South Carolina's Lake Hartwell will host the Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open Sept. 23-25, 2020.
Photo by B.A.S.S.
ANDERSON, S.C. — Autumn officially arrives a day before the Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open on Lake Hartwell begins. That means anglers will be dealing with summer’s lingering swelter as they seek to unlock this 56,000-acre reservoir straddling the Georgia/South Carolina border.
September began with the tournament’s host city, Anderson, S.C., sweating through daytime highs around 90. Weather forecasts show that number sliding into the upper 70s by tournament week. Even with overnight lows dipping into the 50s, that likely will not have time to impact surface temperatures, which have been holding in the low to mid-80s for most of the summer.
Competition days will be Sept. 23-25 with daily takeoffs at 7 a.m. ET from Green Pond Landing and Event Center. Weigh-ins will be held back at Green Pond each day at 3 p.m., with a full field fishing Days 1 and 2 and the Top 12 in the pro and co-angler divisions competing on Championship Friday.
While the calendar says fall, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Patrick Walters of South Carolina said he expects to hear the dog days barking through tournament week.
“It’s been extremely warm, but I think there will a shallow and a deep bite,” Walters said. “One of the keys will be staying conditioned; being able to fish for eight hours.”
Hartwell owes its existence to the namesake dam, completed in 1962 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The dam backs up the Savannah River, which is formed by the confluence of the Tugaloo and Seneca rivers, 7 miles upstream. At normal pool elevation, Hartwell extends 49 miles up the former and 45 up the latter.
At its deepest, the lake is 185 feet, but it averages 45. With Hartwell standing just a few inches over normal pool of 660 feet, there’s plenty of shallow cover available. With that said, Walters believes the tournament will show off just about every feature Hartwell has to offer.
“The entire lake will play; the lower part will be better for schoolers, while the upper part will offer a mix of all (options),” Walters said. “There’s not one spot that it will be won on this time of year.
“There will be guys fishing from the dam to way up the rivers. That’s what makes fall so interesting.”
For spotted bass schooling in 30 to 40 feet of water, Walters likes big, shiny topwaters like Rapala’s 5 1/4-inch Skitter V 13 in chrome. Long popping-style baits like the Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper or the Lucky Craft Gunfish also work.
When the deep bite turns tough, Walters suggests sending a drop shot through suspended fish. Spots that don’t want to run topside will chase down a tiny pink finesse worm heading for the bottom.
For shallow largemouth, topwater lures — walkers, smaller poppers and frogs — offer an effective and enticing way to cover water and find active bass, while flipping wood and docks is Largemouth 101 anywhere in the country. It’s possible there may even be some late-season bluegill bedding activity, but anywhere panfish congregate, largemouth will find the food source.
This time of year, Walters said anglers have to carefully weigh their options and use their time wisely. Spotted bass are abundant, but it’s easy to burn a lot of time on fish that won’t help the limit.
“It’s easy to catch lots of spots, but it’s going to take you all day to get five good ones,” he said. “You’re going to catch a lot of fish, but you’ll have to weed through a lot of little ones.
“There are fewer largemouth, but there’s (the potential for) better quality. You’re not going to catch as many largemouth, but the chances of catching a big fish are higher.”
Walters said he expects the majority of anglers will spend their days chasing spotted bass. Committing to this program means releasing a lot of fish, but a flurry of good bites could quickly elevate an angler in the standings.
Conversely, a shallow game plan will almost certainly prove far less active, while exposing anglers to a potentially bitter reality.
“The largemouth are scattered,” Walters said. “You could spend a day fishing for them and only come in with three. That’s the risk of targeting largemouth this time of year.”
Ultimately, neither approach offers much assurance during this transitional season. Whether an angler chooses to pursue quantity (spotted bass) or quality (largemouth), it’s a gamble either way.
“Mobility will be important, but you have to have confidence in what you’re doing,” Walters said. “It’s going to be hot, it’s going to be a grind, so you have to be able to stick to what you’re doing.”
With fan interest at an all-time high and a stacked field of anglers that includes some of the sport’s biggest names, B.A.S.S. officials have expanded live coverage options on Bassmaster.com. Both boaters and co-anglers will be logging their catches using BASSTrakk for real-time updates. Fans can also follow the final-day drama by streaming Nationwide Bassmaster Opens LIVE presented by Grizzly as camera boats provide coverage of the leaders.
The Lake Hartwell derby will be the fourth of eight Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens. After three tournaments, Bryan New, of Belmont, N.C., holds a narrow lead in the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year race.
The tournament is being hosted by Visit Anderson.
2020 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series Title Sponsor: Basspro.com
2020 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2020 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series Premier Sponsors: Abu Garcia, Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Ranger Boats, Skeeter Boats, Talon, Yamaha
2020 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series Supporting Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Carhartt, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Mossy Oak Fishing, Rapala
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