Keeper No. 5 weighs 2 pounds, 9 ounces. What’s his take on the day so far? “There are a decent number of bass on bed, so I’m going to stay on this pattern and try to increase my weight. Many of these fish are acting funky, like they’re not really locked onto the nest yet, but that could change in a matter of minutes.”
Hartman continues pitching a smorgasbord of lures to the nest, hoping to catch the two larger fish cruising around it. “The fish I just caught was the male, and these other two bigger ones are females. I don’t think they’ve laid their eggs yet.
3 HOURS LEFT
11:06 a.m. Hartman has left the bedding fish and run uplake into a big C-shaped cove rimmed with scattered stumps and laydowns. The water here is murkier. He rotates among his arsenal of bed lures as he covers the shoreline. No spawning beds are evident, however.
11:18 a.m. He moves to a cove with a series of shallow docks, which he probes with the wacky worm, brush hog and jig. A huge fish swims past one of the docks; it’s a carp, not a bass.
11:33 a.m. Hartman runs to a shallow tributary arm peppered with submerged stumps, which he probes with the jig, Little Fuzzy and wacky worm. The water is clearer here, but no beds can be seen.
11:42 a.m. He catches a short fish off a stump on the brush hog.
11:50 a.m. Another flip to a stump. A bass chomps the brush hog; Hartman swings, but the fish shakes loose.
2 HOURS LEFT
11:55 a.m. Fishing his way out of the cove, Hartman spots a couple of empty beds. “There are a lot more active spawners downlake. I’m going to run back there.”
12:12 p.m. Hartman has rocketed back to the cove where he caught his 2-9. He’s located another bed with a keeper on it and is pounding it with the brush hog and wacky worm.
12:16 p.m. The fish is unresponsive, so Hartman moves to the spot where he saw the big fish swim over a sunken log. But it’s nowhere to be seen.
12:23 p.m. Hartman exits the cove and spots a bedding bass close to a submerged stump. The bass bumps his drop-shot worm halfheartedly, then swims off.
12:25 p.m. He moves into another cove he fished earlier and spots a 4 1/2-pounder on a bed. Countless presentations with most of his lure arsenal fail to provoke a bite. “If you’re looking for fast action, bed fishing usually isn’t the best approach.”
12:44 p.m. Hartman has abandoned the contrary spawner and has moved to the cove’s mouth, where he drags the brush hog.
12:48 p.m. Hartman bags his sixth keeper, 1-2, on the brush hog. It’s no help to his weight total.
1 HOUR LEFT
12:55 p.m. Hartman rockets back to the bed with multiple bass on it. He starts with the drop-shot worm. “They still aren’t sitting on the bed; they’re just cruising around it.”
1:07 p.m. He pitches the Little Fuzzy to the nest. A 4-pounder turns toward it, then bolts away. “They sure are funky acting!”
1:18 p.m. Hartman gives up on these spawners. “This shows how critical timing is to bed fishing. These females are intent on dropping their eggs, and until they do, they’re going to be superhard to catch. Right now, it’s like watching bass on television — they’re right in front of you, yet they won’t respond to you.”
1:24 p.m. Hartman rockets uplake to flip the wacky worm around some docks.
1:28 p.m. He bags a 1-pound keeper off a dock on the shaky head worm. No help here.
1:30 p.m. Hartman hits a big laydown with the jig. “They haven’t related much to this wood today.”