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It wasn’t long ago that Upstate New York native Jamie “The Hammer” Hartman resigned his job as a truck driver, put all his belongings in storage, and hit the road in a Toyota Tundra with his bass boat in tow to chase his dream of being a full-time professional bass angler.
It’s safe to say, Hartman’s dreams are coming true. And in the past three months, he’s won $6,000 in Toyota Bonus Bucks, for top Bassmaster Elite Series finishes at both Lake Hartwell, and his victory on Lake Guntersville.
“I tell guys they’re crazy if they’re fishing tournaments and not towing with a Toyota,” says Hartman. “Not only are they missing out on the chance to win Bonus Bucks, but the reliability you get with a Toyota is absolutely awesome.”
Hartman should know. He’s now purchased three Tundras, and has spent a total of 226,000 miles towing his bass boat with them, and has zero complaints.
“I love the comfortable ride. I love the dash layout. But most of all, I love the towing power. I absolutely love the towing power!” emphasizes Hartman, who won Guntersville pitching shallow matted grass with a Riot Baits “blue steel” colored soft plastic lure.
Hartman described his come from behind win at Guntersville as a huge shock. But the fact he cashed yet another Toyota Bonus Bucks checks is barely a surprise at all. He’s cashed checks in the majority of the B.A.S.S. events he’s competed in, and subsequently cashed several Bonus Bucks checks too.
However, you don’t have to be a pro like Jamie Hartman to cash in on Bonus Bucks. You just have to drive a 2015 or newer Toyota tow vehicle, sign up free for Bonus Bucks, and like Hartman, be the highest finishing registered participant in one of the dozens of local and regional tournaments supported by the program.
To learn more, please visit, www.toyotafishing.com, or call (918) 742-6424, and ask for Kendell or Chip, and they’ll help get you signed up.
Guntersville is truly one of America’s all time great big bass factories, and it’s played host to B.A.S.S. events with about the same frequency Vegas hosts prize fights. And when the Elite Series was here in 2010, it was an absolute post-spawn slugfest and longtime Toyota Bonus Bucks participant John Crews was right in the thick of the boxing match.
Skeet Reese threw the final punch in 2010, catching 100 pounds of bass in four days to win, but Davy Hite and John Crews stayed squarely in the fight.
So as the Elites blasted-off for Day 1 Friday morning, Crews reflected clearly on how it all went down nine years ago, and how he expects it to go this week in 2019.
“The offshore bite in 2010 would have scored a 9 out of 10, but this year, for Guntersville, I’ll rate it a 3 out of 10 — which is about the equivalent of a 5 out of 10 on most reservoirs,” says the Salem, VA pro who owns Missile Bait Company.
In other words, Crews is by no means saying it’s terrible here where the Tennessee River carves a bass infested path through the Southern Appalachians. Twenty-pound limits will still be plentiful, but fans probably shouldn’t expect the megabags pros like him pulled from these waters nine years ago.
“I caught 99% of my bass that week on a Spro Little John DD which hits bottom in 16 to 18 feet of water, and most of the bass were positioned at about 12 feet,” he recalls fondly.
Crews weighed in a jaw dropping 28 pounds on Day 3 of the 2010 event, and says he fished a very clean and efficient derby with no regrets, despite a bass that was well over 10 pounds jumping off —an image that’s still hooked clearly in his memory.
“I’ll commit to fishing deep today, but I’m only on a couple schools of fish, not the strong schools we saw here nine years ago. You could catch 12, 15, 20 bass off one spot that year, but this week, I think it will be a ‘one here-one there’ kinda deal,” predicts Crews.
He netted $20,000 for his high finish nine years ago, plus a fat Toyota Bonus Bucks check, maybe this week Crews will have to fight a little harder, but don’t bet against him landing his share of leaderboard busting jabs, and a shot at the $100,000 top prize.
Matt Arey and Scott Canterbury have won more than $2 Million in their veteran pro angling careers — including an impressive collection of tour level tournaments. The two comical class acts are now roommates on the Bassmaster Elite Series, and they took a moment to share what fans can expect to take place on Alabama’s largest and arguably most famous reservoir when the event kicks-off Friday morning.
Q: It’s been six weeks since the last Elite Series tournament. What’s the coolest thing you did during that time?
Canterbury: Caught a bunch of saltwater fish, including a 21-pound Snapper, on a trip to Orange Beach, AL.
Arey: Watched my daughter Reese graduate from kindergarten.
Q: How many 25-pound limits or bigger will be weighed-in on Day 1.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about Lake Guntersville?
Canterbury: It’s close to home, and you can catch bass here from 3 to 25 feet deep on a variety of patterns.
Arey: The duck hunting. I discovered how many ducks call this place home during a winter bass tournament years ago, and my buddies and I have made several annual trips here to hunt gadwalls, canvasbacks and other species.
Q: Name four lures fans can expect Elite Series pros to throw a lot this week.
Canterbury: Deep crankbait, 11” NetBait C-Mac worm, 6” swimbait, Drop Shot.
Arey: Football jig, deep crankbait, 6” flutter spoon, hair jig.
Q: What will surprise fans most about this tournament?
Canterbury: How several pros will be fishing the same spots.
Arey: Agree. A lot of guys will be fishing for the same exact schools of fish.
Q: You were asked to choose one lure that’s applicable to Guntersville for the photo. Why did you choose a jig?
Canterbury: Because I can fish a 5/8 ounce Matt Herren jig from Dirty Jigs with a Net Bait trailer as a pitchin’ lure, or drag it on the bottom out deep just about anywhere on this lake.
Arey: I chose a ¾ Titan Tungsten football jig to drag around the deeper schools of bass. It’s a prototype with a skirt that’s hand-tied in Cleveland County, NC where “Knobby” the Sasquatch lives.