April 14, 2007 by Rob Newell
MANNING, S.C. - At the beginning of the 2007 Stren Series Southeast Division season, Ken Ellis of Bowman, S.C., had one simple goal: to win the Stren Southeast points race.
The Angler of the Year in each of the five Stren Series divisions receives only a trophy, but for Ellis, it's not about rewards. It's about a sense of accomplishment.
"I finished sixth in the points last year," he said before competition began Saturday morning. "So this year, I made a concerted effort to stay focused on the points."
He started the year at Lake Okeechobee with a 36th-place finish.
He grinded his way through an ultratough Lake Seminole event, where he checked in a small limit each day for a 14th-place finish.
Then he journeyed to Lake Eufaula for an eigth-place finish.
Coming down the "home" stretch at Santee Cooper, the well-known Santee expert sat in second place in the points race, 24 points behind Jesse Draime of Longbeach, Miss., and he knew that his goal was within reach.
As he suited up for competition this morning with both a Santee win and a points title on his mind, it was hard to know which was the cake and which was the icing.
"Of course, there is more financial reward in winning the tournament," he said. "But, I've already won here on Santee once before, and I've never won the points. Financially, I favor winning the tournament. But from the standpoint of personal goals, I favor the points title."
After sacking 27 pounds, 5 ounces in the final round of competition on Santee Cooper today, Ellis ran away with both the icing and the cake, leaving hardly a crumb or a smidge of frosting for his competitors.
His four-day total came to 86 pounds, 7 ounces, giving him a 9-pound margin of victory in the tournament. And as for the points title, he clinched it with 745 points.
All week Ellis fished the Bonneau area of Lake Moultrie, targeting brush-sweetened stumps that he has spent years preparing in the bottom of Lake Moultrie.
"I've fished these lakes for nearly 35 years, and in that time I've learned where some of the best stumps are that the big fish spawn around," Ellis explained. "When the lake gets low in the winters, Chuck (Howard) and I wade out to these stumps and nail brush to them."
Ellis has cleverly designed his stump-sweetening project around his boat position.
"I'll attach brush to two to three stumps in a semicircle that will all be within casting distance of my boat," he revealed. "Then I GPS where I want my boat to be positioned relative to that brush rather than GPSing the brush itself."
In terms of lures, Ellis relied on a weightless Zoom Trick worm, Senko and Zoom 4-inch lizard tied to 6- and 8-pound-test line. He cast the lures to his sweetened stumps and worked them ultraslow, allowing each cast to settle about 30 seconds before moving it.
"It's been a special week," Ellis said after accepting his two titles. "Winning both is special, but what's really special is winning it right here at home in front of all these fine folks.
"Every year a lot of these people drive from all over South Carolina to come see me weigh in here. Last year I let them down with a second-place finish in the tournament and a sixth-place finish in the points. But this year, I got them both, so this is for all my supporters that have come here year after year, waiting for this win."
Fishing his first Stren event, Mark Hutson of Moncks Corner, S.C., weighed in an astounding 28 pounds, 2 ounces today to finish runner-up with a four-day total of 77 pounds, 6 ounces.
"I did what I like to do all week," Hutson said. "Sight-fish."
Hutson also fished Lake Moultrie in the Bonneau and Hatchery areas, targeting sight-fish around stumps and cypress trees with a Zoom green-pumpkin Ultra-vibe Speed Craw tied to 20- and 40-pound-test braid.
"It's been pretty slim pickings down there all week, but today I saw the biggest wave of fish I've seen all year move up," he said. "My partner (co-angler champion Brad Rodrigue) and I had all of our fish by 11 or 12 o'clock; it was just an awesome day of fishing."
After weighing in just 6 pounds, 10 ounces yesterday, Joseph Kremer of Osteen, Fla., rebounded big Saturday with 21 pounds, 14 ounces.
He finished fourth with a four-day total of 71 pounds, 13 ounces.
Kremer sight-fished a Culprit Wooly Booger and a Culprit topwater frog for his catch today.
Kremer also ended up second in the Stren Series Southeast Division points race with a total of 729 points.
Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., capped off his Stren Series season with yet another Stren top-10 in fourth place.
He weighed in 23 pounds, 10 ounces today to round out his four-day total at 70 pounds, 9 ounces.
"I was sight-fishing in the lower lake," Thrift said. "I used a white Zoom lizard.
"I chose the white color because I was making such long casts to the beds; I couldn't really see how close the fish was getting to the bait. But with that white, you can see it good, and whenever that lizard disappeared, I knew it was time to set the hook."
Ken Ellis' brush-planting partner, Chuck Howard of Elloree, S.C., finished fifth with a four-day total of 66 pounds, 11 ounces.
Ellis brought in his biggest bag of the week, 20 pounds, 8 ounces, today.
Similar to Ellis, Howard used weightless Trick Worms in a watermelon color on light line.
He fished isolated stumps and trees in Lake Moultrie.
"They really moved up today," he said. "I caught more fish today than I have all week."
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros in the Santee Cooper Stren Series event:
6th: Ricky Shumpert of Lexington, S.C., four-day total of 61-15
7th: Greg Pugh of Cullman, Ala., 59-3
8th: Glenn Browne of Ocala, Fla., 57-2
9th: Nicholas Turner of Jones, Ala., 50-15
10th: Ryan Worthington of Middleburg, Fla., 47-13