The weather plays a role in all-things outdoors, that’s no secret. And, the most accomplished anglers are able to adjust the rapidly changing conditions and produce results when it matters. The best in the game will be going toe-to-toe with Mother Nature on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell.
Over the last few years, weather has been the deciding factor during the Bassmaster Classic. Of course during February, the conditions can be extremely tough, and downright nasty. This year is proving to be no different and Mother Nature is pissed!
Call it seasonal if you want, but as the picture showing the forecast through Sunday will show, it’s much more like Minnesota weather—without the ice. Lows in the single digits, rain, snow, wind and pure weather evilness. Rest assured, though, these guys are the best bass fishermen in the world and they will figure out how to make them bite.
When looking at your Classic Fantasy picks, this weather should play a major role in where you place each angler based on their strengths. We discussed this last week, and what’s occurring has made me shuffle a few anglers around—you may want to do the same if you’re hoping your Fantasy team will make Sunday’s cut.
With a major winter storm pushing across the center of our Nation, we will be looking at post frontal winter conditions. I’m not really sure I can think of a worse scenario for the Classic, but it is what they’ll be facing nonetheless.
Will this massive weather system shut the fishing down? It certainly could and there are two trains of thought on how to approach negative fish. 1) Slow the presentation down and put the lure in front of as many fish as many times as possible. This does work and will produce some heavy bags this week, but it can be a gamble if the fish an angler is banking on move. Sure, they’ll have numerous spots, but that bite will evolve with each passing day.
Watch for many anglers to be throwing big, heavy jigs or other slow-moving presentations such as Texas- or Carolina-rigged plastics.
2) The second school of thought here could be the run-and-gun approach. KVD is known for straining the water looking for active biters and covering a lot of water. Focusing only on the active fish might pay off.
I’d bet crankbaits and jerkbaits will play here pretty intensely at Harwell. Suspending jerkbaits have been a classic winter to spring—or cold water in general—presentation. They catch a lot of fish, especially the fish affected by a massive weather system.
If there is a fair amount of rain, there could be runoff and that attracts baitfish, which in turn attracts the bass. But, rain in large amounts doesn’t seem to be very likely. Just bitter-cold conditions.
Where will these negative winter fish hold up? That’s the $300,000 question. I’d bet main-lake subsurface structure such as bars and sunken islands will play, but if the sun shines, I’d look to creeks and tributary streams dumping into the lake. The fish will need to eat regardless, but they will be exerting as little energy as possible to consume as many calories as possible.
Wood is key in southern bass fishing—always has been. But, rock heats up faster and riprap will play during this tournament. Boil all this down and rock piles in 15-30 feet of water could be where it’s won. Of course this is speculation at this point, but if I were to play a wager right now, I’d say either a big jig or a suspending jerkbait will be the top producers—both of which play to the anglers I’ve selected to win it all.
Hartwell is not known for producing giant bass, it’s really an average fishery when it comes to average fish size. I looked up historical fishing reports and tournament stats during February and March and I’ve come up with what I think the average required daily bag will be to make the final day cut, and what it will take to win.
The average tournament keeper is about 3 pounds. The average kicker is 5 pounds. These guys are the best there is, so I automatically up those averages by a pound. So, under normal fishing conditions during the winter, I’d estimate a winning bag would have to average 24 to 26 pounds each day. Inside that bag would probably have three 4 pounders and two 5-to 6-pound kickers.
I said “under normal conditions.” Well, that’s not quite what the anglers will be faced with, so I’m going to take 5-8 pounds off of a three-day total. I know you understand math, but with 24 pounds a day for three days, that’ll make up a total weight of 72 pounds. I don’t see that happening. But, again, they are the best bass fishermen in the world, and someone will have them figured out.
I’m guessing 67-5 will be the 3-day total. It’s also worth noting that the final day is forecasted to be quite nice, and I’d bet the weights shoot up during the final weigh-in, which makes for an exciting finish.
How about big fish? I’d bet a 7 pounder is brought to the scales at some point.
No matter what, things will be challenging. But, that is what makes this so much fun!
Watch for more updates as the event unfolds. I’ll be arriving in Greenville on Wednesday and producing content each of the days. Stay tuned for updates.