Blue Ridge Native Nails a Top Ten at Cross Lake
Heath has 6 Top Ten finishes, one tournament win (Hartwell in May) and won more than $20,000. More than that, he finished 9th in this year’s All American, catching 39 pounds of bass at Cross Lake in what is perhaps the most prestigious and long-standing tournament for weekend anglers. Heath not only finished second in the competitive Savannah River division, he and his partner are ranked 74th out of 225 in the Alabama Bass Trail’s tough Northern Division standings, so he, like so many Georgia Big Sticks, has had success in both Georgia and Alabama.
Heath grew up in Blue Ridge, Georgia and is very familiar with all the mountain lakes. He’s also fished the hyper-competitive Chattanooga Bass Association (CBA) trail where all tournaments are on Chickamauga, a.k.a. ‘The Chick’). Cutting his tournament teeth on the Tennessee River for nearly five years (including fishing with top pro Michael Neal) helped prepare Heath for the success he’s had in his fishing career.
“If you come out of the South you will do pretty good in any part of the country,” said Heath. “We’ve got a lot of diversity in our lakes, from grass lakes to highland reservoirs. That’s why a lot of people move here, plus most of the bigger tournaments are on this side of the country.”
Heath has been a factor in the BFL tournaments. “I was fortunate enough in the Lanier Regional (last October) to take the Day 1 lead with 14 pounds,” said Heath. “But Day 2 the lake got slick calm and I had a bad day with about 8 pounds. I didn’t make the right adjustments.” But Heath made the right adjustments on Day 3 and came back with 11 pounds in the regional and finished sixth. Heath says that Lanier, like many lakes, fishes different in the fall. “Lake Lanier is a totally different deal in October, and you can tell by the weights, too,” Heath told georgiabigsticks.com.
Heath is no newcomer to tournament bass fishing. He was featured in a GON column nearly 11 years ago on Blue Ridge, and you can read about his successful mountain-lake strategies here at gon.com.
We asked Heath to share with us his experiences on Cross Lake last month and what baits worked best.
“It was a great week. I did not pre-fish, just did a lot of research on-line and looked at past tournaments. I kind of figured it would be a one-big-day event. I had about 7 bites so there weren’t a lot of bites. When I talked with Rob (Georgia Big Stick Rob Jordan, who finished seventh) he was catching 16-17 pounds a day. I felt like going in I knew I had to expand what I was doing. It was more main lake oriented. I just didn’t think with the amount of pressure in the cypress field that it could hold up. The first day of the tournament I only saw about 3 or 4 boats. I think I caught 7 fish the first day, with a couple of culls [Heath caught 20-3 on Day 1]. I still felt okay and caught a few on day two but my fish weren’t replenishing. I had about 13 pounds on Day 2 and thought I wasn’t going to make it. I lost a four pounder that day and I was fishing top water. But I made it to ninth place, so when Day 3 started I ran some new water, but I never got a bite on anything twice. After about 12:30 or so on the main lake, you just couldn’t get a bite so I headed to the cypress field. We were fishing in 91 degree water and the fish just simply got dormant. I was talking to Randy [Deaver, a Louisiana resident who finished second] and he said that the oxygen levels get so low that they just don’t want to exert any energy at all. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know any of that. I probably lost two fish that day and weighed four fish. Another thing that happened is that they dropped the water down two feet so all those fish pulled out into the cypress field so there was a lot more in there than I knew about at the time (I wish I had known that before). Those two guys who finished first and second live there, so they are fishing it each year. It would be like them coming to Hartwell. But I’m happy with what happened.
I threw topwater a lot. I threw the black medium sized Whopper Plopper for the first two hours in the morning. I burned it on my Kistler Rods, which is my rod sponsor and my 8:1:1 Tatula reel. On up in the day I’d flip a Strike King Rage Bug and a Z-Man Palmetto bug in black and blue and silver flash. I tried other baits but most of my bites came on these baits. Remember most of my bites came in 12-16 inches of water.
Heath told us that he is planning to fish the final BFL two day event at Lanier. And then there’s a two-day Skeeter Trail event later in the fall. And he is planning on fishing two BFL divisions in 2019. “I’m going to fish the Savannah Division and the Bulldog next year,” said Heath. He’ll continue to fish the Alabama Bass Trail, which ends in October on Neely Henry.
Heath is sponsored by Bass Pro Shops, Mercury Marine & Nitro Boats. He says “they really help me a lot.” He also says Z-Man is one of his best sponsors and had great things to say about the folks at Kistler Rods, whom he says “…. make a quality rod and back it up with service. They are a class act company.”
Heath took home the first place trophy in the Savannah River division tournament on Hartwell in May. (courtesy flwfishing.com)
Heath Pack after taking the first day lead on Lanier’s regional tournament last fall. Here are two that were part of his Day 1 sack of 14-10.
Heath with two beauties that were part of a 30-pound sack on north Georgia’s Lake Chatuge.
Heath and son Clay at the All American weigh-in.
Heath and his co working the docks at Cross Lake. The Ellijay angler finished ninth at the All American, taking home a check for $9,000.