UPCOMING EVENT: YETI College Fishing - 2019 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir


Staging Game Key at Santee Cooper

According to two Santee Cooper experts, the upcoming Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division event presented by Frabill on the famed South Carolina fishery March 10-12 should produce plenty of big bass, even though it might fall just short of being a full-blown slugfest.

“I think we’re going to be a bit early,” says Santee Cooper legend Ken Ellis of Bowman, S.C. “There might be a few fish that try to move up and spawn in the backwater ponds on the new moon [the day before the tournament], but historically Santee’s biggest spawning waves are at the end of March and in April.”

Ellis would know. his Costa FLW Series record on Santee Cooper is pretty impressive. Among his numerous top 10s he’s claimed three wins and two runner-up finishes, plus three other top fives. His BFL resume at Santee Cooper is just as long.

Ellis’ favored game at Santee is to skip wacky-rigged Yamamoto Senkos and Zoom Trick Worms to cypress tree bases on light spinning tackle.

“It’s going to be too early for that this time around,” says the former Santee Cooper guide. “I think there will still be a lot of fish out deeper and staging up to spawn. It will probably be similar to the last time it was here [in 2014] when Linwood Thornhill dominated it fishing out deeper.

“This time of year we typically see fewer fish, but they are big,” Ellis continues. “We will likely see catches of three bass that weigh 18 pounds or four bass that weigh 22 pounds – something like that.”

When Thornhill won during this same week of the month two years ago, he weighed in just four bass on day one for 23 pounds, 12 ounces. But that paled in comparison to the four fish his winning co-angler, Marvin Reese, weighed in on the final day. Those fish pushed the scale to 32-10.

“Those are the size fish you catch fishing that deeper staging bite this time of year,” Ellis adds. “Rat-L-Traps and crankbaits fished in the staging ditches will probably be a strong pattern. Also, the swamp above I-95 will probably produce a few big bags, too.”

Santee Cooper Map

Santee Cooper is actually comprised of two enormous lakes: Lake Marion (the “upper lake”) and Lake Moultrie (the “lower lake”). Years ago when hydrilla was at its peak in Moultrie, the lower lake received a lot of the fishing attention. In recent years, however, Marion has come on strong, giving anglers reason to give the upper lake a fair shake in practice.

Kent Ware of Guntersville, Ala., who has been runner-up in the FLW Series and Walmart Bass Fishing League on Santee Cooper, loves the two big lakes. As a former fisheries biologist for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Ware used to live in Wadmalaw Island, S.C. During those years he fished Santee Cooper quite often. He says reinvigorated vegetation in the upper lake combined with higher water levels the last few years have led to better spawns, making the upper lake a viable option.

Current reports on water temperature say it’s hovering in the 52- to 54-degree range in the main lake with 57 degrees a possibility in the backwaters. Water levels have been high, and the water color has been on the stained side of normal for Santee.

“If it stays warm through practice we may see a wave of spawners move into the ponds, but I doubt it will be the main wave,” Ware says. “The big wave usually doesn’t happen until the end of March and through April. That’s when Santee really shines.”

Both Ellis and Ware agree that the best-case scenario for a slugfest this week will come in the form of calm conditions with little wind. Both believe that if anglers can get in open water and effectively fish the migration ditches and staging brush piles for big female prespawners all day, there could be some big numbers posted atop the leaderboard.


Tournament Details

The Costa FLW Series Southeast Division event on Santee Cooper is a three-day tournament held March 10-12. All pros and co-anglers fish the first two days, and the top 10 anglers in each division based on cumulative two-day weight qualify to fish on day three. The heaviest three-day cumulative weight wins.

Anglers will take off from John C. Land III Landing 4404 Greenall Road, Summerton, S.C. 29148 at 7:00 a.m. ET each morning. Day one and two weigh-ins are at the John C. Land III Landing at 3 p.m. The final day weigh-in will be held at Walmart on 2010 Paxville Hwy, Manning, S.C. 29102 at 4:00 p.m. ET.

Fans at home can tune in to the weigh-ins via FLW Live.

Click here for complete details.


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Tags: rob-newell  pre-tournament  2016-03-10-santee-cooper 


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