Besides bass and each other, the pro fishermen who kick off competition in the Bassmasters Classic on Lake Hartwell on Friday will have another opponent: Mother Nature.
Temperatures are expected to be in single digits for the first day’s blast-off at Anderson’s Green Pond Landing, which BASS officials have pushed back from 7 to 8:30 a.m. because of “extreme temperatures … in the interest of safety for all the competitors.”
“The fishing is gonna be a little different, and it will change some more with all the ice and snow runoff we haven’t seen yet,” said pro fisherman Casey Ashley of Donalds, one of two South Carolina anglers in the field. “The water temperature is irrelevant as far as the fish are concerned; they’re used to it. But we’ll have to concentrate.”
Ashley figures that there will be a few places in the 56,000-acre reservoir on the Savannah River along the South Carolina-Georgia border that won’t be worth fishing because of the cold, muddy water, and that the cold weather “might hinder the shallow bite a little bit.”
The 90-minute delay on Friday morning might also play a role in changing how the tournament plays out, he said.
“First thing in the morning is the best time to catch a big fish,” said Ashley, who believes pros will have to concentrate on largemouth bass, not spotted bass, to win over three days.
“Largemouth will win it,” he said. “It will be a mixed bag, but you’ll have to have one or two big largemouth a day to win.”
Pro Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg, is used to pulling bass from under shallow boat docks on his home waters of Lake Wylie, but he’s prepared to get out in deep, deep water to catch fish this weekend.
“I think I’m prepared to fish deep water, 30 to 40 feet,” he said. “The fish I’m planning on fishing offshore for are on real specific structure, and they shouldn’t change too much.
“It’s gonna be cold, but I think we’re all prepared for it. We have the equipment and the clothing.”
The entire field of 56 anglers will fish today and Saturday, then only the top 25 will in the standings after Saturday will fish in Sunday’s final round of competition. The total purse is slightly more than $1.5 million, with $300,000 going to the winner.
Boats leave each morning from the Green Pond Landing in Anderson. Daily weigh-ins will be at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, a few miles from the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo at the TD Convention Center. Doors will open at 3 p.m.
The Classic visited Lake Hartwell in 2008, with Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, winning with a three-day weight of 49 pounds, 7 ounces. Anglers believe that weight won’t be enough this year, despite the weather, because of the improvement in the lake’s population of spotted bass over the past seven years.
Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., the 2014 BASS Angler of the year, feels like it will take 17 to 18 pounds a day to win.
“If you catch five bass, they’ll be good, quality fish, and you’ll have a decent weight. I think it will take between 50 and 55 pounds,” he said. “It took 49 last time, but conditions have changed.
“The spotted bass population is so good, the size of the fish is so good, the tournament could be won with only spotted bass, but I don’t think it will because the spots and largemouths are mixed together so much.”