Coming up short in South Carolina

The Bassmaster Elite Series season resumed this past weekend at Lake Murray, South Carolina. It is a body of water that I had not been to in the past but it had a good reputation as a great place to fish. I usually enjoy getting to fish new bodies of water and that was the case this week but sometimes these new places take a little bit of time to figure out.

Getting only three days to practice for each of these tournaments, which seems like a lot of time, it can be tough to get things really figured out because most of these lakes are so big. I had a pretty good first day of practice, fishing shallow points that had wind blowing in on them. The clear water got a little bit coloured and it just seemed like it was easy to trick fish into biting. I was expecting the week to be one of the most exciting places we would fish all year. The next two days, it was flat calm and sunny, and while I saw dozens of big bass each day, it became very difficult to get them to bite. They were swimming around in shallow water on most of the points around the lake but they were extremely hard to catch.

I got away from fishing the points a little bit, looking for fish hanging around docks and some that were still spawning. You could catch fish but not as many big ones as I felt like you could run into on those points.

The first day of the tournament it remained calm and while I put together a decent limit of fish, it ended up being a relatively tough day. My weight of 14-7 landed me in 75th place, which was crazy. I actually thought I was going to be in decent shape with that but I was wrong. I had work to do the next day if I intended on making the day three cut, which is 50th place and was over 17 pounds on day one.

The wind finally picked back up on day two and I had a much better day fishing my points, bringing in a haul weighing 18-12. Overall, the day was a lot more fun, I caught more fish and a few nice ones but this lake is just fishing really good right now so I was only able to move up to 59th place, which sent me home early. It was disappointing because I feel like I had a pretty good feel for what was going on out there and what I needed to do but I think I lost a little bit of confidence in my plan after those calm days and spent time fishing in places I shouldn’t have. Learn from the mistakes and carry on.

I don’t have much time to worry about it because we are back at it this week just down the road at Santee Cooper Reservoir, a body of water we have visited a couple of times in the past few years. In the fall of 2020 I had a good tournament and landed a ninth place finish. Last year, I had my worst showing of the year at Santee, a 65th place finish. Hopefully we’ll get back on the right side of the cut line in this one.

Santee Cooper is known as the land of the giants, for all of the big largemouths that it kicks out so hopefully I’ll find a few of them this week. In the 2020 tournament, I was fortunate to catch the big bass of the tournament, a 9-7 monster, which is still the biggest of my Elite Series career. Catch all of the action this week from Santee Cooper on the Bassmster website starting on Thursday.

Jeff Gustafson holds up a six pound largemouth bass from day two of the Bassmaster Elite tournament at Lake Murray last week. He is back in action this week at Santee Cooper Reservoir.