Arkansas Angler, Tray Huddleston Moves Into Lead At B.A.S.S. Nation Championship On Lake Hartwell
Photo Credit: Gettys Brannon – BASS
ANDERSON, S.C. — Tray Huddleston is playing a waiting game with the bass on Lake Hartwell and so far he is winning. Saturday, he hopes to seal the deal by winning the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan Outdoors.
The Arkansas construction worker caught 15 pounds, 5 ounces Friday, to move from second place into the lead. His two-day total is 29-8.
Huddleston, 32, and a member of the Natural State Bass Club, got this far after testing his bass fishing skills at the local, state and regional levels. The bass are testing his patience, however, at the championship.
Huddleston is fishing offshore areas where bass are staging to feed on schools of passing baitfish. The challenge occurs after the surviving baitfish move out of range.
“I can’t figure out how to catch the bass when they aren’t feeding on the baitfish,” he explained.
So far, that’s not too serious of a problem. Huddleston has dialed into a textbook, seasonal pattern on Hartwell. In fall, the structure-oriented bass move from deep water to shallower main-lake points to ambush the baitfish.
“Timing is everything, and I have to be ready without much notice when they finally show up,” Huddleston said.
He plans to stick it out in a tight rotation of three primary areas. Being patient and avoiding the temptation to move around too much is the plan.
Coincidentally, patience helped Caleb Sumrall move into second place. The Louisiana angler added a limit weighing 15-10 to complete his overall total of 26-15.
“I had a promising area with a lot of fish that I couldn’t get to bite,” he said. “So I hunkered down and realized that slowing down and being patient might be best.”
The longer he stayed in one area, the more fishing improved. Moving offshore was another wise move. Taking advantage of the same fall textbook pattern in play by Huddleston and other top anglers was the payoff. He hopes to continue that success tomorrow.
“I have a good school of bass that are concentrated in one area,” he said. “When they turn on I can catch them.”
The game changer today was a thick blanket of fog that drifted over the launch site at the 7:30 a.m. takeoff time. B.A.S.S. officials delayed the start by one hour for safety reasons.
That posed a challenge for the anglers. Many depended on a productive early-morning bite to jumpstart their day. Initially, Marty Giddens welcomed the one-hour delay.
“A topwater bite isn’t working for me like it is for most of the anglers,” said Giddens, the Day 1 leader.
The Alabama home and plumbing contractor is catching bass in shallow water. Sunshine pushes the bass tighter to cover and makes them easier to catch.
Abundant sunshine proved of no benefit for Giddens Friday. He managed to catch just 4-15, but it only dropped him to third place.
Winning the championship is only one goal of this competition. The Top 3 anglers, determined tomorrow, advance to the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. Coincidentally, the world championship of bass fishing is on Lake Hartwell, March 16-18, 2018.
Competing are anglers from 47 states and nine nations from the continents of North America, Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe. The field of 120 anglers is divided between boaters and nonboaters.
Mike Powell of Midway, Utah, claimed the nonboater title. The member of the Top of Utah Bassmasters scored the win with a two-day total of 23 pounds, 12 ounces.
Powell won a Skeeter TZX190 boat and trailer rigged with Yamaha SHO 150 Outboard, Minn Kota trolling motor and Lowrance electronics.
The used truck sales owner also earned paid entries in the division of his choosing of the 2018 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens. He also received a Marshal spot for the Classic at Lake Hartwell. Powell will also compete tomorrow in the championship round as a boater.
The final day begins at 7:30 a.m. ET, with the competition ending at 3:45 p.m. The final launch and weigh-in are at Green Pond Landing and Event Center in Anderson County.
Visit Anderson is hosting the event.