ANDERSON, S.C. – A former collegiate basketball player, pro bass fisherman Jason Christie is doing his own rendition of March Madness on Lake Hartwell. With a two-day total weight of 42 pounds, 8 ounces, Christie is halfway to winning his first Walmart FLW Tour event.
Day two on Hartwell was tougher for the Park Hill, Okla., pro, but he isn’t complaining. Another pro beat him to his best water this morning but didn’t catch much. Christie waited his turn and caught an 11- or 12-pound limit before leaving around noon. He then ran to a similar-looking area 16 miles away and upgraded his catch significantly.
What these two areas have in common is what Christie calls “Oklahoma water.” To translate, he’s fishing flat, dirty water in the backs of pockets that have a ditch running through them. The largemouths use this water to spawn and because it’s dirty, they’re not quite as difficult to get to bite. But with that being said, Christie is still employing the stealth mode.
“These creeks just harbor more fish than your average pocket,” he said. “It’s shallow and the fish can be spooky so I turn off the locators, put down my Power-Poles and make long casts. I can honestly say it would be impossible to catch what I’m catching without those Power-Poles.”
Christie’s 20-pound, 4-ounce limit Friday could have been even bigger if not for some missed fish.
“I’m happy with that, but I missed a 4- and a 6-pounder, but I think I can get to the 6 tomorrow.”
Unlike day one, Christie sight-fished some Friday. Of the five he weighed, three came sight-fishing and two came throwing Booyah spinnerbaits. His go-to sight-fishing bait is a Yum Mighty Bug. Sometimes a fish will show itself on the spinnerbait and then he’ll come back with the Bug. He explained that the bass are looking for something hard to spawn on like cables, roots or wood.
“They key is not putting the boat on top of them. And I think I got the bait they want. If it’s cloudy I think I can catch them. I know where they’re living. They’re bedding so shallow I can see them whether it’s cloudy or not. I hope the wind blows. That would be fine with me.
“There’s big fish around me,” Christie added. “I’ve just got to get the bites and get them in the boat. It seems like I’m either catching 12-inchers or big ones. I’m not catching anything in between.”
With a 9-pound lead it looks like Christie’s time is now.
“My biggest fish yesterday jumped off in the net and that happened again today. That tells me it might be my turn. I’m just going to control the variables that I can control and we’ll see.”
Monsoor thrilled to be second
Tom Monsoor of La Crosse, Wis., is in second place with a total weight of 33 pounds, 7 ounces. After catching 18-9 yesterday, he caught 14-14 today. And if not for some late-game heroics, day-two would have been a disappointment.
“Today at 3:10 p.m. I ran to the other end of the lake,” said Monsoor. “By the time I got there I only had 25 minutes to fish. Then I got a big one to bite and I thought it was a carp or a catfish. And then up comes a 4-12 largemouth.
“Yesterday they were biting much better. I could’ve caught several more 4-pounders yesterday, but they wouldn’t really have helped me. Today was much tougher.”
Monsoor is targeting prespawn fish in clear water that is approximately 10-12 feet deep.
“These fish have moved up to eat. In two weeks they will start making beds.”
Monsoor is throwing Yamamoto grubs and Yamamoto Senkos. He’s not sure if his pattern will produce for two more days, but he’s happy just making the cutoff.
“It’s been a little while, but it feels great – it really does. I think is only my fourth cut.”
After making the top-20 cut on Beaver earlier this month, pro Todd Auten is once again in contention. His limit Friday weighed 15 pounds, 11 ounces, bringing his two-day total to 32 pounds, 14 ounces.
“Today was a lot tougher, the quality definitely went down,” said Auten. “The wind really helped me yesterday.”
Auten accumulated a quick limit this morning fishing crankbaits over points. He then pushes further back into the dirty backwater of the Tugaloo River.
“I’m fishing in 5 feet or less trying to cover water. Occasionally I’ll stop and sight-fish for one.”
When he’s sight-fishing Auten’s bait of choice is a jig. He’s happy to make the cut again but is unsure if he’s in a position to contend for the win.
“I saw Stacey King today in my area and that tells me it’s getting fished pretty hard and it might be time to make a move. I’d like to make the top 10 cut at least.”
“I’m fishing stained water in the back of the river, mostly the Tugaloo,” said the Beaver Lake champion and defending Angler of the Year. “I’m throwing a DC 100 and a bunch of other crankbaits around rocks and wood.”
Thrift said he worked the same pattern yesterday, but missed fish cost him big time.
“I screwed up yesterday. If I hadn’t dumped those two fish, then maybe I still would have a chance at this. But Christie’s got too big of a lead.”
Like Thrift, Stacey King is on quite a roll. After finishing second at the Beaver Lake tournament he currently sits in fifth with 32 pounds, 7 ounces. His limit today weighed 18 pounds, 10 ounces.
“That’s the thing about bass fishing, when you’re on a roll things just fall into place,” said the Reeds Spring, Mo., pro.
As far as technique, King is blind-casting soft plastics to bedding areas.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros at the FLW Tour event on Lake Hartwell after day two:
6th: Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky., 32-3
7th: Mike Reynolds of Modesto, Calif., 32-1
8th: Brent Ehrler of Redlands, Calif., 31-12
9th: Stetson Blaylock of Benton, Ark., 31-1
10th: Joe Thomas of Milford, Ohio, 30-14
Wright takes co-angler lead
Rising from second to first on the strength of a 12-pound, 2-ounce catch was co-angler JR Wright. The Truckee, Calif., native finished the opening round with a total weight of 28 pounds, 5 ounces.
“It was slower today,” said Wright, who finished second at last year’s Forrest Wood Cup. “I lost two early, then I caught a few small keepers. At 3 p.m., I caught three fish – two were over 3 pounds and the other was about 2 1/2. And that saved me.”
Wright’s limit consisted of two largemouths and three spotted bass.
“I caught them on a drop shot and a Flick Shake yesterday. Today they were relating to the bottom so I threw a wacky-rigged Trick Worm. I would let it sink all the way to the bottom. My pro was fishing slowly enough where he allowed me to do that.”
Wright, who has an FLW Series and an EverStart Series win, said it’s his goal to claim a Tour title. With nearly a 3-pound lead, tomorrow presents a prime opportunity.
“I wish I wasn’t leading; I’d rather be in like second or third. But whatever happens, happens.”
Wright will be paired with Christie tomorrow and that suits the co-angler leader just fine as he fished dirty water the first day.
“Yesterday I threw a No. 5 Rapala Shad Rap and today I used a Zorro Booza Bug jig and a shaky head. Today the fish were relating to wood or some kind of structure.”
Keeton’s limit consisted of four largemouths and one spotted bass.
“The fish came all day and I culled three times. Getting a limit everyday is big but getting a 5-pound kicker both days is huge.”
Keeton fished dirty water today and yesterday and will have to adjust fishing with Monsoor tomorrow.
Honeycutt third with 24-8
Day-one leader Keith Honeycutt of Temple, Texas, slipped to third after catching a 7-pound, 11-ounce limit. Honeycutt’s total weight sits at 24 pounds, 8 ounces.
“I’m a little disappointed because I lost two good ones,” he said. “But I did catch five and my goal all along was to be consistent. I like this lake though – its real co-angler friendly.”
Honeycutt said he used the new Berkley Havoc straight tail worm on a 1/4-ounce shaky head. He tied this to 10-pound Fireline with a 10-pound fluorocarbon leader.
“This afternoon the bite was on fire. I was throwing that shaky head in the backs of creeks and you’d get bit almost every third cast.”
Scholz, Sprague round out top five
In fourth place for the co-anglers is Andy Scholz of Reno, Nev., with 10 bass weighing 23 pounds, 9 ounces. Trailing him by 11 ounces is Jeff Sprague of Forney, Texas.
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers at the FLW Tour event on Lake Hartwell after day two:
6th: Tony Nation of Springdale, Ark., 22-7
7th: Moo Bae of West Friendship, Md., 21-9
8th: Tommy Milligan of Seneca, S.C., 21-3
9th: Doug Caldwell of Kane, Pa., 21-0
10th: Chad Pipkens of Holt, Mich., 20-14
Day three of the FLW Tour event on Lake Hartwell will begin Saturday at 7:30 a.m. from Portman Shoals Marina located at 1629 Marina Rd. in Anderson.