Pennsvylania’s Len Hargrave caught my attention as he fishes a number of lakes in my area. Then I noticed he is quite good at catching largemouth bass on these lakes as well. So in this interview, we talk about Pinchot Lake, Lake Redman, Lake Marburg and Muddy Run Lake. We also talk about some of the other tournament waters he has fished.
How long have you been fishing?
Growing up in northeast Pennsylvania, I have had plenty of water available for me to fish my entire life. My earliest memories of fishing are of my friends and I trout fishing in the creek that ran through our town. It was a very small town, so as kids we had free reign to do as we pleased as long as we were home when the street lights came on. We would start at one end of town and wade down the creek catching trout. We would stop when we hit the other end of town. We would then take the fish home for dinner. I would say this started when I was 9 or 10.
My earliest bass fishing I would say is about 15 or so. My parents bought property on a small lake by the house and we put a camper on it. When I wasn’t racing my dirt bike on the weekends I would spend time at the lake fishing from an old jon boat.
That lake is actually the place that relit the bass fishing fire if you will back in 2014. I took a friend there for his birthday to do some fishing and a weekend away, and we absolutely smashed em. That weekend put a spark back in me to fish a lot more and at a higher level than just for fun.
I want to ask you about some of the small south central PA bodies of water that you fish. Describe for us what the fishing is like on Lake Redman near York. How is the bass fishing there?
Recently Lake Redman has become my favorite local lake to fish for a few reasons. The first is that it is the closest to my house so I can go there after work for a few hours. The second reason is that with the new water circulation systems put in place the water is the clearest I have ever seen it. I feel like the fishing has improved tremendously.
Being that it is close and clear, I have been able to follow schools from the spawn to their summer locations. This has allowed me to learn a ton about fish movement and where they are on the lake, thus catching more fish and having fun. A lot of people enjoy fishing Pinchot locally because they live close and there are a lot of tournaments on the lake. If you fish anywhere enough times you will learn how to catch them and that is why I enjoy Redman.
Judging by your Instagram it looks like you have similar up and down trips at Pinchot as I do. How do you describe the fishing here for you?
I agree completely that I have some great days on Pinchot and some days that make me scratch my head. The best days I have very had on that place are days that I was fun fishing and usually at night.
The only tournament that I have actually finished well there was the first Borderline Club event this year. The weight of 12-9 on 3 fish may seem impressive but I caught 3 fish all day, and they were in the same area.
Pinchot for me is tough because it is like two lakes in one. There is rock and ledges down by the dam that at times can produce some nice bags of fish. There is also the other end of the lake with grass and mats. From the start of the day fishing you almost have to choose which you are going to do because it is a long troll from one end of the lake to the other.
Pinchot also has 3 or 4 community holes that get fished everyday so it is hard to catch fish there. But it is also hard to stray away from these areas because I know they hold fish that I stubbornly try to make bite.
I think Pinchot is a good lake to fish if you know how to break down a lake and fish grass. Pinchot became easier for me once I put better electronics on my boat, and I was able to see the contour lines of the lake. That helped me realize why the bass were positioned where they were.
Its been awhile since I fished Lake Marburg. How often do you fish Marburg? How do you contrast the lake with Pinchot and Redman?
I fish lake Marburg 3 to 5 times a year usually. Coming from York it is a pretty good drive for me to get to the lake. I also did not have a boat with less than 20hp until March of this year so I only fished there for the Bring A Friend Tournaments twice a year. Since I got a 9.9 on a small glass boat I have been happier to go out to Marburg and fish.
The good thing about living in this area is that between Marburg, Pinchot, and Redman there are 3 very different types of fisheries. This is what makes the Bring A Friend Series so much fun is that you have to be able to catch bass on all 3 lakes.
Lake Marburg is typically about deep grass and drop shotting or getting shallow and flipping thick grass mats. This year the water seems to be higher than I have ever fished it so flipping laydowns and bushes shallow seems to be a deal to catch bass.
Last year on Marburg I was able to see the grass in 15 to 20 feet of water, which is more visibility than the other two lakes. This year I can see bottom on Redman in about 8 feet, and Pinchot has about 2 feet of visibility. So the lakes are very different from each other and as I stated before, living close to a lake and being familiar with the techniques to catch the fish will always help local anglers. For Marburg, I pull techniques that I need to use of Smith Mountain and Kerr in Virginia to be successful.
Earlier this spring you fished a lake that I have been thinking about hitting, Muddy Run. What was your first trip like to Muddy Run?
I loved fishing Muddy Run and I will go back to that lake any day of the week. I have only been on the lake a total of 3 times in my life. The first time I went, I turned on my Humminbird Zero Card and started to map and see what the lake was about. I quickly learned that the lake is very small but it was able to be patterned. That same day I invited two friends of mine to join me in a separate boat, and they also caught a ton of fish the first time they were on the lake.
The second time I went was a week before a club tournament there to see if the fish I found the first time were still there. I caught a few in 3 areas and then flipped the bank and caught some more so we left before we got rained on.
The third time I was on Muddy Run was for the tournament. I went directly to a spot that I knew had some fish on it trying to get my first keeper and ended up with 13 pounds in a half hour. I then gave the spot to my practice partner Damian Betz and went to my second spot where I culled twice. I lapped the lake fishing trees the remainder of the day for a 16 pound 13 ounce limit that was good enough for second, showing you how good the lake is.
Muddy run is a lot like Redman in it has steep banks with lay downs, long points, two islands, and some rocky areas to fish rip rap. The lake is so small that you can troll around it 3 times in a day but big enough that 10 boats can fish a tournament and never be in each others way. It is the perfect electric lake in my opinion.
You clearly love to follow pro fishing. If you could share the boat with one pro on Bassmaster or FLW on any of these local lakes, which lake and pro would you pick?
Gerald Swindle on Lake Redman, hands down no questions. Gerald Swindle a two time AOY winner, he is funny, he is down to earth, and he is the best junk fisherman in bass fishing.
I consider myself a junk fisherman at times because I will have 14 rods on my deck, all with techniques I can fish, but only 2 of them do I consider myself very good at. I fish the water that is in front of me and try to learn on the fly while putting the pieces together. I feel like that is how Swindle fishes.
I would love to watch him do it on Lake Redman because I feel like I know that lake the best and would want to see if he found something different. If he found something different I would want to know why and how and learn all I could.
On top of the fishing, I feel like it would be one heck of a good time to share a boat with the GMAN for a day.
What are your favorite other tournament waters to fish?
Besides the local waters we have talked about, I have only fished competitively on the Potomac, Chesapeake Bay, Kerr, and Smith Mountain at this point. Each of these four I have learned so much for different reasons.
The Potomac River and Chesapeake are very similar in that they are tidal grass fisheries. Once your learn the tides some and find productive areas these can be a lot of fun to fish. If you are off the tides these can also be places that will frustrate you to no end. Both of these waters I have fished as a boater and as a co-angler in tournaments and they fish the same either way. A lot of community holes on these waters and there is a lot of equal opportunity to catch a bag of fish no matter which end of the boat you are on.
Smith Mountain I was on earlier this year in May. It was a late spawn, post spawn deal that had myself and Rob Bidniuk flustered in practice. Rob got on a back of a cove and dock deal in his practice, but the weather seemed to change that so he went a different direction. My boater for the BFL ran a post spawn pattern for fry guarders and cashed a check. The pattern was successful but it was not co-angler friendly. I did like how that lake set up though and I look forward to learning it more in years to come.
Kerr was a fun lake for me. Practice early was a struggle but then with luck watching our electronics and a lucky drop shot bite in 27 feet of water we found some fish. The water temps were 85 and the air temps pushed 100 so to say it was hot on Kerr is an understatement. Rob and I were able to figure out a deal in deep pockets with a drop shot to catch a few fish. This pattern seemed to be the deal as Rob finished 38th as a boater, my boater finished in the 40s after running the pattern all day on trust that my information was accurate, and I finished 27th.
Between Kerr and Smith Mountain I have a combined 4 days on the water so I am not going to say that either of those are my favorite fisheries though they both have a lot to offer and are a lot of fun to fish. I would have to say that the Upper Chesapeake Bay would be my favorite big water to fish right now. Havre de Grace is only an hour from my house and the water is challenging yet rewarding. There are some giants in there.
How is the 2018 tournament season going for you so far?
I have only been tournament fishing for 3 years, and 2018 has been my biggest year yet. I am fishing FLW BFL Shenandoah Division as a Co-Angler, Borderline Bass Club in FLW TBF as a boater, the local Bring A Friend series with a former club member of mine Damian Betz, and some week night lunker tournaments.
Fishing all of these trails on different waters has taught me a ton and I keep learning every time I head out. Fun fishing from a boat or a kayak is just that, fun, but once you start fishing tournaments and network with other anglers the learning curve grows and an anglers fishing becomes so much better a lot faster.
My BFL season has not started the way that I hoped as I am currently in 76th in points. A lost fish on the Potomac and losing my only keeper on Smith Mountain really hurt my points so far this season.
One of my biggest highlights so far this year was on Kerr Lake for the BFL where I finished 27th out of 121 boats. I was 5 ounces from getting a check. I was able to find a pattern in practice and duplicate it from the back of the boat during the tournament.
What are your overall fishing goals?
As a competitive fisherman I have dreams to fish as a professional for sure, but the chances of that happening are not high in this competitive market. My goals right now are to get into a bigger boat and start fishing BFLs as a boater and move up to the Costa Series.
I work with amazing companies who support me and I want to be sure I put myself in a position to represent them back in a positive way. I currently work with Okuma, Woo! Tungsten, HI-SEAS, NetBait, Savage Gear, and Deluxe Etching.
As I continue to grow in the sport my goals will grow with me, but for now I am going to stay focused on fishing on the boater side, working shows for my sponsors while learning how to market myself, and learning everything I can about catching fish because at the end of the day if you don’t catch em it doesn’t matter.
Thank you Len! Great stuff! Will be following on Instagram @lenfish42.