about 30 feet of water. But the prevalent pattern for the top 10 was actually shallow.

Anglers threw nearly everything they had at the fish. Bass were caught on football head jigs, flipping jigs, swim jigs, square bills, lipless crankbaits, Rapala Shad Raps, deep-diving crankbaits, spinnerbaits, ChatterBaits, jigging spoons, flutter spoons, swimbaits, jerkbaits, umbrella rigs, shaky heads, and anything else anglers had to offer. In many respects, each of the top-10 pros was doing their own thing.

So many different baits were able to bring fish in the boat on Hartwell, largely due to the fact that fish were scattered throughout the water column. With the abnormally mild winter and the rising water temps, the transition to the spawn was a little ahead of the typical cycle for Hartwell. There were rumors that some fish were even caught off beds during the event - and it's certain that tons of fish were right on the verge since the shallow bite played such a large role.

Fish were caught anywhere from 1- to 60-feet deep during the event with the majority of the top 10 catching their weight primarily in shallow water. A few of the top 10 fished deep exclusively but it was Ehrler who was able to mix just enough of the two patterns to formulate the perfect winning concoction. For more on exactly how Ehrler won the event click here.

What I found interesting about the tournament was how much of a timing deal the shallow bite turned out to be. Some fish were caught shallow super early but after the first hour of tournament action each day, there was typically a lot of downtime until the bite picked up again around noon.

I watched third-place finisher Marty Stone for a large portion of the afternoon on days 3 and 4 and his approach to the shallows was very methodical. One of his primary areas was shaped like a large bowl lined with docks, approximately 30 acres in size. The water was stained and looked to be 3- to 7-feet deep.

Stone would blow right by the docks on the shady side as he entered the area around 10:30 a.m. He would target the sunniest docks and brush first, paying particular attention to the side of the docks where the sun had been the longest. He would parallel each dock with a double Colorado-bladed spinnerbait, walking towards the back of the front deck as his boat would drift by in order to keep the bait right next to the dock during his retrieve.

Like clockwork, his fish would start biting somewhere along his pass down the row of docks, with about 80 percent of his bites coming on the sunniest side of the dock, about midway out. While he worked his way down the bank, the sun would burn off the remaining shadows on the row of docks behind him and he would make his way down those just as they began to warm up.

With lows dropping from the 50s to the mid 30s on both nights prior to day 3 and day 4, it was necessary to wait for the sun to warm the water a little longer each day in order to counter act the colder air temps. This pushed Stone's best feeding period back later and later just like it did for a lot of other anglers who fished shallow during the event.

Another interesting aspect of Stone's pattern was that he primarily caught smaller fish to begin with and would cull up as the water continued to warm - catching his bigger fish each day with limited time remaining. This kind of fishing is extremely stressful since you have to stay focused with little to nothing to show for the work you're putting in for a large part of the day.

There's a big difference between knowing that fish should bite later in the day and knowing that fish will bite later in the day. Stone showed great focus by biding his time and not rushing to or through his best area too early. In fact, Stone's style was very similar to the way Randall Tharp saved his better areas for later in the day to win on Lake Okeechobee. It's kind of ironic how bass in a deep rocky South Carolina lake, and bass buried up in thick vegetation a couple feet deep in South Florida, were pretty much on the same page. I guess it just goes to show that a bass is a bass is a bass.

Tags: shaye-baker  blog  2012-03-08-lake-hartwell 

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