In this interview, we talk to New York bass fisherman, Josh Hart. To say that I am impressed with this young man is an understatement. He has a clear passion and direction as he pursues tournament fishing. I am most impressed with the honest perspective he shares at the end of the interview acknowledging the support it takes to pursue the fishing dream. Read on to meet Mr. Josh Hart.
You stated that 2017 was the year that you have learned the most as a fisherman. What lessons did you learn in 2017 that will help you in 2018?
As a 20 year old fishing against guys who have fished longer than I’ve been alive, there was a lot to learn. There always will be a lot to learn. For me, this past season was a lot of water management. The biggest things to me were:
- How do I approach this stretch of water?
- How do I manage spots and how many spots should I have?
- How do I know when to leave or stay?
- How do I know how to time certain areas just right?
These were major concepts I had to learn how to grasp quickly. And I’ll be the first to say it…I’m still not 100% about all of these, let alone 75%. I believe you learn those certain skills with time. Fishing is one of those sports where you are going to learn something every time you spend time on the water. That is what I love most about it.
You also mentioned that you didn’t trust your gut enough. Describe some of those times that you didn’t trust your gut.
Gut instincts are something an angler should always consider and listen to. For me, it was a struggle in some tournaments. I would say not trusting my gut cost me the win or chance to place high in two of my tournaments this past year.
Right out of the bat was a tournament on Oneida Lake right when bass season opened up. Had a solid practice and thought I could get close to 17/18 pounds, but conditions change and that’s Oneida in a nutshell.
Need to have two or 3 game plans when fishing Oneida. Turns out there were still some solid fish left over in a spawning/staging area. I completely ignored that and thought they were all moving out to their post spawn areas. The winning bag came out of that area. I came in with 15 pounds and fell one spot short of the money. I knew there were still fish there, but ignored my gut instinct and fished the water I practiced.
The second tournament was on Champlain. I had a really solid area and had it down to a T. Had big fish staging a little deeper before a spawn and caught a ton of solid fish over the course of 2 days of practice. But, tournament day rolls around and I had a limit in 15 minutes. I totally ignored the deeper fish and plucked away at 15.5 pounds, good enough for second. But, my gut told me those fish were still out deeper, but I still managed to keep flipping shallow cover for 3 pounders, ignoring the 5+ pound fish.
It’s simple things like these scenarios that can cost you a win or give you a trophy at the end of the day.
What were some of the really good highlights for you of the 2017 tournament season?
I have one tournament in my mind that sticks out the best for a highlight to my season. It’s early September on the St. Lawrence, had an okay practice, found some decent schools of fish. Had one very key bite at the end of the day that changed everything for tournament day.
Tournament morning started out with 2 barely legal fish, my first school moved. Had about 3 pounds in the live well and decided I would go hunt strong current breaks for those St. Lawrence giants that everyone searches for. Within 30 minutes on that spot, I had 2 5 pounders, which was huge for my confidence.
But then it all went downhill, didn’t fill a limit until 30 minutes before weigh in. Ran about 5 spots in 10 minutes before I settled on one area. Pulled up on one stretch of current, caught a 3 pounder. Sweet! Limit, and then the next drift I caught another 2.5/3 pounder, and I thought I didn’t have enough.
Rolled into weigh in and dropped 17.5 pounds and didn’t think I had enough. Turns out I had 5 more pounds than the competition and pulled out a win in the last tournament of the year. That was hands down the best highlight of the season. I talked about trusting your gut above, and well, I did just that and it saved my day and secured a win!
In 2016, you won angler of the year for your club. What club was that?
My second year of fishing in my high school club I pulled out the AOY trophy. Started the year of with a huge win on Oneida, and it kind of cruised from there.
Had a string of top 3 finishes and then had one tournament that nearly ruined it all. Went into Fair Haven with a very slim lead of maybe 15 points. Had an awful practice and I knew it was going to transition into a tough day. I managed to catch one 3 pound largemouth, all day.
The kid in second place in the AOY race ran out on Ontario and sacked up almost 17 pounds. And I finished dead last. Which put us in a numerical tie going into the last tournament of the year on Onondaga Lake.
I had 5 bites all day on Onondaga in that tournament and was sitting first at weigh in until the other leader weighed in. We had identical weight, but thanks to my big fish of the tournament, I managed to secure that trophy. By one, single point.
Talk about biting finger nails waiting to hear who won. I didn’t have any nails left! The thing for me that made it such a success was I stuck to my strengths. Other than that one tournament at Fair Haven where I got away from doing that and it came back to bite me.
You fish Oneida a lot. What are the 5 biggest keys for success on Oneida for its smallmouth and largemouth bass?
Oneida Lake is practically my back yard. I fish it probably 2 times a week, so I spend a good deal of time out there. It can be a stingy lake, or you could absolutely wreck the fish. Early season, like right after ice out till about beginning of June, you can run around any shallow bay with some grass and shallow cover and whack on the largemouth. After that, they move shallow and pretty much stay shallow, however, you can find some good largemouth in deeper grass as the summer rolls on.
Smallmouth are roamers on Oneida. They chase bait and those will tend to be your bigger fish on Oneida. But, you can always fish shallow rock shoals and catch them good if they are on a strong crawfish bite. I’ll be honest and say that I rarely chase largemouth after bass season begins. I’m primarily a smallmouth guy out there.
If I could offer any advice for fishing Oneida it would be:
- Learn how to pattern the bait and how they move.
- Learn how the smallmouth move (that can be tricky, it stumps me out there)
- Pick whether you want to mimic crayfish or baitfish and be versatile
- Watch the wind on Oneida. This is a big safety issue. You can be out there on a slick, calm day and then all of a sudden there will be 4 footers when the wind picks up. Plan ahead with trips on Oneida. The East wind will get you every time. A west wind isn’t too bad, and its also your best wind to fish Oneida with.
What are your other favorite New York bass waters to fish?
From Oneida, my other favorite fisheries have to be Lake Champlain or the St Lawrence River. Lake Champlain forces me to fish primarily largemouth and pick apart grass and read how they relate to grass and weed lines and all that fun stuff. Grass fishing isn’t a strength of mine, but its something I’m planning on dedicating a lot of time to this season.
As for St. Lawrence River bass fishing, any time I can have 3 to 4 spinning rods on my deck and chase smallmouth, I am a very happy camper. Drop-shotting is definitely my biggest strength when it comes to fishing. And I love how specific the smallmouth are to cover up on the St Lawrence. Its a beautiful place to boat and fish. And the way it fishes sets up awesome for my style of fishing. Watching a graph and deciphering what it says, I’m not a fan of video games, but I do love video game fishing.
What do you consider your strongest techniques as an angler?
Like I said previously, throwing a drop shot is my favorite thing to do. A close second would be throwing a jig around. Whether its flipping or dragging on shallow rock bars for smallmouth or deep shoals. The big smallies can be absolute fools for a finesse football jig. My favorite jigs are the Keitech casting and football jigs. I like a compact jig, its rare that I throw a very big flipping jig.
And my other strength would probably be a topwater, like Spooks and Sexy Dawgs. Those three rods are always on my deck if the scenario allows for them. I can’t tell you exactly why these are my strengths, but its something I’ve just picked up and worked on mastering it.
A jig was the toughest one for me to pick up. I worked at that for a long time to be able to get the right “feel” within my fishing. If I were to offer someone advice, I would say pick a weight of sinker or jig and really learn how it feels and fishes. For me, I started with all 1/2 ounce drop-shot weights and jigs. And then from there one I started experimenting and throwing different weights. To me, its all a “feel” in a sense. Learn how to decipher what your lures are doing under the water.
What are your goals for the 2018 fishing season and your overall fishing journey?
My goal going into any season is to win every tournament I fish. But the biggest thing for me this year is to try and expand on everything I’m not confident in. Versatility is extremely key in this fishing game. But other than that, it’s still a matter of trying to learn everything I can.
My overall goal for my fishing career is to try and make it in the big leagues. Whether it is fishing the FLW Tour or the Elite Series, that is my overall goal. If I can’t do that, then I want to guide on local waters for bass fishing and possibly duck hunting.
Who are your current pro staff companies and sponsors?
I am currently a Pro Staff for Tricky Phish Baits, a veteran owned bait company. The owner, Brian Eisch, is a Purple Heart recipient turned bass fishing nut. He took over a company and now creates some AWESOME baits. From their 2.5″ trailer to their swimbait called, “The Bounty Hunter,” I throw these baits exclusively. Its rare that I will turn to other bait companies. Brian treats us staff guys awesome and we are strong believers in our product. If you are looking for your next favorite baits, I would suggest Tricky Phish Baits. These baits are proven fish catchers and if I had the Bassmaster Classic on the line, I would turn to these baits 10 out of 10 times.
I recently started working with Owner Hooks. I’ve been looking for the perfect drop shot hook for a long time until I started throwing them last season. It has turned into my favorite drop shot hook. And I’m not just saying that because I’m sponsored. I’m a firm believer in their hooks. I pour my own custom jigs with their jig hooks, and I swear by that jig hook.
My fathers construction company also sponsors my fishing. I definitely have to thank my Mom and Dad for where I am today. They are huge supporters of my fishing and it pushes me to fish harder and better every day. My girlfriend, Ericka, is also a huge motivator for me. Between her and my family, they are huge supporters and I am very thankful.
People don’t realize how much “good luck” texts and support texts do for us fisherman. It’s a huge morale booster and helps us focus on the overall goal.
I am beyond thankful for everyone in my life that supports me. You guys are awesome, and I am so thankful for everything you guys do and say.
Thank you Josh! Thank you for the fantastic fishing information. I look forward to following you on Instagram @joshhartfishing to watch your continued success.