By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Native New Yorker Jamie Hartman spent much of his life within a two-hour drive of Cayuga Lake and had competed there many times over the past decade and a half, but didn't have many accolades to show for it. He even lists Cayuga as his "least favorite lake" on his BassFan profile (attached below).
A couple of top-6 finishes in BFLs in 2011-12 were the highlights from his time on the venue.
"It's been my nemesis," he said. "Many times I had incredible practices and just horrible tournaments."
A lot of those bad memories of the place were washed away on Sunday as he claimed his second Bassmaster Elite Series victory of the season at Cayuga. Back-to-back bags weighing more than 22 pounds allowed him to eclipse Jeff Gustafson, who'd led after days 2 and 3, by 10 ounces.
He averaged just over 20 pounds per day, finishing with an 80-13 total. It was his ninth single-digit placement in just 24 career Elite Series starts and he joined Brandon Cobb as two-time winners this year.
Following are some specifics on how Hartman approached a venue that was familiar to him, but which he previously didn't hold in high regard.
Had to Go Green
Hartman's lone objective during the three-day practice period was to locate the best grass on Cayuga.
"The lake was weirded out because of the long winter, cold spring and high water," he said. "The weather was horrible all spring – no sunshine, constant rain – and it put things way behind."
Good-looking grass was relatively easy to find in the southern end of the lake and he pinpointed a few stretches that were teeming with quality fish.
"It was like taking candy from a baby, it was so easy, but something happened before the first day of the tournament and they weren't there like they had been. Luckily I'd found a place on the north end where I'd caught one fish, so I settled into that area and started dissecting it.
"It was really in the middle of nowhere. There's really no contour on the north end, but 13 feet is the depth I like this time of year and I was able to find grass in that range. It was probably only 200 yards long, if that, and 60 to 70 yards wide. It was mostly coontail with a little bit of eelgrass mixed in with it. It wasn't superb, but there weren't a lot of places on the lake you could say that about."
> Day 1: 5, 16-14
> Day 2: 5, 19-09
> Day 3: 5, 22-02
> Day 4: 5, 22-04
> Total = 20, 80-13
A dropshot rig and two crankbaits produced all of Hartman's weigh-in fish for the event. He couldn't see holes or other irregularities in the grass, so he made random pitches with the long-leadered dropshot, covering as much of the grass as he could. He made long casts with a medium-diving crankbait to tick the tops of the grass, which rose 7 or 8 feet from the bottom, and made more precise throws with a deeper-diving model.
Hartman employed a combination of dropshotting and cranking to average a little over 20 pounds per day.
The 36 1/2 pounds he caught over the first two days kept him in contention, but not among the leaders. He joined that fray with the deep-water bite toughened in the third round and his day-best stringer moved him up 12 places to 4th. That bag was highlighted by a 6 1/2-pounder he caught late in the day after venturing off his main area.
His second catch of the final day was a bruiser of that same size and set the tone for his victory rally. His stringer, the biggest of the day by almost two pounds, also contained a 4 1/2-pounder and a trio of heavy 3s.
With a big crowd cheering him on at the weigh-in in Union Springs, N.Y., he took the lead with three anglers still remaining in the bag line. He held off Seth Feider and Chris Zaldain, and then exulted when Gustafson came up a little more than half a pound short.
"I dug myself a big hole on day 1, but I put my head down and kept grinding," he said. "This is what I've worked so hard for.
"A lot of it came down to patience – I knew when I picked the dropshot up that this thing was going to take time. The fish weren't bunched up at all and I had to pick the whole place apart. I could catch a couple of good ones and then go hours without another bite, and that's the way it was every day."
Winning Gear Notes
> Dropshot gear: 7'4" medium-heavy Cashion John Crews Signature Series dropshot rod, Shimano Stradic 2500 spinning reel, 10-pound HI-SEAS braided line (fluorescent yellow), 10-pound HI-SEAS 100% Fluorocarbon leader, 2/0 Owner All-Purpose worm hook, 3/8- or 1/2-ounce cylindrical dropshot weight, Riot Baits Synth (green-pumpkin/neon).
> He increased or decreased his weight depending on the intensity of the wind.
> He dyed the tail of the Synth chartreuse to enhance the neon effect.
> Cranking gear: 7'6" medium-action Cashion DD rod, Lew's BB1 Pro casting reel (6.2:1 ratio), 15-pound HI-SEAS 100% Fluorocarbon, out-of-production medium- and deep-diving crankbaits (shad).
Much of the tackle referenced above is available at the BassFan Store. To browse the selection, click here..