One year later, Hartley reflects on Classic experience

Columbus – Charlie Hartley had the crown in his sights, his
dreamy slumber interrupted by visions of winning the Bassmaster
Classic.

It was the night before the final day of the 2008 Classic on
Lake Hartwell in Anderson, S.C., and Hartley sat a light pound out
of the lead.

It was over the previous two days that the world came to know
Hartley, a veteran but relatively unknown angler from Central Ohio
who charmed viewers with his everyman persona and infectious
enthusiasm.

“He was everybody’s favorite,” said Mark Jeffries, host of the
Bass Zone on XM satellite radio. “Everybody was pulling for
him.”

Hartley had sat atop the leaderboard after the Classic’s opening
day, providing commentators a chance to tell how Hartley came in
the side door to the Classic by winning the open division points
championship. It was his first Classic after decades of tournament
fishing.

The underdog story didn’t get the fairytale ending of Hartley
hoisting the trophy, but it was also a long way from
disappointing.

“As a kid, I held people who could catch a fish in such high
regard and someday dreamed to be known as someone who could catch a
fish,” said Hartley. “It’s very humbling to have people say they’re
a fan of yours or want your autograph. It’s just very
humbling.”

Hartley was humbled by scores of fans at the Columbus Sports,
Vacation, and Boat Show in mid-February where he stood atop the
fish tub offering his tips on catching Ohio bass.

“It was really hard to grow up in Central Ohio and have a
passion for fishing,” joked Hartley, who got his start in
tournament fishing by being a member of the Alum Creek Junior
Bassmasters. “ … One of the reasons I was able to do so well in
(the Classic) is because we had very cold water and I am used to
fishing it in Central Ohio.”

Owing to the 2008 experience, Hartley is certainly better known
in pro bass fishing circles. But, he said that’s just a byproduct
of the true reward that fishing offers him.

“I was never in it for fame and fortune,” he said. “It’s just
something that’s happened because I had a little success at it.

“The reward for me is that I still wake up every morning and
want to go fishing and I get to do it most mornings,” he said. “I
get to fish the greatest fisheries in North America against the
greatest bass fishermen in the world.”

Hartley considered qualifying for the Classic his career’s
biggest achievement, and he got the most out of his opportunity.
Hartley said he pre-fished off and on for five weeks prior to the
event, experiencing many of the same conditions that would be
presented to him when the cameras rolled.

“I actually filled notepads with notes about what I was seeing,”
he said. “ … I spent an unbelievable amount of time down there, but
it paid off.”

Hartley didn’t qualify for this year’s Classic. Yet, there he
was Feb. 20-22 when professional bass fishing’s biggest event was
staged on the Red River in Louisiana. Hartley was such a hit last
year that ESPN hired him on to provide commentary for this year’s
event.

“Everyone loves the underdog,” he said. “I really think I give
the average guy hope that he could someday lead the Bassmaster
Classic.”

Hartley still spends quite a bit of his time in Ohio; he owns a
sign making business in Columbus. So, what are his recommendations
for the amateur angler? For smallmouth bass, it’s hard to beat Lake
Erie.

“We literally have 100-fish days out there,” he said. “ … You
can fly anywhere in the world and not catch fish like that … We
have the greatest smallmouth fishing in the world.”

For largemouths, he suggests making friends with those who own
or have access to small waters.

“You need to stay in the ponds,” he said. “Most of our
reservoirs are highly pressured and filled with recreational
traffic. The biggest bass I ever caught in Ohio was over nine
pounds and it was out of a pond.

Hartley also suggests targetting limited horsepower lakes such
as Charles Mill and Hoover Reservoir.

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