April on Lake Hartwell can be some of the best fishing anywhere. This year the water temperature was almost perfect for the fish to hit the banks, but everyone local to the Lake knew that, too! Boat traffic is always a concern: there was a big boat tournament (BFL) going out of Tugaloo State Park with 100+ boats, and there’s always a handful of smaller tournaments on Hartwell every weekend from March till November.
The April tournament was opened up to the entire lake, and any public access was allowed as a launch site. Hartwell is a big lake, so this was a draw to a lot of people; even the fishermen not local to Lake Hartwell had a chance to pre-fish and find spots that they could have all to themselves. As with any tournament, most of the guys were pretty tight lipped about the pre-fishing they had done - but the general consensus was the fish were biting pretty good.
The morning of the tournament I awoke to the sound of rain on the windows, but from the sound, it was a light rain at most. I quickly packed up the remaining items I needed for the tournament and got an early start towards our check-in location, Lake Hartwell Fishing and Marine, the tackle shop that was more than happy to let us use their side parking lot. I got there around 5:30am and quickly set up as the rain let up for a few minutes. Being early for once I had some time, so I took a quick trip around inside the shop (which is hard since they have just about everything) for some last minute odds and ends.
When I came back to the truck Scott Cargile, owner of OnlineTireDeals.com, was pulling up. I was really glad to see him early, as we had time to talk over a few things related to his sponsorship of the Tournament Trail. Scott has jumped into our trail wholeheartedly, and has really offered up some great prizes! At the end of the Trail, each participant will have their name entered for each of the tournaments they attended, for a chance to win a $500 gift voucher to OnlineTireDeals.com! In addition to the voucher, Scott is also supplying the “OnlineTireDeals.com Lure of the Month.” Each month, this prize will be awarded in a different way. I mean this is supposed fun, right? It’s not all just about winning or losing!
As we were talking, people started rolling in, and it was clear that the rain and cooler temps had not kept everyone inside and away from the lake. By the time everyone had registered and gotten their identifier, the total count was twenty, including a couple guys who were running late but made it before the 7am cut off. At around 6:45am everybody headed off in all directions, while I talked to a few of the guys that were like me, in no hurry, as we were fishing at a location only about ten minutes away.
By the time we arrived at the ramp, the rain had slowed some and the winds were light. I got on the water fast as I could, and paddled to the back of the cove to avoid the wind that had picked back up. Fishing seemed to be slow. I didn’t have a bite until around 12:30pm, and then hit two fish in two casts. That was on my way back to ramp, and I didn’t have a whole lot of time to go back over the ground I had already covered. It was clear to me that the fish were not affected by the cold front as much as I was. I loaded up and headed back to the store, arriving early because I knew a few of the guys had plans for the evening and they would have to leave early.
When I got back to the store, I went inside to see how the BFL tourney was going - if the fishing had been tough for the bass boat guys, too. The reports coming in said the fishing had been pretty good, but the winning weight would probably be around 15lb. This made me optimistic that our guys had gotten on the fish and the weigh in would the best of the year so far. I got set up and ready for everybody to start coming in to the weigh in, hoping to see some good fish and a whole lot of limits. As everybody came in, we started to judge and it was apparent that some had a good day and others (like me) didn’t. As we were compiling the totals, another one of our great sponsors came up to see the days catch. Jacob Brock, owner of Antlers Wild Taxidermy, has agreed to do something I’ve never seen in a tournament trail. The angler with the biggest fish of the whole trail will have that fish mounted, free of charge! This is a great prize and all the guys fishing the trail seemed to be very excited about it.
It was time to announce the winners to the crowd along with the winner of the OnlineTireDeals.com Lure of the Month prize.
First place went (for the second time in two months) to Brad Knight, a member of the Hobie Fishing Team and a Grady’s Great Outdoors Pro-Staff. With his total of 86”, his winnings included $200, YakAttack “GTLS90” polymer GearTracs, SHObaits Gift Certificate, and with the biggest fish of the day, a 21.5” toad, he also won the YakCity/Lake Wylie Bait and Tackle Big Fish $50 Gift Card along with the $100 Big fish pot! A very profitable day for Brad!
Second place went to a guy who has only fished a few tournaments from a kayak, but is one heck of a fisherman: Kou Moua! His total for the day was 74.5”, which won him $120, along with a SHObaits Gift Certificate and YakAttack GTLS90 polymer GearTracs. Very big congrats to Kou - he helps to prove that tournaments are worth a try by anybody that enjoys fishing from a kayak.
Third place was won by another guy new to the tournament scene, Grayson Brewster. Grayson’s total for the day was 71.75” and worked hard for it with a hand in a cast that I’m sure was broken! Grayson left with $80 and Grady’s Prize Pack!
There was one more prize to give away, and we had to come up with a way to award it. It was decided that the OnlineTireDeals Lure of the Month would be awarded by a random drawing of the couple of people that had come up empty for the day. The winner was Will Yang, one of the guys that has helped make this trail what it is. He and his group, the Hmong Fishing Club, have been very supportive of our trail. We look forward to seeing them at every event; they have become a great group of friends.
I would like to thank all of our sponsors. With their support, this has been a great year so far and I look for it to get better and better as the year continues.