How Air Force Team Lee/Hummel Won the
2017 Military Team Bass Tournament
The 2017 Military Team Bass Tournament was held on Lake Hartwell in Anderson, South Carolina May 10-12. This is an annual team event where prior and active military get together each season to spend a with friends for a little fun competition. It’s a three-day event so don’t think this is just for fun, it’s also for cash and a year of bragging rights.
The teams start showing up on the weekend before the event and start practicing on Sunday. The practice days are Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. After a day of practice, there are cookouts, hanging out with brothers they haven’t seen in a year and a lot of fish stories.
We reached out to a few of the top teams to have them, in their own words, tell is us more about their experience.
The tournament was won by the team of Jonathan Lee of Summerville, SC and Travis Hummel of Berlin, PA (both served in the Air Force). Day one they weighed in 11.90 pounds, landing the team in sixth place. On day two they improved their daily limit to 14.97 pounds and big bass of 5.17 pounds which moved them into second place overall with a total of 26.87 pounds. The final day of the event they remained consistent with 12.34 pounds to win the event with a total of 39.21 pounds.
So how did they do it?
Jonathan and Travis met twelve years ago at Robins Air Force base. Together they started fishing the local lakes out of Jonathan’s boat until Jonathan left for Korea. The guys stayed in touch as they each moved from base to base for the years. “He became one of my closest friends to this day and we still talk daily”, said Travis. After being medically retired as a Staff Sergeant Travis moved back to his home in Berlin, PA along with his wife Stephanie and son Ty. Jonathan is currently stationed at Joint Base Charleston with his wife Holly and his two boys Hunter, and Chandler.
The team started talking almost daily on their strategy for the upcoming Team Military Bass Tournament. Over the years they have learned how to fish well together as a team. They fished on Eufaula together the last two years, and on the last day of the 2016 event they had already put together a strategy for winning the Lake Hartwell event. Crank-baits, the team had caught a lot of fish on crank-baits on Eufaula and it would become their main strategy for Hartwell.
When they started practice, they first targeted large blue back herring schools they thought should be spawning. “I have fished the lake a few times before when I was in high school. Our main focus was on the main lake at the lower end on the South Carolina side since the wind was blowing towards this direction. We located several points and humps that had huge schools of blue backs, and then we could see the bass under these school with my 12 HDS Gen 3 Lowrance. So, we started out with top water, and crank-baits but found that the bass would hit the crank-baits better”, said Jonathan.
“First point we hit past the shoal had birds on it eating bait about three inches in length way up shallow. I reached in the box for a square bill. We burned that bank one time down and caught another 5 which gave us about 10lbs or so in about an hour of fishing. At that point, we basically were all smiles and said let’s go explore the lake since we haven’t fished it. Basically, just fun fished two practice days found approximately 3 to 5 great spots we liked. We had to change hooks to the Mustad KVD short shanks because we lost a couple good fish on our second practice day” said Travis.
Jonathan commented, “We switch out the hooks on all our Strike King 2.5 and 8.0 crank-baits. The next practice day we found a mega school of blue backs right in 3-4ft of water on one of the main points. We caught 2 or 3 bass all around 4-5lbs and then decided to leave this spot for the tournament. With the new hooks we didn’t lose a fish, heck we didn’t lose one during the whole tournament also”.
“Our confidence level was at a high and at the banquet that afternoon when talking to others and friends, we told them, we are going to win this event jokingly. It was mainly just fishing talk, but we caught good bass on a lake like Hartwell which has a ton of small spotted bass. We didn’t draw an early blast off for day one, and we knew the morning blue back spawn was when to catch the best fish”, said Jonathan.
“We started on a point fairly close to the launch since we were in the last flight to launch. We fished hard and we could get bites quick both utilizing a KVD 2.5 square bill in sexy shad. We finished the day feeling confident with the weight we had we would at least be competitive. We got about a dozen or so bites our first day and this what we were anticipating each day. We finished the day with 11.90lbs and sitting in 6th place. We were ecstatic returning to our room that night”, said Travis.
On day two the pair decided to make the run to close to the dam where they had found a large school of Blue Back Herring during practice. The team boated four bass quickly and then point hopped their way back to Green Pond Landing. As it was getting late in the day, they returned to the area they started on day one.
“We located a submerged log we saw early in the week and threw KVD 2.5 square bill on it. Travis hooked a toad and the big bass of day number two. After an exciting fight, we got her in the net and in my 2016 21 TRX Elite Triton live-well. The fish made the difference for us and helped jump us into 2nd place”, said Jonathan.
Travis had on this spot scrambled to match the hatch of Blue Backs. The closest thing he had was a Storm clear chartreuse brown back square bill.
“I threw my crank-bait up to the bank and got it deep down in the water ran it under this isolated limb that was hanging out and then BOOM, I saw this big bass hammer it. I fought the bass alongside the boat and as it went in the net we screamed for joy as my bait popped out of its mouth, said Travis. The fish was the biggest bass of the day weighing in at 5.17lbs and they moved into second place overall.
“We didn’t get much sleep that night, we knew, we needed four pounds to catch first place. We would have to locate a mega school of Blue Backs”, said Jonathan.
“We made the same run down to the same point we started on day two. There was some boat traffic which added some stress to the situation. Things slowed down dramatically as the wind died and the lake became as smooth as a sheet of glass. We managed to land three solid bass for about 9 pounds. At this point, we really started stressing with no wind and were just praying everyone else’s bite had slowed as well. We managed to land one more three pounder and then fishing just died. We needed one more fish and just couldn’t find it. We started to question our decisions and learned all about the highs and lows real fast. We weighed in with our fish and just had to wait and sweat it out”, said Travis.
“The only team that could beat us now was the guys that held a 4lb lead on us from the launch. They came to the scales and for whatever reason only had 3 fish. My heart jumped, when they said their weight was only good enough for second place and I knew we had the win” said Jonathan.
“I like to give a special shout out to my sponsors Carrot Stix Rods, T-H Marine Hydrowave, Mudd Butt Baits, and Fifty-One 7 Tungsten. I’d also like to thank the guys at Triton Boats and Mercury Marine. We are thankful to ABA for hosting such a great event and will be in Tennessee next year to defend our title” concluded Jonathan.
“All in all, it was a great tournament and the ABA is a great organization. I really enjoy all that ABA has to offer. We both fish the Ram Truck Open Series and plan this trip for the military event every year. I want to add, that without the support of our families of Jonathan and I being able to do this every year wouldn’t be possible. My wife Stephanie understands how important this is to me, as is the same for Jonathan’s wife Holly”, concluded Travis.
Jonathan Lee owns a 2016 Triton 21 TRX Elite with a Mercury 250 ProXS and is signed up for Triton Gold and has applied to take home and additional $7,000.
Kevin & Kyle Oleen finished the event in second place with a three-day total of 38.64 pounds winning $1100. “We caught our fish on a Carolina rig, Zara Spooks, and a few on a swim bait. I lost a 3-4 pounder on a Spook this morning and I knew that would hurt. Yesterday, I had a fish blow up on my Spook and cut the line. While the Spook was laying on top of the water, another bass hit it and took it down. I tied on another Spook and about 30 minutes later, it floated to the surface,” said Kevin Oleen.
Meet the third-place team Mitchell Oldnettle and Len Lindahl. Mitch is retired Air Force and Len is retired Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons. The pair have been fishing tournament together for years and also have been competing in the Military Team Bass Tournament as well.
Like the first-place team they knew the bait fish spawn may be going on like their home lake Seminole. Instead of Blue Back Herring they instead targeted a shad spawn. On the first day of practice, they checked the very back of creeks to see if the shad were spawning. They weren’t having much luck finding shad spawning. They looked in several creeks and Len told Mitch “These shad might be on rocky points on the main river”. Mitch however insisted that they needed to find some grass, lily pads, or some kind of vegetation and we will find shad spawning.
They went into Beaver Dam Creek, and found a road that crosses the creek two thirds to the back of the creek. They looked at the bridge and saw Rip/Rap but no grass, birds, or evidence of shad. They went under the bridge and it was small, only one boat could pass under at a time. To their right along the Rip/Rap there were birds along a very small stretch of grass right on the Rip/Rap! Len commented “There they are, the shad must be here and if they are, so are the bass”.
Len picked up a Horny Toad fished it weightless and Mitch started throwing a Spro Frog alternating with a white buzz bait. On Len’s fourth cast he caught a four pounder and released her. A few moments later they landed another in the two-pound class. On the opposite end of the bridge they also found birds and grass. They found what they were looking for and this would be there starting spot.
The rest of practice they looked down the lake closer to the Dam for schooling bass. They had limited success down the lake and could not lock in a pattern that worked for them.
First day of the tournament they went to their spot in Beaver Dam Creek and caught five bass in an hour all on white Horny Toad(s). They tried their pattern in other spots but could not cull what they already had. It was a great start to the tournament putting together a limit weighing 17.15 with a 5.18 kicker big bass. Putting them in second placed over all just over a half pound out of first place.
They repeated the same plan on day two and caught five bass on Zoom Horney Toads, Bang-O-Lures and Buzz Baits. They moved to another creek and caught another three pounder and culled to 9.49 pounds. This dropped them to third place by only 23 hundredths of a pound with a two-day total of 26.64.
The Final day they arrived at Beaver Dam Creek and they saw two boats going under the bridge. “We looked at each other and said Oh No”, said Len. The first boat went left and the other went straight. They knew their spot to the right on the back side of the bridge was safe. They caught a limit the first hour and milked their best spot the rest of the day and weighed in 9.14 pounds for day three and a total of 35.78 pounds. The team finished third overall and also had big bass honors for the event of 5.18 caught on day one.
Len commented, “We had a great time as the ABA always puts on a great tournament and look forward to next year on Old Hickory”.
Learn more about the Annual Military Team Bass Tournament on-line at MilitaryBassAnglers.com
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