The U.S.S. Yorktown, one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers, sits proudly in Patriots Point as Brandon Coulter makes his way through Charleston Harbor to the Cooper River. (Photo by Bassmaster Marshal Richard Petty)
The event is down to three anglers, each hoping to make a little history for themselves.
Before we get to that, let’s take a quick look into the history of the Low Country of South Carolina, which has so graciously hosted the Huk Performance Fishing Bassmaster Elite at Winyah Bay presented by GoRVing. The fishing derby is tied directly to the Winyah Bay Heritage Festival, after all.
First off, we should start with Winyah, the name of the native Americans who plied these same waters eons ago. Winyah, just one of many places here that takes its name from Indian culture, is said to mean People of the Black Water.
The first foreigners to travel in the region were Spaniards. In fact, some historians claim American history really began here in 1526 with a failed settlement. Successful ones came, like Georgetown (1729), the third oldest city in South Carolina and its second largest port.
The busy seaports along the coast brought more than 2,000 pirates, including Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard. He was known for dressing to look like a demon from hell -- the better to scare his victims into surrender -- including smoke-producing fuses in his beard. Lt. Robert Maynard and crew ambushed and killed Blackbeard up the coast near Ocraroke Island. Blackbeard suffered five bullet wounds and 20 saber slashes before dying, and legend has it his decapitated body swam around the boat before sinking into the briny deeps. Arrrrrrgh.
Plantation life took over with crops of rice and indigo, and British taxation brought regional players into Revolutionary War roles. Thomas Lynch, Jr. was among the original signers of the Declaration of Independence, and planter Christopher Gadsden designed the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. Another local planter, Francis Marion and his crew fought back the British, earning the nickname “Swamp Fox.” George Washington even visited Georgetown’s Masonic Lodge in 1791 to recognize these heroes.
There’s tons more in the region’s historical timeline, and the Elites traveling to the Cooper River have seen some each day. At the entrance of Charleston Harbor are two historic forts, Moultrie and Sumter. The first fort, built of palmetto logs, inspired the flag and nickname of South Carolina, “The Palmetto State.”
Northeast in Charleston Harbor is Patriot’s Point, a naval museum that houses several U.S. warships, including an aircraft carrier and submarine, and 29 aircraft from WWII to present-day operations.
So when the good people gather for the Heritage Festival, they have some real history to celebrate.