I am a big fan of Stephen Jesso and expect this guy to do some big things in fishing and life. He just graduated from Penn State University. Since we had such a great interview the first time, I hit Stephen up for a second interview. This time we focus on Harveys Lake largemouth bass fishing. This is his home lake, and he has a bit of a love/hate relationship with the lake as you will find out after we cover a really important topic…why he was hanging out with an OSU guy at the Classic.
As a Penn State fan, I saw a disturbing picture of your team hanging out with a guy in an Ohio State jersey at the Bassmaster Classic. How do you explain this?
Hahah yeah, we have had multiple people message us asking why we were hanging out with the enemy at the classic. We actually were working with ANGLR at the classic helping them introduce their new waypoint technology called the bullseye, which is going to be a game changer in tournament fishing, and when we arrived we found out that we were actually staying with a kid from the Ohio State team all week who was also helping out.
I think the first words that were said went something like “Tell the truth, do you hate us as much as we hate you guys?” He actually ended up being a really cool kid though We gave him the nickname “Buckeye” and ended up becoming pretty good friends with him. His teammates definitely still do not like us, but I have to admit it was funny to see everyone’s faces when there were five Penn State boys talking to an Ohio State kid at the first tournament of the year.
How was the Classic?
The Classic was truly an amazing experience. It was the first one that any of us have ever attended and we have to give all the credit to ANGLR for letting us house with them and hangout and work at the booth all day. Those guys are seriously some of the best people I have ever met in this industry.
We got to meet so many anglers and companies that week it was incredible. It was honestly like the heaven of bass fishing, from talking to all of our other sponsors, getting to meet anglers we’ve been looking up to you for years, to drinking a beer with Mike Iaconelli at his after party.
On top of that, getting to be there when Jordan Lee won back to back was just one of those goosebump moments. Seeing a college angler accomplish something like that just lit a fire in every one of us that day I think.
Last time we talked, you said you have a love hate relationship with Harveys Lake Largemouth Bass fishing. Why is it that you feel that way?
I love Harveys Lake Largemouth Bass fishing because it is considered my home lake but on the other end of the spectrum I hate it because I have been fishing it for so long and still can never be truly consistent out there.
Although I’ve gotten a lot better at figuring it out, the problem with that place Is it is a “day to day” lake. What I mean by this, is that you can go out one day and absolutely crush them on a tube bait in a certain color well you may go out there five more times in that same time frame and not catch a single fish trying that technique. The fish change so much out there it is crazy.
I’ve had some phenomenal days out there where my best five would go around 20 pounds that make me think that Harveys is the best lake in the world, until I go out the following week and fish for 8 hours for one 2 pound bite. It’s just a tough, over fished lake.
So how do you handle the prespawn when Harveys Lake Largemouth Bass fishing?
The pre-spawn on Harveys lake is actually a blast! This is the time of the year that I’ve been waiting for all winter long where I can finally catch fish on moving baits.
This is one of the reasons I love this place. You can go out in the pre-spawn here and absolutely crush fish. I throw a lot of jerkbaits, square bills, lipless, and chatter baits. The fish are fattening up and getting ready for that long stressful time on the bed, this means that they will basically eat anything that goes by.
I do not spend as much time on colors this time of year as I do presentation and depth. Finding the right depth is key, and then figuring out what cadence they want is the second factor. Figure these two things out, and it could really make for a magical day out there.
Postspawn and early summer can be an upredictable time fishing on most lakes in PA for largemouth. In June, you had a successful tournament with your dad. Tell us about that day.
Early summer/summer Harveys lake tournaments are always just a complete grind. These always seem to be the tournaments that I do better in though. If everyone is waxing fish left and right, I have trouble-sorting fish out to find big. But when it is a 5 bites a day kind of tournament I usually do really well.
That’s how that tournament was with my dad. No one hammered them. There weren’t even very many limits that came in so just by catching out limit I knew we were going to place well. Honestly, the key to our success that day was just that we fished hard and covered water that I knew fish were living there.
I would hit a spot three times before my dad or I caught a fish off of it. That time of year when I know the fish have not been off the beds for a long time, I really like to cover a lot of water but fish it slow in areas where I know they spawned. They are exhausted after guarding for so long that they are not going to move very far right when they are done. I keep hitting these spots over and over until I hit one on the head.
Those summer days when most aren’t buying a bite on the lake. What do you do to try to find a few fish on Harveys Lake?
This is that time of year where I really hate this lake. I know the place is loaded with fish but it honestly is like trying to buy a bite out there. What kills it is the amount of boat traffic that goes on out there. As soon as that starts up at 9 in the morning, you might as well pack up and go home.
My strategy for this time of year is really to try and catch as many fish as possible first thing in the morning or go out there right before dark and fish into the night. These are basically the only two times that you can have any real success out there, granted sometimes you can catch them in the middle of the day but it just isn’t worth the aggravation.
During the morning I fish very finesse with dropshots and Senkos. At night I fish basically anything in the black color. Black has the greatest silhouette in the water when it is dark out, and whenever I fish at night I don’t usually bother throwing any other color. The only things I target this time of year both during the day and at night are weed lines and docks. Both of these should get you a few fish in the boat.
I suspect the fall is when you start to love the lake again. What are your baits to catch those big largemouth as the water starts to cool on Harveys Lake?
As the water starts to cool, I basically can catch fish out there on anything in the boat. The fish are getting ready for winter so they are fattening up for when their metabolic rate slows down. The more they eat now the less they will have to spend energy to feed in the winter, as the water temperature decreases so does a bass’s metabolism.
Especially in Harveys Lake where the water temperature drops quickly, bass can suspend and almost not spend any energy at all. Keeping this in mind, before this period happens, bass are predators so when they are feeding they will eat almost anything they think they can fit in their mouth. This is why during this time I will throw spinnerbaits, jigs, chatterbaits, etc.
Basically all of the baits that are known to produce big fish because during this time of the year this is all I’m going for. It’s the time where you can really catch an absolute giant and I am going to increase my chances on this by only throwing those “big fish” baits.
In terms of patterns, I will start off fishing weed edges and flats in the morning, as the sun starts to get up I will move out to weed edges or even the middle of the weeds. Everyone knows that fall is the time to head to the backs of creeks to catch fish pushing shad up. The problem with Harveys is that there really aren’t any pockets for the fish to do this in. Also with so much structure all over the lake, this means that they literally could be anywhere.
The good thing is that when you find one fish this time of year, you’re going to find a lot more because they are usually grouped up. So I like to just cover a lot of water and hit as many different things as possible until I can figure out what exactly the fish are doing that day.
There are some smallmouth bass in Harveys Lake as well. What is the population like?
Smallmouth fishing in Harveys Lake is probably one of the most overlooked things about this place. This is mainly because in the summer months they move out and suspend deep and are basically impossible to catch. The population of smallmouth in this place though is amazing and very healthy, especially for how small of a lake it is.
I target smallmouth all the time out there but only in the spring and fall. There is a period of time that you can video game play them, and there is a period of time where they are pushing shad up. After this period is over, you mine as well forget that there are even smallmouth in the lake because it will blow your mind how they can just disappear.
I have had days out there where I will catch 20 plus fish in just a short couple hours. This is another one of the reasons why I tell everyone that I have a love/hate relationship with the lake. I’m still chasing after one that will go over 5 pounds out there, the amount of 4’s I have caught is amazing but I can never seem to get one that goes over 5. Maybe this year will be the year.
What overall advice do you have for Harveys Lake Largemouth Bass fishing?
My advice overall for catching largemouth on Harveys Lake:
#1 – If the bite is tough, fish as slow as possible. I see way too many people out there that are just fishing way too fast.
Don’t be afraid to try small baits. Sometimes the “big baits catch big fish” rule doesn’t always imply. Some of my biggest fish I have ever caught have come on light line and small lures.
#2 – If they are munching, throw something fast and cover water. If you get lucky enough to hit this lake while they are eating good, you don’t want to get stuck fishing slow. You could put a ton of fish in the boat if you move fast and cover water. This confuses some people because one day you have to fish painfully slow and the next you can burn a spinnerbait down the bank.
#3 – Don’t ever count out the docks. There are so many docks on the lake that I feel like sometimes people just get overwhelmed and try to fish something else. You have to keep in mind though that docks hold fish year round. No matter what there are usually always some fish that are relating to docks, finding the docks that reload is the key.
#4 – Finally, do not get discouraged. I have been fishing this lake for almost my entire life, and I still have days where I go out and only get one bite. It’s a tough lake but the main thing is that you have to remember that it is not a huge lake and it gets a mind-blowing amount of pressure. There are tons of fish in the lake, but sometimes you are going to have tough days out there. Just keep grinding and fishing, and some days will just be incredible.
It is your last year of College bass fishing. What are the goals this year?
Mainly I’m just hoping to learn as much as possible this year. Every year I keep getting better at the college tournaments but to be honest I’m running out of time fast. That’s why I entered the BFL’s as a co-angler too. I just want to get as much knowledge in this year as possible before I make a jump next year.
I’m really looking forward to fishing with my partner this year. I have had some really great anglers in the boat with me over the years but this year the guy I am fishing with is also a boater. So we both have some decent tournament experience under out belts, and we just fish really well together. We just finished up a 39th place finish at the first tournament of the year out of 112 boats, and to be honest we were both pretty upset about it.
He’s a junior, but for me it is my last year so I am really trying to just win one of these things and get my name out there. I’m also excited about fishing Lake Cherokee and Cayuga Lake this year on the college series. Cherokee I figured out last year when it was too late, so I’m going in for revenge there.
Cayuga is my all time favorite lake. I have fished up there since I was five years old, and I have some spots that can really produce some nice bags. I’m going to swing for the fences in that one and you will either see my partner and I first on the leaderboard or towards the back. The spots I have rather produce big fish or they don’t produce anything and that scares me. I do have places where I know I can easily catch a limit, but like I said early I want to win one of these things.
Like I said, I am a big fan of Stephen and look forward to whatever comes next in his fishing career. You can follow him on Facebook @jessofishing.