Manning, S.C.—Hometown angler Will Smith proved that one man's junk can also be his treasure when he won the BASS Federation Nation Southern Divisional today at Santee Cooper Lakes.
"I went junk fishing," said Smith of his winning strategy that produced a three-day catch of 63 pounds, 1 ounce. "I was going to areas that I had fished before but it was just running and gunning and looking for dark spots." The dark spots were stumps in deeper water that he believes other anglers were overlooking.
Most of his fish were holding 2 to 3 feet deep along stumps on points leading into the spawning flats. "I keyed on the little bit darker targets a little bit away from the bank," said Smith, a 37-year-old process technician at a blow molding company. "If you could find a stump off to the side of some green vegetation there was usually a fish in it."
The Goose Creek Bass Club member relied on Texas-rigged junebug and green pumpkin Gambler Lures Flappy Daddy plastic craws and watermelon Zoom Craw worms to catch most of his fish. He delivered both lures with a medium-heavy 6-foot, 10-inch All Star rod and Pflueger President baitcast reel filled with Berkley Big Game line. He used 20-pound test line for the Flappy Daddy and 15-pound test for the craw worm.
Whenever he spotted a dark spot, Smith pitched his lures as close as he could to the stump and let it fall straight down. "I would shake it a couple of times and if the fish was there it was going to eat it," he disclosed.
During practice, Smith stayed away from the area where he thought he could win the tournament. "Since I am a local I had fished the area before and I knew the fish were there," said Smith, who did find a couple of spots during practice that also produced for him during the competition days.
His strategy the first day was to go to his best spot and try to blow away the competition early but he had to change plans when the area fizzled. So he went running and gunning, which he calls junk fishing. "Yesterday I went into a backwater pond that was closer to deeper water and it had some good fish in it," revealed Smith, who weighed in a 24-4 limit to take over the lead on Day Two.
Today Smith went back to his primary spot and caught a 5-pounder on his second cast and then completed a 21-9 limit by running around again. The local angler caught most of his fish on his home waters of Moultrie Lake but he did catch two kicker fish the last day on Marion Lake.
The tournament champ along with six other state leaders advance to the BASS Federation Nation Championship, the premier event for amateur bass anglers throughout the world. Joining Smith at the championship will be the following competitors who finished at the top of their state team's standings: Roy Galbraith, Alabama; Larry Cahan, Florida; Waine Pittman, Georgia; Bradley Roy, Kentucky; Jeff Hager, North Carolina; and Chris Barnett, Tennessee.
The 12-member South Carolina team claimed the top prize of a Triton 18X2 bass boat/Mercury Optimax 150 h.p. outboard rig (valued at $30,000) with an accumulative weight of 348 pounds, 14 ounces. Finishing second was North Carolina with 338-2.
"It is tough to win at home because these guys all have their spots and it is tough to share them," said Harry Wallace, South Carolina BASS Federation Nation president, of his team's win. "This group did get together though and shared information and that is what you get out of that. I appreciate every one of them."
Team spokesman Ray Winans attributed his teammates' knowledge of the lake as the key to South Carolina's win. "We knew where we could run and how to get to places other teams really didn't know how to get to. The other big advantage is that Will is really good on the lower lake and I guide on the upper lake so we put what we knew together and helped out the guys who didn't know what to do."
Winans gave the home team a sweep of all the divisional honors by bringing in a 7-pound, 15-ounce largemouth today to earn the $1,000 Purolator Big Bass of the Tournament Award. He caught the big fish on a junebug Gambler Lures Sweebo worm at about noon along a cypress tree about 2 feet deep in a pond off of Lake Marion.
The Southern Divisional is the first of six regional qualifiers for the Federation Nation Championship. Next on the schedule is the Western Divisional next month at Coeur d'Alene Lake in Idaho.
Added to this year's divisional slate will be regional contests for Bassmaster CastingKids and the Junior Bassmaster program. Both contests for the Southern Divisional will be held tomorrow at Santee Cooper. The CastingKids competition will begin at 12:30 p.m. at the John C. Land III Ramp and the weigh-in for the Junior Bassmaster divisional will start at 3 p.m. at the same location.