The second Carolinas Bass Challenge – South Carolina Division event of the season is coming up this Saturday on Lake Wateree out of Clearwater Cove. The first event of the year on Lake Murray had 173 boats and 374 anglers competing, with Chris Marshall and Josh Gardner of Rutherford, North Carolina walking home the big winners with a 23.90 pound sack as well as the big fish – an 8.31 pound hawg – worth $11,000.00! An impressive seven bass over 7 pounds were brought to the scales in the tournament.
Predictions are that Lake Wateree may give up some even bigger weights, although it will be tough to beat the CBC all-time weight record set last year on Lake Wateree by Gary Michaud and Doc McDaniel – a 34.32 pound bag, including a 9.93 pound big fish! I caught up with tournament director Brett Collins, one of the best fishermen on Lake Wateree himself, to get his thoughts on the upcoming tournament.
While Wateree had been fishing tough, Brett points out that the team of – you guessed it – Gary Michaud and Doc McDaniel brought a 20- plus pound bag to the scales in the second CATT Spring event on Lake Wateree last weekend. He expects no drop-off in weights for this weekend, and in fact he expects to see even bigger bags. Water temperatures were in the low 40s last week, but they are expected to warm this week. As far as the dominant pattern, Brett says that the tournament will be won shallow.
“The fish are up shallow in two or three feet of water, and they know that it’s about that time. Anglers will be throwing a jig and a spinnerbait, and there will also be some cranking.”
Brett doesn’t expect the Alabama rig to play too big a role, as it’s just not very effective on muddy Lake Wateree. He also expects that this early in the season the tournament will be won on the main lake.
Overall, Brett expects a bag in the 22-24 pound range to be the winner, although he thinks it could easily be over 25 pounds! The tournament is only two weeks off from the timing of last year’s event, and no one has forgotten the monster sack that the winners pulled out last year.
While Brett will be hosting the tournament, one angler who will be fishing the CBC is Dearal Rodgers of Camden. Dearal was the 2009 FLW Co-Angler of the Year, and he won the Forrest Wood Cup as a co-angler in 2010. In 2011 and 2012 he fished the FLW Tour as a professional, but most relevant for this pre-tournament report is his considerable success on Lake Wateree events. Still, Dearal would be the first to offer the disclaimer that there are a number of very, very good local bass fishermen on Lake Wateree, and in any local tournament there are a high number of anglers with the requisite bass fishing skill, experience and local knowledge to win the tournament.
Until the lake went off-limits Sunday night Dearal had been spending time on his home lake over the past few weeks, and overall he reports that anglers have had to work hard to catch fish in some pretty difficult conditions. That does not mean that skillful anglers have not been able to whack them at times, but it has not been “easy” fishing as of the time that the lake went off-limits.
Over the last few weeks Dearal has been fishing Lake Wateree in what he considers a winter pattern, and more often than he likes to fish his boat has been sitting in 40 or so feet of water as he casts up shallower. That is not to say that he (and others) have not caught fish shallow, and Dearal always finds that the most catchable fish are likely to be in skinny water on Lake Wateree. He reasons that “If he’s up there shallow, he wants something to eat” and so shallow cover is always a part of the equation on Lake Wateree.
However, with the extremely cold water temperatures until recently on Lake Wateree there has been less bass movement up shallow to feed. Fish simply eat less when it is very cold as a result of their metabolic processes, and they also know that crawfish and other types of prey are less likely to be exposed when water temperatures are very cold. The result is that bass have not been stacked up on the banks feeding.
With warmer weather this week, however, Dearal is optimistic that fish will start staging more in the mornings. He also hopes that in the afternoons they will drift into coves and pockets to feed. Ideally, instead of casting from 40 feet of water Dearal’s boat will be sitting in more like 10 feet of water and casting towards the bank this weekend.
One element that will be a factor Saturday, as it always is during weekend tournaments, is fishing pressure. Dearal has told me before that fishing pressure can affect fish the same way that certain frontal systems do, often making for a more difficult bite. There is also the reality that a lot of fishermen are trying to catch the same number of catchable bass, and someone can easily get to an angler’s spots first and take good fish off of them. The effect of fishing pressure is doubly amplified on the relatively small Lake Wateree, particularly during the winter when the lake fishes even smaller. During the last CATT tournament Saturday on Lake Wateree it was not unusual to see five or six boats working a single main lake cove. Dearal is hopeful that water temperatures will warm up a bit so that fish – and fishermen – will be spread out more evenly this weekend. Overal, Dearal expects the winning team to approach 25 pounds this weekend.
Brett Collins reminds anglers that CBC entries are due by midnight on Wednesday, with the draw for boat order taking place Thursday. If you are considering fishing, you do not want to miss out on the chance to be a part of this event and win a ton of money. Good luck to all the teams this weekend!
Win $25.00/ $1,000.00
SCFishingTackle.com dodged a bullet last weekend when J Sturkie almost guessed the winning overall weight and big fish in the Weekend Series Event on Lake Murray to win a huge gift certificate – he did get $20.00 for the closest guess. This week the closest guess to the overall weight in the CBC Lake Wateree tournament will win a $25.00 gift certificate to SCFishingTackle.com, and if someone guesses the exact overall weight and tournament big fish weight they will win a $1,000.00 gift certificate to SCFishingTackle.com! Make your guess in the comments section to this post (not on Facebook) in the form XX.XX . Predictions are due by Friday at 11:59 p.m, one guess per person. Additionally, whether you are fishing the event or just interested, enter discount code “CBC” to take 15% off any order on SCFishingTackle.com – your home for the complete line of Buckeye Lures products (including Mop Jigs, spinnerbaits, Spot Removers, Su-Spin Blades, JWill products and more). Free shipping on all orders over $25.00.
My thanks to Brett Collins and Dearal Rodgers for speaking with me and sharing their knowledge for this feature.