With a three-day total of 51 pounds, 13 ounces, Jordan Hartman of Benton, Ky., took home the win in the Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. Central Division event on Lake Chickamauga. Adding a limit for 14-12 on the final day, the young pro slipped ahead of Andrew Nordbye and had enough to stay ahead of the hard-charging Seth Davis to take home his first win with MLF. For his win, Hartman earned a clean $50,000 and a chance to fish in the Toyota Series Championship this fall on Pickwick Lake.
The Central Division is presented by Neat Companies. This event was presented by Googan Baits and hosted by Fish Dayton – Rhea Economic & Tourism Council.
One of a class of young southern anglers raised on college fishing, big graphs and ledges, it’s no surprise that Hartman took home the title this week. His generation has been gobbling up an ever-increasing share of tournament winnings, especially on the Tennessee River, and he says himself that Chickamauga in the summer suits him perfectly.
“I got to catch them exactly how I wanted to,” says Hartman, who is a Murray State graduate and just 24 years old. “I love fishing offshore. If I can be off the bank, I’m gonna do it. I ledge fished the whole time. I spent every hour of practice looking at those screens. I never went to the bank one time. I committed. The only time the boat was on the bank was when I took it off the trailer and loaded it up.”
Putting hours in behind the wheel in practice, staring at screens hooked to a Sea Clear Power wiring harness, Hartman found a lot of fish. Then again, so did most who looked offshore this week.
“I had found about 30 schools, now, there was only like five of them that would bite consistently,” says Hartman. “I knew all 30 of them had potential, but you take into consideration the boats, and you can probably cut about half of those off. So, it was tough.”
When you add up the pressure, the lack of current and the negative mood of many of the offshore bass, you end up needing a little something special to make it happen. So special in fact that Hartman was really the only pro in the entire Top 10 that stayed offshore exclusively. One thing in particular that helped separate Hartman from the rest was a certain high spot with shell.
“I had one area that I caught almost everything I’ve weighed on,” says Hartman. “It was a little high spot with some shells up there – I actually wasn’t even scanning it, I was just pulling up and fishing. There was one cast on this spot that I was catching almost every fish on. You had to bring it over the shells, and as soon as it fell off, they were sitting right on the back side. I’d line up with a dock, it’s got a flag on it, and sit on my dot and throw at the dock. I don’t know that I caught one on any other cast on that spot.”
While Hartman did much of his damage on his shallow ledge, which topped out at about 9-feet deep, he didn’t do it all there. In fact, he also caught fish as deep as 28 feet on the 10XD and ran at least a half dozen places each day of the event. One of his final fish, which may have given him the edge over Davis, was actually caught on a Strike King Sexy Spoon.
“I pulled up on this spot where I haven’t had a bite all week,” says Hartman. “I haven’t had a bite on a spoon all week. I almost put that spoon in the box last night. And I pulled it out, threw it out there, and I didn’t even do anything. It just went slack. Everything just went my way this week. When you’re gonna win, you’re gonna win, and everything clicked.”
Clicked, indeed. On the final day, with weights low and fairly tight, the event was somewhat up for grabs. Hartman put it together from the start, and now has the first big win of what could be a long career.
“It’s actually unbelievable,” says Hartman of the win. “I really didn’t even know the first day if I was going to be able to catch a limit. To be standing here with this trophy, it’s like I’m about to wake up and fish the third day in 20 minutes or so. I’ve been dreaming of this a long time, this is my first year fishing a [whole division], and I wanted one of these bad. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been walking to ponds. I fell in love with it, the money don’t even matter, man, I just love to fish. That’s all I ever want to do, ever.”
1. Jordan Hartman – 51 – 13 (15) – $51,500
2. Seth Davis – 51 – 01 (15) – $21,250 (includes $1,000 Phoenix Bonus)
3. Miles Burghoff – 48 – 01 (15) – $14,450
4. Tommy Brown – 46 – 11 (15) – $12,250
5. Jeff Dyer – 45 – 11 (15) – $11,250
6. Cody Nichols – 45 – 02 (14) – $9,125
7. Joseph Webster – 44 – 15 (15) – $7,900
8. Andrew Nordbye – 44 – 04 (13) – $6,900
9. Cody Harrison – 44 – 01 (14) – $5,900
10. Jeff McLain – 41 – 03 (15) – $4,650