By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

Jamie Hartman just barely advanced to the final round at the Lake Guntersville Bassmaster Elite Series, edging Seth Feider by 2 ounces for the last position in the top 10. When the day 4 weigh-in concluded in the midst of a violent thunderstorm, all nine anglers he'd been looking up at were in his rear-view mirror.

Hartman, the native New Yorker who now resides in Arkansas, used a topwater plug to compile a 23-15 stringer that gave him his first tour-level victory. His haul was the biggest of the day by more than 4 1/2 pounds and left him 6 ounces clear of Chris Zaldain and Matt Arey with a 79-10 total.

"It feels pretty darn good, I'm not going to lie, but we had so much drama at the weigh-in with that storm coming in that it took away a lot of the pressure-relief of winning. They talked about doing something at the next tournament, like maybe re-presenting the trophy. It was just a crazy storm."

Zaldain and Arey both finished with 79-04 after catching 18-10 and 16-07, respectively. Zaldain won the tiebreaker for the No. 2 position by virtue of the heavier single-day bag (he weighed 23-10 on day 3).

Second-year pro Caleb Sumrall finished a career-best 4th with 77-10 (20-01 on day 4). Veteran Matt Herren completed the top 5 with 77-07 (18-05).

The bottom half of the top 10 consisted of Chad Pipkens with 76-10 (19-06), Lee Livesay with 72-11 (13-15), Hank Cherry with 72-03 (15-08), Brandon Lester with 72-00 (13-11) and Kelley Jaye with 71-05 (14-04).

The rough weather that had been predicted all week but never really showed up finally materialized as the final-day field was forced to contend with winds that blew to 25 mph. That made some favored locations difficult (if not impossible) to fish.

Rookie Drew Cook, who finished 25th in this event, took over the top slot in the Angler of the Year (AOY) race with six of the nine regular-season tournaments complete. The circuit will now be off until mid-August, when it will reconvene at the smallmouth-laden St. Lawrence River in Waddington, N.Y.

Hartman, a third-year pro who missed most of the 2018 campaign due to a back ailment, has now logged eight single-digit finishes in 22 career outings on the Elite Series. He had five as a rookie in 2017.



B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Chris Zaldain caught some big fish on day 4, but missed several others.

He collected the vast majority of his day-4 weight in the first half-hour as he scored repeatedly on a bone-colored topwater walking bait. That haul included a 6 1/2-pounder.

"It never crossed my mind that I was going to win I was 7 pounds back," he said. "I was just trying to move up and get in the top 5.

"I made three good culls later in the day. Two were on the topwater and then in the last hour or whatever I went and fished a deep school; I graphed over them and they were there, and they hadn't been there earlier. The wind blowing in set them back up and I caught a 4-04. That was the one that sealed the deal."

Both Zaldain and Arey lost multiple quality bites, any of which would've propelled them to victory. Zaldain's heartbreakers occurred at the end of the day.

"It was disgusting now that I've had a couple hours to think about it," Zaldain said. "The last 10 minutes were like the craziest thing ever. Every two or three casts one would get a piece of that spoon, but a lot of them were slapping at it. One of the 4-pounders I caught I foul-hooked in the top of the head."

The isolated "mini-ledge" that had carried him through the first three days was completely unproductive in the strong wind.

"I scrapped that and went and did some swimjig stuff just to fill a limit. Then late in the day, when I was only 4 miles from the ramp, it was game on, but they didn't come to the boat. That happens with a big spoon a lot of times they'll slap at it, but no other bait gets that reaction."

Arey farmed several bites that were in excess of 3 pounds and was forced to weigh a pair of 2 3/4-pounders. He went through about 20 keepers for the day and his biggest fish was a 4 1/2-pounder.

"I honestly feel like I made the right decisions today when the wind kept me out of some places I wanted to fish," he said. "I had the bites to put it away, but I didn't put them in the boat it wasn't my time."

Most of his key bites came on a crankbait; he'd primarily used a crankbait on previous days.

B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

The wind prevented Matt Arey from fishing some of his best places on day 4.

"With nobody on the lake (compared to the weekend), that allowed the fish to group up a little tighter. In my experience, you can usually trigger then with a crankbait when that happens."

Sumrall has been on a nice roll after starting the season with four straight bottom-pack finishes. This was his third straight of 24th or better.

"It's always good to have these little upticks," he said. "These last three tournaments were the ones I least expected to do well in."

He fished far shallower than anybody else in the top 10 his fish came from 1 to 2 feet of water.

"It didn't really come together until the first day of the tournament. I was on the outside grass flipping around the stuff that wasn't matted, then I started flipping mats in the event and they were fresh fish.

He caught approximately 20 keepers on day 4, including a 6-pounder. He had a mechanical issue that cost him about an hour of fishing time.

Herren also pulled his fish from the grass (along with a few that were utilizing docks). He caught 10 keepers on day 4 and his stringer was highlighted by a 4 1/2-pounder.

"It was a good tournament overall, but you're never happy when you get this close and don't win," he said. "Some poor execution cost me this tournament every day I was losing one, two or three fish in that grass. They were just pulling off, but that's part of dropping grass.

"You've got to fish clean in these or else guys can catch 23 pounds on the last day and win the tournament."

Day 4 (Final) Standings

1. Jamie Hartman -- Newport, NY -- 20, 79-10 -- 100 -- $100,000
Day 1: 5, 14-13 -- Day 2: 5, 20-10 -- Day 3: 5, 20-04 -- Day 4: 5, 23-15

2. -Chris Zaldain -- Fort Worth, TX -- 20, 79-04 -- 99 -- $25,000
Day 1: 5, 17-03 -- Day 2: 5, 19-13 -- Day 3: 5, 23-10 -- Day 4: 5, 18-10

3. Matt Arey -- Shelby, NC -- 20, 79-04 -- 98 -- $20,000
Day 1: 5, 22-10 -- Day 2: 5, 21-06 -- Day 3: 5, 18-13 -- Day 4: 5, 16-07

4. Caleb Sumrall -- New Iberia, LA -- 20, 77-10 -- 97 -- $15,000
Day 1: 5, 20-02 -- Day 2: 5, 16-10 -- Day 3: 5, 20-13 -- Day 4: 5, 20-01

5. Matt Herren -- Ashville, AL -- 20, 77-07 -- 96 -- $15,000
Day 1: 5, 18-11 -- Day 2: 5, 20-11 -- Day 3: 5, 19-12 -- Day 4: 5, 18-05

6. Chad Pipkens -- Lansing, MI -- 20, 76-10 -- 95 -- $15,000
Day 1: 5, 18-04 -- Day 2: 5, 18-05 -- Day 3: 5, 20-11 -- Day 4: 5, 19-06

7. Lee Livesay -- Gladewater, TX -- 20, 72-11 -- 94 -- $15,000
Day 1: 5, 20-08 -- Day 2: 5, 15-14 -- Day 3: 5, 22-06 -- Day 4: 5, 13-15

8. Hank Cherry Jr -- Lincolnton, NC -- 20, 72-03 -- 93 -- $15,000
Day 1: 5, 21-06 -- Day 2: 5, 17-15 -- Day 3: 5, 17-06 -- Day 4: 5, 15-08

9. Brandon Lester -- Fayetteville, TN -- 20, 72-00 -- 92 -- $15,000
Day 1: 5, 22-00 -- Day 2: 5, 21-07 -- Day 3: 5, 14-13 -- Day 4: 5, 13-12

10. Kelley Jaye -- Dadeville, AL -- 20, 71-05 -- 91 -- $15,000
Day 1: 5, 14-09 -- Day 2: 5, 24-12 -- Day 3: 5, 17-12 -- Day 4: 5, 14-04