The second Southern Open, abbreviated by the threat of severe weather, was a study in versatility. The top three places in the event were claimed by anglers throwing different baits to different types of targets. The only thing their Santee Cooper bass had in common was a shallow water home.
(44 pounds, 10 ounces)
"Most of my bass bit topwater lures," said the Gardendale, Ala., pro while discussing his first BASS win. "I discovered the pattern early in the week during practice and it held all through the tournament."
His pattern utilized a Spro BronzeyeFrog65 and a Boogerman Racket Buzzbait. Tharp fished them in the north end of the lower lake in water less than four feet deep. "It was the only place I could get a quality bite all week. I don't know why, but deeper water wasn't holding the kind of bass I knew I'd need to win this thing."
He walked the frog across open water into lily and dollar pads and then let it sit dead still for as long as two minutes. All his strikes came when the frog was sitting motionless. He pulled his light colored, 3/8-ounce buzzbait as slowly and quietly as possible through the same type areas.
"They didn't want anything very fast. If I walked or cranked the frog through the vegetation it was like the bass weren't there. You had to let it sit still and they would decide when to eat it. The buzzbait was the same way. It you moved it fast at all they wouldn't bite — the slower the better."
Tharp fished both topwater baits with a heavy flipping stick, 65-pound-test Power Pro superline and a Shimano Calcutta B reel.
(38 pounds, 4 ounces)
"My best lure was a Texas rigged, 9 1/2-inch Reaction Innovations Big Unit worm in their hot tamale color. I rigged it with a 1/16-ounce Tru-Tungsten worm weight and a big Gamakatsu offset worm hook," the Trussville, Ala., angler explained. "I fished it on 12-pound-test Gamma Edge 100% Fluorocarbon line and a Kistler, Helium 2 LTX 7-foot rod."
"It was a funny bite, real strange. You had to fish extremely slow and make repeated casts to the same tree and the same spot. On some trees they would bite on the first cast, but on other trees it was the third or fourth cast that got their attention. There was no way to tell what would work until you tried it.
"And, your approach had to be right, too. If you made any noise or created any wake they shut down completely. I think that was caused by the pressure. There have been several big tournaments here in the last two or three weeks and I think the fish are getting skittish."
(34 pounds, 9 ounces)
"I fished Marion the first day and Moultrie the second day," he says. "Every fish I weighed in was caught on a green pumpkin Senko rigged weightless with a 3/0 Gamakatsu round-bend hook."
The Daniel Island, S.C., angler targeted isolated stumps and grass in 2 to 4 feet of water.
"It didn't matter which lake I fished, the pattern was the same. And, I didn't fish as slow as most of the guys, either.
"My best technique was to throw the Senko out and let it fall straight down on a slack line. After it soaked a minute I'd jump it up real fast and let it fall straight down again. I tried to make it fall back to the same spot every time. That was what worked for me … this week anyway."
Costas fished both days with a 6 1/2 -foot All Star medium-heavy Platinum Series rod and a Pflueger Supreme reel.