In case you missed it, last weekend was a really big deal in the world of professional fishing tournaments. Fifty five anglers qualified to compete in the prestigious Bassmaster Classic, this time held on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina. Unable to attend this year, I enjoyed the coverage on the internet from the warmth of my office.
This year in South Carolina, anglers were greeted to single digit temperatures which created problems beyond frost bite. The tournament was delayed for almost 2 hours for safety reasons. Boats were frozen to trailers and refused to budge when backed down the ramp. And when the fishing did start, competitors were constantly blowing on their reel and dipping rods in the lake to clear the line guides of ice.
But even when the water is this cold, bass will bite. Jerkbaits are a common coldwater choice, but jigs, crankbaits, and heavy spoons were the predicted baits in Bassmaster magazine for the largemouth and spotted bass in the 56,000-acre Lake Hartwell. A few anglers even caught sluggish, cold bass on their first cast, which Bassmaster co-host, Mark Zona described as feeling like “wet rags.”
Casey Ashley was the predicted favorite to win the $300,000 check because he has lived his entire life only a few minutes from this lake and knows it, perhaps better than anyone. But “home lake” favorites rarely work out in Bassmaster Classic tournaments. In fact, only 2 competitors have won when the Classic was held in their home state.
Though Casey was one of the first to boat a limit of 5 bass, the Day 1 Leader was Dean Rojas. At the end of Day 2, Takahiro Omori had taken charge, but Casey remained in striking distance. By heavily relying on a “fish-head spinner” made by his dad, he finished with the largest total weight of just over 50 pounds. (All bass were safely released.)
I follow these tournaments for the fishing tips and techniques. Listen closely to what the pros share and you may incorporate some of their strategy of decision-making, organization, and efficiency. I’ve also really enjoyed meeting these anglers, often seeking anglers that maybe had the shorter line of interviewers at media events. With his easy smile, southern drawl, and unique lingo, Casey has always been a fun interview.
But it looks like next time; I’ll have to wait in line. (Congrats, Casey!)