ANDERSON, S.C. — As a resident of Upstate South Carolina, Lowell Brannan has spent many days on Lake Hartwell. But the two days he spent fishing the Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series powered by TourneyX might have been his best two yet.
With a two-day total of 183.5 inches — 92 inches on Day 1 and 91.5 on Day 2 — Brannan secured the victory on his home waters. Jamie Koza finished second with 181.25 inches and Tom Kazmierski finished third with 180.5.
Along with a beautiful blue trophy, Brannan earned $10,000.
“I’m really at a loss for words,” he said. “I felt like I could do well at Hartwell, but I never really thought I could win it because it is so inconsistent. It means a lot to me. I have won on Hartwell before, but not on this level. To compete with these guys and gals and to come away with a trophy means a lot.”
Knowing most of the field was going to hunt for spawning bass in the shallows, Brannan decided to stay on the main lake and target spotted bass that were keying on the blueback herring spawn that is getting underway.
Using a Luhr Jensen Speed Trap squarebill and a 3-inch swimbait, he slowly and methodically worked his way around a specific set of points, including some that were just bare clay. Then on the final day, Brannan noticed that points with bigger boulders were the most productive.
“I went with a more consistent pattern,” he said. “I would rake them over with a squarebill crankbait and get the fish sort of stirred up. If they bite it, good. If they didn’t, I would go back over it with the swimbait.”
The first day of the tournament was calm and sunny. But when storms and wind moved in on the final day, Brannan said the 360 Drive on his Hobie Pro Angler 14 was crucial for getting perfect boat positioning in less-than-ideal conditions.
While many anglers will shy away from where bass boats have just fished, Brannan used the boat traffic to his advantage. When the boats would crank up and go, he would quickly move to where they just left and usually end up catching a couple of bass.
“There is a lot of boat pressure here,” he said. “I choose my windows and when the boats take off, I shoot over there as fast as I can. A lot of the boaters fish the points wrong. They bring the boat right up on the point before they come off plane.
“They spook a lot of the fish. Then they power up there with the trolling motor, spin around a couple of times and take off. What they have done is scattered all that bait. As soon as they leave, the bait is trying to get back together on the point and that is when the bass come in and attack them.”
Although the idea was to catch spotted bass, some largemouth were mixed in.
“A lot of people want to fish Hartwell super fast,” he explained. “They feel like that is the only way the spotted bass will bite. Sometimes if you slow the approach, the largemouth will cruise through there sort of lazy and eat the herring the spotted bass have injured.”
On Day 1, the bite was consistent and he was able to catch around 25 bass throughout the day to cull to 92 inches with his best five. Sunday was a little slower, but he still caught close to 15 bass, including a 20.25-inch largemouth.
North Carolina angler Jeremy Heath caught a 25-inch behemoth largemouth on the final day to take home the Big Bass of the Tournament award.
All 163 competitors this week earned points toward the Dakota Lithium Angler of the Year race. Those standings will be updated on Bassmaster.com later this week.