Top Military Anglers set to battle on Lake Hartwell

ANDERSON, S.C. – The top military anglers from across the nation head to Lake Hartwell to compete for prizes and bragging rights as the 32nd annual Military Team Bass Tournament, presented by American Bass Anglers and Caymas Boats, gets ready to roll.

“We are so excited to host the American Bass Anglers Military Team Championship at Green Pond Landing and Lake Hartwell,” said Neil Paul, Executive Director for Visit Anderson (visitanderson.com) in the hosting town of Anderson, S.C. “The leadership of Anderson County has provided us with a facility that is second to none and the resources to be able to bring championship events to our community and we are grateful. In addition, our Anderson County team has a great deal of admiration and respect for our military, both active and retired, and we are excited to provide a first-class event for the anglers, their families, sponsors of the sport, and the ABA team. We look forward to another memorable event in Anderson County!”

The event will run out of the Green Pond Landing, located at 470 Green Pond Road in Anderson. The official practice period began on April 30. Bass anglers, each representing their respective service branch or affiliation, can practice and search for the best fishing spots through May 2. The 3-day event runs from May 3-5. The public is invited to attend the free weigh-ins at Green Pond Landing.

“On behalf of everyone involved with American Bass Anglers, I welcome all the competitors who will participate in this special tournament,” stated Morris Sheehan, ABA President. “Of all the events we run each year, we always look forward to this special event the most. This is our way of saying thanks to all who have served or are currently serving this great nation. We owe so much to our military members, their families, and those who support them. Each one sacrificed so much for all of us. Thanks and good luck to everyone. I hope every angler finds big fish and enjoys the spirit of competition and camaraderie that this very special event offers.”

Any active-duty or retired Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Space Force, National Guard, Reserve, or Coast Guard member can participate. In addition, families of military members 16 years old or older who hold Department of Defense identification cards, veterans with an honorable or general discharge who possess a DD-214, and Department of Defense civilians, and military contractors may also compete in this event. Contestants between 16 and 18 years of age must have a parent or guardian's signature prior to entering the tournament.

Lake Hartwell covers about 56,000 acres on the Savannah River, which spans the border between Georgia and South Carolina. One of three large reservoirs on the Savannah River, Lake Hartwell offers anglers more than 962 miles of shoreline to fish. The Savannah River formed with the confluence of the Tugaloo and Seneca Rivers, now submerged beneath the waters of Lake Hartwell.

“Lake Hartwell is a very large lake with more shoreline miles than any other lake in South Carolina,” advised Hunter Bond, a bass pro from Pendleton, S.C. who fishes several tournament trails. “It has many long creeks and rivers leading into it. We’ve had a lot of rain lately, so the lake is high. Water temperatures have been in the high 60s to low 70s. There’s a lot of muddy water in the lake, but if people could find some stained, not muddy water, they could do well. Without any significant weather hitting, the lake level should start dropping by tournament time.”

The entire system can produce giant largemouth bass with some fish exceeding 16 pounds. The lake also holds good numbers of spotted bass up to five pounds. The Tugaloo River contains many shallow coves and sandy flats that provide good places to fish for spotted bass.

“This lake can produce some 10-pound largemouth at this time of year,” Bond commented. “With a lot of fish already in post-spawn patterns, I think the tournament big bass will be in the 7- to 8-pound range. Some people in this tournament will catch some big bags, in the 18- to 21-pound range. Anglers who can consistently bring in 15- to 16-pound bags each day will be in great shape. It’s all about consistency. Some people might catch a big bag one day, but not the next.”

Spotted bass spawn a little earlier than largemouth. Bond believes most of the spotted bass already spawned and moved into their post-spawn patterns. Many left the rivers and creeks and moved back out into the main lake. That doesn’t mean people can’t catch them. They just need to look for them.

“Since this is a 3-day tournament, I would focus on targeting larger spotted bass,” Bond recommended. “By the time the tournament begins, most spotted bass will have already spawned, so people will need to look for post-spawn fish. For spotted bass, I recommend looking for herring spawning on long clay points. Lake Hartwell doesn’t have much of a shad spawn, but people might find some way up the river. Herring is the bait that bass target right now.”

A saltwater species similar to an alewife, blueback herring spawn in fresh water. When spawning, they attach their sticky eggs to rocks, gravel, stumps, and other hard objects. Several decades ago, herring entered many lakes in Georgia and South Carolina where they thrived and multiplied. Now, the protein-rich fish also called blueback shad make prime forage for both largemouth and spotted bass. Blueback herring breed rapidly and can grow to about 16 inches long, which can partially account for the large size of many bass found in this reservoir. Find the herring and anglers should find the bass. 

“If the wind blows strong during the tournament, I would throw spinnerbaits or swimbaits,” Bond remarked. “Early in the morning, I would throw topwaters, like a Heddon Zara Spook or a Lucky Craft Gunfish in chrome or bone colors. Those colors imitate herring and spots really love herring. On overcast days, throw a bone color. On bright days, throw chrome. The topwater bite will drop off toward the middle of the day. If people could find some good offshore spots with bigger largemouths, that would help.”

Largemouth already began spawning and should continue spawning through the end of May. With the full moon coming on May 5, anglers might find some big spawning largemouth on the beds, but also look for a backup plan.

“People who find some big largemouth on the beds could do very well, but I wouldn’t rely upon that to happen all three days,” Bond said. “Bream beds might be another place to look for big bass. Some bluegill already started bedding up the creeks. As more bluegill start bedding, more largemouth and spots will move in to eat them.”

For fishing the bream beds, Bond recommends slowing down the presentation to keep a bait in the strike zone longer. He suggests throwing a weightless Senko or a wacky-rigged worm and let it slowly sink just outside the bream beds. Hungry post-spawn bass commonly move up from the depths to attack bream on the beds. 

“A skirted jig is another good option for fishing bream beds,” Bond stated. “A Pop-R is another good choice. A buzzbait with a Horny Toad on the back of it would also be a good choice, especially early in the morning. Later in the day, I’d try to find some cane or brush piles in deeper water. People can also catch some fish by rocks around bridges.”

Crappie and bass anglers created numerous brush piles throughout the system. Some use cane instead of brush. With hard exteriors, cane usually lasts longer in the water than brush. Bass gather around the piles to eat crappie, bluegills and other fish that tend to stay near the piles. Anglers can probe these deep piles with various jigs, worms or other soft plastics for big fish. 

“Just because someone is catching smaller spotted bass, that doesn’t mean there aren’t larger ones in the area,” Bond explained. “This is a very bait-specific lake. Change baits to see what works best. When fishing a long clay point, find out where the herring are sitting. Lately, they have been in about six feet of water, but they will move up shallower. Anglers might be throwing baits in six feet of water, but the big bass are in one to two feet of water.”

For fishing Lake Hartwell, Bond also recommends moving frequently. He usually doesn’t sit on one spot for more than 10 minutes without catching a fish. Some days, he fishes more than 100 spots, but not all different ones. He might return to his favorite honey holes several times a day during a tournament.

For supplies and information, Bond also recommends visiting Lake Hartwell Fishing and Marine, located at 5365 Highway 24 in Anderson. People can find them on Facebook. Sometimes, local anglers post fishing reports on Facebook and other social media. For local information, call (864) 716-3660 or see visitanderson.com.

In 1975, the Military Bass Anglers Association was formed. This organization dedicated itself to providing bass anglers in the military opportunities to compete in tournaments with other military members. The Military Team Bass Tournament began in 1991 as a way to promote fishing and camaraderie among all the service branches.

In 2000, Morris Sheehan, a life member of MBAA who retired from the U.S. Army, bought the organization. He renamed it American Bass Anglers Inc., and relocated it to Athens, Ala. The Military Team Bass Tournament brings all service branches together for a fun-filled week of competition and ultimate annual service bragging rights.

Schedule of Events

Official Practice Days: April 29 - May 2, 2023, ending at 3 pm

Official Tournament Days: May 3-5, 2023

Lake: Lake Hartwell, Anderson, SC

Marina/Launch Site: Green Pond Landing 470 Green Pond Rd, Anderson, SC 29625

Off-limits: None (or as applied by the tournament director)

On-Site Registration â€“ May 2nd - On-site registration is mandatory. (UPDATED)
3:00 pm to 5:00 pm 

5:30 pm – Dinner
6:30 pm – Mandatory Safety Briefing
Location: Hilton Garden Inn of Anderson 
Address: 115 Destination Boulevard, Anderson, SC, 29621

Tournament Days:
May 3 – Wednesday –  Launch at safe light – Weigh-in at 3:00 pm 
May 4 – Thursday – Launch at safe light – Weigh-in at 3:00 pm
May 5 – Friday – Launch at safe light – Weigh-in at 2:00 pm 

American Bass Anglers is sponsored by Caymas Boats, Mercury Marine, MotorGuide, T-H Marine, Power Pole, RT Outdoors, Optima Batteries, Hotel Planner.com, and LurePartsOnline.com.

About American Bass Anglers: American Bass Anglers is committed to providing low-cost, close-to-home tournaments for the weekend angler and, at the same time, offering each competitor an upward path for individual angler progression.

For more information about American Bass Anglers, the Open Series, the American Fishing Tour, the American Couples Series, the annual Military Team Bass Tournament, and the Top 150 Solo Tour, all presented by Caymas Boats, visit www.americanbassanglers.com or call (256) 232-0406.

This story was written by ABA staff writer John N. Felsher. To submit articles of interest email info@americanbassanglers.com.

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© 2018 American Bass Anglers MBAA Since 1975 - All Rights Reserved American Bass Anglers, Inc Logos and other data within this website is the property of American Bass Anglers, Inc and may not be copied or reproduced without express permission of American Bass Anglers, Inc. American Bass Anglers, Inc PO Box 475 Athens, AL 35612 email: call us 256-232-0406. This web site is provided by ABA and resides on a server with 99.99% up time.

© 2018 American Bass Anglers MBAA Since 1975 - All Rights Reserved American Bass Anglers, Inc Logos and other data within this website is the property of American Bass Anglers, Inc and may not be copied or reproduced without express permission of American Bass Anglers, Inc. American Bass Anglers, Inc PO Box 475 Athens, AL 35612 email: call us 256-232-0406. This web site is provided by ABA and resides on a server with 99.99% up time.