Winyah Bay posed many challenges


Garrick Dixon

…then Kevin VanDam.

We just came off one of the most challenging Bassmaster Elite Series events in recent history at Winyah Bay in South Carolina.

It was challenging for a number of reasons, with the logistical options we faced being at the top of the list.

Of course, we had never been there before so the fishery was a total unknown for most of us. I like that.

However, it’s also a tidal fishery which makes it even more difficult if you’re not that familiar with the area. That, coupled with all the river systems and creeks available to us, made the three days of practice challenging.

I didn’t get any information beforehand, so when I showed up I was starting at scratch. My nephew Jonathon and I worked together in practice to fish different areas and see what we could learn.

I knew the reputation of the Cooper and Santee rivers, but the weather forecast of a cold front and high winds made such a long run (1 1/2 to 2 hours) risky. When I saw the results of the guys who made the run after the second day, I realized I made the wrong choice. It became obvious the tournament would be won on those rivers that had grass.

I committed to fishing close, and while I didn’t do great, I felt pretty good about my 21st place finish. I caught a lot of fish but just couldn’t get the quality. The thing about tidal systems is that some areas have a lot of fish, but due to the harsh environment, they don’t get very big. That was the problem I encountered in the area I chose.

I caught most of my fish flipping a Strike King Menace Grub on a 1/4-ounce tungsten weight and 20-pound line. I targeted cypress trees and laydowns because they were the only hard objects the fish had to spawn on. The bottom was basically muck.

Credit Britt Myers for taking the chance and winning the event. He’s a good friend, and I’m happy for him. He’s off to a great start this 2016 season.

This was the second tournament this season dominated by anglers fishing bladed jigs, and that shows what a good bait they are in stained water around grass when the fish are in prespawn.

The bladed jig has really evolved. Anglers are discovering that it works well without a skirt and with an added small swimbait as a trailer. You can use different sizes and types of trailers to create different profiles and control the running depth of the bait.

That’s why Strike King came out with the Naked Rage Blade that has proven to be a good bait for me in similar situations.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t any grass in the areas I was fishing, and the fish in my areas wouldn’t chase a moving bait. So, I stuck with flipping.

Looking ahead, I’m excited about the next few venues. I like fishing Bull Shoals but have never been to Norfork, although I expect both to be pattern lakes and that fits my style. I’m also looking forward to fishing Wheeler again, too. We are hitting these next few events when the seasonal pattern should be different from what it was the last time we were there, so it should be interesting.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on You can also find him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.