Bryan New focuses on boat docks to sack up 20 pounds and lead Day 1 of the Bassmaster Classic.
Bryan New said he caught his first and his last fish off boat docks. No exaggeration, as his earliest childhood angling memory foretold the pattern he employed to catch a 5-bass limit of 20 pounds and lead Day 1 of the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic Presented by HUK on Lake Hartwell.
Asked if the Classic might be won on boat docks, the second-year Bassmaster Elite from Saluda, South Carolina, said, "There's a really good chance. A really good chance."
With the week's warming trend loosening fish from their winter offshore patterns and spurring the prespawn movement, Hartwell turned on in a big way. More than half the 55-angler field caught 14 pounds or better and it took 17-1 to make the top-10.
"I really didn't expect this many big weights," New said.
Where He Fished
New held his cards low in terms of his locations, but said he stayed out of the main river arms (Tugaloo and Seneca). New said he fished over 100 docks and caught his better fish on six or seven.
"There are other areas of the lake I didn't fish; maybe that's where all these other big bags are coming from," New said. "I feel like I can do what I did (today) almost all over the lake.
"I did it in one area and I'm going to go back to that area tomorrow. Maybe not the specific places, but the same area."
New said he dialed in a very specific dock scenario. He declined to elaborate, but said he could look at his lake map and pick out promising areas.
"I'm just doing what works for me and I can look at my map and say, 'Yep, yep, yep. Some of those are probably going to work out.'"
"I wasn't catching a bunch of fish on one dock. I probably caught 10-15 fish today."
How He Caught 'Em
A mix of reaction baits and slower presentations accounted for New's fish. It took him a couple of hours to figure out the day's preferences, but once he did, consistency followed.
"I actually fished slower than I expected," New said. "This morning before I got dialed in, I was seeing fish following my bait but not biting it. I finally realized I didn't care if they bit it because they weren't big ones.
"Then I got dialed in a little bit more on the way the big ones bit. I have one primary deal, but I have three other baits in the rotation."
New had his limit by around 9 a.m., but it took him until 1:30 p.m. to collect his leading weight.
New said he's optimistic about replicating his success on Day 2. He may need to expand his area somewhat, but with approximately 56,000 acres, Lake Hartwell offers plenty of opportunity.
"Great big ones live everywhere on this lake," New said. "There's no place where you can't win."
Rest of the Best
Kyle Welcher of Opelika, Alabama, is in second place with 18-13. Covering a lot of area, he fished from the Hartwell Dam to the lake's Seneca River arm.
"I feel like on this lake, there's not a special section that's good, so I'm trying to run the stuff that fits my pattern and I'll run it all over the lake," Welcher said. "I just ran everything I found in practice and started on where I had the best chance of catching a limit and then started run stuff in order all around the lake."
The ideal scenario for Welcher involved brush piles and baitfish--threadfin shad and blueback herring. The forage was most important and Welcher said he found bass on bait schools from 4 feet to 50.
Welcher mixed up his presentations between moving baits and slower techniques. The latter, he said proved most productive.
"I did get into a couple of flurries today, I caught a couple when the wind was blowing," Welcher said. "These flurries were miles apart."
Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Alabama, and Greg Hackney of Gonzalez, Louisiana, are tied for third place at 18-9. Kennedy did most of his work on docks and caught a 6-pound, 7-ounce fish that bit his reaction bait and dropped it before his could set the hook. Following up with a wacky-rigged Senko closed the deal.
Hackney said he was unable to establish consistency and ultimately settled into a junk fishing routine in which he mixed up his presentations with power fishing and finesse tactics. His bag included a 5-pound largemouth and a 4-pound spotted bass.
Brock Mosley of Collinsville, Mississippi, placed fifth with 18-7.
Kennedy leads the Big Bass standings with his 6-7.
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