Several dynamic scenarios will be at play when anglers take on Lake Hartwell for the 2023 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, and Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brandon Cobb believes everything will depend on the lake turnover.
“This time of year is kind of a strange time,” the Greenwood, S.C., native said. “On Hartwell the fish act similarly during the late summer until winter. How you catch them, however, changes.”
Competition days are scheduled for Oct. 18-20, with the 7:30 a.m. ET daily takeoffs and 3:30 p.m. weigh-ins being held at the legendary Green Pond Landing. Anglers from across the U.S. and seven other countries — Canada, Japan, Mexico, Namibia, Portugal, South Africa and Spain — qualified for this event. The Paralyzed Veterans of America Tour will also send its Angler of the Year winner to compete. Complete coverage will be available at Bassmaster.com.
Not only will the Top 3 anglers from the overall standings realize a dream of competing in the 2024 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic in Tulsa, Okla., the winning angler will also be named the Nation’s Best, punch their ticket to the 2024 Elite Series and enjoy the use of a fully-rigged Nitro Boat and Toyota Tundra. The second- and third-place finishers and nonboater champion will each earn paid entry fees for all divisions of the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens with the opportunity to qualify for the Elites.
To win this event, Cobb believes an angler will have to decipher what stage the lake is in, and the tactics they use will be determined by the lake turnover.
“The third week of October is usually within a week of the lake turnover, either way,” he explained. “It will be within a three-week transition period.”
Two scenarios could play out. The first would be the ideal scenario for Cobb — that would be that the main lake is getting close to turning over but hasn’t yet. If that is the case, the two-time Elite Series champion said the topwater bite will be phenomenal and a walking bait like a Yo-Zuri 3DB will be the only thing anglers need on their deck.
“The peak topwater bite is always the week before it turns over,” Cobb said. “Essentially, a turnover is when the deeper water rises to the top. It isn’t an instant process, and the herring get on top during that process. That is when the topwater bite is ridiculous. They will school across the whole lake. Three- and 4-pounders will be on top schooling.
“You will catch 25% largemouth and 75% spotted bass, but your five-bass limit will be mostly largemouth.”
The second, more likely scenario, is that the lake will be in the process of turning over or has already turned over. That will mean the topwater action, at least on the main lake, will likely be nonexistent and anglers will need to utilize forward-facing sonar to target main-lake bass.
“The topwater bite essentially ends. That, call-them-up-out-of-cane piles, cool offshore topwater bite pretty much ends when the lake turns over,” he said. “They aren’t as easy to catch. You have to go to the finesse-type baits like a drop shot, a little bitty swimbait and a spybait. You tend to catch 95% spotted bass.”
Anglers will also have the option to run up the Tugaloo or Seneca rivers in search of shallow wolf packs. While a great way to catch a big bag, Cobb said this can be inconsistent at times.
“There will be a shallow, junk fishing-type bite, even on the main lake,” Cobb said. “You will also have a normal fall creek bite up the rivers in some of the stained water. The problem with both of those bites is, if the topwater bite is really good, you will be wasting your time. But if it is past the turnover, then the bank plays again.”
Over the summer months, water levels on Hartwell were below full pool. But one tropical system could bring water levels back up and also dirty up the creeks and rivers, adding yet another potential wrinkle to this event.
Visit Anderson is hosting the event.
2023 B.A.S.S. Nation Title Sponsor: TNT Fireworks
2023 B.A.S.S. Nation Platinum Sponsor: Toyota2023 B.A.S.S. Nation Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Dakota Lithium, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha 2023 B.A.S.S. Nation Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Lew's, Marathon, Triton Boats, VMC