First Forecast: Bassmaster Elite at Winyah Bay

Thursday will be a dry and mainly sunny day with only a few clouds moving across the sky by late in the fishing day. Temperatures will start off in the lower 60s for the 7:00 am take-offs and will climb into the mid-70s by the mid-afternoon hours. Winds will be out of the east at 5-10 to start but will increase up to 10-15 MPH by late morning. Dewpoints will be in the upper 50s throughout the day. Moonrise will be at 10:38 am and sets at 12:04 am, with illumination at 29.8%.

Friday will start off with mostly cloudy skies and a slight chance of a shower, but those rain chances will slowly rise throughout the fishing day. We'll end up with a chance of showers and thunderstorms by the afternoon hours, getting up close to 50%. To go along with those rain chances, winds will be quite breezy at times, topping out at 10-15 MPH out of the southeast with gusts up to 25 MPH. Take-off temperatures will be in the mid-60s and will rise into the mid-70s for the daytime high. Dewpoints will be rising from the lower 60s to the mid-60s. Moonrise will be at 11:31 am and sets at 1:05 am, with illumination at 40.7%.

A small chance of showers and thunderstorms will remain possible as a warm front will begin to move northward in advance of a dynamic system that will be moving into the southeast on Saturday. Skies will be mostly cloudy with the chance of rain around 30% throughout the fishing day. Temperatures will start off in the mid-60s at take-off and rise into the upper 70s by the end of the fishing day. Dewpoints will be in the mid-60s all day long. Moonrise will be at 12:29 pm and sets at 2:03 am, with illumination at 52.3%.

That dynamic system pushes into South Carolina on Sunday, but the good news is that it holds off until well after the tournament and weigh-ins are through. Still, the weather will be unsettled and scattered showers and thunderstorms remain possible throughout the fishing day. Chance of rain will be around 40% during the day, but we'll get a better idea on timing and confidence in coverage by the Saturday morning update. Temperatures will start off in the mid-60s and rise into the upper 70s for the high. Winds will be out of the south at 10-15 MPH with gusts up to 25 MPH possible at times. Dewpoints will remain in the mid-60s throughout the day. Moonrise will be at 1:33 pm and sets at 2:58 am, with illumination at 64.0%.

I'll keep an eye on the forecast carefully, especially for Sunday. If that system just happens to move through Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia a little quicker than what the models are displaying, we may have increased thunderstorm chances with the possibility of a few strong storms. My next weather update will be out Saturday morning.

Do you shoot for a par or a birdie?

This will be a feast or famine tournament, with more famine than feast in terms of daily five-bass limits. When the 75-angler field is cut to the top 35 after two days, it will take just over 9 pounds per day to make the cut, if Winyah Bay fishes like it did the last time the Elite Series was here in 2016.

That's why it's so difficult to make the decision about taking the long run to the Cooper River. You can stick around much closer to the Georgetown launch area with a goal of 10 pounds a day and probably record a decent finish. It's the equivalent of laying up to the green in golf and playing for a par, rather than trying to hit the green by clearing a water hazard and playing for a birdie. There's double-bogey risk in the birdie approach.

"The big variable is south of here about a hundred miles," said Shane Lineberger, referring to the Cooper River. "What I've seen over there (in practice), it's not worth it for me to go over there. Over there there's definitely bigger fish. Over here it's a lot safer play.

"Like I've said many times, this (Elite Series season) is a marathon, not a sprint. I think staying close and getting points in this event is more important than trying to win. You have to keep your eyes on the prize, which everybody knows is qualifying for the (Bassmaster) Classic."

Wind's a deal breaker for Prince

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Cliff Prince said he had a great practice making a long run up the Cooper River — but he decided to change his location today and stay closer to the ramp because the forecast is for stiff winds that could make the trip to the Cooper rocky.

“I had a really good practice where I’m not going,” Prince said with a chuckle. “I’m concerned about the weather. There were 4-footers out in front of the launch when we came in this afternoon. You can get out (on the bay), but will you get back? Because you make it up there doesn’t mean you’ll make it back.”

Backstage is quiet

These backstage fish-care troughs, empty and quiet now, are just waiting for the anglers and bags of big bass. Tomorrow afternoon, the party starts here, with exceptional fish care and anglers comparing the days catch ... before jumping on stage and giving explanations of grandure or defeat. The weather should be variable, but right now the wind is starting to build a head of steam.

Update by Rick Moore, Bassmaster Marshal 

Vendors and sponsors setting up

Vendors and sponsors are scurrying around to get the numerous booths set up in time for tomorow's daytime show then the weigh-in.

Update by Rick Moore, Bassmaster Marshal 

Stage is ready to rock

The B.A.S.S. roadies have the stage set up for the Bassmaster Elite at Winyah Bay derby starting tomorrow. This huge, gorgeous setting should be rockin’ by time the weigh-in starts around 4:45 p.m. ET.

Update by Rick Moore, Bassmaster Marshal