Bass Angler Magazine

Lake Hartwell 2015 Classic Patterns and Baits

Lake Hartwell 1st Place: Casey Ashley

Winning Gear:

Under-spin gear: 7′ medium-action Quantum Smoke PT Inshore casting rod, Quantum Tour Mg (6.3:1 gear ratio) and Quantum Exo (5.3:1 gear ratio) casting reels, 10-pound Hi-Seas fluorocarbon line, 3/8-oz. homemade under-spin horsehead jig (white), Zoom Super Fluke Junior (white pearl).

About the jighead his dad built for him, Ashley said, “It’s the silliest, simplest-looking thing you’ve ever seen in your life. It’s a pony head and we use a Sampo swivel and use powder paint on the head along with a 4/0 Mustad hook with a size 3.5 willow blade. The swivel is the key to that bait and the Super Fluke Junior. It doesn’t matter how slow I turn my reel. I could lift it off the bottom and ease it back and the blade will keep turning. That’s the key.”

He was also asked if he and his dad plan to capitalize on his Classic win by ramping up production of the homemade jig. He says it’s unlikely.

“There may be a signature series horsehead spin, but it will not be me and my dad making them, I can promise you that now,” he said with a chuckle. “He doesn’t have the time or the want-to to do that. That’s a big deal around here. There are a lot of people who hand-make them, but there might be a signature series. I’ve got some ideas, but I’m a simple kind of guy. To me, less is more.”

Main factor: “Having knowledge and history on the lake. Before the tournament ever starts, the hometown advantage can either help you or it can really hurt you. It really helped this time. I’ve been very fortunate that both of the big tournaments on Hartwell it’s really helped me. The reason it helped me so much this time is I know the lake and know the areas the fish are supposed to be in this time of year. One place where I caught two key keepers, I’d checked it twice in practice and (Sunday) was the first time I went back to it. I know they live there and I know if you get bit it’s going to be a good one. I’m sure a lot of guys checked it in practice and didn’t go back, but they don’t know the history so they wrote it off.”

Performance edge: “There were several things I relied upon – my Simms fishing gear for keeping me warm and dry; my Triton boat and Mercury motor for giving me the fastest, best-riding boat on the water; my Costa sunglasses are my number one key to success on and off the water; and without my Lowrance electronics I wouldn’t have found the fish I caught to win.”

Casey Ashley’s Bassmaster Classic Winning Ways

Bassmaster Classic Winning Pattern Bassfan 2/24/15 (Todd Ceisner)

2nd Place: Bobby Lane

Nobody in the field had a great deal of experience competing in the type of brutal cold that beset Hartwell on day 1 of the Classic. The event got under way in air temperatures in the low teens, and it would’ve been even chillier had the launch not been delayed for 2 hours due to the ice that covered every surface exposed to moisture.

Lane, a lifelong Floridian who does the majority of his casting while wearing shorts and flip-flops, was determined to keep the weather from affecting his psyche.

“Mentally and physically, I kept telling myself that no matter what I couldn’t use the weather as an excuse,” he said. “I had to keep my eye on the prize and make the right decisions under those conditions.”

He caught fish from water that was as deep as 45 feet and pulled his best specimen of the tournament – a 6 1/2-pounder on the final day – from 2 feet.

“With the forecast for the first and second days being so cold, I knew I had to find something deep in the ditches, the drains or the roadbeds. I had two (deep) areas that had fish – not giant schools of them, but enough to catch some good ones.

“Then leading up to the tournament there’d been some warmer weather, and that had made some fish go shallow and get around bridges, docks, rocks or whatever. They’ll get right up in 1 1/2 to 2 feet of water and once they’ve gone, they don’t screw around. They don’t leave once it gets cold, they just get tougher to catch.”

His strategy to catch a limit of deep fish on a jig/dropshot combo in the mornings and then hunt quality closer to the banks with a crankbait after that worked stunningly well on the last 2 days. It didn’t come together on the abbreviated day 1, though, when his sack was a fish shy of a limit.

“I just could not catch that fifth fish so I could go spend time on the docks trying to catch a big one. With it being so cold, I’m reluctant to say the shallow bite would’ve even happened that day, but I guess I’ll never know.”

Jig gear: 7′ medium-heavy Abu Garcia Veracity rod, Abu Garcia Revo MGX casting reel (7.9:1 ratio), 15-pound Spiderwire EZ fluorocarbon line, unnamed 7/16-ounce jig (brown/purple or green-pumpkin/orange), Berkley Havoc Craw Fatty trailer (green-pumpkin).

Cranking gear 7′ medium-action Abu Garcia Veracity rod, Abu Garcia Revo Premier casting reel (7:1 ratio), 10-pound Spiderwire EZ fluorocarbon, Yo-Zuri Mid Crank (red craw).

Dropshot gear 6’9″ medium-action Abu Garica Veracity rod, Abu Garcia Revo SX spinning reel, 6-pound Spiderwire EZ fluorocarbon, 3/8- or 1/2-ounce unnamed dropshot weight, unnamed size 1 dropshot hook, Berkley PowerBait Hand Pour Finesse Worm (watermelon red glitter).

He picked up a fish or two on an unnamed under-spin lure thrown on a 7′ medium-heavy Abu Garcia Veritas rod and a 5.4:1 ratio Abu Garcia Revo Winch reel. He opted for the Veritas rod for that presentation because it features larger-diameter guides that didn’t freeze over as often.

Main factor: “I think it was one of the better decision-making tournaments of my life. I made Casey actually have to catch a good bag on the final day to win. I fished slow and sometimes I tried three or four different baits in the same place. Everything came together as the week went on.”

Performance edge: “The new Humminbird Onix Series depthfinder showed me everything on those flats that I needed to see.”

Bassmaster Classic Patterns 2-5 Bassfan 2/25/15 (BassFan Staff)

3rd Place: Takahiro Omori

One of the biggest surprises at the Classic was the performance turned in by Takahiro Omori. He’s made no secret about his distaste for fishing in cold, windy weather. That he led after day 2 and eventually finished 3rd speaks to his ability to adjust to the less-than-ideal conditions.

What’s more is he caught his fish using a technique he typically loathes – drops hotting. All in all, this year’s Classic was a learning experience for Omori, who averaged a shade under 15 pounds a day.

He uncovered the spot he fished for the majority of the tournament during the 3-day practice session the week prior to the event. It was a long, clean main-lake point a couple miles from the takeoff and within eyesight of where Casey Ashley caught the winning stringers.

“It was a clean point and a drop off to the inside tree line,” he said. “I was fishing just a 200-yard area of it.”

Of the 22 or so hours of competition, Omori estimates he spent 16 of them on this area, casting a football jig up on a ledge and then using a vertical presentation when he’d notice fish on his electronics. He caught a mix of largemouth and spotted bass off the point.

By the third day of the tournament, he sensed the spot was starting to fade away, but he was convinced the Classic could be won off a small area like he was fishing.

“Almost every tournament nowadays isn’t won on a pattern,” he said. “It’s won on a spot so if you had a spot, you have to hang on to it. It’s not like fish were biting all over the lake so a pattern wouldn’t work in general. If you’re running around the lake and everybody found the same stuff, you’re not fishing fresh. You’re always fishing behind somebody.

“Overall, I maximized my opportunities. I did all I could. I don’t think I made a big, big mistake. Of course you want to win. All you can ask for is to be in contention. It just worked out for Casey.”

Drop shot gear: 6’8″ medium-action Daiwa spinning rod, Daiwa spinning reel, 7-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, 1/0 Gamakatsu drop shot hook, Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits Shad-Shaped Worm (green-pumpkin), 3/8-oz. Ultra Tungsten dropshot weight.
Omori said the Daiwa spinning gear models he used have been discontinued.

Jig gear: 7’3″ medium-heavy Daiwa Black Label casting rod, Daiwa Tatula casting reel, 16-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, 3/4-oz. unnamed football jig, Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits twin-tail grub trailer (green-pumpkin).

Main factor in his success – “Just being patient. I was only getting eight to 10 bites per day. The way I fished was not my favorite way to fish. I had to have the patience to stick with it. I started liking a dropshot a little more this week than before. It’s just against my nature to fish that slow.”

Performance edge – “My Lowrance HDS-12 was a big key for me in finding that area and where the fish were.”

Bassmaster Classic Patterns 2-5 Bassfan 2/25/15 (BassFan Staff)

4th Place: Dean Rojas

Rojas couldn’t maintain the torrid pace he set with his tournament-best stringer on day 1, but he viewed his opening-day performance as sort of a semi-win.

“To be able to catch the largest bag on the first day in record-cold temperatures, after all the hype and excitement leading up to the Classic and the long layoff (of the offseason), that itself is like a stand-alone victory,” he said.

He caught all of his fish around docks. Some of the fish were set up as shallow as 5 feet, while others were as deep as 44.

Some of the docks had creek channels meandering in close proximity. All featured nearby rock or at least a solid mud bottom.

“I hit most of them each day and they just got progressively worse,” he said. “With the cloud cover coming in, the fish didn’t need the docks anymore. I could tell what was happening when I started catching smaller fish – it meant there were no big ones there anymore.

The sun shone brightly on his glorious day 1, which positioned the fish underneath the docks. He caught the majority of his fish on a shaky-head that day, but one fell for a jig.

Jig gear: 7′ medium-action Duckett Fishing Terry Scroggins Signature Series rod, Daiwa Exist spinning reel, 8-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, 1/8-ounce Gamakatsu Alien Head jighead, prototype Big Bite Baits finesse worm (blue/green).

Jig gear: 7’4” heavy-action Duckett Fishing Terex rod, Duckett Fishing 360R casting reel (6.3:1 ratio), 18-pound Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon, 1/2-ounce unnamed football-head jig (brown/purple), Big Bite Baits Twin Tail Grub trailer (watermelon candy).

He caught a 5 1/4-pounder on day 4 on an unnamed 6-inch swimbait attached to a Revenge head.

Main factor: “That huge first day set the tone for the week.”

Performance edge: “I’d have to say the Lowrance units – they were very key this week.”

Bassmaster Classic Patterns 2-5 Bassfan 2/25/15 (BassFan Staff)

5th Place: Jacob Powroznik

Powroznik’s situation was similar to Lane’s in that a light sub-limit on the first day left him too much ground to make up. He was disheartened about the opening-day launch delay from the get-go after it was announced the prior afternoon.

“The first hour and a half of the day was the most crucial for me and I would’ve gladly given back 3 hours at the end of that day if I could’ve launched at daylight,” he said. “That would’ve given me my best chance.

“The only thing I have to complain about for the whole week is I’d like to see what I could’ve done that morning. But everybody had the same amount of time to fish, so it’s all good.”

He threw an under-spin to ditch-dwelling that would move onto flats in 15 to 25 feet of water at first light to gorge themselves on baitfish. Later in the day they’d move to the edge of the timberline (30 to 40 feet) and become much more difficult to catch.

“This time of year it’s all about baitfish. When the water temperature gets 50 or 51 degrees, then the crawdads will come out and (the bass) will get on them, but when it’s in the 40s, it’s all about herring or shad.

Under-spin gear 6’10” medium-heavy Quantum Tour KVD Cranking rod, Quantum Smoke PT casting reel (6.3:1 ratio), 12-pound Hi-Seas fluorocarbon line, homemade 7/16-ounce custom made under-spin (white with silver blade), V&M Shad trailer (pearl white).

His under-spin was made by Ryan Coleman, the veteran Lake Lanier guide and producer of SpotSticker Baits.

He caught a few weigh-in fish from the timber on a half-ounce football-head jig with a V&M Mag Finesse worm.

Main factor: “Just finding that bait.”

Performance edge: “It’d have to be the Lowrance electronics. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to see what I was fishing. They also show the bait and the bass really well. They were the biggest key for the week.”

Bassmaster Classic Patterns 2-5 Bassfan 2/25/15 (BassFan Staff)

6th Place: Mike Iaconelli

Iaconelli, who began the day just 11 ounces out of the lead, had his toughest day of the event as his fish moved out of their deep brush piles and suspended, making the biggest ones more difficult to connect with.

“I’m a little disappointed, obviously, but I’m happy with it,” he said. “I stuck with my plan and I didn’t get into the ‘I should do this’ or ‘I should do that’ thing or I should go fish docks or whatever.

“I had the mindset that the big ones are out deep at this time of year and I needed to stay deep and ride it to the end. It didn’t pan out, but it was my best shot.”

His magic depth range was 30 to 32 feet. The new Rapala Shadow Rap jerkbait produced early for him, then he switched to a 3/4-ounce Missile Baits jig with a Berkley Havoc Chunk trailer later in the day.

“I feel like I’m right there,” he said in describing the overall state of his game. “For 2 or 3 years, I don’t want to say it went away, but I was out of the zone a little bit.

“From the second half of last year until now I feel like I’ve made a lot of good decisions on the water. You just can’t win them all.”

Rallies From 5th Place Bassfan 2/22/15 (BassFan Staff)

7th Place: Brett Hite

Brett Hite’s first bite today didn’t come until 9:30 a.m., but it was a solid fish. He added another swiftly and then boxed a 4 1/2-pound spotted bass.

“I was like, ‘Okay, I’m on the right track,'” he said.

He didn’t catch his fourth bass until he had 45 minutes to go in his day and then couldn’t capitalize when he had the fifth hooked up.

“I came back around the ramp where I had been fishing a lot and got my fourth one with 45 minutes and moved to a brush pile where I caught two big ones yesterday,” he said. “I had 15 minutes left and saw an arch down there and had my fifth on and lost it.”

He mainly had two presentations going all week: A wacky-rigged 5-inch Senko and a dropshot rig with a Pro Senko or six-inch Roboworm.

Rallies From 5th Place Bassfan 2/22/15 (BassFan Staff)

8th Place: Mike McClelland

Mike McClelland moved up seven places in the standings with his best bag of the derby.

“The only thing I regret at this point is the place where I lost the three good ones yesterday, I rotated through three times today and never caught one that helped me,” he said. “I could’ve spent that time in other places.

“Why they show up on a place like they did yesterday and then they’re completely gone today is baffling to me.”

He caught fish on his Spro McStick 110 jerkbait and an under-spin trailed by a 3 1/2-inch Big Bite Baits Cane Thumper or a Cabela’s Swimming Minnow.

“One thing is I really don’t think I covered enough water in this tournament. Herring lakes are all about being in the right place at the right time and to give yourself the right opportunities you have to keep moving until you land on some that are biting.”

Rallies From 5th Place Bassfan 2/22/15 (BassFan Staff)

9th Place: Justin Lucas

Justin Lucas caught every fish he weighed during the event from a single dock – the same one from which Aaron Martens pulled the 6-11 brute on day 2.

“It was at the mouth of a little spawning pocket and it had some nice features and broke off to 20 to 30 feet,” he said. “The fish were in 18 to 33 feet of water.”

He went through at least a dozen keepers on the final day. The five he weighed were all in the 3 1/4-pound range.

He threw a shaky-head tipped by a Berkley Havoc Bottom Hopper worm and a dropshot with a 4-inch hand-poured worm.

Rallies From 5th Place Bassfan 2/22/15 (BassFan Staff)

10th Place: Chris Lane

The changing conditions prompted Chris Lane to have to change up strategy and presentations throughout the even

“I changed up every day except for today,” he said. “I caught a lot of my fish on a Luck E Strike crankbait on Friday, but never had another bite on a crankbait after that. I had no idea what happened.

“The bottom line is this lake is if you look at it, several guys in the top 10 didn’t catch a limit every day. That’s the kind of lake that this is. You can hammer them one day and it doesn’t mean you’re going to go do it again.”

He switched to an under-spin jig head after Friday and caught the rest of his keepers on that.

Asked why he thinks that particular style of bait is so productive at Hartwell, he said, “I have no idea. I think it’s just because it resembles a shad. It’s one of those things where you throw what people throw to catch fish there. It’s like when you go to Florida, you don’t throw green-pumpkin, you throw black and blue, or something fish like to key in on.”

Rallies From 5th Place Bassfan 2/22/15 (BassFan Staff)

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