The west has long been known as a producer of top level professional bass fishing talent. This year's Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell was held about as far away as possible, yet western pros made their mark on their standings. The deep, clear Lake Hartwell set up well for the field with experience in the west and several pros had successful a success event in a tournament that was won by Casey Ashley.
Similarities Between Hartwell and the West
Lake Hartwell is a deep lake full of large spotted bass and big largemouth, much like several Northern California waters. At the Bassmaster Media day prior to the event, former Californian Justin Lucas said it set up just like his home lake, Folsom Lake. "It is just like Folsom, you can catch a five pound spotted bass on one cast and catch a five pound largemouth on the next," added Lucas. He said there were other similarities in Hartwell and popular Nor Cal lakes Shasta and Oroville.
Arizona's Cliff Pirch also said the lake reminded him of Shasta and Oroville, but also said it was very similar to Lake Pleasant, Roosevelt and Apache in his home state. He recalled being excited when learning the event was on Hartwell because it set up well for him and he enjoys fishing the deep water with finesse tactics.
Although no western angler won the event, they made their presence felt and after Day 1, Dean Rojas was leading, Skeet Reese was in second and Brett Hite was in fourth. The following is how they ended up:
Dean Rojas - 4th Place, 43lbs 13oz
Lake Havasu City, Arizona's Dean Rojas took the lead on the first day and was immediately followed by another western pro in Skeet Reese. He was not able to back it up and weighed just about the same on the final two days combined as he did in his excellent first day.
Brett Hite - 7th, 41lbs 11oz
Brett Hite is an excellent deep water fisherman and has proved it from coast to coast. At last year's FLW Tour stop, he finished in 6th place (Casey Ashley won that event as well). He focused on deep water points, humps and ridges for his Top 10 finish.
Justin Lucas -9th, 40lbs 2oz
This was the first Classic for Justin Lucas after switching over to the Elites in 2014. He has experience from prior FLW events and his years of western fishing helped him to a great finish. He went finesse for the event and caught his fish on a shakyhead with a Berkley Havoc Bottom Hopper finesse worm and a drop-shot.
Cliff Pirch - 13th, 40lbs 2oz
Cliff Pirch was excited for the event going into it and steadily climbed the standings each day to a solid finish. He described the event as a junk fishing event and used a jig and dropshot for shallow fish and a swimbait for deeper fish that were suspended around baitfish.
Skeet Reese - 17th, 36lbs 11oz
Skeet started the first day with a weight over twenty pounds, but was unable to back it up when the conditions changed and he dropped to 17th in the final standings. He fished deep water with a spoon as well as with a 4” Berkley Havoc Sick Fish swimbait and Havoc Beat Shad.
Jared Lintner - 18th, 36lbs 8oz
Jared Lintner relied on a 3/4oz football head on deep ridges around 40 feet deep for most of the event and ended with a respectable finish. He reported catching multiple fish each day and also weighed in fish on an underspin and finesse worm. Each day he also caught one solid keeper on a shad rap.
Aaron Martens - 30th, 20lbs 11oz (big bass of event at 6lbs 11oz)
Aaron Martens entered this event as the favorite of many to contend for the win. Deep water, spotted bass and finesse fishing are all things he is known for. He struggled on the first day with just three fish but was able to catch the big bass of the tournament on a 6” straight tail Roboworm with his new Signature Series Enigma rod.
Brandon Palaniuk - 53rd place, 5lbs 4 oz
Palaniuk is feast or famine in the Bassmaster Classic. Going into this year's event, he had two excellent Classic finishes and two forgettable ones. This was another swing and miss as he weighed one fish each day.
The western pros competing in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell had a great showing and even though none of them was able to win the event, they made their presence felt and made all of us in the west proud.
Image 1 and 2 - B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina
Image 3 - Tyler Brinks
Image 4 - B.A.S.S. Seigo Saito