With less than 60 days until the Bassmaster Classic rolls into Lake Hartwell, many of the pros fishing in the tournament are taking advantage of the last few days of practice time before the lake officially closes to them on Jan. 1.

Casey Ashley of Donalds and Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg, the two South Carolina pros who will be fishing the Feb. 20-22 Classic, have similar practice strategies, but for entirely different reasons. Montgomery said he does not have a lot of experience on Hartwell and is spending time riding the lake, graphing areas that he thinks have the potential to hold bass and looking for offshore structure.

“It’s too early to say for sure, but based on the time of year, I think this is going to be a cold, deep-water tournament,” said Montgomery. “Hartwell and all of these Savannah lakes are different, because they’re herring lakes. We don’t fish a lot of those anywhere else we go. That means the bass hold deeper, and they tend to be a lot more nomadic.”

Ashley won an FLW Tour event held on Hartwell last March, and he considers it one of his home lakes. He’s spending his practice time doing more looking than casting, trying to view the lake objectively as if he didn’t know anything about it.

“My problem is I know the lake too well,” he said. “I can’t let myself get caught in thinking I know everything about where the fish will be. I got hard-headed like that the last time the Classic was here, in 2008, and it cost me.”

Ashley also said it is too early to plan on fishing a specific area or pattern, but he hopes the weather keeps bass in a winter pattern.

“I hope it snows,” said Ashley. “The worse the weather, the better I think I can do in finding and catching good fish here.”

Both anglers are happy to have the biggest event in bass fishing in their home state. The Green Pond Landing and Event Center, where the anglers will launch and take out each day of the event, held its official ribbon cutting last Friday, opening the ramp to public use last Friday. Weigh-ins will be at the Bon Secours Wellness Area in Greenville each afternoon.