CELEBRATION, Fla. — Want a recipe for great bass fishing? First, take the famed waters of the Santee Cooper Reservoir. Add the trophy-bass time of year when the egg-laden females are on their spawning beds and most accessible. Then, mix in about 100 of the most accomplished professional anglers in the country and stir.
That is the concoction for one of the most eagerly anticipated tournaments in years — the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series' "Santee Cooper Showdown presented by MotorGuide" on Santee Cooper Reservoir in Manning, S.C., March 30-April 2.
The third stop of the Elite Series is expected to epitomize BASS vice president and general manager Don Rucks' vision for the premier trail — putting the country's best anglers on high-caliber bass fisheries during prime times of the year.
"It should be a tremendous tournament," predicted veteran Texas pro and seventh-ranked Bassmaster Elite Series Power Index angler Zell Rowland. "Based on the other tournaments we've had on Santee this time of year, the fishing should be outstanding."
Indeed. Consider two prior BASS events held on the huge reservoir in the month of March:
o In 2004, Elite Series angler and event winner Kelly Jordon weighed in 93 pounds, 13 ounces, while runner-up Mark Kile of Arizona had 90-pounds-plus in a sight-fishing battle ignited when enormous waves of big spawners suddenly moved shallow. Kile also had a five-bass limit that weighed a whopping 32-3, which proved to be the largest stringer of the entire tour season.
o In 2003, Rowland was the big winner with an impressive 98-pound, 9-ounce performance. Although sight-fishing for spawners dominated the landscape, Rowland's success came fishing a grass-lined ditch for prespawn bass with a spinnerbait and soft plastics.
"It's going to be a smorgasbord of big bass," said Ray Sedgwick, an Elite Series pro and Santee Cooper expert. "The timing is close to perfect. The fish will be bringing their nose to the bank looking for a bed. The fish are already moving shallow.
"It's the key moment, the key time of the spawn for our bass here at Santee. The water temperature is coming up and the water is at full pool. Unless Mother Nature throws something unusual at us, it's going to be wide open. Everything is falling into place perfectly."
Sedgwick expects that spinnerbaits and Senko-type baits will be the ticket to catching the biggest bags of both pre-spawn and bedding bass. "There will be some sight-fishing," he added. "There will be quite a few fish already on the beds. Some are trying to get on the beds now. And I expect some good topwater and buzzbait fishing, too."
At this event, pros and co-anglers are vying for a piece of the $788,550 total payout, including a $100,000 top prize for the winning pro and points that qualify competitors for the 2007 CITGO Bassmaster Classic.
Also, in connection with the tournament Advance Auto Parts, 600 W. Mill Street, in Manning will hold an Elite Series pro night and CastingKids expo on Tuesday, March 28 from 5 to 8 p.m.
The Elite Series is a lucrative, top-tier circuit with 11 high-profile events that qualify anglers for three Bassmaster Majors, which each offer a first-place prize of $250,000.
Daily weigh-ins will begin at 3 p.m. at John C. Land III Landing on Greenall Road in Summerton. Coverage of the event will air on The CITGO Bassmasters on ESPN2 on Saturday, April 8 at 10 a.m. ET.
Local sponsors include the Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Advanced Auto Parts and Theraseed.