GREENVILLE, S.C. – As these words are posted Jacob Foutz is on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell for the final day of practice prior to the biggest bass tournament of his young career. It is, in fact, the biggest bass tournament of ANY anglers’s career.
Foutz, a 19-year-old sophomore at Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn. qualified for the world famous Bassmaster Classic, considered by most to be “The Super Bowl of Bass Fishing.” He qualified by coming out on top in the 2017 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series. Just qualifying to fish the Classic is the equivalent of an Emmy nomination. Winning is the pinnacle, but just being nominated (or qualifying) is an incredible accomplishment in itself.
Foutz has been in Greeneville for fishing practice and pre-tournament preparations since last week.
“Oh man, it’s been incredible,” said Foutz Tuesday night. “It’s just breathtaking hanging out with these guys I consider my heroes. I’ve enjoyed every second of it and look forward to all the experiences coming my way in the next few days.”
There is an amazing lineup of professional anglers for the 2018 Classic, and Foutz said most of the pros have been incredibly willing to offer advice. The young man from Charleston, Tenn. has been rubbing shoulders with folks like Kevin VanDam (26 Classic appearances, 4 wins), Mike Iaconelli (18 Classic appearances, 1 win) and Mark Davis (19 Classic appearances, 1 win).
“Everyone has given me tips and pointers because they’ve all been through what I’m going through,” said Foutz.
Many professional anglers get tagged with some sort of moniker or nickname. Foutz has been dubbed, “The Paperboy.”
“Bassmaster emcee Dave Mercer started calling me that because I’m so young looking, and it kinda stuck,” said Foutz. “I’m gonna embrace it and have fun with it. It’s good for my brand, and it’s fun for fans of bass fishing.”
The pros, including Foutz, are saying that Lake Hartwell is hard to pattern right now.
Classic angler Jacob Powroznik said, “This is going to be a tournament where somebody has got 10 rods on the deck, and they’re going to catch five bass a day doing five different things.”
Jason Christie said, “I think the guy that wins is going to say that he had no idea after practice.”
Barring today’s practice, Foutz said he falls into that group so far.
“I haven’t found anything I’m super confident in,” he said. “You might catch one in six inches of water and then slide out and catch one in 30 feet. It’s been hard to duplicate anything.”
Hartwell has been just like Chickamauga… it filled to the brim in late February in conjunction with historically warm weather. Now colder temperatures are the norm for the last few days.
“I’ve probably spent 90 percent of my practice time fishing and 10 percent just riding around graphing,” he said. “I’m looking forward to this last day of practice and hopefully stumble on something that’s going to win this deal.”
If he wins he would be the youngest competitor in history to do it. Foutz believes it will take at least 50 lbs. of bass to win the 3-day Classic. Hartwell holds a mixture of largemouth and spotted bass. It’s likely the winner will be targeting largemouth. The Bassmaster Classic has been held on Lake Hartwell twice before. In 2015 it took 50 pounds, 1 ounce to win the Classic. In 2008 it took 49-7, but both of those tournaments were held the third week in February.
Foutz said in practice so far his best fish has been around five pounds with a couple of four’s and three’s.
He said, however, “I’ve been shaking fish off… trying not to hook them,” a common practice for professional anglers in practice.
Lake Hartwell includes an incredible diversity of cover and structure. Foutz has fished the lake before so it’s not all new to him. Again he emphasizes that every day is a different day and that today’s last day of practice might yield new information. But as of Tuesday night Foutz said he suspected he’s going to be fishing boat docks.
“The most consistent bite I have is on docks back in pockets,” he said.
Friday’s first day of competition will reveal if it is “consistent” enough for The Paperboy.
Richard Simms will be in Greenville covering the Classic and specifically keeping tabs on Jacob Foutz. You can keep up with regular updates by following Simms on Facebook or follow “ScenicCityFishing” on Instagram or “ScenicCityFish” on Twitter.