By Todd Ceisner
The last time the day-2 leader at the Bassmaster Classic was able to close out a Classic win was 2013, when Cliff Pace did it at Grand Lake.
It seems like eons ago.
In the five years since, BassFans have been treated to historic comebacks, rallies by hometown favorites and massive final-day stringers that seemingly blindsided everyone. While Loudon-Tellico doesn’t have the reputation that other TVA impoundments do for producing big fish and big stringers, some believe another dramatic final-day rally could happen again.
“There have been bags in the mid-20s caught here,” said Brandon Lester. “I’m not saying there will be, but they do live here. I don’t feel like it’ll be the norm because 16 (pounds) is a solid bag, but there is always a chance to catch something in the low to mid 20s and make a big jump.”
“I think every place has that capability,” added Edwin Evers, who caught 29-03 on the final day of the 2016 Classic to overcome a 6-pound plus deficit to win. “The weights will be tight here. Generally, the theme in a lot of Classics is there are so many things changing. We’ll have a lot of spectators and since going to the spring, things change rather quickly whereas in the summer things were consistent.”
For a big comeback to occur on Sunday, Chris Lane thinks that rally will need to be accompanied by an equally sizable stumble by the day-2 leader.
“I see a different leader all three days here,” he said. “Because of the way it’s fishing, I’m still trying to figure out where to start and where to go from there. This event will take on a more mental aspect than just a spot.”
“This fishery doesn’t have a ton of big ones. It has big ones, but not like Conroe.”
Todd Faircloth, who’s making his 17th appearance in the Classic, wasn’t prepared to predict a big rally on the final day would seal the deal, but he does expect a tournament that will be decided by ounces in the end.
“I would anticipate a super tight event all throughout,” he said. “The Conroe deal (in 2017) where Jordan came back, you were dealing with a lake with a lot of big fish in it. You could see it happening there. Last year took me by surprise because it’s mostly a tight weight tournament (at Hartwell). I would guess this one being a tight event all throughout.”
Lintner’s Livestock Pattern
The Classic has a knack for producing some pretty incredible outcomes that sometimes arise from unique fishing strategies. Jared Lintner may have stumbled upon one such pattern, but the only issue is it might be difficult to duplicate.
The Californian described fishing down a rock channel swing on the first day of practice when he came upon a large tree that had been blown over and was partially submerged. He noticed something tangled up in the tree.
“I thought it was a tarp,” he said. “It was this big, black blob.”
As he got closer, he realized it was no tarp. It was a deceased cow.
He believes the cow had gotten swept down the river during a recent high-water period and got snagged in the tree. Unfortunate for the cow, but Lintner said he got a bite on his next flip into the tree and plans to revisit the spot during the tournament.
“My theory is that cow is attracting crawfish and if crawfish are there, they’ll attract bass,” he said.
Believe it or not, it’s the first time Lintner has fished a dead cow pattern.
“Years ago at the California Delta, my team partner and I were fishing in Holland Tract,” he recalled. “A levy had blown out and flooded the land and some cows got trapped in the mud. We won a tournament two weeks later flipping those cows.”
Hudnall Keeps Head Up
When the Lake Hartwell Elite Series kicks off three weeks from today, rookie Derek Hudnall won’t be competing. He’ll be in Anderson, S.C., helping out B.A.S.S. staff in various capacities, but he won’t be a competitor that week. That’s because he was disqualified from the tournament after self-reporting a rule violation related to practicing during the off-limits period. He’ll return to action the following week (April 11-14) at Winyah Bay.
News of Hudnall’s DQ was first reported by Bassmaster last week.
The mixup occurred following Elite Series stop No. 2at Lake Lanier. Hudnall returned home to Baton Rouge, La., and started formulating his plan for the weeks leading up to the Classic, which he qualified for through the Bassmaster Opens last year.
“I figured I’d come over the week before Classic practice and practice at Hartwell and Winyah Bay,” he said. “I’m a big Google Calendar guy, so I went through and marked off 28 days from the start of the tournament.”
That was his critical error. Elite Series rules state that tournament waters go off limits the Monday closest to 28 days prior to the start of practice. With practice for the Hartwell tournament slated to begin April 1, the lake went off limits at 12:01 a.m. Monday, March 4.
Hudnall said he fished Hartwell on March 4 and realized his error the next day.
“I was re-reading emails from B.A.S.S. and saw the date March 4, which was the day before,” he said. “When I saw that, my stomach hit the floor.”
He immediately phoned tournament director Trip Weldon to self-report the infraction. Weldon advised Hudnall the matter would be discussed internally at B.A.S.S. Two days later, Hudnall was informed he was being DQ’d from the tournament.
“That was the right call,” Hudnall said.
Hudnall said he was prepared to keep the news to himself until after the Classic, but opted to reveal the news of his DQ in a Facebook video posted on March 7 (see below).
“The response on social media has been fantastic,” he said. “I was going to wait to announce it, but it was eating at me too much.”
In the meantime, he’s focused solely on having a good showing in his first Classic.
“There are a couple of lessons that can come of this,” he said. “One, you can’t read the rules enough. Two, understand that we all make mistakes and having good character and being able to own up to mistakes is a big part of what makes us who we are, so hopefully somebody learns from it. Anything positive that comes from my mistake, that’s what I hope.”
No Hard Feelings for Hawk
The last time Roy Hawk fished a tournament at Fort Loudoun-Tellico, he found himself in the lead after day 1.
His 20-14 stringer, anchored by two big largemouth, topped the field after the first day of the 2010 FLW Tour. Granted it was an April tournament, but it still gave him a boost to know he could compete on the Tennessee River. Unfortauntely, he couldn’t sustain his success through the rest of the event. He zeroed on day 2 and scrounged together four bites for 8-01 on day 3 to finish 27th.
“It was feast or famine,” he recalled. “I caught fish that were undersized (on day 2). I had targeted smallmouth for half the day and caught 17-inchers, not 18-inchers. I was flipping as well and those fish didn’t bite for me. Just nothing materialized. It was one of those days. I rebounded on day 3, but I didn’t do anything different. I just caught bigger smallmouth and flip-fish.”
Based on his practice session this week, he believes a similar scenario could play out at the Classic.
“I had great and so-so days this week in practice,” he said. “On any given day anyone can bomb or catch a phenomenal bag.”
He said he has not gone back to the areas in Tellico that produced for him nearly nine years ago and likely won’t. Instead, he’ll target the stained water this week.
“I’ll be flipping and cranking and purposely targeting more stained water,” he said. “I haven’t even revisited that area where I caught them in Tellico and probably won’t unless things get crazy.”