Big bass bonanza at Santee Cooper

The third stop of the Bassmaster Elite Series took place this past weekend at Santee Cooper Lake in South Carolina. Consisting of lakes Marion and Moultrie, this massive impoundment is known as one of the best big bass lakes in the United States.

It’s always exciting when we get to visit these types of lakes that have a reputation for big bass. This system is challenging once you get there because it is so big and it’s tough to get around because there is still a lot of standing timber and stumps are everywhere. There are boat lanes to get around to different parts of the lake but once you get off of those lanes you’re wise to take your time and idle because you will hit stumps. At least three anglers I know did significant damage to their boats during the three day practice.

It was another mediocre event for me and not how I was hoping to start the season. I caught limits each day but like my first couple events of the season, I was not able to put any big fish in the boat. After a cold start to the week, the temperatures improved every day and we ended up being faced with a lot of bass wanting to start spawning.

When the bass want to spawn, it’s good for anglers, because it brings a lot of fish into shallow water where they are more accessible. The problem is that if spawning is what they want to do, they kind of lose interest in eating for a day or two. I had a decent catch on day one and was sitting just above the cut line to qualify for day three. If I had a decent second day I would be in good shape.

Things did not go smoothly for me on day two. I didn’t get any bites for the first couple of hours, then I lost a couple of nice fish that I hooked. They simply jumped and came off, which happens. When you are having a tough day in a tournament, eventually the clock starts to tick extra fast it seems like. I ended up finding several big bass that had pulled up to spawn, including one that I think was between nine and ten pounds but I couldn’t get it to bite. It was disappointing for sure. I ended up being lucky to catch the smaller limit that I did late in the day to salvage some points.

Through three Elite Series events, I find myself in 58th place in points in the 94 angler field. There are still six events remaining and the goal is to finish in the top 40 to qualify for the 2023 Bassmaster Classic, our championship tournament. So, I have some work to do. The season resumes in a few weeks at Lake Chickamauga in Tennessee.

Santee Cooper kicked out some giant bass over the weekend, including several in the eight and nine pound range. There were also several five fish limits weighed in that went over 30 pounds. This body of water is full of big bass, no doubt. The third day of the tournament was postponed a day because of weather so the final outcome is unknown as I write this but Georgia angler Drew Cook holds a four pound lead heading into the final day over the defending champion at this fishery, Brandon Palaniuk.

It’s been a busy stretch with a lot of fishing over the past couple of months so I’m looking forward to a little downtime over the next few weeks. Hopefully I’ll start catching some bigger bass when we get going again!

Jeff Gustafson with one of the bass he caught over the weekend at Santee Cooper Lake.