Back in the boat at Lake Hartwell

The Bassmaster Elite Series season continues this week in South Carolina at Lake Hartwell.
Hartwell is a large reservoir with plenty of deep, clear water and a good population of spotted and largemouth bass. With the continued winter weather at home I will say it’s nice to be back in the boat down south.
I have some experience on Hartwell, fishing tournaments here in 2014 and 2016. The results were kind of all over the place with a 148th place finish the first time, after which I nicknamed the lake, Lake Heartbreak but when I returned a couple years later I was fortunate to land a fourth place finish.
This time around, conditions are similar to when we were here in 2016. Some bass are starting to spawn, while others can still be caught in deep water. Last time I was here, I mixed it up by fishing deeper water a lot of the time but mixing in a few bigger largemouths I caught shallow in the afternoons.
One thing I’ve learned in my years of fishing bass tournaments on these southern lakes is that they are never the same from year to year. At home, good fishing spots are usually good year after year during a similar timeframe but these lakes change a lot with fluctuating water levels, a common theme on most reservoirs.
My first day of practice was spent mostly checking out the spots and areas that I fished last time and had good luck on. I caught a good number of bass but was not overly impressed with the size.
I feel like I’m going to spend the rest of my time checking out new areas with the same techniques that have been working. Hopefully I can find a section of the lake with more bigger fish.
One of the hardest things about tournament fishing is that it’s hard to give up on spots that were good on past trips, which we call ‘memories.
The tournament starts on Thursday and runs through Sunday. After a tough start to the season I need to have a good tournament to get back on track. I do enjoy the fishing here so hopefully my past experiences will help me out.
Back at home a few of my friends who are still ice fishing have reported better ice conditions that we had a couple weeks ago. A lot of the snow melted and what remained then froze, so getting around is a lot easier.
They are starting to catch some big pike across Sunset Country as these big fish are setting up in front of the shallow bays where they will spawn shortly after ice out.
The best way to catch these big pike is to use a tip-up, with a large dead cisco or herring rigged on a quick-strike rig, like the Northland Predator Rig. Set the baits about a foot off the bottom in 8 – 15 feet of water and wait for the flag to get tripped.
You can set the hook on these rigs as soon as you get to the line. Letting the pike run with the bait for too long and they risk actually swallowing it and the hooks. It’s a fun way to catch big fish and almost every lake across the region has a good population of big pike. It’s the best time of year to catch a trophy.
Well there is still a lot of ice out there, conditions can deteriorate quickly this time of year so if you are still venturing out on the ice, be careful and don’t take any chances.