Pomaria’s Andy Wicker won the ABA Ram American Fishing Tour National Championship at Lake Hartwell this past weekend, beating out over three-hundred other anglers with a three-day total weight of 34.08-pounds.
Though he has won his share of other tournaments, this was Wicker’s biggest win to date. He was awarded a 2016 Triton 21TrX with a Mercury 250 Pro XS, and a two-year lease on a brand new Dodge Ram Truck.
Wicker was consistent throughout the weekend, and brought the biggest limit of the tournament to the scales on day two with a sack weighing 14.89-pounds. Among those fish was a 6.56-pounder, the event’s biggest bass. It wasn’t an easy tournament for Wicker, but he developed, and stuck to a plan that he felt would give him the best shot at victory, and he was correct.
“I was hoping to catch a lot of schooling bass on topwater lures this time of year. While practicing Monday, I noticed a lot of bass coughing up herring, but once the tournament started, they were coughing up threadfin shad, and that’s a sign the lake is turning over,” said Wicker. “Turning over” is the phrase used to describe a process in which the temperature of the deep water takes the place of the surface and shallow water, and vice-versa.
Seeing that, Wicker knew his best shot at winning the tournament was fishing brush piles, and after spending his college years on the Clemson University Fishing Team, Wicker knows where plenty of these are located on Hartwell.
“The first thing I did was go out and check brush piles to make sure I could get bit and I did. I couldn’t catch them on topwater. Normally, you can catch them on topwater over the tops of the brush piles, but the lake is in the process of turning over and the topwater bite is just not there right now. I had to take a drop shot and drop it down in the brush to get bit,” said Wicker, adding that he has 300-400 brush piles marked on his GPS from his days at Clemson, and he knows plenty more are on this lake.
“It’s easier to find spots with brush than without brush on Hartwell,” Wicker said. He knew he could catch his limit on brush piles, and he decided he would catch his limit each day, then turn to topwater to try for a big fish.
“There are some good largemouth shallow, but not a lot of them. You have to fish a lot of water to find the largemouth, and it’s a long time between bites to catch them. That was my game plan each day – to catch a limit out of the brush and move shallow to find a big largemouth,” Wicker said.
On day one, Wicker caught 4 keepers on brush piles and one keeper shallow. He did the same on day two, catching the biggest fish of the tournament at 3:42, just before he had to leave to make his weigh-in time of 4:30. He drew an earlier weigh-in time on day three, and he knew that would make it tough to catch a keeper in the shallows, because the shallow bites were happening later in the day.
Cameron Smith took second place with 31.76-pounds and won a Triton Boat and Dodge Ram Truck, Franklin Ramey won $5000 for third with 31.75-pounds, and Brad Fowler took fourth with 31.40-pounds, earning him $3000.
To read about Wicker teaming up with his brother Dan McGlohorn to win a Lake Monticello tournament a few years ago, click here.