The Cooper River Run

GEORGETOWN, S.C.—Call it the Cooper River Run. It begins in downtown Georgetown, takes a short jog down the Sampit River into Winyah Bay, and then a hard right into the Intracoastal Waterway. From there it’s a nearly two-hour run to the final destination.

That is the short version of the decision faced by the pros to make the long run to Charleston for a potential tournament winning catch this week at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Elite at Winyah Bay.

There are two choices to make. One is staying nearer Georgetown and placing your bets on the productivity of the bass fishing in the Black, Sampit, Waccamaw and Pee Dee Rivers. The Santee River is nearby too.

The other choice is making the long run to the Cooper River. It takes about two hours each way, requires two refueling stops, and leaves you with about 2 hours to make it worth the run. This morning many of the pros battened down the hatches and took off for what they believe is the motherload of bass. Others had their reasons for staying close.

Here are the pros and cons of making the Cooper River Run. The Cooper River is the most fertile and nutrition-packed of the rivers, which is why making the run can be worth it. The Cooper is fed by lakes Marion and Moultrie, commonly known as the Santee-Cooper Lakes.

“For those reasons the bass grow bigger and there are more quality tournament bags caught from the Cooper,” Patrick Walters said of what he calls his home river. “The Cooper is just more fertile and supports a healthier bass population.”

Another vote for making the run is water fluctuation. Walters, of Summerville, a suburb of Charleston, said the other rivers are more prone to fluctuations that can relocate the bass populations and make them less dependable to pattern. A case in point is the river flood warning issued by the National Weather Service. The warning is currently in effect for the Santee River near Jamestown. This morning the stage was 9.7 feet with flood stage at 10.7 feet.

Walters is making the run, although he did not discount the reasons why choosing the other option is a good idea.

“Each river, the Cooper included, sets up differently, so you have a lot of options and go-to patterns to choose from,” added Walters. “When the Cooper gets blown out, or is too rough to get to, the rivers up here can be game changers.”

Drew Benton is going with the cons of making the Cooper River Run. He is staying close and betting on the come in the rivers nearer Georgetown. The reasons are based on history and common sense.

“I spent a half-day practicing there and just don’t feel comfortable running all that distance, when I would be fishing next to someone else,” he said.

Rewind to the last trip to Winyah Bay in 2016 and the well documented case of Carl Jocumsen vs. Boyd Duckett. Jocumsen caught a hefty Cooper River limit weighing 19 pounds, 11 ounces on the first day. Duckett was a distant 63rd with only 7-3 on the scoreboard. The next day Duckett got to the same area first and sacked 14-5 to rocket up the standings, while Jocumsen caught only one fish. Some say Duckett should have honored Jocumsen’s water. Others say it was fair game for both anglers to share the water. Either way, the reasons why Benton is avoiding the crowd make a lot of sense.

“I’m going to go through the numbers of fish and hopefully cull up to 10 or 12 pounds,” added Benton.

Another con, maybe, is what many of the pros making the Cooper River Run did prior to making it. They literally emptied their boats of any and all unnecessary tackle and gear. Tyler Carriere culled the gear down to the bare bones. The cavernous center storage of his Skeeter FX20 was all but empty, except for a few Plano 3700 utility boxes, a larger freezer storage bag of soft plastics, and a few rods and reels.

“It’s a 200-mile round trip run and I did it for better performance and improved fuel economy,” he said.

And there you have it. The pros and cons of making the Cooper River Run. How will it shake out? We shall see this afternoon at the weigh-in.