Frustrating Bass Tournament at Lake Hartwell

Last week 14 members of the Potato Creek Bassmasters fished our May tournament at Lake Hartwell. During the tournament fished on Friday and Saturday, 93 keeper bass weighing about 150 pounds were brought to the scales.

Kwong Yu won with ten weighing 21.85, Niles Murry was second with ten at 19.46 and his 5.50 pound largemouth was big fish, Lee Hancock had nine at 18.36 for third and Ryan Edge’s ten weighing 16.92 pounds for fourth.

It was a very frustrating bass tournament at Lake Hartwell for me. I went to Hartwell on Tuesday and got a campsite at the local KOA and set up for the next few nights. Wednesday morning I was on the water before daylight. I knew the best pattern this time of year on Hartwell was to make long casts with a big topwater plug over shallow points and humps to catch bass feeding on blueback herring.

The first point I fished made me know I would not be able to fish that pattern. I cast a Gunfish, a topwater plug that imitates a bass feeding on herring that you have to twitch constantly. Within 15 minutes my wrist and shoulder ached so badly I had to quit. Its tough when you get too old to fish the way you want, but I always said I would rather wear out that rust out.

I spent that whole day trying to catch fish on a slow moving bait that would not hurt so much to fish. After ten hours I had landed exactly one keeper and half dozen bass shorter than the 12 inch size limit. I couldn’t even catch fish off docks, usually a good pattern in a clear lake like Hartwell.

Wednesday I had spent a lot of time looking for bedding bream or bass bedding late in the year, but found none. So Thursday I changed tactics. I started out on a bridge where herring and shad usually spawn, and those baitfish were all over the rocks and pilings, and I could see nice three to four pound bass cruising under them in the shade around the pilings, but I could not get then to hit. So I went looking for stained water, going way back in some creeks where rain had made the water less clear. Some places looked great.

In one I had to go through a culvert just high enough for my boat seats and windshield to get under it. Just as I started under it I remembered my back running light was still plugged in and I looked back just in time to see it hit and bend over, breaking it. Fortunately, a local store had a replacement that afternoon. That stupid mistake cost me only $40!

Back in that creek I thought I had found the perfect place. I knew a lot of bass fishermen would not try to get back there through the culvert and the water had a good color. I could see my spinnerbait down only a foot or so. And there was grass, button bushes, docks and brush piles all around the big area above the culvert.

I spent several hours in there fishing different but never caught a keeper. So Friday morning I ran to the bridge, hoping some of those bass I had seen would bite at first light, and one good keeper did hit a topwater plug. After three hours I gave up and tried to fish topwater but gave up from the pain.

My only hope left was a small creek where I have caught fish in the past. I ran to it and managed to catch two more keepers to give me three for the day. Friday I went straight to that creek and stayed in it all day and did manage to catch a limit, but the five weighed only 6.1 pounds, not nearly enough to do any good!