Jamie Hartman’s had a couple close ones on the Elites, notably a 2nd and 3rd in 2017, and he had a top 10 (8th) at Hartwell this year. So his time was coming. Here’s how he got his first blue trophy.
> “I practiced everything offshore. I never went to the [shallow] grass…I never did anything around the grass unless it was grass on the main river — ditch mouths, channel swings, that kinda stuff. All stuff those fish should’ve been on the 3rd weekend of June.
> “I did okay — I had 2 schools located.”
> “Day 1 everything felt apart. The lake was a zoo between the locals, other tournaments and competitors. I got in a bad rotation. Everything I wanted to stop on had a boat or 2 on it. I burned so much gas that first day. I know I wasted a lot of time.
> “The 1 school…was going to save it…they were gone. The weather [had changed]…it slicked off, it was really hot — I guess that school was wind-dependent. The deep bite sucked.
> “The next day I went to the shallower spot [he found in practice]…. It was a shelf off the main river, just a cut in the grass. The fish were going up onto it from the main river channel chasing big gizzard shad. I caught a 5.25 in practice there and it spit out a 7” gizzard shad. I made another cast in there and shook another one off.
> “That was my starting spot each day. It didn’t pay off on day 1, but days 2-4 it really paid off. I was sitting in 25′ and it came up to 3-4′.”
> His main rig for that spot was a light Carolina rig with a Fluke-style bait, 7′ 6″ MH Cashion flipping stick and 20-lb Hi-Seas fluoro. He also threw a Pop-R, a football jig and a Spook-style bait there.
Day 2 he started punching mats, which is where/when he caught that 5+:
> “…still ran some of the deep stuff, looking for 1 good bite. With 45 minutes left, I scrapped it all and went to the grass…started punching mats. I picked a stretch that wasn’t getting pressured and started getting bites.
> “I was scouting stuff I’d never fished. I didn’t even have my flipping sticks with me — I’d never intended to use them. Everything I rigged up was for offshore. I usually use a 7′ 11″ to punch mats but I used my 7′ 6” Carolina-rig rods as my flipping sticks…they worked.
> “I was punching main-river grass where it topped out. It wasn’t really matted — wasn’t super-thick. I was staying more toward the edge of it. All my bites were within the first 3′ of river edge. I was sitting in 9-10′ and it probably 4-5′ [where he was fishing].”
He did catch fish deep, notably on day 4:
> “It was a long ridge that ran out…22′, made a turn…creek channel against it. The fish must pull up on that point as soon as the wind blows.
> “The last hour [of day 4], I idled over it on my way back to see if they were there. I came off plane and let the [graph] load. My camera man looks at me and says, ‘Holy crap even I can see those!’ I picked up the football jig and started stroking it — I picked up everything I could throw…. Caught a 4 [on the football jig] with like half an hour to go that was essentially my winning fish.
> “It was easy to get bit with a dropshot, but they’d also bite stroking a football jig.”
> Football jig: 3/4-oz custom football jig (“I have them made”) in gp with a Riot R Craw (gp), 7′ 3″ MH Cashion Rod, 20-lb Hi-Seas fluoro.
> “…2′ on the stroke. I wasn’t really cracking it, it was more of a high hop. If I cracked it, they wouldn’t respond to it that well. But if I made a pretty sharp hop…they’d hit it right then or as soon as it hit the bottom.”
> “I got the Lowrance Alabama C-Map just before the event, and it was a night and day difference from the chip I had in there. It opened up that whole lake. Everything and anything you want to find is on that map now.” He uses HDS Live 16s and 12s.