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Prepping to tackle Lake Hartwell

This is officially the worst winter ever! That is the only way I can describe it in a non-offensive way.

Over the past weekend, my parents sent me a photo of the seven-foot tall snow banks in their front yard. It’s depressing.

Down in South Carolina, where I am this week getting ready for the second FLW Tour bass tournament of the year at Lake Hartwell, we are feeling the effects of the cold weather from up north.

For our first day of practice on Sunday, temperatures were great (at around plus 20 Celsius). But on Monday, it was down to just plus four when I pulled my boat out at dark.

And as I finished this column early yesterday morning before my last day of practice, it was minus-five! I know it’s not the minus-30 everybody is dealing with back home but it’s cold on the water!

My feeling going into this tournament is that it’s going to be one of the toughest I’ve ever fished in. The practice has not been great; in fact, it’s been a battle to catch a five-fish limit every day so I’m not sure what to expect.

In the areas that I have caught fish, I basically catch one and move on, so I’m not sure if any of the places I’m planning to fish have groups of fish around them or not.

Hartwell is a good lake but it doesn’t seem to be showing its true colours this week, likely due to the wild weather. It makes it hard for me because I have never fished here before and everything looks so good.

Since the bite is off, I feel like I could be fishing through good areas and just not getting any bites. I need to fish relatively fast so that I can cover some water and find fish, but the fish just seem to be in a sluggish mood.

This lake has populations of both spotted bass and largemouth. “Spots” are a lot like smallmouths in that they like deeper water and they are very similar in attitude, as well.

My strategy has been to spend much of my time looking in deeper water since I think the cold weather will hurt the fishing in the shallow stuff when the tournament starts.

Compounding things is that for the first day of the tournament tomorrow (Thursday), the expected high temperature only is supposed to around plus six C, with rain, so the conditions will be challenging.

But I’m going to fish are hard as I can and hopefully I can put five decent ones in the boat!

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Meanwhile, all the snow piled up at home sure is turning in to quite the aggravation. I had a few guide trips booked for ice-fishing next week that I have cancelled because it’s just going to be too tough to get around and fish where we want to.

I’ll probably need all the free time I have to clean up the snow around home!

I’m going to get out and do some fishing, but it’s tough to guide when there is as much slush as there is because it’s so hard on all the gear.

The good news is the weather looks like it is going to start warming up finally this weekend. Hopefully this will be it for the extreme cold.