Bassmaster Elite Series Returning To South Carolina’s Historic Lake Hartwell
ANDERSON, S.C. — After serving three times in the past 11 years as the host venue for the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, Lake Hartwell is already firmly entrenched in professional bass fishing history.
Now it’s time to write the next chapter.
The Bassmaster Elite at Lake Hartwell is scheduled for April 4-7 with daily takeoffs from Green Pond Landing and Event Center in Anderson at 7 a.m. ET and weigh-ins back at Green Pond Landing at 3:15 p.m. A field of 75 anglers will compete for a $100,000 first-place prize and valuable points in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.
South Carolina pro Brandon Cobb, who lives just 50 minutes from the launch, believes the spawn could be in full swing by the time the tournament starts.
“This year we’ve had some warm weather, but we’ve had more cold nights than we’ve ever had,” said Cobb, a Clemson graduate who has been fishing Hartwell his whole life. “So the fish are a little behind from what they were the last few years.
“If the weather holds stable like the forecast says, I think it’s going to be mostly a spawn tournament. I don’t think every fish will be on bed, but there will be a lot of sight fish caught.”
Cobb said a bed-fishing tournament could be good for the entire field because all of Hartwell’s 56,000 surface acres offer perfect habitat for the bass spawn. Even anglers who haven’t fished the lake much in the past should be able to find good five-fish limits.
That’ll make for a great overall tournament, but it could eliminate the hometown advantage he was looking forward to during a rare week when he’ll get to fish an Elite Series event while sleeping nights in his own bed.
“Basically, my local advantage is gone if they’re on bed,” Cobb said. “A place like the St. Johns River in Florida has key spawning areas. But on Lake Hartwell, they spawn everywhere. In general, all of Lake Hartwell is the same water temperature — and when they come up, they come up everywhere.”
Normally, when a major tournament visits Hartwell, anglers spend much of their time chasing nomadic bass that are following the lake’s famed population of blueback herring. But that isn’t likely to be the case during this event.
“The one time of year when herring don’t play a major factor is during this spawn,” Cobb said. “That changes things a lot and really makes this tournament wide open.”
Cobb stopped short of saying the event will be a “junk fishing tournament” — which means anglers would be fishing a wide variety of tactics without any solid technique rising to the forefront. But he said it could certainly be an event where anglers find bass in a lot of different places and catch them on a lot of different baits.
“You could fish a different part of the lake every day and still catch them,” Cobb said. “Hartwell just has so much to offer. It’ll all depend on who consistently finds the biggest bags.”
Though he expects lots of 18- to 20-pound limits to be weighed, Cobb said he doesn’t expect the winning angler to reach that mark all four days.
“With the nature of the bedding fish on Hartwell, I would feel really good about averaging 17 pounds a day,” he said. “You may have one day where you catch 20 pounds and then another day when you don’t really find them.
“That 17-pound consistency will basically be the key.”
This is the third event on the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series schedule. After the first two events on Florida’s St. Johns River and Georgia’s Lake Lanier, Canadian pro Chris Johnston leads the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 190 points, followed by Alabama angler Scott Canterbury (182) and Texas pro Lee Livesay (181).
A full field of 75 anglers will fish Thursday and Friday before the field is cut to the Top 35 for Saturday’s semifinal round. Only the Top 10 will advance to Championship Sunday for a chance at the coveted blue trophy and the six-figure paycheck.
On Saturday and Sunday at Green Pond Landing, the Elite Expo will offer interactive exhibits, merchandise sales, prizes and contests, food and beverage vendors and activities for children. Fans can also meet the Elites at Angler Alley on Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. or participate in Elite Angler Clinics onstage at the same time. Saturday is also Military and First Responder Appreciation Day, and Sunday is B.A.S.S. Member Appreciation Day.
Visit Anderson is the host organization for the event.