By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
It took Jamie Hartman a while to figure out exactly what he needed to be doing at last week's Lake Guntersville Bassmaster Elite Series. Once the third-year pro got dialed in, he staged the type of victory rally that's rarely seen in stacked-weigh events.
He wasn't on anybody's radar until day 3, when he caught his second straight 20-pound stringer to squeak into the top 10 of the standings and advance to the final round. Then, on an overcast, windy day, he caught a bag that was more than 4 1/2 pounds heavier than anyone else could muster to leapfrog the nine competitors who'd begun the day in front of him.
It was the first tour-level victory for the 46-year-old Arkansas resident and native New Yorker who pretty much sold everything he possessed (other than fishing stuff) three years ago in a quest to forge a career as a pro angler. He'd compiled a slew of high finishes prior to last week, but had yet to collect his first six-figure paycheck. Few doubt that there will be more to come.
Following are some of the details of his Guntersville triumph.
This was Hartman's first tournament at Guntersville. He'd never been on the lake prior to a pre-practice visit in April.
"All I did was idle and look for 2 days – I never wet a line," he said. "It helped me quite a bit because it showed me how the lake set up and basically where I could run and where I couldn't or shouldn't.
"I learned a lot in two 12-hour days just running around and graphing places that I thought had potential. A couple of them paid off in the tournament."
When he got back for official practice, he had the Lowrance C-Map chip in his depthfinder.
"That had way more detail – stuff that was there, like ditch mouths, creek swings and points – and stuff that wasn't there. I'd gotten in just a few days before I went down there and I spent about 4 hours in my driveway just studying stuff."
He found the place that would become his primary locale on his first day back. He described it as a nondescript cutout in the grass that contained a small shelf and his theory is that bass were pushing gizzard shad onto the shelf and gorging on them.
The cutout was no bigger than 10 yards wide and 10 yards deep. He doesn't know exactly how deep the water was on top of the shelf because he never ran all the way up to it, but his casts suggested that it was no more than 3 feet.
He also found two offshore schools of fish during practice that dispersed during the event. One of them regrouped on day 4, however, likely due to the weather conditions, and it surrendered the fish that gave him his margin of victory.
> Day 1: 5, 14-13
> Day 2: 5, 20-10
> Day 3: 5, 20-04
> Day 4: 5, 23-15
> Total = 20, 79-10
Hartman weighed a mediocre bag on day 1 that left him in 46th place and it took him until midway through day 2 for him to realize that he needed to abandon the offshore stuff and focus exclusively on the grass. Of the 15 fish he weighed on days 2 through 4, 11 came from his small cutout.
He did a fair amount of flipping/punching with a Riot Baits Fuzzy Beaver on a 1 1/4-ounce weight and also mixed in a Carolina rig, a Pop-R, a dropshot rig and a football-head jig.
"Giving up the deep bite was the biggest thing because that kept hurting me," he said. "I pushed it a lot on the first 2 days and I pushed it again on day 3, but I switched earlier that day.
"I never had a flipping stick tied up and didn't even have the right rods with me – I had to use Carolina-rig rods as flipping sticks. I basically started over in the grass at the end of day 2 when I went shallower and started flipping mats and got bit right away. That turned the whole tournament around for me."
His back-to-back 20-pound stringers moved him up 36 places in the standings and he edged out Seth Feider for the last final-round berth by 2 ounces. Still not considered a major threat when day 4 got under way (he was more than 7 pounds behind leader Matt Arey and had eight other anglers ahead of him), he began the day with an hour for the ages.
Throwing a bone-colored topwater walking bait, he amassed 21 pounds from the cutout before 7:30 a.m. His haul included a 6 1/2-pounder, which inhaled the bait halfway back to Hartman's boat after he'd jerked on a slightly smaller specimen that boiled on it and had it briefly.
"It was absolutely amazing," he said. "I've had good days in other events, but I'd never had one in an Elite event play out like that. To be that far back (in the standings) and then just crack them in the first hour, it was the best morning I've had.
"They were so compacted in that little stretch. I'd cast a little bit upstream or downstream and wouldn't get bit, then I'd fire back into the hot hole and catch another one."
He caught a few more fish there on the Carolina rig and football jig after the topwater frenzy subsided. Still, he needed the deep one at the end of the day to hold off Chris Zaldain and Matt Arey, who tied for 2nd (6 ounces behind him).
"I stopped, came off pad and looked at the StructureScan and I could see they were back. They were bigger than they were in practice – I could tell that right off my screen."
He enticed a 4 1/4-pounder with the football jig to complete his improbable charge.
Winning Gear Notes
> Flipping gear: 7'6" medium-heavy Cashion rod, Shimano Chronarch casting reel (8:1 ratio), 65-pound Hi-Seas braided line, 1 1/4-ounce punching weight, 5/0 Owner Jungle Hook, Riot Baits Fuzzy Beaver (blue steel).
> Topwater gear: 7' medium-heavy Cashion rod, same reel, 30-pound Hi-Seas braided line (main line), 20-pound Hi-Seas 100% fluorocarbon (10" leader), unnamed topwater walking bait (bone).
> Carolina rig gear: 7'6" medium-heavy Cashion rod, same reel, 20-pound Hi-Seas 100% fluorocarbon (main line and 18" leader), 1/4-ounce worm weight, barrel swivel, 4/0 Owner hook, fluke-style bait (watermelon).
> Jig gear: 7'3" medium-heavy Cashion rod, same reel, 20-pound Hi-Seas 100% fluorocarbon line, 3/4-ounce custom-made football-head jig (green-pumpkin), Riot Baits "R" Craw (green-pumpkin).
> Dropshot gear: 7'4" medium-heavy Cashion rod, Shimano Stradic spinning reel, 10-pound Hi-Seas braided line (main line), 12-pound Hi-Seas 100% fluorocarbon (10' leader), 1/0 Owner All-Purpose worm hook, 3/8-ounce pencil weight, 4 3/4" Riot Baits Synth (morning dawn).
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