This year’s Bassmaster Classic has both fans and competitors excited. The event is being held later in the year than the previous visits and that should improve the fishing.
Two competitors, Hank Cherry and Josh Bertrand are preparing for the event. One has experience at Hartwell and the other has never fished a tournament there. Even still, they have similar expectations for this year’s Classic and how the fishing will play out.
Initial Thoughts of the 2018 Bassmaster Classic
Cherry lives less than two hours from Hartwell and has fished it quite a bit over the years. He likes how this tournament is going to set up and believes it will play to his strengths.
“There will be lots of fish caught whether they are in the pre-spawn or if they have moved up to the bank. It should be a great tournament,” he says.
Bertrand with Western Style to the Classic
Although Bertrand has never competed in a tournament on Hartwell, he is excited with what he saw in pre-practice and the fact that western bass anglers seem to do well there.
“I looked at all of the previous Classics and FLW events and noticed a western theme. Brent Ehrler, Brett Hite, and Justin Lucas have all done well there and it sets up more like a west coast lake since it is so clear,” he says. “It doesn’t have near as much cover as most places we visit and I like that because it forces people to get offshore and that sets up better for my style of fishing.”
Blueback Influence at Lake Hartwell
Hartwell is well known for the abundance of blueback herring. Hank Cherry plans to fish for bass feeding on the nomadic baitfish that are typically more active first thing in the morning.
“The Classic could be won in the first 45 minutes of each morning if someone gets on the right school,” he says.
Cherry’s Plans for a Classic Championship
Hank Cherry is an excellent jerkbait angler and thinks it could be a way to win the 2018 Bassmaster Classic. In addition to a rip bait, a swimbait, crank, jig, wacky rig and dropshot may also plan into his plan, but if he was his way he will be using a jerkbait.
Bertrand’s Bait Picks for a Classic Win
When asked what he plans to use at this year’s event, Bertrand narrowed it down to a jerkbait, crankbait, dropshot, soft plastic stick bait and underspin. Here he explains where he’ll fish each and the gear he prefers for the different baits.
“I’ll be using the jerkbait around pre-spawn areas and transitions. The Berkley Skinny Cutter 110 is my favorite jerkbait,” he says. “I fish it on a 6’4” Abu Garcia “Ike” rod in the Delay Series (VIDEO BELOW) and use an ALX in the 8.1:1 gear ratio spooled with 10-pound Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon.”
Shad profile crankbaits are a stable in the spring and Bertrand likes the Berkley Bad Shad.
“What’s cool about this crankbait is that you can cast it with baitcast gear where many other baits are so light you need spinning gear. I’ll be using this in the stained water up the creeks,” he shares. “I like to fish it on a 6’10” medium-light Villain 2.0 with the ALX in the 6.4:1 gear ratio and fish it on eight or 10-pound Trilene 100%.”
Bertrand is known for his prowess with a dropshot and nearly always has one ready to go.
“I’ve been using the new MaxScent Flatnose Minnow with a Fusion19 dropshot hook quite a bit for smallmouth and think the spotted bass will like it,” he shares. “I fish my dropshot on a 6’10”, medium-light Fantasista Premier with an Abu Premier spinning reel in the 30 size.” He likes to use eight-pound Berkley Nanofil with a six-pound Trilene fluorocarbon leader.
If the fish are shallow, a soft plastic stick bait may be the way to go.
“The new Berkley Maxscent General on a wacky-rig is great around docks. I fish it in a 7’, medium Fantasista Premier with a Revo Premier 30 reel and use eight-pound NanoFil with an eight or 10-pound leader,” he adds.
The underspin won the last Classic at Hartwell and it could again be a player according to Bertrand.
“I like to add a 4” PowerBait Minnow to the underspin or even on a scrounger. I use a 7’, medium-heavy Villain with a 6.4:1 ALX and 10-pound Trilene 100% fluorocarbon. The reel does a great job at casting baits with fluorocarbon but still feels strong and beefy,” says the Arizona pro. Bertrand will key on areas with bluebacks and says that pockets and drains seem to congregate the herring.
Who will win the Classic? Will it be a local favorite or someone who has never competed at Hartwell before? We won’t know until the final fish is weighed, but Josh Bertrand and Hank Cherry both hope it is them lifting the trophy in South Carolina.