Looking back on my 13th-place finish at the Elite event on Winyah Bay, I’m comfortable saying that if I could do it again, I wouldn’t change my game plan. For three days, I made that long run south to the Cooper River. It took a lot of time, but I believe that area holds the biggest population of quality fish.
I went into the event believing this because I was one of the guys who got to fish there the last time the Elites were on Winyah Bay. That year, I stayed close on Days 1 and 3, but made the run to the Cooper on Day 2.
This time, I prepracticed and spent my practice days in the Cooper, so I feel like I know it better than the Waccamaw and PeeDee where I spent one day on our previous visit.
During last week’s tournament, I spent the first two days in the rice fields and the marsh. On the third day, I stuck with the marsh because there wasn’t as much wind as the previous days, when the tide wasn’t able to fall all the way. With the tide falling at full strength on Day 3, the fish bit best on that late morning cycle.
In practice, I threw a Chatterbait to cover water and every time I got multiple bites, I’d slow down and throw a green pumpkin/blue flake Senko — Texas rigged and wacky rigged. I stuck with this plan in the tournament, and it worked well for me.
I caught a lot of fish, but I never got that big bite that the Top 10 guys did. To have a chance to win, you have to get a kicker, and it just didn’t happen for me.
Of course, I would like to have made it to Championship Sunday, but I fished clean, I did miss one good fish on Day 3, but I don’t think it would have been enough to get me into the Top 10.
As far as the long run, it was mostly a smooth ride and my playlist with everything from Drake to Bob Seeger helped me pass the time.
During the tournament, I stayed with Luke Palmer, Tyler Rivet and Caleb Sumrall, and we all made the run together. We wanted to make sure we all made it safely, so we established a meeting spot at 1:30 every day so we could all return together. My Phoenix boat has two separate livewells, and I kept them both filled with water in case anyone had mechanical issues and needed a ride back.
In three days, I ran more than 600 miles in a bass boat without any issues. With this kind of traveling, you can’t afford any mechanical issues, and without my Phoenix and Mercury performing flawlessly, I wouldn’t have been able to make that run.
It’s draining and stressful, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I hope we get a chance to go back, and if we do, I’ll make that 100-mile run every day. Without a doubt I’d go again.