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In the understatement of the year, Steve Harmon sums up his and Bryan Cook’s fishing day Saturday by saying “We had a good day.” And indeed they did. Steve and Bryan caught 32.50 pounds of Santee Cooper bass, including a 9.53 pound big fish, to beat out 127 other competitors and take home $9,500 for first place, another $1,000 for big fish, and likely another $7,000 more for their Triton Gold membership. Winning $17,500 is a good day fishing in anyone’s book!
Steve says they practiced a good bit before the lake went off limits, but they hadn’t had a day like Saturday during their practice. He points out that the off-limits week came at the worst possible time for figuring out what was going on at Santee, because things change so fast in early March – particularly with the weather we’ve been having. The team changed plans four or five times during the week, and finally decided to start at one of the areas where Steve’s father had caught a big fish two weeks earlier.
While some of the anglers were apparently focusing on shallow water, Steve and Bryan were mostly focused on deeper water. They targeted depressions in 8-12 feet of water that were around the areas where fish were eventually going to move up. From what they saw fish weren’t really shallow yet, but they were grouping up to come shallow. There was some cover in the areas they were fishing, and some of them had old, half-dead grass from last summer. Others had logs and debris. As Steve points out, it would be hard to find a place to fish in Santee that didn’t have some of that stuff.
Even though they had some good areas similar to where they were fishing that were in the lower lake, with the tournament out of Lake Marion Steve and Bryan stuck to the upper lake. The upper lake is very muddy, and because of that in the morning they fished a chartreuse spinnerbait with twin gold Colorado blades for extra vibration. It was a Terminator brand bait. One big fish came on the spinnerbait as well as a number of 3s and 4s.
As the sun got up the wind died down and the lake “turned to glass”, and Steve and Bryan had to adjust. They went to jigs, and it truthfully didn’t seem that the color/ brand of jig made a huge difference. One angler was using a black and red jig of one brand, while the other was fishing a purple jig with a junebug trailer made by a different company. The important thing was that the jigs were dark for visibility in the muddy conditions. They worked the jigs slowly on the bottom and caught some big fish there, including their big fish.
Later in the day they did catch some fish shallower in 4-5 feet of water around cypress trees, but Steve points out that deep water was very close. They didn’t find fish very shallow yet.
Overall Steve and Bryan caught about 15 fish, including a lot of 3- and 4-pound fish. Steve speculates that they had another 18-20 pound limit behind the 32.50, excluding the five fish they weighed. They basically fished 5 or 6 areas and caught 2 or 3 fish off each spot; there was no “secret spot” that produced everything. Instead the main pattern was running a series of similar areas; namely, deeper depressions adjacent to eventual spawning areas. As noted above they had more, similar areas they would have liked to fish but didn’t have time to work them all, and particularly not to make the run to the lower lake.
As for what it all means for the Costa FLW Series this weekend, Steve has his doubts about whether their pattern will hold up with the week of weather we’ve been having. He thinks there is little doubt that fish will be “making a move to the hill.” Bryan is fishing the Costa and so they certainly hope that some fish will stay, and perhaps they will for the first day or so of the tournament. However, Steve suspects that the tournament will end up being won shallow, particularly on Friday or Saturday. He believes it will take 70 or 75 pounds to win over three days – a far cry from the 44-12 that won the first Costa Series Southeastern tournament of the year in January on Lake Okeechobee – but very similar to the 72-4 it took our regular Santee correspondent Linwood Thornhill to win here in the then-Rayovac FLW Series event the same week in 2014!
My thanks to Steve and Bryan for sharing this information with us, and best of luck to Bryan this week.
For our initial report on the CBC, including overall results and information about another top pattern, check out http://www.anglersheadquarters.com/santee-cooper-sc-bass-fishing-report-cbc-tournament-news/.