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Lake Hartwell Crowns Repeat Bassmaster Classic Winner

History is repeating itself in the world of professional freshwater bass fishing. The Bassmaster Classic fishing tournament, known as the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing returned to South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell for the second time in three years, after the 2015 event. Then angler Jordan Lee of Alabama, won the 2018 Bassmaster Classic weigh-in in downtown Greenville, defending his 2017 title from Lake Conroe in Texas and becoming a back-to-back champion. Lee started fishing on the Carhartt collegiate series, became a pro on the bassmaster series in 2015, and the 2018 Bassmaster Classic win brings his career earnings past one million dollars.

The best freshwater bass anglers come from all around the country, with a strong contingent of young men from the Southeast, to compete in the Bassmaster Classic. The fact that the B.A.S.S. organization chose to return to Greenville, S.C. again shows the respect they have for the fishery at Lake Hartwell. That first tourney ended with S.C. native Casey Ashley winning the 2015 Bassmaster Classic, and Ashley competed again this year, but did not weigh enough bass to claim a second title on home waters. When Ashley was on stage during Saturday’s weigh-in he urged the hometown crowd to cheer hard for all of the visiting anglers on Sunday.

There was little drama after Day One fishing on Friday, and Day Two fishing on Saturday with angler Jason Christie of Oklahoma weighing in the heaviest bag of bass both days. All Christie would have to do is go out on Sunday and add another solid bag of bass to his weight total and he might claim his first ever Bassmaster Classic title. While a few anglers were in striking distance of Christie, Jordan Lee started Day Three in sixth place, and was just sort of hanging around after a lackluster Day One bag of bass.

“I went in the back of one little pocket of Lake Hartwell on Sunday and the water temperature was 57-degrees,” said Lee. “I caught a fish, and then it turned out there were bass under every dock in there.” Despite losing a big bass while fishing this cove, he managed to bring enough to the weigh-in to claim the title. Christie finished in third place and pro angler Brent Ehrler finished n second place. “Just like last year, I never thought I was going to win this tournament, but I just decided to go fishing my way, and then the pieces have to fall into place,” said Lee. His 2018 winning weight total for three days was 47-pounds 1-ounce.

After attending the 2015 Bassmaster Classic I knew to expect large crowds and a big production during the weigh in at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville. The pro anglers actually drive through the arena with their bass boats towed behind full-sized Toyota trucks, since the automaker is one of the corporate sponsors. Anglers remove their bass from the livewell on the boat and take it onto a stage for a quick weigh-in, with the fish often squirming about on the scale. When the bass anglers raise up a couple of bass for the packed house of spectators, it’s easy to see why the B.A.S.S. fan base is rock solid.

The Bassmaster Classic also brings a three-day Outdoor Expo to town for family fun, held at the TD Convention Center in Greenville. For those looking to buy anything from a bass boat to a bass fishing lure, this expo is sure to please. Only the top 25 pro anglers go fishing on Sunday at the Classic, so many of them go to the Expo on Sunday to support their sponsors and to meet and greet their fans, always happy to make a photo or sign an autograph. It’s interesting to see how many fans purchase and wear a bass fishing jersey just like the ones the pros wear, similar to the apparel market for other professional sports.

The future of the Bassmaster series looks very bright from all angles, and this worldwide authority on bass fishing is also celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018. Fan favorite, S.C. resident and Bassmaster Classic legend Hank Parker rallied the fans on Sunday during the weigh-in with a casting clinic and interaction with a fan. The fact that fishing for freshwater bass reaches across all demographics and inspires all sorts of anglers to cast a lure into their local lake is a good thing for the heritage of fishing and sets a positive example for others to follow.

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (360 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com