I think there is a pretty good chance that the fishing at 2020 Bassmaster Elite at Santee Cooper Lakes will be a touch better from top to bottom for the anglers this week then at Guntersville. I think we will see a higher winning weight, but at the same time, it won’t be easy for the Elite anglers this week. I would expect anglers will make cuts fishing everything from shallow grass and cypress trees out to humps and brush piles and everything in between. I recommend balancing out your lineup and not getting too dialed in on any one type of angler.
Navigation is definitely a wild card this week and could bite fantasy players. You could easily pick an angler that is on good fish, and he could have a stroke of bad luck and take out a prop shaft or lower unit. So that will only add to the challenges for the Elites at this event.
Lastly, I think shallow grass in combination with some cypress trees could bring out that frog bite that we were all hoping to see last week at Guntersville.
BUCKET A: WELCHER
Kyle Welcher paid off for me last week on Guntersville with little prior knowledge, and I am feeling good about Welcher again this week. I truly believe Welcher will continue to flourish on this southern fall swing. Kyle did have a nice top-10 finish in a semi-major tournament in April on Santee Cooper, so he will be familiar with how to get around. I think his run-and-gun, shallow style will continue to work this week in the Palmetto State. P.S.: I envision Kyle getting his frog in this week.
Backup plan: Clark Wendlandt has seen it all, and I don’t think you can go wrong with the current Bassmaster Angler of the Year leader. Wendlandt has been around pro fishing for decades, so he shouldn’t be surprised by anything he sees this week in South Carolina — on or off the water.
BUCKET B: WALTERS
I took enough low-percentage anglers in buckets C through E, so I will ride the "Chalk Train" and take Patrick Walters in Bucket B. Everyone has touted him as a strong favorite who fishes Santee a lot and doesn’t hunt much. So when a lot of South Carolina anglers are in the blinds or tree stands, Walters has put plenty of hours familiarizing himself with the expansive waters of Moultrie and Marion.
Backup plan: Hunter Shryock should be in his comfort zone with endless shallow cover options for him to mine with a flipping stick and a topwater or frog. He has been a little quiet, and this venue seems like his type of place to make a few waves.
BUCKET C: LOUGHRAN
Not sure I have ever picked Ed Loughran III for a fantasy piece before today, but I just got a feeling this is when he makes a little noise and a Day-4 cut. I am pretty sure he has experience on this pond at all seasons, and looking back, he cashed a check here in October of 1994. So if experience plays, that could be big for Loughran. So, if you are a fan of Ed, I think this is the week to insert him into your lineups. At 1% he seems like a solid value in bucket C.
Backup plan: John Cox has the boat, the mentality and the skill set to dominate this tournament. He is clearly a good pick if you want something safer and with a higher owner percentage than my barrister pick.
BUCKET D: HUDNALL
The only place with more cypress knees then Santee Cooper is Louisiana. Derek Hudnall has had really good tournaments on the Red River, Arkansas River, Atchafalaya Basin and several more. He should be in his comfort zone this week, be able to break out of his slump and get back to his consistent ways of 2019.
Backup plan: Kyle Monti is back down south and around grass which has him back in his comfort zone. It is kind of a toss-up for me on whether to lock in Hudnall or Monti this derby at Santee Cooper.
BUCKET E: HORNE
I might be betting on Harvey Horne’s aluminum Express rig more than the angler himself this week. Horne clearly loves to fish shallow and won a Bassmaster Open on the Arkansas River, so hopefully his rig will help him find some fish or make him more efficient in practice. In the tournament, it may give him an edge over the anglers that have struggled this year in Bucket D.
Backup plan: John Crews feels like the obvious pick this week, but I thought that last week at Guntersville. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Crews smash them flipping a D-Bomb or catching them with his Little John crankbaits this week, but I could not bring myself to put him in my starting lineup this week. Maybe he will shine for you.