GEORGETOWN, S.C. — Committing his day to a deeper pocket off the Waccamaw River, Arkansas angler Stetson Blaylock caught the largest five-bass limit of the week, weighing 17 pounds, 15 ounces, and took over the lead at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Elite at Winyah Bay with a three-day total of 41-12.
Blaylock said his selected area provided bass with a comfortable habitat beyond the spawn. He admitted he started the day concerned that he was running out of fish, but his persistence was rewarded with a day of steady productivity.
“I really thought that it was drying up, and I was almost to the point of thinking, ‘Okay, I’m going to end up catching five 12-inchers and wherever it happens, it happens,’” Blaylock said. “I caught that first big one — a 4-pounder at 9:50 — and that let me know that things were happening there that I wasn’t aware of.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that (the pocket) is so deep out in the middle, those fish have an opportunity to keep moving up and keep moving up. I don’t think you can fish it out.”
Blaylock caught his fish by flipping a Texas-rigged YUM Christie Craw and skipping a wacky-rigged YUM Dinger. He added a nail weight to the latter for a strategic presentation.
“I think that’s the difference between me and a lot of the guys; everyone’s probably throwing weightless wacky rigs, but it seems that putting that nail weight in it gets it down faster and maybe triggers a strike or two that a slow fall won’t,” he said.
Tides proved critical in two aspects of Blaylock’s success. First, the morning’s falling tide facilitated his skipping presentations by creating an increasingly wider gap between the water’s surface and overhanging limbs. Toward the end of his day, rising water ushered bedding female bass back into a catchable position.
Blaylock’s biggest bass, a 5-pounder, had dropped nearly out of sight when he spotted the bed during low water. Returning when there was more water over the spot allowed him to tempt his day-maker.
While most of the field again made the long run south from the takeoff spot to the Cooper River, Blaylock said he refused to let thoughts of what others might be doing distract him or diminish his confidence.
“These fisheries can hurt you and burn you so bad that I try not to worry about what’s going on and try to concentrate on the next bite,” he said “That first big one I caught surprised me. I had already thoroughly fished that area the first two days, and she was just sitting up there fresh and ready to go. That means there are more fish in there than I’d thought.”
Noting that fellow angler Koby Kreiger had also fished the same area, Blaylock said he’s comfortable returning to the spot for the final round.
“I don’t know if it will be easy to catch five big ones again, but the opportunity is there,” he said. “I’m past worrying about it. I’m just going to go in there and fish like I’m the only guy in there and hope I can get five more good bites.”
In second place, Canadian Cory Johnston ran to the Cooper River and found the day’s second largest bag, a limit of 17-6 that gave him a total weight of 40-4. Noting that he threw reaction baits and soft plastics, Johnston said he quickly dialed into what the bass were doing, and he was happy to discover that more bass are moving into the areas each day.
“Today, I feel that a lot more big fish have moved in. I probably caught 25 fish today,” he said. “We had a good tide today and not a lot of wind, so it was a ‘true’ tide, and that really helped. It’s a big area but there are three specific spots within the area. They’re hard-bottom spots, and there are a lot of fish on them.”
In third place, Alabama’s Clent Davis also had his biggest day of the week. His Day 3 limit of 16-6 gave him a total weight of 38-6. Fishing in the Waccamaw River, Davis fished reeds and trees on high tide and switched to arrowhead pads during low tide.
“I fished a Nichols Saber swim jig in the shad spawn color with a white Mister Twister Buzz Bug trailer all day,” Davis said. “I just have a lot of confidence in that bait. The last time we were here, I caught a pretty good bag on it. I’ve caught 15 keepers on it every day.”
Rounding out the Top 5 are Koby Kreiger with 36-10 and John Crews with 36-5.
Crews caught a 6-7 today to anchor his catch, but Jason Williamson of Wagener, S.C., leads the $1,500 Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award with a 6-10 he caught in the first round of competition.
Takeoff on Championship Sunday will be at 7 a.m. ET out of Carroll Ashmore Campbell Marine Complex, and the final weigh-in is scheduled at the same location beginning at 3:15 p.m.