During the official practice period for Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Evinrude and hosted by the Anderson Convention & Visitors Bureau on Lake Hartwell, a huge springtime warm-up graced the Southeast. For three days in a row, sunny slick conditions warmed Hartwell’s waters to the peak spawning temperatures for bass. All during practice anglers trolled the banks looking at fish that had just moved up from deep water and were just starting to make beds.
Today the pros finally got to mash the gas and see exactly what Hartwell could produce. On a scale of 1 to 10 for sight-fishing conditions, today ranked a 10 plus with bright blue sunny skies and not a breath of wind. Anglers were not confined to just pockets or coves for sight-fishing; they could have sight-fished on main-lake shoals if they wanted.
The result was a weigh-in dominated by bass that were being looked at when they were caught. Hartwell showed out with multiple 15-pound bags. In fact, 27 limits topped the scales at 15 pounds or better on the pro side. The top 20-cut after day one stands at 15 pounds, 10 ounces.
In all there was only one bag that cracked the 20-pound mark. That limit belonged to Darrel Robertson of Jay, Okla., who brought in 20 pounds, 6 ounces.
Robertson did his share of peeping today, but his three biggest bass actually came off docks.
Ironically, Robertson had every intention of going far north and fishing the stained water after his practice period. But when he got an early boat draw last night, he decided to go pluck a few bedders from the clear water first because he knew he would be the first one to them.
“Several years ago I got burned on this lake trying to sight-fish,” Robertson recalls. “I had a bunch of fish found, but I had a late boat number, and by the time I got down there, everything had been picked off. So initially, I had not planned to go to the clear water today. But once I got an early draw, I decided to go check a few I had found on beds, and they were still there.”
Robertson sight-fished a limit for about 12 pounds, but was able to upgrade by replacing three of them with big bruisers that were sunning under docks.
“All week I’ve seen fish cruising around and floating up real high under docks,” Robertson says. “I got really blessed today and caught three big ones that way. Two of them came from under the same dock.”
If you’re wondering why Robertson is so vocal about exactly how he caught his leading limit, it’s because he does not even plan to go do it again tomorrow. He says his plan since practice has been to utilize different parts of the lake each day, and he is going to stick with it by going somewhere totally different tomorrow.
“I’m going way up one of the rivers tomorrow,” Robertson reveals. “I don’t think I could even catch 15 pounds tomorrow where I was today. I was real blessed today in that clear water, and I’m not going to push my luck so I’m going 180 degrees the other way.”
Top 10 pros
1. Darrel Robertson – Jay, Okla. – 20-6 (5)
2. Jamie Horton – Centerville, Ala. – 19-12 (5)
3. Larry Nixon – Bee Branch, Ark. – 19-4 (5)
4. Charlie Evans – Berea, Ky. – 18-12 (5)
5. Bryan Thrift – Shelby, N.C. – 18-3 (5)
6. Capt. Blake Smith – Lakeland, Fla. – 18-2 (5)
7. Tom Redington – Royse City, Texas – 17-13 (5)
8. Clark Wendlandt – Leander, Texas – 17-9 (5)
9. Chris Baumgardner – Gastonia, N.C. – 17-6 (5)
10. Scott Martin – Clewiston, Fla. – 17-4 (5)
Kavros takes co-angler lead with 12-14
Never say Chuck Kavros doesn’t heed what he’s been taught.
The co-angler from Grass Valley, Calif., practiced with Cody Meyer for the Hartwell event – an experience Kavros dubbed “going to the 'Cody Meyer School of Fishing.'”
“I learned a lot from him,” says Kavros, whose 12-14 bag leads by 2 ounces over Neil Farlow. “The biggest lesson was that if I did this one thing all day I’d catch a lot of fish, and some of them would be good ones.”
The student did his teacher proud, sticking with one key technique that he wanted to keep quiet. Kavros had a limit by 10 a.m., but the bite got tough for him and his pro, Mike Surman, until 1:30 p.m. In the final hour, Kavros was able to cull three key fish to get to his leading weight.